I was listening to some podcast the other day and they said “Newcastle have the best defense in the League”. It was a record scratch moment in my head because I swear that I’ve been looking at the stats lately and while they did have the fewest goals conceded when that pod was recorded saying that they “have the best defense in the League” was hyperbole as far as I was concerned.
The obvious way to settle this is to just look at goals conceded. Both Arsenal and Nuke have the same number of goals conceded this season, with 11. They have played one more game than Arsenal and so therefore they have fewer goals conceded per game and have the better defense. If that’s all that you’re interested in as far as this topic is concerned well then you can go ahead and just close your laptop, smile smugly to yourself, and sip your tea while basking in the light of your rightness.
However, there are other ways to look at this question. And if you’re so inclined, read on.
There’s obviously expected goals against as a measurement. Man City have the fewest expected goals against, with 9.9 or an incredibly stingy 0.76 per contest. Arsenal have the second best xGA in the League with 0.86 per game and Nuke are a bit further down the list with 1.01 xGA/90.
|Club||Goals allowed||xGA||Big Chances Allowed||Big chances conceded|
When I look into a little more detail and examine how many big chances (xG >= 0.14) each team’s defense has allowed (shots) and conceded (goals), you get a little better understanding of how each team is actually performing.
Man City have conceded the fewest big chances in the League this season with just about 0.46 big chance goals conceded per game. This is happening because they only allow 1.46 big chances per game. And in a little further detail I noticed that they “shut out” teams from creating even a single big chance this season on 4 occasions.
Arsenal have a slightly worse record in that they concede 0.54 big chance goals per contest and 1.54 big chance shots per game. While Newcastle has 0.71 and 1.79 each. But importantly, Newcastle have only “shut out” their opponents twice this season and Arsenal have the most shut outs with 5. That includes the Arsenal match against Chelsea where their biggest chance was 0.13 by Thiago.
The other stat I examined is opponents’ shot creating actions per 90 (SCA90). Man City have allowed the fewest SCA90 with 12.54 and Arsenal are 2nd with 12.69. Newcastle actually allow 20.43 SCA90 which is 5th in the League. And they have allowed the 2nd most SCA off a dribble with 21 (Leeds is 1st with 27). Arsenal and Man City are 3rd and 2nd in the League in that category allowing just 8 and 7 respectively.
Look, I wouldn’t dare to suggest that Newcastle don’t have a good defense because they do. And some folks might think I’m splitting hairs here, which is fine. But my opinion is that Man City have the best defense in the League, that Arsenal’s is 2nd, and that Newcastle is probably third.
That’s one hell of an upgrade from where they were last year, by the way. So credit to them and their oil covered money. They have really done a great job.