A Closer look at Arsenal's form

I was going to name this article 'A closer look at Arsenal's struggles' but we do need to remember that Arsenal had a very similar points total at this point of the season last year:

Year on Year comparison


via, via @arseblog via @mixedknuts

Arsenal are just 2 points back on where they were last year. Talk of crisis is premature, but does it feel different this year? Is that due to the absence of RvP?

This articles main body will be centered around Arsenal's form this year. Specifically it will focus upon Arsenal's results and performances against the different calibers of opposition that they have faced.

Arsenal's Premier League form in 2012/13

Arsenal's form

games Goals for Goals A points
22 41 26 34

Arsenal currently are running at 1.54 points per game. The ten year average for 4th place is 68 points, that is1.78 points per game.

The math is simple, Arsenal may need as many as an additional 34 points from just 16 games. That works out 2.12points per game, and that may be a task that lies beyond Arsenal's powers, especially with their current squad.

Arsenal's game result with oppositions league position at time of fixture


This chart is pretty self explanatory. A win is green, a draw is yellow and a loss is red.

The first thing that leaps out at me is the number of draws. There are just too many of them, as there are of losses, too. The opponents league position shows us a few things.

Arsenal have played 7 games against an opponent who was placed in the bottom 3 at the time of the fixture, and Arsenal's record in those fixtures is pretty strong. Arsenal's record against opponents who were in the top 5 at the time of fixture looks less impressive.

Points gained vs difficulty of opponent

1st to 5th 6/24
6th to 10th 6/12
11th to 15th 4/6
16th to 20th 17/24

Chart 2 is using the same data as chart 1 but in more easily digestible format.

Arsenal against top 5 sides have struggled. These fixtures are supposed to be against Arsenal's direct peer group, but it doesn't look that way when looking at Arsenal's points gained. The 6-10th and 11th to 15th points totals are difficut to evaluate as so few games have been played against opponents who were in those league placings at the time of fixture. Against 16th to 20th placed teams Arsenal are a good outfit, gaining 70.8% of the points available.

The burning question then becomes: Why are Arsenal suceeding against weak opposition and struggling against high quality opposition?

Shots on target +/- vs differing quality of opposition

Sot +/-
1st to 5th -15
6th to 10th 7
11th to 15th 4
16th to 20th 20

We use a similar chart as the one listed above, except this time we are looking at Arsenal's shots on target +/- against those different levels of competition. The above chart is usefull, but we need to remember that a different amount of games have been played against these sets of opposition

Shots on target +/- vs differing quality of opposition per game

In graph form


The above graph really highlights Arsenals shots on target ability as a team against the different quality of opposition. Arsenal are good against the bottom 5, slightly less effective in the next two groups of opposition as we work our way up the table.

Then we get to Arsenal's shots on target performance against teams who were in the top 5, and it is here that we see just why Arsenal have been unable to register a decent points total against a good quality of opposition: The Gunners have been out-shot, on average, by 1.87 shots on target per game. That is -1.87 SoT every game, and it becomes very difficult to win many games if your team is being consistently out-shot (Arsenal are also slightly unlucky that they have faced so many fixtures against teams who were sitting in top 5 at the time of fixture)

That SoT +/- number maybe the best tell on just where Arsenal are at this season. For me it paints a picture that Arsenal are struggling slightly against the best opposition. But how does the rest of the Top 5 fare against quality Top 5 opposition?

SoT +/- per game Points Points gained %
Man City +4 2/9 22.2
Everton +1.5 7/12 58.3
Liverpool +1.2 5/15 33.3
Spurs +0.8 5/15 33.3
Chelsea -0.6 10/18 55.5
Arsenal -1.87 6/24 25
Man United -2.66 7/9 77.7

Surprisingly the best shot team, Man City, have the lowest points gained %, and the worst shots team have the highest points %. But before we dive in too quickly and make rash judgements we need to say that both Manchester clubs have small sample sizes associated with their numbers having played just 3 games each vs Top 5 opposition, thus we don't have a real good idea about their ability vs Top5. Also, luck factors are increasingly evident when using such small samples.

For Arsenal we don't necessarily have that sample size issue with the Gunners having played 8 games vs Top 5. Chelsea are the best comparison for Arsenal, yet Chelsea have somehow managed to gain a far higher % of points from their games vs Top5.

Arsenal's 2012/13 PL campaign with opponent and SoT +/-


This is Arsenal's overall record vs opponent. Just the name of opponent not the league position.

We don't need too much analysis here, for the graph does the work, but Arsenal's inability to out-shoot the opposition is harming them.

On the 8 occasions Arsenal have been out-shot they won 0, drawn 4 and lost 4.

Remember earlier in the piece when I showed that Arsenal were not far behind last seasons points totals, but in order to gain a top 4 place they would have to gain north of 2 points per game in their remaing fixtures in order to reach that historical average of 68 points? Here is how Arsenal turned around their form last season.


2011/12 22 games Final 16 games

Points pg 1.63 2.12
Shots +/- pg +2.68 +3.31

These are pretty strong numbers from Arsenal during the first 22 games, and those numbers then went through the roof in the final 16 games.


2012/13 22 games

Points pg 1.54
Shots +/- pg +0.86

These are the numbers for this season. Points per game is a shade off last seasons total, but just look at the shots on target +/- per game, it's nearly 2 whole shots on target per game worse than Arsenal recorded last term. That season on season decline in shots on target is frightening and it highlights Arsenal's problems in terms of shots on target creation and prevention.

Arsenal will need to stage quite a comeback in the remaining 16 games in order to qualify for the CL, a comeback even more impressive than last years effort.

Thanks for reading.

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