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xGunners: Alex Iwobi, left vs right

Comparing Alex Iwobi’s stats from the left and the right

Fulham FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Alex Iwobi has been a bright spot for Arsenal this season. The academy product has really blossomed under Unai Emery, looking like he is ready to fulfill his promise and emerge as a one of the first names on the team sheet.

When I have watched him play over his career, one of the things that always stuck with me is that he seemed to be a much better player when he started on the left vs when he started from the right.

I know that memory is a fickle thing, and that it is really easy to get caught up in certain narratives and then have your memory forget things that don’t fit within what you’d like to see happen. Far too often people will pick the anecdotes and stats to fit what they want to sell instead of starting with an open mind and letting the facts guide them (I know I have been guilty of this, even when I try hard to be rational, it is just human nature).

The reason that I am putting all of this out here is that, well my preconceived narrative about where Iwobi is better appears to not be born out in the statistics over his career. I could have easily stuck learning this in a metaphoric desk drawer or messed around with the different parameters to fit what I wanted to believe but that is not the ideal that I want to hold myself to.

Being wrong is okay, changing your mind when presented new information doesn’t mean you are wishy washy it means you are smart and likely to be right more often than not in the long run.

Enough rambling on, here is what I found when I went digging into my numbers for Alex Iwobi.

To do this, I looked at Iwobi’s average touch position for each league match he has played with Arsenal and split them into two sides (left and right) and then looked at the stats that he put up.

Alex Iwobi on the Left

Season OVA xG Buildup xG Chain Killer Pass PPVA 50 Key Pass OP Goal Matches
Season OVA xG Buildup xG Chain Killer Pass PPVA 50 Key Pass OP Goal Matches
2015-16 3.78 3.31 4.46 4 0.27 12 2 10
2016-17 5.03 3.05 4.31 6 0.28 10 1 15
2017-18 3.22 4.49 6.31 6 0.26 10 1 9
2018-19 1.21 2.66 3.64 4 0.22 4 1 5
Total 13.25 13.51 18.71 20 0.27 36 5 39
Per Match 0.34 0.35 0.48 0.51 0.27 0.92 0.13

and from the right

AleX Iwobi on the Right

Season OVA xG Buildup xG Chain Killer Pass PPVA 50 Key Pass OP Goal Matches
Season OVA xG Buildup xG Chain Killer Pass PPVA 50 Key Pass OP Goal Matches
2015-16 -0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
2016-17 3.81 3.76 5.51 9 0.32 14 2 11
2017-18 5.39 6.14 8.73 14 0.28 25 2 17
2018-19 0.06 0.4 0.44 0 0.02 0 0 2
Total 9.00 10.30 14.70 23 0.30 39 4 33
Per Match 0.27 0.31 0.45 0.70 0.30 1.18 0.12

Overall for his career, things look pretty much the same on a per match basis and that was a big surprise for me. This season he has been better on the left, but this is a very small sample and it is not prudent to draw conclusions from such a small statistical sample.

Aesthetically I still think that his ability to cut inside on to his stronger foot moving inside is preferable to having him use his stronger foot while staying wider on the right. Perhaps there is more that can be found by looking at things from a more tactical point of view or digging deeper into each match that he has played.

Regardless of where Iwobi plays going forward, I really hope that he keeps up his ability to play at a high level.