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xGunners: Statistically examining Arsenal’s center backs

Spoiler Alert: Arsenal’s defense wasn’t good this season

Atletico Madrid v Arsenal FC  - UEFA Europa League Semi Final Second Leg

Arsenal ended the season giving up the most goals in the Arsene Wenger era, there is a lot of blame to go around in figuring out how this happened. Today (in the first of a series looking at all the Arsenal players) we look at the Arsenal center backs.

Arsenal Shots given up

Stopping shots from happening is one of the main jobs of a defense, even better is stopping high quality shots from being taken.

In both of these measures Arsenal were at or near the bottom among the big six teams. Arsenal conceded 421 shots (rank 6th), 182 shots inside the danger zone (rank 6th), 71 big chances (rank 14th) and 0.113 xG per shot (rank 16th).

Looking at the shot chart conceded and it is obvious that there are way too many big dots in the prime scoring areas. That is going to be a big area to fix for the next coach.

Looking at the quantity of shots and the quality of shots, Arsenal are just below the average in the amount of shots they give up but are very far off the rest of the elite teams in how good those shots are.

Arsenal Center back Statistical Profiles

To work to examine how Arsenal’s center backs did this season I am trying something new. When I was imagining this in my head I was thinking of posting radars for each player but when I went to make them there was more stats that I wanted to include than would really work with the radar format.

So the next idea was to break out the statistics into different attributes to measure and then look look at doing the same kind of analysis that is done with a radar using precentile ranks as a way to see where each player falls in the distribution among Premier League Players.

For these, I have set the cut off to 800 minutes and I have also filtered the players to the general position of “defender.” This will include center backs, full backs, wing backs and some defensive midfielders.

Shkodran Mustafi

Mustafi is an interesting player to look at statistically; he rates pretty well in each attribute but within each of them there are areas of concern.

His passing was one of the things that I was excited to see about him when he signed but my numbers suggest that while he is better than the average defender he isn’t quite as good as I had hoped.

His defensive stats are a mixed bag and really reflect his high risk, high reward style. He rates well in the number of tackles and interceptions he makes but also is dribbled past way too often and is called for more fouls than would be ideal. I was also surprised by the aerial stats, but that could be a situation where him not challenging for marginal balls that others might isn’t captured in the data.

With a new coach coming in (looks like Uni Emery) there could be a hope that a new tactical set up could maximize his abilities and leave him in less one on one situations where his high risk style is too much to handle.

Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny has always been one of the few center backs that has looked good in the Arsenal defensive system. This year he was still arguably the teams best defender but he was not up to his old standards and at times looked like the age and mileage were catching up to him.

On top of this, his achilles injury that he had been dealing with all season finally gave way and has him out until at least the November time frame and possibly longer.

When he comes back it might be too much to expect him to be a player to depend on every week.

Rob Holding

Holding has shown signs of promise in his brief Arsenal career with some mistakes and growing pains that are expected from a younger defender.

Looking at his stats, I see a lot of positives. His passing numbers show promise, he completes at a high rate but it looks like he favors the safe move over the killer ball, and he looks to be an above average long passer.

On the defensive actions it suggests a player good in the air, he looks to cut out passes but isn’t a person who makes a ton of tackles (or fouls).

With Koscielny out, and Arsenal playing Europa League and Premier League next year I expect Holding to become a very important part of our defensive rotation.

Calum Chambers

I’ll come out and say it, I don’t think that Chambers is really good enough for Arsenal. I think that he should get moved on in the summer.

This isn’t to say that he is a bad player, just that he looks awfully average in a lot of aspects and that shouldn’t be good enough for Arsenal looking to get back into the top 4 of the Premier League.

Bonus content: Jonny Evans

Ehhh, I have never been enamored with Evans. I think that he looks to be a solid enough option defensively but I am not sure that his passing numbers are good enough for a team that will control the ball more often than not.

That being said, his transfer price is said to be £3million after West Brom’s relegation and if he doesn’t demand huge wages or a long contract he would make sense as depth signing.