Will the Seventy Point Target hold true? Tracking Results: Arsenal’s progress ahead of Everton

A month and a half ago Arsenal were playing for two cup competitions, whilst languishing ten points behind Tottenham in the league, with what looked like a slim chance of finishing within the Champions League qualifying places.

Today, through an astonishing run of form, the club sit just a point behind Tottenham in the league but have been removed from both the Champions League and the FA Cup.

This blog speculated that the Arsenal would have a tough away game at Sunderland in the FA Cup following the first leg of the Champions League second round in the San Siro, and this was correct. Indeed, the previously mentioned European hangover came into effect, and Arsenal went out of both competitions.

In conjunction with this analysis, we also provided an analysis of Arsenal’s form over the last six years in the final 14 league games of each season.

This analysis revealed that, on average, Arsenal took 25 points over the final 14 games of each season since 2006. This equates to 1.78 points per game on average in the final 14 games. Arsenal have now played four games of those 14, and due to a stunning run of form have taken 3 points per game, equating to 12 points.

To continue, the previous article stated that to have a chance of achieving fourth place, a minimum target of 70 points was feasible.

After the results against Sunderland, Tottenham, Liverpool and most recently Newcastle, the club has continued an excellent run of form, which also included the near come-back against AC Milan 3-0 in the Champions League.

The run of results has meant that the gap between Tottenham and Arsenal has been reduced to one point, and the atmosphere around the club is one of hopeful recovery.

Arsenal now stand on 52 points, making a 70 point target much more feasible from the remaining 10 games. To achieve this, the club must average 1.8 points per game, so far this season they have averaged 1.85.

Maintaining a run of form can be a precarious business, and as always each game can prove a turning point. The club face Everton, recently rocked by a Steven Gerrard hattrick in defeat to Liverpool, and then subject to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup against Sunderland. The performance by Arsenal could have greater bearing on the ‘business end of the season’.

Arsenal’s base aim for this season is clearly now to secure qualification for the Champions League, maintain credibility as a ‘big club’ in England in order to secure the services of Robin Van Persie in a new contract, and finally to finish above Spurs if possible as London’s top club.

The European Hangover appears to have been vindicated by the result at Sunderland in the FA Cup, will the 70 point target, and the 1.8 point average also hold true?

Parallels and divergence in time: The Arsenal of 2006 and the Arsenal of 2012 – What the points say

Arsenal travel to Italy to face AC Milan in the San Siro on February 15th, to play one of the first Champions League matches of 2012, as the second round and knockout phase gets underway. Of course, the second round is a great equaller, if the first is something of an easy ride (exceptions include Manchester this year). Arsenal, for instance, beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in 2006, a result for which the Champions League betting odds were slim.

The Bernabeu win in 2006 is remembered for the wonderful Henry strike, the resilient defending of the Arsenal side, and as one of the famous nights in the club’s history, not least because this game paved the way to the final of the Champions League for the first time for both club and Arsène Wenger.

However, what are the parallels in terms of the performances of 2006 and this year?

Though the club has somewhat changed in complexion since that year there are similarities, which may shed some light on the possible end scenarios for this season based on statistics for points and games played.

Firstly, and rather oddly, Thierry Henry is an Arsenal forward, scoring to the delight of the home fans, as against Leeds Utd in the FA Cup and Blackburn in the Premier League most recently.

Meanwhile, in the Premier League Arsenal have played 24 games this season and taken 40 points, lying in seventh position, below local rivals Tottenham. In 2006 at this stage Arsenal had also taken 40 points from 24 games, and were indeed below Tottenham (albeit by a margin of one point).

That season Arsenal played in the Champions League final against Barcelona, after just managing to scrape into fourth place, and the Champions League qualifying round. They finished on 67 points, whilst Tottenham finished on 65 – the latter taking 25 points from their last 14 games, whilst the Arsenal of 2006 took 27.

If Arsenal were to recreate this type of form it would be unlikely that they would finish above Tottenham this year, considering the 10 point gap, and they might struggle to finish in the Champions League qualifying places.

The fourth place finishers since 2006 are more likely to exceed 70 points, and where this has not been the case the total is within two or three points of this. As an average the points total needed for a safe qualification place is 70.2 based on the totals for clubs in that position since 2006.

Season End Club in Fourth Place Points
2011 Arsenal 68
2010 Tottenham 70
2009 Arsenal 72
2008 Liverpool 76
2007 Arsenal 68
2006 Arsenal 67

Considering the two tiered appearance at the top of the League, with Man Utd, City and Tottenham, and then Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal, it seems likely that the points total will be at the lower end of this spectrum, but less than 67 would be less feasible.

In this case Arsenal have a challenge on their hands to maintain strong enough form to requalify for the Champions League, but this is not impossible. Assuming the club require 70 points, they must take 30 from their final 14 games, an average just over 2 points per game.

Currently this season Arsenal have just under 1.7 points per game on average, and by way of comparison last year’s abysmal form saw them take just 19 points from the last 14 games. However, the years from 2006 are detailed below.

Season End Arsenal Pts from last 14
2010 19
2009 29
2008 26
2007 23
2006 27

From this small sample it is clear that last season was an anomaly, and in fact, on average Arsenal have taken almost 25 points on average from the final 14 games. We should consider here, that the current Arsenal side is a very different animal from that of seasons past, and it will be interesting to see how the race at the top of the table develops.

The win against Blackburn has shown promise, and the impressive form of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular provides some comfort, as well as the incredible performances this season by Van Persie. Arsenal need to continue this with a stern test at Sunderland over the weekend before the journey to Milan.

Without the basis of the league performance to qualify for the Champions League, the situation of top players like Van Persie in terms of contract extensions becomes increasingly untenable, especially after the problematic exits of both Fabregas and Nasri last summer.

However, all of this also places some emphasis on the tie against Milan. The club are not the force they once were, and a Fabregas inspired performance in 2008 led to a 2-0 win at the San Siro. If Arsenal can repeat that sort of win, it might provide the foundations for a sequence of wins which can take them at least past the probable 70 point baseline in the league.

What’s the difference between Arshavin and Samir Nasri? The Creator and the Assassin – Data Analysis

Statistics cannot inform every conclusion when it comes to football. They are merely descriptors for physical, tangible actions which take place on the pitch over ninety minute periods. However, data can tell the tale of the role of an individual within a team, and assess their contribution in basic form.

This season has seen the rising form of Samir Nasri capture the imagination of the footballing world, and his importance to Arsenal even prompted the placing of the Frenchman on a par with Cesc Fabregas where team selection is concerned.

By contrast another key player, who often inhabits the opposite flank, Andrey Arshavin, has been the subject of criticism over his performances in 2010/11. This season a perception has prevailed in sections of the public, which sees Arshavin as playing very poorly this season. There are valid points to this, his passing has at times been inaccurate, and there is the old criticism that he just doesn’t run enough. There is still room for debate on the topic though.

Continue reading “What’s the difference between Arshavin and Samir Nasri? The Creator and the Assassin – Data Analysis”

Is winning trophies important? Arsenal trophies since 1925: Graphic Data and Herbert Chapman

With Arsenal’s triumph over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup on Sunday, passed a fixture of significance few failed to note. The name of Herbert Chapman dominates both clubs, a revolutionary manager who engineered periods of success for each in turn, and pioneered the counter-attacking W-M formation at Arsenal which culminated in back to back title wins in the 1930s, a feat never achieved since.

The great Herbert Chapman. Image courtesy of Adam Bowie under Creative Commons licence.

Not only did Chapman win an FA Cup and two titles for Huddersfield Town, but won Arsenal’s first trophy within five years, the FA Cup in 1930, oddly enough against his previous employers, Huddersfield. Although he suffered a premature death in 1934, Chapman set the side up to continue in winning ways until 1938, after which wartime interruption broke the momentum of the Arsenal.

Only one manager has exceeded Chapman’s reputation at Arsenal, and that is the current incumbent, Arsène Wenger. The first decade of Wenger’s reign was one of success, doubles and Invincibles. Since 2005 however, pundits are quick to remind Arsène that the trophy tally is zero.

In light of this I’ve developed a graphic timeline combining the competitive trophies won by Arsenal since Herbert Chapman joined the club in 1925. The achievements of the first great Arsenal manager are clear, including the first in 1930; Arsenal won five league titles and two FA Cups in eight years.

Continue reading “Is winning trophies important? Arsenal trophies since 1925: Graphic Data and Herbert Chapman”

Arsenal’s form at Old Trafford: Analysing Man Utd vs. Arsenal stats and videos in the Premier League Era

Considering Monday’s fixture at Old Trafford we’ve looked at the statistics for Arsenal vs. Manchester United fixtures in the Premier League era, and added in some video highlights too.

Both sides have a rich history of Premier League rivalry since Arsène Wenger’s arrival at the club in 1996, with some classic matches and infamous incidents. The Van Nistelrooy penalty miss and Keown’s celebrations, the Wiltord title winner at Old Trafford, or Man Utd’s 6-1 victory against a central defence of Stepanovs and Luzhny were all defining moments. Add into that various tunnel fracas, the Keane Vieira rivalry, pizza throwing, and last season’s debacle which saw Wenger sent to the stands, and you have an all action fixture.

Arguably the rivalry has diminished in recent years as Arsenal have slipped away from consistent top two finishes, but the fixture is still one of the most infamous in world football.

Continue reading “Arsenal’s form at Old Trafford: Analysing Man Utd vs. Arsenal stats and videos in the Premier League Era”

Do Arsenal have the worst defence to lead the Premier League at this stage?

The Premier league has a new leader. On Saturday Arsenal ascended to the top of the table thanks to a misfiring Chelsea and a frozen pitch in Blackpool. Everyone knows about Arsenal’s fantastic attacking options providing the goals; Samir Nasri in particular is in the form of his life. But the most problematic, often criticised area is a defence which can give way too easily.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald. Under Creative Commons Licence.

On Sunday night, Robbie Savage was asked on Match of the Day 2 whether the Arsenal defence are the worst to top the league at this stage. Robbie’s answer was a definitive yes.

The question is – is this claim true? And whether it is or not – what is the relative state of the Arsenal backline compared to seasons past?

Continue reading “Do Arsenal have the worst defence to lead the Premier League at this stage?”

Is Arsène Wenger taking the Carling Cup more seriously? Comparing Arsenal selection policies since 2004

Arsène Wenger has a well-known reputation for using the League Cup as a stepping stone for star young players, the likes of Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott and Alex Song are all established first teamers who have played in previous campaigns. This season Wenger’s selection policies have changed, but how much, and does this mean he is desperate for any success?

Courtesy of Wowtheworld under Creative Commons Licence

Much debate centred over whether Wenger’s youth policy devalued the competition. The answer is yes. However, the value of a fourth competition, with an unbalanced system where the richest teams enter with only four games to the final is debatable. That debate continues elsewhere (see WSC here and here).

In light of the fact that Arsenal have won no major trophy since 2005, Wenger is under pressure to take the League Cup more seriously, and use first team players to try and pick up a trophy, creating a winning mentality.

This season a change has been noted in the approach, with much of the press picking up on the fact that Arsène Wenger has actually been taking the League Cup ‘seriously’. The question is, how different is the policy compared to previous years?

Continue reading “Is Arsène Wenger taking the Carling Cup more seriously? Comparing Arsenal selection policies since 2004”

The many sides of Andrey Arshavin: An all round performance at Villa in context

A torrid week for Arsenal ended with three points after a six goal clash at Villa Park. One aspect that caught my eye this week was the difference apparent in one Arsenal player, Andrey Arshavin, so much so that it required a little more in-depth investigation.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald

Arshavin’s poor form has been criticised of late, and not unjustly either. A goal drought extending from September, combined with poor passing, and a distinct lack of fitness has contributed to a poor season by his standards.

Continue reading “The many sides of Andrey Arshavin: An all round performance at Villa in context”

Premier League Run-in: The Stats for Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal’s Last 5 Games

The last 5 games of the League are going to decide the season, here we attempt to make sense of the stats from the past 4 years to understand the run-ins for Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal.

My previous statistical analysis of Arsenal’s run-in predicted that we would take something like 16 points from our last 8 games, or 65.7% of the points available.

Continue reading “Premier League Run-in: The Stats for Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal’s Last 5 Games”

Emmanuel Adebayor: Legend, or one season wonder? Comparing Henry’s stats

In Emmanuel Adebayor’s first two full seasons at Arsenal he has caused about as much controversy as anything else. Opinion is divided over his qualities as a player and personality. In light of criticism of his play I thought I’d take a look at his statistics in comparison with the sacred Thierry Henry after his first two seasons at the club:

Henry (All competitions):

  • 1999-00 – Apps: 48, Goals: 26, Assists: 9
  • 2000-01 – Apps: 53, Goals: 22, Assists: 3

Henry scored 0.54 goals per game in 1999-00, and 0.42 per game the following season. These were only his first two seasons at the club, and the rate of roughly a goal every other game is impressive for a player reconverting to the strikers role.

In comparison Adebayor, joined Arsenal in January 2006, but he only played 13 games so these stats count from his first full season at the club in 2006-07.

  • 2006-07 – Apps: 44, Goals: 12, Assists: 4
  • 2007-08 –  Apps: 54, Goals: 30, Assists: 5

Adebayor scored 0.27 goals per game in his first season, playing approximately the same number of games as Thierry. The team was performing worse in the league at the time, eventually finishing fourth, compared to second place in 1999-00. In his second season Adebayor became a 30-goal striker, taking 0.56 goals per game, the video below shows all 30.

We can see from the stats that Adebayor, playing as second striker last season was not as effective as Henry in his first full season. Emmanuel played with Henry in 2006-07, and scored just 12 in comparison with Henry’s 26 in 1999-2000. 2007-08 has seen a marked different in the goalscoring. His 0.56 goals per game ratio is better than either of Henry’s first two seasons, although only marginally.

There are differences in the approach for 2007-08, the most marked change being Adebayor playing as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, and has done better in terms of goals and assists. This is part of what drove the club to a title challenge during the season.

Remember that Adebayor wasn’t as experienced as Henry when he joined the club, having only played for three seasons in the first team at AS Monaco. Whereas Henry had already spent some years in Italy at Juventus, and played for the French national team, albeit on the left wing, before joining Arsenal in 1999.

The performance from 07-08 looks promising on Adebayor’s part, although it is unlikely he can ever scale the heights which Theirry Henry managed.

Statistics don’t tell the whole story, the league has changed drastically in the seven years between these seasons, and generally has become more defensive in tactical outlook. Arsenal’s formation is also different, and having a single striker may increase the opportunities for that player’s goal-scoring.

Henry is ultimately the best player Arsenal ever had, but the data shows that Adebayor’s contribution is not unimpressive.  Although not as fast as Henry, or as technically gifted, he has dogged determinism, and passes the ball well.

They are different players, and so ultimately comparison is difficult. What is clear is that Adebayor has potential, it remains to be seen if he can really use this and develop into a top quality striker. If Adebayor maintains a high workrate then Arsene is right to believe in him.

Update: Arsenal Column has an excellent piece with stats on Adebayor as he departs to Man City in the summer of 2009.