Discover more from Cannon Stats
A stumble, but still a success?
Looking at how Arsenal's April has changed the perception of the season
There is no sugarcoating it, April has been a challenging and disappointing month for Arsenal. Arsenal have won 1 match, drawn 3, and lost 1. It feels worse with two of those draws coming from 2-0 winning positions where it felt like 3 points should have been secured and the other draw coming against the team currently in last place.
My simulation model projected Arsenal to pick up just over 9 points from this stretch so only picking up 6 points, hurts a lot and that has been reflected in the fact that Arsenal’s title hopes are now on life support.
There is a lot of pain in the Arsenal fandom right now and it feels like with no match this weekend should warrant taking a deep breath and thinking about how this season looks in the broader context of our initial expectations. You can call me an apologist but I still think that calling this season anything but a success is crazy so let’s go through what the numbers look like for the year.
Cannon Stats is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
As I have done all year, I will look at how Arsenal are performing compared to my initial expectations at the beginning of the season. I don’t believe in moving the goalposts inside of the season as to the definition of what makes a season a success or a failure, so I have not and won’t make any changes until we go into next season.
Arsenal have done extremely well all season picking up points. The first half of the year was extraordinary but was also fueled by a lot of little things bouncing their way, the second half of the season has seen things even out a bit more.
Before the World Cup Arsenal had picked up 37 points, dropping just 5 points. The performances were very good but they were running hot with 31 expected points. At the halfway point the team had 50 points but that was from 41 expected points. The signs were there that this probably wasn’t a 100-point team, but that they were still really good.
Since the halfway mark Arsenal has picked up 25 points compared to 22.7 expected, essentially coming back from most things going their way back towards a more normal points tally from their underlying performance.
When you are being chased by Manchester City, unfortunately, anything short of perfection plus luck can mean the difference between 1st place and 2nd place.
Target: 1.9 points per match
Actual: 2.3 points per match
There is an obvious red flag in the numbers above and an area for the team to figure out how to fix and that is expected goals conceded. The team has been very good in attack this season, putting themselves on target to come very close to the 90 goal target that Mikel Arteta set as the total needed for a title challenge. The flip side is that the defense has gotten a bit too porous and while the team has scored enough to where the difference to opponents still looks very good, it is still uncomfortably high and has dropped from a title-level difference towards a top-4 level difference lately. Attack wins Championships regardless of what the truism says, but it needs to have a decent defense attached.
Non-Pen xG For: Target 1.72 or better, Season: 2.01
Non-Pen xG Against: Target 1.06 or better, Season: 1.22
Non-Pen xG Difference: Target 0.66 or better, Season: 0.79
➡️ Mixed against targets
Open Play Shots
Another area where the current stumble has brought the team down a bit from the previous highs but where overall the team is still hitting the targets I set out for them at the start of the year. It is interesting that the difference between a top-4 team and title level team here is pretty small.
Open Play Shots For: Target 11.4 or better, Actual: 11.4
Open Play Shots Against: Target 6.8 or better, Actual: 6.6
Open Play Shot Difference: Target 4.6 or better, Actual: 4.8
➡️ On Target
Deep Completions For: Target 24.8 or better, Actual: 28.9
Deep Completions Against: Target 14.4 or better, Actual: 12.9
Deep Completion Difference: Target 10.4 or better, Actual: 16.0
↗️ Exceeding target
The field tilt is down slightly but still holding strong above target.
Field Tilt: Target 62.5% or better, Actual: 67.6%
↗️ Exceeding target
Arsenal have fallen back from the pace they had at the start of the season but still look like the second-best team in the League. Arsenal have 5 matches to go and a chance to cement themselves as one of the best Arsenal teams of all time (yes I still think they can be even if they end up short of a title, it won’t be the best but will still be remembered fondly if they can bounce back).
This season has exceeded expectations and raised them for next season, the last month hasn’t gone how we hoped with the dream of a title vanishing but it still has hit the requirements for a successful season of getting back into the Champions League and giving us a St. Totteringham day again.