After a disastrous start to the season with a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa, Arsenal are two points clear at the top of the table with 25 points from 11 games. It’s still only the first third of the season but, Arsenal are top at this point in the season for the first time in a long time. While they are just coming off a loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford, Arsenal are off to their best start, through 11 games, since 2009/2010. In this article, I will analyse the teams defence, creativity, passing and attacking stats this season. I will also compare Arsenal’s start this season to last season.
11 games into the season, Arsenal are tied for the third best defensive record conceding only 10 goals. Despite having a very strong defensive record, Arsenal have only been able to keep three clean sheets this season. Arsenal have done well this season not compounding mistakes and have only allowed multiple goals once this season, in the league. After conceding three penalties in the first four games, Arsenal have done well not to concede a penalty in the last seven games after that seemed to be a big problem early on.
Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny have been the standouts in the Arsenal defence early on this season. Sagna showed his versatility early on playing centre back in a few games and even left back at a point but has been able to settle in at right back and has been fantastic. Sagna struggled last term but has been able to recapture his form and has been, arguably, the best right back in the league. Sagna has won an aerial duel every 30 minutes, won a ground duel every 37 minutes, made 33 clearances and is tied with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny for the most blocks on the team with four. Koscielny had a tough start to the season after conceding two penalties in the first four games but has rebounded well from that. Koscielny leads the team in clearances with 48, has made a tackle every 46 minutes and has made a tackle every 67 minutes.
Sagna has rebounded after having a dismal 2012/2013 season. He has been a standout defender this season doing well in the air like he usually does, winning aerial duels more often than either centre back, and has put in some fantastic performances so far. Koscielny, as mentioned above, had a bit of a rocky start to this year conceding a couple of penalties. Since then, Koscielny has rebounded well and has been solid. Sagna has been the best defender this season but, as a whole Arsenal doesn’t have that “top top quality” defender but as a unit Arsenal’s defensive unit has been quite good for the last six months. Arsenal have done well to eradicate many of the defensive errors having only made three this season, as many as the best defence in the country, Southampton. That equates to a defensive error every 348 minutes compared to one every 98 last season.
Arsenal have made a total of 6087 passes completing 5194 (85%). Arsenal have been able to complete 76% of their passes in the final third and 33.48% of their passes have been forward this season. All of those numbers are nearly identical to their numbers last season. Their most prolific passers this season have been exactly who you would expect them to be, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey. Those two have attempted and made more passes than any other players on the team with Ramsey completing 429 and Ozil completing 382. Ozil has completed more passes in the final third than anyone in the team completing 240 of 293 passes in the final third (82%). The two have also both made 28 final third entries, again more than anyone else in the team.
Ramsey has, arguably, been the best player in the Premier League this season and not just because of his amount of goals but because of his work rate defensively and and bossing the midfield. Ramsey has been the outlet for the team and has been the best player for Arsenal, despite the arrival of the impeccable Mesut Ozil. Ramsey has been compared with the former Arsenal playmaker, Cesc Fabregas. Like I said in the first one of these season so far recaps during the last international break, Ramsey is not yet at that Fabregas level because to be there you have to do it consistently for a long period of time. Ozil has had some great moments already with Arsenal but it seems at times he has not fully adjusted so once he adjusts he could and should be even better.
Arsenal have been known for their creativity and their flair this season. The Gunners have been called “the one-two team” on multiple occasions by pundits and game announcers this season because of that great flair and creativity. All that said, they are actually creating chances at a slightly lower rate than they were creating last season. Last season, Arsenal created a chance every 7.8 minutes while this season they have created a chance every 8.4 minutes. The clear cut chances have also been coming at a slightly slower rate with Arsenal creating a clear cut chance every 58 minutes this season compared to 51 minutes last season.
Arsenal’s most creative player has been exactly who you would expect it to be, Mesut Ozil, but their other big creator this season has been striker Olivier Giroud. Ozil has created 24 chances this season, more than anyone else on the team, and has been creating a chance every 29 minutes. Ozil has led the team in crosses attempted and completed with 37 attempted and 12 completed. Both of them have four assists but Ozil has the only assists from set pieces for Arsenal this season.
When Mesut Ozil came into the is Arsenal team for a record transfer fee of 42.5m, people expected Ozil to come into the team straight into the team and create chances and get lots of assists. While there have been some hints of criticism after a few performances where he looked tired, Ozil has come into the team and been that fantastic creative player many expected. Ozil has come in and created a chance every 29 minutes even taking into account the fact that he still may not be fully adapted to the Premier League. Ozil has also provided Arsenal with set piece specialist so that they are now a threat from dangerous crossing positions out side the box.
While Ozil has been a great creator, Olivier Giroud must receive a huge amount of credit for the way Arsenal have started the season. Giroud has banged a solid amount of goals early on but his hold up play and link up play has been immense. Giroud’s ability to hold the ball up and bring all those immensely talented play makers Arsenal have at their disposal into the game has been such an important part of the Arsenal attack this season. He has also been a gifted passer in the final third and has been creating chances as well as taking them for this Arsenal team. Giroud has become known for those fantastic flicks he does with regularity.
Everyone will remember that memorizing goal he and Jack Wilshere linked up for against Norwich where they exchanged flicks to bamboozle the Norwich defence. While all fans of football love those delicate little flicks, Giroud has created chances in other ways this season. Giroud has linked play well but a real telling moment that he has really adjusted to life as an Arsenal player and is not pressing as much as he was earlier in his Arsenal career was his assist against Swansea. He had a good chance for himself but instead of taking a good chance he laid it off to Aaron Ramsey for what was a great chance and a goal.
Next Page: Arsenal’s attacking stats and a comparison to last season.
If you compare this season to last season, Arsenal have made slight improvements this year. Arsenal have scored a goal every 48 minutes this season, as opposed to every 50 last season. Arsenal have been slightly more clinical finishing 19% of their chances this year, as opposed to 17% last year, and converted 45% of their clear cut chances,as opposed to 42% last year. Like stated above slight improvements. The only major improvement has been their shooting accuracy which has gone from 48% up to 57%. The top two goal scorers this season have been Olivier Giroud and the magical Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey leads the team with six league goals and 11 in all competitions. Giroud comes in second with five league goals and eight in all competitions. Ramsey has a 32% conversion rate and has converted all three of his clear cut chances. Giroud has a 17% chance conversion rate and has converted three of his six clear cut chances. Giroud has taken the most shots on the team with 40 while Ramsey has put the most shots on target with 14.
Ramsey has been in the form of his life. It is completely pointless to compare his goal scoring this season to last season because it’s just not comparable. His massive boost in confidence has allowed this amazing form in front of goal.
As he has told reporters tirelessly, Ramsey has always been in positions to score but has lacked the composure in front of goal in the past. Giroud on the other hand, has had a massive improvement in front of goal in his second season. Giroud has improved his chance conversion rate from 13% to 19% but the major improvement has been he has not spurned the great chances this year. Last season, Giroud converted only four of his 23 clear cut chances, one of the worst conversion rates in the league. This season, Giroud has converted three of his six clear cut chances. Giroud will need to keep a similar conversion rate or even improve upon it if Arsenal are to sustain their title challenge.
With the lack of depth in the striker department, Arsenal will want to put Olivier Giroud in bubble wrap when he is not playing. While they still have Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and even Yaya Sanogo to return from injury, it is clear that Nikolas Bendtner will not be able to get the job done and Arsenal will need to pray for Giroud to stay fit at least until January. While their is always room to improve, Arsenal’s current goal scoring numbers are very similar to last season’s champions, Manchester United, numbers in front of goal. As is the way in Arsenal’s system, they will need the goals to keep coming from the midfield. While Aaron Ramsey will eventually stop scoring at such a ridiculous rate, the Gunners do have other options. With Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski coming back from injury along with players like Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil already in that midfield, Arsenal should be able to keep the goals from midfield rolling in.
Comparison to Last season
Arsenal have made major improvement in comparison to this stage of last season. At this point last season, Arsenal had 16 points while right now they have 25 points. That is massive improvement and has allowed Arsenal to be top of the table going into the November international break. Arsenal have started playing the bigger teams in the league and have still been getting on pretty well. While Arsenal have had a great start to the season, they are actually three points worse off than they were with the same fixtures last season. While many assumed Arsenal would crumble when they played the top teams, they have shown they can beat better teams like Dortmund, Liverpool and Napoli. While they did just lose to Manchester United, a loss at Old Trafford is one a team can budget for in a title race.
Arsenal have had a strong start to the season. In the last “Arsenal’s season so far” story I said that the key part of the schedule for Arsenal was not the first seven games but the next eight to ten games. So far Arsenal have done well grabbing nine points from games eight to eleven. If Arsenal can get through the Christmas period and still be competitive, they will have as good a shot as any team at the title.