After a turbulent summer, Arsenal sit top of the league with 16 points from 7 games. Although it is still early doors for the season, Arsenal sit top of the table for the first time in a few years and have been in great form this season. Even with that awful result against Aston Villa on the opening day, Arsenal are off to their best start, after seven games, since 2007-2008. In this article, I will analyse the teams defence, creativity, passing and attacking stats this season. I will also compare the start to this season to Arsenal’s start to last season.
After seven games, Arsenal have conceded eight goals and kept only one clean sheet. If Arsenal want to achieve their lofty goals they will have to be tighter at the back. That said, Arsenal have done well not letting games get away from them and have only allowed multiple goals once this season. A big problem for Arsenal this season is that they have been conceding too many penalties. This early in the season Arsenal have already conceded three penalties, tied with Crystal Palace for most in the Premier League. While Laurent Koscielny has conceded two of those three penalties, Koscielny has actually been one of the stand out performers of the defence. Koscielny leads the team in headed clearances, total clearances and has won the third most ground duels among Arsenal defenders. Bacary Sagna has also earned himself a purple patch early in the season leading the team in aerial duels won, outfield blocks, and has provoked the second most offsides. Sagna has also shown his versatility playing all three defensive positions so far this season playing left back during the Villa game after Kieran Gibbs’s injury, centre back against Fulham with Koscielny suspended along with playing his normal position, right back.
None of the Arsenal defenders have really been world beaters this season and it has been more about being a unit for Arsenal where the sum of the parts of the back four have been much better than the individuals. Arsenal have been much less error prone at the back this season. Last season, Arsenal made a defensive error every 93 minutes while this season they have only made one every 334 minutes.
Arsenal have played a total of 3638 passes from open play and have completed 85% of those passes. 2179 of Arsenal’s passes have come in the attacking half with 78% of those passes being completed. Aaron Ramsey has made the most attacking half passes and Mathieu Flamini has had the highest passing percentage. 33% of Arsenal’s passes have been forward and just as encouraging is that only 14% of the passes have been backwards. Many times over the recent years, Arsenal have had the problem with becoming complacent and keeping possession but then not doing anything with that possession. The most important passer for Arsenal has been their man of the moment, Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey has made 204 passes more than anyone else in the team and 78 more attacking third passes than anyone else. Ramsey has been pinging passes all over the park for Arsenal with 28% of his passes forward 28% left and 29% of his passes right. Ramsey has played the most accurate long balls, outside of the goalkeeper, attempted the most through balls and played the most balls to enter the final third.
While Ramsey is getting many plaudits for his goal scoring, Ramsey’s passing has been fantastic for Arsenal. Even with the arrival of Mesut Ozil, Ramsey has been the main outlet for the team picking the ball up and moving the team forward. In 2011/2012 after Cesc Fabregas left, Ramsey was tasked with trying to replace the Spanish playmaker and really failed to do so. This season, with the goals he’s been scoring and the passes he is making some have started to compare him to Arsenal’s former captain. These comparisons are premature and he will have to carry on his great form to try to get near that level. That said, Ramsey has been the player everything runs through, just like Fabregas was those years ago.
Arsenal have been able to create a chance once every 8.23 minutes. This is slightly worse than their chance creation last season, where they created a chance every 7.82 minutes. Arsenal’s new creative maestro, Mesut Ozil, and last seasons star man, Santi Cazorla, have yet to link up due to the Spaniards ankle injury. Once those two link up, Arsenal will hope the duo add to the Gunners creative numbers.
The two most creative players for Arsenal this season have been the new record signing Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud. Ozil has created more chances, 16, than any other Arsenal player, despite missing the first three games of the season, and more penalty area entries. Ozil also leads the Premier League in assists, again despite missing the first three games of the season. Ozil has also given the Gunners a set piece threat creating three chances, two of which turned into goals, from set pieces. Giroud has, somewhat surprisingly, created the second most chances, 12, among Arsenal players this season and has created the most clear cut chances, 3. The striker has shown, while he is big and built like a target man, he is also able to contribute to the play. Giroud has two assists so far this season, both to Aaron Ramsey.
Ozil has come in and been that amazing creative player that he was expected to be when Arsene Wenger opened up his wallet for him on deadline day. While Ramsey is the engine and the hub of the team Ozil is the creative force. Ozil has come in and taken the Premier League by storm creating the second most chances and creating them every 21 minutes, more often than any player, with at least five chances created, other than Sylvain Marveaux. The most exciting thing for Arsenal may be that the best is yet to come with Santi Cazorla yet to play with Ozil.
So far this season, Arsenal have scored 14 goals, second most in the Premier League behind only Manchester City. Arsenal have finished 19% of their chances as opposed to 17% last season. Arsenal have improved their shooting percentage from 48% last season to 58% this season. Arsenal have converted four out of their 12 clear cut chances this season down from last season’s 42%.
Arsenal’s top two goal scorers have been Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud who both have four goals this season. Ramsey has scored 33% of his chances and has scored both of his clear cut chances this season. Giroud has scored two out of his three clear cut chances and he has the second best chance conversion rate of players in the Premier League, with at least 15 shots, behind only Daniel Sturridge, at 21%. Giroud is the only attacking player on Arsenal to have more than one headed shot with six and has taken the most shots.
Arsenal’s attack has been good this season but they would like to improve their clear cut chance conversion rate. The biggest problem has been Theo Walcott has yet to get off the mark and has already missed four clear cut chances. Once Walcott comes back from his abdominal injury, Arsenal will need Walcott to start firing like he did last season. Walcott has done well to get into good positions but has failed to put his chances away. Giroud has been much better than he was last season and has been able to lead the line very well for Arsenal, something that is needed with their severe lack of depth at striker. Ramsey has been in the goal scoring form of his life this season, scoring eight in all competitions, and he will try to continue his form and while it will end eventually he will hope to keep it up as long as possible.
Comparison to Last Season
Arsene Wenger’s side has gotten off to their best start to a season since 2007/2008 with 16 points through seven games. Last season, Arsenal got 12 points from their first seven games after losing at home to Chelsea and drawing with Sunderland, Stoke City and Manchester City. This season Arsenal have had a pretty easy start to the season and will start to come up against the bigger teams in November and December.
While Arsenal have had a great start to the season, they are actually five points worse from these seven fixtures then they were last season. This stat has been brought up quite a lot when talking about Arsenal and some people have been using that stat to question the validity of Arsenal’s possibility of challenging for the title. The counter point to that has been that it is different playing all of those teams on the bounce and that it is almost impossible to win that many league games in a row in today’s game.
While Arsenal have started better this season in their first seven, the section of the season that really killed Arsenal last season was the next eight games where they only picked up nine points from eight games and only one of the teams they faced in that stretch finished in the top four. Where Arsenal really need to improve this season is in those next eight when the teams get tougher and the fixtures even more congested. Arsenal have built themselves a good platform to make a run at the title this season in the first seven games, something they have struggled to do in the past, now what they have to do is push on and prove they belong near the top of the table. Arsenal have clearly improved from this time last season and will be hoping to push on and become relevant in the chase for the Premier League title for the first time since 2007/2008.