Referees give a lot of penalties against Arsenal.
That’s not just rose-tinted bias, by the way, it’s born out in facts.
We’ve conceded seven spot kicks already this season in the league, roughly one in every three games.
We’ve conceded two more than we’ve won in fact, somewhat unusual for a side second in the league. Manchester United are the only other team in the top half to have conceded more than they’ve won. We all know how much Mourinho has gone on about the balance of penalties involving his team this year!
Clean sheets galore (ex penalties…)
Did you know, the last time we conceded a non-penalty goal at home in the league was 15th October? That’s FIFTEEN weeks ago. Seven matches.
Yet somehow we conceded FOUR penalties in those seven fixtures – Spurs, Bournemouth, Stoke and Burnley. Fortunately only the Spurs one cost us points. I say fortunately, clearly that’s the most important one of the lot, but the rate we’ve been offering up freebies from 12 yards, it could have been a heck of a lot worse.
The record for most penalty goals against anyone is nine for a whole season. We look like we’re going to smash that. Hull have already conceded nine goals from ten penalties though, so they look like they are going to kindly move the goalposts of that unwanted record.
More to the point, though, when we have been penalised the opposition have scored every single one of those spot kicks.
It raises an interesting question.
Why doesn’t Petr Cech save penalties?
Or rather, why doesn’t he save penalties for Arsenal? Since joining from Chelsea, our first choice ‘keeper has failed to save each of the nine pens he has faced with an Arsenal crest on his chest.
Over his career, on the other hand, he averages a save rate of just under one in four penalties.*
More worryingly though, Andre Gray’s heartbreaking penalty for Burnley at the weekend was the first time he hasn’t been sent entirely the wrong way in nine efforts.
Bring back Wojciech!
Seriously though, you don’t pick your ‘keeper based on his penalty saving ability. Although if we keep conceding spot kicks at the current rate, maybe we should! Or perhaps a Louis van Gaal type tactic to sub on a specialist, if and when we do concede one!
Cech has made crucial saves for us in a number of games already. It makes a mockery of some of the commentary post Sunday.
A tale of two penalties
First, we should acknowledge the context. Two penalties conceded in injury time. Two penalties scored by going straight down the middle.
But the suggestion that Cech was AT FAULT for the goal, for ANY penalty goal, was just ludicrous.
Yes it was a pants penalty by Gray. But how many penalties do you think a keeper will save if they stand still in the middle of the goal?
Penalties are a battle of minds between a forward and a ‘keeper, with the odds stacked in favour of the forward.
It’s all about being unpredictable. That’s why Alexis Sanchez could risk a panenka penalty with the decisive kick in the 97th minute – his previous five had all been low and towards a corner.
Mixing it up
If Cech always stood still, strikers wouldn’t need to risk going right for the corner when they can roll the ball in with a margin for error.
You also have to remember these penalties are taken by the men purported to be the best in their team at doing that job. They practise from 12 yards week in, week out. They are very likely to be aiming for a corner.
After all, if a professional penalty taker can’t hit the corner with unerring consistency, who can?
There’s only one exception to that – when the stakes are through the roof.
It’s no coincidence that Kane put his penalty straight down the middle back in November.
It’s also a fallback tactic Arsenal penalty takers have fallen back on over the years. Mikel Arteta was the master of knowing when a penalty really mattered and so to blast it down the centre.
Feeling the heat
It’s common when a player has missed a few penalties, it’s common when penalty shootouts go to sudden death, and it’s common when the outcome is critically important. Essentially, it’s common when the pressure is greatest.
It takes a hell of a lot of balls to go for the very corner in that situation.
The tenth penalty taker isn’t going to want to colour too close to the lines. They didn’t sign up for the first five penalties, they didn’t want the responsibility, they didn’t want the pressure.
However, against Burnley at the weekend, Gray was not the tenth name on the list to take the penalty. It was his first penalty of the season. There was little history to point to where he would put the ball.
Yes, Petr Cech is on a staggeringly bad run of saving penalties. But to suggest he was at fault for the goal is just laughable.
Besides, why waste a penalty save on a game where it doesn’t ultimately affect the result? If he’s saving them up for a cup final, you won’t see me complaining.
*Stats used do not differentiate between missed or saved