Despite winning the Community Shield, Arsenal have made a less than convincing start to the season. We’re going to look at why that might be.
There are various factors that could be affecting the team’s performances, so we’re going to look at each one-by-one, starting at the top, with the manager.
The Arsenal boss finally committed his future to the club earlier this summer, after a protracted back and forth by fans and the media overshadowing almost the whole of last season.
Although many of the arguments on both sides have started to die down a little after the new contract was signed, with most figuring that there was no point fighting when it’s clearly made no difference, there is still something a bit off about the atmosphere.
Once results start to turn, as they did on Saturday, it all starts to resurface. Whether the Gunners can use last year’s experience to overcome that this time remains to be seen.
As always, much of the blame for any bad performances has to lie with the players. There have been a few players who have disappointed individually so far, and no one has really played well above the level we expect of them.
New signings Lacazette and Kolašinac have generally impressed, but with all the contract issues hanging over the club at the moment, many of the existing players haven’t reached their former levels.
What’s especially disappointing here is that the players who really need to be fighting for a place, have often been the worst performers. Danny Welbeck will struggle to find a place in the team when Alexis returns, but he’s been wasteful when given the opportunity to play so far.
Hector Bellerín and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be pushing each other on as they fight over one position, but instead they seem to be battling over who can be the most disappointing.
Holding, Monreal and Musafi have all been involved at centre-back and none have been overly impressive. Again, this is an area where there should be plenty of competition, but the players aren’t responding to that.
So perhaps if the individuals have all the motivation they need, but still aren’t performing on the pitch, the formation is the next thing we should look at.
When it was first utilised by the Gunners, many pundits and fans talked about the ‘solidity’ that a back three could bring. However, recent stats have suggested that the team are actually conceding even more dangerous chances than they were before.
1.66 – Arsenal's expected goals conceded with a back three was 1.66 per game compared to 1.18 per match with a back four. Lucky.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 11, 2017
As per the stat above, via Opta, Arsenal conceded 1.66 expected goals per game with a back three last season, and only 1.18 with a back four. Expected goals is a measure of how likely a chance is to be scored, based on the angle, distance from the goal, position of the keeper and so on.
If Arsenal are now conceding an extra 0.48 expected goals per game, what that means in reality is that they’re allowing opponents more high quality chances than they did before the change.
According to another tweet by a stat account, the expected goals against Leicester was 1.50, again much higher than the previous 1.18. The suggestion is that Arsenal were lucky not to concede just as many goals towards the end of last season as they have at the start of this.
Any of the above reasons could be contributing to the Gunners’ troubles, the important thing is that the club reflects on what isn’t going right and addresses it. Whether that means signings, formation changes, giving different players a chance, it needs to be sorted out.