Arsenal have committed nine errors leading to an opposition goal this Premier League season, the joint-most of any team in Europe’s top five leagues.
According to WhoScored, Arsenal and Fulham lead Europe’s top five leagues in errors leading to opposition goals, with nine each. This isn’t exactly surprising, considering how regularly the Gunners are the masters of their own downfall defensively. Still, to be joint-highest on the list out of all five leagues emphasises just how bad the problem is.
At the same time, I’ve personally never been much of a fan of the metric. It’s very poorly defined, so much so that I can’t even find the definition on an official Opta website.
A 2017 Squawka tweet claims they define a defensive error as “a mistake made by a player losing the ball that leads to a shot or a goal”.
That just raises more questions around what counts as a “mistake” though. For example, Opta counted Bernd Leno palming the ball out against Liverpool at home as an error, even though a close review of the footage shows his save was going harmlessly to Sead Kolasinac until Rob Holding accidentally deflected it into James Milner’s path.
People were so quick to blame Leno for this that they didn’t even notice that his save was going harmlessly to Kolašinac until Holding’s touch.
It was just bad luck, not poor goalkeeping. pic.twitter.com/841IcG9l43
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) November 4, 2018
Perhaps it should’ve counted as an error by Holding, but it certainly shouldn’t have gone down as one by Leno, which it did.
Then there’s Leno’s mistake against Southampton for Charlie Austin’s goal at St. Mary’s Stadium, which also went down as an error.
Though it was a bad decision to come out when he was never going to make contact, I fail to see how that fits the above definition of “losing the ball”. He never had the ball to lose it. He didn’t make a touch, that was the problem.
It seems what counts as a “mistake” is judged on a case-by-case basis, without any clear rules guiding it. That’s obviously going to lead to more Arsenal goals being counted, as the Gunners spend more time in the public eye than a team like Frosinone.
Nonetheless, Arsenal do make a lot of mistakes, and it is an area for Unai Emery to look at and work on. It would just be nice for the statisticians to either clarify exactly how they define the metric or to admit there is no definition and they’re making it up as they go along.