Arteta's Arsenal show drastic improvement in this defensive stat

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal FC at Vitality Stadium on December 26, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images)
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal FC at Vitality Stadium on December 26, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images)

Under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal are showing drastic improvement in the number of shots conceded per game versus the Unai Emery days.

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Leeds United at The Emirates Stadium in London on January 6, 2020. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)
Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Leeds United at The Emirates Stadium in London on January 6, 2020. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

With Unai Emery in charge, Arsenal had a terrible record in terms of shots conceded.

According to stats from @KeenosAFC on Twitter, the average was 16.77 per game, which would put the team 19th in the league in the current standings. Only Aston Villa (18.55) have it worse.

Under Freddie Ljungberg, there was a mild improvement. Arsenal conceded 13.80 shots per game in those five games, which would move them up to 16th in the table. Still not great, but better.

It’s a different story after four games under Arteta though. The Gunners are down to 10.25 shots conceded per game, putting them fifth in the league. Only Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United are ahead of that tally.

The sample size is small, and it’s still a way off City in first (7.91). All the same, the new head coach clearly has Arsenal going in the right direction.

Expected Goals

Mikel Arteta speaking to the players in training (Photo via Twitter / Arsenal)
Mikel Arteta speaking to the players in training (Photo via Twitter / Arsenal)

This improvement is also evident in the expected goals stats for each game so far. There are lots of xG models around, so just to make it clear, for this one I’m using data from Scott Willis on Twitter. Here is the game-by-game xG scoreline:

  • 1. Bournemouth 1.59 – 1.88 Arsenal
  • 2. Arsenal 1.10 – 1.73 Chelsea
  • 3. Arsenal 1.78 – 0.92 Manchester United
  • 4. Arsenal 2.65 – 1.31 Leeds United
  • 5. Arsenal 1.37 – 0.70 Crystal Palace

As you can see, the only case where Arsenal didn’t have a higher expected goals tally was against Chelsea. Even then, Arsenal’s total was higher until the final 10 minutes, when they ran out of steam and fell apart.

Plus, Chelsea’s biggest boost to their xG was the Jorginho goal, a tap-in after Bernd Leno’s missed punch. Disappointing, but an individual error, not one representative of the way Arteta sets up.

The new boss has to keep it going, but we already seem to be a long way from the days when Arsenal led Europe’s top-five leagues for shots faced.