Under Mikel Arteta this season, Arsenal have a problem with putting the ball in the back of the net. This is a fact backed by numbers, they have managed to only score ten goals from 12 matches. Only West Brom, Burnley, and Sheffield United have scored fewer goals than Arsenal, and they all sit below them in the table. However, the difference between Arsenal and these three teams neat the relegation zone is the time in which Arsenal have possession of the ball.
Arsenal have managed to lose five of their matches from which they had more than 50% or more of the possession. Their most disastrous defeat was the 2-0 loss away at Spurs where they had 68% possession. Arsenal are clearly having trouble scoring even when they have the ball, but why is this the case. Why are they not scoring when they have the ability to possess the ball? This data analysis will provide a scout report on Arsenal’s goal-scoring problems by showing how Arsenal’s have placed too large an emphasis on their crossing, their need for more creativity centrally, and how they need to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into goal scoring chances.
Emphasis on crossing
This season has seen Arsenal resort to a tactic that supporters wouldn’t normally associate with the North London club, crossing. In the past three Premier League matches, Arenal have attempted a total of 116 crosses and have only scored once from it. The statistics above reflect the number of crosses attempted, shots, and possession from the last five Premier League matches. Arsenal have scored one goal in their last five. The goal that was scored had come from a cross against Wolves. With these numbers alone, we can come to the conclusion that Arsenal have increased their amount of crosses attempted, but have not increased goals or shots on target. Historically, Arsenal have not been a club that looks to their wide areas for creating goal-scoring chances. Their intricate passing sequences from long sustained possession are much recognizable to their supporters. So why have they begun looking to cross the ball into the box?
It appears that Arteta believes that the answer to his team’s lack of creating goal-scoring opportunities has led him into resorting to crossing. With crossing, it comes down to a numbers game, and Arteta believes that with enough crosses, chances will come. Unfortunately for him and his team, this hasn’t seemed to work. For most teams crossing the ball into the box, they have a large target man or a player that excels scoring in the box. For Arsenal, Aubameyang and Lacazette and have been two quality strikers since joining in 2018, but they are not aerially goal threats. Since joining the club the two forwards have combined for a total of seven headed goals between them. This makes it unsurprising then that they have not been able to take advantage of the crosses. That being said, through 12 matches their crossing accuracy ranks them 18th, finding their teammates from just under 17% of their deliveries. Even if Aubameyang or Lacazette were much more penalty box orientated forwards, they would have trouble getting onto crosses as many have not been very accurate.
Calculations have been made in regard to crossing and they conclude that one in every 64 crosses result in a goal. The research was done by Soccerment and they believe that crossing should not be your primary outlet of creativity unless you have a striker that is capable of getting on the end of crosses. The probability of scoring from a cross is a 1.6% chance. For Arsenal, these numbers do not result in their favor, and from the comparison of European crossing stats and Arsenal further, prove that they should look to a new method of creating chances. They attempt more crosses than the average team but their success rate is lower than average. Moving forward, Arsenal should look towards new ideas for creating chances as statistics prove that crossing is currently not working for them.
Need for central creativity
Arsenal’s reasoning for resorting to crosses is because of their need to create goal-scoring chances. This as we have explained does not appear to work. Their 3-4-3 system allows for creating width and overloads out wide that create crossing chances. However, the crossing is not working. They are in desperate need of creativity centrally. This doesn’t mean they should stop crossing entirely, but they require creating chances from other areas. The addition of Thomas Partey from Atlético Madrid in the summer has provided Arsenal’s midfield with a much needed defensive presence. Partey has been able to provide the protection centrally but needs assistance in creating centrally in a 2 man central midfield. When Arteta uses his 3-4-3 formation he has partnered Partey with another defensive midfielder. He has used Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, and Daniel Cabellos. Cabellos, however, can be seen as much more of a creative central player. Moving forward Arsenal may need to look to switch systems or create room for a more creative player like Cabellos centrally.
Arsenal have completed the 4th most passes so far this season. With 5199 completed, only Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea have completed more. That being said, with all of the passes they have not been creative with that possession.
The graph above compares shot-creating actions per 90 minutes to goal creating actions per 90 minutes. Aston Villa leads this comparison with 3.89 goal creating chances per 90 and 25.56 shots creating chances per 90. Meanwhile, Arsenal have only created 1.45 goal-creating actions per 90 and 14.73 shot-creating chances per 90. The Gunners are well below the average and it is unsurprising due to their reliance on crossing and their lack of creativity.
Further reasoning for why Arsenal needs to bring in a more creative midfielder inside is to help turn Arsenal’s large amount of possession into goal scoring chances. As we have already mentioned, Arsenal have been able to create large spells of possession, but very few chances to show for. If Arsenal can find ways to insert Dani Ceballos or bring back Mesut Özil, they should do so. Their focus on crossing is not suited for the players within this team. They should look to play to their strengths and play with the ball on the ground. Creating chances through the middle will help the team become more than a one-dimensional team. This will also help the forwards receive more chances that are better suited to them.
Get Aubameyang back to his best
Aubameyang, since joining Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in the winter of 2018 has been a phenomenal goal scorer. He has scored a total of 56 goals in 96 appearances in the Premier League and won the golden boot in his first full season in 2018/2019 with 22 goals. Before the beginning of this season, Aubameyang was the man that scored the goals for Arsenal. This season, however, he has only scored twice from his 11 appearances with one of the goals coming from a penalty. What’s changed? Why has he not been able to hit the ground running this season?
The statistics above compare Aubameyang’s shooting metrics for his four seasons at Arsenal. From a first look, it is obvious to see that Aubameyang this season is taking fewer chances. His amount of shots per 90 for the last two and a half-season, have seen him average 2.38, 2.94, and 2.58 shots. In comparison to this season, he is only averaging 1.73 shots per 90. While it can still be argued it is early in the season and things can change for the Gabonese striker, his statistics from this season are significantly lower compared to his prior seasons. When he first arrived in North London he got off to a flyer with 10 goals in 13. He adapted quickly and was able to score from closer than ever before. This being said, he is under a new manager now and the tactics have changed. So Aubameyang’s involvement in front of goal has appeared to drop but is this a fault of his own or is it the change in the way that Arsenal position themselves?
The heat maps show Aubameyang’s average positioning from last season and this season so far. When comparing the two maps, it is noticeable how similar his positioning has been this season compared to last. He is still being deployed as the left forward in Arsenal’s 3-4-3 system and is still drifting inside onto his favoured right foot. Differences that can be drawn are that it appears that he is being isolated much more out wide rather than in the centre. However, this may change as the season continues as the heat map on the right is from only 11 matches so far.
Comparing Aubameyang’s shot map from last season and this season so far show that he is still shooting relatively from the same areas.However, from these areas it appears that the quality of the shot is lacking so far. From in and around the centre of the penalty box, all of his shots have been off-target. This will need to increase over the course of the season for Arsenal to also improve their scoring.
From an analysis of Aubameyang’s data, it is apparent that the striker is shooting less and hitting the target even less than his previous seasons. For Arsenal, he is integral to their goalscoring and will need to find the form to help them move further up the table. Getting him into goal scoring positions and allowing him to shoot will help him as well as the team.
Arsenal have problems with putting the ball in the net. That being said, this problem will not have to last forever if they begin looking to play to their strengths. Mikel Arteta will realise that this numbers game he is playing will not be played out in his favour. He will need to find a way to thrust creativity into his central midfield within his 3-4-3 formation or try moving to a 4-2-3-1. Aubameyang has had a disappointing start to the season for his team, but if they find ways to get him on the ball in more dangerous areas, he will be able to deliver. There is a foundation for Arsenal to build upon, it is just a matter of time to see if a change will come.