Seven games into the Premier League campaign and Arsenal stand proud at the very top of the league table. Despite what many would call a catastrophic start to the season – one which saw a lack of quality signings along with a 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa – Arsenal fans have long forgotten the moans and groans emerging around the stadium after that final whistle blew. With our main rivals all dropping points in “easy games”, and last seasons champions falling at every hurdle, Gooners would be right to think this season could be special – that Arsene Wenger could go on to end that much discussed trophy drought. However, one could argue Arsenal should be beating the sort of teams they’ve been up against. The real challenge to winning a title is all about taking points of your rivals; shattering their confidence and boosting yours at crucial times in the season. So, points and wins aside, how do Arsenal compare to their title rivals so far this season?
To gain a more comprehensive understanding of Arsenal’s title ambitions, I will be using a method of statistical analysis and probability calculations to work out the most likely results of Arsenal’s biggest games this season. Now, with only seven games being played so far, this method is far from exact; but it should provide a decent understanding of how Arsenal would cope against stronger opposition. So, what do we know so far?
A total of 162 goals have been scored/conceded so far this season. This tells us the average number of goals a Premier League team has scored/conceded is 8.1. Arsenal have contributed to 14 of the 162 total goals scored. By dividing this by 8.1, we get approximately 1.73. This tells us that Arsenal have scored 73% more goals than the average team has this season. The same calculation can be used for goals conceded. The Gunners have let in 8 goals so far this season. Dividing this by 8.1 gives us approximately 0.99 – meaning Arsenal have conceded 1% less goals than the average team has this season. Carrying out these calculations for all the main title contenders gives the following results:
Arsenal Att/Def = 1.73/0.99
Chelsea Att/Def = 1.23/0.49
Liverpool Att/Def = 1.36/0.62
Manchester City Att/Def = 2.10/0.99
Manchester United Att/Def = 1.23/1.11
Tottenham Hotspur Att/Def = 0.74/0.62
Essentially, you want to have a high “attack number” and a low “defence number”. More specifically, a top team should have an attack rating higher than 1 (meaning they score more goals than average) and a defence rating lower than 1 (meaning they concede fewer goals than average). At a glance, we can instantly see two teams in trouble: Man United and Spurs. United under Moyes have conceded 11% more goals than the average team in the Premier League – a worrying statistic when you discover this average included relegation-battling sides. Likewise, Spurs have scored 36% goals less than average, which isn’t a great stat for a team that spent £100 million on attacking talent this summer.
Arsenal display a strong attack rating; one which makes them the second most dangerous team in the Premier League behind Man City, who have scored a staggering 110% more goals than average in their seven games this season. Defensively though, Arsenal are near enough average – a statistic they share with the blue side of Manchester. Despite laying claim to a strong back four of Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertersacker and Sagna, Arsenal will surely need to improve this record if they want to win a trophy this season.
A quick analysis of the other two teams shows a great balance between attack and defence. Both Chelsea and Liverpool concede well below the average number of goals other teams do, and also share a fairly competent attacking threat. These steady figures should hold them in good stead for the remainder of the season, despite appearing a little light up front at times.
Now for the fun part – what would the most probable score’s be when Arsenal meet these teams on the pitch? With these statistics taken from just seven games, it would not be a true representation of things to come; but we can still have a look at how things stand today. Of the 162 goals scored in total, 87 were netted by home teams, and 75 by away teams. This means on average teams have scored 4.35 goals at home and 3.75 goals away from home. A few fancy multiplications, taking into account home advantage and the average number of goals scored per game, gives us the following score predictions for Arsenal’s big games:
Arsenal vs Chelsea: 1-1
Chelsea vs Arsenal: 2-1
Arsenal vs Liverpool:1-1
Liverpool vs Arsenal: 2-1
Arsenal vs Man City: 2-2
Man City vs Arsenal: 3-2
Arsenal vs Man United: 2-1
Man United vs Arsenal: 2-2
Arsenal vs Spurs: 1-1 (In reality Arsenal won 1-0)
Spurs vs Arsenal: 1-1
So, that gives Arsenal a total of 11 points from the above games (3 points already gained from the home win against Spurs). Certain aspects of these results are obviously unrealistic (Man United’s poor form and heavy defeat to Man City alters the scores) but this certainly provides us with a competent view of where Arsenal currently stand. All in all, their average defensive display this season cost them in most games – some of the other teams had conceded nearly half of the goals the Gunners had let in – and the home draws don’t look too good either.
Luckily, due to the limited statistics available to create these predictions, we can expect Arsenal to perform much better when these actual games arrive on the fixture calender. With more consistent defensive performances, Wenger’s side could become major title contenders for the first time in years.
Photo via Wonker – http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonker/