There was a rare sense of optimism around the Emirates Stadium at the start of the season, with the media and social media alike determining that Arsenal had ‘won’ the transfer window following a handful of impressive acquisitions, combined with a plethora of outgoings.
A mere five games in and the goodwill from the Gunners’ faithful has displayed signs of subsiding – after opening the season with two wins by a single goal at Newcastle and then at home to Burnley, they have taken two points from their subsequent three league games; a poor return that some would say is still fortuitous.
Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road could be seen as a positive result taken out of context – with numerous first-team players sidelined, combined with Watford being buoyed by the re-appointment of Quique Sanchez Flores. However, the manner in which they let a two-goal lead slip against the side propping up the division is a natural cause for concern.
Arsenal most shots faced in a PL game – since Opta data started in 2003 31 vs Watford Sept 2019 27 vs Liverpool Dec 2014 26 vs Tottenham March 2016 26 vs Liverpool April 2009 26 vs Chelsea December 2006 25 vs Liverpool August 2019
The 31 attempts by Watford was a club-record in the Premier League – meanwhile Arsenal have been out-shot by their opponents in four of their five league games this season.
Arsenal results this season Date Team Result Shots Shots faced Aug 11 Newcastle (A) W1-0 8 9 Aug 17 Burnley (H) W2-1 15 18 Aug 24 Liverpool (A) L1-3 9 25 Sept 1 Tottenham (H) D2-2 26 13 Sept 15 Watford (A) D2-2 7 31
Arsenal’s so-called soft centre is nothing new – it became a regular talking point during Arsene Wenger’s later years and, despite a defensive improvement being a key remit for his successor, the statistics do little to suggest Arsenal’s backbone has been strengthened in the resulting three transfer windows.
Since the start of last season… Most penalties conceded Most errors leading to goals Most errors leading to shots Arsenal – 10 Arsenal – 14 Arsenal – 33 Brighton – 10 Fulham – 12 Fulham – 28 Huddersfield – 8 Bournemouth – 11 Man Utd – 27 Southampton – 11
Since the start of 2018-19, the only ever-present Premier League sides to have faced more shots than Arsenal are Burnley and West Ham. They have started this season not just conceding a magnitude of chances, but good ones…
Expected goals against in the PL this season Bournemouth 10.06 Arsenal 9.12 West Ham 8.91 Norwich 8.65
Towards to end of Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal’s famed style under his leadership had diminished. To many supporters, the trophy-less eight seasons between 2006-13 were off-set to some degree by the quality of football on display, combined with the patience and understanding the Frenchman had earned with the financial restraints following the 2006 move to the Emirates Stadium. As Arsenal’s grip on their seemingly imperious position in the top four dwindled, so did their identity.
Wenger’s departure after 22 years delivered an initial patience that would inevitably be required for his replacement. While the end to Wenger’s reign was perceived to be somewhat disastrous, Unai Emery’s start has been statistically worse.
Wenger vs Emery comparison Wenger’s last 43 PL games Comparison Emery’s first 43 PL games 2.02 Goals 1.88 1.23 Conceded 1.37 15.7 Shots 12.4 6.3 Shots on target 4.6 11.3 Shots faced 13.8 3.9 Shots on target faced 5.0 61.1% Average possession 57.9% 84.4% Passing accuracy 83.4% 11.1 Tackles won 9.5 1.9 Expected goals for 1.6 1.3 Expected goals against 1.5
The defence has often been the focal point when Arsenal have come under scrutiny in recent times, but it’s worth noting just how reliant they have been on their main two strikers under Emery – especially Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored five of Arsenal’s eight goals this season, and 12 of their last 18 goals either side of the summer break.
Arsenal top goalscorers under Unai Emery – all comps Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 36 Alexandre Lacazette 21 Alex Iwobi 6 Henrikh Mkhitaryan 6 Mesut Ozil 6 Aaron Ramsey 6 Danny Welbeck 5
The counter argument for Emery is that he is arguably missing three of his first-choice back four in Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and summer signing Kieran Tierney – Alexandre Lacazette’s injury combined with others still working their way back to full fitness after the summer means they have been reliant on their youngsters to fill those gaps.