Mid season Arsenal player review: Which players should Arsenal retain, sell and recruit?

With Arsenal’s 2018/2019 Premier League campaign at the midway point and the January 2019 transfer now open, it’s an opportune time to examine the on-field production of each player in Arsenal’s senior squad, and the player market, in order to identify:

  • which players Arsenal should retain,
  • which players Arsenal should seek to move on, and
  • which players Arsenal should seek to recruit during the transfer window, based on their comparative on field productivity.

Methodology

In assessing the on-field production and the comparative ranking of each player which comprise Arsenal’s senior squad, each player from that squad has been allocated into one of seven positional categories (with some players considered in multiple positional categories due to their notional versatility).

Those seven positional categories consist of:

  • goalkeeper
  • right fullback
  • centre back
  • left fullback
  • centre midfield
  • attacking midfield
  • striker.

Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category has then been considered, using data sourced from Whoscored.com.

To provide a realistic picture of each individual player’s on-field production, only data from those seasons, throughout the player’s professional career, where the player has started at least 15 league games in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive) was considered. Where a player has not, throughout their professional career, started at least 15 league games in at least two season (consecutive or non-consecutive), their productivity data was not assessed.

Different weightings were then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstones of Arsenal’s tactical approach is as follows:

  • To stretch the game vertically, by creating generous spacing between their defensive, midfield and attacking blocks, so as to allow for quick forward transitions, and higher probability goal scoring opportunities.
  • Arsenal’s goalkeeper’s primary aims are to stop shots and claim crosses.
  • Arsenal’s centre backs’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), win aerial duels, clear the ball from defence and block shots.
  • Arsenal’s fullbacks’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), cross the ball multiple times during a match (with the intent of providing assists), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s central midfielders’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through accurate passing, multiple long range passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s attacking midfielders’ primary aims are to provide assists, score goals, create goal scoring opportunities through multiple key passes, multiple through passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s strikers’ primary aims are to score goals, and record multiple shots and successful aerial duels per match.

N.B. the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full back, and centre backs; the ‘midfield block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s centre midfielders; and the ‘attacking block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

Once the relative on field productivity of Arsenal’s current senior squad was assessed, the comparative KPI data (from Whoscored.com) of the players competing in the following leagues was then reviewed:

  • English Premier League
  • Championship
  • Serie A
  • Ligue 1
  • La Liga
  • Bundesliga
  • Bundesliga 2
  • Liga NOS
  • Eredivisie
  • Russian Premier League
  • Brasileirao
  • Major League Soccer
  • Super Lig
  • Primera Division
  • Super League.

When considering players competing in the aforementioned leagues, certain clubs who were subjectively deemed to be presently superior to Arsenal were not considered. This included clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Porto, Roma, Napoli. This was designed to realistically account for Arsenal’s attractiveness as a prospective employer, based on the club’s current standing in European football (as a Europa League competitor) and as the 6th best Premier League side.

Also, only players from the aforementioned leagues who have, during their professional career, started at least 15 league games in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive) were considered. Where a player has not, throughout their professional career, started at least 15 league games in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive), their productivity data was not assessed. Again, this was designed to provide a realistic picture of each individual player’s on field production.

The KPI data of the reviewed players was then contrasted against the KPI data of the players who currently comprise Arsenal’s senior squad, to identify prospective transfer targets.

Player assessment and rankings

Goalkeeper

goalkeeper

Starting with the goalkeeping position, and despite being out of favour with Arsenal’s current hierarchy, David Ospina has one of the best performance records of any goalkeeper in world football, with no other reviewed goalkeeper possessing a superior career Whoscored.com rating.

Given Ospina’s excellent performance record to date, it was perplexing to see Arsenal persist with the less productive Petr Cech, during the pairs time at the club, and it was downright baffling to see Arsenal recently spend heavily to recruit Bernd Leno, despite the German goalkeeper possessing an inferior performance record to that of both Cech and Ospina.

Ideally Arsenal’s current hierarchy will come to their senses and, recall, retain and play the high performing Ospina as Arsenal’s starting goalkeeper.

In terms of the backup goalkeeper, with Martinez and Macey unproven but both considered ‘homegrown’, Cech recently announcing his retirement, and Leno delivering the sorts of comparatively less impressive performances his career numbers indicated he was going to, it would make sense for the club to sell Leno, and retain either one of Martinez or Macey as the club’s secondary goalkeeper, or recruit one of Sergio Padt, Andre Blake or Esteban Andrada, who all have a superior performance record in contrast to Cech and Leno, to serve as the backup goalkeeper.

That said, given the criticality of the goalkeeping position, it would be logical for Arsenal to err on the side of caution and pursue recruiting one of Sergio Padt, Andre Blake or Esteban Andrada,to serve as the backup goalkeeper, as opposed to assigning the role to one of Martinez or Macey.

Right fullback

right fullback

In terms of the club’s contracted right fullback options, there is no player who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficiently productive performance record to warrant selection as the team’s first choice right fullback.  While it’s unfair to judge Jenkinson, Maitland-Niles or Osei-Tutu suitability, as none of those players has sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, the consistent lack of defensive production from Bellerin and Lichtensteiner is simply unacceptable, and consequentially neither player can genuinely be considered a credible right fullback option for Arsenal.

Offensively, while Bellerin has demonstrated impressive production in terms of his forward dribbles per match, the same can’t be said about Lichtensteiner, and the per game crossing production of Bellerin, can be described as underwhelming at best.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted right fullback options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Bellerin, release Lichtensteiner and recruit William of Wolfsburg to serve as the club’s first choice right fullback.

In terms of a backup right fullback, with the Premier League’s homegrown rule meaning Arsenal need to have at least 5 homegrown players within the club’s 22-man squad, Arsenal could potentially retain one of Jenkinson, Maitland Niles or Osei-Tutu, all of whom are homegrown but unproven, to fill that role.

That said, given the criticality of defence, as the last line of protection for Arsenal’s goalkeeper, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should instead aim to recruit the next most productive right fullback to fulfil that backup right fullback role. That being the case, Frederic Guilbert of Caen should be the Gunner’s key target.

Centre back

centre back

As for the club’s contracted centre back options, Arsenal fortunately have a player in Mustafi who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficiently productive performance record to warrant selection as one of the club’s two starting centre backs.

As for the club’s other centre back options, while its unfair to judge Mavropanos, Holding or Bielik, as all three players have insufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Koscielny tackles per game record is inferior, and his propensity to win aerial duels is underwhelming;
  • Sokratis’ interceptions per match record is inferior;
  • Monreal’s propensity to win aerial duels is inferior, and his per game clearance and block rates are underwhelming;
  • Chambers’ interceptions per match record and his propensity to win aerial duels are inferior; and
  • Kolasinac’s interceptions per game record is inferior, as is his propensity to win aerial duels, and his per match clearance and block rates.

Needless to say, Mustafi aside, Arsenal lack a sufficient number of adequately productive centre back options.

That being the case, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Koscielny, Sokratis and Chambers, at a minimum, and recruit Kyriakos Papadopolous of Hamburg, to partner Mustafi at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.

In terms of backup centre backs, Arsenal could potentially retain Bielik and Holding, both of whom are homegrown but unproven, to fill those roles. Alternatively, the club could retain the unproven, and not homegrown, Mavropanos alongside either Bielik or Holding.

That said, given the aforementioned criticality of defence, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should instead aim to recruit the next most productive centre backs available to fulfil those backup roles. That being the case, Willy Boly of Wolverhampton Wolves, and Joel Veltman of Ajax, should be the Gunner’s key targets.

Left fullback

left fullback

Regarding the club’s contracted left fullback options, like the club’s right fullback contingent, there is no player who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficient performance record, both offensively and defensively, to warrant selection as the team’s first choice left fullback.

While it’s unfair to judge Bramall’s suitability, as the young Englishman does not have sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess his performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Monreal’s tackles per game record is inferior, while his propensity to complete successful forward dribbles per match and his per game crossing rate are underwhelming; and
  • Kolasinac’s tackles and interceptions per match records are inferior, as his propensity to cross the ball per game. While his per match dribbling rate is underwhelming.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted left fullback options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell both Kolasinac and Monreal, and recruit Douglas Santos of Hamburg, to serve as Arsenal’s first choice left fullback.

In terms of a backup left fullback, Arsenal could potentially retain Bramall, who is homegrown but unproven, to fill the role.

That said, given the prior mentioned criticality of defence, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should instead aim to recruit the next most productive left fullback to fulfil that backup role. That being the case, Olivier Veigneau of Kasimpasa should be the Gunner’s key target.

Centre midfield

centre midfield

In terms of the club’s contracted central midfield options, while its unfair to judge Elneny, Willock, Maitland Niles and Guendouzi’s suitability, as none of those players have had sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Mustafi’s tackles per game record is underwhelming, and his propensity to complete successful forward dribbles per match is inferior;
  • Xhaka’s tackles per gane record is underwhelming, while his interceptions per game record is inferior;
  • Torreira’s inclination to make accurate long-range passes per match is inferior;
  • Monreal’s tackles per game record is underwhelming, while his inclination to make accurate long-range passes per match and his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per game are both inferior;
  • Ramsey and Chambers’ respective tackles per game records are underwhelming, while their interceptions per match records and tendency to make accurate long-range passes per game are inferior;
  • Kolasinac’s tackles per match record and his propensity to complete successful forward dribbles per game is inferior, while his interceptions per match record, tendency to make accurate long-range passes per game and per match passing accuracy are all inferior.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted central midfield options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Xhaka, Torreira and Ramsey, at a minimum, and recruit Maxime Gonalons of Sevilla, and Idrissa Gueye of Everton to serve as Arsenal’s first choice central midfield. That said, given Everton’s financial backing, it may be difficult for Arsenal to complete a transfer for Gueye. As such, Arsenal could alternatively pursue recruiting Asier Illarramendi of Real Sociedad, to serve alongside Gonalons in Arsenal’s central midfield.

In terms of backup centre midfielders, Arsenal could potentially retain Willock and Maitland Niles, both of whom are homegrown but unproven, to fill those roles. Alternatively, the club could retain the unproven, and not homegrown, Elneny and/or Guendouzi alongside or instead of either Willock or Maitland Niles.

While having highly productive and proven players in the defence is critical, given the defence’s role as the last line of protection for Arsenal’s goalkeeper, there is a strong argument that Arsenal have more flexibility to utilise unproven players to fulfil the backup central midfield role. That being the case, and given the Premier League’s homegrown rule, it would be logical for Arsenal to retain Willock and Maitland Niles as the club’s back up central midfielders.

Attacking midfield

attacking midfield

As for the club’s contracted attacking midfield options, while its unfair to judge Nketiah, Smith-Rowe, Maitland Niles and Nelson’s suitability, as none of those players have had sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Mkhitaryan’s assists per season record is underwhelming, as is his key passes and through passes per game record, and his propensity to shoot per match. In addition, Mkhitaryan’s goals per season record is inferior;
  • Ozil’s goals per season record is inferior, as is his propensity to shoot per game. His tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match is also underwhelming;
  • Lacazette’s assists per season record is inferior, as is his key passes and through passes per game record. Lacazette’s tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match is also underwhelming, as is his propensity to shoot per game;
  • Aubameyang’s assists per season record, his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match, and his key passes and through passes per game records are all inferior;
  • Ramsey’s goals and assists per season records are inferior, as is his key passes per match record. In addition, Ramsey’s propensity to shoot per game and his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match are underwhelming;
  • Iwobi’s goals and assists per season records are inferior, as is his shots per game and key passes per match records. Iwobi’s through passes per game record and his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match are also underwhelming;
  • Welbeck’s goals and assists per season records, as well as his key passes and through passes per game records are all inferior. Welbeck’s shots per game record and tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match are also underwhelming.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted attacking midfield options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Mkhitaryan, Ozil, and Iwobi, at a minimum, and recruit Hulk of Shanghai, and Hakim Ziyech of Ajax to serve as Arsenal’s first choice attacking midfielders. That said, given Hulk’s sizeable wage, it may be difficult for Arsenal to complete a transfer for the Brazilian. As such, Arsenal could alternatively pursue recruiting Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Brighton, to serve alongside Ziyech as Arsenal’s key attacking midfielders.

In terms of backup attacking midfielders, while having highly productive and proven players in the striking roles is critical, given their primary function is to score the bulk of the side’s goals, there is a strong argument that Arsenal have more flexibility to utilise unproven players to fulfil the backup attacking midfield roles. That being the case, and given the Premier League’s homegrown rule, it would be logical for Arsenal to retain Nelson and Smith-Rowe as the club’s backup attacking midfielders.

Striker

striker

Regarding the club’s contracted striker options, Arsenal fortunately have a player in Aubameyang who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficiently productive performance record to warrant selection as one of the club’s primary strikers.

As for the club’s other striking options, while its unfair to judge Nketiah, Smith-Rowe or Nelson, as all three players have insufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Lacazette’s shots per game record is underwhelming;
  • Mkhitaryan and Welbeck’s respective goals per season records are inferior, while their shots per match records are underwhelming;
  • Ramsey’s goals per season record is inferior, while his propensity to win aerial duels and shots per game record are underwhelming;
  • Ozil’s propensity to win aerial duels and shots per match record are inferior, while the German’s goals per season record is underwhelming; and
  • Iwobi’s goals per season, shots per match and successful aerial duels per game records are all inferior.
  • In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted striking options, Aubmeyang, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Lacazette and Welbeck, at a minimum, and recruit Eran Zahavi of Guangzhou to serve alongside Aubameyang as Arsenal’s first choice striking duo.

In terms of backup strikers, while having highly productive and proven players in the striking roles is critical, given their primary function is to score the bulk of the side’s goals, Arsenal need to balance this with the need to comply with the Premier League homegrown rule. That being the case, it would be logical for Arsenal to recruit Sebastian Giovinco of Toronto and retain Nketiah, and have both players serve as the club’s backup strikers.

Recommended Transfer Activity

transfer value (1)transfer value (2)

(Prices as per http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk)

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Arsenal Analysis: Round 19 player analysis and Round 20 team selection

Following each round of the Premier League, each Arsenal player’s season-to-date performance is analysed and ranked against their internal competition.

In assessing the respective players on field production and their comparative internal rankings, each player is allocated into seven positional categories.  Those positional categories consist of:

  • goalkeeper
  • right fullback
  • centre back
  • left fullback
  • centre midfield
  • attacking midfield
  • striker

Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category is then considered, using data sourced from Whoscored.com.

Different weightings are then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstones of Arsenal’s tactical approach is as follows:

  • To stretch the game vertically, by creating generous spacing between their defensive, midfield and attacking blocks, and taking risks with their forward passing, so as to allow for quick forward transitions, and space in behind the opposition’s defence.
  • Arsenal’s goalkeeper’s primary aims are to stop shots and claim crosses.
  • Arsenal’s centre backs’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), win aerial duels, clear the ball from danger and block shots.
  • Arsenal’s fullbacks’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), cross the ball multiple times during a match (with the intent of providing assists), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s central midfielders’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through accurate passing, multiple long range passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s attacking midfielders’ primary aims are to provide assists, score goals, create goal scoring opportunities through multiple key passes, multiple through passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s strikers’ primary aims are to score goals, and record multiple shots and successful aerial duels per match.

N.B. the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full back, and centre backs; the ‘midfield block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s centre midfielders; and the ‘attacking block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

The findings of the aforementioned analysis, provide an invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition within their positional category; and
  • which 11 players make up Arsenal’s most productive team.

 

Internal player rankings

Following Round 19 of the Premier League, the player rankings are as follows:

Goalkeeper:

Goalkeeper

Right fullback:

Right Fullback

Centre back:

Centre back

Left fullback:

Left Fullback

Centre midfield:

Centre Midfield

Attacking midfield:

Attacking Midfield

Striker:

Striker

Formation and lineup

Based on the above analytical comparison, Arsenal’s aforementioned tactical basis, and with Mkhitaryan, Monreal, Mustafi, Bellerin, Mavropanos, Holding and Welbeck unavailable through injury, the 11 players which comprise Arsenal’s most productive starting 11, for their round 20 clash versus Liverpool, would appear to be as follows:

Freddie08

Arsenal Analysis: Round 18 player analysis and Round 19 team selection

Following each round of the Premier League, each Arsenal player’s season-to-date performance is analysed and ranked against their internal competition.

In assessing the respective players on field production and their comparative internal rankings, each player is allocated into seven positional categories.  Those positional categories consist of:

  • goalkeeper
  • right fullback
  • centre back
  • left fullback
  • centre midfield
  • attacking midfield
  • striker

Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category is then considered, using data sourced from Whoscored.com.

Different weightings are then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstones of Arsenal’s tactical approach is as follows:

  • To stretch the game vertically, by creating generous spacing between their defensive, midfield and attacking blocks, so as to allow for quick forward transitions, and space in behind the opposition’s defence.
  • Arsenal’s goalkeeper’s primary aims are to stop shots and claim crosses.
  • Arsenal’s centre backs’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), block shots and win aerial duels.
  • Arsenal’s fullbacks’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), cross the ball multiple times during a match (with the intent of providing assists), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s central midfielders’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through accurate passing, multiple long range passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s attacking midfielders’ primary aims are to provide assists, score goals, create goal scoring opportunities through multiple key passes, multiple through passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s strikers’ primary aims are to score goals, and record multiple shots and successful aerial duels per match.

Specifically:

  • the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full backs, and centre backs;
  • the ‘midfield block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s centre midfielders; and
  • the ‘attacking block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

The findings of the aforementioned analysis, provide an invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition within their positional category; and
  • which 11 players make up Arsenal’s most productive team.

Internal player rankings

Following Round 18 of the Premier League, the player rankings are as follows:

Goalkeeper:

Goalkeeper

Right fullback:

Right Fullback

Centre back:

Centre back

Left fullback:

Left Fullback

Centre midfield:

Centre Midfield

Attacking midfield:

Attacking Midfield

Striker:

Striker

Formation and lineup

Based on the above analytical comparison, Arsenal’s aforementioned tactical basis, and with Mkhitaryan, Monreal, Mustafi, Bellerin, Mavropanos, Holding and Welbeck unavailable through injury, the 11 players which comprise Arsenal’s most productive starting 11, for their round 19 clash versus Brighton, would appear to be as follows:

Line up

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Arsenal Analysis: Round 17 player analysis and Round 18 team selection

Following each round of the Premier League, each Arsenal player’s season-to-date performance is analysed and ranked against their internal competition.

In assessing the respective players’ on field production and their comparative internal rankings, each player is allocated into seven positional categories.  Those positional categories consist of:

  • goalkeeper
  • right fullback
  • centre back
  • left fullback
  • centre midfield
  • attacking midfield
  • striker

Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category is then considered, using data sourced from Whoscored.com.

Different weightings are then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstones of Arsenal’s tactical approach is as follows:

  • To stretch the game vertically, by creating generous spacing between their defensive, midfield and attacking blocks, so as to allow for quick forward transitions, and space in behind the opposition’s defence.
  • Arsenal’s goalkeeper’s primary aims are to stop shots and claim crosses.
  • Arsenal’s centre backs’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), block shots and win aerial duels.
  • Arsenal’s fullbacks primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), cross the ball multiple times during a match (with the intent of providing assists), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s central midfielders’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through accurate passing, multiple long range passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s attacking midfielders’ primary aims are to provide assists, score goals, create goal scoring opportunities through multiple key passes, multiple through passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s strikers’ primary aims are to score goals, and record multiple shots and successful aerial duels per match.

Specifically:

  • the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full backs, and centre backs;
  • the ‘midfield block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s central midfielders; and
  • the ‘attacking block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

The findings provide an invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition within their positional category; and
  • which 11 players make up Arsenal’s most productive team.

Internal player rankings

Following Round 17 of the Premier League, the player rankings are as follows:

Goalkeeper:

Goalkeepers

Right Fullback:

Right Fullback

Centreback:

Centreback

Left Fullback:

Left Fullback

Centre Midfield:

Centre Midfield

Attacking Midfield:

Attacking Midfield

Striker:

Striker

Formation and lineup

Based on the above analytical comparison, Arsenal’s aforementioned tactical basis, and with Kolasinac, Mkhitaryan, Mustafi, Bellerin, Mavropanos, Holding and Welbeck unavailable through injury, the 11 players which comprise Arsenal’s most productive starting 11, for their round 18 clash versus Burnley, would appear to be as follows:

Lineup

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2018/2019 Squad Profile

With Arsenal’s 2018/2019 Premier League campaign in its infancy and the transfer window firmly shut until January 2019, it’s a good opportunity to take a closer look at the on field production of each player in Arsenal’s senior squad, using data from Whoscored.com. Doing so not only helps to develop a clearer understanding of the playing tendencies of each play, over their professional career, but the findings provide and invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition; and
  • which players, based on their productivity, should Arsenal focus on accommodating when determining their playing formation.

Player assessments and internal rankings

In assessing the respective players’ on field production and their comparative internal rankings, each player is allocated into seven positional categories.  Those positional categories consist of:

  • goalkeeper
  • right fullback
  • centre back
  • left fullback
  • centre midfield
  • attacking midfield
  • striker

Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category is then considered, using data sourced from Whoscored.com.

Different weightings are then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstone of the Arsenal’s tactical approach is to stretch the game vertically by creating generous spacing between their defensive, midfield and attacking blocks so as to allow for quick forward transitions and space in behind the opposition’s defence. Specifically the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full backs, and centre backs. The ‘midfield block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s central midfielders. While Arsenal’s attacking block is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

It is also noted that the goals and assists per season data detailed in the below player rankings reflects  the average number of goals or assists for the respective player in each season where the player has started at least 15 league games.

Goalkeeper:

Goalkeepers

Right Fullback:

Right Fullback

Centre Back:

Centreback

Left Fullback:

Left Fullback

Central Midfield:

Centre Midfield

Attacking Midfield:

Attacking midfield

Striker:

Striker

Formation and lineup

Based on the above analytical comparison, Ozil, in an attacking midfield role, and Aubameyang and Lacazette, in striking roles, represent Arsenal’s three most productive attackers. Given this, and assuming that Arsenal’s tactical basis is to stretch the game vertically by creating generous spacing between their defensive block (goalkeeper, right and left full backs, centre backs), midfield block (central midfielders) and attacking block (attacking midfielders and strikers) so as to allow for quick forward transitions and space in behind the opposition’s defence, Arsenal’s most productive starting 11, which allows Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang to be deployed in their favoured positions, would appear to be as follows:

3412-e1541301619297.png

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Arsenal Player Analysis: Fulham vs Arsenal

It was a highly efficient yet unconvincing performance from Arsenal as they overcame Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage.

Xhaka(F)

Formation

Pre-match, Arsenal appeared to adopt a 4-4-2 formation for this first time this season, with Welbeck partnering Lacazette upfront, and Mkhitaryan and Iwobi operating on the flanks. That said, the players’ average positioning indicated that they adopted more of a 2-4-4 formation throughout the match, with Bellerin, and Monreal, once again adopting advanced positions on the right and left flanks respectively.

Possession and key observations

It was a surprisingly even contest in terms of possession (51% to Fulham’s 49%), with Fulham, unlike Arsenal’s recent opponents, showing a willingness to hold onto the ball and attack when the opportunity arose.  The attacking initiative of the hosts was reflected in their vastly superior shot count (21 shots to Arsenal’s 9).  That said, Arsenal demonstrated a greater willingness in the ball recovery battle (21 tackles and 14 interceptions to Fulham’s 16 tackles and 10 interceptions) and were more incisive and clinical than Fulham when attacking (8 successful forward dribbles to Fulham’s 3, and 5 goals from 7 shots on target, as opposed to Fulham’s 1 goal from 4 shots on target).

In the end, it was Arsenal’s efficiency in front of goal which allowed the Gunners to secure the victory.

Individual performances:

GK: Leno (7/10)

It was a solid performance from the German on his first Premier League start.  While he could have stayed more up right on the goal he conceded, Leno made 3 saves for the match and was commanding when called upon to deal with Fulham’s 17 crosses for the game.

RWB: Bellerin (7/10)

It was an improved but still underwhelming defensive performance by Bellerin, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) but was solid in his aggression (2 tackles). Bellerin’s defensive positioning was once again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to counterattacks from Fulham. Bellerin’s primary opponent, Schurrle, took full advantage of this, with a goal from his impressive 7 shots for the match, and 2 crossing attempts.

Offensively, Bellerin’s performance was excellent. The Spaniard made a solid contribution to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (2 successful forward dribbles), and he showed excellent attacking initiative with an assist from his 3 crosses for the match, 2 of which were on target.

It was a much better effort from Bellerin, in contrast to his woeful prior performances this season. Bellerin needs to reproduce the productivity he demonstrated versus Fulham, match after match, and with an increased contribution in terms of defensive anticipation, to justify Emery’s decision to repeatedly select the young Spaniard. While Lichtensteiner has performed poorly this season when called upon, youngster Osei-Tutu’s performances for the Under 23 side have been highly impressive, both defensively and offensively. As such, Emery needs to show a willingness to provide the young Englishman with opportunities at right wing back, should Bellerin not be able to consistently produce.

RCB: Mustafi (6/10)

It was a mixed defensive effort from Mustafi. Despite demonstrating good defensive anticipatory skills (3 interceptions), Mustafi lacked aggression in his defensive approach (1 tackle). As a consequence of Mustafi’s lack of aggression, his primary opponent, Mitrovic, was able to influence the match with 3 key passes and 3 shots, 1 of which was on target. Mustafi was also bested by his Serbian opponent aerially, registering 3 successful aerial duels to Mitrovic’s 5. Positively though, Mustafi was solid with respect to clearances (6 for the match) and did manage a key block from a Mitrovic shot in the first half.

More complete defensive performances are needed from Mustafi moving forward.

LCB: Holding (3/10)

It was a poor defensive performance from Holding. The young Englishman failed to show the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (1 interception) and was too passive in his defensive approach (1 tackle). As a consequence, his opponent, Vietto, was able to take advantage (2 shots, 1 of which was on target, and 1 assist from his two key passes for the match). Disappointingly, Holding’s effort to clear his lines was also below the required standard (2 clearances). This put Arsenal’s defence under unnecessary pressure. Apart from that, the young Englishman was able to block a Fulham shot, and he wasn’t tested aerially.

With Mustafi arguably better suited to playing in a three man central defence or as an anchor in front of a two man central defence, and Holding and Sokratis failing to convince as potential alternative central defending options, its a position of concern for Emery.

LWB: Monreal (4/10)

It was an improved, albeit still underwhelming defensive performance from Monreal, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (1 interception) but was aggressive in his defending (3 tackles). Monreal’s defensive positioning was also again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s left flank to attacks from Fulham. And that is precisely what Monreal’s primary opponent, Christie, did, with 6 crosses in total, two of which were accurate, and 5 key passes.

Offensively, Monreal’s performance was poor. His assist aside, the Spaniard again failed to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles) and he showed minimal attacking initiative with only 1 cross for the match.

While Monreal has shown over his career that he can be highly productive defensively when deployed in a traditional left fullback position, he is and has always been limited in his offensive production. With Kolasinac a similar style of player to Monreal in terms of his historical production, but Emery requiring his fullbacks to be productive both defensively and offensively, this maybe a position Emery needs to target in the January transfer window.

RCDM: Torreira (7/10)

It was another fantastic defensive performance from the Uruguayan, who was aggressive in his defending (2 tackles), and demonstrated excellent defensive anticipatory skills (6 interceptions). Torreira’s defensive positioning was also excellent, in that he was disciplined, protected Mustafi, and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch. The Uruguayan’s efforts to stay discipline in his positioning was particularly important, given Bellerin’s poor defensive positioning in the right wingback role.

While it was an excellent defensive performance from Torreira, his offensive production was underwhelming. Despite recording an impressive 84% passing accuracy, he only contributed 2 accurate, long-range transitional passes, and failed to complete a successful forward transitional dribble.

LCDM: Xhaka (9/10)

It was an excellent defensive performance from Xhaka, who showed good aggression in his defending (3 tackles), and, for once, showed the required defensive anticipatory skills (2 interceptions). Xhaka’s defensive positioning was also excellent, in that he was disciplined, and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch.

Offensively, Xhaka was, for the fourth match running, highly productive, recording 87% passing accuracy, and producing an impressive 4 accurate long-range transitional passes. The only real blemish on Xhaka’s offensive performance was once again his failure to contribute in terms of successful forward dribbles for the match (0 successful forward dribbles).

RAM: Mkhitaryan (4/10)

It was a underwhelming performance from Mkhitaryan, who showed good goal scoring initiative (3 shots, 1 of which was on target) but only produced 1 successful forward dribble, and made no key passes or attempted through balls.

LCAM: Iwobi (2/10)

It was also an underwhelming performance by the Iwobi, who showed excellent attacking initiative, with 4 successful forwards dribbles, but failed to produce a shot, a successful forward dribble, a key pass or an attempted through ball.

ST: Welbeck (4/10)

It was a typical hard working but unproductive performance from Welbeck, who provided a nice headed assist for Lacazette’s second goal, but failed to register a shot for the match. Disappointingly, Welbeck also failed to beat his shorter and less physically imposing opponent, Odoi, aerially, with each player recording 3 successful aerial duels a piece.

ST: Lacazette (7/10)

It was another strong performance by the Frenchman, who had 2 goals from his 2 shots for the match. Aerially, Lacazette once again showed his battling qualities, equalling his taller and more physically imposing opponent, Le Marchand, with 1 successful aerial duel a piece.

Final Thoughts

It was refreshing to see Arsenal adopt the 4-4-2 formation that brought the club so much success at the turn of the century.

Defensively, while Torreira and Xhaka were both excellent, and Monreal and Mustafi showed improved productivity, more is needed from Bellerin and Holding to justify their ongoing selection.

In terms of Arsenal’s offensive transitional play, Monreal again failed to contribute, Torriera and Bellerin were solid, while Xhaka was productive as always.

As for Arsenal’s attack, despite claiming an assist Monreal contribution from the left flank was poor, both Iwobi and Mkhitaryan produced incomplete performances, Welbeck worked hard but was unproductive, and Bellerin’s crossing frequency and accuracy was excellent as was Lacazette’s proficiency in front of goal.

Moving forward, if Emery is wanting to continue to adopt a 4-4-2 formation, he needs:

  • greater defensive production from Bellerin and Holding and more complete defensive performances from Monreal and Mustafi;
  • superior transitional play from Torreira, Bellerin and in particular, Monreal;
  • greater creativity and attacking initiative from Iwobi and Mkhitaryan;
  • more all round offensive production from Welbeck.

Despite an improved performance against a willing Fulham side, Emery’s failure to adopt a formation and tactical approach that accentuate the strengths of Arsenal’s elite attackers (Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil), while reinforcing Arsenal’s central midfield with an additional body to protect the defence, remains.  It is a problem Emery needs to address for the upcoming fixtures versus Leicester, Sporting, Crystal Palace and Blackpool.  By doing so Emery will hopefully put Arsenal in a position where the side is not only winning matches, in the lead up to their 4 November clash with Liverpool, but all 11 players are productively contributing in the respective key performance areas for their positions.

Freddie08

The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs Watford

It was yet another unconvincing performance from the Gunners as they overcame Watford 2-0 at the Emirates.

Cech

Formation

Pre-match, Arsenal appeared to once again adopt the 4-2-3-1 formation that Emery has favoured this season. That said, the players’ average positioning indicated that they adopted more of a 2-4-3-1 formation throughout the match, with Bellerin, and particularly Monreal, adopting advanced positions on the right and left flanks respectively.

Possession and key observations

With Watford’s early season success built upon their combativeness and the directness of their attacking play, and Arsenal showing an effectiveness at monopolising possession but struggling to create high probability goal scoring opportunities, and struggling to force turnovers from their opponents, it was not surprising to see the Hornets lose the possession battle to Arsenal (36% to 64%) but win the shot count (13 to 9) and ball recovery battle (24 tackles and 15 interceptions to Arsenal’s 10 tackles and 6 interceptions).

In the end, it was a lucky own goal, a neat finish from Ozil, and Cech, and then Leno’s, shot stopping ability, which allowed Arsenal to claim yet another undeserved victory.

Individual performances:

GK: Cech (10/10)

Prior to his departure from the game due to an injury, it was another excellent display from Cech, who made a number of saves and did well when called upon to deal with Watford’s bombardment of crosses and long balls into the box.

RWB: Bellerin (4/10)

It was yet another terrible defensive performance from Bellerin, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) and was again meek in his defending (0 tackles). Bellerin’s defensive positioning was also again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to counterattacks from Watford. Bellerin’s primary opponent, Pereyra, took full advantage of this, with 2 shots, 2 successful forward dribbles, and 5 crossing attempts during the match, 2 of which were accurate.

Offensively, Bellerin’s performance was mixed. While the Spaniard again failed to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles), he did show excellent attacking initiative with 5 crosses for the match, 1 of which was on target.

Bellerin’s repeated selection despite his ongoing poor defensive performances is a blight on Emery’s decision-making skills regarding team selection. With Lichtensteiner also performing poorly, as was expected, giving youngster Osei-Tutu opportunities at right wing back would appear to be urgently required.

RCB: Mustafi (5/10)

It was a mixed defensive effort from Mustafi. Despite demonstrating solid defensive anticipatory skills (2 interceptions), Mustafi lacked aggression in his defensive approach (0 tackles). As a consequence of Mustafi’s lack of aggression, his primary opponent, Deeney, was able to influence the match with 4 key passes and 1 shot, which was on target. Mustafi was also bested by his English opponent aerially, registering 5 successful aerial duels to Deeney’s 6. Positively though, Mustafi was solid with respect to clearances (6 for the match) and did manage to block a Watford shot.

With Koscielny still injured, Sokratis failing to produce complete defensive performances, which wasn’t unexpected, and youngster Chambers, out on loan, more complete defensive performances are needed from Mustafi.

LCB: Holding (6/10)

It was a mixed defensive performance from Holding on his first Premier League start for the season. While the young Englishman showed good defensive anticipatory skills (3 interceptions), he was too passive in his defensive approach (0 tackles). Despite this, his opponent, Gray, failed to take advantage (1 shot, which was on target, and 0 successful forward dribbles). That said, Holding’s effort to clear his lines was good (6 clearances). The young Englishman was also able to block a Watford shot, and he was dominate aerially, recording 6 successful aerial duels to Gray’s 1.

LWB: Monreal (4/10)

It was yet another poor defensive performance from Monreal, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) and was again meek in his defending (1 tackle). Monreal’s defensive positioning was also again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s left flank to counterattacks from Watford. That said, Monreal’s primary opponent, Hughes, failed to take advantage of this, with only 1 shot, which was off target, 1 successful forward dribble, and 1 inaccurate crossing attempt.

Offensively, Monreal’s performance was mixed. While the Spaniard again failed to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles), he did show excellent attacking initiative with 4 crosses for the match. Unfortunately none of Monreal’s crossing attempts were on target.

Like Bellerin, Monreal’s repeated selection despite his ongoing poor defensive performances is another blight on Emery’s decision-making skills regarding team selection. Kolasinac’s return to fitness can’t come soon enough.

RCDM: Torreira (6/10)

It was an solid, albeit slightly underwhelming, defensive performance from the Uruguayan, who was very and aggressive in his defending (3 tackle), but failed to demonstrate the requisite defensive anticipatory skills (1 interception). That said, Torreira’s defensive positioning was excellent, in that he was disciplined, protected Mustafi, and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch. The Uruguayan’s efforts to stay discipline in his positioning was particularly important, given Bellerin’s poor defensive positioning in the right wingback role.

While it was an improved defensive performance from Torreira, his offensive performance was underwhelming. Despite recording an impressive 90% passing accuracy, he only contributed 2 accurate, long-range transitional passes, and failed to complete a successful forward transitional dribble.

LCDM: Xhaka (7/10)

It was an underwhelming defensive performance from Xhaka, who showed improved aggression in his defending (2 tackles), but again failed to show the required defensive anticipatory skills (0 interception). In terms of his defensive positioning, while Xhaka was disciplined to a degree, he was at times unnecessarily drawn into advanced areas of the pitch, which, combined with Monreal’s poor positioning, left Holding unnecessarily exposed.

Offensively, Xhaka was, for the third match running, highly productive, recording 87% passing accuracy, and producing an impressive 7 accurate long-range transitional passes. The only real blemish on Xhaka’s offensive performance was once again his failure to significantly contribute in terms of successful forward dribbles for the match (1 successful forward dribble).

RCAM: Ozil (4/10)

His neat finish aside, it was another poor performance from Ozil, who had just the solitary shot on goal, and only produced 1 successful forward dribble and 1 key pass. The one positive to take away from Ozil’s performance versus Watford was his increased creativity with his passing (attempting 3 through balls for the match).

CAM: Ramsey (1/10)

It was a dreadful performance by Ramsey, who showed no goal scoring initiative (0 shots), no desire to penetrate Watford’s rear-guard via the dribble (0 successful dribbles), and no creativity with his passing (0 key passes and 0 attempted through passes).

LCAM: Aubameyang (2/10)

It was another poor performance by the Gabonese striker, who showed a limited desire to penetrate Watford’s rear-guard via the dribble (1 successful dribble), no goal scoring intent, minimal creativity with his passing (1 key pass and 0 attempted through passes).

Emery’s ongoing decision to deploy a world class striker, like Aubameyang, out of position, and his refusal to adopt a formation that would allow Aubameyang and Lacazette to act as a striking duo, and in turn play to their goal scoring strengths, is bordering on negligent. The sooner Arsenal switch to a system that allows Lacazette and Aubameyang to operate as a striking duo, with Ozil or Mkhitaryan in the central attacking midfield role, the better.

CF: Lacazette (6/10)

It was another trying but underwhelming performance by the Frenchman, who had 4 shots for the match, albeit none of those shots were on target. While the probability of Lacazette’s scoring from the minimal opportunities created for him was low, thanks largely to the derisory performances of Ozil, Ramsey and Aubameyang, Lacazette was guilty of missing one particular goal scoring opportunity in the first half, where he was one on one with Watford’s goalkeeper, after the Frenchman had robbed is primary opponent, Kabasele, of the ball. Aerially, Lacazette once again showed his battling qualities, equalling his taller and more physically imposing opponent, Kabasele, with 3 successful aerial duels a piece.

Final Thoughts

As has been the theme of Arsenal’s recent run of victories, Arsenal once again dominated possession versus Watford but failed to create high probability goal scoring opportunities. This was again due to the lack of attacking initiative shown by the chosen attacking midfielders (Ozil, Ramsey and Aubameyang). Looking at the positives, credit once again needs to go to Xhaka for the volume of accurate long-range transitional passes he was able to produce, and to Lacazette for his trying display, despite a lack of service.

Defensively, while Monreal and Bellerin were again terribly unproductive in their performances, and Mustafi, Holding, Torreira and Xhaka underwhelmed in terms of their production, that central quartet of Mustafi, Holding, Torreira and Xhaka showed some improvements. That said, but for Cech, and then Leno’s, excellent shot stopping efforts and their dominance in claiming crosses, Arsenal would have been easily beaten by the Hornets.

At a minimum, Emery meeds to adopt a formation and tactical approach, that accentuates the strengths of Arsenal’s elite attackers (Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil), and reinforces Arsenal’s central midfield with an additional body to protect the defence. A narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation would seem to accomodate those three players, as well as Torreira’s central defensive midfield strengths.

While that change in formation won’t solve all of Arsenal’s productivity issues, given the high number of underperforming and/or consistently unproductive players in Arsenal’s first team squad, it should help improve Arsenal’s offensive and defensive productivity to some degree. And it is a problem Emery needs to quickly address, as the fortunate run of victories Arsenal have manufactured against West Ham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton and now Watford, won’t last.

Freddie08

The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.