Arsenal KPIs
10 min read

Arsenal KPIs

Looking at what the stats say about how Arsenal are playing on the key performance indicators.
Arsenal KPIs

I am going to put on my consultant hat and imagine that Arsenal have hired me to go and look at how the team is performing on their Key Performance Indicators.

The number one thing for any sports team is wins/points accumulation.

Next, I think you have to take a step back and look at both shots for and against.

Next, we will go a little further back looking at the ball progression of the team.

Next, it is looking at something that Arteta has mentioned that he wanted to instill in the team with pressing.

Lastly, one of the things that Arsenal say that they want to do is promote youth and make stars rather than buy them.

Improving on points

First, we will look at points and some other high-level stats.

This first table is through 15 matches

2021/2022 2020/2021 2019/2020
Goals 18 15 15
Goals Against 22 19 23
Goal Difference -4 -4 -8
Expected Goals 18.7 17.8 20.6
Expected Goals Against 23.7 19.7 24.2
Expected Goals Difference -5 -1.9 -3.6
Points 23 17 19

Through 15 matches the current Arsenal looks to be making progress on point accumulation but these early stretches were among the worst for both teams, the 2019/20 results got Unai Emery fired and had Mikel Arteta on the brink. The gist is that Arsenal better look better than the starts to those seasons and things looks mostly mixed, points are better but the goals for and against is only kind of better and the expected goals is worse overall.  

Things are even less rosy when the stats are switched to a per match basis over the full season.

2021/2022 2020/2021 2019/2020
Goals 1.20 1.45 1.47
Goals Against 1.47 1.03 1.26
Goal Difference -0.27 0.42 0.21
Expected Goals 1.26 1.41 1.29
Expected Goals Against 1.59 1.17 1.49
Expected Goals Difference -0.33 0.24 -0.20
Points 1.53 1.61 1.47

Almost entirely across the board are Arsenal looking worse (with the exception of points compared to the 19/20 season and even then just marginally).

Verdict: This indicator is trending negative

Arsenal Attack

Looking at the attack in a little more detail is the next KPI.

Goals Shots SoT OP Shots Direct Attacks/Fast Breaks Set Play Shots npXG npxG/Sh
2021/2022 1.2 13.9 4.53 9.5 1.1 3.7 1.15 0.08
2020/2021 1.4 12 3.71 8.8 1.3 2.9 1.29 0.11
2019/2020 1.5 10.6 3.79 7.2 1.2 2.9 1.23 0.12

This is another where things look mixed.

Arsenal are generating more shots, but the shots are of lower average quality. The expected goals generated is down slightly but the team is not showing hot finishing.

Verdict: This indicator is mixed but trending towards negative

Arsenal Ball Progression

Next is Arsenal's ability to get the ball up the pitch and into dangerous positions.

Deep Completions Deep Completions (Cross) Deep Completions from Cross % Prog Passes F3rd Entry P Prog Carries f3rd Entry C Possession Field Tilt
2021/2022 18.5 4.00 21.6% 28.9 28.9 44.7 14.7 49.5 48.8
2020/2021 19.8 3.87 19.5% 35.3 34.7 53.3 14 53.8 55
2019/2020 18.5 3.58 19.3% 32.6 29.5 50.5 13.2 54 48.2

I was tempted to say that the stats were mixed but in reality, they aren't. Almost everything here is negative.

Arsenal are getting the ball into the final third less than last year and only slightly better than 2019/20. Arsenal's completions within 25 yards of goal is down from last year and on par with 2019/20, with a greater share coming from crosses (generally less efficient ways of generating threat).  Arsenal's progressive actions are down quite 17% from last year and 11% from what they were in 2019/20. Arsenal are in control of less of the ball and are back to having a lower share of the ball in the final third.

These numbers directly tie into the attacking numbers and with these numbers, it is not a surprise that attack numbers are down, in fact, it might be actually on the fortunate side that they aren't worse.

Verdict: This indicator is trending negative

Arsenal Pressing/Defensive Actions

I am going to break these up into a couple of tables just so that it is a bit easier to see first, is the stats associated with pressing.

PPDA Pass % A Pass Eff A Pressures Press Regains Press Regain% Press Per Touch
2021/2022 12.9 80.6% 102.5% 122.1 34.3 28.1 5.96
2020/2021 10.8 80.4% 101.9% 123.3 35 28.4 6.11
2019/2020 11.9 78.9% 101.6% 161.2 43.2 26.8 5.29

Some definitions if these aren't as clear: PPDA is passes allowed per defensive action in the opponent's half, a lower number indicates more pressure. Pass Eff is passing efficiency and it is the ratio of actual pass completion to expected pass completion, a number above 100 indicates more passes completed than expected. Pressures, Press Regains and Press regain% are stats bomb pressure events, the team winning the ball back within 5 seconds and then the ratio of winning the ball back to how often a team applies pressure. Lastly, Press per touch here refers to attacking third pressures per opponent touch in the defensive third, lower numbers indicate more pressure.

The pressing numbers are bad and maybe even a little worse than I expected. Things are down across the board, even with Arsenal playing without the extra matches that come with playing in Europe.

The one that bothers me the most is that Arsenal are becoming an increasingly easy team to pass against, to me, this is something that goes hand in hand with exerting pressure on the other team's goal. Arsenal just don't seem to do this often any longer, Arsenal don't camp in the opponent's final third for long stretches where even if they turn it over, they look to press, win the ball back, and go again.

Next, we will switch to more traditional defensive metrics.

Tackles Tackle % Interceptions Blocked Passes Fouls Aerial % Aerial, Won
2021/2022 16.5 68.8% 8.6 7.9 10.3 46.2% 12.9
2020/2021 11.9 57.8% 9.2 11.9 9.1 45.8% 13.1
2019/2020 15.3 62.0% 9.3 15.3 11.1 45.9% 13.2

Tackles are up, interceptions are down, blocked passes are way down. I am not 100 percent sure how to interpret this but lean towards saying that this matches the general more passive style I have seen in Arsenal's defending. I think this because I feel like looking to cut out passes and block passes corresponds more with actively looking to win the ball, with tackles often being (but not exclusively) the result of the opposition team coming at the defense.

Overall the lack of pressing and the general feeling that the defense is becoming more passive are the big concerns for me.

Verdict: This indicator is trending negative

Arsenal Shots Against

Next is looking at the shots that Arsenal have allowed.

Goals A Shots A SoT A OP Shots A Direct Attacks/Fast Breaks A Set Play Shots A npXG A npxG/Sh A
2021/2022 1.47 13.8 4.93 10.4 1.3 3.1 1.55 0.11
2020/2021 0.92 11 3.37 8.0 1.2 2.5 1.11 0.1
2019/2020 1.47 10.6 3.79 9.7 1.3 4.2 1.23 0.12

You may be noticing a trend here, because like the other indicators this one also looks to be negative.

Shots allowed are on an upwards trend. Expected goals are up, after a decline last year. The average shot quality allowed is up from last year but down from two years ago (but given the increase in shots that is a big concern). One of the things that I thought last year was that Mikel Arteta was first trying to make Arsenal hard to score against, even if that came at the expense of what Arsenal could do in attack.

This year I think Arteta is trying to loosen some restrictions on the attack but that is coming at the expense of the gains Arsenal made in defense last season.

PSxG A PSxG/SoT A PSxG+/-
2021/2022 1.36 0.27 -0.11
2020/2021 1.09 0.31 0.17
2019/2020 1.53 0.27 0.26

A worrying stat is that for how good Aaron Ramsdale has seemed this season at shot stopping, Arsenal are actually down (in a pretty small sample) in the post-shot xG measures of shot-stopping.

Verdict: This indicator is trending negative

Playing Youth/Rebuilding

One of the few positives that I think that you can say about Arsenal is that they have mostly embraced the need for a rebuild and the need to use players that pre or early prime rather than the more experienced players of years gone by.

This has been most stark in the transfer activity, the years previous seemed to see Arsenal trying to rebuild and challenge for the short term at the same time, with signings of older players.

A lot has also been made of the average age of Arsenal's team this season and that is certainly true. This season the minute adjusted average age for Arsenal this year is 24.8 down from 26.3 last year, and 26.1 the year before.

What is interesting is that the youth movement is not even between the positions.

GK Fullback Center Back Midfield Attacking Mid Forward
2021/2022 24.9 24.1 24.7 24.7 23.3 30.2
2020/2021 28.8 25.1 26.4 27.0 24.8 28.9
2019/2020 27.7 24.0 29.8 24.0 25.3 27.7

The declines are biggest at goal keeper with Ramsdale replacing Bernd Leno, at center back where Ben White has replaced David Luiz and Pablo Mari not playing often, and a continued decline at attacking midfield where the young players have become the first choice options.

At midfield, Arsenal are down from last year but up slightly from 19/20, I also don't think that playing with the youth here was the plan. I think you can see this with Arteta turning first to Mohamed Elneny at the first sign of trouble and then bringing Granit Xhaka straight back in after a knee injury.

Verdict: This indicator is trending positive

Conclusions

Points: Negative

Shots: Mixed/Negative

Ball Progression: Negative

Arsenal Pressing/Defensive Actions: Negative

Shots Allowed: Negative

Promoting Youth: Positive

It is hard to look at things above and come to any conclusion other than that the team is trending in a negative direction. A lot of these things are intertwined but they are all still pointing in the same direction. I am not massively #ArtetaOut but we now have a significant sample size that shows that he is not a special manager that will figure out a way to get a team to play above their overall talent level.

I am also not sure that Arsenal are playing significantly below their talent level either so pulling the trigger without a clear long-term replacement lined up (there is no Antionio Conte, Thomas Tuchel, or Jurgen Klopp out of a job right now). I think that Arsenal needs to start putting together a shortlist of managers and start feeling out the interest in coming in the summer.