Let's get straight into it.
A Defense of Being Pedantic
On Twitter this week I got a bit pedantic with stats definitions and talking about goals scored following corner kicks. There was a tweet going around that Arsenal had not conceded from a corner kick this season, however, that isn't true according to the stats collectors.
Arsenal have conceded one goal following a corner.
I understand why people would think that the goal Arsenal allowed following a corner shouldn't go down that way but I think this highlights the importance of why we need to trust the cold rational tracking of the people that code matches.
I spent a bunch of time thinking about this (probably too much) and what I came away with is that there are some obvious white (things that aren't following a corner) and some that are black (obviously following a corner) with some grey in between that really can go either way.
Part of the problem I think is that people started getting bogged down with the word direct. Direct implies that the corner is actually a shot and not a pass. That is how we would say a scoring from a direct free-kick. If you draw the line at only the initial ball in, that would mean that something that is flicked on and then scored would be excluded and that doesn't make sense. If you try to say well if the initial ball into the box is cleared that ends a corner, but we have all seen an initial clearance fall to a player who shoots and scores or puts it back into the box and that turns into a shot. Both of these have happened for Arsenal, with Emile Smith Rowe scoring against Manchester United and Gabriel scoring against West Ham.
You can try to say a certain number of touches is the cutoff, but you can imagine a situation with say a short corner routine that has a couple passes to work the ball into a good crossing location, the cross is flicked on, and then scored.
Ultimately it can get a bit murky pretty quick.
So here is the definition and guidelines that Opta uses for determining when a corner ends:
The exact point at which it becomes open play is usually clear but set pieces and corners which are cleared and then the ball is put straight back into the penalty area are still deemed to be part of the set play as the defending team is still positioned to deal with the set play.
I think that this makes sense, the corner or set play doesn't really reset until the ball is cleared sufficiently that players return to their more normal positions and the team that is attacking gives up their attacking intent. This would capture most of the dark grey areas and provides a good baseline to ensure that things are the same from League to League and season to season.
Arsenal, Very good on corners:
176 - The number of corner kicks for Arsenal this season, 8th most in the Premier League
82 - The number of shots Arsenal have generated from those corner kicks, tied for 6th most
46% - The percentage of corners for Arsenal that have turned into shots, 5th highest percentage
9.7 - The expected goals for Arsenal's shots from corners, 5th highest
10 - The number of goals Arsenal have scored from corners, 3rd most
156 - The number of corners Arsenal have faced, 4th fewest
56 - The number of shots Arsenal have allowed from those corner kicks, 4th fewest
36% - The percentage of corners against Arsenal that have turned into shots, 5th fewest
3.6 - The expected goals for the shots Arsenal have allowed from corners, 3rd fewest
1 - The number of goals Arsenal have allowed, tied for the fewest
0.022 - The expected goals per corner Arsenal, 2nd lowest
Even without the need to say Arsenal haven't allowed a goal from a corner, the team has been very good at limiting chances for their opponents while doing well to make the most of their own corners. Arsenal have a +9 goal difference in corner kicks and that is a big part of their overall edge, Arsenal are +5 from open play, -1 from other set plays, and even on penalties. If Arsenal do make the top 4, the goals scored and prevented at corners will likely be a big reason why,
Week 36 Simulated Odds
It is the squeaky bum time part of the schedule.
All three of the big races are close and are far from decided. With some pivotal matches this weekend. Saturday starts with a match with nothing really on the line which will be nice to not feel compelled to wake up early for. The 7am (3pm) kickoffs do feature a match with relegation stakes.
I am sort of baffled by Aston Villa, looking at their form (4 losses, 1 draw, a win) they are playing pretty bad but the underlying numbers for them during this run show a team that is doing pretty good. They will be playing a desperate team and maybe that has been the factor for them, the teams they have been up against have something to play for and they dont.
Saturday ends with Liverpool with Spurs. Liverpool are big favorites here but I have to admit I am very worried that they might get tripped up and drop points. They are coming off the Champions League semi-final that had more drama than they expected against a rested opponent. I am also worried that this matchup will work well for Spurs trying to sit deep and counter. Maybe I am going full whiskers here but I think this could be a big banana peel for Liverpool and Arsenal.
Sunday starts with me annoying my wife on mother's day by watching Arsenal but also has Everton trying to keep fighting their way out of the relegation dog fight against Leicester. On paper, this seems like it would be a hard match but Leicester very well might be on the beach with nothing to play for in the League and having been knocked out of the Conference League semi-finals. I do kind of hope selfishly that Everton can get to safety so that the last day of the season matchup against Arsenal doesn't carry as much drama.
Sunday ends with Manchester City playing Newcastle. I wonder if that could have the potential of them taking off their frustration for choking against Real Madrid with a beat down.
Arsenal vs Leeds
This match is the "easiest" remaining match for Arsenal. Leeds are ranked as the 17th best team in my team ratings with the 9th best attack and the 19th best defense.
Arsenal are defending just over 2 expected points so anything less than a win here will make things mighty uncomfortable going into the North London Derby on Thursday. The flip side is that with a win here, with a Spurs loss on Saturday, could lead to a five-point gap that really could see Arsenal put things mostly on ice with a draw and kill the entire top-four race with a win.
There is a lot on the line this weekend and hopefully Arteta has the team focused on this match without the desire to start looking ahead.
Full match odds
Just a couple things this week.
I did the monthly review of Arsenal's players on loan for premium subscribers
I also have spent some time working on a better and more robust similarity score tool. I think this will be cool as we get into the summer transfer window season and want to start looking for players that could help Arsenal next season.
Thank you for reading.