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Just the start of something special

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The 2022-23 football season has been one of the best in recent years. In the last few months, the fans have seen Lionel Messi finally lifting a FIFA World Cup, Borussia Dortmund challenging Bayern Munich’s hegemony, and Napoli blowing everyone to win a Serie A title. However, another team that performed well above everyone’s expectations is Arsenal.

Under Mikel Arteta, the Gunners went toe-to-toe with Manchester City and still have a mathematical chance of winning their first title in 19 years. However, before the start of the new season, even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans would not have envisioned their team performing with such machine-like precision.

With an average age of 25 years, the clubs had one of the youngest squads in Europe. However, their youth players stepped up to the plate massively, producing brilliant performances and that too on a constant basis which formed the bedrock of their incredible title challenge.

But what do the numbers say about Arsenal’s incredible season? We analyse/

Arsenal’s stats and playing style 

While analysing Arsenal’s stats, one thing stands out in particular, the increase in goals. And this should not come as a surprise as the team has accumulated 12 more points, scored 22 goals more, and conceded nine goals less. However, Arsenal have taken 35 shots less than the previous years with four games to go, and their shot conversion rate has also been almost the same.

The magic has happened in the goal conversion rate, where Arsenal have improved massively. Arsenal have a goal conversion rate of 14.26 per cent, the second-best in the Premier League and the sixth-best among the top five leagues. This has happened despite the team losing their designated number nine, Gabriel Jesus, for a large part of the season.

So, how did Arsenal get so better at shooting with almost the same number of shots and shot conversion rate? The answer is just one word, creativity. The most significant difference for Arsenal this season has been their wingers and midfielders being at their best to help the team dominate in both the midfield and attacking third.

In fact, they have been so brilliant that Arsenal have over-performed their Expected Goals by 16 per cent. Among the top performers have been Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Sakak, who have combined for 25 assists.

After losing Gabriel Jesus to an injury, Arteta knew he needed his other attackers to step up, which they have done precisely. And they have been incredibly accurate with it as well. As mentioned earlier in the article, Arsenal had a massive increase in the goal conversion percentage despite registering even fewer shots. The reason behind it is that the team has created far more high-quality chances.

Data from Understat shows that Arsenal have missed 28 fewer shots compared to last season. Arsenal have also had 105 shots saved from the opposition, 28 less than the previous season, proving that they have improved at shooting because of an increase in high-quality chances courtesy of their wingers and midfielders.

Analysing Arsenal’s attacking tactics

So, we now know that Arsenals’ attackers were brilliant, but how did they manage to hit the perfect combination this season? The answer lies in four stats metrics. One of the areas where Arsenal were near flawless was their high pressing. Stats from Soccerment show that Arsenal are the second best in the Buildup Disruption Percentage metric, which measures how successful a team is at executing pressures.

Another stat to validate Arsenal’s high-pressing claims is the Gegenpressing Intensity Percentage (GPI). The GPI metric measures how many times a team attempts to regain possession immediately after losing the ball rather than falling back. A high rating at the GPI shows that the team is ready to sacrifice some defensive stability for a high press which will help them dominate the attacking third. In fact, Liverpool top the GPI chart and are having a horrible season which shows how risky this strategy can be if not implemented correctly.

To counter the gaps left by the GPI, the defence has to be at its best and snuff out the danger. This is an area where Arsenal have massively struggled this season, but with William Saliba in their backline, the team has massively improved.

Arsenal has also been dominant in the field Tilt, which measures the amount of possession a team has in the opposition’s half. And the Gunners are the third-best team on Thai metrics in the top five leagues after Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Their attackers have also completed 358 successful dribbles, the second-most in the league. Arteta has given his players the licence to ensure the ball stays in the opposition’s half for as long as possible.

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Arsenal key players in the squad: Goals & assists

While Arsenal’s fantastic season has been more of a team effort, several players, especially young ones, have been critical to their title charge. The first is Martin Odegaard, who has been the orchestrator-in-chief of the team.

The Norwegian came into the season looking to prove his talent. And this is exactly what he has done. According to Soccerment, the youngster has been the fifth-best player in the league in Expected Threats (xT) from passes and the Expected Offensive Value Added (xOVA) while scoring 15 goals and providing seven assists.

The same is the case with Bukayo Saka, who, on stats, has probably been the best player in the league after Erling Haaland. The English international is the only player to feature in the top ten goal scorers and assist providers in the league.

While analysing these stats, we can see a very interesting trend. While the club does not have any player dominating one stat, they have two or more players among the top five, which is why no single player has been burdened, especially in the attack.

While they look sure to miss out on the title to Manchester City, the way Arsenal have played

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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