Analysis of Arsenal crossing statistics: is Mikel Arteta right? | Football News

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“I think it’s the first time in the Premier League that we’ve put 33 crosses. I’m telling you that if we do this more consistently, we’ll score more goals. If we put the bodies that we had at certain times in the box, that’s math, pure math, and it will happen. ”

It was Mikel Arteta’s response to his side’s 2-1 loss to Wolves on Sunday night. It was alarming for fans hoping their manager had a more sophisticated solution to the issues that leave Arsenal mired in the bottom half of the table.

Maybe it was an attempt to speak clearly, but it seemed reductive. Not so much the heir to Pep Guardiola, the man he helped at Manchester City, but rather David Moyes, his manager at Everton. Notoriously, Manchester United’s Moyes side have already thrown 81 crosses in a 2-2 draw with Fulham – a game that summed up their offensive struggles.

Does Arteta have a point on Arsenal’s crosses? Statistics show that there were actually 35 this weekend and that’s a lot – the most Arsenal in a Premier League game this season. Most since an away draw at Norwich just over a year ago. Most at the Emirates Stadium since a draw against Brighton in Unai Emery’s first season at the helm.

The fact that Arsenal haven’t won any of those matches suggests an awkward truth about the crossover – the correlation between that and success is far from clear. This can sometimes be seen as a sign of desperation, indicative of a team that has resorted to throwing balls into the box when unable to break down a defense by more effective means.

The record for most crosses in a game so far this Premier League season is 43 – held jointly by Sheffield United and Fulham. The former lost 2-0 after falling behind in the second minute against Wolves. The latter lost 3-0 after falling behind in the fourth minute against Aston Villa.

The fact that Arsenal ended up pursuing this tactic at Wolves was not a triumph, at least not for the home side. Wolves’ win over Sheffield United was one of two games in which they faced more crosses than the 35 Arsenal mustered. The other was a 1-0 win at Leeds. Their plan is to force the opponents off. It seems more likely that Arteta fell into their trap.

Of course, Arsenal’s approach would have had a chance to be more efficient if the crossing had been better. Instead, delivery was too often substandard and the choice of set-piece takers was questionable as well. Some crosses have been crushed. Many were cut up at the nearest post. No player can be blamed. Responsibility must be shared.

Willian, Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney and substitute Reiss Nelson each put five crosses in open play. Hector Bellerin managed four. No Arsenal player has found a teammate more than once. In total, only three of Arsenal’s 35 crosses have reached any of their own players.

Of the 104 occasions this season and last, where a Premier League side have attempted 30 or more crosses in a game, none have had a passing accuracy lower than this.

It was unusually bad, and in that sense, at least, Arteta can hope for better in the future. Nonetheless, crossing is not a strength and it seems surprising that this is their strategy. There is no Olivier Giroud at Arsenal. Is this really the best path to the goal for his team?

The hope was that Arteta’s long-term vision was for his team to string balls into the box like Manchester City, only removing the ball after working it behind defenses.

Whatever plan is for Arsenal, it must – as Arteta suggests – involve organs in the opposition penalty box and that is the recurring problem. For all of Sunday’s crosses, Rui Patricio made only one save in the game. Only the three teams currently in the relegation zone and Newcastle have had fewer shots on target than Arsenal this season.

The keys in the opposition zone are a better indicator of the ability to create than the number of crosses. But Arsenal’s building play in the final third has been a problem for some time.

They are a team that have surpassed that measure as recently as the 2015/16 season, but there has been a decline since then that has only accelerated since Arteta arrived last year.

Creativity is not a new problem. But the belief so far has been that Arteta understands the problem. What is new is that this response to the latest loss calls that into question.

“We have won games with similar numbers,” Arteta argued on Wednesday, referring to the fact that his Arsenal side had previously been very effective in front of goal.

But this effectiveness has never been sustainable. It is true that Arsenal have had the best conversion rate in the Premier League since Arteta arrived until the end of last season. The task was to dramatically increase the number of chances without relying on maintaining that conversion rate.

Sunday December 6 4:15 p.m.

Kick-off at 4.30 p.m.


Arteta’s talent for delivering big results – most recently at Manchester United but more particularly during their FA Cup success this summer – has given him time for this rebuild. But his long-term prospects would still depend on how efficiently he used that time.

Does he understand that the current plan is not working?

Arsenal passing network shows disconnect between midfielder and attack
Image:
Arsenal passing network shows disconnect between midfielder and attack

“I’m really worried about the results and the margins that we’re losing,” says Arteta, “because when we analyze the games afterwards,“ Why do we lose these games when they’re so close? “”

Complaining about the small margins opposing his team is troubling as he seems to be missing the point. In short, it’s not so much that Arsenal are unlucky now. It would be more accurate to suggest that fortune was with them before.



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2:53

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Wolves’ Premier League win at Arsenal

Under Opta’s expected goals model, Wolves had the best odds on Sunday. That same model shows that Arsenal have had better chances than their opponents in just four of their games this season – three of which they’ve won. They might consider themselves a little unlucky to lose to Leicester, but were much luckier to win against West Ham.

The Premier League table shows Arsenal with a negative goal difference and the underlying numbers suggest that this faithfully reflects the performances. Creativity is a major concern.

Arsenal fans knew that. What they didn’t know until now is that their promising young manager seems to believe more crossovers are part of the solution. This will not inspire assurance that they are on the right track to solving the problem.

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