James: Have Arsenal Really Been Unlucky?

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Been a while since our last reader submitted article, but the latest entry for ‘From The Terraces‘ comes from COS reader James as he looks at just how “unlucky” Arsenal have been this season.

So far in the Premiership this season, Arsenal have played ten games, winning 5. What is surprising is that the statistics suggest Arsenal have played better when they have lost or drawn.

In games won, they have scored 13 goals. In games drawn or lost, it’s only 3 goals scored.

But in order to judge a “good performance”, it is best to look at the number of shots on goal as this ignores any superb saves by the goalkeeper, heroic blocks and clearances off the line: these are a credit to the defending team, but do not reflect on the attacking team’s success in creating goal scoring chances.

In the games they won, Arsenal averaged 16.2 shots per game. In games where they drew or lost: 18.8 shots per game.

So, Arsenal have had more shots (on or off target) in the games they have lost or drawn compared to the games they have won, indicating better performances in the former.

But you could say that they had more shots (on or off target) because the opposition was defending a lead, or defending a draw, or simply defending because that was always their game plan – and thus Arsenal’s shots on goal were more speculative and therefore the chances created weren’t as good.

Maybe it would be better to look at shots on target, as these can’t really be called “speculative” shots. The outcome: Arsenal average 9.4 shots on target per game when they win, and 9.4 shots on target per game when they lose or draw (not to mention the 3 times they have hit the woodwork in these games).

It is easy to dismiss “bad luck” by saying “Chelsea win when they play badly” or “real title contenders always find a way of winning”. But how can it be explained when you really aren’t playing that badly? Does this “bad luck” really exist? Or can Arsenal just not finish off chances?

Probably both: most will have seen Arsenal’s comedy misses during last Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against CSKA Moscow and their seeming inability to break down any well-organised Premiership defence. But they do seem to suffer from bad luck on occasions, the bad luck perhaps being explained by a string of excellent defensive and tactical displays from the teams that have taken points from them.

Arsene Wenger believed Arsenal’s performance against Moscow was their best of the season. While this will not appease the fans, it does reflect this team’s fondness for frustration.

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