The Stats Are Not Looking Good for Mikel Arteta

Are Arsenal Going in the Right Direction?

I’m in a difficult position here, trying to write an emotion-less post/analysis on a subject that involves a lot of emotions and impacts the mental & emotional well-being of many of us in a pandemic- and restriction-driven environment. Yet, I must do my best to keep it to the facts, as – I believe – they add more value than my reactions or explanations. (I have a few theories, I shared some already, but there are one yet to come – consider it a threat.) J

But I have to be up front before you jump to any conclusions. I really like Arteta, both as a person and as a coach. I appreciate him having Arsenal ties as a player, and I think even without past managerial experiences he had great ’schooling’ from one of the best, allowing him to become a success story right in his first employment as a coach. And I do want him to succeed, and agree to give him time and space. Emry had his almost 1.5 tenure (he had early successes – despite no silverware – and it took some time until the board concluded tha he doesn’t have the needed control any more), and Mikel deserves at least the same courtesy.

So please don’t misunderstand this piece as the first source of ArtetaOUT, but according to the numbers: Mikel is the best cup-coach we had for 40 years and the worst championship manager. The reasons behind it are not in the scope of this post; the data behind it, is.

Since Mikel took over Arsenal in last December – almost a full year ago – it didn’t seem fair to base the comparison on his early games. He inherited a disturbed team, and it takes time to gain control. Then the pandemic hit, making both training and playing hard and controversial. But it hit the whole PL, and the teams faced similar difficulties. Nevertheless Arteta got his grips on the team, the formation and tactics, he managed to win the FA Cup and had some lovely moments in the Premiere League too. He managed to spend 77M on transfers (plus Saliba, who were bought earlier but brought this summer as well as Willian, who had no transfer fee, but a substantial signing-on and huge salary commitment) with selling only one – although important – player, it seems fair to compare his PL-statistics based on his first 10 games of the 20/21 season.

But before doing that, let me summarize his cup records: 6/6 FA Cup (wins/games), 2/2 league cup, 1/1 supercup and 5/6 international – in this case Europa League – games, totalling an unprecedented 14/15 games won in cups in (less than) a year. Comparing it to Emery, he had 14/20 in the EL (in his defense, he played against some more serious teams as well), 1/2 in the FA Cup and 3/5 in 2 Carabao Cup seasons. The 18/27 is still not bad (especially when we consider that out of the 9 games he didn’t win there were 2 draws), but clearly not as impressive as Arteta’s record – which he is expected to continue at least in the easier fixtures of EL and against Newcastle in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.

So moving on to the top tier comparison, I spent about 2 hours compiling the data from the last 35 years, focusing on the balance of the first 10 games in each season. That is more than 25% of the games, so it seems less random as if I were focusing on 2 games only.

 George GrahamRiochMixedUnai EmeryMikel Arteta
year198619871988198919901991199219931994average1995199620182019average2020
goals for9182216181912121415.61519241519.510
against651310515116119.158131413.512
difference313961341636.410111116-2
points15201817231414201417.2212122161913
 Arsene Wenger
year199719981999200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017average
goals for27121317222519291217202233222015221818231920.2
against105810111181075710158207911810129.6
difference177571114111951213121814081371013710.6
points22171921182324251621262022201615251722231920.5
  1. The first 10 games of this season is bad in 3 out of 4 categories, and average in the last (# of goals conceded)
  2. In fact the total points and the goal difference is the worst of the last 35 years, and the number of goals socred is not the ‘all-time-low’ only because Arsenal managed to score 9 in the first year of George Graham’s reign 34 years ago
  3. Arteta indeed managed to improve on the defense, but the 20% less goals conceded came with the price of 30-50% less goals scored (depending on the comparison)
  4. Arsenal scored more than 3 goals 3 times under Arteta, and 9 times under Emery (who had 40% more games to achieve that)
  5. Arsenal conceded more than 2 goals 3 times under Arteta, and 12 times under Emery (who had 40% more games to achieve that)
  6. During Arsene Wenger’s last 2 years Arsenal conceded more than 2 goals 20 times and scored more than 3 goals 22 times

Arteta changing Arsenal is not just a meaningless phrase. Under Wenger and Emery we were a ’reliable’ team, capable of winning against most weaker teams and surely losing against the bests (Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Liverpool, Man City). Mikel changed all that. Arsenal now is a team that can beat anybody, and we can lose as well against anybody. The former is a welcome addition to our portfolio, but the latter is a heavy price. The margin among the PL teams are clearly shrinking, but Arteta has his obvious responsibility in that – just like in beating MU at Old Trafford.

Just some (cherrypicking) examples: While Emery and Wenger won their recent 6 encounters against Aston Villa Arteta lost both, however on the other hand he managed to defeat Liverpool in 3 occasions out of 4, while Emery and Wenger equally lost 3 and drew 1 in their last 4 games against Klopp’s team.

While we should support Arteta (which does not contradict criticizing some of his decisions) and give him time to find the balance between defense and offense, I think we have the moral obligation to voice if we don’t necessarily agree with the direction Arsenal is heading.

This is not a debate between Mikel and us, but rather among pundits, as they keep saying that the club has a new identity, the players are full of energy, that Arsenal is heading towards the right direction, there is an unprecedented team spirit, etc. Well, I respectfully disagree. I think the changes are a mixed bag, and focusing solely on the positives would flatter ourselves beyond reasonable. I don’t really know what is Arteta’s philosophy that is fundamentally different from how Wenger and Emery were trying to play (please don’t hesitate to share your answer), and there were several games in recent months where we had 11 talented athletes on the pitch – often working hard, too – but cohesion or team synergies were missing. That doesn’t make MA a lousy coach, but it doesn’t make him the messiah either.

I, personally, don’t like the direction we are heading. Especially if we remove those goals from the equation that couldn’t be attributed to anything but blind luck (including but not limited to 2 against Norwich and both goals against Liverpool last season). For the last 10 games I was mostly satisfied with the one against Fulham and Manchester United; both on the road. To paraphrase Adrian Clarke, the person behind Arsenal’s ’Breakdown’ column: most times it is not only the result that is disappointing, but also the way Arsenal played. I would rather see more goals conceded if it goes with more chances created and more goals scored (with a more exciting & entertaining game overall), hence I would prefer a 4:2 victory to a 1:0 win, but I take cognizance of belonging to the minority on this matter.

To sign of on a high note: I think we are going to have a happier December-January than our November. The game toll is insane, but that affects most of the clubs (especially the top teams who have international and domestic cup ties in their calendar). But I think Arsenal is in a better position than most, as our backup XI is nearly as strong as the first squad, so the inevitable rotation will not lead to a significant decline in quality – or at least less than with most opponents. We are still a few players overstaffed (I don’t expect Sokratis playing a lot, Saliba should have been sent on loan and Özil cannot be utilized either), but Chambers, Mari, Cedric, AMN, Elneny, Nelson or Martinelli, will be useful additions to the PL-contingent.

I sincerely hope that by March will be in a better position, and have more data to evaluate Arteta’s – as well as Arsenal’s – performance.

By PeterBarany

33 thoughts on “The Stats Are Not Looking Good for Mikel Arteta

  • Thank you for the post, PB.

    I think we all know that Arsenal need to do better in the league with or without the stats. I have said it is a restoration project as Wenger and then Emery left a pile of poo for him. Give Arteta till 2024 and see where we are then. He won us silverware already and the rest can wait as long as we can see structural progress in the way we play. Sit back, relax and know there will be pain before the gain. 🙂

  • Alternatively, let’s come to a quick conclusion and swap the manager, to be repeated ad nauseam. It is okay to be critical of the manager and the players, but the structural progress I can already see is we can defend much better (if we want to) and Arteta in his first year has wins over all the top teams. Plenty to do and the balance in midfield needs to be restored as first priority – and I thought Mikel was getting there with the inclusion of Elneny – and of course our attack needs to sharpen up drastically, and let’s hope Arteta and the boys will get on top of this soon.

  • Thanks for the publication, TA!
    Here is a more user-friendly picture to the statistic comparison:
    https://ibb.co/QF4mpdQ

    I agree with the extended patience, but 2024 is way too long IF he end the season (with Gabriel, Partey, Willian – meaning a significantly stronger squad than Wenger or Emery had) in the bottom half of the league. I don’t believe in bianco checks. In fact, (I think) there should be a categorical criteria where our stance should move from patience to ArtetaOUT, and it should be determined now instead of the end of the season.

  • We can all do that, PB (the categorical criteria) but surely it is up to the BoD to review Arteta’s progress against the long-term vision it has for the club. They should have learned from the Emery (Gazidis) disaster and have carefully picked a manager for the long run, one who fits the culture and long-term goals of the club. A mediocre season in terms of results, position in the league, should have been part of the calculations. So I am not going to jump to any conclusion and fully realize now that Mikel has a big job to do. Changing him for a new manager may bring psychological relief only to be replaced by same old, same old.

    I think it is clear we are at the opposite ends of this … 😀

  • Morning guy’s with all due respect to those on BK who possess a vast knowledge of football, and tactic’s. I have statistic’s that I have maintained on the performances of every Arsenal manager and the results of every EPL game. I maintain the stats out of personal interest and use them sparingly.

    I’m an Arteta advocate and I’ll be happy to see him given the time it takes to get the squad he needs and moulds them in the Arteta methodology. After watching most Arsenal games since November 1947 I’ve seen the good, bad and downright ugly but I’ve always kept the faith. Arteta oozes confidence, knowledge and love for Arsenal.

    Right now I’m happy the games are played in front of empty stadiums otherwise our “supporters” would be calling for his firing and boo’s would be raining down down from the stands.

  • TA, it is perfectly fine being on the opposite end of this topic.
    I try to be as unbiased as possible, but it might turn out counter-productive. So I try to base my approach independently on the person in charge, and would prefer to hold the managers against the same standards – however I don’t insist on this being the only acceptable method.

    I was quite satisfied with Emery’s first year (except from the last few PL-games of the season). Reaching the EL finale with a convincing display was the biggest international success of Arsenal since the PL-finale in 2006. And I enjoyed how we played against Tottenham, Fulham, Everton, Leicester. Anyway I though the club is in good hands until Unai started to run amok in the 2019/2020 season. I didn’t change my mind in 1-2 games, but eventually had to realize that we are on a downward spiral which the manager was unable to turn. And Emery came with a great reputation and had a great ‘job interview’ demonstrating his detailed knowledge of the players as well as his vision for the future, so the board could have given him the unconditional trust to carry out the transformation til 2023. But they did not, and we are both glad the didn’t. I think the same should be applied to Arteta (or Allegri if we would be changing managers in the meanwhile): a threshold of display and results that constitute ‘well done’, a grey area where consider slightly below expectations, but let the coach continue working ‘on thin ice’, and a level they/we find unacceptable and terminating the contract. We may see quite differently where these threshold lie (but I’m not expecting a top 3 position either, and would be sympathetic with a last-minute EL-place myself), but there have to be some kind of success criteria.

    Otherwise why Arteta is being given the all-accepting eye? Why not Wenger, Emery, Ljungberg or Allegri? I still love Mikel, and hope he turns things around in upcoming weeks/months. I just have my criteria straight…

  • PB wrote:

    “Otherwise why Arteta is being given the all-accepting eye? Why not Wenger, Emery, Ljungberg or Allegri? I still love Mikel, and hope he turns things around in upcoming weeks/months. I just have my criteria straight…”

    Wenger…. had forever
    Emery….. poor English and no connection with the players, lacked man-management skills
    Freddie…. not enough experience and out of his depth
    Allegri…. we picked Arteta.

  • Hi Total,
    Things are not that great – but looking up a bit.
    It would be great if somebody could help out with the pre game posts as I’m too preoccupied at the moment.

  • Take it easy, GN5. Nobody can do the prematch stuff as well as you do (17HT was pretty good it but he has gone awol long time ago), but I will continue doing them for as long as is necessary. Your health and wellbeing are most important to me.

  • Once more GN5– thanks for your time and efforts on this!

    West Ham v Man Utd = Home
    Chelsea v Leeds Utd = Away
    Sheff U v Leicester = Away
    Tottenham v Arsenal = Away
    Liverpool v Wolves = Home
    FC Koln v Vfl Wolfsburg = Away

    jw1

  • Peter….an interesting analysis but cannot agree that we are headed in the wrong direction. The principal issue right now is that the Arsenal have stopped scoring. Auba’s touch has dried up, the better options aren’t performing either, despite many chances created. Once we get the midas touch back, we’ll be alright as our defensive solidity is clearly improved. We have a good keeper and as you rightly observed, excellent reserve and youth options. We’ll be alright, no need to panic.

  • Thanks Total,

    We just need the predictions from Gooneris and then we are ready for the weekend.

  • I agree with omgarsenal that the principal issue is that Arsenal have stopped scoring but, the issue isn’t just Auba. We have stopped creating opportunities and the service to Auba, Laca, etc has been poor. The team is better structured to defend and works hard at this but we have lost something going forward. Worryingly, too often our passing is far too slow especially in the first 45 minutes in some matches and this is part of the reason that we are finding it difficult to break teams down. We’ve seen this before under both Wenger and Emery. The manager shouldn’t need to give the team a kick up the backside at half time, they should be raring to go from the start.

  • Fully agreed, OX10. I would be less worried (albeit not yet in panic) if we had a lot of chances scoring goals, but somehow a disorganized Aubameyang misses them, or an inspired goalkeeper saves them all. But we don’t have many half-chances either. Minimal key passes, no crossbars (where at least we could consider ourselves unlucky). Most of the time the when in possession our midfielders, wingbacks and wingers pass the ball around the penalty as if it was a handball or water-polo game. And usually it concludes with a tame cross – which is a hard thing to begin with as the box is already crowded with defenders, and our attacker are not tall enough either to have an advantage over the central defenders.
    I miss the defence-splitting passes of Özil, the dangerous dribbles of Sanchez, the surgical assist of Bergkamp and the unpredictable solo efforts from Henry. I know that I’m being nostalgic, and those 4 would be utopistic together. But currently we have none in the team. We don’t have the AM position to challenge the defenders, and the wing-play – even though we have great players there – is not really suited for Arsenal at the moment.

  • Been busy, back at work so I’ll read and comment later when I’m relaxing…

    Chelsea winning 4-0 in Sevilla, outstanding performance, they’ve come a long long way since Arteta and Arsenal mugged them off at Wembley.

    It just goes to show what hard work can achieve – oh and spending £300m in the summer. 😉

  • GN5, thanks for the prompting(s). If only we can just go on the winning run Kev is on; a bit of consistency always helps in this league.
    Here are my predictions for the weekend pick of games:

    West Ham vs Man Utd… H
    Chelsea vs Leeds Utd…… H
    Sheff U vs Leicester……… A
    Tottenham vs Arsenal……… A
    Liverpool vs Wolves…….. H
    FC Koln vs Wolfsburg….. A

  • The 300M must have helped, Kev. 🙂
    Giroud scored all 4 goals there and got a 10 rating from WhoScored…

    The EL will acquire some fierce opponents next week:
    – Atletico Madrid might join from CL group A if the loose their last game in Salzburg (go Szoboszlai!)
    – In group B Real Madrid and Inter stand at 3rd and 4th place
    – From group D the looser from Ajax:Atalanta will join (I expect the latter, but they have the advantage of a draw)
    – Manchester United lost at home in group H, thus will face a crucial deciding last round against Red Bull in Leipzig. If mancs draw or win Leipzig will continue in the EL

  • TA, I’m quite far in the process of let this debate go, just one last argument… 🙂

    I still believe to keep the minimum expectation of an EL spot. (Could be the FA Cup again, or finishing at 5-6. position.) Otherwise we’ll face an incredibly difficult task to attract top talents and players. Probably we’ll have to resort to Academy players and unknown starlets of 18 years from South-America (which is not the worst thing to happen, I admit), as it is difficult to imagine that accomplished European players such as Aouar, Szoboszlai, Upamecano, Grealish, Edouard, Daka or anybody else would prefer the #9 from PL if they have comparable offers from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, or even Lille, Leverkusen and Leicester City – who are clearly on the up, while Arsenal (after temporary 4 years in the EL) managed to exclude itself from European football. I’m not sure the vision or the trust of the manager would carry much weight. And without Wednesday-Thursday football we will not have the funds to compensate their faith in wages…

  • Nice post Pete, I’m not a great stats fans, it’s an American thing that we’ve brought in and a lot of fans love it and quote the stats as proof of their arguments, but for me it’s appearances and goalscorers and then my eyes glaze over, but great work by you and kudos all the same.
    And a big thank you to the colonies. 😉

    I found the fact that Arteta has a great cup record as really interesting as I’ve been saying for awhile that we have a cup team, that is a team where everybody raises their level and focuses for a whole game but can’t do it on a regular basis and I guess that tells you everything you need to know about the mentality and character of our squad and why it’s almost The Impossible Job. Therefore we have players and maybe even coaches who can only achieve the required level momentarily before falling back into the morass of inconsistency.

    Yes, you could sack Arteta and bring in someone else – and it won’t be Allegra because he won’t work on such a slim budget – but whoever you bring in would face the same issues in turning the ‘Uncoachables’ into a team that can challenge for the CL places, as that seems to be the ‘Gold Standard’ for fans these days, and I’m not knocking that either.

    I have no idea why Aubameyang looks so miserable these days because he was feasting on scraps before this season and was smiling all the time, maybe it was because he was putting them in the net and now he isn’t and that’s the problem for him because the rest of our team doesn’t do enough in that department. Lacazette scored three on the bounce this campaign and since seems to playing in leaden football boots, Xhaka last scored in the league when we were watching TV in black n white, Ceballos no, Elneny no, Saka no, Willian etc etc.

    For a team that has issues with defending because we still do, issues that effect the attack and a midfield that’s still not dependable, we need forwards who score like an Ian Wright and we’re not seeing that. Therefore we’re eventually exposed and we don’t have the armoury to respond, an issue that any new manager will face, because if we bring in a new manager and he opens up we’ll get picked off.

    Peter like you I think that Arteta needs to be given the remainder of this season, for me it’s the barest of bare minimums and then a summer transfer window and a pre season because he’s not had one of those remember. The Ownership need to be strong because the noise online is deafening and it’ll get worse if we lose the NLD.

    Personally I’d like to see Arsenal go out and sign another big powerful midfielder in the Partey mould because he can’t solve all our midfield problems on his own, I know that everyone wants a creative midfielder and I agree we do, but for me two Thomas Parteys would be immense.

  • PB, it all depends on the scale of the restoration project Arteta needs to undertake. I prefer it done properly so the long term future is secure, and if that means we do not qualify for the UL then so be it; and I don’t share your worries about attracting quality players or having enough cash to do so. The squad is very good and the one or two players Arteta will still need, the club will be able to attract. However, the BoD may have similar views to yours.

  • Hey GN5, this is a hobby mate, you do fantastic work and we all appreciate what you do.

  • Thanks for the comments, OMGArsenal, TA and Kev. This is a great place to debate on players, strategies and results.
    I might be too harsh on Arteta (however I could easily agree with Kev about the extended time-frame), but I really think that our squad is really very strong. There are only a handful of people I would “accept” to Arsenal from other PL-teams (3 from Liverpool and Chelsea, a couple from the Manchester teams, non from Tottenham, Leicester or West Ham, maybe 1 from Everton and Villa). So if the player quality is there, why is the team quality missing these days?

  • Sure it is. I was more of asking what do Arsenal need to maximize the synergies? But this is a rhetorical question, and I will be fine if and when Arteta’s touch will prove to be the answer. 🙂

  • That is called process, PB. Vision –> comms –> practice –> playing games –> evaluating performances –> communicating vision –> practice–>playing games–> etc –> etc.

  • Come on, TA. If it were a linear process then we should be sitting on top of the table. Last season we were on so high (winning the FA Cup, beating Liverpool ant home, Wolves away). So there must be some reason – beyond luck – that we are currently on a downward spiral. I don’t mind not knowing what the core problem was as long as we climb out of it, but first the boy must give the Spuds some hell.

  • Pfffff, this is tyring. What Arteta did last season was about survival. He has started now on his long term plan and that is an iterative process. You will need to be patient or just remain unhappy 😂😂😂😂😂

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