Statistically Speaking Arsenal

Do it for Him

So Wenger has announced that he will not be renewing his contract this summer. The best manager that this club has ever had, without doubt, will be reaching the end of his Arsenal journey next month. It’s a shame but may well have been for the best. There is no guarantee that the next manager will do a better job, but it was becoming too much to see a footballing legend look so dejected week in, week out.

The important thing now is for the team to give everything they’ve got in the Europa League. Some players who haven’t been at their best this season need to step up, and one of those in the spotlight over recent weeks is Shkodran Mustafi.

As is often the case with statistics on social media, as soon as an individual stat gains any sort of traction, every single football account on every platform is posting and reposting that stat. Recently, the fall guy is Shkodran Mustafi.

Worse than Firmino

It has been revealed that the German centre-half has made fewer tackles in the league this season that Roberto Firmino, with 61 and 62 respectively.

Stats like this are always fun for opposition fans. They seem to be even more fun when placed against Arsenal. And they will invariably go viral when placed against Arsenal, shortly after an Arsenal defeat.

However, stats such as this need to be taken in perspective, and the reason for the statistic needs to be analysed. For example, would the contrasting playing style of Arsenal and Liverpool facilitate Mustafi making fewer tackles than the Brazilian forward? Yes.

I’m not trying to get hung up on one loose stat, but merely trying to prevent the onslaught of abuse handed to an excellent centre-back, as rival fans attempt to goad Arsenal supporters.

A Superb Centre Back

Mustafi has made 2 interceptions per game in the league this year. Comparing this to the main Liverpools centre-backs, Van Dijk and Matip, it is clear how the team’s defensive styles differ. The Liverpool defenders have made 1.4 interceptions per game, each, this season.

Arsenal prefer to play a high line, to squeeze the opposition into making an error, then intercepting through balls or forcing a pass out of play. Klopp’s side, famously, prefer to press the opposition into making the mistake or to nick the ball away.

This takes a huge step in suggesting why a defensive forward like Firmino would make more tackles (only 1 more) over the course of a season, because that is what his role demands, in comparison to the Arsenal centre back.

Possibly then, the viral statistic should not be taken as a declaration of Mustafi’s incompetence, more that Liverpool gegenpressing style produces better results than the more passive Arsenal defence.

I’m not rushing to Mustafi’s side, he has made some costly errors this season, and if he wants to remain an Arsenal first teamer next year, he needs to considerably up his game. But he is a fine defender and deserves more respect from his own fans.

This all shows how stats can be used to make any point. It is only when they are analysed more deeply that they can make genuine points regarding a team or player.

Maybe Mustafi should be doing more defensively, and of course, Firmino is a workaholic in attack. But the Brazilian making 1 more tackle over the course of the season can all boil down to one simple fact.

Mustafi- 25 appearances. Firmino- 34.