Has Arteta Been too Unlucky?
This season, Arsenal have lost a total of 10 games out of 23 in the Premier League. Bad, right? Arteta Out, right?
Winning teams often have their games analyzed for how lucky they might have been but nobody barely does that with losses. Given that Arsenal are conceding much less under Arteta than Emery and Wenger at 1 goal per game, how have Arsenal managed to lose ten games out of 23, when they have a good defense?
Part of it is admittedly down to the attack. We are simply not good enough attacking wise, although this is less true after December. This is not only the coach’s fault, we are also not converting clear chances well enough. We have generated an expected score of 30 goals this season. This is not good enough as it is 12th best in the league. However, we’ve only managed to convert 27 goals. This is an underperformance that is not to be blamed on the coach.
Tottenham, for instance, have 31 expected goals but have been clinically converting to have scored 36 times. Quality is the issue with that. Harry Kane and Son are two of the best finishers in Europe. Lacazette, despite his goals, has missed many good chances this season. In the past few games though, we have been much better in attack but have not been competent enough to make dangerous situations out of our entries into the opposition final third. Against Wolves for instance, we should have been out of sight by the thirtieth minute but we managed to lose the game.
Out of our ten losses, a whooping 7 have been lost by 1 goal. That’s extremely unlucky. Burnley, Everton, Leiceister, Wolves, Aston Villa and so on. Losses that could have easily been wins or at least draws.
Discipline has also been an issue and it is not the coach’s fault that Pepe, Xhaka, Leno and Luiz chose to momentarily become daft. All of the red cards were easily avoidable. Only exception was Gabriel Maghalaes red against Everton. We have gone on to take only two points from a possible 12 in those games we went a man down.
We have also had too many refereeing decisions go against us. In the 3-1 loss to Liverpool, Sadio Mane should have been sent off within the first ten minutes after slapping Tierney across the face. He went on to score. Additionally, Diogo Jota’s goal came off his arm and shouldn’t have stood.
The defeat away to Manchester City should have seen Gabriel Maghalaes winning a penalty for a high boot by Kyle Walker – it wasn’t even picked up by VAR. The Wolves defeat a week ago saw David Luiz wrongly sent off. It was a completely different game 11 v 11. The Aston Villa defeat should have seen us win a penalty after Emi Martinez’s foul on Alexandre Lacazette. Aston Villa got the foul. Lacazette’s goal against Leiceister was wrongly ruled out while Man City had a worse offside situation ruled in their favour against Aston Villa. Bukayo Saka was also tackled by his last man and the referee decided it was just a yellow.
These are crucial situations that, had they been more fair to us, we could have picked up at least 6 more points.
Mikel Arteta has not been the luckiest coach in the league. At least that much is obvious. What he can do is to focus on the things that are controllable and improve them. The defense is one of the best in the league but the individual quality can be better (Hector Bellerin must be replaced and Rob Holding should not be first-choice in a serious team). Things are ticking well in midfield but we need more availability from Partey. The attack is bang average for now and while the patterns are good enough for now, the quality must be upgraded in the summer.
Football can sometimes be a game of blind luck and as far as luck goes, we have not been a very lucky team at all. In fact, we have been unfortunate more than most this season. This is the context to our season. This is part of why we are struggling to get up the table. We have literally lost points to things other than how well we are playing. But as long as Arteta fixes the attack permanently, which I believe he can and will with more balanced recruitment, we should return back to Champions League contention in no time.