Arsenal is coming off the back of yet another disappointing season following their failure to reach the top four and flopping in the Europa League final. For a club the size of the Gunners, this performance is really not acceptable, and most of the fans will agree that some big changes are needed. The problem is that the club has backed itself into a corner with regards to wages, transfer funds and players leaving on a free.
The fact that a player of Aaron Ramsey’s gravitas has been allowed to walk away without a fee is unacceptable in itself, and there is still an argument about whether he should be permitted to leave at all. The contract that Mesut Ozil signed in January 2018 has the German earning a reported £350,000 per week, and yet his performances rarely merit that kind of money. This is just one deal that has stung the Gunners in recent years, but they also need a lot more from the current squad if they are to improve next season.
Defensive unit needs to be re-evaluated
The Arsenal defence has become a bit of a joke over the last couple of seasons. Despite adding the experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner and Greek centre back Sokratis, Emery’s side still shipped 51 goals in the Premier League last season. To put this into context: that is more than Leicester, Wolves and Newcastle – all of whom finished below the Gunners in the table.
Arsenal have made six individual errors leading to goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other team.
Lichtsteiner is the latest culprit. pic.twitter.com/0Sx1RrRS48
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2018
This season has to see improvements in this area if no other. The worst defensive record of the sides finishing in the top-four were Tottenham and Chelsea (both 39 conceded), which is a big jump ahead of Arsenal – but at least there is some consolation that Manchester United was even worse at the back, shipping 54 times.
Whether Arsenal can sign players on a tight budget is the tough question that has to be answered by Unai Emery and his scouting team. The Gunners do not want to drift further away from the top-four sides in England, or their odds of finishing in the Champions League places, currently, 11/10 in the Premier League betting markets, will only get longer.
That attacking xG tells us a lot
Going forward, there is a perception that Arsenal is in pretty good shape. That can certainly be argued, but the xG data provided by InStat Football tells a slightly different story.
• 22 goals • 15 goals
• 6 assists • 9 assists
Arsenal’s dynamic duo combine once again. ? pic.twitter.com/sAvDIm5JAH
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 1, 2019
The outstanding Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was bang on his xG, which stands at 22, by netting exactly that number in the top flight. Yet, the next best xG of any Gunner was the 12 registered by Alexandre Lacazette, who did slightly better, netting 13. In the meanwhile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit a derisory six goals from an equally disappointing xG of 5.3.
What does this tell us? Simply put, Arsenal is too reliant on Aubameyang and, even though they hit 73 goals last season, they will need to improve across the board in order to make up for the inefficiencies at the back. It is a huge summer for Unai Emery and one that he must get right starting with the defence.