Can this squad make the final push even without additions? Yes if we find the extra 15 Goals

Bellerin celebrates his opener against Liverpool

Bellerin celebrates his opener against Liverpool

“I expected Aaron Ramsey to be in there as well with 10 or 15. We need another player who gets 10 or 15 goals but we have a good mentality and good cohesion in the team. There is something happening. You can see that.”

That’s what Arsene Wenger said after we thrashed Liverpool at the Emirates this season. In the immediate aftermath people interpreted his words as if Arsene wants to bring another player from the outside. After the dust had settled, it dawned on a lot of fans the Frenchman didn’t say “I want to buy a 10-15 goal player”, rather he was quoted saying “We need another player who gets 10-15 goals”. As such, he could have meant an internal solution.

No, not promoting Akpom or Gnabry in the hopes they can score the amount of goals in question. Getting more out of the existing personnel, players like Oxlade or Welbeck, seems more likely. However, my colleague Andrea has explored this possibility in depth here, so I won’t stop on it any further.

Can these guys get us extra 10 goals?

Can these guys get us extra 10 goals?

Rather, I want to concentrate on another problem entirely, one which seemed pretty straightforward at first, but not so much after I gave it some thought. Namely: what is easier: scoring an extra 10-15 goals or conceding 10-15 less? What is more efficient, achievable? What is Arsene more likely to do, try to add extra firepower in the hopes that more goals will get us a better end result or stitch up our defense so that additional clean sheets help us grind out points?

Concede less

I’ll start with this option, simply because it seems Wenger is more inclined to go this way. Why? Because we haven’t been linked with a lot of attacking-minded players, but look to be on the brink of signing Cech. Moreover, Howedes recently confirmed Arsenal made him an offer. It’s not crystal clear whether we made that offer in winter or very recently, but the important thing here is that Arsene seems keen on improving our defensive record.

This year we have conceded 36 league goals, but only 11 of these came after Ospina claimed the spot between the sticks as his own. In other words, we have conceded 11 goals in 18 games.

Ospina's professional attitude is probably his greatest asset

Ospina’s professional attitude is probably his greatest asset

Now, I’m not saying it’s entirely down to Ospina: it’s not. He certainly chipped in with his calming presence, one which Szczesny is yet to learn how to exude (assuming he stays), however, Coquelin also blossomed around mid-January + we finally stabilised our back four.

Whichever way you put it, 11 goals in 18 games is impressive. Had we kept this rate up from the very beginning, we would have conceded roughly 23-24. Chelsea, with their famous double-decker, conceded 32. Southampton 33.

And yet Arsene is looking at our defense. He hinted Gabriel will feature more, Cech deal has been done to death already. For me, it’s hard to say exactly how much impact Cech can make on his own. Sure, he is a great goalkeeper, but how many goals can he prevent all by himself? How many points can he get us on a one-man mission?

My friend, a United fan, said De Gea was immense this season. That he bailed his team out of trouble time and again. That the Spaniard alone got United 12 points minimum. Let’s assume this is true: can Cech do the same? If he can win us 12 points on top of the ones we earned this season it will just about suffice to win the league.

Perhaps we better buy this guy

Perhaps we better buy this guy

However, we shouldn’t forget two things: United had a very leaky defense this year, which contributed to De Gea’s image of being a great goalkeeper. We, as I’ve demonstrated above, did grand in the 2nd half of the season with a goalie between the sticks who most consider mediocre. Moreover, let’s assume Cech wouldn’t have the mistakes our goalies made this season. Ospina made a grand total of one (against West Brom) and it didn’t matter anyway. Let’s say Cech would have kept out Gomis’ header. Alright, that’s one point in 18 games taken aboard.

Szczesny wasn’t at all impressive prior to him being benched, but how many clangers did he drop? He made 11 errors over the course of TWO last seasons, 5 led to goals. Even if all 5 happened in 2014-2015 and even if these 5 goals were the only difference between a draw and a win (which they weren’t), we get a maximum of extra 10 points.

So Cech could have (hypothetically) won us 13 points. These probably would have sufficed, but only just and only after a great push of imagination from me. (All goalie stats courtesy of @AFCStatReport. You can find his article here).

Score more

It’s going to be another push of imagination from me, though a considerably lesser one. In short, if I had to choose between buying a new goalie and purchasing a player who can get us extra 10-15 goals, I would have chosen the latter. Here’s why.

I can easily single out a number of games, where one goal would have been the difference between one point and all three. Here they are

  1. Leicester (a)
  2. Tottenham (h)
  3. Chelsea (h)
  4. United (a)
  5. Sunderland (h)

I haven’t counted in Everton, Hull and City, because in the first two instances we were chasing the game and got a point thanks to a last-gasp equaliser, while with City we have conceded late, surrendering our winning positions. All those games could have in fact been won with a better defensive effort. However, I think we can add Swansea at home to this list, because had we scored at some point prior to 85th minute, we would have probably won.

Did all in his power in these games

Did all in his power in these games

So, in these 6 games we managed to pick up 5 points only. Scoring mere 7 extra goals (2 against Swansea) could have seen us get 18 points out of 18. Only Chelsea presents a problem in this list, every other team is not that hard to score an extra goal against.

I have only used up 7 goals, I still have (hypothetically) 3-8 goals left and we would have won the league title even with these extra 7, finishing on 88 points with Chelsea on 86. I think even the existing personnel is capable of that final little push. We were highly unlucky to have Oxlade and Welbeck injured in the last month (when 4 games out of these 6 occurred), while Walcott and Wilshere were still regaining match sharpness. At the outset of the campaign we had other factors at play which prevented us from picking up more points: injuries to key players, instability at the back and post-World Cup syndrome. Alas.

How costly has Giroud's injury been?

How costly has Giroud’s injury been?

Closing comments

When it comes right down to it, it’s all speculation on my part to while away the time, both mine and yours. However, I don’t think defenders and even goalkeepers should be our prime concern: as I’ve demonstrated with solid numbers, not just opinion-based blabber, we had an astoundingly good second half of the season. We don’t need extra defenders based on that. We don’t need a new keeper.

What we really need is a settled back four and an injury-free season. If we manage to accomplish that, I’m not so sure we need any fresh recruitments at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t want Arsene to bring anyone in, or won’t be excited when he does. I also don’t think all the players who can improve us are out of our reach. I am just of the opinion we have enough potential to challenge even without new faces.

Over and out

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5 Responses to Can this squad make the final push even without additions? Yes if we find the extra 15 Goals

  1. Hashim June 22, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    Totally agree with the writer. I think that players like Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, and Ox should add to the goal tally. They should each be scoring at least 8 goals a season, not because it is required, but because they are good enough to do that.

  2. John Abraham June 22, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    I agree with your hypothesis and analysis completely. All I want to add is that a few well thought out additions….goal keeper, striker and DM will just enhance our cohesion at the back, ability to score more and of course, a general feel good factor for the fans. A very nice blog.

  3. Changazi June 22, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    Couldn’t have agreed more. Very good comparative analysis of the two possibilities.

  4. David June 22, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    very nice well researched article..completely changed my perspectove of thinking and i totally get where u are coming from and headed to..but maybe if those players do not get us the “7” goals,then a WC keeper (Cech) will prevent our goal difference at the end of the season being “7” less

  5. Counterintuitive attack June 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    There’s another way to look at it : how do you improve your chances of scoring the opening goal in a game?

    To me, it is very clear that there has been a dramatic change in the premier league in the last decade or so. Where once teams played in a relatively similar way whether they were 1-0 up or 1-0 down, drawing, or any other score, now most of them significantly alter how they play depending on the score. And they have become better at this over the years.

    As a consequence, a team with better offensive players will often take longer to make that superiority tell (because the opposition are defending in such numbers), and should they happen to be caught on the counter and concede first, the opposition will subsequently become even more defensive (and as you push to try counteract that, more opportunities to counter you again will arise).

    Therefore, improving your defence can be as good a way of improving your chance of the first goal as improving your attack. And once you have that first goal, if you have the best set of counter-attackers in the league, you’re in clover.

    It never fails to astonish me the difference space makes in a game. Two good examples are from 2013-14. Dortmund away and Everton in the cup. I could hardly believe my eyes at how the game changed once Ramsay scored in Dortmund.

    Up to then, we had hung in and rode our luck against what was a very formidable team at the time. We scored, and suddenly our creative players began to look sensational, and quickly created two or three excellent chances with some beautiful football. Against Everton, it was even more evident. We got into a lead after a relatively close contest. They pushed hard. We finished them quickly with a couple of glorious counters.

    Football’s a game of contingency. Generally speaking, and especially when playing good teams, the odds of scoring increase once you have the lead, and fall when you’re behind.

    However…to get the big benefits of conceding less to score more, you still need to make that breakthrough yourself. Which brings us right back to the start- thinking about how we improve at breaking through packed opposition defences.

    Don’t we need some new attacking player to do that? I’d argue our midfield and attacking options should naturally improve at it this year, as their understanding grows and as they improve individually, which a number of them should given their age.

    At any point in a game, the right decision for a player about whether or not to join the attack depends on the score and on what’s behind him. So if Wenger thinks any player can significantly improve defence, goalkeeper or midfield from a defensive viewpoint, he would at the same time be making a change with ramifications for our attacking play. Pushing forward as a midfielder or full back with,say Per, Kos and Arteta as the only men back is a different thing to doing so when it’s Gabriel, Kos, and Coquelin.

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