Happy Friday folks! Hope you’ve had yourself a decent enough week? We’re approaching the weekend showdown with Burnley and the two James’ – Messieurs Cook and Johnstone – were previewing the show last night on the Same Old Arsenal podcast which you can have a watch/listen to here if you’re that way inclined. For me this feels like a weird one and I’ll delve a little more in to what Arteta said in his press conference that takes place today, tomorrow when I’ve had the chance to digest it, but our opponents are a side that you’d be hoping Arsenal can get another good result against. The reason it’s weird is because I don’t like feeling too over-confident when these types of games come around. I’ve been an Arsenal fan for plenty of decades to know that when everything seems to point in Arsenal’s direction, it doesn’t always go our own way.

Just look at West Ham at home over Christmas. Moyes has had a terrible record away against Arsenal, we’ve got a pretty good record at home against them, yet we still conspired to lose a game in which we were still the side that created everything and let very little in. So that’s kind of what I worry about tomorrow. Although I’ll touch on that a little more in the preview tomorrow so instead, today, I want to just focus on what some of the numbers tell me about Burnley.

First and foremost, on the eye test, we all know they’re not going to go all ‘Northern-Club-Gets-At’-Em-As-Arsenal-Can’t-Handle-Lanacashire-Again’ like we used to get under Dyche. Whether or not their fans are still the booiest fans you’ve ever seen remains to be seen. I don’t believe a leopard changes it’s spots that quickly so I suspect that the first time a Burnley player commits a foul that familiar sound will resurface at Turf Moor. But under Vincent Kompany their playing style is different, everyone knows that, as this article from earlier in the season talks about. They want possession-based football and Kompany is wedded to that and when you take a look at sites like Fbref you can see some of the metrics that Burnley used to excel at under Dyche – number of tackles they make, number of blocks, long balls, etc – just aren’t seeing them lead at all. Burnley only appear towards the top of the table when you look at stats like defensive penalty area touches, third behind only Brighton and the Scum, which leads me to think that they will always play out from the back and will try to draw teams on to them, but when you look at the average number of shots per 90 minutes that they concede – around 15 – it tells you that they give a lot of chances by playing this way.

The simple stats reiterate this; Burnley have conceded 50 goals in 24 games this season and have the second worst attack. What’s weird though is that their xG allowed belies their league position, because they’re sixth from bottom in that stat behind Newcastle, Fulham, West Ham, Luton and Sheffield United. That suggests that whilst they play deep, whilst they have conceded plenty from their play, the quality of chances they’ve given up aren’t the easiest compared to the other aforementioned teams in the league.

The stat that worries me the most, however, because of the fact that we all know Arsenal are a very ‘giving’ team sometimes (see Fulham home and away this season as an example), is that Burnley have only won ONE home game all season. They’ve picked up five points this season and have scored just 13 goals, with the worst xG at home in the league of 12.8, meaning they create the least number of ‘easier’ chances. Then from a defensive point of view they are conceding 27 goals from 12 matches. that’s 2.25 goals against and it is the second worst in the league. Burnley have trouble keeping the ball out at home and they don’t create many chances to put the ball in the net.

You look at those numbers and everyone else outside of the Arsenal fanbase would not give Burnley a hope in hell’s chance tomorrow. Arsenal have the best defensive record in the league, they have the third most goals scored, they allow the least number of chances on goal, they’ve created the second highest xG (denotes the quality of chances we are getting so in other words we’re getting loads of good chances) and we’ve just come off the back of scoring 16 goals in four games. Everything points towards an Arsenal win tomorrow, although as you and I both know, that’s often not how Arsenal role.

So I’m nervous about this game as always. Arsenal cannot – and 100% SHOULD NOT – be slipping up against a team who will:

  • Play out from the back and allow us to press them high
  • Give away opportunities to take lots of shots on goal (They’ve faced 146 shots on target against on average each game – at least six per game against EVERY opponent)
  • Have the highest percentage of shots on target against them in the league (39% of the shots they face are on target)
  • Concede lots of goals at home
  • Struggle to create chances at home
  • Don’t score at home
  • Have conceded the most goal from corners this season (nine – and we all know about our scoring stats from corners too).

So you look at those numbers and you think that we should have all of the right minerals to be able to do the job tomorrow. But, as they say, football is a funny ol’ game.

An interesting and quirky stat that feels like an outlier though that I’ve just noticed: from goal kicks Burnley go long. So they like to play out from the back and they play a lot of passes and touches in their defensive third, but when in possession they go long – they average the second highest number of launched goal kicks at 74% of their kicks being lumped an average of 51 yards – which is just under the halfway line. That says to me that they invite pressure when the ball is in open play but they don’t want to invite the press when the ball is in a dead ball situation with their ‘keeper. Interesting.

So when you look at those numbers it certainly feels like everything is point in the direction of favouring Arsenal. But football ain’t played on a spreadsheet, kids, and Arteta still has to get his team and coaching staff doing their homework to be ready for what Burnley are going to try to do to us tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we have all of the answers at both ends of the pitch.

Catch you tomorrow for a match preview looking at what Arteta said, as well as how both teams might line up.