Why Good Teams Should Be Terrified of Players With Bad Passing Stats

giroud_double_denimThose of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen me mention my general confusion at Arsene’s Wenger’s “big man” policy. For years, Wenger has purchased (or in Bendtner’s case, pushed the development of) tall forwards, while being generally happy to buy midgets for placement in the rest of the team.

This is odd for a lot of reasons.

The first reason is that building a speedy, zoomy, variable attack and then plonking a tall, slow guy in the center of it is strange. Granted, they are probably not that slow for tall guys, but compared to Walcott and Gervinho, Chamakh, Bendt, and Giroud are noticeably not fast.  It takes attacking build-up play that can be really difficult to mark, and suddenly simplifies it dramatically for the defense. Why? Van Persie moves like a cat, but he’s only six feet tall. Adebayor was the one tall forward that worked for Arsenal, but he has a fairly unique skill set in that he’s tall, fast, has a good first touch, and is totally unplayable when he cares. Which is about 10% of the time. If Wenger was going for the Adebayor ideal, none of these other guys come close to matching up.

The second thing that bugs me are the percentages.  People always say “you want your forwards involved in build-up play.” This is a general truism, but it makes sense. You want all of your attacking players involved in build-up play because it moves the defense around, and makes your attack less predictable.

But what if your forward isn’t very good at passing the ball?

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What’s Ailing Arsenal and Can They Finish 4th? – A Statistical Analysis

Maybe there is a little bit chance we don't make top 4 this season.

If you ask, I say maybe there is a little bit chance we don’t make top 4 this season.

One of the things that statistics are best used for in sports is cutting through the crap the press spews at fans every day. The drive for fresh stories and angles produces an awful lot of noise, much of which doesn’t actually make any sense when you look at the facts behind the matter instead of the opinions.

Today I want to take a look at Arsenal across a number of metrics used to evaluate how teams have performed and where they are likely to finish at the end of the season.  In the real world, Arsenal currently sit 6th in the league table, seven points behind Spurs with a game in hand, and three points behind Everton. This type of lead isn’t insurmountable at this point in the season, but there are strong indications that this Arsenal team just isn’t the same as the previous models.
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