Arsenal’s Season in Game States – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

How have Arsenal reacted as a team when faced with different Game State situations? We use new-fangled interweb trickery to find out.

For some it’s a funny old game, for others its a game of two halves, recently for me it seems to be more of a mingled hodge-podge of game states. In each match a team is more often than not going to find themselves in a varying number of game states- be it one goal up, two goals down, drawing etc etc – the possibilities are theoretically endless. In each game state a team will act differently – they may push more men forward to force a draw or shell at the back to keep a lead, and ultimately how they act in such circumstances will be a key indicator of success.

Arsenal have had, by their fans’ standards at least, a pretty disappointing Premier League season and so I thought them to be a good test dummy for a Game State investigation.

I have grown increasingly sympathetic to my regular readers for having to wade through my continual string of crap prose trying to find some form of meaning in my untrained editorial style. I therefore came up with a cunning plan. I present to you my first interactive infographic. All the data is presented in iris-friendly charts and all my awful,awful words are hidden behind little blue icons to be shown and discarded at the readers behest.

Enjoy

(Note: Due to continually fiddling with the infographic before getting it right I was not able to put it up before Arsenal’s 3-0 away win against Hull, that matches data is therefore not taken into consideration here)

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The Transition Maps show the flow of Arsenal’s games. They document how they moved from each game state. The Size of the circle behind the name of each state shows how often Arsenal found themselves in that state and the size of the arrows notes how often the transition from one state to another occurred.‘Finish relates to what the game state was when a game ended.Like most graphs in this infographic, the data is divided into Home Games, Away Games and All (or ‘Overall Games’)

The Good

The Heaviest Overall Arrow is from a Draw state to 1 Up. This means that this has been the most common game state transition for Arsenal so far this season. Overall, Arsenal have taken the lead 26 times.The second most common transition was 1 Up to 2 Up.

The heaviest arrow leading to 'Finish' is from a 2 Up game state. This is the Good part of Arsenal's season - they have been Two goal cushion kings.

The Bad

It may not seem like it from this picture but Arsenal have conceded a comparatively large sum of goals whilst being 1 Up.This is the Bad Part of Arsenal’s season - whilst they have been 2 Goal Cushion Kings come the end of 90 Minutes, getting to that point when 1 Up has proven to be quite tricky.

Perhaps more importantly, this has been more the case at the Emirates.

The Ugly

The 3rd most common transition for Arsenal this season has been from a Draw State to 1 Down. This has been a particularly common state of affairs away from home.

But that alone hasn't been the Ugly part of Arsenal's season. Rather, it is what Arsenal do when they are in this position that is particularly grotesque...

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This is a zoomed in version of arguably the most important areas of the State Transition graph. The numbers next to the arrows denote how many times the coordinating transition has occurred this season.

The Ugly

...We can see that Arsenal were reduced to a losing position a few number of times so far this season. But what is more disturbing is that they sunk further behind from 1 Down to 2 Down more often than getting back to a Draw State.

And from 2 down, they only recovered to 1 Down once.

The Good

In stark contrast to their Ugly side, when Arsenal sunk their teeth into a 2 goal lead they rarely let go, only dropping back to 1 Up on 4 occasions.

The Bad

Whilst giving up the lead 6 times may not seem like a lot it should be remembered that Arsenal themselves were only able to recover from being 1 Down 7 times.

The Good

Proof Positive that Arsenal have been masters at closing out Games with a 2 Goal lead.

In fact, ending the Game 1 and 2 Up accounts for 50% of Arsenal's finishes this season

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The Pie Charts show the % of times Arsenal's games ended in each Game State

The Good

It has been at the Emirates that Arsenal have predominantly enjoyed the comfort of finishing 2 goals ahead of their opponent.In fact, apart from the first day jitters against Aston Villa, the home fans have not seen their side lose this season…

The Bad

...But how many more could they have seen them win? Had it not been for the 5 draws that Arsenal have seen out. Two of those draws came from the Gunners giving away a 1 Up advantage. An unfortunate feat they achieved in their one home loss to Villa

The Ugly

The Gunners also capitalised on a 2 goal advantage away from home. However, they have also run out the same number of games with a 3 goal deficit.

The Bad

They also gave up a 1 Up position in their draw against Southampton, bringing the points they have dropped due to not holding on to a slim advantage to 9 (which would put them currently 2 points behind Liverpool)

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For each game state Arsenal found themselves in what % of the occurring event was them scoring, the opponent scoring or the game finishing.

The Good

Arsenal scored or finished the game 2 goals up 84% of the time this season and only ⅓ of the time at 3 Up did they concede.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, on the flip side of the coin, at 2 Down they conceded or finished their games 85.8% of the time and have only scored more than finished or conceded at 1 Down by 3.4%

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Out of all the separate occurrences of each event, what % occurred in each game state.

The Bad

This nicely highlights Arsenal’s troubles at 1 Up, especially at home. Arsenal have conceded at one up just as often as when they have been drawing, making it the joint most common time to concede at the Emirates.

In fact, they have conceded more times than they have scored when in a 1 up position at home.

Away from home Arsenal have not scored as regularly when 1 UP but are able to hold on to that position a lot more diligently

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The Pie Charts represent the % of times Arsenal conceded in each Game State

The Ugly

Arsenal conceded when 1,2 and 3 Down 16.1% of teh time each. That means that just under half of all the goals they conceded on the road have been when already in losing positions.

The Good and the Bad

In contrast, they only concede 19.3% of the time when in winning positions. This combined figure of 1,2 &3 Up is smaller than the concession % at home (36.4)

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This graph shows on average how many tackles, headers, interceptions and clearances Arsenal made per minute in each game state. We used the per minute ratio to normalise the data.

The Good

Arsenal had to make the most Defensive Action per minute when they were 2 goals up away from home. This would suggest that strong pressure was coming from the home team to regain a foothold in the match. This speaks highly of the Gunner’s ability to hold on to a 1 Up position away from home as they also had to make an above average number of DAs per minute in this state.

The Ugly

At 1 and 2 goals down away from home, they made a below average number of DA’s.This may be the inverse of the above. But as we will see below, it’s not all about the quantity of the DA’s.

It's also interesting at this point to note the extreme difference between when Arsenal go 1 Down at home to when they do it away. This difference may be a contributing factor to the Gunners being able to bring the game bak to a draw state at home.

Here, we look at the % tackles and headers Arsenal win in each game state.

The Bad

This may help explain Arsenal’s contrasting fate when 1 Up at Home and Away. At the Emirates, the home team completes an under-average amount of defensive actions. But away from home, when they are much better at maintaining the slim 1 goal advantage, they complete over 10% more of their DA’s than the norm.

The Bad

This may help explain Arsenal’s contrasting fate when 1 Up at Home and Away. At the Emirates, the home team completes an under-average amount of defensive actions. But away from home, when they are much better at maintaining the slim 1 goal advantage, they complete over 10% more of their DA’s than the norm.

The Ugly

When Arsenal are in losing states at home their DA% improves - suggesting an attempt at a fight back. This is not so when they are in the same position away from home. Their DA% dips to it’s lowest points. I think this, combined with a pretty busy defence (in terms of DA/Min) goes some way to explain why Arsenal tend to sink deeper into trouble when in a 1 down position away from home.

The Ugly

Whoopsie Daisy, it should be 0.1 for Shots Con/Min at 2 Down at home. Apologies for that one.

However, a Shot Con/Min of 0.3 at 2 Down away from home is no mistake. It really should be though. When deep in the mire, Arsenal actually let the opponent shoot at them more than usual. This is undoubtedly related to the drop in DA% (above) they suffer in this state.

The Bad

Given Arsenal’s troubles maintaining a 1 Up lead at home it may come as a surprise that opponents enjoy one of the lowest Shots per Min rate over all game states. But this metric does not account for the quality of shot the opponent makes.

The Bad

Whilst Arsenal’s Shots Con/Min at home when 1 Up is relatively low, the number of those shots that are on target is irregularly high. This may be due to the fact that the % of defensive actions Arsenal complete is relatively low in this game state. These two points may go some way to explain Arsenal’s 1 Up struggles

The Good

One of the reasons that Arsenal have consistently seen games out when in a 2 Up game state may be that they restrict the quality of their opponents shots

The Ugly

The further behind Arsenal go when away from home, the higher the quality of the opponent’s shooting. It may be the case that Arsenal are over-committing in the pursuit of a comeback, leaving their own goal more vulnerable than in other states.

The Ugly

See the pattern? As Arsenal’s State deteriorates, the number of DA/Min increases but the DA % decreases. This in turn leads to a rise in the opponents SOTCON%. I think this is why Arsenal have had such a torrid time away from home this season

But should we be blaming it all on their defensive ineptitude?

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The Pie Charts represent the % of times Arsenal scored in each Game State

The Ugly

Unfortunately, the same attacking game should take equal amounts of blame as the defence for Arsenal’s inability to comeback from the 2 Down Game state. Indeed, in this game state Arsenal have only scored once in all games.

It would be unfair, however, not to pay attention to the fact that Arsenal’s 3rd most common goal-scoring state was at 1 Down. As we noted at the start of the investigation, when Arsenal have gone a goal behind, they have batted back to a draw 50% of the time

This does mean they walk a fine line between at least 1 point and no points - whatever the next event at 1 Down appears to have been a continually crucial one for them this time around

The Ugly

Unfortunately, the same attacking game should take equal amounts of blame as the defence for Arsenal’s inability to comeback from the 2 Down Game state. Indeed, in this game state Arsenal have only scored once in all games.

It would be unfair, however, not to pay attention to the fact tha Arsenal’s 3rd most common goal-scoring state was at 1 Down. As we noted at the start of the investigation, when Arsenal have gone a goal behind, they have batted back to a draw 50% of the time

This does mean they walk a fine line between at least 1 point and no points - whatever the next event at 1 Down appears to have been a continually crucial one for them this time around

The Good

Perhaps a lower SOT % rate than expected for Arsenal when they’re 2 Up. But I would wager at this point they are more interested in shelling and killing the game than risking the cushion and pushing men forward

The Ugly

When 1 Down away from home, Arsenal do not get enough SOTs. This could be a big factor in them going 2 Down more frequently, leaving them to rue missed chances

After everything that we’ve learned about Arsenal when they have gone 2 Down this season, you would be excused for thinking that their SOT% in this state would be excruciatingly low. But in fact it is quite average. Does this mean Arsenal have just been unlucky? No. We are about to be reminded that there is more than one team in a football match.

The Ugly

Whilst Arsenal have the same Shot/Min rate as their opponents at 1 Down, rather scarily, they are dwarfed by said opponents when they go two down. Okay, these teams have been the likes of City, Chelsea and Liverpool but that is no excuse. If Arsenal wish to compete in the Premier League, they have to be the equals of such teams. And it gets worse...

The Good

It may come as a surprise that Arsenal’s opponents keep up with their shooting pace when the Gunner’s are 2 Up. But remember that we are not looking at quality of shots here

The Good

All the way from a Draw state to 3 Up, Arsenal have a higher SOT% than their opponents. So although other teams can keep up with Arsenal’s pace when the Gunner’s are two up,it is all for nothing considering they are not testing the keeper as much as Arsenal do. This suggests an impressive overall team effort from Wenger’s men when 2 Up. The defence keep the opponent attackers at bay and when going forward themselves, they are more clinical.

The Bad

Arsenal should remain slightly wary that whilst they have one of their best SOT% when 1 UP, in so doing they afford their opponent the chance to have the same. Indeed, the gap in shot quality is the lowest when the Gunner’s are 1 Up. Arsenal have to make more DA/Min than their average in this state, and we have seen that, at home at least, their DA% is below average at this point. It looks like Arsenal go for the jugular when 1 Up and try to force the 2 Up state that they find so comfortable. But in so doing they may be giving the opponent a little too much room to effect the game.

The Ugly

The further behind Arsenal have gone this season, the bigger the gap in shot quality between them and their opponents (and not in the good way). Even when only 1 Down, the opponents are having taking better quality shots than Arsenal and throughout this infographic we have seen out the outcome of this flaw in their game.

Chances are that when Arsenal go behind they become more willing to gamble and take more attacking risks to claw their way back in the game. Unfortunately for them, they have shown that they do not have the offensive capabilities to pull it off. We saw above that they are commonly out-shot when behind and we can now see that they are ‘out-SOT-ed’ as well.

If a team is going to gamble when in Down States they are going to have enough offensive clout to mitigate becoming more vulnerable at the back. Unfortunately for Arsenal this time around it looks like they have been lacking in this area. If they want to again be title contenders this problem will have to be addressed over the summer

Conclusion – The Question of Draw States

I had wanted to talk about how Arsenal had played in draw states because this was the most common state to be in and so probably gives the best indication of how Arsenal tend to play in games. This kind of makes sense because when you look at the defensive and attacking data Arsenal seem decidedly average compared to how they play in some of the more extreme states.

But I decided against it in the end because such data doesn’t really tell us anything when viewed in isolation. I think if we really want to know how well Arsenal play in a draw state it is necessary to study some other teams so as to provide some form of comparison.

Another time then….

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