Welcome to this week’s edition of Clayton’s Calculator where I examine the main “numbered” talking points for Arsenal FC. I’ve got good news and bad news this time around. Let’s get it out of the way first and talk about Arsenal’s biggest issue at the moment.
Home vs. Away Form
Considering this is one of the worst seasons under Wenger, it’s not surprising to imagine that average points earned from both home and away would take a dip. For the most part, the two do tend to correlate pretty closely with overall performance for any given team. Possibly the most surprising thing about Arsenal this season is that their form at home is great. Like… historically great. Arsenal’s average points earned at home are 2.42. That’s the highest it’s been in at least 7 seasons (I was only able to look back 7 seasons, so the stat may be higher). Notably, the second-best average within that range occurred last year. Is the Emirates finally becoming the stronghold we all hoped it would be?
As encouraging as that stat is, the more important question is probably: What the heck is happening on the road? Twitter might have you think it’s those dreadful blue kits (please bring back yellow away kits!) but there’s probably a more reasonable answer. The boys only average 1 point from away games (13 games, 13 points) this season. If we only counted our games on the road, we’d be ranked 9th. That’s below both Leicester and Watford and only one spot above Bournemouth based on goals for.
So with the league’s largest difference between home and away form, where does the club go from here? For probably about the millionth time in my life, I’m going to say that it’s vital that Wenger adapt tactics based on the situation. Wenger can’t take lower opposition for granted anymore. We should be playing every away game like it’s el superclásico and we’re travelling to La Bombonera. Composure, sound passing, and a solid defensive structure are important, especially within the first 15 minutes or so.
Every team is expecting by now that we’re going to try and dominate possession and look for quick one-two passes up the middle. That’s why they pack their backline and crowd the centre. We completely limit ourselves by pushing upfield (including the LB and RB) and then expecting Koscielny and Mustafi to be cool with sprinting backwards several times a game against teams just waiting to counterattack. If we started the game off by staying back slightly more and looking to hit them on the counter, it could turn their whole gameplan upside down.
Yo Pierre, What a Crazy Transfer Window
Arsenal is nothing short of the most entertaining team in all of football. The club not only loves to take fans on a rollercoaster ride of emotions on the pitch but off the pitch as well. This has been the most eventful window in some time, and it was in the middle of the season! Leaving this month was a player who didn’t want to be here anymore (Sanchez), a player that served little more purpose than a ball boy (Debuchy), and three players who had fallen out of favour for the most part (Giroud, Walcott, and Coquelin). Those five departures plus the five others since June gave us around £107M to spend. We spent nearly half that total in July on Lacazette (£46.5). We spent nothing to get Kolasinac and Mkhitaryan and a measly £2.1M for Mavropanos.
It only made sense that we would look for a big signing in the range of £50M-£60M to help bring some life into the team. After weeks of speculation, we finally landed Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for £56M, making him Arsenal’s biggest signing ever. It’s going to be incredibly interesting to see how Aubameyang adapts to the Premier League and if he and Mkhitaryan can rediscover some of their old magic. More interestingly though, what does this mean for Lacazette? I find it preposterous that our record signing (before this window) would be relegated to the bench after just half a season. He left a very good situation in Lyon and is now heading into a World Cup. It’s reasonable to imagine that he’d be pretty peeved and feel like he wasn’t given enough of a chance to prove his worth.
This means Wenger would either need to deploy 2 strikers (which I doubt, but would love) or move Auba to a winger position (which he hasn’t played in for several years). Auba and Mkhi can’t just be dropped into the current team as mere replacements. Wenger MUST change the formation, strategy, or both.