Whichever way you look at the numbers behind Arsenal’s creative slump, one thing stands out above everything else: we’re not scoring enough.
It doesn’t take hours of statistical analysis to fathom that our frustrations in the league stem from a glaring inefficiency in front of goal, an area of the pitch which hasn’t really caused us problems as a club for a generation.
The goals of Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, Alexis Sanchez and, latterly, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, have kept the Gunners firing almost constantly over a period of 20 or more years. In short, we’ve never struggled for goals.
So far this season, the Gunners have scored just 10 times, a return so meagre that it has been eclipsed by single players from opposing teams. And while chance creation is among the primary issues plaguing our beleaguered strikers, so too is something else: efficiency.
Not only are Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette being starved of quality service, the opportunities that do fall to them are being wasted in an unusually profligate way.
According to Squawka and beIN sports, Arsenal’s chance conversion rate this season is just 12 per cent, that’s half the rate at which chances are being converted at Tottenham (25pc) and far off the likes of Manchester United (21), Chelsea (22), and Liverpool (21). Where our rivals are being ruthless, we are simply toothless.
Last season, our conversion rate was about 18.
And the point is further borne out by expected goals (xG). Looking across our last three games alone, we have accrued enough xG (according to understat.com) to have scored two or three goals (2.42 to be exact). In reality we have managed just one in a 2-1 reverse against Wolves and collected a single point.
Spurs, by comparison, have accrued enough xG to have scored just 1.38 goals across their last three games. In reality, they have scored four goals and picked up seven points.
While xG remains a controversial statistic to some, in the fullness of time it generally corresponds well with reality. In the short term, however, it reveals a very real problem with finishing and efficiency for Arsenal. Not only are they not scoring the goals they’re not expected to, they aren’t scoring the ones they are expected to either.
If we had converted our 82 shots so far this season at the same rate as Tottenham (who, according to Squawka, have had 91 shots) we would have scored 21 goals to date, more than double our current tally of 10. Even with Liverpool’s conversion rate of 20.8pc, we would have scored another seven goals than we have done.
While this run of excruciatingly poor shot conversion won’t last forever, in the near term it is a problem that must be addressed with our front men. Their finishing simply hasn’t been good enough. When your team isn’t creating a great deal, you must ensure you take the chances that do come your way and, on that front, we have failed in our moment of greatest need.
If we’re to haul ourselves out of this slump, that dam has to burst against Burnley next Sunday.