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Statistical Analysis of Arsenal’s Defence

In what was Arsenal’s worst defensive season since 1995, 49 goals shipped is simply not good enough. Defensive frailty has always been a running issue under Wenger’s reign, a few good seasons here and there but generally Arsenal are not renowned for their defensive strength in the Wenger Era.

8 goals conceded to Man United at the start of the season, with a reserve strength team starting certainly didn’t help their cause, neither does the 8 Centre Back pairings used by Arsenal throughout the season. As the season progressed Arsenal seemed to find their feet, improving defensively and thus finishing in a very respectable third place, considering the start they had. This article will be taking a closer look at the statistical side to the Arsenal defence.

Arsenal’s strongest Centre Back pairing?

Pair Games Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Koscielny & Vermaelen 13 12 5 53.6 0.9 38.5
Koscielny & Mertesacker 19 22 6 63.2 1.2 31.6
Vermaelen & Mertesacker 1 1 0 0 1 0
Vermaelen & Djourou 3 2 2 66.7 0.67 66.7
Koscielny & Djourou 1 8 0 0 8 0

As we can see from these statistics, in terms of win % Mertesacker and Koscielny is the strongest Arsenal Centre Back pairing with a win % of 63.2, only trumped by Vermaelen and Djourou, who only had the 3 games together. The flip side to the coin is that Koscielny and Mertesacker concede on average over a goal per game, this is higher than that of Koscielny and Vermaelen, who concede under a goal per game, but their win % is only 53.6%.

Out of Mertesacker and Koscielny’s 19 games paired together however, only 3 of them were against top 6 opposition, in which Arsenal lost all 3 of those games. Compared to Vermaelen and Koscielny, where 5 of their 13 games together were against top 6 opposition where Arsenal were victorious in 3 of those games.

From those statistics I would have to say I believe Koscielny and Vermaelen is Arsenal’s strongest Centre Back pairing.

Critical Vermaelen

Vermaelen has become a huge player for Arsenal both defensively as well as offensively. His work ethic and determination has made him a favourite at the club. Earlier on in the season I wrote an article explaining why Vermaelen is so important to Arsenal. The stats at the end of the season support that fact.


Games in Defence Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Vermaelen 28 16 23 11 57.1 0.8 39.3

11 of Arsenal’s 13 clean sheets this season have come with Vermaelen in the team, whether that is him playing at Left Back (4) or Centre Back (7). Conceding on average less than one per game is also testament to Vermaelen’s performances and is no coincidence, considering Arsenal on average are conceding 1.3 goals per game. Vermaelen’s presence alone in defence makes Arsenal much more reliable and resilient.

Improving Koscielny

A lot of eyebrows were raised when Koscielny was signed last season, he looked fragile and a typical Wenger defensive signing who was not up to the Premier League standard. However this season Koscielny has proved all his critics wrong and in my opinion has been the second best Centre Back this season behind Kompany. Koscielny has bulked up and has adjusted to the pace of the Premier League game excellently. Other than the United game where Koscielny was basically playing alone in defence, that was the only blip on a great season for Koscielny.

Games in Defence Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Koscielny 33 19 42 11 57.6 1.3 33.3

The statistics don’t look particularly impressive, but if you were to take the United game out of the equation, they wouldn’t look bad at all, bringing his conceded per game ratio down to an average of just over 1.

Wobbling Mertesacker

Per Mertesacker probably wasn’t many Arsenal fans first choice Centre Back signing and has definitely gained some critics with his performances this season. A tall and gangly German, who rarely wins any balls in the air, is probably used to having more defensive cover in front of him and playing with a deeper line. Personally I feel a tad sorry for Per Mertesacker, he isn’t blessed with pace nor agility, but Arsenal doesn’t help his cause by playing a defensive line on the half way leaving him open to the ball in behind. He doesn’t stand a chance. Injury ended Mertesacker’s season prematurely, but all in all he bought stability and experience to a shaky Arsenal defence, a decent back up player when needed.

Games in Defence Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Mertesacker 21 12 25 6 57.1 1.2 28.6

Arsenal certainly started to win more games when Mertesacker came into the side at the start of the season, however the goals still continued to leak in with the German in defence, keeping only 6 clean sheets and conceding well over 1 goal a game.

Out of position Djourou

As speculation increases over Johan Djourou’s future, I suspect many Arsenal fans will be glad to see the back of him. I have always been a fan of Djourou, he has everything a good Centre Back needs, strength, pace and agility, he will always just prone to that defensive error. This season has done Djourou no favours in terms of his popularity with the Arsenal faithful, but being played out of position half the season certainly didn’t help.

Games in Defence Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Djourou 16 6 21 5 37.5 1.3 31.3

7 of Arsenal’s 10 defeats in the Premier League this season occurred when Djourou played some part of the game, whether that is at Left Back, Right Back or Centre Back. It has been a truly awful season for Djourou who had some decent games at Centre Back with Vermaelen, but when being played out of position at Full Back, he was truly found wanting. Maybe not Djourou’s fault, but certainly Wenger’s.

Best Right Back in the League?

One position where Arsenal doesn’t seem to struggle in is their Right Back position, which is occupied by the ever reliable Bacary Sagna. Sagna has been consistently part of Wenger’s squad for a number of years now and has proven himself to be one of the world’s best Right Backs and probably the best Right back in the Premier League.

Games in Defence Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Sagna 22 12 18 9 54.6 0.8 41

The stats show how vital Sagna is to Arsenal and how sure they are defensively when he plays. It was a bit part season for Sagna, where injury has not allowed him to have a full season, meaning Jenkinson, Djourou and Coquelin have had to cover him, with not much success. Sagna certainly leaves big boots to fill.

Santos or Gibbs?

I have always said that a Full Back who is never seen is a Full Back doing his job. Multiple times this season I have thought ‘is Gibbs even playing’. The same cannot be said however for the eccentric summer signing of Andre Santos who has produced quite a few heart wrenching moments for Gunners fans this year. Two very different Left Backs who have had their equal share of games this season, one giving excitement and adventure, the other giving composure and reliance.

Games in Defence Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Gibbs 16 10 13 7 62.5 0.8 43.8
Santos 13 10 14 5 76.9 1.1 38.5

Gibbs has really been part of some excellent defensive displays by Arsenal this season against top 6 clubs and has impressed me in terms of his maturity and discipline. No player has a higher win % ratio than Andre Santos this season and has scored quite a few goals from Left Back, however defensively not as good as Gibbs. Andre Santos has been used as a substitute 3 times in defence this season, which certainly makes his win % higher. Personally I would say Gibbs is the better option for a sturdier defence and is certainly number one candidate to replace Ashley Cole for England.

Importance of Arteta

Only towards the end of the season have we realised just how important Arteta is to Arsenal. Arsenal only won 1 of their 9 games where Arteta was absent and that was the vital win on the last day of the season against West Brom.

Games Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
With Arteta 29 20 28 11 69 0.9 37.9
Without Arteta 9 1 21 2 11.1 2.3 22.2

The statistics are just staggering and the importance of Arteta becomes even more clear by looking at them. Arsenal win games with Arteta in the team, the concede fewer goals and they keep more clean sheets.

Song & Arteta

It’s important to understand that Arteta was never bought to be Fabregas’ replacement. If anything Alex Song has filled the boots of Fabregas and Arteta has taken the role of Song’s last season which was the holding man. I’ve never really rated Song as a Defensive Midfielder, he has always lacked the discipline and ability to sit there and break up the play, Arteta does this breakfast.

Games Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Arteta & Song 26 18 25 10 69.2 0.9 38.5
Without either 12 3 24 3 25 2 25

The partnership of Song and Arteta in midfield has probably been overlooked by most but has been instrumental into turning Arsenal’s season around.

Strongest Defence

Arsenal have only managed to field what I would call their strongest defence (Gibbs, Vermaelen, Koscielny, and Sagna) on 10 occasions this season. If Arsenal are to challenge next season surely they will need to get more games out of this defence.

Games Wins Conceded Clean Sheets Win % Conc/Game C/S %
Strongest Defence 10 6 9 4 60 0.9 40

What is so impressive about these statistics is that out of the 10 games where Arsenal fielded their strongest defence 7 of them were against top half opposition, their only defeat coming against QPR towards the end of the season.

Arsenal managed to field Gibbs, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Sagna, Arteta and Song in only 6 games this season, 5 of those games resulted in a victory with the one defeat. Surely if Arsenal can build on this progressive defence then next season could just be their year.

Thank you for reading. Please be sure to leave feedback and thoughts.


2 responses to “Statistical Analysis of Arsenal’s Defence

  1. Ed John May 16, 2013 at 12:18 am

    can you do the stats for this seasons cb pairing?? please

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