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Arsenal Versus Everton: Crunching The Numbers

xmas 014

One of the things I dislike most about the Christmas period is that there is far too much football compressed into too little time. It distorts the balance of the race for the title which otherwise has a pleasantly steady momentum. Would the world of athletics stand for it if Mo Farrah, 4,000 metres into a 10,000 metre race, was suddenly expected to negotiate a Takeshi’s Castle obstacle course with a big rubber mallet swinging across the track as he clambered over giant foam doughnuts? I doubt it. Yet we have a similarly ludicrous pile up of matches at a time when the weather and pitches are at their worst and just when everyone would benefit from a little rest.

However we can at least content ourselves that it is only at Christmas, can’t we? Well you’d hope so, but here I am attempting to bash out yet another blog only a couple of days after Andy’s match review of the Stoke match. We seem to be playing every few days even in the build up to the madness of the festive fixture feck up and I fear for the hamstrings and Achilles tendons of all our players as they get twanged like over tightened bow strings.

Tonight the opposition is provided by Everton who showed great early promise under Ronald Koeman this season. That bubble of positivity has burst like an unsightly pimple of late with only one win in their last six matches. Taken over the previous ten fixtures their results have sent them to second from bottom, above only Hull City at the grubby end of the form table. We in sharp contrast sit second only to Chelsea in the rarefied air at that table’s summit.

So a foregone conclusion then? If our resident statistical number cruncher is to be believed then the answer must be yes. After all  Shotta pointed out yesterday “AFC is pounding those mid and lower level teams who they are expected to beat instead of dropping points as they did last year”. However, and as I keep pointing out, Positively Arsenal is a broad church and for every fan who hugs the comfort pillow of unbiased data to their heaving bosom there is a superstitious nitwit terrified that the wind might change at any moment.

I fall somewhere between the two stools. Yes the scorelines make satisfactory reading and yes there have been some scintillating moments of pure Arsène Wenger inspired footballing elegance. Success in sport hangs by such slender threads though and should one snap at just the wrong moment we might find ourselves in a much less cosy situation.

In a parallel universe Peter Crouch’s header beats Cech at his near post and the entire complexion of Saturday’s game changes. The ultimate scoreline may look convincing but each match has moments of unpredictability upon which the equilibrium of the apple cart must rest.

I am of course falling into a trap here. One which I decry others for not anticipating and I therefore hold up my hands. I’ve read, for example, that had Cavani not missed the target with such aplomb Paris Saint-Germain would have beaten us comfortably. Our Champion’s League group stage success was, therefore, no more than chimerical and misleading manifestation of good fortune. In short do not read too much into good results as they are structures built on shifting sands.

This is, I’m sorry to say, baloney. The problem with such counterfactual thinking is that we cherry pick the moments we want to change in order to suit or predetermined narrative.

So Peter Crouch scores and it’s 2 – 2. Does that automatically mean the game ends in a draw? Or do we go chasing the winner leave ourselves open at the back and concede to a counter attack? Why only change the story so that particular near miss goes in? Why not bend Alexis’s shot slightly to the right so he scores instead of missing? Why not have their keeper slip and not save one of Theo’s many efforts? I do not hold with any of this ‘a better team would have punished us’ nonsense. Alter one variable and you had just as well alter them all.

History tells us unbeaten runs like winning and losing streaks come to an end. All that matters to us is how the team responds when this happens. Since Southampton interrupted our unbeaten sequence we’ve won every game, scoring twelve goals and only conceding three. No one could ask any more of the players than that. If you cannot be delighted with such a response to disappointment and be filled with excitement at the prospect of more to come then football may not be for you.

One thing all fans do enjoy is a good statistic or two. Thanks to those diligent folk at Everton Results I have discovered that we are the Toffee’s least favourite opponents. No one has spanked them which such regularity in their entire history and in recent times they have only beaten us once in nineteen matches. The most worrying stat in an exhaustive list which must have taken some work to compile is that Everton have never lost a home game played on December 13th.

All right so maybe that doesn’t prove much but I do have a genuine word of caution to the Gung-ho reader. While Everton’s recent results make uncomfortable reading for them, closer examination reveals that it is away from Goodison where they struggle. They may have lost their last four games on the road but at home, excepting an EFL Cup defeat, they remain unbeaten all season.

So, in conclusion, having weighed up the cold, emotionless, Terminator style data and stirred in some curious and tenuous statistics, seasoned with a dash of counterfactual revisionism I conclude that I have no idea what’s going to happen tonight. The question the boys must answer is can they do it on a wet cold night on Merseyside? I don’t see why not, but I don’t expect it to be easy.

If you’re travelling all the way up there then good luck to you, I shall be watching surrounded by snotty tissues amid the steaming fug of Beecham’s Cold and Flu remedy all the time giving off gales of the great smell of Vic’s. So while the journey north may be arduous it will be infinitely preferable to sharing the couch with me.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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132 comments on “Arsenal Versus Everton: Crunching The Numbers

  1. Calm down calm down

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  2. Iwobi gets you on the edge of the seat doesn’t he? Love players like that.

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  3. we are just that tad off with the final ball

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  4. 15 minutes to kill it

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  5. ffs williams makes it 2-1 to everton, only a few minutes left

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  6. lucas on for coquelin for final couple of minutes.

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  7. Sorry Shotta but the irrational emotional side of me saw this coming I stopped watching a little while ago just popped back in to check the score.

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  8. only 4 minutes of injury time, despite several injury stoppages and all six subs being used.

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  9. iwobi with a costly miss

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  10. we just lost to an up and under in your face team, we did not make the most of our good spells in the game or our best chances to score. passing was that tiny bit off, ozil final ball was missing tonight and alexis was too hollywood in his passing options. theo and ox had little impact and were replaced.

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  11. Aaaaghh – agony at the end

    If I know no pain,
    Despair, what will ecstasy taste of ?

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  12. no replay shown on my stream of the incident at the end where our players claimed a penalty but seen many tweets claiming it was a clear penalty, if so, no surprise that the awful clattenburg missed it, or should i say did not give it.

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  13. just seen a rerun of the penalty incident, looked like alexis clearly fouled, the defender did not see him and as alexis nicked the ball off him he trips him up

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  14. “One goal away from a crisis”

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  15. anicol we now have a “must win game” v man city on sunday

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  16. Still at work in the West but a relative texted me to chortle “so much for unbiased data”.
    Ha, Ha, Ha.

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  17. Now its like I’m having a cold shower….

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  18. honest opinions – foul on alexis or not

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  19. shotta the problem with unbiased data is that it does not take into account bias refs

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  20. on the alexis penalty claims, i think this comment i see elsewhere sums it up perfectly

    Spurs would have got 2 penalties for that

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  21. Positively Arsenal ‏@Blackburngeorge 6m6 minutes ago
    Ozil is getting the full Ramsey tonight.

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  22. Squid Boy ‏@TheSquidBoyLike 44m44 minutes ago
    So frustrating when you see the dubious pens awarded against us, the dodgy pens awarded for other teams (Spurs/Alli), and this one tonight.

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  23. I don’t know what you lot are upset about. Great goal from Mesut to make it 2-1 and then the HFB converting the penalty right at the end was a sweet way to finish. Enjoyed listening to that iconic Blondie album too.

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  24. ‘WE JUST HAVE TO LOOK AT OURSELVES’

    It was a disappointing night on Merseyside on Tuesday as our 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an end at Everton.
    Arsène Wenger spoke to the media after the game and this is what he had to say:

    on whether it was a free-kick and then a corner in the build-up to the goal…
    Of course, it was not a corner – you see it from outside that it was not a corner. But I think we have to live with the wrong decision and it doesn’t explain why we do not head the ball after you know. But I am really disappointed because Clattenburg was in a really good position to see that they headed the ball on and it’s not the first time we are unlucky with this decision this season. Overall, I do not want to speak about the referee too much, it’s not my problem.

    on whether we allowed the game to get away…
    No, I think we have to look at ourselves. We lost the game because I feel we started well and after that maybe we lost a bit of urgency because we were a bit too comfortable and then Everton made it very physical. Overall, I believe that from then on it disturbed our game and we created less flow going forward. In the end, we unfortunately didn’t take our chances or two. We didn’t create too many but we had clear-cut chances in the game that we didn’t take. After that you can be caught away from home on a corner like that.

    on whether his side need to learn from the defeat…
    We have been nine months unbeaten away from home so you have to take that a little bit with a distance as well. You can lose football games, especially in an atmosphere like that and especially as well when you play so many games. We played five of the six games away from home, we had to play the Champions League on Tuesday, we had a difficult game on Saturday. We have to come here straight away again on Tuesday, I think Champions League teams have a little bit of a more difficult schedule.

    on whether Mustafi was missed…
    No. I think Gabriel did well. I don’t think it is Gabriel’s fault on the corners. Not on the first goal, the responsibility is somewhere else.

    on whether the atmosphere got to his players…
    No, no. We were a little bit less fresh you know, but maybe as well we lost a bit of urgency when we were 1-0 up and perfectly in control of the game. We thought ‘Okay’ and we started to lose some balls that gave Everton some hope. But overall, no. We are used to playing, you know when you play nine months away from home unbeaten you have that nearly every week.

    on whether it was about Everton’s aggression…
    A little bit, yes. They made the game very physical, they defended well – you have to give them credit. They played a cup game here, that is a big difference with what I saw recently from them. So they did fight for every single ball. I don’t think they can repeat that in every single game, but they did here.

    on the incident in the tunnel at half-time…
    I was close to it and I didn’t see a lot there. There was a little bit of pushing but nothing dramatic.

    on whether McCarthy did anything to Ozil at half-time…
    He was very physical today, McCarthy. But it’s down to the referee you know, I cannot interfere too much in that. The referee has to make the game respected.

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161213/-we-just-have-to-look-at-ourselves-#rBlSVSPCRm3jhoFu.99

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  25. WENGER – WE PUNISHED OURSELVES REALLY

    Arsène Wenger cut a frustrated figure on Tuesday night after a late Ashley Williams header condemned us to defeat against Everton.
    The manager was disappointed that we lost control after opening the scoring through Alexis, then conceded two preventable goals.

    He spoke to Arsenal Media after the game, and this is what he had to say:

    on his assessment of the match…
    We started well and were in control of the game. After that we lost a bit of urgency and Everton made the game very physical. From that moment on we lost some goals we are not used to losing. They disturbed our game really, they played a real cup game and at the end of the day we lost on two headers from two defenders. I believe it’s frustrating to lose with five minutes to go on a header like that and the first goal was a header as well. You could expect Lukaku to score a goal against us but not the way we conceded two goals here.

    on losing the early control of the game…
    We did. In football you have to defend well. We knew exactly what was happening and the first goal is exactly what we planned not to do. We have to look at ourselves tonight because we punished ourselves by not respecting completely the rules that we put out the night before we played.

    on whether we should have had a penalty…
    I think so, but what can I do?

    on not panicking ahead of trip to Man City…
    We have to recover. We play five games away from home out of six and we have a fantastic away record. We want to keep that strength and prepare well for the next one.

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161214/wenger-we-punished-ourselves-really#MiGsrzuC3hXrTAmE.99

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  26. jesus christ, so called arsenal fans sending abuse to ozil and iwobi, They happily attack our own, I could just about understand it if they were directing their abuse at the ref, but at our players, how fucking stupid is that, next thing they will have their A4 sheets out again.

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  27. ArsenalAndrew ‏@ArsenalAndrew 4h4 hours ago
    Not a single replay from lamentable @btsportfootball – huge suspicion of a penalty, huge silence on the matter from joyous commentators.

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  28. Rocky#7@AFC_unningham Rocky#7 Retweeted Rocky#7
    I have all the faith in he world in AFC players even in their off days, but can’t win against cheats like refereesRocky#7 added,

    Rocky#7 @AFC_unningham
    While ever we have game changing decisions going against us like tonight we can’t win the league. The officials won’t allow it. Scum @FA

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  29. New post up

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