Arsenal are on a 15 match unbeaten run that they look to continue against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday. During this run Arsenal have scored 36 goals and conceded just 13, averaging 2.6 points per match. The last three matches have resulted in draws but Arsenal have still played relatively well in those games, even if they didn’t get the three points.
The main driver of being able to turn okay performances into wins for Arsenal this season are their two main strikers getting them goals when sometimes the performances didn’t quite merit the final result.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is tied for the most goals in the league at seven and while he isn’t the best option on the wing, it doesn’t look to have hurt his ability to score goals.
Alexandre Lacazette is tied for 10th most with five goals, and has strengthened his position as the main number nine for Arsenal with his all around performances and ability to bring others into the game.
The two have combined for a huge portion of the total chances that Arsenal have created this season. Between them the pair have been responsible for over 44% of Arsenal’s total expected goals (xG) in 2018/19.
What this has shown me is that having two really good goal scorers goes a long way to papering over the cracks of mediocre performances.
Ruben Neves leads Wolves
Ruben Neves has been Wolves best player but the way that he has gone about accumulating points and helping the team is very unusual.
He has a pretty traditional central midfielder performance in this profile, but with the bonus that he also puts up a good amount of shots with 2.7 per 90 this season. The analytics nerd in me cringes a bit at his shot selection, though, as he shoots exclusively from outside of the box (except for one penalty).
It isn’t also just that they are from outside the box, but that they are from a very long way outside the box. Among players with at least 15 shots this season, no one has a longer average shot distance than Neves, whose shots average over 56 feet to the center of the goal.
Before his penalty against Tottenham, he had yet to register a touch in the box which is very unusual for a player who is putting up the offensive numbers that Neves has produced this season. While I am not an expert on the tactics employed by Wolves, I would feel pretty good speculating that getting this kind of offensive creation from deep has been helpful in keeping them balanced, and in a good position to be able to defend if they lose the ball.
The numbers seem to bear this out, Wolverhampton are allowing just 10.9 shots per match this season and are one of three teams (along with Liverpool and Manchester City) allowing under one xG against per match.
This balance has payed dividends for the newly promoted side, even with a three losses in a row. Wolves are solidly mid-table but with the fifth best xG differential this season. This will make for a tough test for Arsenal.
Arsenal are favorites in this match according to my simulation model. With an edge in talent and the home field advantage this makes sense but I still think that this will be another stern test of how good Arsenal are.
The Gunners did really well against Liverpool, but gearing up against another top team is a different task than facing a good but newly promoted team. I think in this match Arsenal will have trouble creating good chances and will end up needing to settle for a 1-1 draw.