Arsenal attempted less shots than Crystal Palace, Southampton and eight other Premier League clubs last season… yes, they need to fix their defence but Unai Emery had to address problems in attack too
- The stats show Arsenal struggled to create shooting opportunities last season
- Arsenal had less attempted shots than 10 other Premier League clubs last term
- Nicolas Pepe’s signing should add that firepower and spark their attack needed
- Unai Emery needs to fix his defence but was right to address problems in attack
No sooner had Arsenal smashed their club record to sign Nicolas Pepe for £72million than supporters on Twitter turned their attention to another area.
Suddenly, the ‘#AnnouncePepe’ hashtags were replaced by ‘#AnnounceTierney’.
Defence is a position that plenty of fans feel deserved prioritising. Arsenal boss Unai Emery, though, noticed problems that needed addressing in attack too.
Arsenal splashed out £72m of Nicolas Pepe because Unai Emery knew they had issues in attack
Only Liverpool and Manchester City beat their overall tally of 73 goals, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 22, but that may have masked the truth.
Arsenal finished 2018-19 with 467 shots to their name – only the 11th best in the Premier League. All of the other Big Six clubs, plus Leicester, Everton, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Wolves, made more attempts on goal than them.
So how did they score so many if they were so poor at racking up shots?
The answer to that lies in a conversion rate of 21.53 per cent – the highest of any team since 1996 – while Aubameyang’s personal rate was 30.56.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals last season masked that Arsenal weren’t shooting enough
Naturally then, they would struggle to repeat such record-breaking shot converting this season. Pepe has been brought in to ease the burden as a result.
HOW ARSENAL COMPARED TO ‘BIG SIX’ LAST SEASON
BIG SIX GOALS SCORED 2018-19
95 – Man City
89 – Liverpool
73 – Arsenal
67 – Tottenham
65 – Man Utd
63 – Chelsea
BIG SIX TOTAL SHOTS 2018-19
683 – Man City
607 – Chelsea
575 – Liverpool
537 – Tottenham
526 – Man Utd
467 – Arsenal
In Ligue 1 last year, the winger scored 22 goals and got 11 assists, helping Lille finish second. Liverpool apparently looked at him, but Arsenal got him for £72m.
Emery wanted a ball-carrier and got one.
Pepe made the second-most dribbles in all of Europe’s elite leagues last season. The player who made the most was Wilfried Zaha, Arsenal’s previous target.
It remains to be seen how much money is left in the coffers to sign Kieran Tierney and a central defender, given their supposedly tight budget.
They have already signed William Saliba for £27m, but the 18-year-old has been loaned back to Saint-Etienne.
Defence, then, remains an area that requires attention.
Only five clubs faced more shots on target than Arsenal last season, and three of those were relegated. The other two were Burnley and West Ham.
In the Europa League final, Chelsea tested Petr Cech eight times. Arsenal tested Kepa twice, and the score suitably finished 4-1 to the west London club.
Defence remains a problem for Arsenal, who are still trying to sign Celtic’s Kieran Tierney
Last season saw Emery use eight different formations across 38 Premier League games. On 13 occasions, he used three at the back. On 25, he used four.
Those who have played professionally will tell you that can get confusing.
Emery’s favourite formation was 4-2-3-1 – a set-up which should at least suit Pepe, the winger who lit up Ligue 1 with 22 goals and 11 assists last season.
That was the same set-up used occasionally by Lille in 2018-19. He would patrol the right side of the attack and cut inside on to his preferred left foot.
Pepe brings him with a certain kind of X factor and will be suited to Arsenal’s favoured system
Arsenal boss Unai Emery was right to address his problems in attack before looking to defence
In what would be music to many a manager’s ears, he also does a job defensively. He enjoys winning the ball back, which Emery will want him to continue.
His pace will add a directness to Arsenal’s counter-attacks too, which they have lacked since losing the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez.
Aubameyang may then be moved to the left side, with Alexandre Lacazette central.
Pepe brings with his an X factor to Arsenal. Yes, they need to fix their defence, but Emery was right to try to address their attack too.
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