There were very few signs of a stirring European comeback on Thursday night as Arsenal’s Europa League ambitions were dashed following a 0-0 draw with Villareal.
It was a placid display from Gunners in what was a must-win fixture after trailing 2-1 from the first leg. However, the uninspired nature of their exit raised serious alarm bells about the direction of the club under the stewardship of Mikel Arteta.
The result on Thursday night means they’re almost certain to miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years, and they’re also on course for their lowest finish in the Premier League table across that time too.
This has led to legitimate questions being asking about whether Arteta is the right man to take the club forward beyond the end of this season.
It can sometimes be the case that a team’s results don’t always align with their performances, with things such as bad luck and small margins going against them for large parts of a campaign. A good example of this in the Premier League this season is Brighton.
Graham Potter’s men have spent most of the season fighting off fears of relegation, yet based on performance metrics such as Expected Goals (xG), they’ve actually been one of the more impressive sides in the league.
In fact, according to Expected Points (xP), they rank as the fourth-best side behind only the three teams who currently occupy the top three places in the league table.
Those who have analysed their season on a more granular level opine that things such as below par finishing and poor goalkeeping performances, two key components in both boxes, are the main reason why they haven’t been able to turn good performances into more positive results.
But is this the case for Arsenal? Have they been better than their results suggest this year?
In terms of that aforementioned xP metric, Arsenal rank as the seventh-best side, a slight but unremarkable increase on their actual position in the table of ninth.
Another good indicator of a team’s general performances is analysing the number of shots they both generate and concede. The Gunners have attempted the ninth most on a per 90 basis, and rank eighth in terms of the fewest number of shots faced.
The rank of Arteta’s men in terms of goal difference also mirrors their position in the league table (before Leeds United’s win on Saturday) – ninth.
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The above numbers are very medial and fairly represent where the team currently sit in the league table. Therefore, whilst the league table can sometimes lie, it doesn’t look to be the case when it comes to this season’s Arsenal.
Given the quality of the players at the club, this should be a huge concern and the same does reflect poorly on Arteta in what is his first full season in charge.
He might be given time to try and rectify this next season, yet based on the above, it’d be understandable if he wasn’t.