Arsenal FC: 3 Surprising Statistics About the Gunners This Season

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Arsenal FC: 3 Surprising Statistics About the Gunners This Season
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Arsenal have been the ultimate enigma during the 2012-13 season. Some surprising statistics bear out this assertion. They include numbers that indicate greater defensive solidity than appears obvious.

There are also figures that suggest Arsenal don't need to make signing a goalkeeper a part of their summer plans. Here are three surprising statistics from the Gunners' tumultuous season.

 

Defence is better than you might think

The first retort many have against Arsene Wenger is the lack of defensive solidity many of his squads exhibit. While nobody is suggesting the Gunners boast a defence to rival their famous back five, this season's numbers do show improvement in this area.

According to the English Premier League Index, Arsenal rank third in the league in goals conceded per game. The number is given at 1.12, while the Premier League's official site lists it at 1.11.

That's an improvement on the 1.29 figure registered in 2011-12, according to eplindex.com. However, despite the numbers, few can dispute that Arsenal appear vulnerable in defence.

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Arsenal's defence has improved by the numbers. However, it is only a surface-deep improvement.

A truly solid back line inspires confidence and trust in fans. There are probably no Gunners fans whose nerves stay settled whenever the opposition attacks.

The nub of the problem is mistakes. According to fourfourtwo.com, Arsenal have made 14 mistakes that have led directly to goals this season, that is the highest figure in the league.

The common perception is that Wenger is tactically inept and Steve Bould isn't being allowed to work. However, it should be noted that zonal marking and dropping numbers behind the ball, were introduced this season under Bould's stewardship.

Concentration and organisation remains the key principles Arsenal's defence must learn. It is also true that the back four hasn't been helped by the inconsistencies in attack.

When a strikeforce cannot be relied upon to score consistently, defensive gaffes naturally take on greater significance.

 

Gunners know how to defend from the front

Continuing the theme of supposedly deceptive defensive frailty, it may surprise many that Arsenal rank high defending from the front. In fact, the blog squawka.com puts them second best in the entire EPL in this category.

The report notes that the key for Arsenal's defending from the front is Santi Cazorla. He is said to have made 22 interceptions in advanced positions, a league-best mark.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Santi Cazorla's class and significance to Arsenal is evident in both attack and defence.

This is just further evidence of how good Cazorla has been this season. Add this to his 11 goals and understand why it can be a vomit-inducing experience reading ungrateful Gunners fans criticising the qualities of the Spanish ace.

It seems that Arsenal's inconsistent forward line is at least able to regularly disrupt opposition attacks at their starting points.

 

Wojciech Szczesny and his credentials as a No. 1 goalkeeper

To be clear from the start, this author does believe Wenger must replace Szczesny this summer. The young Pole simply concedes too many he should save. His mechanics are all wrong and that's nobody's fault but his own.

However, the numbers at least suggest Arsenal might not want to give up on their current No. 1. Szczesny was recently compared to a pair of mooted replacements, by talkSPORT.

Szczesny is currently outperforming both Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes, according to the numbers. One of the more interesting stats is Szczeny's saves 72 percents of the shots he has to deal with.

Stu Forster/Getty Images
The numbers seem to suggest Szczesny is a worthy first-choice goalkeeper.

Of course, few can dispute Szczesny's shot-stopping prowess, particularly in one-on-one situations, close in. What these numbers do prove is that Wenger has a gamble to make regarding Szczesny.

Does he risk that the 22-year-old can fulfil his obvious potential, sooner rather than later? Or does he gamble that the cocky youngster will remain too cavalier and prone to blunder?

There is always a great danger of putting too much stock in numbers. Statistics can show a lot but hardly ever disprove what is apparent to the naked eye.

Yes, Arsenal's defence is performing at a much higher level than last season. Yet that is comparative progress and does it make anyone feel confident about keeping enough clean sheets to make the top four? Probably not.

What these surprising statistics show most of all, is how Arsenal's biggest weakness is their habit for individual mistakes. If Wenger ever hopes to field a trophy-winning team again, he either has to buy superior athletes to cover the errors, or place more emphasis on mastering the basics.

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