Goals for and against

by   |   08/05/2020  18 Comments  [Jump to last]

With a very limited idea of how this summer transfer window will play out, I thought it would be interesting to think about how far we are in goals for and against from realising our ambitions.

Firstly, our realistic immediate ambitions are becoming top 6 and even sneaking top 4 (I'll ignore the cups).

So how many goals does it take to get there? Well, a quick bit of research based on the last few Premier League seasons suggests you need 30+ goal difference for top 4 and 20+ goal difference for top 6. And a bit of luck too, because even those goal differences won't always get you there.

In that same period, our average goal difference correlates well to our league placing.

It looks like this:

2014-15: 11th place 48/50 (-2)
2015-16: 11th place 59/54 (+4)
2016-17: 7th place 62/44 (+18)
2017-18: 8th place 44/58 (-14)
2018-19: 8th place 54/46 (+8)

So to turn our usual mid-table mediocrity into something enjoyable, we need (to state the obvious) to score more and concede fewer.

The thing is, to keep pace with the teams above us, we don't need to be that much meaner defensively. It varies quite a bit but 40 goals against is not unusual for top 6 and not unheard of for top 4. High 30s is quite common for top 4.

By a quirk of stats, Arsenal have finished with 51 goals conceded for 3 seasons on the bounce and made top 6.

Quality defenders make a difference but defending to me is also about team cohesion, organisation, leadership and team spirit.

Scoring goals relies on these things too, but it's also where the quality really counts. In our side, we have just two regular scorers in Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Walcott and Sigurdsson have scored big goal hauls in the past but those days appear to have gone. Who else?

Our creative players are not goalscorer:

● Iwobi (1 in 10 for Premier League goals)
● Bernard (1 in 11 for Premier League goals)

And the two we're counting on for centre-midfield next season:

● Gomes (no more than 3 a season)
● Gbamin (about 1 a season)

Digne and Mina chip in a bit (Mina should score more) but we're way off top 6 and particularly top 4 unless we can add about 20 more goals.

How do we solve this?

Option 1: Play Kean alongside Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. It depends on how we set up but personally I don't think this looks particularly well-balanced or effective. One of Kean or Calvert-Lewin is more likely.

Option 2. Rehabilitate Sigurdsson. Hmmm... Maybe with Gbamin and GGomes behind him, it could work. It's not an attractive option, unfortunately.

Option 3. Buy a right-winger who scores a lot.

Option 4. Buy a box-to-box midfielder who scores a lot.

Option 5. Buy another centre-forward who scores more than Calvert-Lewin.

Option 6. Develop younger players.

The trouble with options 3, 4 or 5 is the expense. Most players in those categories will generally have better options than Everton unless there's some weirdness or baggage or they're coming from a weaker league. We can probably afford one such player, eg, Neres or Malcom for right-winger but that won't leave much spare. Seems to me to further reinforce the idea of picking up young talent and nurturing it. And also working with the likes of Gordon, Simms, Dobbin and Cannon.

But, if we're going to progress, we need at least 20 more goals from somewhere.

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Reader Comments (18)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 09/05/2020 at 01:49:57
RT, I think you're giving short shrift to the defensive side of the ball. It's a hell of a lot harder -- and far more expensive -- to add 20 more goals than it is to add 5 and tighten the defense by 15. And we could do the latter in three simple steps:

1. Defend set-pieces better. Way better.
2. Tighten the defensive midfield.
3. Put somebody in charge of coordinating the backline.

If Leicester and Sheffield can hold opponents to a goal a game and hang around the top 6 all season, why the fuck can't we?

Derek Thomas
2 Posted 09/05/2020 at 01:59:30
Mike @1; Ask everybody involved in buying and coaching players, from Martinez to Silva and all stations in between. Hopefully Brands and Ancelotti can sort it out.

Edit: Also, there seems to be a lack of consequences – and thus no incentive to do better – for on-field failure. These guys get their £15,000 per 'kin day come what may... this may be why.

Dennis Stevens
3 Posted 09/05/2020 at 11:50:40
Totally agree, Mike. The "we'll score more than you" approach is rarely successful for any sustained period. Although, Oldham Athletic seemed to scrape by on it for a few seasons many moons ago, as I recall. I would expect our esteemed Italian Manager to have the ability to make the team much more resilient defensively.
John Keating
4 Posted 09/05/2020 at 13:26:03
Concentrate more on the defensive side would be far more beneficial – and cheaper – than trying to score more goals. If we stop a team scoring, we only need score one for the 3 points.

Shipping goals, à la our previous manager, and being unable to score, results in the position we found ourselves in.

Sort the defence out first and then look at the attack.

Dennis Stevens
5 Posted 09/05/2020 at 13:29:17
Hear, hear! John. The fortunate thing is, imo, we already have a cracking couple of front players who I expect to go from strength to strength whilst we can hold on to them – we just need to sort out the defence and midfield behind them!
Robert Tressell
6 Posted 09/05/2020 at 13:50:10
Sorry guys, not suggesting we ignore the defensive side and get all Kevin Keegan. We do need to stop conceding and get back to our 2016-17 best – that seems achievable through the measures Mike suggests without a great deal of investment in personnel. But we do still need another 20 goals to bridge the gap.
Sam Hoare
7 Posted 11/05/2020 at 10:24:19
I think somewhere in the middle seems about right. Try and score 10 more and concede 10 less.

Scoring more options:

1. Play Richarlison on the right with Kean or someone else up front. Guarantees you goals from midfield.
2. Convert more of our chances from set pieces, the likes of Mina and Keane have missed too many.
3. Find a central midfielder to score some more, for me Gomes does not bring enough to the team currently, his goals, assists, tackles, interceptions numbers are poor.
4. Iwobi and Bernard should both be scoring a few more per season if they want to stay in the team.

Concede less:
1. Clearer systems on set pieces defensively. Obviously a disaster last year under Silva.
2. Have a proper defensive midfielder with some athleticism. Gbamin may help with this.
3. Get a goalkeeper who lets in less (rather than more) goals than he should. Pickford's stats last year rank among the poorest in the league. He needs to do better. Or we need to do better.
4. Better game management. See Newcastle (h) this season.

Fran Mitchell
8 Posted 11/05/2020 at 10:56:23
Sam, regarding option 1: Play Richarlison on the right with Kean or someone else up front. Guarantees you goals from midfield.

That, imo, would be the an awful decision, imo.

That was Silva's idea, and it was successful in isolating our best and most dangerous player.

Richarlison since converting to a central striker with a partner has proven to get better and better with every game. That front 2, for the time being, is our best chance of being any way successful.

It's no coincidence that DCL has also started scoring regularly.

Now, will.we eventually revert back to a 4-3-3? I can only see that happening if we had 200million to spend on both another striker, and 2 midfielders. So not gonna happen.

4-4-2 I believe is here for the long run. With both Richarlison and DCL being 15-20 goal strikers.

We need another 15 from midfield, ideally the wide men (7-8 each), plus a sub striker (Kean??) Getting 5-10.

But can't honestly see the transfer market bringing much, austerity is the likely measure whenever football does restart (could be as late as November in all reality).

So Antony Gordon, Denis Adeniran and other young players can hopefully make the step up.

Sam Hoare
9 Posted 11/05/2020 at 11:30:01
Fran; it wouldn't be my ideal choice either. I really like DCL and Richarlison up front together.

However given the austerity of transfer market that you mention I think if we are unable to bring in a goal scoring RM then we potentially already have one. He does great work there and guarantees goals as well as hard work and defensive cover.

The idea is based on the assumption that Kean can potentially offer more at ST than Walcott can at RM, which I believe to be true. Kean showed a few glimpses of what he could do in the Newcastle and Watford game and i'd hope there might be more to come. Whereas Walcott's talent will only diminish.

It's about balance and if Kean can manager a few less goals than Richarlison from ST but Richie manages alot more goals than Walcott at RM then it could profit the team. Like I said it's not my preference; i'd prefer to buy a goalscoring RM/RW. But if we're playing with what we have I think it's a possibility.

Terence Leong
10 Posted 11/05/2020 at 13:18:35
I think Richarlison will score goals whether he's playing out wide, or upfront. In fact, even while he's being played in a 4-4-2, you can see that he plays off Calvert-Lewin, not exactly as a 10, but a bit more deeper.

When you look at the goals that Richarlison has scored, they are mainly those where he makes a bit of space for himself, such as throw himself at a header etc.

I think it's worth exploring how he can stay on the flanks (either) if we want to accommodate Kean (whom I think will develop significantly).

Richarlison's game is modelled after Thierry Henry / CR7, where over time, he'll morph into going central, much like CR7 did.

Robert Tressell
11 Posted 12/05/2020 at 22:50:22
The point of the article was really to highlight that there is a big gap between where we are and where we want to be - and my belief that money should be spent on those with real end product.

The conversation reminds me how unbalanced our squad is - with mifielders and forwards who arent suited to play with each other.

Personally I think 433 is the easiest fix. It involves getting a right winger who stays high up the pitch in a mobile front 3. Malcom, Lozano etc. Then we need someone box to box to chip in with goals from midfield alongside the non scoring Gomes and Gbamin. Richarlison and DCL will continue to score in that system.

442 could work too. Ancelloti tends to use double 6 version which means Gbamin and Gomes generally holding. Then two playmakers rather than wingers, with the width coming from the full backs. In this formation you could use (being fanciful) Coutinho and James Rodriguez. We have Iwobi and Bernard - neither have enough end product. Both need to be upgraded in my view.

So either way we need two players to create / score more goals (unless, say, Davies and Gordon transform into world beaters). Because the options at the moment just aren't good enough to match the goals for / against we need to match our ambitions.

Tony Everan
12 Posted 15/05/2020 at 10:25:08
Enjoyed reading this, thanks Robert.

I am shocked our goal difference averages +3 over the last five seasons. So poor.

It is an indelible and indisputable fact that we need 20 more goals each season to be consistent top 6 challengers. That has to be step no1.

1. We need 5 to 10 extra goals from defenders, predominantly from set pieces. I am perennially disappointed on our lack of penetration from corners and free kicks around the box. Massive work needs to address this.

2. Walcott/Bernard/Iwobi either need to contribute ten goals per season or be replaced by someone who can.
Let’s not beat about the bush and have any misplaced sentiments, we need goals or just as good ten more assists that lead to additional goals scored.

I feel that instead of those three we need a more direct and goal threatening player similar to the attributes Richarlison brings, but on the other wing. Lozano? Malcom?

3. A Centre midfielder who can chip in 5-10 goals per season. Sigurdsson was brought in to achieve this, but as we have seen he is not a central midfielder. He is a no10 player who is redundant in our system, when he plays, he is lost and we suffer for his inclusion.

If we can sell Sigurdsson and bring in a more natural dynamic Central Midfielder it will benefit us no end. This signing and this position is the absolute key. The priority and the heartbeat of resurgence. Bruno Fernandes has transformed Man Utd, and this is the type of midfielder I am talking about. We need a player who can bring all the energy, desire and extra goals that Bruno Fernandez has brought to Man Utd.

Robert and Sam will hopefully keep giving us some pointers as to our best options for such a central midfielder.

I am hoping we can target the absolute very best, as this signing will be game changer for the whole club. It will give us the engine room we need to progress and get us back to where our club should be, properly challenging the top 6 for everything.

Robert Tressell
13 Posted 22/05/2020 at 17:07:15
By unpopular demand, I've scoured the statistics to figure out who might merit a place in our midfield on the strength of goals and assist stats alone.

Needless to say my favourite Rabiot doesn't make the grade.

Those that do and that we might be in with a shout of signing are:

Central 'box to box' midfield:

-Cyprien (3 assists, 7 goals)
- Serdar (0 assists, 7 goals)
- Lees-Melou (6 assists, 5 goals)
- Sanson (5 assists, 5 goals)
- Pasalic (5 assists, 5 goals)
- Pellegrini (9 assists, 1 goal)
- Tufan (5 assists, 3 goals)
- Arnold (6 assists, 3 goals)
- Draxler (5 assists, 0 goals) but only played 11 matches

The stats are skewed by the relative strength or weakness of the league and number of games played - but the thing that leaps out is that there are only a few 10 goal + assist centre mids out there and they're generally out of our price bracket. However, there are productive players out there (successful in the system they operate in) who could push up up the league with their end product.

This may explain our rumoured interest in players like Tufan and Sanson who don't otherwise look that amazing. Pellegrini obviously has excellent stats and he's been strongly linked too.

Similar analysis of right wing shows, below messi etc, a goal + assist contribution of between 10 and 15 is really excellent - and there are gettable players in that category too. Buendia and Raphinha have been mentioned on this site - also Stengs, Orsolini, Berardi, Lukebakio and Ocampos.

Clearly there's more to it than stats (which is why I still like the idea of Rabiot & Malcom despite this analysis). But it is hopefully interesting to those who, like me, take their mind off things by wondering how any transfer kitty might usefully be spent.

Tony Everan
14 Posted 23/05/2020 at 11:05:32
Robert, It's all food for thought. With Carlo as manager we have more of a chance of signing the likes of Pellegrini from Roma. His stats seem good and I like the fact he has graduated from Roma's academy and done well. He will be under consideration.

On the right Buendia could be a great signing. He is 23 and ripe to make the next step up in his career. He will be ready to give his all to a bigger club like us. This is a talented young Argentine player already with Premier League experience we could catch on an upward curve. He won't be cheap but would be a shrewd investment.

We will have to move quickly though as there will be competition.

Robert Tressell
15 Posted 23/05/2020 at 11:53:27
Thanks Tony. The sad thing is that if we invest (probably wisely) in Pellegrini and Buendia and they each replicate their good form we add 16 assists and just 1 goal. With some defensive improvements that probably takes us to 7th place and maybe into the top 6 with some luck - but we're still probably lacking goalscorers.

This is what worries me most about letting Kean go because even if he just scores about 5 or 6 as a supersub or stand in, that could make all the difference. It also just shows the quality and depth above us and how much we may need to invest (or somehow secure through youth development) to catch up.

Tony Everan
16 Posted 23/05/2020 at 20:45:08
There can come a time when it is not just about the statistical capability of the assembled players. Sometimes a team can catch fire. If the weaknesses have been solved with 2 or 3 quality signings, it can make the whole team play better and with more confidence.

Confidence is massive for a young team and there is a chance then that stats for each player can improve over a season or two. Carlo hasn't come to us for a jolly, I think he means business, and that means top 6.

I think with 2 or 3 of his first choice signings may be the likes of Gabriel, Pellegrini, Buendia, Lozano... things could change dramatically. Additionally, Holgate and Calvert-Lewin are still on an upward trajectory and will contribute more over the next 2 seasons as they improve further.

Also, I think Farhad Moshiri will seriously back the manager – and even more so if he is proving to forge a successful team over the next 12 months.

Jay Harris
17 Posted 23/05/2020 at 21:05:26
I agree with Mike Gaynes point to a degree but can live with the back four and bringing in a GK that can command his area and setttle the defence.

My problem is the MF and has been for years accentuated even more by letting Gueye go.

We need more beef and more goals in MF and the current incumbents are not strong enough or lethal enough in front of goal the exception being young Gordon who I have high hopes for.

So I would actively search out a goalscoring center mid and a toughtackling high energy defensive mid. It is obvious that Delph, Gomes and Tom Davies are not quite good enough and the jury is still out on Gbamin although with that muscle weakness I am not sure he will be up to the pace.

Lets just hope Arsene Wenger persuades FIFA to change the FFP rules.

Derek Taylor
18 Posted 24/05/2020 at 18:09:41
I seem to recall that, in the time of Sam Allardyce as manager, a debate on these pages resulted in 'proof' that, in respect of finishing positions, it was more effective to minimise the goals against column than add to the goals scored.

Perhaps contributors to that debate can remind us of that rationale?

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