Suarez v Podolski – When it comes to attempts on goal surely it’s about quality over quantity and the supply line??

Arsenal Goal of the Season - PODOLSKI!!
Arsenal Goal of the Season – PODOLSKI!!

I asked the question of twitter recently about what fans see in store for Lukas Podolski this season. Many see him as only a super sub but an equal number see him have a growing influence in 2013/14. He is one of the most accomplished international strikers of his generation and yet it would appear he is set to be a squad player for Arsenal, a team that are not currently challenging for any honours.  Everyone is desperate for Suarez to arrive and add more bite to our attack!  There are also rumblings of Rooney and I myself have had a bet with the bookmaker with the best odds on the England striker arriving I have to confess. So it appears to some that Giroud, bagging them in for fun in pre-season and a now fully fit Podolski are now considered to be only good enough to be squad players at best by many.

More bite to the Arsenal attack?
More bite to the Arsenal attack?

Now as usual I must add the proviso that I always do at this point, and say I am NOT against Arsenal strengthening the team at all. Indeed I am very keen as all fans are that we do so. At the same time I feel we sometimes forget or undervalue what we currently have. I also feel we sometimes overlook certain problem areas and concentrate on the super striker too much.

It is my contention for example that for a first season in a new league, far more physical and competitive than Ligue 1 Olivier Giroud do pretty well.  His goals were valuable and his assists a huge influence and yet his critics solely focused on his profligacy in front of goal.  Interestingly enough his accuracy in the Premier League was slightly worse than that of Luis Suarez. Giroud hit the target 49% of the time and the supposed £40 million striker 54%, a marginal difference.

So what of the team joker Lukas Podolski who now freely admits to playing through pain the majority of last season? A player who many forget was playing up and down the left flank and combining superbly with Cazaorla tight up until the New Year. The player who single handedly destroyed West Ham with one of the finest individual displays by any Gunner last season.

Just in case those who argue that the German is okay but not a game changer here is a reminder of a fully fit Podolski at his best in that match:

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Coming back to the accuracy point Lukas’s efforts were on target on 61% of occasions in the league last season, which in case you are interested is 2% better than van Persie. When we have a player like this with ice in his veins in front of goal surely the logical policy would be to put him in that position as often as possible. Not all of the great strikers were game changers in other areas. The likes of Cole, Fowler, Own and Shearer hardly racked up numbers in the assist column. Podolski however does both so can we truly afford to marginalize such a player?

The reality is he has been marginalized by Arsenal but before that by his country. Germany and Podolski thrived with a 442 in which Lukas played off and around Klose.  However in the past 3 years the general trend of moving to the 433 or 4231 has been mirrored by Germany leaving Podolski as a left striker/winger. How many players in the past 4/5 years have found themselves struggling when teams have gone from 2 to 1 central striker systems? (Eduardo and NB52 would be 2 close to home examples.)

Fabulous in a 442 for sure
Fabulous in a 442 for sure

In a season crucial to so many players hoping to make World Cup squads game time and performances will be crucial but I suspect none more so than in the case of Podolski. With so much talent available to the German coach Lukas will need to be showing that he is fully fit and back to his pre ankle problem best to maintain his squad place at least, and add to his huge cap and goal tally. At 28 he should be in his absolute striking prime and yet so many think of him as past his best. This is purely because he hit the world scene so dramatically at such a young age.

It is a struggle to see exactly where he will play and where he will fit this campaign though.  If Fabregas is indeed arriving we have to assume Cazorla will continue out wide in a position that in the early part of last season the German had made his own. Even if Cesc does not return Wenger does seem to feel Wilshere may be an attacking central midfielder, so again you simply cannot see our most creative influence not playing.

I don’t have the solutions and thankfully the decisions are not mine but I would just ask fans to recall that Arsenal’s play, our team set up and the outcome, was not about one striker hitting 30 goals. We should not think just because RVP did it that is the answer. It is 100% not the answer and as I have argued previously since 2006 we have suffered due to over reliance on one individual.

I have always been of the view that the teams that win trophies and ultimately the Premier League have a multiple goal threat. Despite the fact that history will always focus on 2003/4 for me the greatest attacking football I have ever seen was in the 2001/2 Double winning season. Arsenal had goals from everywhere. We have 5 players in double figures in all competitions which has never been matched to my knowledge. Even in the league we finished with 3 in double figures, Henry 24, Ljungberg 12, Wiltord 10 and then Pires and Bergkamp on 9 each.

Surely a side that can offer that sort of multiple threats would win silverware today? Well interestingly only 2 sides this century have finished the Premier League campaign with 4 players in double figures. The fist was the title winning Chelsea tem of 2010/11 with Malouda 13, Drogba 12, Lampard 10 and Kalou 10. 45 goals from 4 attacking players, which is mighty impressive we would all agree. It has only been done on one other occasion at that was in 2012/13 by Arsenal. Yes you read correctly. Walcott 14, Cazorla 12, Podolski 11 and Giroud 10. 47 league goals from 4 attacking players all of whom where in our first choice 11 for the bulk of last season, certainly until February when Podolski was not.

Surprising perhaps then that most fans feel we are crying out for a new striker and some suggest we need 2!

The table below also strongly suggests that over a league season Arsenal’s attempts on goal or crucially the accuracy and ratio of chances taken are not necessarily our issue:


Attempts on target 

Shots on goal 



Manchester United

237 (56,7%)





200 (50,0%)





210 (52,4%)





110 (44,0%)




Aston Villa

145 (51,6%)




West Bromwich Albion

157 (48,6%)





166 (53,4%)





137 (51,7%)




Norwich City

122 (44,9%)





236 (49,8%)




Manchester City

232 (51,2%)




Wigan Athletic

158 (48,9%)




West Ham United

149 (47,6%)





170 (49,6%)





204 (52,2%)




Tottenham Hotspur

247 (52,6%)




Swansea City

167 (48,4%)




Stoke City

121 (45,8%)




Newcastle United

178 (49,6%)




Queens Park Rangers

140 (43,9%)





Only 5 teams had more efforts on goal than Arsenal last season but actually only Manchester United, the champions and Chelsea converted more of the chances they created.

I would argue further then that the issue is not the attacking players we have all of who contributed last season. It may just be the quality of the chance we are creating. What do I mean by that?

Well it is telling I feel that the 4 players who managed to score 10 or more times for Arsenal in the league also provide us with our main goal creativity. Carzola 12, Walcott 10 and Podolski 9 created nearly half of our tally of 72. This is all well and good but the concern is that if we look at those who played the majority of the games for us in the midfield 3, with the exception of Santi, when he was there is little to no creativity in the goal assist stakes at least. Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosicky managed 9 assist between them over a season in which the 4 features in 117 matches. Surely for a team looking to win title this is simply unacceptable?

No supply line for CM is an issue
No supply line for CM is an issue

So as I meander along I think I am finally arriving at the point I probably set up to make. Are our strikers failing? Not necessarily, but as a team are we creating enough truly good scoring opportunities for them? Almost certainly not the evidence suggests.  Assuming we maintain the same formation, not a definite, whoever is given the primary responsibility of the central attacking midfield role and also that of the more advances of the 2 pivots has to step up their game in 2013/14. For me with all things being equal and with no additions that means Cazorla back at the creative hub and a fully fit Podolski back our wide left. However all things will not stay the same and I have a very strong suspicion that Arsenal will have a new man at the helm pulling the strings and it is this role not the prolific striker signing that provides the key to success.

I will welcome a new striker to compete with Podolski and Giroud, whether it be Suarez , Rooney or another we don’t know about as yet. But however individually brilliant this new addition is and how much our incumbants improve, which they will, they will all need an improved, innovative and more accurate supply line.  When the supply line is accurate, the half chances become gilt edged chances, the 50% of chances taken becomes 60/65%, the 10/15 goals becomes 15/20 and dare I say it 4th becomes 1st.

We need that player who plays the trough ball to die for, the chip to land on a sixpence and the reverse pass to bamboozle the best defence.

Who do we need?

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  1. as much as i accept your points made, and agree we need more than 1 player getting the goals, a top striker who will get you over 20 goals is a must, in the past fews years RVP, aguero, berbatov, drogba, ronaldo, ronaldo again have scored atleast 20 goals coupled with goals from other sources enabling them to win the league titles…in the past we,ve had henry & united have had cole, van nilsterooy etc scoring more than 20 goals combined with the efforts of other team mates to win the title….as much as what we have is good we’ll still need a trusted man upfront…but a good read as always

    1. That is valid if you accept that in a 2nd season neither OG of LP cannot improve their tally with better services, which I do not.

  2. The problem from last season is not the lack of goals. Its the lack of goals against teams playing well or the top teams. So on one day, Arsenal can score 3 goals against a low ranking team or one that plays poorly and then the other day lack any option.

    It can be solved by either way 1) a striker emerges, either from the current squad. or from a purchase, who can break down a well performing team. 2) Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosicky provides more assists or goals.

    Number shows tha the Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosicky either failed to join the goal scoring moves or they are so crappy(whic we do not believe) that they fail with their attempts. Fighting 11 resolute opposition with only 4 men, Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud is definitely not enough. The team should figure out a way to get them involved and overwhelm a well performing opposition while keeping their defense.

  3. I have said Podolski>Rooney and been scoffed at.I have also said that our problem is the lack of a “Cecs” like creator,
    But what do I know?
    We will see.
    Great article Dave.

  4. What a good article as usual, I very well agree with you but I think we need to bring in just a DM (Fellani I think**) to make the midfield balanced. I think we lost it last season because we lost Diaby early in the season and looking at it this lad is an injury and fragile player. Even if we do not sign any striker (because I believe in the ones we have) I think the issue of the DM has to be sort out asap.
    I also think we need to bring in Zalalem into the squad because he his a wonderful player…. And with this I think we are ready to lift two silverware this season

  5. Sorry but I just can’t agree on your Giroud point.
    I believe he never scored a single goal against top 4 opposition last year, not one!
    That for me is a tale of the tape, he is not top class just a mid table player .

    Arsenal have one of the best attacking midfields in the world and although every Arsenal fan would agree that we over-cook it at times, the balls provided would make an ordinary striker look good and a good striker a game changer.

    Unfortunately I believe that Giroud also didn’t score a game winning ball last season, these stats show that he is out of his depth against top opposition and not good under pressure.

    “bagging them in for fun” against really awful opposition in the far east is no indicator of anything other than the fact that he can score against lower class opposition.
    If he can start “banging them in for fun” against top 4 teams I will eat my hat.

    Podi is great but we need a world class striker to add depth and talent.

  6. “Surely a side that can offer that sort of multiple threats would win silverware today? Well interestingly only 2 sides this century have finished the Premier League campaign with 4 players in double figures. The fist was the title winning Chelsea tem of 2010/11 with Malouda 13, Drogba 12, Lampard 10 and Kalou 10. 45 goals from 4 attacking players, which is mighty impressive we would all agree. It has only been done on one other occasion at that was in 2012/13 by Arsenal. Yes you read correctly. Walcott 14, Cazorla 12, Podolski 11 and Giroud 10. 47 league goals from 4 attacking players all of whom where in our first choice 11 for the bulk of last season, certainly until February when Podolski was not.

    Surprising perhaps then that most fans feel we are crying out for a new striker and some suggest we need 2!”

    Firstly your argument is that only 1 side has managed 4 players scoring in double figures that won the title. So the rest of the title winning teams in the century needn’t have 4 players scoring in double figures to win the title?

    Secondly, you are saying We did have 4 players scoring in double figures, and yet we were nowhere close to the title winning total. Why shouldn’t we want a world class striker again?

      1. We must do if the cash is available, it is better to have one or two disgruntled players resulting from competition, rather than have lack of options. All title winning teams have quality surplus and unhappy players.

  7. In our current formation, If Poldi is played on left and Theo on right, then we have only Giroud as a recognized striker. So the Ox and one of Bernard/Gervinho are back up for Theo and Poldi but no back up for Giroud. We can be dangerous with an equal or upgraded version of Giroud.
    Its hard to think Wenger moving to 442 formation. But if he does, our squad, with only one addition, is a real title contender. Of course the ‘only one addition’ is none other than our own Cesc. Jack-Arteta-Cesc and Santi playing behind any two of Theo, Giroud and Poldi will challenge any top sides in EPL and in Europe. And I haven’t even mentioned the substitute bench consisting the Ox, Rambo and Rosicky.
    The answer to your last sentence is ‘one and only Cesc Fabregas’.
    Very enjoyable read Dave, as always!

  8. If we are not going to buy a striker,then i think we should get hard core defensive midfielder so that we push arteta and wilshere forward,carzola on the left wing and either play poldi or giroud up front.

  9. Good article! Alot of key points were highlighted. But then, the boys played the way they did because their target wasnt to win league, but to qualify for CL.. But now, with the arrival of BIG names, I think the boys wil step up the gear knowing the can achiève something great.. I know our midfield lack some form of creativity,but if you take into cognisance, Wishere just recovered from a 17 months lay off, Ramsey saw his confidence dented, Arteta was drop deepèr (a role he was unfamiliar with) and also the fact they were playing for the 1st time amongst themselves is an issue worth considering! But, with good pre season so far, and a couple of great signings, i bet the our confidence will equal that of invincibles as we can see toward the end of the season!

  10. We need a striker that can score against Top teams, that’s all we lacked when the team finally gelled… Cesc and any other additions to other positions of the team would be an added advantage but a top finisher is the difference between us and teams like Bayern/dortmund/barcelona e.t.c

  11. Great blog… and exactly why Higuain was our 3rd choice. He is a pure finisher and we have those in our team. Its because of this that AW is going after Suarez cos that guy can create a chance on his own. i strongly believe (and i always do) that we might go 4-4-2 or 4-1-3-1-1 next season with front two being OG and LS or OG and LP or LP and LS. I think santi will play next season out wide only and if pre season is anything to go by JW will be in his best position as CM not CAM.

  12. Excellent piece Dave. For me getting a new striker is not really about quality, it is about the lack of bench strength in that department. I would’ve been ok with a Benteke or a Soldado or Negredo and not necessarily a 50 mill man.

    I’ve said this earlier and have been chastised for it, but I feel Santi needs to play in the center. I know he has done very well wide left, but as you mentioned, the lack of creativity from our MF needs to be addressed. And Santi is best suited for that. Also, we have decent replacements for him in the wide positions but centrally he is the only focal point.

  13. As always Dave well research and many good points, I certainly like Podolski and I think he is a fans favourite. I also read through other comments and agree about situations in tight games generally against big teams. A player of Suarez football quality (not getting into him as a person) you feel would take that chance that over the past few years our strikers apart from RVP miss, let’s take Barceleona and the NB52 chance, or Chelsea away last year and Giroud chance just before they scored, small margins but Suarez or a Rooney etc are that 5%+ better and make the difference. Also strength in depth, our competitors can field many a good striker, so adding a striker to what we have will allow us to compete more next year.

  14. Excellent blog Dave.

    I believe that we need to add one (in Arsene’s words) top, top, top quality player to our attacking players.

    If this one player would be Cesc, it would mean Santi on the left like you said. Then I would assume Giroud and Podolski would share the striker’s position, maybe occasionally even Theo.

    If this one added top, top, top player would be Suarez, he would be the main striker and Giroud the alternative. In this scenario I would guess that Podolski would play most of his games on the left, and Santi in the middle. Alternatively, Santi could go to the left and Jack/Rosicky in the middle, much like this season.

    It remains to be seen what Arsene does with the current players, where does he see Santi play predominantly, left or centre? The same with Jack, attacking mid or in a double pivot or box-to-box? Also Ox seems to play in the centre this preseason, and sometimes as a wide attacker. Podolski and Theo have both played wide and occasionally central.

    One “marguee signing” to add to this very versatile group of players would make me extremely confident for the upcoming season and to solve the problems we had in opening up quality defences. Two signings would do that even more of course, but that might be a bit too optimistic…

    I believe one signing to act as cover for Arteta would be sensible now that Coquelin is loaned out as well. And added to all this, I would hope we add more depth to our central defence now that Vermaelen is injured. Perhaps a left sided centreback that could cover as left back (Monreal injured, Gibbs’ history)?

    Anyways, enjoyed the blog very much, thanks.


  15. The ‘on target’ stats are misleading.The problem with Giroud was whenever he got the ball in front of goal he blindly kicked it at the keeper when a top cf would have buried it in the corner.Podolski too depends more on power than accuracy to beat the keeper.I can understand you backing the current players.They do have good points in their game,But overall they simply aren’t good enough.We are not going to play teams like West Ham in the Champion’s League

  16. well mate, i’d like to write a full stat based note sometimes later on…but for now i feel obliged to make two points:

    1. you are correct about us needing to improve on our supply. here is what says about suarez: “last year, he also executed the most key passes from open play (80) in Europe’s top five leagues over the duration of the Premier League season.

    Compared to the current Arsenal squad, only Santi Cazorla (67) came closest to matching the exploits of Suárez in that respect, while Aaron Ramsey (43) was the nearest to duplicating his Spanish teammate.”

    so it should be pretty obvious why adding suarez should drastically improve our supply line/penetration/cutting edge…choose whatever phrase you want.

    2. while you are right about suarez’s conversion rate not being so high, you’ve also gotta remember that suarez took an incredible number of shots per game, 5.7 bettered only by christiano ronaldo with 6.9. that means suarez takes lots of risky shots, he had to given the way he had to carry the sole responsibility of liverpool attack for most part of the season. hence the missed shots.

    but when it comes to scoring from ‘clear cut’ chances, suarez had 30 of them, scored from 16(only rvp bettered this number by a margin of 1) with a conversion rate of 46.7%. whereas giroud scored 4 out of 22 chances with a conversion rate of 18.2%.

    now that sums up quite nicely for me, as to why the man we need is none other than luis suarez.

  17. greetings from australia.

    down here we all love podolski’s “hammer foot” but it seems like he’s trigger shy.

    i’d like to see how many times suarez shot (on target or not) on a game by game basis compared to giroud and podolski. i get that suarez carried liverpool and thus the onus fell on him to shoot whilst podolski found himself stuck on the left which will naturally lowered his shooting numbers. perhaps if you compare suarez to both podolski and giroud i think youll find that suarez outshot them both combined.

    keep the blog going mate. we’re big fans over here

  18. OMFG. Dude, you’re amazing… “We need that player who plays the trough ball to die for, the chip to land on a sixpence and the reverse pass to bamboozle the best defence. Who do we need?”
    How about Mesut?

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