Arsenal defensive record William Saliba

Appreciating Arsenal’s brilliant defensive record

Arsenal have found form at the perfect time this season with the Gunners climbing back into title contention after a remarkable run of results.

The north Londoners have won seven straight games since the turn of the new year and have scored 31 goals in the process, following a 6-0 win at Sheffield United on Monday night. Mikel Arteta’s team are the first side in Premier League history to score 5+ goals in three consecutive away games, though it’s at the opposite end where Arsenal have thrived this season.

Having fallen just short as runners-up last season, Arteta strengthened the spine of his side with the additions of David Raya in goal and Declan Rice in midfield. Having also operated with four centre-backs in his defensive line this season, Arsenal have become a formidable team defensively and from set-pieces.

Here, we look at the numbers behind Arsenal’s brilliant defensive record this season.

Goals conceded – 23 (1st)

Arsenal boast the best defensive record in the Premier League in terms of goals conceded, having conceded just 23 goals from their 27 fixtures.

The Gunners conceded 43 goals in the division last season, 10 more than champions Manchester City, but have shown huge improvement this time around. William Saliba and Gabriel Maghalaes have emerged as one of the best centre-back pairings in Europe, with the duo commanding in duels, comfortable high up the pitch, and a threat in the opposition box.

Ben White continues to be overlooked for England despite his excellence at club level, while Jakub Kiwior has enjoyed an impressive extended run in the side, amid injuries to Oleksandr Zinchenko, Jurrien Timber and Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Open play goals conceded – 17 (1st)

No side has also conceded fewer open-play goals than Arsenal this season.

The Gunners have also conceded one penalty and five goals from set-piece situations. The latter figure ranks Arsenal third in the Premier League, behind Manchester City (2) and Fulham (3).

Clean Sheets – 11 (1st)

Arsenal’s 11 clean sheets is a league-leading total, two more than Liverpool in second (9).

David Raya has recorded nine of those shut-outs with the Spaniard having recovered from a shaky start after his summer arrival from Brentford.

The goalkeeper currently leads Everton’s Jordan Pickford (8) and Manchester City’s Ederson (8) in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Glove, as he looks to become the first Arsenal goalkeeper to win the award since Petr Cech in 2015/16.

xG against per game – 0.81 (1st)

Expected Goals is a metric that has become popularised in modern football data, a statistic that measures the quality of a chance by calculating the likelihood that it will be scored by using information on similar shots in the past.

Arsenal are not only conceding the fewest goals in the Premier League but also the fewest high-quality chances to opposition sides. No side has a lower Expected Goals Against (xGA) figure than the Gunners (22.12), with only title rivals Manchester City (25.70) and Liverpool (33.78) anywhere close.

Shot on target faced per game – 2.4 (1st)

Mikel Arteta’s men are also reducing opposition sides to the fewest shots on target per game (2.4) in the division and the fewest average opposition touches inside the penalty area (15.4).

Against Sheffield United on Monday night, Arsenal overwhelmed the struggling side with 81% of the possession and 22 shots to four. Chris Wilder’s well-beaten side failed to record a single shot on target and posted an xG figure of just 0.24.

Can Arsenal win the Premier League title?

Arsenal’s seven-game winning run has propelled the north Londoners back into the title picture, with just two points currently separating the top three. Thriving at both ends of the pitch, the Gunners sit third, though with title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in action against each other this weekend, Arteta’s side have a chance to capitalise on dropped points.

The club’s defensive record bodes well in terms of historical success, with the team boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League (at least jointly) having been crowned champions in five of the last six seasons. The sole exception was Liverpool in 2018/19 when the Reds won a club-record 98 points but missed out on the title to Manchester City (99 points) in an epic race.

It’s two decades since Arsenal were last crowned champions, in the club’s historic Invincibles campaign. In the 20 years since that success, there’s rarely been bigger belief than right now.

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