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Fearsome or Friendly? Arsenal at the Emirates

According to a recent Sky Sports story, Theo Walcott hopes to see Arsenal instill a "fear factor" in their opponents, specifically when playing at the Emirates. My initial reaction was to think that said fear factor should come more from facing the players wearing the Arsenal shirt than playing at the Emirates, but I think we can all agree that a strong, intimidating home stadium is a big advantage. Being a numbers person, I decided to see if the numbers said anything about whether or not Arsenal benefit from having being at home when they play at the Emirates.

I expected to find a big gap between home and away performance. It's easy to remember losing at Norwich this past season, or losing at Blackburn in 2011, but while those stand out, do they really provide the full picture of Arsenal's home vs. away performance?

Let's see what the numbers say:

2012/2013

Home 11W (57.9%) - 5D (26.3%) - 3L (15.8%)

Away 10W (52.6%) - 5D (26.3%) - 4L (21.1%)

Home losses - Man City, Chelsea, Swansea

Away losses - Man United, Chelsea, Spuds, Norwich

While we'd like to lose 0 games, of those I'd say it's fair to classify Swansea at home and Norwich on the road as "bad" losses - teams we should expect to beat every time in the given location. As Arsenal fans we don't ever want to lose to anyone, but if you asked a neutral, losing at Spuds is "fair" and losing at home to City and Chelsea is not "bad" because they finished ahead of us in the table.

Arsenal's winning percentage was 5% higher at home than on the road, with 1 more home win than road and 1 more road loss than win. What's shocking is the comparison to the rest of the league.

Emirates Stadium

Only 3 teams, Wigan, Aston Villa, and QPR had a smaller difference in percentage of home and away matches won. Wigan were actually better on the road (5 wins, compared with 4 wins at home) while Villa and QPR had equal number of wins at home and on the road. Everton and Newcastle had the biggest gap between home and away wins, with Everton winning 42% more games at home than on the road, and Newcastle 37% more wins at home. Again, Arsenal only 5% more wins at home. Among the top 4, Chelsea won 10.5% more at home than on the road, United 26% and City 21%, all higher than Arsenal.

So what does it mean? Is Arsenal's home field advantage below average? Is Arsenal above average on the road? Well, Arsenal's winning percentage on away from home (52.6%) was second only to Manchester United (63%). However, 4 clubs had higher winning percentages at home (United, City, Chelsea, Everton). But, league-wide, winning percentages were 15.8% higher at home than on the road, while Arsenal's was only 5% higher.

It's safe to say that Arsenal's high road winning percentage is due to being one of the top clubs in the Premier League, and the fact that Arsenal was the 2nd best team in the league away from home means they are an above average team - one might call them "road warriors."

What would concern one looking for the Emirates to be a fortress of sorts is the lack of "bump" in winning percentage that Arsenal has at home. Arsenal's winning percentage at Emirates in PL play last season was only 2.6% better than overall. The league average was a 7.9% better winning percentage at home than overall, and once again, only Aston Villa, QPR, and Wigan gained less by playing at home than Arsenal did.

Why might that be? If Arsenal were drawing more at home one could point to teams putting 10 behind the ball and parking the bus at the Emirates. With about 26% of Arsenal's home matches ending in draws (below the league average of 28%) that isn't it. Also, Arsenal both scored and conceded more at home than on the road.

Home: 2.45 goals scored, 1.21 goals conceded (per match)

Away: 1.32 goals scored, 0.74 goals conceded (per match)

I think it comes down to Arsenal not being able to beat the other top teams, even when playing them at the Emirates. Arsenal lost to Chelsea and Manchester City, and drew with Manchester United at home. Swansea can be thrown out as a bad loss that shouldn't happen, but not evidence of the problem. If Arsenal had even drawn with Chelsea and City at home, which should be the minimum regardless of opponent at home, they would've finished 3rd. A win against either and a draw against the other would've put Arsenal 2nd behind United.

The gap between Arsenal and the top of the table last season is large enough that it clearly comes down to much more than home performance, but looking at the numbers, it seems that simply a couple of better results at home would've made a significant difference in the table.

So what is it? What has to happen for Arsenal to make the Emirates a fearsome place for opponents to come? In other competitions, Arsenal lost an FA Cup match to a Championship squad and lost to a European opponent at the Emirates for the first time in ages.

Certainly Arsenal need significant changes if we are to truly compete for the title. A striker, a defensive mid, a keeper to compete with Szczesny, we can debate who we need. But, it appears that what is also needed is to take seriously the need to protect our own house.

Stats courtesy of www.soccerstats.com

Thoughts? Comments? Feedback? Help me improve as I launch my fledgling blogging career.

Goonersphere's response:

Very interesting post Eric, thank you for sharing on YouWrite. We agree that Arsenal need to step up against the top teams and certainly take a few more points at home. The Emirates should be a fortress that our opponents feel intimidated in and maybe that is less to do with the playing staff and more to do with the crowd but certainly both parties need to up their game if we want to gain maximum points at home and make a real assault on the title.

What did you think of Eric's post? Leave him a comment telling him what you think or maybe even write your own post on YouWrite.

Tags: Premier league, Emirates , Arsenal FC, Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, Home Form

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