Tactical Snapshot: Vardy Being Vardy, Magic Mendy and Arsenal’s Young Guns
Our data analysts dive into Stats Perform’s advanced metrics to pull out the key tactical snapshots from the latest Premier League action. Data visualizations, AI models and the occasional Arsenal bias can all be guaranteed, as Jonny Whitmore and the team dive into the numbers each week.
Vardy Doing Vardy Things
Jamie Vardy scored his 125th Premier League goal against Manchester United on Saturday, taking him level with Nicolas Anelka as the joint-16th highest goal scorer in Premier League history.
At 34 years old, Jamie Vardy shows no signs of slowing down. With seven goals already this season, he is the joint-top goal scorer in the Premier League with Mohamed Salah, a player whom many are calling the best player in the world at the moment.
Vardy rarely involves himself in earlier phases of the play. He had the fewest touches (22) of all the players who started in Leicester City’s 4-2 victory over Manchester United. Three of these 22 touches were from kick offs too.
To put that into perspective, goalkeepers Kasper Schmeichel and David de Gea had 58 and 38 touches respectively.
Given their positional isolation and pressure from marking defenders, strikers are often the players to have the fewest number of touches in a game, but Vardy is an extreme example.
If we look at games in the Premier League this season where an outfield player has played the full game, Vardy takes up five of the top ten places for having the fewest number of touches.
But Vardy doesn’t need many touches. Only Liverpool’s Sadio Mané has had more first-touch shots (19) than Vardy this season (15), while no player has scored more first-touch goals (5) than him.
Over the last five Premier League seasons, there have been 33 times when a player has scored a goal while having 22 or fewer touches over 90 minutes. 21 of these were Jamie Vardy.
Since arriving at Chelsea, Édouard Mendy has an incredible record at shutting out of the opposition.
It was almost impossible to watch Chelsea vs Brentford without commenting on Mendy’s late heroics that prevented a late equaliser for Brentford. All six of his saves, one of which was made with his face, were made after the 72nd minute to help Chelsea hold out for a 1-0 victory.
The Senegalese international has now prevented more than three goals with his saves in the Premier League this season, based on our expected goals on target model – that’s more than any other goalkeeper in the competition.
“It’s a nice way to know if you made a big save”, Mendy said about the goals prevented metric when he was exclusively interviewed by The Analyst earlier this summer. He’s certainly made a few of those.
To allow for a fair comparison, we also need to adjust this metric by the number of shots each goalkeeper faced. Without this, goalkeepers who face a lot of shots have the opportunity to ‘prevent’ more goals.
The goals prevented rate is the number of goals that a goalkeeper was expected to concede, as a proportion of the number of goals they actually conceded.
Before last night, only Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale (2.1) had a higher goals prevented rate than Mendy (2.0) in the Premier League this season. Normalising for the volume of shots allows us to see that Mendy has been expected to concede 2 goals for every goal that he actually conceded.
Arsenal’s Young Guns
I was hoping to write about an Arsenal win this morning. I shouldn’t get my hopes up. After the perfect start with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring early from a tight angle, Arsenal, in the words of manager Mikel Arteta, “put the handbrake on a little bit”.
After an early period of dominance by Arsenal, Crystal Palace looked like the better team and capitalised on two sloppy mistakes in the second half to put Arsenal legend Patrick Viera seconds away from the perfect homecoming. Alexandre Lacazette had other ideas.
While the positives were few and far between for Arteta’s Arsenal last night, the signs are there that he is starting to settle on his preferred team. Ten of the players in the starting XI last night have all started Arsenal’s last four Premier League games, four of whom were new signings this summer.
It is clear that the strategy at Arsenal is to rebuild for the future with a talented young squad. All of their summer signings were under 23 and they have recently secured key players such as Emile-Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney to new long-term contracts.
The average age of their starting XI in the Premier League this season has been 24y and 266d, the youngest of any team in the competition. It’s almost a full year younger than the next youngest side Brentford (25y 232d).
Only Spezia, Bayer Leverkusen, Stuttgart and Monaco have younger average starting XI’s across the big five European leagues in 2021-22 so far. For a team of Arsenal’s quality, it is rare to see such a dependency on youth. Their average starting age last season (26y 135d) was nearly two years older than it is now.
You can see in the graphic above the young core of players that have dominated the minutes in the Premier League for Arsenal this season. The players with the most minutes at the top of this graphic are mostly younger than or just about to enter their ‘peak years’ too.
Their summer transfer strategy is also visible via the red dots that highlight the players who’ve joined the club within the last year. These players were signed to have an immediate impact of the starting XI.
Patience is the key this season for Arsenal fans. This team is packed full of exciting young talent and a consistent starting team is starting to emerge. The expectation isn’t immediate success, but the foundations are solid for the next few seasons.
Enjoy this? Subscribe to our mailing list to receive exclusive weekly content.