With or without titles, Arsenal is now a better team

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We analyze statistically the impact of Declan Rice on Arsenal in 23/24.

Published:25/04/2024

And it is, among other things, due to the impact of a player who was close to not being able to sign. Declan Rice is one of the most important signings in Europe this season. His level at West Ham was already extraordinary, in a team with much fewer possibilities, but his arrival at the Emirates Stadium has raised the team’s bar under Mikel Arteta. The starting XI is exactly the same as last season, except for the English midfielder. And seeing all this with data is impressive.

Declan Rice is one of those complete midfielders, who starts from the center but reaches all the edges and peaks of his position statistically. We wanted to cross two of the most relevant parameters for a midfielder or central midfielder who plays in the axis of the tactical setup: recoveries and ball progression through passing (attacking midfielders or playmakers are not included). Declan Rice is second in ball progression, only behind Rodri, perhaps the best midfielder in the world, and 11th in recoveries, demonstrating an extraordinary individual level by volume.

As we already saw at West Ham, Rice is confirming it at Arsenal. He’s not a midfielder who has defensive influence only in his own half, but all over the field. His tackle success rate in the opponent’s half is particularly high, always alert to his team’s losses in the opponent’s half and closing down the opponent’s progression routes. More than a third of his recoveries are in the opponent’s half.

But what particularly values his performance is the impact on the collective that his presence is having. Although other considerations come into play here, and if we consider that Rice has played 88% of the minutes, being absent for only 400 minutes and making a total comparison with last season possible, Rice has brought about an evident competitive and defensive leap compared to his predecessor. Arsenal improves in all defensive metrics, in some of them notably, surpassing their previous records by far.

He retrieves 8.41 balls in high areas (6.61 in 22-23); his xG per shot against has undergone a huge positive change (0.12 xG per shot in 22/23, compared to 0.10 in 23/24). In 22/23, Arsenal conceded 1.04 xG per 90′, now only 0.85, as well as 0.7 non-penalty goals against, compared to 0.96 last season. The Gunners are getting closer and closer to achieving glory, but it depends on them being a better team, something they achieve season after season. Given Rice’s level and youth, we can specify and conclude that Rice has been one of the best signings in the recent history of the London club.

Founded in 2017 as a consultancy, Driblab has driven innovation through data in all aspects of professional football. Thanks to a transversal model, its database collects and models statistics in all directions. From converting matches and videos into bespoke data for training academies to developing cutting-edge technology, helping clubs, federations and representative agencies in talent scouting and transfer markets. Driblab’s smart data is used by clubs all over the world, with success stories such as Dinamo Zagreb, Real Betis and Girondins Bordeaux among others. Here you can find out more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Alejandro Arroyo
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