Saka warming into the season

The g/a merchants are still piping up about Saka’s “slow” start to the season.

Obsessed by goals and assists, they seem to be unable to see beyond these to establish how a player has influenced a game.

The criticism gets to a point where you actually have to wonder whether these fellas watch the game. Or do they just check the goal scorers at full time.

Against Aston Villa, Saka missed a golden chance; it came at him fast, on the half volley and weaker foot. But he still should have finished it. And it is that moment that his detractors seemed to focus on.

Yet Saka was electric against Aston Villa. Always a threat. Always committing opponents. Always trying to make something happen. And that was shown in his WhoScored rating – the websites algorithm had Saka as the 2nd best player on the pitch (behind Gabriel Martinelli).

Now whether you beleive algorithm driven ratings like WhoScored is another debate.

They are based on lots of different statistics being filtered in to come up with a rating. In comparison to the “eye test” most news outlets use where a journalist gives his rating.

The eye test always leads to journalistic bias – often over-scoring players the journo liked and under-scoring players they did not. It also leads to players get high scores for single moments (Harry Kane could have a stinker for 89 minutes, score a goal, then get given MOTM).

Meanwhile algorithm scores are objective. But they are also flawed if a player “games the system” – an example is a player that gets 100 passes at 100% pass completion could get a high rating even though those passes were 5-yard sideways and backwards.

So against Villa, WhoScored had Saka as the 2nd Arsenal best player on the pitch. Considering many claim he has had a slow start, how do they rank him in the opening 5 games:

Villa – 7.38/10 (2nd best)
Fulham – 7.21 (3rd)
Bournemouth – 7.14 (4th)
Leicester – 6.89 (5th)
Crystal Palace – 6.65 (11th)

It is interesting that the WhoScored ratings actually agree with my eye test (as someone who has been home and away this season).

It shows a slow start but a gradual improvement as the season has progressed; each game his rating has gone up and each game he has been a more influential player than the game before.

This is his toughest season to date as he is no longer a “young player with potential.” Opponents see him as a huge threat and that leads him to being double and tripple marked.

But that frees up space on the other side of the pitch – and space that Martinelli is taking advantage of.

With 3 goals in his opening 5 games, Martinelli has been our best player this season.

At some point opponents are going to see him as the threat he is. That will lead them to marking him more aggressively; which in turn will free uo more space on our right hand side.

With such a balanced attack, teams do not know which side to overload defensively. And that is a good place to be.

Whilst Saka might not be getting the headlines (although he did get the assist for the winner on Wednesday), he is returning to his best. Expect him to get double figures in goals again.



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