26 Minutes of Panic
B.M.R. = Before Mertesacker Red
A.M.R. = After Mertesacker Red
This chart is for Arsenal:
|Passes in final 1/3||90||2|
|Passes Forward Att.||197||32|
|Passes Forward Suc.||151||7|
4.5 – Arsenal successful passes per minute B.M.R.
0.65 – Arsenal successful passes per minute A.M.R.
1.29 – Arsenal successful passes in the West Brom final third per minute B.M.R.
0.08 – Arsenal successful passes in the West Brom final third per minute A.M.R.
3.2 – WBA successful passes per minute B.M.R.
5.1 – WBA successful passes per minute A.M.R.
Giroud really struggled in the game and his struggles were exacerbated by the Mertesacker sending off. He only managed 12/22 total passes on the day and just 1/4 passes in the final 26 minutes. Moreover he led all players with a whopping 5 turnovers.
It didn’t help at all that he had no one to pass to and that Fabianski’s service in the final 26 minutes was very poor: only connecting on 5/13 kicks in pucker time. Prior to that, Fabianski was 19/31 which isn’t particularly poor for a keeper, though not at the rate that Szczesny offers (Szcz is a 70% passer, Lukas averages 51%). Mertesacker is Arsenal’s second most reliable passer (92%) and provides the keeper with an outlet when the forwards are covered. Arsenal failed to adjust to Mertesacker’s red card in that regard, Vermaelen was 0/3 passing and Lukas didn’t attempt a single short pass in the entire second half. The result is an Arsenal passing graphic that looks remarkably like Stoke City were playing for the last 26 minutes:
It also didn’t help that Giroud took that shot in the last few minutes, that kind of decision making infuriates Arsene Wenger who nearly popped out of his jacket when he saw Giroud’s hopeful poke in the 95th minute.
The midfield attack of Arsenal really sparkled in that first 65 minutes or so. Gervinho started slow with a few turnovers (2) and some rather loose dribbling (1/4) but in the end he was nearly perfect in all his passes, created two shots for teammates, and had an assist. Gervinho also had an important tackle, stripping the ball, and starting the counter which may have fizzled but was still very promising.
Rosicky, of course, was on the end of the Gervinho shot/assist and left the keeper flat-footed with a thumping header. That was his first goal for Arsenal since the loss to Olympiakos in December and his first League goal since the 5-2 win over Spurms. Today’s two goals was also Rosicky’s first brace for Arsenal since his very first season when Arsenal beat Liverpool 3-1 in the FA Cup.
Defensively, Rosicky didn’t have any tackles or interceptions and instead committed 4 fouls, but he did have a goal saving block off the line. I’ll take that! Oh and since I know you’ll ask, Rosicky didn’t have a single successful dribble (0/3), a single successful cross (0/1), was 85% passing, wasn’t particularly forward passing (17/40). But he did carry the ball forward nearly every time and that isn’t measure, YET!
West Brom were distinctly average until they unleashed the Lukaku in the 62′. Romelu became the focal point of the Albion attack and along with Ridgewell tortured Sagna and Gervinho down the right with their size, pace, and trickery. Lukaku tied all players with 4 shots and probably should have had a goal but just didn’t put enough curl on it. As you can see from the West Brom passing chart below they changed focus in the second half to concentrate on Sagna/Gervinho:
I also want to mention that Romelu Lukaku is just 19 years old.
And finally, those two graphics above illustrate just how much pressure Arsenal sustained in that last 26 minutes of football. Arsenal only managed 2/14 passes in the Albion final third in the same time that Albion worked in 46/53 in our final third. Worse still, one of the two passes Arsenal completed was that hopeful punt to Giroud in the 95th minute.
From all that possession, West Brom managed 7 shots in those last 26 minutes but none of them were on frame all going slightly over, wide, or just shy of the mark. West Brom will probably feel a bit hard done by and wondering what might have been had any of their last 7 shots been on target but I can’t help feeling like “yeah, well, who cares, Arsenal won!”