Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: By the Numbers

Arsenal Passing v. Napoli

Arsenal dominated Napoli last night through possession using our passing game.

Wenger’s men outpassed Benitez team 671-385. That’s 1.7 passes for Arsenal for every Napoli pass. This is in contrast to the Swansea match where Arsenal conceded possession and were outpassed 662-472: 1.4 Swansea passes per Arsenal pass.

But where Arsenal really dominated Napoli in terms of passing was in the final third, outpassing the Italian side 165-76 , over 2 to 1 attacking superiority. Again, this is in contrast to the Swansea match where the Swans actually dominated there as well but only just with a 183-127 superiority.

Moreover, the top passing players in the Napoli match were Mertesacker and Flamini, whereas against Swansea it was Ramsey and Flamini.

That means that when Arsenal were passing the ball last night, it was more to retain possession, while against Swansea we were more attack oriented with our passing. This is happening because Arsenal tend to shut up shop now after getting the first goal, becoming less adventurous once we have the lead.

For example, once Arsenal scored the second goal in Wales, Wenger’s boys basically said to Swansea “beat us”. In that final 30 minutes Swansea attempted 229 passes and Arsenal 108. Arsenal also allowed Swansea 92 passes in our final third compared to the 34 passes we attempted. You might say “well, that’s Swansea, they are a good passing team.” Yes, correct, but what if the same pattern shows up against against Stoke City? There Arsenal actually conceded possession again after scoring the second goal and Stoke City — you know:  long ball, throw-ins, corners, free-kicks Stoke City? — outpassed Arsenal 396-284 in the field and 107-68 in the final third.

This throws up an interesting wrinkle to the normal Arsenal narrative. What kind of team is Arsenal? For years we were a possession-as-defense team, like we saw last night, but now we are able to switch things up. Once Arsenal take the lead, which they are doing earlier than ever before, they are shutting up shop. And it’s working.

Defense wins championships

Again, another cracking defensive performance from Aaron Ramsey, Matty Flamini, and the entire Arsenal team to shut out Napoli and limit them to just the one shot on goal. Arsenal’s possession-as-defense approach meant that while the Italian team enjoyed a 13 to 9 shot superiority, Arsenal took 7 shots in the Napoli box and they had just three in our box, two of which were blocked (both blocks were by Koscielny). Napoli took more shots but they were speculative at best.

And when Napoli had the ball, Arsenal showed grit and tried to win possession back, matching the Italians 24 to 28 tackles attempted and led by Aaron Ramsey in that department.

Most of you probably remember that Ramsey is leading the Premier League in tackles per game with 5.5 and that he’s tackling at almost a 90% rate. Numerically, he’s made 29 of the 33 tackles he’s attempted.

To put that in context, Liverpool’s Lucas is the second leading tackler in the League, having attempted 30 tackles. But he’s only been successful 20 times for a 67% rate. Normally, you see players tackling at the Lucas rate when they attempt a lot of tackles and at the Ramsey rate when they attempt fewer. It’s very rare to find a midfielder who both tackles a lot and who completes a lot of tackles.

Again, Ramsey led Arsenal in tackles last night, winning 4/6 to Flamini’s 3/4 but interestingly when both men attempted to tackle down the right side, they struggled. Hamsick, Insigne, and Zuniga had their way with Arsenal on the Napoli left (Arsenal’s right) and all of Arsenal’s missed tackles were down that side, something Benitez will look to exploit next time no doubt.



Despite losing out on all those tackles, Arsenal only gave away two fouls in the final third and Napoli won just three corners. That helped with the clean sheet because it limited the Napoli set plays, which is how they scored both goals in their game against Dortmund.

I have no doubt that Arsenal are a more resolute defensive team than they were at times last year but whether they can continue this marvelous streak is up for debate with some folks famously predicting that Arsenal will regress to the mean. And I can sort of see why they say that.

In the last 21 matches of both Champions League and Premier League play (going back to Bayern), Arsenal have only allowed 13 goals and just 3 of those goals were allowed in the first half’s of those matches.

All totaled, the opposition are scoring on about 5% of their total shots. That tops even the 2003/2004 Invincibles side who kept the opposition to an 8% conversion rate and the 2007/2008 team of nearly-wons who kept their opposition to about 9% conversion.

If we compare that to the previous 21 matches of League play, Arsenal allowed 27 goals (with a whopping 16 in the first half’s of games) and an opposition conversion rate of around 13%. And historically, Wenger’s teams average 11% conversion. So, you can see why people worry.

We are going to have to leave this at that for right now, I have a lot more to say about this but in a much longer and specific article on the topic.

Ö to, Ö to, Ö to be a… Goonah!

Against Napoli, it was Flamini and Özil who led all players with 94 touches each. That symmetry between the utilitarian Flamini and the flamboyant Özil is interesting.

On the one hand you had Flamini’s 94 touches which were all about keeping possession – he only had three “bad” passes all game, one long diagonal, one through, and the one weird pass where it looked like he was trying to play Ramsey in in the box but he over hit it. You also had Flamini winning the ball back in midfield – he led Arsenal in interceptions and was 3/4  in tackles, with just two fouls, both in the opposition half.

On the other hand, you had Özil’s 94 touches in which he created three goal-scoring opportunities, got an assist, and scored an amazing goal. It’s not as if Özil was wasteful with his touches either. He completed 91% of his passes (31/35 in the final third), only turned the ball over 3 total times, and drove at the opposition defense splitting defenders which was eventually how he got his assist (he was 1/5 dribbles, that’s a black mark).

And speaking of assists, that was Özil’s 4th Arsenal assist, taking his total to 4 assists and 1 goal in 5 appearances.

And as I have been saying, however, it’s not just Özil. Giroud scored his 6th goal of the season for Arsenal and he did so in what looked like trademark fashion, getting to the near post. In his pomp, Giroud is now scoring on 18% of his shots, which if he had done last season would have given him 26 goals, instead of the 17 he scored.

Meanwhile, Ramsey got his third assist of the season against Napoli to go along with his 8 goals haul so far this year. That’s 8 goals on 22 shots for a conversion of 36%. I don’t think 36% conversion is sustainable but I am game to find out!

In the end, this has been one of the best runs I’ve ever seen from Arsenal both defensively and offensively, and they capped it off last night with an emphatic win over the team that was supposed to give us the most trouble in this group stage. Kudos to Wenger and the boys for a superlative match and long may this form continue… even if it does mess with my numbers.


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The Handbrake

I think in the 2nd half we played with the handbrake on a little bit.

It’s how you power-slide to victory.


you are right… when you have got the same 15 players to play twice a week, you have got to save energy… But if we did not have all thise injuries, we would have had more squad rooation and players would be more refreshed and energetic plus there would have been more attcking options on the bench… so, in that case, when it was clear by the hour-mark that napoli aren’t offering any real attacking threat that we are not able to deal with, we would have thrown a couple more players forward on the counter-attck and would have had… Read more »

The Handbrake

RE: Regression. High as we are, it is early days. A long season lies ahead. And this team has its weaknesses. But. I’m not sure what they really are. The common one seems to be ‘squad depth’. Yet imo there’s a good depth to the team. Defender? Which one comes to sit? TV’s having to work to get a look-in. Striker? Look at Giroud. In Wenger’s words, it has to be the ‘right player’. Lets Giroud develop to greatness but gets to play too. It’s the ruddy Internationals we need to go away to get to rotating goodness. Still, right… Read more »

Bould's Eyeliner

I disagree – squad depth is still a significant weakness. Gnabry has done well to fill in at the moment for Walcott, but he is by far our best option on RW, and a very reliable output; even if he does not score, his pace keeps at least two defenders very committed on the opposing left side, and that’s a quality we can’t easily replace without the ox and his dribbling. As for Giroud, he needs to develop yes, but he can hardly play every game of the season. He nearly did last year, and you could see, especially with… Read more »

The Handbrake

I don’t disagree with you Bouldy’s Eyes.
But what I was getting at is our significant weakness is a significant issue to tackle.

Who do you get that is ‘right’ but keep the team happy all round as now and also let’s those who’re developing continue as they are?

The rest is true. These guys should be smart enough to learn from their mistakes and after Napoli, they’ve seen how high they can go if they wish.


@ Bould’s Eyeliner 1. “we are still somewhat vulnerable on set pieces” Either quote some numbers or refrain from making iffy assertions. 2. “there were several moments where Swansea truly looked threatening” Yes, of course, because it’s professional football and in the vast majority of games both sides will threaten at least on occasion. If your goal is for the opponents to *never* look threatening then you’ll be unsatisfied until you die. 3. “We are susceptible to giving away goals off of personal mistakes” Yes, just like every other team in all sports played on this planet, Arsenal sometimes make… Read more »

Bould's Eyeliner

@Jo regarding Set Pieces, we’ve been defending them, in numbers, but there have been numerous corners opposition have taken that, to me it seemed they were unlucky not to score on. That is what I meant. As for the threat Swansea posed, the reason why I highlighted it as opposed to other teams, is that they are a side that plays similarly to us, and in my opinion, looked the most dangerous opposition we have faced. I believe we played better against Napoli, and we also had Rosicky instead of Gnabry, but still I believe the way they played held… Read more »

Bould's Eyeliner

@The Handbrake

I don’t think it’s really a problem – we can rest/rotate players, we can pick those who are suitable and advantageous matches against particular teams, and we have healthy competition – everyone who will ‘grow’ will get playtime I’m sure…

Doesn’t hurt for our best players to not play every game of the season, in my opinion.

Clock End Mike

In reply to Bould’s Eyeliner: “Giroud … can hardly play every game of the season”. I’m trying to remember: We have often fielded younger “alternatives” (reserves or youth) in the League Cup competitions, but in the seasons when we had a full FA Cup run, and were often through 2 group stages (when there were two) in the Champions League, how many games did a striker play per season back when Arsenal were in their pomp? In both 2002/03 and 2003/04, for example, Thierry Henry appeared in 37 League games (ie, all but one); in the first of those two… Read more »

Bould's Eyeliner

I only mention resting Giroud because he appeared to be fatigued by the end of the last season, where he did play most of the games through the season.

Si in Galway

not sure we would have. wenger seems to be favouring this “win early, then lock it down” system, and it seems to be working. our players are used to having the ball and are naturally creative, but there does seem to be a noticeable disparity between the early (whole team playing to score) and late (a few front players foraying upfield when it makes sense) stages.


more like ‘power-glide’ to victory after a wonderful 1st half display…


II have to admit.. II was too young to witness The Invincibles or to even watch a live game of Arsenal at Highbury Park.. (very few but memory is dull).. All ii have is YouTube footage of Arsenal running riot on other teams at Highbury Park.. But what ii witnessed last night watching us rip apart Napoli at the Emirates was something special.. This game will always be in my memory. This game and the atmosphere of our stadium was something special.. Reminding older gunners of those good old days.. Our patience has finally paid off.. We really do have… Read more »


I started watching Arsenal when Overmars was signed. I am a boyhood Ajax fan and he was always my favourite player and since then I have been Gooner through and through. I can tell you though that the first half from last night is as close to what that invincible team did in their pomp as what you’re going to see. Enjoy it mate!


I spent my childhood watching the invincibles. I was a happy kid.

Bould's Eyeliner

Now you’re just bragging. But yes it was fun….

A N Other

There is massive parallels with the end of the 2001-2002 title winning season. In last 10-15 games we went ahead and then most of the time sat back and if needed scored on the counter. We had loads of 2-0 and 2-1s. I don’t think we lost any domestic game after Christmas that season.

Ryo Fan

Can’t wait to read about that specific article about regression to the mean, even if my layman’s understanding feels like I won’t like the implications. 🙂

2013-2014 = 2003-2004

Yes, Arsenal FC will regress the ‘mean’.

The ‘mean’ means the 1997-1998, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 seasons.


There will be no regression to mean – trust me, I have been in this team – I just couldn’t hold up because I was the one responsible for them regressing to the mean. Trust wenger!

3-1 to arsenal

1 – Gutted fool sleeping through the best arsenal display at emirates to date Despite a long day, I was determined to sacrifice sleep and watch the match “live” (yes, the game started at 2.45am in this part of the world). Set the alarm on my mobile at maximum volume and enough snooze repeats. Woke up I did but to my horror the time read 4.45am! Nearly threw the phone on the floor when I realised that I’ve set the day for the alarm as Tuesday when it should be Wednesday. Utterly gutted. Then I was ecstatic and on cloud… Read more »


believe it or not, the same happened to me last year at the 7-5 reading coc game. i was sick that time and just wanted to get an hour of rest before the game and woke up seconds after the final whistle… was the same did i should be happy or bite my arse feeling 🙂


Was watching the game on my phone and the battery died at 85th minute, whilst we were 4-2 down. was pissed off for the whole morning afterwards until my buddy read from a newspaper website that the game ended 7-5!


Yeah, I had to work during the game and didn’t have the time to even check on the liveblog, but I found a site online with the game and I enjoyed it at night.
I might have known the score and performances and everything, but it was sweet anyways. Here’s the link to it:

Clock End Mike

Yes, I wasn’t able to stay in for that 7-5 Reading match either. I got home from a business meeting, I thought, just in time to catch the score after what I thought would be a pretty safe result. Idly, I switched on the TV. The commentator (can’t remember who offhand) was screaming as, to my delight, I watched Walcott in the 95th minute level the score at 4-4! Hurriedly I threw off my coat, grabbed some refreshment, and settled down to try to fins out what had happened and enjoy an amazing half hour of extra time (including an… Read more »


Wenger said giroud will be quote, a “handful” for Napoli and i think the defenders experienced that first hand. ABSOLUTE BEAST IN THE AIR!

His hold up for first goal though???? exceptional!


Lol would u look at that, A helpless Higuain cant help his dire team….


Hig was only pondering how he’d suggest to his agent to engineer a move in Jan to london…


The 1st 15 minutes of the game i felt like it was 2004 all over again and started pissing myself… They were outstanding to say the least. MOTM was Giroud for me, he’s improved so much since last year and i’m very happy for Wenger too as he took some criticism when he bought another cheap french lad. Well done boys !!

Arsene's sidekick

Ok that picture was just fucking ace! Lol


Would like to see a comparison of the numbers when Arteta is in the team rather than Jack. I think having more depth at CM allows them to press teams higher up the pitch.


You know, when you type Ö Ö to be a gooner.. you’re basically saying uhh… uh to be a gooner. since ö which is part of my alphabet where I got my therapist licence.. I’m just tellling you to stop.


Grammar police about…..

jack jack jack

I don’t think we should worry too much about a regression in terms of opposition conversion rate. From the statistic itself it sounds like teams have just been anomalously bad at finishing against us – some kind of weird, freak run or opposition strikers freaking out when they get a sight of our goal. I think the actual reason why the conversion rate is so low is that teams are, as you say, generally forced to resort to speculative efforts, or have their shots blocked, or are off-balance and not in a great position. This is down to the quality… Read more »

Tony Joseph

Last night was indeed fun to watch, however I still think the first half against Newcastle in the 4-4 a few years ago was the most dominating performance I have seen since the invincibles.


I know it’s massively off topic, but yesterday we lost a great friend here in Ashford kent in a car crash. A true football legend in our town, playing for 6 different 6 a side teams and an 11 a side team. He was a huge gooner and a massive fan of Arseblog (he introduced myself and others to this community). Our whole town is greving and I wanted to share his name to the people he felt at one with, the Arsenal fans. He will be with me ever time I go to the Emirates. Danyl Ponsford, you will… Read more »


Dear 7am, I’d love to see an article about Arsenal’s streak of scoring the first goal over their brilliant run. (And, in general, statistics in the Premier League about winning percentage when a team gets the first goal.) Getting the first goal of the game just makes things so much easier. You can soak up pressure and hit on the counter-attack.

Over our 20-game or so run, we’ve come out switched on from the start both on defense and offense, and I think it’s been the foundation of our success.


Hi Joe sorry to hear the news – I’m a gunner in Rochester – thoughts with you guys at this sad time!


Hey 7am, just wanted to say I really enjoyed your ‘by the numbers’ in this new conversational format. Not to say I don’t enjoy the old format, I just found this much more engaging! Please keep it up.

jack jack jack

Agreed. That was a great blog 7am!


I thought it was a nice change, but the old format occupied a niche in the site. Moving to paragraphs may end up being too similar to the main blog?

Plus, I thought the numbers were a great way to set up some pretty funny one-liners. Mocking Tottenham on the basis of ‘hard facts’ (other than the finishing below us thing) is just so much more satisfying.


Great game.. great performance by Arsenal.. Just a couple of things I would like to point out.. I know how pundits go harping on on about this team lacking in depth, they color our perceptions, I don’t think its true and slightly exaggerated.. Our defense is great.. This is due to the fact that we don’t just defend with our defenders.. Ok so our defenders man to man maybe not the best in the league.. But they are good.. most importantly look at this midfield.. flamini, ramsey, arteta all great ball players with great engines and great tacklers.. rosicky, wilshire,… Read more »


We used to have a very strong starting 11 for the past few seasons but no depth when injury hits any one of the 11 but for the first time in many years, I stronly beleive


Cazorla Ozil Walcott
Podolski Rosicky Gnabry
Ox Zelalem Miyaichi

Ramsey Flamini
Wilshire Arteta

Gibbs Koscielny Mertesacker Sagna
Monreal Vermaelen x Jenkinson



*strongly believe we have adequate depth

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