Key stat: 982
Arsenal had 982 touches to Sunderland’s 445. Of those 982 touches Arsenal lost possession just 18 times and only had 80 misplaced passes. To give you some context, Barcelona beat Cordoba 8-0 on 2 May and they had just 902 touches that day.
Delving further into this category, Santi had more touches than I have ever seen a player have, 173. What’s even crazier is that Ramsey had 152. The two of them had 325 touches! That’s 3.6 touches per minute and remember the game loses a lot of minutes whenever there is a goal kick or something.
But in a sense, this is what you would expect. Both players were in the center mid role for Arsenal and recycled possession for the team. So, their touches, passes, and other less attacking stats are going to be high. As well their passing percentages, both were above 90%. Sunderland didn’t even really challenge those two when they had the ball. In fact, between them they had just 3 of Arsenal’s 18 turnovers.
But they also lacked a little bit of a cutting edge. 325 combined touches, 6 shots and 4 key passes. Considering that they were on the edge of the Sunderland box for the entire 90 minutes I would expect to see more offensive productivity.
One of the main problems for Arsenal today was the static play of Olivier Giroud. With Arsenal having so much possession in the Sunderland final third (428 of Arsenal’s 799 passes with in the Sunderland final third) I was shocked to see that Giroud had just 39 touches. That’s just 13 more touches than David Ospina. And 3 of Giroud’s touches came from kickoff and one was in defense. So, he really only had 9 more touches than Ospina. More than any other player today, Giroud looked dead on his feet and his touches numbers reflect that.
With Giroud doing his imitation of a tree almost all of the offense came from Ozil and Sanchez, who were number 3 and 4 on the touch list.
Ozil created 7 chances, all from open play. That last bit about the chances all being from open play is unusual. Against Chelsea, Ozil had the same number of touches as today against Sunderland, but only created 3 chances and one of them was from a corner. So, to see him have such a high number of chances created from open play is weird. I would also point out that three of the chances he created were deep in the Sunderland 18 yard box.
On the receiving end of many of those passes, Sanchez took 7 of Arsenal’s shots but only got 1 on target — a long distance effort which skidded tamely across the carpet. People are critical of Sanchez losing the ball but today he was only dispossessed 3 times. He did have 13 failed passes (and some were real stinkers) but all of his 13 failed passes were in the final 1/3. And he created what I felt was Arsenal’s best chance of the game, that through ball to Jack Wilshere which just got away from the England International and was smothered by Pantylemons.
Arsenal actually created a lot of chances in the 18 yard box and many of them on the corners of the 6 yard box. Think about Rosicky, Wilshere, Walcott, and Sanchez, they all had great shots on the corners of the 6 yard box. That’s a dangerous area for the opposition to concede a shot. But Sunderland let Arsenal take 10 shots from there. And what is most frustrating is that Arsenal didn’t even get many of them on target, just 2. I have to think if Arsenal had worked Pantylemons more than twice we would almost certainly be talking about a different result today.
But despite all of the possession, all of the shots, all the good places Arsenal took those shots from, Arsenal didn’t score and Arsenal’s profligacy saved Sunderland from relegation. Wouldn’t it be funny if Newcastle went down instead?
I suspect all the misses were down to tired legs. Arsenal have only been shut out six times this season. Three of them have come since the 2-1 win over Reading in the FA Cup. I wonder if the team put all their energy (mental and physical) getting into this cup final and have been gassed since?
I hope they have something left in the tank for the big day.
Special Edition: Walcott and Wilshere
One way to look at Walcott’s contributions is as almost the exact opposite of Sanchez or Ozil. Whereas those two players need a lot of the ball to make an impact, Walcott deals in tremendous economy of the ball. So, Walcott only had 21 touches in 28 minutes but he took three shots, got two on target. He also had the only big chance of the game for Arsenal.
He also went 10/11 passes, created a shot, and had 3/5 dribbles. All in the opposition final third. It looks like Walcott is slowly getting back to full speed. And a full speed Walcott is a great thing to have in an FA Cup final!
Wilshere got his first start since returning from Paddy McNair’s horrific tackle and he looked a bit rusty. He only completed 76% of his passes (second lowest, just about Giroud) and he missed a couple of shots because his movement was off, but he did have the two best through balls of the game. One to each side of the 6 yard box for a shot. He also had one of the best chances of the game, the aforementioned Alexis through ball.
Still it’s interesting that Arsenal’s two freshest legs were involved in both of Arsenal’s best chances.
OhhhhhhhSPINA! What a save from Ospina! That finger tip save from Fletcher’s chip saved Arsenal a point.
Stats today from Whoscored.com, the FourFourTwo stats zone app, and the 7amkickoff Index