Arsenal eeked out a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace to bounce back from the dreadful loss to West Ham on opening day. If it’s true that, as Wenger said, his team took West Ham for granted in the first match they suffered no such delusions against Crystaal Palace at Selhurst Park and right from the start showed intent and hustle on the pitch.
Looking at the team sheets Arsene started with a 4-2-3-1 lineup with Giroud in the lone striker role, Ozil supporting him, Ramsey right, and Alexis on the left. That’s how the team sheet looked, but the game looked nothing like that.
Ostensibly, Ramsey lined up as the right sided attacking midfielder but almost from the start he was seen playing centrally and interchanging with Ozil and Alexis on the left. His heat map shows that while he played all over the pitch, he got the majority of his touches in the forward left position.
Ramsey had a bit of a tough game: he misplaced 18 passes of his 78 attempts and those misplaced passes tend to frustrate supporters — especially those backheel passes, I counted four backheels, none of which came off. But all but four of his misplaced passes were “entry” passes into the Palace defense. Moreover, he created 4 chances for his teammates, three of which were deep into the 18 yard box.
Ramsey also had 4 shots, and his shot in the 6 yard box was a moment of genius and took a fantastic save from McCarthy.
The problem with Ramsey playing so far on the left is that Palace had open season on Bellerin. But much to his credit, Bellerin responded like a seasoned pro. Palace tried to play the ball to Zaha but it was difficult to get him the ball because he was figuratively in Bellerin’s pocket.
Zaha attempted 8 dribbles and only completed 2. Palace also ran Puncheon down Bellerin’s side and he completed just 2 of 5 dribbles. Meanwhile, Bellerin made 5 of 6 tackles and Coquelin helped out on that side as well, making 3/3 tackles over there. Ramsey did drop deep to defend down the right a few times and made 2/3 tackles in the right back position.
In fact, Arsenal had a much improved “ball winning” performance against Palace today than they did against West Ham, winning 27 tackles today versus 12 against West Ham. Arsenal attempted more tackles today as well, attempting 36 tackles today versus the 24 they attempted at home against West Ham. And if you do the math, Arsenal were much more efficient in the tackle today: winning 75% versus the 50% against West Ham.
For those of you who think there is a correlation between tackles (or interceptions) and opposition possession (there isn’t): West Ham tried 360 passes versus 377 passes by Palace. Passes don’t have anything to do with tackles but dribbles and tackles are related stats and Palace attempted 21 dribbles (9 successful) compared to the 18 West Ham tried (12 successful).
What I’m saying here is that Arsenal played a very similar opponent to West Ham but put in a much better performance in terms of hustle. The other thing the stats prove to me is that Arsenal were much sharper against Palace than they were against West Ham. So, it’s a combination of hustle and sharpness that won today.
Arsenal top tacklers
I’m still not sure what to think of ball recoveries but I suspect that they might be more important measure of a defensive midfielder than tackles.
This is where a player wins back the ball when it has gone loose or where the ball has been played directly to him.
For example, in the West Ham match, when Coquelin won the ball and gave it to Ox that wasn’t coded as a tackle, it was a ball recovery. Ball recoveries, I suspect, also indicate a player who understands his positioning. He’s making himself a shield, collecting the errant passes, and cleaning up loose balls. Interestingly, Arsenal’s top three players in terms of recoveries were Cazorla and Coquelin with 11 each and Monreal with 10. Against West Ham, Cazorla and Coquelin only had 8 ball recoveries each and they also combined to make just 2/6 tackles.
I’ll be watching this all season.
You know what? Alexis gets nothing for that goal. Well, he gets an aerial duel won and a shot missed but he doesn’t get a goal or an assist even though that goal was entirely created by him. Seems a bit unfair. Maybe there should be a stat called “own goal created”?
Ozil perfect game
Ozil was 54/55 passing today and his only misplaced pass was an attempted through ball into the 18 yard box. Before you get all “Denilson” on me about passing percentages he also created 5 chances, all from open play. That’s an amazing performance against a team like Palace who packed in their defense.
All stats from WhoScored.com and the 442 StatsZone app today