You’re probably wondering why the odd scoreline in the title. It’s not a score, its the number of shots each team took. Newcastle got just one shot and Arsenal had a whopping twenty two.
Newcastle’s center forward Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent off with a straight red in the 16th minute for a studs-up horror challenge on Francis Coquelin. It’s probably no surprise to learn that Newcastle’s only shot in the game came before Mitrovic took a bath. Bereft of their center forward, Newcastle sat in the low block and soaked up Arsenal’s pressure.
Make no mistake, Arsenal applied pressure, despite the sort of lackadaisical look to the match. Arsenal took 22 shots, which is six more than their season average last year and those shots weren’t all pot shots either.
Arsenal only took eight shots from outside the box today — that’s 36% of their total on the day and matches their season average from last year. But the Gunners also created five shots in prime positions — these are positions close to goal where Arsenal scored 33% of their attempts last season. And to make matters better/worse (depending on your disposition), they created created three big chances in this match — these are positions where a player is 1-v-1 with the keeper or has a shot which you would reasonably expect the player to score. In short, just like against Liverpool, West Ham, and Crystal Palace, Arsenal are creating excellent chances but simply not finishing them.
As I wrote about in the last match, Arsenal have the most shots in the Premier League this season. They have 83 shots now but critically have only scored one goal off those shots. The Gunners do have three goals this season but two of their goals have been scored by Arsenal’s likeanewsigning, Own Goal, and we don’t count own goals when we are doing our conversion stats.
There has been some speculation that perhaps Arsenal aren’t creating good chances because Coquelin. It’s an interesting theory but it’s not born out by the stats. As the chart below shows, Arsenal are creating more total chances per game than last season, the same number of big chances per game, and a lot more shots in prime positions per game than last season.
To illustrate the stats: Walcott had two of the best chances in the match — in the 8th minute Bellerin’s volleyed cross landed right at Walcott’s feet but Krul rushed out and saved and in the 32nd minute Alexis took a shot from distance which Krul parried right into the path of Walcott, only for the Arsenal man to shin the ball over the net. The third big chance of the game came in literally the last play of the game when Ramsey played the ball in to Giroud who was clean through on goal and elected to try to chip Krul rather than simply shoot into the lower corner.
Gooners have to hope that Wenger is right and goals come in clumps because as it stands, Arsenal are creating plenty of great chances but just not scoring them.
The Referee did Newcastle a favor with the red card
Arsenal started Walcott, Ox, and Alexis up front in a clear sign that he wanted to hit Newcastle on the counter. The scheme was working too, as Walcott looked dangerous in those first 15 minutes. But after Mitrovic’s red card Newcastle retreated into their keep and Arsenal were denied the space that those three speed merchants love.
It’s no surprise that Theo got the early big chance shot, Arsenal were pressing and won the ball back high up the pitch, which they switched to Bellerin and then to Theo for the chance. But after the red card, the game ground to a halt and Arsenal couldn’t unlock Newcastle’s gates.
Ox eventually helped to provide the winner, when his shot deflected off Coloccini for the own goal, but other than that (and the two big chances for Theo, one before ) all three players were easily handled by Newcastle’s back line.
If Walcott scores either of his two big chances we don’t say anything about his overall play or how little he was involved in the buildup but he didn’t score and his stats reveal a player who often frustrates with his lack of involvement. Yes, I know he makes runs (doesn’t that sound suspiciously like praise Harry Redknapp might give: “he runs around a lot”?) but in games like this, when the defense is tight, Walcott doesn’t offer anything to the team.
Here’s his entire stat line: 3 shots, 1 on target, 10/12 passing, 1/1 dribbles, 1 ball recovery, 1 foul drawn. Zero chances created for teammates and just 6 passes in midfield makes it look like Walcott is almost allergic to the ball. Walcott was only dispossessed once but he only had 17 touches… in 69 minutes. So weird.
For the record, I would point these stats out no matter if he scored or not. It illustrates how he plays not whether that is good or bad.
Ox had 47/53 passes, a tackle, an interception, five ball recoveries, and two shots but he also failed on both attempted dribbles, all three crosses, and didn’t create a single shot for his teammates. He was also dispossessed 5 times (led both teams) and had 6 unforced turnovers (led both teams). It was a night to forget for the Ox.
Man of the Match, easy, Alexis
It’s probably not fair to compare but Alexis’ numbers are always crazy good: 54/66 passes, 7 shots, 2 on target (one which created that big chance for Theo), 2/2 dribbles, 1/4 crosses, 2 chances created for teammates (one in the 6 yard box, should have been a goal), 5/6 tackles, 1 interception, and drew 5 fouls. He was dispossessed 2 times and had 2 unforced turnovers. The dude is a boss, I just hope he gets a break one day.
Some of you will disagree and pick Ramsey but if you go that route, I think you have to look at Cazorla as well.
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If it’s between those two I give it to Ramsey, he created that big chance at the end of the game and one of his key passes was to the penalty spot. That means he created two great scoring chances for his teammates while playing a key role.
It’s not always how much, but sometimes it’s also where and when. Coquelin had 11 ball recoveries for Arsenal (21% of the team’s total) and he also made 4/5 tackles on the day. But three of his tackles were on the sidelines, pushing the ball out for a throw-in, snuffing out the Newcastle counter attack, and giving his teammates time to breathe.
And he was 69/73 passing — 95%.
Prime shots data from my personal database all other stats from Opta via Whoscored.com or the 442 StatsZone app.