Great performance by Arsenal today as they matched Man City punch for punch in a hard fought game. If we look at the typical “box score” it looks like Arsenal were outplayed. But if we heed Wenger’s advice from his interview published in the December Arsenal Magazine we can see in the stats that Arsenal simply played a different playing style and frustrated City every step along the way.
In a typical box score you see shots, possession, shots on goal, and goals. In this match Arsenal were outgunned 20-8, conceded 63% of the possession, but shots on goal were relatively similar 5 for Arsenal and 6 for Man City, and of course Arsenal won the game on a score of 2-1. Was it an unfair scoreline?
If we look at the other stats Arsenal matched City: both teams had 64 ball recoveries each, meaning that they both worked hard to recover loose balls and both teams made essentially the same number of tackles 21/33 for Arsenal and 19/30 for City. Arsenal led City 27-17 in interceptions which is actually typical for Arsenal* and the total number is above their season average (19.4) owing to City’s passing dominance.
Arsenal and City raised their levels in the second half and Arsenal made 14/19 tackles in the 2nd half and City made 13/21.
A few places where Arsenal dominated them were interesting:
10/15 – Offensive aerial duels won by Arsenal
7/8 – Offensive aerial duels won by Giroud
5/10 – Offensive aerial duels won by Man City
2/3 – Offensive aerial duels won by Wilfried
It’s difficult to say for certain that Pellegrini saw Arsenal setting up for the counter attack and told his team to foul on every break but that’s pretty clearly what the end result was. At the end of the match, Arsenal had committed 5 fouls and City had committed 16, the vast majority of them down the wings. I wasn’t in the locker room so I can’t say for sure, but all the fouls by City were in our half and down the wings. That sure looks like a pattern of cynical, deliberate fouling, to stop an Arsenal counter attack. The referee allowed it and City only got two cards.
Some people are never going to like what Ramsey does. Based on the way the NBCSports feed picked up on a guy screaming at Ramsey every time he went forward, I think it’s the going forward thing, and trust me the stats back that perception. But even if you don’t like his attack-minded play, the dude really busts a gut for Arsenal when he’s on the pitch, check it;
3 – Big Chances by Arsenal (City created 0)
3 – Big Changes by Arsenal in the second half
2 – Big Chances by Aaron Ramsey in the second half when Arsenal were already up 2-0
1 – Big Chance by Joel Campbell in the second half
3 – Shots by Ramsey in the match (led Arsenal)
0 – Shots by Ramsey in the first half
52 – Passes by Ramsey (led Arsenal)
9 – Final third passes by Ramsey, third best on Arsenal, behind Özil, and Koscielny (mostly long balls!)
1 – Chance created by Ramsey (a sideways pass just outside the center circle)
4 – Dribbles by Ramsey (led Arsenal)**
13 – Ball recoveries by Ramsey (led Arsenal)
1 – Tackle by Ramsey (Ozil led Arsenal with 4/5 tackles, Walcott was 2nd with 3/5)
4 – Interceptions by Ramsey (2nd on Arsenal behind Koscielny’s 7)
2 – Fouls committed by Ramsey (led Arsenal)
3 – Fouls suffered by Ramsey (led Arsenal)
0 – Chance that Ramsey was going to “sit deep” and “protect” for 90 minutes, though he sort of managed for 45!
100 – Percent chance that this is what makes people crazy about Ramsey’s playing style
15 – Özil assists this season, and you know why they put those little dots on top of his O? Because he’s the king of assists.
Source: 442 StatsZone App
*Wenger’s teams are almost always top of the League in possession and in interceptions, it’s his style of defense to try to win the ball on the pass. On another note, his center backs are typically top of the League in interceptions per game. Koscielny is 2nd in the League behind Leicester’s DM Kante.
**Dribbling out of tight spaces in midfield is Cazorla’s speciality and opens the game for Arsenal’s midfield. Ramsey had a number of successful dribbles which also occasionally frustrated in that they would end up as a turn over or bad pass