Arsenal blitzed FC Basel for a 2-0 win in Champions League group stage play. The 2-0 score was a bit flattering to the Swiss side as the Gunners ran rampant in the best 45 minute display of the short season so far.
You only need to know a few numbers to see how dominant Arsenal were in the first half. Arsenal completed 335 passes in the first half and 345 in the second but Arsenal completed 115 passes in the Basel final third in the first half and just 54 in the second. Even more amazing is the fact that Arsenal created 10 chances in the first half, compared to 4 in the second and the Gunners created 3 of their 4 big chances in the first half. The 10-2 in the headline refers to the fact that Arsenal created 10 chances in the first half, compared to Basel’s 2.
The star performer of that first half and my man of the match was… Alexis Sanchez. He created four chances for his teammates, all in that first half, and they were 1) the assist for Walcott’s header (big chance), the shot for Bellerin (distance, blocked), the through ball for Walcott’s second, and the cross for Ozil which he crashed against the outside of the goal from close range.
In addition to creating four chances for his teammates, he also took four shots. That means of the 19 shots Arsenal took in this game, Alexis created or took 8. All four of his shots were from in close and the Chilean might feel a bit aggrieved that he didn’t walk away with a goal for himself. He had a shot in the 6 yard box saved, he had a big chances brilliantly saved (the chip), he missed a wide open big chance and he had another shot from inside 12 yards saved.
This was also another unnoticed gem of a performance from Santi Cazorla. He led all players in… passes with 85, dribbles 4/4, crosses 2/8, corners 2/5, ball recoveries 11, and tackles 4/6. He was also second with final third passes, second with 3 shots created, and he gathered the pre-assist for Arsenal’s first goal.
Mustafi was Arsenal’s defensive rock in this match winning 5/6 aerial duels, making 4/4 clearances and 3/3 headed clearances, all of which led both teams. He also had 3 interceptions and made 4/4 tackles.
One thing that all Gooners want to know is whether Arsenal have “turned a corner” this season. That’s one of those things that pundits love to say (myself included!) but something which is difficult to call with just 9 games. However, if you look at Arsenal’s first four games compared to the last four (excluding the Forest match which I don’t have stats for) then there is some evidence for the idea that Arsenal have some momentum.
Big Chances are an easy measure of how much a team is dominating (after goals, of course) and are my favorite quick glance stat. In the first four matches, Arsenal only created 6 big chances compared to the opposition creating 5. Moreover, 3 of those big chances in the first four matches were penalties. However, in the last four matches, Arsenal have created 11 big chances to the opposition’s 8. And since the match against PSG, which was the low point of the season so far, Arsenal have dominated 11-3 (yes, your math is correct, PSG created 5 big chances against Arsenal). Moreover, Arsenal have only been awarded one penalty in those matches, which is the same number as the opposition. It’s not clear Arsenal have turned any corners but they are certainly dominating their opposition over the last few weeks.
But you knew that.
And finally, let’s not even start with the Xhaka-Cazorla partnership stats just yet. We have to see a few games first.
All stats Opta via WhoScored and the 442 App