The first 20 minutes
The first 20 minutes looked sluggish from an Arsenal perspective but the overall stats were pretty even: both teams tried 118 passes; pass accuracy was even with 98 completed passes for Arsenal and 102 for Southampton; Arsenal had 150 touches, Southampton had 154; and Southampton even had more turnovers with 6 to Arsenal’s 4.
But the problem arose in the final third. While Arsenal made the same number of overall passes, Southampton got more joy in the Arsenal final third with 37 passes compared to Arsenal’s 25. Southampton still struggled to capitalize on all of that possession until the referee gifted them a free kick on the edge of the box for a dive by Nathan Redmond. They were lucky on the goal with Cech awarded an Own Goal after getting a finger to the shot but only enough to push it off the bar. For those keeping track, Cech had his error rescinded in the Liverpool match.
Most of that dominance was down to Tadic and the Southampton right back, Soares, who combined for 18 of the 37 final third passes in that 20 minutes. Soares was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s marker and led all players in that period with 10 passes in the Arsenal final third. He only made one tackle in the game (total) and gave up a foul in that first 20 minutes.
Over the next 26 minutes (minute 21-45+2) Arsenal absolutely dominated the match: 258-171 touches; 191-125 passes; 11-3 dribbles; 76-31 final third passes; 4-2 shots; and one amazing bicycle kick goal by Koscielny.
The Gunners built on that dominance until Shane Long came on. Long took more shots than any other player (5), got more shots on target than any other player (3), and got both of Southampton’s Big Chances (1 saved, 1 missed).
Cazorla is everywhere, Cazorla is everything
Cazorla dominated that second period and pretty much everything from the 21st minute onward. He finished the match with 109 touches, tied with new center back Mustafi. He was also second on the team in passes with 74/80 (Mustafi was first with 85/96), was second in attacking third passes with 24/29 (Özil was first with 36/42), created the second most chances with 3 (Özil had 4), won more dribbles than any other player with 4/6, scored the winning goal after being iced out by every Southampton player on the pitch, and even had a clearance at the end of the match.
Cazorla also created Arsenal’s only (non-penalty) Big Chance of the game, that curling cross to Giroud for the header that flashed just wide. Have I ever told you my favorite number is 19?
Monreal tested, passes A-Levels
Monreal was under aa great deal of pressure in the first 20 minutes, no thanks to his partner Ox’s lack of defensive support, but Monreal ended the match with the top defensive numbers of any player.
This is actually a common occurance: when you see a player with a lot of tackles, interceptions, clearances, and the like, the chances are that he was targeted by the opposition as a weak link. The trick then is to see how well he responded. In this case Monreal passed with A-Levels.
He led all players with 12 ball recoveries, led all Arsenal players with 3/4 tackles (Coquelin was 3/5), led Arsenal with 6 interceptions, and only committed the one foul. Which as we have discussed wasn’t actually a foul.
And still had enough to get forward! He was 3rd in final third passes (16/17), created a shot for his teammate, and won a corner with a well drilled shot in the second half.
Romeu Romeu wherefore art thou!
Special mention to Romeu on Southampton who I bet you didn’t even notice. All he did was lead Southampton in passing with 50/56, led all players with 4/5 dribbles, led all players with 14 ball recoveries, led all players with 5/9 tackles, led all players with 7 interceptions, led all players with 2 blocked shots, and somehow didn’t commit a single foul.
If he keeps up with those types of performances Chelsea might want to buy him (back) for 5X what they just sold him for.
Arsenal have now had three penalties in the first four games. Last season Arsenal were awarded two penalties in 38 matches. And while this is great for the start of the season I’m torn about these new rules. On the one hand, Arsenal have won three penalties. On the other hand I just know that this light touch stuff means that Arsenal will have a lot of penalties called against them.
I think I agree with Lee Dixon and I’m not sure I like this new rule. Dixon pointed out that basically, the new interpretation gives attacking players every reason to pull shirts on defenders. The attacking player potentially gets an advantage if his shirt pulling is missed, and the worst punishment is a turnover. If the defender tries to get equal with the attacker, he could give up a penalty.
All stats from Opta