Thursday, August 11, 2022

Arsenal 3-1 Köln: By the Numbers

3 – Number of times Rob Holding was dispossessed in the first half (tied with Walcott and Alexis Sanchez).

Walcott and Sanchez finished the match having lost possession 6 times each but it was Rob Holding’s three that probably stood out the most. The first was in the 2nd minute when he was tackled by Bittencourt. Holding had to foul the little man to stop Köln from going on to score on a counter. The third was in the 39th minute when he lost possession way up the pitch and it took a sprint by Elneny to get back and cover his space. Holding also committed 3 fouls in the first half and only made 1 tackle.

While he was loose with the ball it was mostly because he was attacking. Holding had one of his best passing games of his time at Arsenal. He completed 92% of 51 passes, leading Arsenal at half-time in total passes attempted. Mertesacker led all players with 46 (of 49) passes forward and while Holding only had 30 forward passes (of 51) he made 8 forward passes into the Köln final third, more than any player except Alexis who had 17. Remember, those numbers are all in the first half! Alexis finished the game attempting 30 (of his 79) passes as forward passes in the Köln final third. More than any other player and the same as Iwobi and Elneny combined.

55 – Touches by Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the second half

AMN (abbreviated only because his name is so long) only had 33 touches in a largely anonymous first half where he was played out of position as a wing back. In that first half he didn’t make a tackle or interception and only had the one blocked shot. AMN did play a part in the Arsenal attack in that first half, making 9 passes in the Köln final third, including one sweet cross for a shot (key pass).

But in the 2nd half, Wenger moved him to the middle of the park and AMN really showed us when he can do. Besides the tackling and interceptions (1 and 2 each) 46 of his second half touches were passes and by bringing him into the middle of the park, he gave Elneny someone to play off of. Elneny only had 34 passes in the first half but 68 passes in the second. And if you’re looking at this from a purely passing standpoint, the midfield duo of Iwobi and Elneny had 65 passes in the first half while the duo of Elneny and AMN had 112 in the second half. Arsenal increased the number of accurate passes in the second half from 300 to 360 and those extra 60 accurate passes were entirely down to these two players.

I want to be very clear here: I am not saying that Iwobi is bad, that AMN is good, or anything as a knock on Ramsey. I’m also not saying that Elneny and AMN should be the starting center pair for the rest of eternity or even that they should get a look in every time the Arsenal midfield starts to look poor – the change in the attack and defense was nominal in terms of stats. But what we saw work well today was having two center mids who were more reserved and looked to build play patiently rather than going forward as soon as possible and as often as possible. Any one of Arsenal’s highly talented midfielders can do that.

I am also NOT saying that midfielders should never make runs – AMN nearly scored what would have been the goal of the season (so far) by making a run – but it’s important to note that the build-up to that shot was methodical. He didn’t just run up and stand next to Giroud after kickoff: Arsenal worked the ball and when AMN saw some space, he claimed it, then followed a string of nice little passes, made a dribble, and nearly had a great attempt on goal.

11 – Number of goals Alexis has scored from outside the box for Arsenal in Premier League or European play

Alexis’ goal tonight was something of a collector’s item: a goal from outside the 18 yard box from open play. Alexis has scored 11 goals for Arsenal from outside the box in European and domestic League play but five of those were from direct free kicks. The other six were from open play. One of them tonight!

2 – Number of goals Kolasinac has scored for Arsenal already

1 more goal and Kolasinac will tie with Monreal for goals scored for Arsenal and if he gets four more goals he’ll draw level with Kieran Gibbs.

Take Kolasinac’s defensive numbers (just 1 interception this season) with a grain of salt: Wenger’s back 3 system isn’t demanding as much defense from his fullbacks as his old 433 did. Even Bellerin’s interceptions numbers are about half of what they were last year.

12 – Passes completed by Jack Wilshere (of 14)

Other things Jack did: 2 dribbles (both successful) and 1 dispossessed. That was it in terms of Opta stats that I can lay my hands on! He also had that dummy, which he may have taken as a shot had he been in better form.

2 – Number of days it’s probably going to take me to figure out whether or not Arsenal’s back three has done anything good or bad for Arsenal’s defense and offense, so… meet on Saturday over at the blog?


Sources:, my database


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3-1 The scoreline.
31 Kolasinac.


One Arsene Wenger


Holding and Iwobi need to keep getting minutes to get themselves some form. Hoping that they continue to start in Europa and the cups.

ElNeny was solid tonight and in the second half seemed slightly more incisive with his passing but it was AMN who looked most impressive. With his emergence and Jack’s return, perhaps there may be internal solutions to our central midfield?

Clock-End Mike

Agreed. Holding is still young, has bad games now and again (like yesterday), and some very good ones (like against Chelsea and Costa). He’s definitely one for the future, and the best thing for him will be to play again against Doncaster next week. I remember Tony Adams having nightmare days when he was young, too.

Faisal Narrage

It’s getting to the point where if Holding starts to look bad and doesn’t make it, then surely there’s something wrong at Arsenal and our coaching and development of CBs.

Like, who was the last youth prospect CB to make it?
That dude now at Swansea
Hayden now at Newcastle (though primarily a DM)

If Holding goes the same way, that’s a worry.


That’s interesting actually. Maybe our fan base is too hyper critical due to years of frustration and it hinders the confidence of young players. They’re afraid to make a mistake.
Let’s just support arsenal this season , every player and every game. I promise there would be a single player on the squad who will do anything purposely to hurt this team. They all want to win,more than any of us. No one makes it to the top level in any sport if they don’t try their best every game

Andy Mack

Not many CBs come up through the Academy at any of the big PL clubs now. It’s one of the positions where the player needs experience but top teams can’t risk an inexperienced player in most games. Like Chambers Holding is still very young.


I agree,holding and iwobi have both lost a little confidence but they will get it back.iwobi expecially can be managed better bc he’s a sensitive guy. He should get more games.
I wonder how much has ex has messed him up. Imagine your ex looks like her and after your break up she posts those pics day after day….

Carlos _ Santana

Good recovery in the second half.. Will give us a bit of a boost.. One step at a time

Carlos _ Santana

Anyone see what was on Seads shirt? Hopefully he’s not pulling a Bendtner and advertising for someone haha


It was a Schalke shirt, just to piss off Köln fans.


Was something in support to Schalke
Given the rivalry between Schalke and Koln

Cliff Bastin

No wonder he thunderblasted the volley so hard.


in memory of Lukas ‘Thor hammer’ podolski maybe?

Crash Fistfight

I thought Dortmund were Schalke’s big rival?


“Nordkurve” – a(n) (in)famous ultras sector of Schalke 04’s stadium.

Lord Bendnter

I thought he was trying to take off his jersey to show his shirt but because of his amazing athletic beast of a body he knew if he tried to pull of his jersey, his muscles would rip apart both his jersey and shirt much like the Hulk (not the footballer)


There are just fewer passing options for center backs with the back three. Holding is not a bad player. He is just too exposed in a system that requires the centerbacks to build up play, rather than having the midfielders do it. I think Arsene’s tactic of pushing as many people forward to avoid pressing is letting us down because those players become static while waiting for the ball and we end up with 4 players ( Centerbacks and Holding midfielder ) having to build up play without resorting to the long ball. Teams are calling Arsene’s bluff and asking… Read more »

Clock-End Mike

Good analysis. Thumbs up.


New columnist, Blogs?


IMO three at the back requires two central midfielders to receive the ball and pull players out from the walls put in place by the opposition, but mostly it is just one CM dropping back to receive the ball. It happened again today with Iwobi more in a ACM position than a CM. Changing position of ANM brought the right results because he was dropping back alot more and occassionally when Iwobi dropped back we were pulling Koln players out of their zones of comfort. It requires patience from the CM to remain in their zones more than darting forward… Read more »


There is totally a conflict of styles when we play both Ozil and Ramsey that needs to be sorted out. Ramsey’s roaming stifles the spaces Ozil uses to reach his full effectiveness. The number of times I see Ozil in between the lines and Ramsey nearly right on top if him is maddening. I do completely think Ramsey could be highly effective with more judicious run selection and more positional discipline a little deeper back. It would give more space for Ozil to drift and ghost around the park, better build-up with Xhaka, and a more stable base to move… Read more »


This and the league cup will hopefully be a good way to keep squad players fresh.
However should we progress to latter stages I don’t want to see any nostalgia within our team selection.
Just pick the best team and try and win the cup.
Have a sneaky feeling about the league cup this season, we’re well overdue.
If the stars align in the Europa as well?
A league cup+Europa double would be a decent season.

Faisal Narrage

This article WAS a potshot at Ramsey, and the author should not have to defend himself just because people get their knickers in a twist anytime Ramsey gets questioned. Elneny and AMN may not be as good as Ramsey and Xhaka individually, but what the author is saying is that the sum of a balanced team will always be more than shoe-horning two brilliant individuals who don’t work well. Sure it’s “just Koln”, but not like we didn’t see the same midfield flaws against Bournemouth, we just didn’t get punished for it. It’s just nice to see a midfield actually… Read more »


Wenger is doing his usual playing player out of position with Iwobi. He would have a better chance to show his skills and building his confidence if he started playing him in the two wide forward positions or no.10 if he changes formation. Part of a midfield two just doesnt suit him. AMN is clearly more suited


I know AW plays players out of positions at times lol but in EL this was a second team. of course players are going to play out of position. A guy like AMN I would think is just happy that he is good enough in the eyes of AW to get into the the lineup even out of position. Instead of pulling him after the half he moved him back to a normal position because he is highly thought of by AW.


I understand your point of players being thankful to get a game. But if these young players really have a future in the first team to compete with the starters they have to be played in positions in which they can showcase their skills. If he keeps playing AMN centrehalf, right wingback and left wingback he won’t make the first team. Iwobi especially needs to find his best form and the only way is to play him where he is at his best to build his confidence. In the Europa League and League Cup I would prioritise the positions of… Read more »


Wenger really isn’t convinced with the back three. The only thing it allows him is to play Kolasinac and Monreal in the same team, as neither deserves the bench.
A back four suits the team from an attacking point of view. Defensive midfielder needed in that system though. I Thought Elneny covered v well and had another good game

Clock-End Mike

Yes oddly, as showed with his masterly analysis, it was the attack, not the defence, that prospered when we went to a back three in the latter part of last season. It’s all a matter of having the right players in the right place, and playing as a team.


I hope we see a back 4 from the start against chelsea


A M-N is extremely versatile and can play many different roles including as a wing back on both sides as well as a RM and a CM. His best position is centre-midfielder but those of us who went to the open training in Sydney could see that Wenger was running him through crossing drills on both the left and the right hand side.


But Adams said he doesn’t coach so what you saw was fake. Because Adams is the best Manager/Coach in the world and knows everyting


TBF here AMN looked bad on the left side. He shouldn’t play the left side again unless last resort. lol


Thought El Neny was immense throughout. My man-of-the-match by a country mile.

Crash Fistfight

Yeah, I thought his covering back for the CBs was really good, especially in the first half when he was having to do more. I thought Bellerin did well on that front, as well.

The thing I was most impressed by was Maitland-Niles in midfield. He looked very assured, and a better passer than I had thought.

Nameless gunner

AMN didn’t run up and take a position next to Giroud 😀 Clear dig at Ramsey.. very true though.. Haaah


Would like to see more detailed stats on the 343 tbh, because it seems that often times we’re losing or drawing in that formation but then change to 4 at the back, leading to a recovery. That probably makes the 343 look better than it is


Great read and insightful as always


Any info on No of times Walcott was offside and any comparisons with his highest or worst performance in that regard?

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