Xhaka led Arsenal with 81 passes in this match, created Arsenal’s only assist in this game, and he continues to impress with the ball at feet.
Xhaka is second in the League in overall passes and first in the League in passes in the opposition half with 1604. He has only played the ball in his own half 927 times this season meaning 63% of his passing is in the opposition half. Kevin de Bruyne is second in the League in passes in his own half with 1602 but de Bruyne has created more big chances than any player in the League with 21 while Xhaka has created just 4 big chances. Xhaka is also 2nd among all non-goalkeepers with 173 accurate long balls.
Those are the bulk numbers and probably to be expected since Xhaka has played more minutes than only a handful of outfielders. If we switch to per90 measures, Silva is top in passes in the opposition half with 57.0 per90, Ozil is 2nd with 52.2, and Xhaka averages a respectable 6th with 48.2.
Ozil leads the League in final third passes per 90 with 35.1 and again, Xhaka comes in 6th with 23.1. Ozil is also 2nd in the League in key passes and 9th in assists (1 behind Mkhitaryan) with 8.
Xhaka’s passing are an important part of Arsenal’s attack and the team is configured to maximize his passing. Xhaka got another assist today bringing his total to 7, just one less than Christian Eriksen who is lauded as the best midfielder who ever played football.
To accomodate Xhaka’s deep position, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was deployed in that strange position ahead of Xhaka where Wenger used to play Coquelin. Maitland-Niles had a lot fewer touches and passes than Xhaka, but he did have that lovely backheel pass for Mkhitaryan’s shot in the 19th minute which fizzed just wide.
Maitland-Niles completed 92% of his passes today, made 2/3 tackles, had a key pass, and completed two of three dribbles. Reiss Nelson made 95% of his passes, though he didn’t do much else. And Mavropanos also completed 92% of his passes. Mavropanos also completed a dribble which is weird and I don’t remember seeing that.
One thing that Maitland-Niles needs to still cut out of his game are those turnovers. He was dispossessed twice today, one right on the edge of his own 18 yard box (by Pogba). That’s not going to win the player many Arsenal supporters.
As for defending, Xhaka made the most tackles of any Arsenal player, winning 4/5 – that was despite his spectacularly blown tackle on Pogba which led to the opening goal. He also lost his only aerial duel to Fellaini for the second goal.
You can see why Mourinho has problems with Pogba. On the one hand, he attempted the most dribbles of any player with 7, he also scored the opening goal, and created one chance. But he lost the ball 7 times, failed to win 3/5 tackles, and only completed 54/64 passes. It would be funny if he was an Arsenal player. I bet fans would be all over him about his failings. Kind of the way that people criticize Ramsey. I think of the two as very similar players in some respects (not dribbling) but in the fact that they are both attack-minded players.
I kind of wish Arsene could have gotten a draw today but Checkbook Tony Pulis pulled the ace out of pack and played Marouane Fellaini as a center forward. Fellaini had 18 touches, two were headers for shots and he scored the winner.
My favorite moment of the day was when Mhki scored – that’s his 6th goal scored or assisted in 587 Premier League minutes, which is a goal or assist every 88 minutes (compare to Alexis who had one good shot saved by Bellerin and who has scored or assisted a goal every 174 minutes for United). But my second favorite moment was when the away fans were singing “we want you to stay” to Mourinho. I hope they spend another billion dollars on that United team.
All around a respectable performance by an Arsenal team with nothing to win/lose and with a number of young players.
Sources: Sofascore.com, Whoscored.com