When I saw this match on the calendar I was excited. Fulham are a fun team, they play expansive attacking football and have a dodgy defense. They are like Arsenal, but with players that aren’t as good. It was the perfect recipe for goals.
This match lived up to my expectations in terms of good attacking football and was the perfect send off into an international break.
Fulham 1-5 Arsenal: By the graphs
Fulham 1-5 Arsenal: By the numbers
9 – The number of wins for Arsenal in a row total
6 – The number of wins for Arsenal in a row in the League
1 – The number of spots that Arsenal are above Spurs in the table
4 – The number of spots that Arsenal are above Manchester United in the table
1 – The number of “goal of the season” type goals that Arsenal scored in this match. Holy back heel that goal was amazing from start to finish. [I am not going to lie, I also loved the first goal from Alexandre Lacazette, he is so good at the receiving the ball with his back to goal, turning and shooting with power. That kind of goal is pure talent and I love it.]
15 – The number of days we get to enjoy this match and the great goals scored until the next match against Leicester City.
Today was a great day to watch football. The stats say that this was a close match, but I think that from watching it, it was far more comfortable than what it says. I have not always been happy with the performances that have accompanied the victories that Arsenal have gotten during this streak but today I am quite satisfied and can finally see some green shoots from Arsenal. It wasn’t perfect, the defense was still a bit suspect and it would be great to create more chances but now isn’t the time to dwell on those.
Having true wide players on the pitch is helpful
3 – Shots for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, led Arsenal.
5 – Touches in the box for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 2nd for Arsenal.
20 – Final 3rd touches for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, tied for most for Arsenal.
0.51 – Offense Value Added for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, led all players.
4 – Passes completed into the box by Alex Iwobi, led all players.
7 – Touches in the box for Alex Iwobi, led all players.
19 – Final 3rd touches for Alex Iwobi, 3rd most for Arsenal.
0.21 – Offense Value Added for Alex Iwobi, 2nd for Arsenal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi were both outstanding for Arsenal in this match. I think it is pretty fair to say that they aren’t at the same level as a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or a Mesut Özil but sometimes the ability to fit into the system is more important than pure talent. Today in the kind of 4-4-2 (4-2-2-2?) that Unai Emery Used both were a perfect fit for the wide creative spots to support the two strikers. I’d really like to see both players given an extended run in the team regardless if it is in this system or the more traditional 4-2-3-1 that Emery has used in the earlier League matches.
Arsenal’s hot finishing
78% – The percentage of shots that Arsenal had that were on target against Fulham
47% – The percentage of shots that Arsenal had that were on target this season. Arsenal lead the League in shooting accuracy.
11 – The value of Arsenal’s chance quality this season (xG) for all shots.
14.6 – The value of Arsenal’s chance quality this season (xG) based just on their shots on target.
7 – The amount Arsenal have over performed their chance quality (xG) for all shots this season. [Not including the own goal]
3.4 – The amount Arsenal have over performed their chance quality (xG) based just on their shots on target this season. [Not including the own goal]
I think expected goals has a lot of value, it is one of the reasons that I post it after each match in these breakdowns. That is not to say that it doesn’t have drawbacks or that it is perfect. What Arsenal have done this season with their shooting accuracy helps to explain some of how they have been able to over perform their expected goals (and expected points).
With expected goals, every shot is given a rating for the quality of the chance regardless of what happens after the ball is struck. What happens after the ball is struck is important and I believe that there is a skill in being able to shoot accurately (maybe not THIS accurately for the whole season), currently Arsenal are at the top of the list and are much higher than the long run league average of 30%.
Arsenal are a talented attacking team and could end up higher than League average but I am not sure that they will continue to get almost half of their shots on target for the season. With their attacking talent perhaps they will continue to be better than average at shooting accuracy and continue to do better than the naïve expected goals would expect.
Another alternative that I have considered while watching them this season is that there has been a distinct tactical shift in how they attack low block defenses. Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal passed teams to death in that dreaded “U” shape before trying to break through with a one-two passing combination or a through ball between the lines. Both of these are picked up pretty well by xG, but under Unai Emery there seems to be more of a focus on attacking the wide areas of the eighteen yard box and then working on cut backs, these shots are very good chances and I believe that they are underrated on the quality of the chances that they produce.
It will be interesting to watch if this is a hot period of finishing that cools off, or maybe a tactical shift that isn’t accounted for in the rating of the chances that Arsenal produce or perhaps even that Arsenal just have players that are much more accurate than average. This is something that will be revisited in this column as the season progresses.
Sources: Whoscored, Opta, My own database