Arsenal have won their 11th match in a row. For the third match in a row, Arsenal played well and for the second match in a row Arsenal have played at or below what expected goals would expect.
With their matches becoming tougher as the calendar switches from October into November and December having their performances improve to match the results makes me much more optimistic about keeping pace with the other top teams this season.
Sporting 0-1 Arsenal: By the graphs
xG Shot Placement xG Map
Simulated Match Results
Sporting 0-1 Arsenal: By the numbers
Elneny plays it safe
87% – Pass completion percentage for Mohamed Elneny (27/31), 6th highest percentage completed mark among Arsenal players.
97% – Percentage of Elneny’s passes classified as short.
12 – The average pass distance in meters for Elneny’s passes, the shortest average distance for Arsenal players who played more than 15 minutes.
22% – The percentage of Elneny’s passes that were classified as being aimed forward. 32% went backward and 42% were square.
0 – Passes into and within the box attempted, all of the other non-centerback outfield players who started the match attempted at least 1. (with everyone outside of Danny Welbeck attempting at least 3)
Elneny does a lot of things, but you would be on shaky statistical ground to say that he is adventurous with his passing. In this match, he played it incredibly safe with the passes that he attempted. It is possible that he was given specific instructions to keep things safe and let the other players work on creativity but in my opinion this is his normal way of operating and pushes him down the midfield depth chart for me.
Torreira frees Guendouzi to shine
50 vs 32 – Passes attempted by Guendouzi with Elneny and without
90 vs 96 – Pass completion percentage by Guendouzi with Elneny and without
0.07 vs 0.22 – Offensive Value Added by Guendouzi with Elneny and without
0.04 vs 0.15 – Passing Value Added by Guendouzi with Elneny and without
3 vs 1 – Ball recoveries by Guendouzi with Elneny and without (Torreira had 4 in his short stint on the pitch, that guy is everywhere on the hunt for the ball)
When I was watching this match, I wasn’t that impressed Matteo Guendouzi performance, especially with Elneny as one of the other midfielders. After Elneny went off and was replaced with Lucas Torreira, it seemed as if Guendouzi had the shackles taken off of him.
Arsenal started the match with Elneny stationed furthest up the pitch, with Aaron Ramsey slightly further back and Guendouzi in the deepest role. Within this set up it really appeared as if Guendouzi was focusing a lot more on being in the right position defensively and not focusing on progressing the ball.
It feels like I am beating up on Elneny but it is not because I don’t like him as a player, or think he is bad. In fact I think that he has some very good qualities, but in the current Arsenal team his low risk style and just okay defensive contributions doesn’t suit the other midfielders that are in the squad. In that regard, Torreira has been a revelation in freeing Arsenal’s more attacking minded midfielders to operate with security of knowing a real “defensive midfielder” is behind them.
Xhaka passable left back?
0 – Times dribbled past
3 – Tackles, tied for the most on Arsenal
1 – Interception
2 – Clearances
1 – Chance created
0 – Times lost possession (dispossessed or bad touch)
0 – Crosses completed
0 – Dribbles, of 1 attempt
2 – Fouls committed
When I saw that Xhaka was going to play left back again I was worried. Xhaka isn’t a great defender, he doesn’t have the best foot speed, especially over short distances and he is known for making a rash challenge. Those are not great attributes for a central midfielder but they are really bad attributes for a full back going against wingers.
So with that low bar set before the match, I was surprised by how well Xhaka did in this uncomfortable role. His one footedness was exposed a few times when he would cut inside more often than I expected, his crossing looks like a midfielder playing left back and while Sporting did seem to target him on defense, no major threats developed. Overall, it is not something that I ever want to see happen again, but as emergency cover it was a passable job.
Sources: Opta via whoscored & statszone and my own database