Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Sporting 0-1 Arsenal: By the numbers

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

Running xG

xG Map

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

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Echoing Xhaka’s sentiments before the match I’d say Torreira let’s everyone play. He’s that good. I’d love for him to take more set-piece responsibilities like he does for Uruguay, he’s really good at em.
With Torreira giving us a sense of security defensively and our defence improving, Elneny has to develop his offensive to have a future with us I suppose, I can see us recruiting technical midfielders like Banega and the likes in coming windows and that could spell doom for Mr. Safe.

Faisal Narrage

I know everyone is interested in the window and purchases, but I’m actually more interested in solutions within.
Guendz is the back up to Xhaka and Elneny is the back up to Torreira, but it’s clear he’s just not capable (he’s a complete jack of all, master of none player). So for me, before rushing to the window, I’d like to see if Maitland-Niles can at least steal Elneny’s spot in the squad as Torreira’s back up/competition as the DM.


All for this. AMN seems to be the forgotten man a little atm, but I’ve got massive hopes for him. Whether that’s in the defensive role or further upfield I’m not sure, but he’ll be back from injury soon and certainly takes a squad place alongside Guendouzi (if not ahead of him).

For me at least. Difficult to tell how much Emery rates him.

Gudang Pelor

Elneny has to develop his offensive side, OR his defensive side. He’s not too great in tackling. He’s very decent player, but if you compare his offensive skill to other players in the squad, there are better options. The same if you want someone defensive. Like someone said, Elneny is master of none. I think he should move on if he wants regular playing time .


If we buy someone within the next transfer windows it should be a decent left back, since Nacho doesn’t get any younger and Sead hasn’t proven that he’s able to be a long term replacement on this position. I’d say he’s backup, very offensive but not good on his defensive duties. And to be honest, I don’t want to see Maitland Niles changing his natural position, because his midfield performances were awesome so far.


Thanks for the analysis Scott. It confirmed how I felt watching the match. The midfield never really clicked until Torreira came on.
Elneny still seems stuck in Wenger mode. Slower safe build up play dominating possession without necessarily threatening. Emery has the team looking to pass the ball forward as quickly as possible. A much more aggressive, if higher risk approach.


How’s that Xhaka’s long balls are good but his corners are that bad?

Faisal Narrage

It’s such a paradox.

Gudang Bedil

He’s not a bad player, but I’m a bit frustrated with the lack of urgency of Elneny’s play. Explains why he’s down the pecking order. But a he brings good depth nonetheless.

Burn Baby Burn

I’d be curious if you have any stats about the wingbacks. I felt like not having Bellerin and/or Monreal in there took a lot of our wide attack away.


Elneny may have had a specific role to play: be conservative, don’t let those behind you get exposed, and hold the fort for a late substitution.

If we want tactical roles / situational play, we shouldn’t ding players when they play an assigned role. He’s not a star, and wasn’t given an opportunity to play a “bigger” role, but be didn’t blow his role/responsibilities and should celebrated for that. In the past payers either didn’t have assigned tasks or didn’t stick to them.

Faisal Narrage

But we are assuming here, and it’s a big assumption. I can’t for a second see Emery instructing Elneny to do that “until the sub”. If Elneny could do the Torreira role for 90mins, it would make sense to play him for 90mins and rest Torreira. He also gets dribbled often and does let those behind get exposed, so that couldn’t possibly be a tactical plan. And if it’s were, and he was playing to perfect instructions, coaches love that. It would make him a viable PL option, yet not only has he not played a single minute there, he’s… Read more »


It is big assumption, but the analysis works with a smaller one: we were set up to not concede since we could basically win the group with a draw away and victory at home.

Using Wenger terms, Emery avoided a “naive” display and Elneny helped achieve that goal. I’m not saying Elneny is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he serves his purpose and we should not be dismissive of his contributions.

A Different George

The way Elneny played was, as you say, consistent with how he has played most of the time for us. He tends to follow his own passes, making them even safer, but conceding any chance to create attacking pressure. But at the end of last season, he had a couple of matches where he passed and moved forward, and he was excellent. I remember, because I was so surprised by his quality. Was that under instruction?

Dr Zebra

Thanks Scott! I felt that Rob Holding had a solid game and also particularly helped cover Xhaka a few times in the first half. Enjoying seeing Holding get a run of games and be very consistent too.


Having watched the last 3 matches, one of the things that’s standing out to me is Emery’s insistence on playing out from the back. As we try to do this, it forces the opposing teams to press us with 2 (sometimes 3-4) players in an effort to win the ball high up the field. However, if we can improve our passing and get out of those tight situations (which we absolutely need to vs. where we are today), it creates a massive space in the midfield for our more creative and attacking players to work their magic, as the otherwise… Read more »

Hillary Ojuku

Thanks Scott, I think we have got the arsenal we have always been waiting for. The arrival of Torreira has brought abig change in the midfield and the entire team. But let’s be thankfull for Elney Wat I know he’s going go pic up the styles of new coach. And the selection of the team depends on which team we are playing. There’s atime wea we need to possess the ball and hide it from the opponent. There Elney can work. But am happy for the new coach.

A Fleeting Glimpse

1- killer pass made by Ramsey ??


We’ve been calling for high-grade defensive kids for four to five years now. I coached soccer twenty years ago and knew modern soccer is built on the foundation of two really good DMs. Look how this has changed my other team Borussia Dortmund this year. I would like to see Emery give licence to Torreira to shoot too. To my shame I caught the second half and it took me all of fifteen mins to recognize Xhaka was the LB. I think his grumpiness caught my attention. Ha ha! He did great and this team is slowly becoming a dangerous… Read more »


“I would like to see Emery give licence to Torreira to shoot too”

For me, the most terrifying words and in-form DM can utter are “And now I want to add goals to my game”. It was the death knell of so many promising players in that role (poor Alex Song) and Wenger always let them do it. Torreira’s discipline in his part of the pitch seems pretty innate, though. Personally I hope he stays there.

But as you say, integrating the likes of Maitland-Niles into that area will be really interesting, and who knows what that might free up.


I didn’t get to see the game, so excuse my ignorance, but where did the other 4% of Elneny’s passes go? Like, straight up in the air or something?

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