It wasn’t a pretty match but Arsenal in the end got three needed points while rivals struggled.
With re-enforcement coming in Denis Suarez and possibly one more attacker hopefully Arsenal can start looking a bit sharper as they push for the top four and a Europa League title.
Arsenal 2-1 Cardiff City: By the graphs
xG Shot Map
Shot placement xG Map
Simulated Match Result
Arsenal 2-1 Cardiff City: By the numbers
13 – Halftime substitutions made by Unai Emery in the Premier League this season
46% – The percentage of League matches were Unai Emery has made a half time substitution.
While it was nice to see early in the season that Unai Emery wasn’t afraid to make changes and that if a player wasn’t up to standards he would be at risk of getting pulled at halftime. As the half time substitutions have piled up, it is starting to feel less like Emery is showing flexibility and instead fixing his own mistakes that he made in the initial team selection. That brings up to the player taken off…
Mohamed Elneny vs Cardiff City
1 – Final third entry pass completed
0 – Long passes
0 – Passes into the box
63% – Percentage of passes going forward
1 – Shot, from outside the area and blocked
2 – Ball Recoveries
3 – Tackles, tied for the lead in the first half for Arsenal
0 – Interceptions
0 – Blocked Passes
3 – Clearances
1 – Block
0 – Aerial Wins
I don’t want to come across as negative against Elneny, but this wasn’t really the game and role to bring out the best in him. Elneny has strengths, he has amazing stamina, he is a good (albeit safe) passer and doesn’t shirk his defensive duties. These skills however doesn’t really put him as the best option among Arsenal midfielders, he isn’t as good a defensive midfielder as Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi looks like a better box to box type player and Granit Xhaka is a better deep distributor.
Specifically in this match against Cardiff, with Arsenal controlling so much of the ball, having three midfielders on the pitch made less sense than it would against other teams. Elneny was the obvious choice to sacrifice but I would place the blame more on the manager who started this match with a very conservative approach again against a bottom table team.
One of the most obvious things in this conservative approach was that Arsenal lacked the ability to connect defense/midfield with attack.
5 – Final third entries by the Arsenal midfield 3 in the first half
5 – Final third entries by Mesut Özil in the first half
Without Granit Xhaka, the other Arsenal midfielders struggled to move the ball forward in this match. That left Mesut Özil to drop deep to be able to get on to the ball and help progress the attacks. This caused a cascading issue where if one of the three Arsenal attackers was dropping back one of Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had to fill the vacated space of Özil leaving even less options in the box.
This issue went a long way to explaining why Arsenal lacked much attacking thrust in the first half and why Alex Iwobi coming on provided balance as there was another option to both progress the ball too and another player comfortable dropping deep to help the midfielders.
Mike Dean really doesn’t like Alexandre Lacazette
2 – Fouls in the box on Lacazette not called by mike dean
1 – Attempt to play through an obvious foul instead of going down
1 – Yellow card given for a dive after being fouled
1 – F-you goal scored by Lacazette
Lacazette couldn’t buy a call in this match against Cardiff City. Here is the first uncalled foul:
Pretty obvious that he back leg is trapped stopping him from getting to the ball, he even stumbles as he breaks free. Mike Dean tho. This is pretty textbook on why players dive and play up contact for fouls in the box, being honest doesn’t earn you much from referees.
Here is the second uncalled foul:
He does actually go down after this one, this is probably a harder one to see from Mike Dean’s angle and one of the reasons I am amazed that football tries to cover this big of a field with just three officials.
Here is the “dive” that got him a yellow card:
There is contact in this duel, I can see this as a no call possibly but to give a yellow for a dive is really baffling. Again, that’s Mike Dean for you.
After these bad calls, I am very happy that Lacazette got his really well taken goal that again came after a foul that Mike Dean didn’t seem interested in calling (he didn’t indicate that he was playing the advantage in that situation).