This was a pleasant weekend of results for an Arsenal fan. Arsenal were convincingly better than Southampton. Liverpool dropped points cutting their lead at the top of the table. Sp*rs lost in just about the most hilarious way possible at Burnley. Manchester City had to play 120 minutes to lift the League Cup. Lastly Chelsea, well if you don’t know what happened there, take a few minutes and go search it out. It is worth it.
At the end of the week of matches, Arsenal are in 4th place and it feels like home.
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: By the graphs
xG Shot Map
Shot Placement xG
Simulated match results based on shots
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: By the numbers
4 – Saves by Bernd Leno against Southampton
1.5 – Shot placement xG Saved by Leno. This measure takes into account where and how the shot was taken, and where in the goal frame the shot ended up to calculate a post shot xG model.
1.4 – Shot on target xG saved by Leno. This is similar but a bit dumber as it only looks at other shots on target from that location to see what they are historically converted at and doesn’t take into account where in the goal the shot ended up.
64.3% – Pass completion percentage against Southampton. Looking at my expected pass completion model his passes today would be completed at 70.2% for an average player that made the same places from the same starting position and same ending position.
75% – Short pass completion percentage against Southampton (Passes less than 15 yards)
93.3% – Medium pass completion percentage against Southampton (Passes between 15 and 35 yards)
38.5% – Long pass completion percentage against Southampton (Passes longer than 35 yards)
I haven’t had much time to write about Bernd Leno this season. I can’t really say that he has had any amazing matches, nor has he had such a bad match that it sticks out in my mind (let me know in the comments if I forgot something). I think that this match might rank as one of his best for Arsenal but I can’t help think that for what was promised it leaves me wanting more.
I don’t want to come across negative because in this match he made some very good saves and really earned his clean sheet. Yet, while saving shots is obviously a very important part, (Really the most important outside maybe a couple clubs that do such a good job suppressing shots that it isn’t a major issue. This doesn’t describe the current Arsenal team.) one of his big selling points was that he was a very good distributor with his passing and I think that this has been the area that has left me the most disappointed this season.
He hasn’t had any obvious mistakes trying to build from the back (again remind me if I have forgot something) like Cech did but he also seems to be going long a lot more than Cech did early in the season. The stats say otherwise, with Cech averaging a pass length of 32.8 yards vs 31 for Leno but with his reputation and the emphasis on building from the back I really expected more from his passing that hasn’t quite materialized.
All things considered, Leno has been a fairly solid addition to the team. He isn’t a world beater of a keeper that will propel Arsenal to several spots over what the shots allowed would suggest but he seems like a very solid keeper that while not the greatest, isn’t a major whole that will need replacing in a squad undergoing a rebuild.
Iwobi and Mkhitaryan provide balance
8 – Passes completed into the box by Alex Iwobi, led all players.
3 – Key passes by Iwobi, led all players.
2 – Shots by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, including 1 goal (Big Chance)
4 – Tackles, Mkhitaryan, led all players.
I am going to go off my beat a bit and veer into tactics. I very much think that being able to understand stats, you have to have at least some grounding in understanding what it is that teams are looking to accomplish.
Watching Arsenal over the last couple of matches where both Iwobi and Mkhitaryan have played together you can see that these players are very comfortable in the wide forward roles that they have been asked to play. It is pretty obvious that these are positions that are much more natural for them over some of the other Arsenal players who can “do a job” out wide.
I have been pleasantly surprised with Arsenal’s play with the two of them in the team. It isn’t exactly peak attacking Arsenal but having player comfortable in the wide roles makes the 4231/433 work so much better.
Both players have the ability to facilitate, create and get on the end of moves and that is a key for playing in the wide areas and helps to relive the burden on the overlapping fullbacks to create offense from wide areas.
Arsenal’s League Winning Home Form
48 – The points that Arsenal are on pace for at home (technically 47.5 but you have to round that up).
4 – The number of teams that have managed more than 48 points at home over the last four seasons. (Manchester City 2017-18, Chelsea and Sp*rs 2016-17, Chelsea 2014-15)
44 – The average points that Arsenal have collected at home over the last four seasons.
40.7 – The average expected goals for Arsenal over the last 4 seasons for Arsenal at home.
19.1 – The Average expected goals allowed by Arsenal at home over the last 4 seasons.
I still find it amazing the difference between Arsenal at home vs Arsenal away. At home Arsenal are one of the best teams in the league and away Arsenal are a upper mid-table club. Over the last two seasons it has grown even more pronounced, the last two seasons only the historically good Manchester City has been better than Arsenal at home.
I don’t have an answer to why this is the case. I don’t even have a guess as to why there is that big of a gap between home and away form. It is normal to be better at home but the split between the two has grown so large and persisted for so long that it is starting to look like there might be something beyond chance and home field advantage to explain it.
Hopefully Arsenal, with their much larger staff can pinpoint the reasoning for these splits.
Sources: Opta via Whoscored, StatsZone and my own data base. Understat for the data on expected goals for the last 4 seasons.