I felt quietly confident about Arsenal going into this match. Arsenal are a very good home team and Unai Emery has been able to game plan well for these big matches this season. Arsenal then went out and played an excellent first half, sat back a bit in the second half but still created their two best chances of the night and were unlucky to not add a third goal.
A two goal lead puts Arsenal in a great position to advance to the semi-finals but they still have a dreaded away match next week after a match at Watford on Monday Night Football (thanks Premier League TV partners).
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: By the graphs
Running xGxG Shot MapShot Placement xG Map
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: By the numbers
16 – Shots for Arsenal, Led by Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 5 each
7 – Shots on target for Arsenal, Led by Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 3 each
3 – Big chances for Arsenal
42.1% – Possession for Arsenal in the match
122 – Final third passes completed, more than a third of their completed passes were in the attacking third of the field. Napoli had just 19% of their’s in Arsenal’s defensive third.
27 – Completed passes into the box for Arsenal
13 – Tackles for Arsenal, led by Sead Kolasinac. Even more impressive Arsenal were only dribbled past 4 times in this match and had a tackle success rate of 76%.
18 – Interceptions for Arsenal, led by the ageless wonder Laurent Koscielny.
84% – The odds that my simulation model gives Arsenal to advance to the semi finals. FiveThirtyEight has Arsenal at 87% to advance.
Overall this was a very impressive performance from Arsenal. Napoli haven’t played well away this season but Arsenal still did a really good job pressuring them early and then in the second half disrupting their attempts into the final third while still providing attacking threat.
Laurent Koscielny is amazing
1 – Shot
80.5% – Pass completion percentage
6 – Long passes completed, of 7 attempted
2 – Ball recoveries
2 – Aerial Duels won
4 – Interceptions, led all players
3 – Clearances
1 – Foul committed
This isn’t the most impressive statistical line from the Arsenal captain but I think that it also illustrates how hard it is to measure the impact of a defender. When he is in the lineup things just work better.
I thought that in this match, and really for most of the season Koscielny has been Arsenal’s best defender. At his age that would be an impressive feat for player, considering that he is coming off an Achilles injury that can end careers it is even more impressive.
Aaron Ramsey man of the match
1 – Goal
5 – Shots, led all players (all inside the penalty area)
3 – Shots on target led all players
2 – Big Chances, converted one for a goal, led all players
43 – Passes completed
86% – Pass completion percentage
5 – Passes completed into the box, led all players
2 – Dribbles
5 – Ball Recoveries
1 – Tackle
1 – Interception
It is a bit sad that it took this long for Unai Emery to figure out that Aaron Ramsey’s best position in the team is starting as a central midfielder with license to go forward. He doesn’t have quite the same offensive freedom that he had under Arsene Wenger, where at times he’d abandon midfield completely and turn into a forward.
Finding a like for like replacement for Ramsey is going to be impossible. There just aren’t other midfielders that can match his ability to run forever pressing, his ability to defend when needed, his ability (and audacity to even try) to flick/one touch pass around the box, his ability to create for team mates and most importantly his ability to get shots in the danger zone from open play.
When I say impossible, I am really not using hyperbole. I have looked through my database of player statistics and his profile as a player is incredibly unique. There are players that are his equal or better at certain areas but the way that he combines them is unique to him. He isn’t a irreplaceable but who ever comes in won’t do things the same way and will have big shoes to fill.
I really hope he can help lead Arsenal to a European trophy on his way out of the club.