Losing a derby is never fun, losing a a derby that Arsenal were winning is even less fun, losing a derby to José Mourinho is the absolute worst.
It took me a while to come to write this post. Instead I spent time power washing my garage because I was incredibly uncertain what exactly I could say about this match now that the season is all but over. After this, Arsenal’s odds of Arsenal finishing in the European spots are significantly hurt.
My simulation for the rest of the season says that Arsenal have just a 15% to finish in the Europa League spots (5th to 7th places, it is 35% if 8th is included and Manchester City’s European ban is upheld), even worse the odds of St. Totteringham’s day are just 1 in 3 now. Essentially the season’s prizes are out of Arsenal’s hands, with little left to play for beyond pride.
Hopefully the last matches and see growth in the team to build a foundation for next season.
Sp*rs 2-1 Arsenal: By the graphs
xG Shot Map
xG by Shot
Simulated Match Result
Sp*rs 2-1 Arsenal: By the numbers
62.7% – Arsenal’s share of possession in this match
59.8% – Arsenal’s share of the total final third touches (79 to 53)
50% – Arsenal’s share of the total touches in the box (15 to 15)
31.3% – Arsenal’s share of the total very deep touches (within 15 yards of goal, 5 to 11)
0% – Arsenal’s share of the total big chances in this match (Big chance’s can be a bit subjective and depend on a shot being recorded in the statistics)
This match really seemed to play right into the strategy of Mourinho who came out fast putting Arsenal on the back foot from the start. In the opening 23 minutes (the first quarter) Sp*rs had 4 shots to 3 for Arsenal while having a slight edge in possession. What turned the period were the two big chances by Harry Kane (well saved by Emi Martinez) and Son Heung-Min. Alexandre Lacazette scored a screamer of a goal, but from a tactical perspective that is one where you tip your cap if it is scored.
For the 2nd and 3rd quarters Mourinho seemed to have hoped Sp*rs would be ahead but seemed content to muddy the game and try to wear out Arsenal. In this period, Arsenal dominated the ball with nearly 69% possession and out shot Sp*rs 7 to 4. What Arsenal failed to do was turn this domination into good scoring chances. Of their seven shots none were in prime locations (inside 11 yards) and had just a total xG of 0.6.
In the last period of the match, Arsenal’s shallow bench tied Mikel Arteta’s hands with his ability to change the match with substitutes. As Arsenal ran out of energy Sp*rs were able to find chances in an increasingly open game. In this period the shots were 7 to 3 against Arsenal, with the xG 0.9 to 0.13.
What this match hammered home for me, is that Arsenal are just not getting enough creativity from midfield. I was looking at where Arsenal’s midfielders rank compared to other groupings in the Premier League before the match and it is dismal.
Arsenal’s midfielders (not counting attacking midfielders) create just 0.86 key passes per match. That is total, not per player. This ranks 14th in the league. Arsenal’s midfielders create just 0.06 xA per match. So even on the rare occasion that they create chances, they are often not very likely to be converted into goals. This ranks 19th, only ahead of the relegated Norwich City.
It is also a problem that Arsenal’s midfielders are not contributing to shots with just 0.48 shots per match from open play. This also ranks 19th in the league ahead of just Everton. Arsenal’s midfielders are also shy of getting into box, with just 1.3 touches in the box per match. This is again ranks among the worst in the league at 17th.
If you are going to have solid but not exactly creative players in midfield you have to make up for that with a either an exceptional attacking band of players or incredible full/wingbacks, preferably both. Things have gotten better at Arsenal under Arteta but there is still a way to go.
Sources: Opta via whoscored, StatsZone and my own database, StatsBomb via FBref