Top of the League!
Arsenal are top of the League! My team didn’t concede a single goal to a newly promoted team(Judging by other teams this is quite the accomplishment)! It will be a great feeling to go to bed tonight knowing that Arsenal are in first place.
I am not so naïve as to believe that Arsenal are going to go on a legit title run (let’s check back in a couple months on that) but it sure is fun to see them actually beat a team that they should by a convincing margin. This was not a regular occurrence last season and I think that it will be the first step towards Arsenal fighting back to regular top-four contention and then hopefully for bigger honors.
Fulham 0-3 Arsenal: By the graphs
xG Shot Map
Fulham 0-3 Arsenal: By the numbers
54.4 – Arsenal’s total possession in this match
52 – Arsenal’s percentage of the final third possession
89.7 – Arsenal’s percentage of the possession in the penalty area
72.2 – Arsenal’s percentage of the total shots in this match
The first two stats suggest that this match might have been close, the next two show that Arsenal was by far the dominant team. One of the things that really stood out for me in this match was that Arsenal’s defensive structure looked really good, and made it really hard for Fulham to advance the ball deep, and when Arsenal got the ball back, for the most part, they were in a good structure to hold on to it.
0 – Shots in prime locations for Fulham
It is really easy to say this is just Fulham and that Arsenal should be dominating this match but last season Arsenal didn’t have a single “easy” match where their defense looked as good as this. The closest last season was home against Norwich but that was still at home.
One of the things that I pointed out last season is that Mikel Arteta seems to have focused on fixing the defensive structure first and that I was hopeful that he would use that as a platform to fix the attack after. The early returns are positive that Arsenal are looking to continue to maintain solidity at the back while making incremental improvement in attack.
2 – Corner kick’s conceded by Arsenal
0 – Shots from corner kick’s allowed by Arsenal
3 – Corner kick’s for Arsenal
2 – Shots generated from corner kicks by Arsenal
1 – Goal from a corner kick by Arsenal
One of Arsenal’s biggest weaknesses last season was corner kicks, they weren’t especially dangerous when they earned one, and they always seemed on the verge of giving up a goal when the opponents won a corner kick. It is an incredibly small sample but it is so encouraging to see Arsenal generate 2 shots while nullifying their opponents from creating anything. Overall, Arsenal created 5 shots from set plays and 0.8 expected goals, if Arsenal are looking for marginal gains to help put them into the top four race, set plays are probably the lowest hanging fruit to make improvements.
Willian, welcome to Arsenal
2 – Shots, with an xG of 0.8
3 – Key Passes, with an xG assisted of 0.61
2 – Assists
86.7 – Pass completion percentage, on an expected passing completion of 68.4%
7 – Final third entry passes, 2nd most on Arsenal
6 – Progressive Passes, 2nd most on Arsenal
6 – Progressive Carries, 3rd most on Arsenal
3 – Completed passes in the box, 2nd most on Arsenal
5 – Ball recoveries
Arsenal signed Willian to add a creative spark to a team that was badly missing it, he delivered in his first official appearance with the team. Putting your feelings on his contract to the side, this was a very good performance from Willian. He provided much needed technical ability to the team and looked like he was already well integrated into how Arteta wants this side to play.
Gabriel, welcome to Arsenal
1 – Goal on his debut
105 – Passes completed, led all players.
94.6 – Pass completion percentage, on 89.1 expected passing
2 – Successful tackles
3 – Clearances
4 – Ball recoveries
1 – Almost error
Getting thrown into the starting lineup as a center back is never easy. Having not played a competitive match in six months makes that even harder. You could see some nerves and some rust on Gabriel but this was as good of a debut as you could hope for from a new signing. He has an early communication error that almost led to Fulham getting a gift one on one situation that Leno was able to manage but after that, he played essentially error-free.
If we want to pick nits or look for areas for improvement, his passing could certainly be less sideways and more progressive but I will gladly give a pass to a 22-year-old center back with little time training time.
Hector Bellerin Appreciation
84.5 – Pass completion percentage on 74.2% expected passing
7 – Progressive Passes completed, led all players
4 – Passes completed into the box, led all players
10 – Progressive carries led all players
1 – Dribble
1 – Interception
If this is one of the last matches that Hector Bellerin plays with Arsenal I really want to appreciate it. He made some great contributions to Arsenal’s attack with his passing and ability on the ball. Replacing that skill is not going to be easy, and it is pretty clear what other top teams want when they are making bids to try to bring Bellerin into their teams. I think that he has absolutely represented the club the right way and I don’t want to see him leave, especially right as he is seeming to come back into form after his knee injury.
Sources: Opta via Whoscored, StatsZone and my own database