I don’t think that too many people had big expectations for coming away from a trip to Anfield with any sort of points so tonight’s match was a bit of a free shot for Arsenal.

Had Lacazette had his finishing boots on, Arsenal might have gotten a point in this match but in the end, Liverpool were the deserved winners.

This match did highlight the areas that Arsenal need improvement on and another week with the transfer window open to bring in improvements.

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: By the graphs

Running xG

xG Shot Map

xG Shot Table

Simulated Match Result

A note on the xG on this one, because of the new way that offsides are being dealt with, the shot by Alexandre Lacazette that was flagged for offside but play continued on because of the advantage counts in the xG tally.

This is going to be a weird thing to xG because offsides goals are often high-quality chances because they are often assisted by through balls and others passes that make it so they break the defensive line. It might only matter to stats people but it will certainly be an interesting thing to watch.

That big chance makes the match look a lot closer than it would otherwise.

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: By the numbers

24 – Shots this Premier League season for Arsenal (only ahead of West Brom and tied with Manchester United who have played one less match)

40 – Shots allowed this Premier League season for Arsenal (5ht most but Manchester United have allowed more per match)

8.4 – Shots per match for the 5 matches that Arsenal have played for the 2020-21 season

12.6 – Shots allowed per match for the 5 matches that Arsenal have played for the 2020-21 season

1.8 – Goals per match for Arsenal for the 5 matches that Arsenal have played for the 2020-21 season

1 – Goals allowed per match by Arsenal for the 5 matches that Arsenal have played for the 2020-21 season

1.2 – Expected goals per match for Arsenal for the 5 matches that Arsenal have played for the 2020-21 season

1.3 – Expected goals allowed per match for the 5 matches that Arsenal have played for the 2020-21 season

One of the things that signaled trouble with Unai Emery was that the results didn’t match the underlying numbers. I am not quite at the same level of worry yet but things are not going in the right direction.

Arsenal are continuing to shoot a lot less than almost every other team. They have created a pretty good amount of goals (tied for 5th) but the expected goals have Arsenal 7th. On defense Arsenal have allowed 4 goals which is tied for 4th (with 7 other teams) but are again over performing their xG where Arsenal rank 14th overall.

In small samples, getting outshot or over performing expected goals can happen and doesn’t always signal trouble. Mikel Arteta’s early style looks like he wants to use his possession as a form of defense and as a trigger to pull defenses out to create a handfull of high quality scoring chances when Arsenal’s attackers finally have space to attack.

This can look ugly at times, and tonight was one of those.

In this match Liverpool absolutley dominated the possession and terriroty numbers. Liverpool had 256 final third touches to Arsenal’s 58! Liverpool got 71 touches in the central final third touches (Zone 14 and 17) compared to just 14 for Arsenal.

Arsenal got their touches where they were running into space and it made those 14 touches very dangerous but it is really hard to compensate when they other team has 4 to 5 times the number of dangerous touches than you do even if yours are more dangerous.

This brings us into the next thing that I wanted to talk about, Arsenal’s midfield.

52 – Passes completed by Arsenal’s starting double pivot

149 – Passes completed by Liverpool’s midfield three

1 – Progressive passes completed by Arsenal’s starting double pivot (Granit Xhaka 24th minute to help set up Arsenal’s goal)

9 – Progressive passes completed by Liverpool’s midfield three

0 – Final third entry passes by Arsenal’s starting double pivot

12 – Final third entry passes by Liverpool’s midfield three

5 – Tackles and blocked passes by Arsenal’s starting double pivot

6 – Tackles and blocked passes by Liverpool’s midfield three (All by Fabinho)

13 – Ball recoveris by Arsenal’s starting double pivot

14 – Ball recoveris by Liverpool’s midfield three

The stats above aren’t perfect because Arsenal made a change at the 59th minute and played a man less in midfield but it really shows how little control Arsenal had of the midfield in this match. I understand that maybe you don’t want to implement a high press against Liverpool because they can be devistating on the counter attack but at some point you probably also want to set up a line of resistance. In this match it really felt that line was drawn way too deep and that Liverpool with their spare man in midfield made it so Arsenal could never escape the pressure.

In this match Arsenal’s midfield completed just 6 total passes that I classify as forward, with 25 completed square passes and 23 going backward.

Liverpool looked like they used Granit Xhaka as a trigger for pressure, any time he got the ball in the Arsenal half he had little time to turn and pick out his next pass. This led to one of his worst passing days with Arsenal.

Part of this could be that Mohamed Elneny didn’t scare them, he completes passes at a high rate but he almost always plays the safe option. In this match it was no different. He attempted 4 total forward passes and completed just 2 of them. The passes that he did have in the Liverpool half were either backward or sideways. With the high line that Liverpool played, the space was there to try the passes but Elneny doesn’t have the confiedence or the instructions to attempt them.

There are positive things to see in this Arsenal team. The players look like they have bought into Arteta’s project. I hope that these things start to turn into better performances.

@oh_that_crab

Sources: Opta via Whoscored, my own database. Understat and Wyscout for some of the xG numbers used above.

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Futsboller

Arteta must make the midfield his project this season — with or without new players. We won’t progress up the table unless we relearn to take control of the middle and play through it.

Henry14Henry

Thanks Scott. Please What were Ceballos numbers like. I kno he came later in the 2nd half but he looked to try more forward passes. Also it will be nice to see what our team numbers were like before and after he came on.

Goo-nerd

Starting Willian rather than Pepe was a mistake. Didn’t have the pace to run the channel and cause them problems.

Scott Willis is Stats God

Amazing analysis as always Scott!

I wonder if the color of the passing chart can be amended to highlight which one went forward, sideways, and back by dark blue/red, light blue/red, and very light blue/red respectively?

Also, any stats on the forwards? Auba & Willian seem to be hardly touching the ball beyond the halfway line.

CarlosLA

Looks at those midfield stats. Reminds himself which side are adding Thiago. Reaches for another drink.

The Swede

We have been outshot in 3 of the 4 games (the glorified friendly is irrelevant) and two of those games was away against teams that was better than us last season. Yes, i know that Leicester wasnt at full strength but neither were we. So the only game that matter is the game against West Ham when we talk about “outshooting” and most of their shots was completely harmless. I dont need stats to know this because i watched that game.

Daveo

Earily familiar signs to last season seeing in already, couple wins, unconvincing midfield, getting out shot and out played, unless we upgrade the midfield I struggle to see how this goes much different even with arteta. In short term against non-big-6 teams i would like elneny and ceballos to get a chance. But then partey #1 priority, aouar #2. We really need both, but that seems a stretch so we’ll have to settle for 1.

Daveo

Or none… Gulp.

Jeremy

If it’s none, then no top 4, and no tangible progress. It’s really as simple as that. This midfield is operating at its very limit. Somehow I don’t think that will happen and we will make at least one key signing.

Parisian Weetabix

While I appreciate it’s an issue, I would hesitate to place any blame at Arteta’s door because to me it’s just a matter of lacking personnel. Of the two players who have dominated our transfer talk this summer I think Partey is better and more suited to the Premier League, but I’d still rather we bought Aouar because this team lacks guile creativity so desperately. With the current squad I think the most we can hope for is what we’re currently getting: commitment, solidity, and counter-attacking goals. But I don’t see a player in the current squad from whom that… Read more »

Davi

I do think it’s a work in progress but I don’t think personnel can be the issue against teams like WHU. They don’t have better players than us. Wolves and Leicester have been examples of getting the best out of what they have – I bunch of their players would likely be considered average if playing for other teams but their managers have figured out how to get the most from what they have – you could even say Liverpool are doing that with some players who wouldn’t be considered top class had Klopp not come along. I’m fully behind… Read more »

Parisian Weetabix

Perhaps they dont have better players, but I’d say they have better balanced squads. If you look at Leicester’s midfield last season, that was Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison. Those are 3 talented, hardworking (I use these words advisedly) players in clearly defined midfield roles, and I really don’t think it’s a stretch to say that’s a better midfield than anything we could have thrown together. I checked the stats and they averaged more possession in much more advanced areas, and I think that’s because those players, together, can harmonise and do things that none of Ceballos, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi or Ozil… Read more »

Naked Cygan

We need to better corners, trow ins, and learn not give the ball away so much. We hit a lt of wasteful and inaccurate long balls. Hope they work on it this week.

Daveo

Better at corners, throw ins, les hice aways, be more creativity, more drive through midfield, more efficient with our chances, concede less chances. Easy then we are champs. 😉

Neil Bamford

Liverpool went out with something to prove and they did just that. Why we were still playing out from the back when Liverpool are so efficient at pressing that high up the pitch, I don’t know.

Them sitting off after the second goal have us room to breath and to play more with some space but a lack of playing through the middle (arguably their weakest area – do they have a weak area?!) was our biggest downfall.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Learn from it and take it into the next game. COYG

Biggles

Well, the most likely result if we’re honest. I thought the best we could hope for was a draw and that was still a possibility (not a probability) at half time, but they are just too good as the numbers show. It’s one game and one game does not a season make – but it is (or should be) a wake up call to everyone that we’re still a long way from where we want to be – and it’s going to be a tough slog to get there.

No foot Norbert

Willian was crap yday, pepe was crap yday, the consistent player there is bellerin, he’s been pretty average for years now. We need a better rb.

Zyrth

The entire defense was crap… no scratch that, the entire team was crap because we could only play out from the back (lack of a target man) and without a midfield that’s capable of receiving a pass and beating their marker, the entire team can’t play.

Tho I have to add in the second half there were spells of good plays by Bellerin. Notably when ceballos was subbed on that coincided with Pools relaxed intensity in pressing us in our half.

No foot Norbert

True regarding pool yday but us attacking down the left mostly is a running theme of this team and I think a large amount of that is due to bellerin’s passing limitations.

Onenil

Arsenal are not crap. The defense was strong, we remained disciplined and repeatedly won duels. Most of Liverpool’s shots were low percentage and under defensive pressure.
Our team couldnt cope with 90 minutes of relentless pressure from the current best club team in world football. I doubt any team could.
Jürgen Klopp was delighted with their performance, and yet we still hung in there and nearly nick a draw. A year ago we would have lost 8-1.

Zyrth

Idk man, from what I watched we were completely pegged in our own half. Couldn’t make it out to the middle of the pitch in part due to their front 6 pressing us and because we don’t have the midfield capable to receiving passes under pressure. Contrast this to pools defenders passing around themselves and to their midfielders. It’s like our forwards aren’t there at all!

Snagger

Xhaka was a trigger for pressure and didn’t have time to turn. The question I ask is why isn’t he on the half turn already? Redemption doesn’t make you any quicker or smarter.

Justno

Wtf do you expect him to do when he is pressed, outnumbered and the guy next to him doesn’t play a progressive pass even if his life depended on it?

Pitchesbecrazy

While midfield needs to be addressed and should be the priority I still wonder about Laca and (less so) Leno, not based on last night.
I would have loved to keep Martinez this season and let both keepers battle it out. Martinez had much more command in the penalty box, while Leno may be a better shop stopper I do not like the way he slaps/punches the ball away rather than catch it.
With Martinelli to come back is it worth using Laca in a swap deal for Partey?

Kostas

It would be interesting comparison with the recent games with Liverpool. I have a feeling the numbers you used Scott, are almost the same. Only the outcome is different.
Which underlines how close are the margins between been the hero or the villain.

Cmdn

Proper sources have very different data. Always find this guys stats awful. Also bumbling idiot in video/audio form. Arteta another amazing performance! Yawn. Fanclub is in tough times this year. You’d hope this idiot didn’t count Laca offside as a chance (he did). Other than that, the numbers dont make sense, we didn’t have chances that reflect OVER 2 goals. Awful

Kostas

It would be very much appreciated if you could disagree politely.

Scott Willis

Which sources do you find better? I’d be glad to expand and broaden my tools. I’m not sure what I can do on the bumbling side for audio/video. Any actual pointers? I don’t agree it was an amazing performance by Arteta. It wasn’t a disaster and it almost worked. I think he has shown improvement and the team has bought into his ideas. I also think there are underlying worries that the results don’t match with how Arsenal are playing. On the Lacazette chance, it wasn’t my decision to count not count. These are the official stats from Opta on… Read more »

Futsboller

Scott, don’t get drawn in by the the black holes that pop up here and there in the comments. Little Mr. Consonant here is but a teeth-clenching wind-up merchant — ignore discretely.

Bryan!

It seems we’re constantly outshot because we rarely attempt shots from change — sure, they’re low-xG attempts, but when you see a handful go in every week it seems worth a crack. Especially when the alternative is a pass back into the defensive half, or work-work-work-cross into a herd of 6 defenders.

I’d also love to see our players try to dribble past a defender once in a while — seems like that’s extremely rare in the attacking third with passes forced through instead.

Crash Fistfight

A great man once said “I miss 100% of the shots I don’t take”.

Pat Rice and Beans

Nice report.
Considering xG stats, last season under Arteta AFC got +9 points than we “deserved”. Basically the team rode their luck and/or was unusually efficient.

Unfortunately, that’s a trend that is unsustainable in the long term (regression to the mean). But I’m confident Arteta will turn things around, it’s a tough job!

karl

Still disappointed with our front three setup. If Aubameyang plays central, we would have a better chance of 2-2 and it would give us a stringer structure down the left.

Willian is looking like an expensive worry now too. Nothing much since the debut performance.