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