Sunday, March 3, 2024

Arsenal 0-1 Leicester: By the numbers

I am trying not to get too down after this loss by Arsenal but it is starting to feel like deja vu match after match. Maybe the expectations for Arsenal were raised too high after some high profile wins and a lifting of the FA Cup.

This match, and the humbling performances away to Liverpool and Manchester City show that Arsenal still have a lot of work to do, to get back to where they want to be as a team. This is a team that is still unbalanced and struggling to play up to our expecations of them.

Arsenal 0-1 Leicester: By the graphs

Running xG

xG Shot Map

xG Table

Simulated Match Result

Arsenal 0-1 Leicester: By the numbers

20 – Touches in the box for Arsenal in the first half

2 – Touches in the box for Arsenal in the second half

11 – Shots in the first half for Arsenal

1 – Shot for Arsenal in the second half

1.3 – Arsenal Non-Shot expected goals in the first half

0.6 – Arsenal’s Non-Shot expected goals in the second half

23 – Progressive passes completed by Arsenal in the first half

17 – Progressive passes completed by Arsenal in the second half

I don’t remember seeing a more boring and blunt attack as what I saw from Arsenal in the second half of this match against Leicester City. In the first half, Arsenal wasn’t great but did seem to have some ideas of how to break down the defense and create opportunities to get the ball into dangerous locations, in the second half that stopped almost completely.

One of the things that I like to look at is where Arsenal have possession of the ball. In the first half, things were pretty balanced between left and right, there was a lot of possession in the middle third, but also a fair amount into the final third. This wasn’t amazing, with far too often the possession resembling the dreaded “U” shape but it did lead to some chances.

In the second half, the balance is thrown off with the left-sided bias coming back strong. There is also a huge decrease in Arsenal’s ability to move the ball into the deep portions of the final third.

I think that a lot of this can be traced first to the loss of David Luiz, who for all of his faults defending is a very good passer. Before he was substituted he was Arsenal’s leading passer of final third entries (11) and progressive passing (6). His passing from the right was also a big reason that Arsenal showed more balance.

The loss of Saka, was another one that really hurt Arsenal. He was one of the few players for Arsenal that was capable of receiving passes between the lines in this match. It wasn’t his most influential match, but he was one of the few Arsenal players that did seem to try to find those pockets of space.

Arsenal’s declining attack

These graphs show that there is a very worrying trend for Arsenal.

Looking at raw shots, Arsenal went from slightly above 15 shots per match in the last four seasons of Arsene Wenger, to 12 in Unai Emery’s first season, followed by a drop to 10.5 last season and another drop this season to just 8.7.

Arsenal has made some trade-offs with their shot selection, where they are foregoing longer range shots to work for shots that are of higher quality. Arsenal currently has one of the higher xG per shot in the Premier League at 0.13 (3rd highest) but with just the 17th most shots per match, this attack is very average.

The Wenger teams would often be beaten with similar attacks, with the description that he wanted Arsenal to walk the ball into the back of the net, but even those teams managed to create a lot more volume while maintaining a very high average quality.

I think that Mikel Areta has done a good job bringing structure and solidity to Arsenal’s defense, to where Arsenal are no longer a team that gives up massive amounts of shots. This just looks like it has come at great expense to Arsenal’s ability to create more than a few good scoring chances in a match.

This strategy can work well, especially in cup competitions or when the team is an underdog but over the course of a League season being tough to beat combined with lower shot volumes on both sides can lead to being bitten by variance far too often. I trust that Arteta and his team know this and are working out ways that they can turn up the dial on Arsenal’s ability to attack without giving back too much of the gains that have been made with the defense.


Sources: Opta via whoscored, StatsZone, my own database, StatsBomb via FBRef

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Interesting article. I can’t help thinking though that the most important numbers here are 0:1, to a team that hasn’t beaten Arsenal at home since the 1970s!


I still wonder what the result would have been had the rules been applied accurately to Lacazette’s disallowed opener — surely we win this one as we open them up 2 minutes in?


“What if?” are the saddest words, aren’t they. Unfortunately, we’re in a “What is” world. Tough, but there it is.


Hardly sad; ‘what if’ is the grammar of the future, the vocabulary of dreams, the building blocks of hope.

We aren’t producing enough as a team in the attacking sense, for sure, but I find the officiating in the PL to be the worst of any major sporting league in the Western world, and considering the value of a top four finish and/or relegation, it’s shocking that fans accept the status quo so readily. But I guess it is what it is …


Where do you get the strength to even analyse such a performance?

IKR. The team let our mascot, Ozan, down big-time. Poor kid😞


The most damning stat for me yesterday is Big chances created LFC – 2 AFC- 0..After having so much of the possession and so many shots, no big chances created..The worst part is that this is not a one-off..We’ve been papering over the cracks..Something needs to change soon


It will have to be the tactics first and team selection after that to get the most from the tactical changes. Easy to say, blo*dy difficult to do though. Can Arteta do it? He’s still new to management (being “the” manager, not the No.2 to a top class manager) and he’ll know that something has to be done quickly. So there’s relative inexperience together with time pressure – not a good combination. I think he can and will, but it’s far from certain (unfortunately).


Arteta will be fine — he’s an incredibly intelligent man and has proven that he’s got the chops to succeed as a manager: just recall what he’s down with our team defence, something I don’t think anyone would have foreseen without a complete overhaul of the squad.

I think we’re still going to see a very conservative approach to the ManUnited game, but with matches against Dundalk (h), Molde (h), and Villa (h) we will see a midfielder positioned higher up the pitch to join the attack and link the lines better.


Yes, he is intelligent (not sure about “incredibly” – other things than football management for those kind of people, I suspect) but so was/is Wenger and we all remember how badly things fell apart there – slowly at first. Like you, I think Arteta will come through but there are no guarantees because he’s got so little experience in this situation.


As far as football managers go, I’ll stand by “incredibly.” If Arteta puts in half of a Wenger-shift at Arsenal, I’ll be very pleased. He might be lacking in experience, but he knows the job and its remit; we’ll have to be patient, but having delivered a trophy and improved defence, I think he’s earned it.


It’s not good, but worth noting though that Lacazette’s goal that was ruled out and the HUGE chance where he failed to connect with the ball don’t appear in the stats. In a weird way, the way we played against their deep block on the first half was as good as we’ve seen under Arteta in that we created more than enough to be going ahead, just weren’t clinical – but that won’t happen every time with the players we have. The 2nd half that all just disappeared though & it was the worst I’ve felt about Arsenal’s prospects since… Read more »

Charles Allison

How they can claim Lacazette missing that chance isn’t a “big chance” is beyond me

Gareth Glyn

You have to have a shot to register a “big chance” I think. Because he missed it entirely, it doesn’t qualify as a shot.

On the other hand, if it had just grazed his head we would have had 1 big chance and probably an additional 0.6 or so in the xG stats.

Dave cee

How was Laca header from 2 yards not a big chance?? Literally 2 yards or less from goal. And it should have been a penalty for a high boot by the defender as an aside


If its something for them to figure out now, then its a very big problem. I could have told you that reactive defending is for counterattacking teams, so focusing on solidity will always lead to whats happening. Proactive defending, where you try to not concede by making the opposition make mistakes before they even get to your goal is the way to go for a team trying to compete. Shape, structure and ethic can be used on the front foot as well, and we are going the opposite way. Whats happening will not surprise anyone who has done coaching at… Read more »


We’ve simply become too predictable. Teams can bulk up in the box and call it a day. There’s no movement at the edge of the box/D, no goal threat from the middle of the pitch at all. Willian was supposed to help us with this, but what about Pepe, who has been shit, let’s be honest, at beating a man with the ball at his feet? Lacazette? Teenaged Saka has been the ONLY attacking threat like this. We even had to rely on Guendouzi to do that under Emery. I think the reason we were all begging for Aouar was… Read more »


Iwobi was such a threat. And he’s gone. I still think that’s a disaster – he made things happen, challenged, dribbled…


Great summary! Reading the comments after the game I think we fans went a little bit too far. I mean OK we are lacking chances recently, but the 3-4-3 and the defensive solidity (as the article mentions it) explains that + it earned us European football this season and 2 cups. Gabriel is just an absolut jackpot signing in my opinion and Party has just started. Besides Martinelli, Saliba, Pablo Mari, Chambers or a composed AMN and Holding – I think all of them has the potential to help us stepping forward (at least a little bit).

Dave cee

If they get selected.
We jumped the gun on Auba’s contract. Willian doesn’t look the business. Offering a Musti a new contract.
I like Mikel a lot, but these are very dubious decisions


If you consider that Arteta and his coaching team gave these insights plus a host more data and analysis; then add in the match commentary, pundits assessments, sports write-ups – basically you’d hope our problems are not unknown to the manager. It’s difficult to say whether Arteta has the ability to plot an upwards course as he’s a rookie with zero track record pre this job. So it then becomes a faith based assessment. Personally I’m yet to be convinced particularly when again he said after a match the problem was we failed to take our chances. NO the problem… Read more »

Dave Roberts

Revealing stats and analysis, Scott. We need a new centre forward. There are obviously problems with Lacazette. Do you remember those goals he used to score? He’d collect the ball 10 yards out, back to the goal, and instead of laying the ball off, he’d swivel to his left, and blast the ball into the roof of the goal with a right foot shot. Over the head of the keeper with such power that the goalie just couldn’t respond in time.We haven’t seen one in the time that Mikel’s been here. Why? Is it; Arteta’s scheme? A problem with Laca?… Read more »


It might be Andre Lacazette, you never know. It’s not Alexandre Lacazette though 🙂

Dave Roberts

Thanks for the heads up, Alex. Other than that though, do you see any validity in my comment?


It’s a very astute analysis — I think it has more to do with Arteta’s style to this stage than Laca’s (in)ability. He’s an excellent goalscorer, but he’s best at receiving the ball in the box, on the ground, as you say — one touch, and bam. But how often do we build up play such that we play a pass into him in the box? Rarely. He’s on a terrible cold streak right now, and you can see that he’s not quite himself, but I think that if the team can take advantage of the EL matches and Villa… Read more »

Very good take on Lacazette. I do however think he has gained considerable weight since joining Arsenal and not in muscle either. His listed weight that you have there has got to be from two seasons ago. Compare his earlier Arsenal photos to now and you’ll see a noticeable difference. I think realistically his real weight is just north of 80KG. It’s a shame that we have never seen him reach his Lyon heights since joining us and his replacement is probably due. What do you think of AC Milan’s Rafael Leao. He has a high workrate and would be… Read more »


Good take. Laca hasn’t always been the fittest since joining the club. Remember Wenger consistently subbing him off at the 67th minute.

But that in itself wouldn’t always be a problem if we played to his strengths. Now under Arteta’s 5-4-1 he’s being asked to cover too much ground, basically left alone in a 30yd zone in front of the CMs.

I think he’s doing a damn good job defensively, but that is hurting his game too much – which then creates a vicious cycle of low confidence/low performance.

Naked Cygan

Scott great work, but I am not sure Arteta and the team know about the issues you bring up. If they did, we would have seen a change in our tactics. To me the last 3 games have been the worst run we had as far as performances. Looks like we are playing more back passes, slow attacks, no creativity. Something needs to change and change fast. We must beat United on Sunday!!!

I wonder how much of this is to do with coaching. If you look at our most senior assistant coaches, these are Albert Stuivenberg and Steve Round. Steve Round know Arteta very well from his Everton days and that probably explains his hire. Albert and Steve were both assistants at Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal and David Motes respectively. If anyone remembers Utd under those managers, they had more rigid and defensive setups but made some sacrifices offensively. I think Arteta appointed these coaches for defensive organisation and so far it seems to be working. However, as short-sighted as… Read more »



There’s only one way to play this game. Rapid counter attacks and attempts at goal every time you gain possession. NOT slow build up from the back. And then rapid regaining of possession once lost. This involves high tempo in midfield, at least 2 midfielders need to be replaced at 55-60 minutes. Every now and then, you need to rotate the players, or slow the game, to give midfield a breather. Otherwise it’s all out energy the entire game.

I wonder how much of this is to do with coaching. If you look at our most senior assistant coaches, these are Albert Stuivenberg and Steve Round. Steve Round know Arteta very well from his Everton days and that probably explains his hire. Albert and Steve were both assistants at Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal and David Motes respectively. If anyone remembers Utd under those managers, they had more rigid and defensive setups but made some sacrifices offensively. I think Arteta appointed these coaches for defensive organisation and so far it seems to be working. However, as short-sighted as… Read more »

Crash Fistfight

You’re just ripping off the comment by Salibaba and the Forty Thieves above.

*Face palm

Sorry double post. Won’t happen again😁


Our performances at the moment are so reminiscent of how we were playing under ‘late’ Wenger and ‘early’ Emery. Handbrake on, scared to make incisive forward passes. With these set patterns of play, I can see Arteta trying to do what Emery tried and failed to do. We need more dynamism in the midfield, so we can transition the ball quicker from defense to attack and not be afraid to try a difficult pass. The speed of which Leeds/Liverpool attack is amazing. I’d love to see us transition like they do, I don’t think we can with Xhaka, Thomas and… Read more »


 how we were playing under ‘late’ Wenger ——utter tosh we were always excellent going forward with arsene– even with duff strikers-the problems were at the back as his philosophy was to create attractive football we are shit going forward at present -slow drab and unimaginative except saka and tierney aubas being wasted on the left pepes not even getting the ball and mesut ozil who has more creativitity in his left little toe then ceballos and xakhas 20 combined is being wasted at home from now on this shit show is artetas to own — no top 4 this season then… Read more »


Wrote a blog but must’ve been rejected.Confused as was agreeing with a post saying the last 3 performances have been sterile regarding our attacking players.Have they become increasingly frustrated by the service of the midfield and anybody else who tries to find them.? On the other hand are they just lazy with a severe lack of movement.?


the lack of movement was really the thing that got me throughout this game. you can talk tactics all you want but if the forwards, full backs and midfielders are not making the effort to show for the ball then you are not going to open a team playing the way leicester did up. this is much more concerning than tactical issues for me. we still have too many passengers that don’t really care in the squad.


Think we will need to improve our fitness. We lack the fitness to run around and most of the players are lazy like you pointed because they don’t want to track back or move front . They might be playing it safe . The mid is more rigid and this is because we have players who only defend …. I won’t be seeing any of the mids in the box like Ramsey …..Arteta has got big challenges with team selection and also he needs to play using the strengths of each player which is going to be tough I feel

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