Arsenal fell to a second consecutive 1-0 loss in the Premier League as Leicester City became the first team since Chelsea in December 2019 to win a league game away at the Emirates. It is the first time since Freddie Ljungberg’s last 2 games in charge (at home to City and away to Everton) that Arsenal have failed to score in back-to-back league games.
Let’s look at some of the data to see if we can gain any more insight into a frustrating result.
Above are the Possession Value Added(PVA) Gameflow and Cumulative Possession Value graphs from Sunday’s game. From the above we can see Arsenal absolutely dominated the first half, with Leicester completely incapable of threatening the Arsenal defence. In the second half however, Arsenal’s ability to threaten completely collapsed, with Arsenal’s full-time PVA of 2.29 being only slightly higher than the half-time value of 2.05. Leicester managed to get a foothold in the second half and capitalised on their spell of dominance, with Jamie Vardy again coming back to haunt Arsenal. It may be cliché, but in football you have to take advantage of your periods of dominance, which we did not.
To further show our second half collapse, above are the pass maps from the first and second half. The first half’s pass map is not spectacular, but it shows that we were attacking down both sides of the pitch and were able to get the ball into the box successfully at a good rate. The second half however shows a different story. We failed to progress the ball down the right side at all, and the amount of sideways passing in midfield is astonishing. Our left-sided bias continues to be a feature of our possession play, which in theory should create space down the right-hand side, but we seem to be incapable of taking advantage of that enough. Another big difference between the first and second half is the passes into ‘Zone 14’ (The area in front of the box in the middle third of the pitch). In the first half we managed to find passes into Zone 14 at a decent rate (7 passes completed), whereas in the second half we managed only a single completed pass into Zone 14, thus completely stifling our creative capabilities and making us a far easier team to stop.
Above are the average touch positions from the first and second half. What is immediately noticeable is how much deeper our players were in the second half, with only Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having a higher average touch position in the second half than in the first. It also highlights our complete lack of a right-sided presence in the second half, with Pepe, Saka, Nketiah and Tierney all clustered on the left wing and Aubameyang and Lacazette almost playing as central midfielders. We can also see that Granit Xhaka’s LCM/LCB hybrid role did a good job of allowing Kieran Tierney to push up the pitch, and this makes the decision to substitute Tierney(our most dangerous player on the night) for Eddie Nketiah as opposed to a more defensive player all the more puzzling.
Above are the individual pass maps as well as the PVA for the Arsenal team. This again shows our problems in progressing the ball, with our 3 midfielders only managing 1 pass into the box each (all in the first half) and David Luiz being our primary source of ball progression. What we can also see is how completely isolated Alexandre Lacazette was, with him only attempting 14 passes (2 of which were kick-offs) in a team that had 57% of possession. The PVA graph further displays how bizarre it was that Kieran Tierney was the player sacrificed to bring on another forward, as the Scot was our most threatening player with his passing and was proving the main source of chance creation on the night. Hector Bellerin’s low PVA can probably be forgiven as, as shown previously, Arsenal seemingly ignored the right-side of the pitch in the entire second half.
Lastly, above are the defensive action maps for all of the Arsenal Starting XI. What we can see clearly from this is that Leicester focused their attacks down the flanks, with Thomas Partey in the centre of midfield only attempting 2 defensive actions all game. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again played his part defensively, with 2 tackles won in his own half, but this again asks the question: ‘Should our 31-year-old 300k+ a week star goalscorer be stuck on the wing making tackles in his own half?’.
It’s a Europa League game against Dundalk on Thursday for Arsenal, before a trip to Old Trafford on Sunday to face United in what already feels like a “must not lose” game this early in the season. Let’s hope we can get some positive results to really kickstart our season.
Data from Opta via WhoScored