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.

@DomC0801

Data from Opta via WhoScored

 

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Daveo

Two things really stand our for me here. Just how left side dominant we became in the 2nd half. The 1st half it is still our dominant channel, but it is clear we still opportunities down the right. Figure 1 and 2 basically show how we had ZERO possession in the attacking right, and just a fraction through the attacking centre. Just too easy to control. Point 2, really describes how well Leicester managed to control us that way. Compare Xhaka’s passing influence here (~10 vs Leicester) vs City (~24 vs City). His progressive passing is almost completely nulified (and… Read more »

sAMa

Seriously? What would the next caption be?
“Leicester 1-0 Arsenal by the audio”

Timorous Me

There is a new tactics podcast on the way, so…yeah, sort of?

Not that I’m complaining–I’ll certainly be downloading. Just wishing it were a pod breaking down a few more positive developments on the pitch.

Roof_attack

bore off , mate.

btw

Why is Bellerin’s PVA so bad? Sometimes I think Blogs and I are watching a different game, all I see is Bellerin passing backwards, all Blogs sees is him driving forward. You can argue that he lacks support, I think he is too conservative. Many times he could turn and run with the ball, opening space for our attackers, instead he passes backwards.

A Different George

I thought Bellerin was our best player, other than Luiz, in the first half. Pretty clearly, both Bellerin and Tierney are supposed to be far advanced in Arteta’s scheme, with Xhaka covering on the left and Cebellos on the right. We had, at our best, a five-pronged attack (as Adrian Clarke points out on the official website). Despite this, Leicester offered no threat at all down the centre. The isolation of Partey is not a good thing–but the fact that he simply had no *defensive* actions to take is not a negative. I thought the first half showed exactly how… Read more »

Snagger

Brenda Rogers said that part of game plan was to press Xhaka. So between all big blue lines of all his pass back/sideways he’s publicly seen as the weak link by other managers. There must be another way.

czerwonadupa

Rogers was able to say that after the officials disallowed Lacazette’s goal, which would have completely changed the outcome.

Daveo

It likely would have. But in the real world and not the hypothetical one it didn’t stand, and Brenda’s tactic of pressing xhaka (just like Liverpool did) worked a treat, completely stimied our system in the 2nd half and got the real world 3 points and all we got was the hypothetical 3 points.

Biggles

We just don’t know how the game would have been changed – that’s the problem with the “What if” world. The one we need to focus on as a club is the “What is” version, or else we’ll be in real trouble pretty soon.

Eddy F

Disagree a bit here.

Teams press Xhaka because he’s where all of our attacks begin. Everything goes though him, which is another reason why our attacks are so left-biased.

He’s not a weak link, he’s the only link between defence and anything further forwards.

Snagger

Maybe if he passed the ball forward you could say all our attacks go through him but look at the map. The ball goes back /sideways .From goalkicks he has his back to game and generally turns into trouble. In truth Elneny looks more comfortable with the ball. Redemption doesn’t make you quicker, better or smarter. I am hoping he’s just used as squad player cover for the more dynamic Partey.

Vonnie

This is exactly the problem. When one player is marked out of the game then those around him should have more space to make things happen. It’s easy to blame Granit, but nobody around him was doing anything to make anything happen. This whole team is brainwashed to pass backwards at every opportunity, even when there’s a good forward pass on, which is really frustrating.

Daveo

It’s not that no-one else around him was doing anything, it was that we’re very locked into to that structured system and Mikel doesn’t seem to allow anyone to make anything happen outside their roles. And that structured system basically doesn’t have any other outlets apart from through the left channel. It blew my mind watching us play one of the most progressive halves of football (first half) using 3 mids in a predominantly 433 system only to shift away from that into our rigid, predictable and boring 523, that was perhaps even more dysfunctional as not only was our… Read more »

A Different George

I think rigidity can occur in the watching as well. Why do you care if Partey was our only midfielder, if we got the ball to the attackers? Yes, Xhaka and Cebellos effectively played as defenders–but that’s because Tierney was playing the left wing and Bellerin the right. In possession, our shape was much closer to a 4-1-5 (or 4-1-2-3) than anything else. (All this applies only to the first half.)

Biggles

“Arsenal dominated…” but had nothing to show for it. How much the first half in particular reflects what happened so often under Wenger – all the huff and puff but no houses demolished! Dominating games in itself is not an end in itself, it’s what you translate it into that counts. Despite all these articles (how many more?) dissecting the Leicester game, the bottom line is we lost against a team that hadn’t won on our ground for getting on for 50 years. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a warning!

Biggles

There are somewhat concerning reports circulating that Arteta was over ruled by Edu about the last minute, and expensive, purchase of Partey (who was one of the better players against Leicester). Apparently, Arteta wanted Aouar or, presumably nobody. If true, this doesn’t bode well for the backroom staff working seamlessly to turn around the obvious problems on the pitch highlighted against The Foxes. Ho, hum.

Futsboller

This is becoming the Daily Doom Report with Biggles.

I’m surprised you put so much stock in these “reports” — aren’t they composed with more than a whiff of “what if” about them? Stick the to the what is you’ve been championing well here – at least that is sensible.

We’ll be fine; it’s a process. Have patience.

Biggles

I was pointing out press reports (true or not, I don’t know as I say). The posts on this site that talk about “what if” (we hadn’t had a goal disallowed against Leicester, in this case) are totally different as that just leads up a blind alley.

Thanks for your advice about having patience, but as I saw my first Arsenal game – the League Cup Final vs Swindon – very probably before you were born, I think I can take a “long view” about Arsenal – but that doesn’t disguise we have problems at the moment.

Cranky Colin

My head hurts.
AND we hav Mickey Deano on Sunday

Daveo

MenDEANooooooooooo…..!!!!!

Which do you think will happen? A penalty kick for the cliff-divers within the first 15 minutes? Or a Partey 40 yard smasher disallowed due to interference?

Vonnie

Probably both, and yellow cards for dissent while he has a little dance after their offside goal is allowed.

Once again, thank you Dom. Multiplied several times over If you have to make these infographics from scratch. From experience, I know how long these can take. It’s genuinely puzzling to me how Hector has the most assists this season when his PVA remains so low. Had this been any other team in the top 10, Tierney would have finished that match with 2 assists. I really hope we see more of Nelson, ESR, AMN & Saliba if possible this season. Nelson in particular has decent ball retention and I think the younger players are more willing to take risks… Read more »

N10

Such a good article Dom, well done.
I’m sure Mikel and co. have this data in 3-D, so no need to wonder if they know all of this.
So, over to you to fix this mess.
Partey fulfills Xhaka’s role to a much higher standard. For the love of God, can we please retire Granit now.
Get a young fearless smart creator in the middle of the pitch and we can get things moving, get unpredictable.
Right Mikel??

Mac

Two thoughts on this game:

1. In this system we’re playing, Pepe and Partey are wasted. This has to change. I think Arteta should have more confidence in our players and let them play through whatever channel (middle/wings/long ball) makes sense at the time, not defaulting to the wings/predominantly the left wing every time.

2. Despite a disallowed effort, Lacazette isn’t up to scratch. I like Eddie’s ability (despite his selfishness) but I’m much more excited for Martinelli to return. Until the latter does return, I don’t think Lacazette should be starting.