Watching the Europa League can be a bit hard for me at times, especially now that Europe has changed from daylight savings to standard time where this match kicked off at 1pm my time. Normally during the noon kickoff, I watch during lunch and maybe take a bit longer than an hour to be able to watch if not all of the match live, at least most of it. In this match, however, I was interrupted several times and didn’t get to watch as closely as I normally would like.
That lead me to be a bit surprised by some of the reactions to this match where people had a bit of a negative view of Arsenal’s performance. Maybe because I watched the period where Arsenal scored 3 goals and less of the period towards the end, but overall I think that this was statistically the best match Arsenal have had this season (with a grain of salt for the level of competition).
Arsenal 3-0 Dundalk: By the graphs
Arsenal 3-0 Dundalk: By the numbers
25 – Shots for Arsenal, the most they have taken in a match this season
6 – Shots on target for Arsenal, the most they have had in a match this season
3 – Goals, tied for the most they have had in a match this season
3 – Expected goals, the most they have had in a match this season
16 – Key passes for Arsenal, the most they have had in a match this season
24 – Passes completed into the penalty area, the most they have had in a match this season
5 – Crosses completed into the penalty area, tied for the most they have had in a match this season
61 – Progressive passes completed, the most they have had in a match this season
72 – Touches in the box for Arsenal, the most they have had in a match this season
16 – Successful dribbles for Arsenal, the most they have had in a match this season
It is really easy to tut tut this attacking performance becuase Dundalk isn’t very good but I would rather look on the positive side. Arsenal too often plays to the level of the competition but in this match they did not, producing their highest attacking output this season, even with a side that was heavily rotated.
Joe Willock adds a different dimension to the midfield
3 – Shots, 2 on target, 0.4 xG, and 1 goal
3 – Key passes, 0.2 shot assisted xG, and 1 assist. (tied for the most on Arsenal)
55 – Passes completed, 87.3 pass completion percentage
3 – Final third entry passes completed
3 – Progressive passes completed
81 – Touches in this match
17 – Touches in the penalty area (led Arsenal)
3 – Successful dribbles
5 – Turnovers
22 – Pressures, 8 times Arsenal recovered the ball within 5 seconds after his pressures (led Arsenal)
3 – Tackles (led Arsenal), dribbled past 1 time
3 – Passes blocked (tied for the most on Arsenal)
5 – Fouls committed (led Arsenal)
One of the thing that Arsenal have really missed is an attacking threat from midfield. Since the departure of Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal’s midfield has looked very reluctant to make runs into the box with any sort of regularity. That is one of the things that really jumps out about this perfromance for Joe Willock, is that he led Arsenal in touches in the box but still played a primarily midfield role.
His heat map shows that this wasn’t just him playing in the box, quite a few of his touches came in the middle third of the pitch. This match was also one where he was able to buck the trend where too often he finds that he will be disconnected from the rest of Arsenal’s team leading to him getting few touches. The skill set of Willock is one that is pretty unique among Arsenal’s midfielders, and in this match, I think he showed the potential value that he (or another player who does something similar) can bring to the attack.
Reiss Nelson makes the case for more chances
3 – Shots, 0 on target, 0.1 xG
2 – Key Passes, 0.1 xG assissted
5 – Shot creating actions, including 1 goal creating action (led Arsenal)
3 – Passes completed into the penalty area
6 – Progressive passes completed
13 – Touches in the penalty area
6 – Successful dribbles (led Arsenal)
3 – Turnovers
393 – Progressive yards carried (led Arsenal), 7 yards of progressive distance averaged per carry
1 – Tackle (dribbled past twice)
1 – Interception
2 – Passes blocked
3 – Fouls committed
12 – Pressures, 5 times Arsenal recovered the ball within 5 seconds after his pressures
Reiss Nelson had the chance to go out on loan this season but instead chose to stay and fight for time at Arsenal. I was a bit dissapointed that he hadn’t gotten more chances to play this season and his performance here makes me think that he will be in line for more opportunities. Nelson was the hub through which the attack flowed through in this match, recieving the ball in middle/final third area and driving forward. I think in this match he made a strong case that he can fill a role that is often lacking in Arsenal’s squad this season.
One of the things that Nelson is very good at is driving forward with the ball and beating defenders one on one. He is also well above average at retaining possession, especially considering how often he takes players on and possess the ball in threatening parts of the field.
This is something that the other forwards that Arsenal have don’t excel at. Nicolas Pepe dribbles a lot but he will lose possession quite often. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is better deployed running behind a defense instead of trying to beat a player one on one. Willian used to be a player capable of this, but as he has gotten older that skill has deteriorated.
Sources: Opta via whoscored, my own database. StatsBomb via FBref.