Arsenal slipped to a second consecutive away defeat in the Premier League as the Gunners lost 1-0 away to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
It was a much closer contest than Arsenal’s recent games against Manchester City, with our 4 previous league games against the Blue half of Manchester having an aggregate score of 11-1, but in the end it is yet another game away to a ‘Big 6’ opponent without a victory. Something I wanted to note early on was the fact that Arsenal under Mikel Arteta have faced either Liverpool or Manchester City on average every 5th game (20% of our matches), which is obviously not desirable when looking to build a good run of form especially when we’ve had to go away to both in the first 5 games of this season.
Let’s dive into the data from Saturday’s game at the Etihad.
Above shows the Possession Value Added (PVA) Gameflow and Cumulative PVA from Saturday’s game. What we can see is that Arsenal largely flattered to deceive for the open 25 minutes, with very little threat created, but from about the 35th minute onwards, we threatened massively, with Saka and Aubameyang having chances in that time period and Gabriel having a penalty shout turned away. Worryingly though, from around the 50th minute onwards we created next to nothing, and the game seemed to slip away from us with our substitutions proving unable to provide the necessary shot in the arm to get a result. Defensively though, we can be quite encouraged by the fact that we restricted a very potent Manchester City team to very little threatening passes.
This point can be furthered by the above pass maps, showing attempted passes into the penalty area’s by each team. Arsenal restricted a City team who attempted 665 passes to only 6 completed passes into the penalty area, with Arsenal completing 7 into the City area. What is clear to see is that Arsenal relied massively on the left sided players, Tierney, Saka, Aubameyang and Xhaka to get the ball into the box, as 5 of our 7 completed passes into the City area coming from the left half-space.
Above are the Pass Maps and ‘Progressive’ Pass Maps for each of the Arsenal Starting XI. The lack of touches for the front 3 is worrying, but to be expected away to City, but the fact that Nicolas Pepe was so restricted (none of his pass attempts originated in the final 3rd) is particularly worrying. Also notable is the efficiency at which Granit Xhaka passed the ball, with his progressive passes to the left flank being particularly impressive.
Above are the PVA Pass Maps and charts showing the Possession Value Added and received from Open Play passing (hence the discrepancies between PVA in the Pass Maps and charts). Granit Xhaka again shines here, with his ability to receive the ball from his defenders as well as being able to progress it himself being evident and perhaps replacing him with Thomas Partey, given his importance in our passing play, was a mistake on Arteta’s part. Worryingly Hector Bellerin had a very poor passing performance, with the Spaniard failing to make many threatening forward passes, and instead choosing to pass backwards more frequently than not.
Above are the average touch positions for the Arsenal Starting XI and subs broken down by half. Worryingly the second half shows how we struggled to get up the pitch, with Xhaka, Ceballos and Tierney being far further back as well as Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe being less involved and wider.
To end this piece with some positivity, above are the defensive actions and vertical pass map for Gabriel Magalhães and the successful dribbles map for Bukayo Saka. Gabriel has continued his stellar start to the season, with the Brazilian already looking like an astute purchase and a potential rock at the centre of the defence for years to come. What more can I say about Bukayo Saka, that hasn’t already been said. He’s a star and his ability to glide past opposition players is incredible. We need to get him more involved centrally as I believe that the Hale End graduate could be the answer to our creative problems if we give him the reigns.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back to review the Rapid Wien and Leicester games this week and I hope we’ll be able to look back on these games and see real progression from the team.
Data from Opta via WhoScored