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
Look at the sheer number of midfield sideways passes and contrast this with the number of forward passes.
In addition, the only time we got the ball into City’s D was direct route one stuff from the defence.
It doesn’t bode well.
Interesting as partial corrective to what you see. I thought Bellerin had a good match, and was much less impressed by Xhaka than perhaps I should have been. On the other hand, this reinforces my impression of Saka and Gabriel.
I thought Bellerin had a poor game and lots of people were saying the opposite, so it’s nice for me to see something that reinforces my point of view (I thought I must have some in-built bias influencing me when I saw his score in the player ratings, etc.). I’m also happy to see the PVA figure for Luiz reinforcing my thoughts at the time that his passing was very good during this game. I usually notice every thing he does wrong, so I have to give him props for this performance. I didn’t realise Xhaka was so influential, but… Read more »
Look at it this way, if there were 2 games this season I was not looking forward to, they were Liverpool and City away. Sure we lost both, but we didn’t get embarrassed and didn’t take a knock in confidence from big defeats.
We can now move forwards in the knowledge that on paper, every other game we play this season will be easier than these 2…
Yes, but if we’re honest with the exception of the opening game, we just haven’t played as well as many expected and the goals just aren’t coming, or not in any great number (is Auba’s new contract weighing him down?) We’ve also not managed a real “showcase” performance yet – even against poor opposition such as Sheffield United. It’s early days of course, but I’ve a feeling that we’ll begin to lose ground on the leading teams, and get overtaken by others, unless we start playing better – and quickly.
I think Arteta is still emphasising defence over attack and not losing over winning. In the past we used to throw caution to the wind and get spanked, now we seem to be too far the other way.
There are changes over the past couple of matches, hopefully he will sort it out.
Possibly, but it hasn’t been very successful if that’s the case as the games against West Ham and Sheffield United were both very close and we could have dropped points in one or even both. But that doesn’t really explain the lack of goals, particularly from Auba. Is it a coincidence that he’s scoring (and overall performance generally) seems to have dropped off since the confirmation of his new contract? I don’t know, but it’s a little odd – and we’ve not got another regular scorer currently. Anyway, we’ll see.
Yes I suppose we will. There’s no shortage of attacking talent in the team.
There is, but attacking talent = goals or…
It’s wishful thinking, Arteta doesn’t seem inclined to do it (not sure why but I’m sure he has his reasons) but I really hope we get see Saka playing as a 10, I think he deserves a go there and it might work wonders! He’s the only one of our players who managed to run at the City defense successfully in that game, he managed to play some decent crosses, get into some really dangerous positions, and play some lovely balls through and in behind, he’s currently the closest thing we’ve got to a no. 10 – he’s an excellent… Read more »
Willian doesn’t seem to be the answer to our creative problems at all, Ceballos as we’ve seen functions far better as an 8 than a 10, and Ozil is, well… If Arteta plans on shifting to a midfield three (which imo he should do ASAP) then I think a midfield 3 of Ceballos partey and saka could potentially be lethal!
Jules did you not read the article at all? Why would you not want to play Xhaka in a 433?
Surely it would be Partey, Xhaka, Ceballos?
With Saka slotting in at LW.
But what makes you think Ceballos is a AM? He plays from a deep role almost always. Ceballos has also shown his defensive workrate and effectiveness is vastly improve too. Xhaka was effective in this game, because we slowed down the pace and it plays into his strength. Yet, he was still poor and found wanting on their goal. It was one of the scare moments they broke the line and got into some attacking space, and he just jogs after the play. If he sprints and stays involved he would have been there to cover Sterling for the rebound.… Read more »
I’m hoping it’s cuz he doesn’t want to push him too hard. But Saka is a keeper. We need to gradually get him involved more and more into our team’s attacking moves. His composure on the ball and great decision making is something we can rely on more as he gets older and more experienced.
Saka needs to play on the left wing – his natural position, with Pepe on the right wing – also his natural position and Auba up front as a central striker – ditto.
It’s only taken Willian a few games to show that he is clearly not the answer to our ‘latent’ No. 10 issue, but other than Willock, he’s all we’ve got – whom Arteta is prepared to play anyway. Hardly ideal, but there you go. (ESR is still not ready and needs more time).
we look poor, its boring boring arsenal for me , no pace in the play, no direct quick play just a slow drab build up and hope auba scores. our goalie is shit and there is no creativitivty in the middle saka and tierney are the only bright sparks aside from auba no point buying into arteta project if all it leads to is an attempted copycat of citeh and pool yet no where near as good. alas ——i saw the invincibles and the wenger years of beautiful football and many trophies- time to batten down the hatches like all… Read more »
Goodness me where to even begin with this comment. I think Leno is certainly not S***. I’d say he’s one of the best 1 v 1 keepers in the league even better than Martinez. He simply just needs to be more aggressive with the ball and his team mates. We are definitely not a copycat of Liverpool or City philosophically nor tactically. I cannot remember the last time Klopp played with a 3 man defence or Pep using Aguero as a left-winged inside forward. Arteta is showing us what the realistic transformation of a team looks like when you don’t… Read more »
100%. Would love to see him there, willian left, pepe right, auba (actually) playing through the middle, partey and ceballos as the double pivot behind them with a back 4.
Regarding Bellerin, my idea is that in bigger games we always should play the players with the highest potential. I understand those of you who are worried for Maintlans concentration but to me he is on another level as right fullback.
Would be nice to see him get a few games there. But the problem is we have soares and what other reason is he in the squad other than to deputise at RB? Still cannot fathom the Soares signing in any aspect.
My Europa squad:
Incredible how short we are at the back right now considering the 8 CBs we have – 4 injured and 2 cup tied. Wow. The Arsenal way!!
Actually we’re way better off. In previous seasons, having four CBs injured would mean the manager’s pre-match talk would start with; “OK, I need volunteers to play centre back.”.
I think we’ve just got to accept that Soares, for all his qualities, was a backdoor transfer. We could have easily recalled Osei-Tutu from his loan when it was going bad at the time the way we recalled Nketiah. Instead Edu decided one of his contacts needed a handout and we instead signed a more expensive player that brought nothing due to already being injured. Said player is now with us for 4 years and he doesn’t ever make the matchday squad. I feel Edu didn’t binned with Raul simply because he couldn’t be replaced quick enough. I still think… Read more »
I’m sure (/hope) i’m wrong, but I was looking at these and thinking, I don’t imagine the club even have as well presented data for their post-match analysis..