Arsenal began their 2020/21 Europa League campaign with a 2-1 away win over Austrian Bundesliga runners-up Rapid Vienna. It wasn’t particularly pretty but at the end of the day topping the group is all that matters, and an away win over the Pot 2 team from their group is a good start.
Let’s delve into the data to see if we can gain any more insight.
The above shows the Gameflow of Possession Value Added as well as the Cumulative Possession Value Added for both teams. Arsenal flattered to deceive for the first 65 minutes of the match, but from that moment onwards Arsenal dominated the game, ending with a PVA of 2.964 compared to Rapid’s 1.319. Arsenal struggled badly from the 25th minute up until around the 60th minute, coinciding with the substitutions of Hector Bellerin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on for Cedric Soares and Eddie Nketiah.
Above are the Pass Maps for all of Arsenal’s starting XI, as well as the passing stats for the substitutes. Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel Magalhaes stand out for their ability to progress the ball, with Partey completing 3 passes into the Rapid penalty area on his first start for Arsenal. Unfortunately Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah (playing the Aubameyang role on the Left Wing which in my opinion does not suit his skillset) struggled to make any impact, with Lacazette failing to make a pass to a wide open Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late in the second half, instead trying to dribble past a Rapid defender and losing the ball. Another noteworthy point is the lack of success the wing-backs, Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka, had in crossing the ball, with the pair combining for only 1 successful cross from 9 attempts.
So which players added the most Possession Value with their passing and receiving of passes?
One thing to note here is that Mohamed Elneny’s through-ball to Hector Bellerin that lead to Arsenal’s second-goal went down as an unsuccessful pass due to the fact a Rapid defender deflected the ball slightly, so Elneny’s PV Added and Bellerin’s PV received are both negatively affected by this.
Hector Bellerin excelled in his 30 minute cameo, and the Spaniard and Aubameyang really changed the game for Mikel Arteta’s men. Thomas Partey meanwhile had a very promising first start, with the Ghanaian coming 4th for PV Added and 1st for PV Received showing he not only adds threat through his passing, but also adds threat by opening up passing channels with his movement.
Above are the Defensive Actions attempted by each of the Arsenal starting XI. What really stands out is Gabriel’s phenomenal 13 successful defensive actions at a 100% success rate. The Brazilian has started brilliantly for Arsenal and has added an air of calm authority Arsenal have been lacking for a very long time. Thomas Partey also impressed, with the Ghanaian putting himself about attempting 11 defensive actions.
To end this post, I thought I would highlight the performances of Partey and Gabriel, who I thought were the best Arsenal players on the pitch last night. For Arsenal to add 2 players of the quality of Partey and Gabriel in the summer was a great start to rejuvenating Arsenal’s squad. Let’s hope Partey and Gabriel can continue to showcase their undoubted ability.
Next up for Arsenal it’s Leicester City at the Emirates with the Gunners hoping to bounce back from Saturday’s loss at the Etihad.
Data from Opta via WhoScored