Arsenal failed to score in consecutive home games for the first time since August 2015, as Mikel Arteta’s side were well and truly outclassed in a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa. Arsenal now sit in the bottom half after 8 games and with Arsenal’s next 3 games being difficult trips to Leeds and Sp*rs and a home game against Wolves a rethink might be needed.
Let’s look at the data from Sunday’s disastrous performance.
Above are the PVA (Possession Value Added) Gameflow and Cumulative PV (Possession Value) from Sunday night’s game. Villa were just the better team in all ways and although Arsenal did manage to get the ball into dangerous areas, we either couldn’t execute a good enough final ball or couldn’t finish our chances (Lacazette, Willian, Holding). Villa’s dominant spell midway through the second half put the game beyond reach and very little happened after that.
Above are the average touch positions from the first and second half. These are… well… bad. The lack of any clear shape is very worrying and Alexandre Lacazette’s deep positioning is downright confusing. Even more worrying is the fact that our 300k+ a week, captain is stranded out on the left wing in the first half completely negating his threat.
Above are the pass maps for the Starting XI. The amount of sideways passing and the lack of incisive/progressive passing is startling and it’s clear to see that this is a side that is quickly running out of ideas. Thomas Partey only played 45 minutes and yet was second in the team for progressive passes (6) only behind Hector Bellerin. Alexandre Lacazette was a complete ghost, with 2 of his 6 completed passes coming from kick-offs after Saka’s own-goal and the start of the second-half. Willian was also completely redundant, with 25 (!) of his 27 completed passes going backwards, a truly terrible performance which further highlights Arteta’s reluctance to drop ‘senior’ players even if they are out of form.
Here are the pass maps from both teams compared. What immediately jumps out is the overwhelming amount of sideways passing in the Arsenal defence and midfield. Arsenal’s attack seemed to develop the dreaded U-shape and that really does limit our creative capabilities and stifle our attacking threat.
Above are the open-play PVA values for each player. Again Willian’s performance was horrendous, with the former Chelsea man seemingly unable to pass the ball forward against Villa’s left-hand side which has proved to be relatively easy to exploit for opposition teams of late. Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin proved to be the two most threatening players on the night, which says a lot given I don’t think either player had a decent game by their standards.
The last thing I wish to discuss is Arsenal’s pressing. Above is a graph showing each Premier League teams PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action) which measures the amount of Opposition Passes you allow per Defensive Action. PPDA is a good measure of pressing intensity (but not pressing quality) and is thus a good way of quantifying style, with lower PPDA values meaning high intensity pressing and higher values meaning low intensity pressing. Arsenal’s Pressing Intensity is 17th in the league which, coupled with our lack of creativity is worrying. Arsenal lack a primary creator, and one way to create good chances without a primary creator is through counter-pressing and winning the ball high up the pitch as Jurgen Klopp famously said “If you win the ball back high up the pitch and you are close to the goal, it is only one pass away a really good opportunity most of the time. No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation.”. If Arsenal are going to succeed this season without highly creative players then implementing a functional high-pressing team may be a solution of sorts to what is undoubtedly our biggest problem.
Anyway, it’s a 2 week internationalbreak now before Arsenal visit Elland Road to face Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds and I’ll be using the break to cleanse my mind of last night’s performance in an attempt to dodge the negativity that forms around the club at times like this.
Data from Opta via WhoScored