Arsenal 1 – 2 Wolves: By the numbers

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I hate when I have to write these columns when Arsenal are in the middle of a bad stretch of matches.

My general view on Sports is pessimism, I think I do that as a way to protect myself from future pain but when things start trending badly with a team I support it becomes really easy for me to veer into burning it all down mode.

I don’t think I am there with Arsenal yet, but Arsenal is so far away from the intermediate goal of qualifying for the Champions League. Last week I wrote about how Arsenal compares to the average team that has finished in 4th place and it was incredibly humbling to see how far Arsenal has to go, to meet what used to be the floor of the club’s goals for the season.

This match against Wolves was just another example of what a team that is built with a coherent plan is capable of. The coherent vision was able to overcome the talent advantage that Arsenal had in this match, and that has been the case for a majority of these disappointing results.

Arsenal 1 – 2 Wolves: By the graphs

Arsenal 1 – 2 Wolves: By the numbers

13 – Shots for Arsenal, tied for the most that Arsenal have had in a League match this season

8 – Shots from open play for Arsenal, tied for the most that Arsenal have had in a League match this season

41 – Touches in the Penalty Area, the most Arsenal have had in a League match this season

234 – Final third touches, the most Arsenal have had in a League match this season

52 – Progressive passes completed, the most Arsenal have had in a League match this season

36 – Crosses attempted, the most Arsenal have had in a League match this season

5 – Cross completed in the penalty area (excluding set plays), tied for the most that Arsenal have had in a League match this season

1 – Through ball pass completed, tied for fourth-fewest (three matches with 0) this season

4 – Successful dribbles, third-fewest for Arsenal have had in a League match this season

10 – Tackles, fourth-fewest for Arsenal have had in a League match this season

19 – Times dribbled past, the most Arsenal have had in a League match this season

10 – Interceptions, tied for the most that Arsenal have had in a League match this season

There are ways to look at the above and maybe think that it isn’t too bad. Arsenal came out of this match with season highs in shots, shots from open play, progressive passes, and touches in deep areas.

The only problem is that first, these are not impressive numbers for season highs, in fact, these would be poor to average attacking numbers for teams that Arsenal would like to be peers with. Second, Arsenal played behind in this match for long stretches chasing the game and still struggled to create much in the way of an attack.

My impression of what Mikel Arteta’s “Plan A” is in attack is playing the ball from the back, drawing out the defense to open up space, and then looking to exploit that by beating pressure. There were a couple times that almost worked early in this match but once Wolves were in the lead they no longer needed to press Arsenal. The 82 total pressure events from Wolves are by far the fewest Arsenal has faced this season, and Wolves pressed Arsenal just 14 times high.

That left Arsenal reliant on their “Plan B” to create and in this match, it seemed that was going to be working the ball out wide and then try crosses into the penalty box. Here is the illustration of Arsenal’s cross attempted from StatsZone:So many of these are the very hopeful type of cross where there isn’t much of a plan beyond trying to put it into a dangerous location and hope that Wolves make a mistake or Aubameyang wins a header that is far from favored to come out on top on.

You can see this as well looking at where Arsenal had their possession in this match. Once the ball progressed into Wolves half, the ball went out wide (some of this is certainly that Wolves clogged up the middle) with very few attempts to play through Zone 14

This was the dreaded horseshoe shape again, but again the version where the possession in central locations is primarily from the centrebacks.

Granit Xhaka’s de-emphasizing

55 – Pass attempts, 4th most on Arsenal

87.3 – Pass completion percentage

9 – Long passes attempted (6 completed), 5th on Arsenal

0 – Switches

7 – Final third entries, 2nd on Arsenal

8 – Progressive passes completed, 2nd on Arsenal

4 – Passes into the penalty area completed, led Arsenal

0 – Key passes

0 – Shots

2 – Tackles, 2nd on Arsenal

4 – Interceptions, led Arsenal

12 – Pressures, 5th on Arsenal

This is another weird one to analyze, the numbers above aren’t horrible but these are a long ways away from Xhaka’s best or even typical performances when he was the hub of Arsenal’s midfield. Xhaka has strengths, especially his ability with long progressive passing and connecting the attack from possession in the team’s half of the pitch. In this match, it really looked like he was asked to play a role that didn’t suit him, and his performance matched.

What this brings to the forefront is the question, if you aren’t going to feature him as the focal point through which attacks are started what is the point of playing him?

Green Shoots for Aubameyang?

5 – Shots, the most he has had in a match this season

0.4 – Non-Penalty xG, tied for the most he has had in a match this season

22 – Touches, the fewest he has had in a match this season

10 – Touches in the penalty area, the most he has had in a match this season

39 – Pass targets, tied for second-fewest in a match this season (33.3% completed)

14 – Passes completed, the fewest he has had in a match this season

2 – Passes completed in the penalty area, tied for the most he has had in a match this season

I might be starting to sound like a broken record but I think that depending on your perspective the above stats could look either good or bad depending on your perspective. I am choosing to look at these as potentially positive, especially considering the really poor performances that came before it.

In this match, Aubameyang was pretty isolated as is illustrated by his total of just 22 touches. That isn’t too big of a deal when he is playing striker, and especially when he is able to get touches in places that matter for him to potentially turn that possession into shots. So while he didn’t get on the ball a ton, he did get essentially all of his touches in the final third and nearly half of his touches inside the penalty area. He was also able to turn those 10 touches in the penalty area into 5 shots! The dark grey lining (is that the opposite of a silver lining?) is that he wasn’t able to make these his signature high-quality chances with a well below his average xG per shot of 0.08.

Going further you can see he was targeted by his teammates often fairly regularly, the problem was that these were often crosses and that is a strategy that doesn’t match his skill set. For me, this calls for a re-evaluation of the strategy of how Arsenal go about trying to get the ball to him not that this was necessarily a failure of the strategy of playing him as the main striker.

This doesn’t put to rest my worry about him declining but I think that we can read positive things from this performance that Aubameyang is beyond getting any production from this season.

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Teryima Adi

This team needs help pronto.

Biggles

Or even quicker than pronto, if that’s possible.

Dondada

Who does Pronto play for? He sounds quality

SOMK

Stand out curious stat for me is the 14/23 tackles success rate (though the article lists 10 tackles?), reeks of indecision, the awful injury to Jiminez likely galvanised Wolves as much as it unsettled our defence, I don’t know if that is just how it goes sometimes or a sign of a lack of leadership (though I don’t think these things are absolutes, such thinking assumes people can’t learn). The crossing wasn’t great, but Holding or Aubameyang both had chances they could have scored from, but that would have been ‘getting away with it’ mind and done nothing for the… Read more »

Lettra

Great work Scott , this is how I viewed the game and as dissatisfied as I was I saw the second half reaction in more positive light than the other villagers. Ther wasn’t much quality in our attempts but the volume was up considerably and that’s worth a lot of we can refine things a bit if Auba and others get similar or better service we’ll be winning games again. The low do nothing output from previous games was way more of a worry I hope this is just the first step in us playing higher up and pressuring teams.

Bleeding gums murphy

The attempted header from aubamayang was embarrassing for a Sunday league player let alone our captain and apparently world class forward. Half hearted, turned his back and in laymen’s terms lost his arse hole.

Lettra

I think it’s time to cash in on Xhaka no animosity or hard feelings I actually supported him after his middle finger wave to our fan base it was honest and I understood it and kinda respected him for it. We now have upgrades in place and I think Xhaka will see less and less game time and he want to be a leader and a major part of our plans so a departure should suit both parties. A style change must happen in midfield.

Futsboller

Well said.

Martin

Once again, I saw players breaking forward, but not being seen because the real echelons were busy passing across the midfield, not once looking ahead. This smells of a training exercise by people who lack the skills of Ozil or Wilshere. Oh dear Oh dear

Biggles

Two shots on target – the same as against Leeds, if I recall correctly. That’s a whole four shots on goal in two PL games! Makes you think.

You can still win games if you concede – you can’t if you don’t score. And you probably won’t score (enough, anyway) if you can’t direct the ball towards your opponent’s goal on more than a couple of occasions over each 90 minutes. The $64,000 question: where are our goals going to come from?

Danny

If only we had someone better than Zidane on the bench to help create.

Winterburns Right Wand

Dear Mikel, why don’t you give Arsene a bell? He might have a few ideas for you. If he popped down to training a few times he’d have some sage advice that could be of real benefit. Reach out. Youre in a highly stressful job, and my worry is that your taking on too much responsibility in the early part of your career. Big love. X

Baichung Bhutia

Will be interesting to compare stats from the first half to the second, or even stats for the first 60 minutes to the next 30 when Wolves shut up shop and invited us to attack. I think the last 30 minutes skews the stats somewhat.

WhatthehellMikel

I am a big big Arteta fan. I believe in the process. I do think I see something bubbling up from the players. I think he inspired the team last year. His man management sparked a commitment and enthusiasm….he made them a team. They played at max effort and ability. Today, I think a few things contribute to the issues. 1) I think the transfer window showed some players that despite their belief in him, Arteta showed them he is still looking elsewhere. I would not be surprised if that hurt him in their eyes. 2) We have a noticeably… Read more »

Bleeding gums murphy

Excellent satire. I like it. 😂

afl

Even when you, as an average viewer, don’t have stats ready at hand, the sheer amount of pointing, arm waveing and hand gesturing from our players when trying to progress ball forward speaks volumes for the fact that players are at odds with the system.
It is starting to look worryngly simillar to late days of Emery rein.

Nzini

“Arsenal have taken four of a possible 24 points from their last six Premier League outings”

Marco

The club should do themselves a big favor and stop posting training ground footage on social media.Who gives a monkeys whether someone hits one in from 30 yards it’s so far away from reality it’s untrue.