The day after Halloween Arsenal managed to banish two curses in one fell swoop, as Arsenal beat Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in 14 years, as well as winning away to a ‘big 6’ opponent for the first time since January 2015. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty capped off a great tactical display, with Arsenal limiting United to only 2 shots on target only a few days after they had put 5 goals past RB Leipzig.
Let’s delve into the data to see if we can gain more insight into the victory at Old Trafford.
Above are the Possession Value (PV) Flow and the Cumulative Possession Value Added (PVA). What we can see is that Arsenal controlled the game up until we scored, when we then dropped back and dared United to breach our defence. What is noteworthy is that United’s 2 biggest PVA ‘jumps’ occured at set-pieces, where Luke Shaw’s good deliveries towards Harry Maguire gave United a large PV boost. Arsenal’s defensive changes after the goal nullified our attack but helped us to seal a vital away win.
Above are the average touch maps from the first and second halves. Alexandre Lacazette dropped deep with Aubameyang and Willian pushing in behind him in possession, a familiar feature of our possession play. Interestingly Bukayo Saka played far further up the pitch than he usually does, with the Hale End graduate having success at getting in behind Scott McTominay on the right-side of United’s diamond. In the middle Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny kept close together and both put in stellar performances on the big stage.
Above are the pass maps for the Starting XI. What is particularly impressive is the control and composure in the passing of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, who were pressed by the United midfielders for most of the game and yet between them only misplaced 11 passes. Bernd Leno’s distribution also impressed me, with the German keeper’s passing to his full-backs much improved. Arsenal’s right-hand side proved to be the area where we found the most joy, with Bellerin and Willian linking up to win the penalty as well as completing 6 passes into the United penalty area combined.
Above are the % of PVA per player from the victory at Old Trafford. We can see that Arsenal found joy down the right-hand side with Hector Bellerin, Thomas Partey and Willian being the 3 most threatening passers on the night. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struggled to threaten with his passing, but got into good attacking positions throughout.
Above are the defensive actions maps for the Starting XI. What is immediately noticeable is the performance of the back 4 (or 4 of the back 5 depending on how you classify how we played), with Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney completing 31 of 33 (93.9%) attempted defensive actions. Gabriel and Holding in particular put in brilliant defensive performances under a late United bombardment of the Arsenal box. Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Bukayo Saka put in all action performances, with the 3 men covering the entirety of the middle third with their defensive actions as Arsenal showed grit and a resilience that has been missing from away games against ‘the big 6’ for far too long.
Lastly I thought I’d highlight the performances of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, who combined to shield the Arsenal defence and dominate the midfield battle. The two African midfielders showed desire, workrate, athleticism and great technical ability to completely nullify the United ‘diamond’ that had proved so dangerous in the Champions League and Elneny will have shown Arteta what he can offer if given the opportunity to start.
On a sidenote, I used a different colour scheme for this (red for successful, grey for unsuccessful) so let me know if you prefer it to the Blue/Orange colour scheme I’ve been using so far this season.
It’s Molde in the Europa League on Thursday, before we welcome Emiliano Martinez and Aston Villa to the Emirates on Sunday in what will be a tough game.
Data from Opta via WhoScored