I hope that everyone had a great Christmas, because I know if they were an Arsenal fan that they had a great Boxing Day!
I don’t think that many fans, except for maybe a few irrational optimists expected Arsenal to perform as well as they did in this match. It is fun to be on the other side of getting out to an early lead, scoring with a little fortune and then being able to see out the result late.
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: By the graphs
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: By the numbers
15 – Shots for Arsenal, 12 in the first 75 minutes. In the first 75 minutes the shots had an xG of 1.6 (including the penalty), from which 5 were on target and 3 turned into goals.
19 – Shots for Chelsea, 12 in the first 75 minutes. In the first 75 minutes the shots had an xG of 0.7, from which 0 were on target and 0 turned into goals.
27 – Deep touches (within 25 yards of goal) for Arsenal, 20 in the first 75 minutes.
46 – Deep touches for Chelsea, 26 in the first 75 minutes
20 – Progressive passes completed by Arsenal, 19 in the first 75 minutes
35 – Progressive passes completed by Chelsea, 29 in the first 75 minutes
235 – Passes completed by Arsenal, 210 in the first 75 minutes
417 – Passes completed by Chelsea, 337 in the first 75 minutes
Arsenal fans are becoming experts in identifying game state effects. Mikel Arteta was talking last week about how Arsenal didn’t deserve to lose some of the matches that they had lost based on the chances that they created. There is a certain truth to that, but it also ignores the major effect of the score on how aggressive each team will be in their attack (I looked more deeply into this here).
This match was a good example of that, but with Arsenal in the lead this time.
Drawing the line at 75 minutes (doing a bit earlier probably makes this more dramatic) you can see from the stats above that Arsenal were essentially even on most stats and ahead in the ones that mattered the most.
69.6% – Pass completion percentage for Arsenal in this match, the second lowest this season.
216 – Passes completed for Arsenal that were less than 30 yards, the second fewest this season.
Another interesting change in this match is that Arsenal were much more direct than they have been this season. Arsenal played over 24% of their passes in this match over 30 yards which is the largest proportion this season and well above the average of just 19%. This directness seemed to work well with the youthful energy Arsenal deployed in this match.
Youthful Energy leads Arsenal
7 – Shots from the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Martinelli with 4
11 – Touches in the box for the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Martinelli with 6
58 – Touches in the final third for the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Saka with 24
2 – Dribbles for the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, 1 each for Saka and Martinelli
4 – Progressive passes for the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Saka with 2
54 – Pressure events for the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Smith-Rowe with 20
14 – Pressure regains from the pressures applied by the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Smith-Rowe who led to Arsenal getting the ball back 7 times
4 – Tackles by the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Martinelli with 2
5 – Interceptions and blocked passes by the trio of Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe, led by Saka with 3
I don’t think that any of these players had an outstanding match that would fill up a highlight reel, but they were able to provide things that have been very obviously missing from Arsenal this season.
All three of them were flying around the field, making life hard for the Chelsea players. In this match, Arsenal pressed more than they have in any other match this season. I think that a major factor in that was the energy provided by these young players. Arsenal had 42 pressure events in the final third, with 20 of them coming from these 3 players and 10 coming just from Martinelli!
I think that it was also refreshing to see a player who looked comfortable trying to take up positions in the pockets of spaces between the defensive lines, which Smith-Rowe was constantly trying to do. His stat line wasn’t spectacular but the impact of his positioning and willingness to try things really seemed to help Arsenal feel more fluid in attack.
I don’t want to put too much pressure on these young players but it was pretty obvious that they provided a spark that was much needed in a team that was looking devoid of attacking ideas. Hopefully this will be a turning point that the whole team can build upon.
Sources: Opta via Whoscored, my own database. StatsBomb via FBRef.