Arsenal recorded their first league win for 55 days as a much changed Arsenal side ran out 3-1 winners over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. It was a game that ended a lot of bad runs, as not only did the Gunners end their second longest winless run in Premier League history, but they also scored more than 1 goal in a game for the first time since a 2-1 win over Sheffield United on the 4th of October. Hopefully a victory against a ‘Big 6’ rival can prove to be the catalyst that reignites Arsenal’s season.
Let’s delve into the data and see if we can gain any more insight from a brilliant St. Stephens Day win.
The above graph shows the PV Gameflow and Cumulative PVA from Saturday’s victory. Arsenal mostly dominated the opening proceedings, even though Chelsea were still able to progress the ball well, but Frank Lampard’s side really began to trouble Arsenal mid-way through the second half. Now I’m sure we’ve all become very familiar with the idea of ‘Gamestate’ in recent weeks, but there is definitely an argument to be made that Chelsea’s late dominance came as a result of Arsenal being 3-0 up after 56 minutes and being afforded the luxury of sitting back to defend a 3 goal lead. Arsenal did a much better job of converting good PV into good chances as we recorded an xG of 1.93 (from Scott’s By The Numbers) and recorded our 2nd highest shot total of the league campaign so far. While Arsenal were no doubt helped by Chelsea having a very poor start to the game it is very encouraging to see Arsenal’s more youthful side taking the game to a side who were heavy favourite’s coming into Saturday’s game.
The above shows the Pass Maps for each of the starting XI from Saturday’s game. What is notable is how much Emile Smith Rowe helped Arsenal create overloads on the left. The 20 year old Hale End graduate combined brilliantly with Gabriel Martinelli and Kieran Tierney all game, with the 3v2 numerical advantage they had on the left wing being the source of most of Arsenal’s dangerous play prior to the substitution of Smith Rowe. What is also notable are the significantly lower than normal pass completion percentages from most of the Arsenal XI, with the Gunners seemingly more willing to try riskier passes as their confidence grew after a good start. Arsenal also had a much more active presence in central attacking areas, with Smith Rowe, Lacazette and Saka all occupying these spaces and getting in behind the Chelsea midfield consistently.
Passing networks pic.twitter.com/OR2E1Ty08J
— Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) December 26, 2020
The above tweet show the Passing Networks for the game (made by the brilliant Scott Willis). It shows just how closely linked, Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Tierney were with Bukayo Saka, Alex Lacazette and Hector Bellerin almost replicating this on the other side. These close triangles allow Arsenal to create natural attacking rotations and pulled Chelsea defenders out of position leading to space being created in behind (read Lewis’ Tactics Column for more in depth analysis of this here). If Arsenal can continue to replicate a shape like this, then chance creation will become much less of an issue in future.
As I said earlier, Arsenal managed to occupy central areas in attack much more frequently than we have of late. This is emphasised by the above ‘Zone 14’ pass maps for both sides. Arsenal managed 12 passes from ‘Zone 14’ (the area an Attacking Midfielder would usually take up) which allowed Arsenal to have variety in their attack. These Zone 14 passes forced Chelsea to narrow their defensive width slightly which allowed Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin to push into a lot of space out wide. To see this coinciding with the introduction of Emile Smith Rowe shows that if Arsenal can continue to find ways to involve him, that we may be able to consistently threaten opposition defences.
The above shows the successful passes into the penalty area from Saturday’s game. Chelsea resorted to crossing from the right wing (something we’ve seen plenty of as Arsenal fans) and the introduction of Callum Hudson-Odoi meant these crosses were much more threatening later in the game. Arsenal’s left-hand side again proved to be our best method of getting the ball into the box.
The last thing I would like to highlight is the intensity of pressing that our young trio behind Lacazette showed. The trio gave Arsenal an intensity and speed of pressing we haven’t seen for months as the Chelsea defence could not find a way past the press in the first half. Mikel Arteta may find it difficult to justify dropping any of the three as the performances they put in are surely worthy of a run in the team.
That’s all for today, and it’s on to Brighton at the AMEX on Tuesday in what looks a much more winnable game after Saturday’s events.
Data from Opta via WhoScored