That was fun!
Fans back in the stands!
The ball pinging around on the carpet!
Arsenal scoring 4 goals!
The Hale End kids making contributions!
Sure it wasn’t the toughest competition and there really isn’t much that we can learn about how this will translate into the Premier League but it was still fun to take a break from doom and gloom for a night. We can go back to worrying about the North London Derby tomorrow and take a few hours to enjoy a good performance for a change.
Arsenal 4-1 Rapid Vienna: By the graphs
Arsenal 4-1 Rapid Vienna: By the numbers
22 – Shots for Arsenal, 2nd most shots that Arsenal have taken in a match this season (first was Dundalk)
8 – Shots in prime locations for Arsenal, the most Arsenal have had in a match this season
11 – Shots on target, the most shots that Arsenal have had on target in a match this season
3 – Expected goals, the most Arsenal have had in a match this season
2.56 – Expected goals from open play
4 – Goals scored, the most Arsenal have had in a match this season
24 – Passes completed into the box
55 – Touches within 25 yards of the goal
There are a few things that really stuck for me in this match. First, it was really nice to see the team put together attacking moves from open play that ended with shots. One of the major frustrations of the Wolves match was that in open play Arsenal really struggled to create from open play and were left to try cross after cross.
I know Mikel Arteta came out defending that choice talking about how good teams will cross the ball (which is true but not all crosses are the same), the crosses Arsenal did in that match were probably the lowest quality ones where the players being aimed at are static, the defense is set and can watch the ball the entire way and it will almost always be cleared without a major error. In this match Arsenal was able to move the ball quickly between the players, using the third man runs into open up space and things looked so much better.
The second thing that I really enjoyed was that the spacing and system seemed to look so much better in this match. In the Wolves match the passing network looked like a horseshoe around the halfway mark, in this match well look below and see how much better this looks.
This looks pretty much exactly what you want from a 433/4231 system.
Nicolas Pepe Shines
2 – Shots, 1 on target, 1 big chance, 0.54 expected goals
5 – Key passes, 0.3 xG assisted
5 – Dribbles completed out of 11 attempts
1 – Foul drawn
12 – Touches in the box
5 – Passes completed into the box
1 – Tackles
1 – Interception
In this match, it was pretty obvious that there was no one on Rapid Vienna even close to the same talent level as Nicolas Pepe. He was a threat to beat his man every time he touched the ball, maybe to the point that he got a little too greedy in trying. He was central to almost all of the attacks that Arsenal had with a team-leading xG Chain of 1.9 (73% of Arsenal’s open play xG).
He did lose the ball a little more than I would like, but this is a very good example of the risk-reward of a player like Pepe. The things that he was able to make come off more than outweighed the times that he turned the ball over. By my attacking value-added metric (similar to the possession value-added that Dom uses in the by the visuals) he led Arsenal with a mark of 1.22, more than doubling Cedric Soares’ 0.46 in this match.
It might be a blessing in disguise that he was forced to play in the lower pressure Europa League matches to get back some of his swagger, and I really hope that this is something that carries over to the Premier League.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles looks good in Midfield
39 – Passes completed
83 – Pass completion percentage
8 – Final third entries
5 – Progressive passes
2 – Passes completed in the box
2 – Key passes, 1 assist, 0.39 xG assisted
2 – Progressive carries
6 – Touches in the box
2 – Shots, 0.68 xG
3 – Ball recoveries
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was given a role similar to the one that Joe Willock has done recently. Starting as a midfielder but given license to move forward. His athleticism seemed well suited for this role, where he could make runs both with the ball and off the ball from deeper locations into the box.
I am not sure that Maitland-Niles will quite have the technical ability to play in midfield in the Premier League but he did make a pretty strong case that at least in the Europa League he deserves another chance.
Lastly, a request, can you take the time to take this survey on how you feel about Arsenal as part of my monthly approval rating series. Thank you very much.
Sources: Opta via WhoScored, my own database