Wednesday, December 8, 2021

West Brom 0-4 Arsenal: By the numbers

This was a really nice attacking performance. It was against West Brom who are not a great defensive team, but that is still a huge improvement for Arsenal who have not been able to do this to teams in the Premier League this season.

Arsenal have a run of matches where they should be favored to win, hopefully the wins and now the good performances can help the team to get back closer to where they expected to be on the table.

West Brom 0-4 Arsenal: By the graphs

West Brom 0-4 Arsenal: By the numbers

3.8 – Arsenal’s expected goals in this match, the most that they have had in a league match this season.

21 – Shots for Arsenal, the most that they have had in a league match this season.

11 – Shots on target for Arsenal, the most that they have had in a league match this season.

14.8 – Average distance from the center of the goal for Arsenal’s shots, the fifth closest average shot location in the league, which is really impressive given the number of shots that they took.

39 – Touches in the box for Arsenal, tied for the second most in a league match this season.

This was an interesting attacking match from a statistical point of view. In this match Arsenal completed just 10 passes in the box (excluding set plays), which is only their 7th highest total of the season, but they managed 39 total touches in the box. This was also not a big match for progressive passing, with Arsenal managing just 33 with my definition and 39 with StatsBomb.

Looking at the map here of the progressive passes that Arsenal completed, it looks like the majority of them are completed deeper in the West Brom half than would be typical. I think that is a combination of the snow making passing harder than normal and West Brom did not do much to contest midfield, in this match West Brom pressured Arsenal just 63 times in the middle third of the pitch which is just the 7th most Arsenal have faced. Pressure events are typically higher when teams have less of the ball, because that gives a team more opportunities.

What appears to have happened instead, is that Arsenal were able to move the ball forward with the ball at their feet instead through passing. In this match Arsenal were able to progress the ball 2210 yards carrying the ball, which is the most they managed in a match this season.

I think that it was very encouraging that Arsenal were able to adapt to what nature and West Brom gave them in this match, and it turned into an excellent attacking performance. The Arsenal shot chart from this match, makes me very happy and I would love to see it repeated over and over again.

Alexandre Lacazette is in great form

5 – Shot for Lacazette, 4 on target, 1.9 xG, 2 goals

3 – Key Passes, 0.2 xG assisted

2 – Passes completed inside the penalty area

10 – Touches in the box

3 – Successful dribbles

4 – Fouls drawn

1 – Time lost possession

11 – Pressure events, 3 in the attacking third

This was a really good performance from Lacazette. I have had my frustrations with him, but those have more stemmed from him being the best fit to play in a false 9 role among a bunch of poor choices. This uptick in form has coincided with the introduction of Emile Smith-Rowe in the number 10 role, which has freed him from needing to do as much of the buildup work which was not his biggest strength.

I was also thinking about talking about how maybe this was an example of how poor Aubameyang looked in comparison but when a took the time to look at his numbers and how he plays I reconsidered. I think that this is almost exactly the type of match that you want from Aubameyang, except with him scoring a goal. In this match he had 3 shots, not counting the cross/shot from Saka that if he gets contact is a sure goal. These shots were really good quality too with an xG of 0.7 from my model and 0.9 on StatsBomb’s. He maybe had a few too many touches away from dangerous locations (26 midfield third touches compared to 24 in the final third) where he isn’t at his best facilitating for others. In this match he could have two goals and the narrative of this performance would be drastically different, but these are the fine margins on which players are judged.

What I think all of this really illustrates for me is that the addition of a true attacking midfielder comfortable in the central zones has freed up both Lacazette and Aubameyang to do focus a lot more on the good parts of their game.

Lastly, it is a new month and I want to gauge fan opinion on how things are going with Arsenal, if you could please fill out this short survey on how you think things are going right now.

@Oh_that_crab

Sources: Opta via WhoScored, StatsZone, and my own database. StatsBomb via FBRef.

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HenryKamp

Missing one of the most important stat there.

Willian had his second shot on target of the season.

Biggles

Each shot @ £3.5 million so far then. Things can only get better…can’t they?

C.B.

It might get down to £1m a shot by the end of the season.

Johnny 4 Hats

Hey, come on. Stop giving the guy a hard time. He’s not had a holiday all year so far…

Bad egg

Honest question: why do our fans enjoy ridiculing players that are out of form? Surely Willian isn’t enjoying being ineffective. I’m sure he would prefer to be knocking in goals and providing assists every game. And this is not to say we fans don’t have a right to be frustrated at his level of play and effort. But I’ve come to notice that we always want to have a player or some players we blame for our losses and we never relent, even when they play decent in a win (like willian in this match). We just keep piling on… Read more »

Storm

Stop asking why. Criticism is natural if your performance stinks. Are you a supporter of freeloading and mediocrity?

Bad egg

I am a fan and a supporter. Criticism is fine when fair and required. It was not in this case. William did okay, we won the match, no need to keep grinding that axe, that’s when it becomes ridiculing for the sake of it. A fan is not only there when things are good. You support players when things are down too, that’s what makes a supporter and a fan. That’s why fans in the stadiums sing even when the team is losing. Cos you love your team, and you’re not only there for the good times. Like I pointed… Read more »

Bobbo

I think it is that we all want to be funny. If you look at the comment, it was meant to be humorous. Other times, people can be jerks.

C.B.

1 – there is only one Bukayo Saka.

Johnny 4 Hats
David Hilliers Arm Cast

Laca’s turn around has been nothing short of incredible to me. At the start of the season he looked like a spent force, slow, couldn’t get a shot on target but he still worked hard. Now he looks on top of his game. The odd thing is that Auba has gone the complete opposite way. The big difference I see if the hard work Laca puts in off the ball, Auba just doesn’t do it. Laca has made opportunities for himself from that work which contributed to his up turn in form. Hoping for a change in attitude and desire… Read more »

Johnny 4 Hats

Are you implying Auba’s not our captain?

David Hilliers Arm Cast

More that he possesses none of the characteristics of a captain.

jimbo

lacazette has always had patches of good form the problem is hes not consistant enough to get 20 plus leage goals in a season.
hopefully this is the year he does it.

Martin

Lacazette has only had one bad patch and that was after his long term injury. He’s been totally consistent otherwise and that’s why he was our player of the year just 2 seasons ago. You are totally wrong

Andresantos

He was brought in for massive money at the time to be the prolific striker we had been missing and be an improvement on girouds goal return. He hasn’t done that he’s been good in spells. Nothing more.

Johnny 4 Hats

12 – The amount of time Steve McManaman pondered whether or not Auba got a touch on the Saka cross.

“I think he did” “Might have got studs” “Was there a touch?” “You know, he might have got a whisker on that” “Looks like… Did he? Hard to tell” “Might have done there” “Yep. No. Hhmm. Could do with another angle” “He might have just caught a smidge of that” “Yep. No. Perhaps. Too close to call”.

It didn’t go in. Who gives a monkeys?

SB Still

3 – Num of points behind Chelsea

SB Still

After a few weeks seeking out these articles- a review of how well we performed, rather than how badly.

Better times.

I’ve done the survey

Biggles

True – but most of the other teams above us have played fewer games than we have. We may catch/even overtake Chelsea – it’s all the others we need to worry about.

Johnny 4 Hats

Is it true you turned up in Berlin when the wall came down to inform the eastern states that they would still economically struggle well into the 21st century?

Sean

From the running xg chart it seems like Smith-Rowe’s shot that was blocked on the line right before Lacazette’s first wasn’t given any weight. Any idea why that is?

Scott Willis

On the running xG both chances are counted. The running xG is the sum of all shots in that minute of game time.

Kostas

Great performance overall but we didn’t avoid our casual brain farts which WBA could another day capitalize. Specifically speaking Xhaka gave them away an early change that Saint Leno saved.

Matthinc

[email protected] Leno I’m calling him that from now on

Martin

Really? Wait until he makes another of his errors.

Scott Willis

I think there were two fouls in the lead up to that chance but alas they were not called.

Daveo

Yes, and they were literally RIGHT in front of the referee and both times (on Laca, then Xhaka) the defender just ran straight over the Arsenal player to get the ball. That was ridiculous refereeing.

Martin

Of course we must always find fault with the eternal scapegoat. Yes he made one mistake but had an excellent match. Even Tierney made a couple of errors.

DPK

Here’s a question Martin : are you clever enough to see the irony in you talking about an ‘eternal scapegoat’ right after you make YET ANOTHER pop at Leno ??

Daveo

2 – the number of current world class left backs from Scotland

MattB

Who’d have thought that playing a 10 as a 10 would make us more effective going forward (lol).

Naked Cygan

Or…..who would have thought moving Laca from a DMF to a CF would lead to goals?

Goonsquad

My favourite bit was when the commentator described Sam Allardyce as man with a lot on his plate.

Onenil

It never stays there long.

Mathew Lionnet

Can I ask a stats question?? When there are multiple shots – like the Smith Rowe example – that leads to a goal, is it not redundant to count all of those in the Xg? I mean, if 3 good shots in one burst lead to a goal, where you could only have scored one goal, then does it not make more sense to just take the highest Xg of the 3 shots? Love the work though! 🙂

Frederick

That’s a good point. If the “expected” goals from Smith-Rowe’s shot are converted into actual goals, then no more expected goals can arise from the situation. On the other hand, does the xG of Smith-Rowe’s chance account for the percentage of the time that it rebounds to another player who scores? Because if not, that needs to be aggregated in some way. If so, then I think you’re right, only the xG of the first chance in a series should properly count towards the total. That’s an extreme example of the reason why xG, while useful, is probably an imperfect… Read more »

Daveo

The problem would be separating things when the ball stays in play.
e.g. A player takes a shot that is saved back into play defender clears the ball into the other half attacking team build up again and eventually take another shot and score. Still connected by continous play, would it cancel out the initial xG from the initial shot?

COYG 1001

Thanks for the analysis. I took the survey.

FWIW, I think that the survey is missing a question along the lines of whether you thing Arsenal is adhering to Arsenal values. For every response that is not an unqualified yes, a drill down question: redundancies, payouts, “Footballing Reasons,” style of play, etc.

A Different George

I think the presence of Smith-Rowe has made a difference not only for Lacazette (especially) and Aubameyang, but also for Bellerin and Saka who now have a third player with whom to form a triangle (I think Pepe will look a lot better too). I don’t want to beat the dead Ozil horse, but I hope this ends the constant claim that we don’t benefit from playing with a number 10 (independent of his identity). The idea that “no one uses a number 10 anymore” was always nonsense.

A Different George

I have now learned that apparently Ozil said something similar. I don’t do Twitter (because I think I am close enough to the edge as it is) and didn’t know this.

Bai Blagoi

@Scott:
Do you plan to share with the readers here, in any form, the result of this fan survey?

YaGunnersYa

Kieran Tierney is consistently excellent.

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