Arsenal showed that while they perhaps might not have the same first XI talent and coherence that Leicester has shown this season, they do still have superior depth.
Both of these teams played important Europa League matches on Thursday night and the fast turnaround to the early kickoff on Sunday is always going to be a test of a team’s fitness and ability to rotate. Mikel Arteta (with the added challenge of playing the “home” match 2,400 km away) decide to make 6 changes to the team was able to beat Benfica, while Brenden Rodgers only made 4 changes.
Arsenal came out a bit flat to start but looked to be the team with superior fitness as the match stretched on. In the end, the trust that Arteta put in his changes paid dividends and hopefully, Arsenal will be able to get more contributions from all around the squad going forward.
Leicester 1-3 Arsenal: By the graphs
Leicester 1-3 Arsenal: By the numbers
2 – Shots for Leicester in the opening 21 minutes of the match (Arsenal had 0).
3 – Shots for Leicester in the next 74 minutes (Arsenal had all 11 of theirs in this period).
As I pointed out in the introduction, Leicester came out better in this match. The ceded possession (25% to 75% in the opening quarter) but kept Arsenal from doing much with it.
56 – Touches in the final third for Arsenal in the opening quarter (first 23 minutes)
1 – Touch in the box in the opening quarter, with just 1 touch within 25 yards of goal.
0 – Shots for Arsenal in the opening quarter
In the middle portion of the match, Arsenal finally exerted pressure on Leicester. The following stats will be from the second and the quarters of the match (23-68 minutes).
91 – Touches in the final third for Arsenal (51 for Leicester)
14 – Touches in the box for Arsenal (7 for Leicester)
19 – Touches within 25 yards of the goal (7 for Leicester)
8 – Passes completed into the box (2 for Leicester)
7 – Shots (5 from open play), 3 goals, 2.1 expected goals, 2 big chances
This period won deservedly Arsenal the match. Arsenal’s attack was good at getting the ball forward into dangerous positions (especially before the 2nd goal) and the defense did not allow Leicester to get anywhere near the Arsenal goal.
Willian is… useful
2 – Shots (0.2 xG)
3 – Key passes, 1 assist (the second one goes down as a shot and thus not an assist), 0.2 xA
5 – Shot creating actions (led Arsenal)
6 – Passes completed into the penalty area (led Arsenal), 5 from set plays and 1 from open play.
4 – Passes completed within 15 yards of the goal (led Arsenal)
91% – Pass completion percentage (76% expected pass completion percentage)
3 – Successful dribbles, the most that he has had for Arsenal this season
7 – Attacking third pressure events, led Arsenal. Overall he has 11 pressure events, with 8 leading to Arsenal winning the ball back within 5 seconds of that pressure.
The heading for the section is bit snarky because Willian was more than useful in this match and in fact he might have been Arsenal’s best player. Not to dig too far into the past, these were the types of performances that I think everyone hoped he would be able to provide this season, even if the logic behind the signing of him was questioned. There would have been very few people (also I think that they would have been wrong because there was no evidence of this in his stats) who have said that he was a useless player for this season when Arsenal signed him.
Hopefully, he can get back to providing this level of performance on a more regular basis because he is going to be at Arsenal for the next 851 days. The last thing Arsenal need is a player on a big contract riding the bench after spending the last 6-12 months trying to clear the team of their previous mistakes.
Pepe Continues to Impress
3 – Shots (1.0 xG)
7 – Touches in the box (led Arsenal)
37 – Final third touches (led Arsenal)
3 – Progressive carries
5 – Times fouled
4 – Shot creating actions
2 – Tackles won
2 – Interceptions
Willian was the main creative/progressive hub when Arsenal got the ball into the final third but Pepe was the player that was Arsenal’s biggest threat for having that possession turn into goals.
This match was the best performance of his recent run of very solid form for Arsenal. Luke Thomas will probably hate watching back the film of this match because Pepe caused him nothing but problems and he had no answers beyond fouling him when they went one on one.
If I had one complaint about Arteta’s recent lineups (especially in the Europa League) it has been that it is missing a player to get shots. The Saka, Smith Rowe, and Odegaard attacking midfield trio is full of technical ability and creativity but it has seemed light in shots. I think that with his recent performance, Pepe looks like he could potentially bring that with a combination of the two other players. Regardless it is very refreshing to see Arsenal looking to have an abundance of attacking choices to mix and match against opponents and game situations.
Sources: Opta via WhoScored, my own database. StatsBomb via FBRef.