The start of the season did not go as planned.
The scoreline might be slightly flattering to Brentford, but maybe equally concerning for Arsenal (who to be fair were missing many key players, but also have a squad that large and bloated) was that this match was very even.
Think about that, Arsenal was matched by a team that just earned a promotion to the Premier League. Against a team that had a very modest wage and transfer budget for the Championship and will have easily among the lowest wage budgets in the League.
Things could also get worse from here with matches against Chelsea and Manchester City still to go before the first international break and end of the transfer window.
Brentford 2-0 Arsenal: By the graphics
Brentford 2-0 Arsenal: By the numbers
22 – Shots from Arsenal, this would have been the most shots that Arsenal managed in a match all of last season.
0.05 – The expected goal per shot average for Arsenal in this match.
19.4 – The average distance in yards from the center of goal for Arsenal’s shots
4 – Shots in prime locations (a half-circle 12 yards from goal) for Arsenal, with just one a footed shot (Balogun 31′ minutes where he is probably fouled)
19 – Crosses attempted from open play, 9 completed, 5 turned into shots, 0.3 xG created
71% – Field tilt (percentage of possession in the final third) for Arsenal. Arsenal dominated the opening 20 minutes and then the final 30.
The numbers above suggest that Arsenal did fairly well at getting the ball up the pitch against Brentford. In all 74% of Arsenal’s attacks ended up with the ball in Brentford’s final third, while keeping Brentford to just 35%. When Arsenal got the ball into the final third, it was a repeat of a lot of the problems that Arsenal had last season, where Arsenal seemed like their first choice to try to get the ball into the box was by going wide, and especially wide to Kieran Tierney to put in a cross.
Tierney put up big numbers (more on this below) but it made Arsenal fairly predictable and Arsenal was unable to create any big chances in this match. Maybe with a more senior striker available, Arsenal could have turned some of this service into better chances but that seems like it is a stretch.
There is a lot to fix still with Arsenal’s chance creation.
Kieran Tierney – The attacking outlet
6 – Key passes (led all players)
0.6 – xG assisted (led all players)
11 – Shot creating actions (led all players)
5 – Passes completed into the penalty area (tied for most among all players)
4 – Progressive passes completed
3 – Shots (tied for second among all players)
9 – Touches in the box (tied for most among all players)
51 – Touches in the attacking third (led all players)
11 – Progressive passes received
15 – Final third entry passes received
If Arsenal’s only attacking idea was to get the ball out wide to Tierney, at least he looked up for the challenge of trying to create something. He was by far Arsenal’s most prolific creative threat in this match, both in volume and quality. He was involved in 63% of Arsenal’s attacks that ended in shots, while also contributing 42% of Arsenal’s expected goals through his shots and key passes.
Sambi Lokonga’s Debut
62 – Passes completed (second on Arsenal)
88.6 – Pass completion rate (82.5% expected pass completion rate)
6 – Final third entry passes completed
6 – Progressive passes completed
3 – Passes completed into the penalty area
2 – Key passes
45% – Percentage of passes that went forward, 37% square, and 18% backward
16 – Progressive carries (223 yards of progressive distance carried)
1 – Dribble completed (2 turnovers)
2 – Tackles won (led Arsenal)
5 – Interceptions (led Arsenal)
All three of Arsenal’s signings made their debuts in this match but for me, Sambi Lokonga was the one that was the brightest. I thought that perhaps getting playing time this early in the season would be setting expectations too high, but Sambi was very impressive in the preseason and took advantage of Thomas Partey being out injured to step right into the team. It wasn’t perfect and at times it looked like he wasn’t sure if he should go forward or stay back, but I think that can be down to only having limited time playing with Xhaka.
What was most impressive about him was that his first instinct when he gets on the ball is to move it forward. He looked very positive driving the ball forward with his carries (16 progressive carries in this match!) and matched that with his passing intent. A good start for the new kid.
Sources: Opta via whoscored, StatsBomb via FBRef