Arsenal had a dominant first half, Arsenal’s project looks to be moving in the right direction, Sp*rs look like they don’t believe in what they are doing, North London is RED, Arsenal is above Sp*rs in the table.
The world is healing.
Before the match, I was cautiously optimistic but still worried that somehow Sp*rs would do a smash and grab in this one like they have done already this season. Thankfully Arsenal came out fast, got a deserved goal, then added on, scoring three wonderful goals and killing the match.
Some of the stats are going to be massively affected by the score because going up 3 goals in the first effectively kills the match and Arsenal was mostly content to see things out.
At halftime, given the team’s general strengths, Arsenal goes on to win that 98% of the time and it felt exactly that certain. Even the consolation goal, wasn’t enough to really move the needle.
Basically, it was a delicious 45 minutes, followed by an additional 45 minutes of relatively stress-free enjoyment. The perfect Derby day.
I think that also in that first 45 minutes we saw exactly the type of attacking system that Mikel Arteta wants. The first half passing network looks like a textbook 3-2-5, with each of the 5 attacking channels supported. I’ll leave it to one of the very good tactics writers to go in-depth on it but it was really nice to see more of the ultimate vision of how Arsenal will look in attack here,
Arsenal 3-1 Sp*rs: By the graphs
Arsenal 3-1 Sp*rs: Breakdown of three beautiful goals
3 – Incredible knee slides
4 – Passes in the build-up to Arsenal’s first goal.
It all starts with Ben White winning an Aerial duel against Harry Kane, White advancing the ball straight up the pitch to Granit Xhaka who then finds Martin Ødegaard who gets it to Bukayo Saka. Saka carries the ball into the box, where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s run takes two defenders to clear space Emile Smith Rowe to slot home (Big Chance, 0.53 xG).
Arsenal started 70 yards from their own goal and in 11 seconds had the ball in the back of the net.
10 – Successful passes in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal.
In the build-up to this goal, Arsenal was on the fortunate side of the Premier League’s change to letting small contact go for non-fouls (maybe it is frustrating but for the most part it was called consistently in this match which is the biggest thing that you ask for, that contact was not a foul all day, for either team). What the build-up diagram here misses is that some of these passes were wonderful one-touch layoff passes. From the time Xhaka recovers the loose ball, Arsenal goes 70 yards in 10 seconds, with a beautiful one-touch layoff by Smith Rowe to Kieran Tierney, who finds Aubameyang doing some excellent center forward work with an outside of the boot flick to spin the ball into space for Smith Rowe to carry and then finally cut it back for Aubameyang to slot home (0.07 xG).
3 – Successful passes in the build-up for the third Arsenal goal.
This play starts with Thomas Partey tackling Harry Kane (I love that two of Arsenal’s three goals start with winning the ball off of him), Granit Xhaka recovering the ball and getting it to Ødegaard, who finds Smith Rowe who is able to get the ball into space for Saka to run at the Sp*rs defense. Saka tries to find Partey but Kane’s blocked pass falls to Saka who calmly puts the ball in the back of the net (Big Chance, 0.37 xG). Arsenal goes 78 yards in 11 seconds and puts the game to bed.
You may have noticed on these graphics that there are little numbers highlighted above each action. These are how much each event added to the team’s probability of scoring, sort of like expected goals but taking things a step backward from the actual shots. If you want a bit longer explanation I have written it up here. Overall for the match, this is how Arsenal looked:
Takehiro Tomiyasu clamps down the right side
39% – Percentage of attacks that came down Sp*rs left side (Arsenal’s right defensive side)
0 – Times dribbled past
1 – Tackle
1 – Interception
3 – Clearances
2 – Blocked Passes
8 – Ball recoveries
It was pretty clear in this match, that Sp*rs were attempting to get Son Heung-Min matched up on Tomiyasu as much as possible. For the most part, Tomiyasu was more than up for it. Son managed just a pair of shots, 1 pass completed in the box, 3 progressive passes.
Looking at where Sp*rs tried to get the ball into dangerous locations from shows how generally ineffective they were. Tomiyasu was directly challenged by one of the best wide forwards in the League and came away looking very good.
The Hale End Boys shine
2 – Goals for Saka and Smith Rowe
3 – Shots for Saka and Smith Rowe
2 – Assists for Saka and Smith Rowe
4 – Key passes for Saka and Smith Rowe
7 – Shot creating actions for Saka and Smith Rowe
4 – Progressive passes for Saka and Smith Rowe
10 – Progressive carries for Saka and Smith Rowe
6 – Progressive passes received for Saka and Smith Rowe
8 – Touches in the box for Saka and Smith Rowe
Beating Sp*rs is wonderful, beating Sp*rs with huge contributions from two players who came up through the Arsenal Academy is spectacular.
One of the big things I think that we all wanted to see from Saka and Smith Rowe was end product. We can see the talent oozing from these players but sometimes it still takes time for that to translate into goals. It might still come in fits and starts but it was excellent to see both of these players directly involved in the goals that Arsenal scored.
Sources: Opta via, StatsZone, Whoscred and my own database. StatsBomb via FBRef.