This is a bit of a combo/bonus by the numbers. I was traveling last weekend so I didn’t have time to sit down and write and I normally skip the Carabao cup matches because well it’s the League Cup.
This time it comes with extending the winning run with two well-played victories and that is worth looking at a little deeper.
Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa: By the numbers
9 – Touches in the box by Arsenal after their first goal and the penalty that turned into the second goal, Aston Villa managed 1.
24 – Final third pass attempts by Arsenal after their first goal and the penalty that turned into the second goal, Aston Villa managed 9.
One of the most frustrating things about the match against Crystal Palace was that Arsenal became incredibly passive after scoring. In the week Arteta commented on this as well, challenging his players to be braver and go for the second goal, well I would say that they did here and it was a breath of fresh air. Arsenal dominated the first half, allowing 0 shots and essentially shutting Aston Villa from getting anywhere close to their goal with just 3 touches within 25 yards of goal.
Looking at the stats up to Arsenal’s third goal (after which the match was all but done)
18 – Shots for Arsenal, 3 shots for Aston Villa
6 – Shots on target for Arsenal, 1 for Aston Villa
1.1 – Expected goals from open play for Arsenal, 0.1 for Aston Villa
1.2 – Expected goals from set plays for Arsenal, 0.1 for Aston Villa
6 – Big chances for Arsenal (1 is the penalty and another was the rebound), 0 for Aston Villa
102 – Final third touches for Arsenal, 57 for Aston Villa
29 – Touches within 25 yards of goal for Arsenal, 11 for Aston Villa
The high pressure was better in this match but the major difference in this match compared to others was that Arsenal did not let Aston Villa through the middle third easily. Aston Villa completed just 6.5 passes per defensive action for their passes in their defensive and middle thirds (Arsenal completed 12) while they also had 74 middle third defensive actions (the most they have had in a league match this season).
The last thing I wanted to touch on in this match was that the team shape seemed to show more balance. This was still the hybrid back three with Takehiro Tomiyasu playing a more revered role but it was not nearly as extreme as we had seen in the past. Tomiyasu managed more final third touches (22% compared to 19% of his total touches) than he typically does but I think better for Arsenal’s overall structure was that Tomiyasu (31) and Nuno Tavares (34) had an almost equal number of touches in the opposition half.
Arsenal 2-0 Leeds United: By the numbers
45% – Arsenal’s share of possession, both in the share of passes and the share of minutes in control (27 minutes for Arsenal vs 33 for Leeds)
52% – Arsenal’s share of the final third possession
42% – The percentage of Arsenal’s possessions that entered the final third, Leeds managed to enter the final third 35% of the time.
1.3 – Non-shot expected goals (the expected goals from moving the ball up the field) for Arsenal, Leeds created 0.5.
8.8 – Leeds passing per defensive action against Arsenal
100% – Pass efficiency for Arsenal (actual passing % compared to expected passing %)
4 – Number of Leeds possessions that started within 40 yards of Arsenal’s goals
One of the things that I thought was very positive about this match was how Arsenal managed Leeds press. This has been a weak area at times for Arsenal this season and this was a major concern for me, especially when I saw how strong the lineup was that Leeds put out.
Leeds put quite a bit of pressure against Arsenal but it did seem like Arsenal were well prepared to deal with it. Arsenal played significantly fewer short passes in their own half (66) and many more medium and long passes (127), choosing to play more direct going over the press rather than playing through it. The other strategy that seemed to be very effective was using the center backs to carry the ball up the field, Leeds use a primarily man-oriented system, and the ability of Rob Holding (5 progressive carries), Calum Chambers (2 progressive carries), and Ben White (2 progressive carries) to evade the first line of pressure left tons of open space to exploit and destabilized the Leeds defensive structure.
The Nicolas Pepe Conundrum
5 – Shots (3) plus Key Passes (2)
0.6 – Expected goals (0.13) plus expected goals assisted (0.48)
0.03 – xG Build up involved in (this is the total expected goals of the possession chains that a player is involved in minus taking the final shot or pass that sets up the shot)
6 – Progressive passes, led all players
9 – Progressive carries, led all players
1 – Dribble completed, of 4 attempted
6 – Miscontrols (4) plus Dispossessed (2), led all players
11 – Final third entry passes received, led all players
8 – Touches in the box, led all players
0.4 – Goal probability added, 0.15 through receiving the ball, 0.18 through passing, 0.21 through carrying the ball, -0.12 through losing the ball. Led all players. (Goal probability added is my version of an expected threat type system, measuring how players actions on the ball add or subtract from a teams chances of scoring)
This was a classic frustrating performance from Pepe. He lost the ball nine times and seemed to be the place that attacks went to die. If he wasn’t providing either the final pass or taking the shot the possession sequences with him amounted to very little (just 1 shot). He was also the team’s most threatening player and created the most shot involvements (plus an assist for Chambers’ goal).
In this match, he was the focal point for the team’s attack leading as the main outlet to relieve pressure from Leeds’ pressure, while also leading the team in progressive actions. So it was even more obvious when things broke down after he had the ball.
I am not sure what can be done about this (perhaps sometimes as a more true striker?) at this point. I think to a certain extent this is just the player that he is. He is one of the few players on the team that can create something from nothing, but he will often turn promising moves into nothing. In this match his net contribution was positive but that isn’t always certain with the way he plays and it is understandable why he doesn’t get consistent playing time.
Sources: Opta via whoscored, StatsZone, my own database. StatsBomb via FBRef.