Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United: By the numbers

I was a little concerned about this match beforehand, this felt like the type of match that could be overlooked. Coming off of a bad loss to Liverpool and a match looming at Manchester United, this is a game that can become a “trap” where a team at the bottom of the table can be overlooked.

Thankfully that was not the case, with the team, and a number of players that made mistakes bouncing right back, leading to a solid performance and an important three points.

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United: By the graphics

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United: By the numbers

24 – Shots for Arsenal (6 on target), second-most Arsenal have taken in a league match this season

8 – Shots allowed by Arsenal (5 on target), tied for second-fewest Arsenal have allowed in a league match this season

24.1 – The average distance in yards for the shots that Arsenal allowed, the longest average distance Arsenal have allowed this season.

0.03 – The average xG of the shots Arsenal allowed in this match, the lowest average probability of shots allowed this season.

65% – Arsenal’s share of the passes attempted (possession), the second-highest in a match this season.

256 – Touches in the attacking third for Arsenal (including 39 touches in the box), the second most (257 against Brentford was the highest) in a league match this season.

86 – Touches in the attacking third allowed by Arsenal (including 14 touches in the box), the fewest allowed in a league match this season.

8.6 – Passes allowed in the defensive half per defensive action by Arsenal, the second-fewest (highest pressing) this season.

51 – Pressure events in the attacking third by Arsenal, the third-most Arsenal have had in a match this season.

4 – Big chances created (36% of the season total), the most Arsenal have had in a single match this season (more on this below)

This match felt a lot like a match against a team at the bottom of the table coming to face Arsenal should feel like. Arsenal controlled possession, kept the ball in the attacking half, looked to win the ball back quickly to keep the pressure on, generated a bunch of shots, and even a few good opportunities to score where the actual scoreline could have been a couple more.

A short section on “Big Chances”

I have seen a lot floating around the internet on big chances, how many Arsenal create and how many they miss. There is a lot of confusion about this so hopefully, this little section can help explain.

First, a big chance is a qualifier in the event data where the people doing the tagging of the match judge a chance as follows: “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter. Penalties are always considered big chances.” Contrary to popular opinion it is not based on the xG of the shot, but rather something that goes the other way, this qualifier is something that will massively affect the expected goals rating of a shot, this is an issue with expected goals, especially because there can be outcome bias regardless of how objective the people tracking the game are. With my model the average expected goals value for a non-penalty big chance, this season is 42% and a distribution that looks like this:

Second, and I think that this is something that confuses people is the term “created.” This refers to when a shot is assisted by another player with an intentional pass. Not every shot is “created,” this match is a good illustration of that, Arsenal had 24 shots but only 18 of those were “created,” Arsenal had 5 big chances but only 4 of those are created. So for when before this match people were tweeting/talking about Arsenal only having created 7 big chances, and that is quite bad, it was not the full total Arsenal had as a team.

Hopefully, this clears up some of the confusion on big chances.

Albert Sambi Lokonga bounces back

82 – Pass Completed, 1st among all players

13 – F3rd Entry Passes, 2nd among all players

7 – Progressive Passes, 1st among all players

4 – Box Entry Pass, 1st among all players

5 – Deep Completions (not Cross), 1st among all players

6 – Key Passes, 1st among all players

0.41 – xA, 3rd among all players

11 – Progressive Carries, 2nd among all players

1.71 – xG Buildup, 3rd among all players

2 – Tackles, 6th among all players

8 – Ball Recoveries, 3rd among all players

2 – High Ball Recoveries, 2nd among all players

Sambi looked rattled against Liverpool to start the second half, it is not surprising because Anfield and the Liverpool press are not easy to face. What was an open question was, how would he respond to that?

Well, in this match I think we got the answer to that in that he would have arguably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt. Newcastle looked to cut out the influence of Thomas Partey, preferring to challenge other players to move the ball up the field. Sambi was more than up to the challenge proving pivotal for Arsenal to get the ball into both the final third and the penalty box.


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

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Good performance but Newcastle are poor. Let’s hope that United don’t get any confidence from leading at Chelsea, which they are currently.


Sorry to all of you. I got it wrong obviously.

Let’s hope Man U do get some confidence.


Just seen the highlights. Still laughing at Jorginho trying to top John Terry falling over in the “all time great defensive cockups” stakes.
United wouldn’t have scored at all, but for that.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Check out the one in the Copa Libertadores over the weekend, from David Luiz’s pass, cost Flamengo the trophy.


i dunno – luiz was not someone i enjoyed seeing in an arsenal jersey, but that looked more like pereira failing to deal with a standard pass than luiz playing a poor pass to me.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Yeah it was 100% Pereira’s fault. I only added that the standard pass was from Luiz as I thought it would be more interesting to Arsenal fans.


My brain hurts! Results went well for us again this weekend, let’s hope we put in our best performance of the season against Man U 💥

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Sp*rs have now resorted to covering away stadiums in fake snow in order to avoid inevitable defeat.




Nice! Definitely appreciate the clarification on what the stats represent – I’m enjoying your work!


Once again Auba has the smallest circle in the distribution map. Same as every week. Question remains how long can we continue to carry him week in, week out. He’s not scoring and contributes nothing in build up. He’s trying hard in the press, but it’s also clear he just isn’t very effectual at that either. I think it’s past time to give him a rest and try something different.


You go a little too far in this one; he’s been poor, he knows that, but he’s not going to find his form on the bench. He’ll get going.


So he’s indespensible and irreplaceable then. I disagree. More than ever we need that CF contribution in build up and auba just isn’t that player even when in form. This I think is one of the key reasons we’re not creating enough (and well not finishing enough either). We no longer have the balance to carry that IMO. Form is one thing, but this is now 1.5 years of poor form – day points more to a decline than form. But each to their own I guess.


Well, yeah, he’s our captain and an elite striker. As everyone has pointed out and we’ve all seen, he should have at least 3 more goals to his name this year having missed penalties and absolute sitters; he won’t keep missing those. I don’t think he’s playing that far off the pace of the 3rd best goalscorers (Antonio and Mane at 7) this season, and he will improve.

Auba’s off the ball movement is as good as ever, so I don’t believe that he’s in decline.


Auba is always going to have the smallest circle in the distribution map of our outfield players, as will Vardy for Leicester, and other forwards of a similar ilk. Don’t judge his contributions by the size of his circle. That said, he should be scoring more.


Vardy is miles ahead of auba in build up play and chance creation for others.


Since we’re talking statistics, let’s use statistics: Vardy takes fewer touches/game, and makes fewer passes/game than Auba (size of circle and thickness of line on the distribution map)


Assists 0.24 (83rd %ile for CFs)
xA 0.12 (54th %ile)
Shot creating actions 1.88 (27th %ile)

Assists 0.12 (52rd %ile CFs)
xA 0.08 (26th %ile)
Shot creating actions 1.60 (15th %ile)

DB's first touch

this argument is clearly a case of moving the goal posts. You started off talking about the size of the circle, which is proportional to the number of touches. Johan showed that Varty takes fewer touches per game than Auba and now you’ve switched to comparing chance creation/creativity.


No it’s not, I’ve been talking about this for weeks. It’s an OK going issue that he offers limited connection in counters, poor hold up play and very little creation for others. That relates to his circle size. He gets more touches than vardy because they play less possession football and he does less with those touches. The data both Johan and myself posted speak to exactly that. Sure though, argue semantics…


He’s not scoring and contributes nothing in build up.” from my original point… if you think Auba is doing great, then power to you, but the data doesn’t back that up – he’s not scoring enough, and he’s certainly not creating enough on a team that needs more chance creation.


Auba still has more goals this season than Kane. Let’s get behind our captain and not become the idiots down the road.


Sambi was excellent again in this game, thanks for highlighting his play Scottie! While the pass he played to Saka was absolutely sensational, I was most impressed by the number passes he made between the lines to increase tempo and open up space for advanced attackers. The comment about his game against liverpool is perfect. He got rattled by the press (the whole team did), but they are the best in the world at it. The best thing is how he bounced back again with a blinder. He made an error against Palace, owned it and came back to destroy… Read more »


How is this getting downvotes? Nothing controversial here. Is being positive about our own players now a thing people actively disapprove of?

The Beast

Pretty sure that’s been a thing for a little while now.


Daveo, there is a great highlight reel of Sambi’s performance, which I’m sure you’ve seen — but watch it again, and rather than admire Sambi (who was superb), keep your eye on Auba in every sequence: he is constantly moving, constantly pulling defenders and opening spaces, constantly making killer runs, and definitely contributing to the team’s overall attack without goals. It probably won’t be enough to change your opinion of his decline, but perhaps enough to buy him a little more grace before his scoring kicks in (and changes your opinion!). 🙂


He makes great runs, that and his finishing (normally) are his strengths, but his style of play just isn’t that well suited to what we’re trying to do. We need to connect through that forward outlet to be effective and he’s just not good at that. Even when we build a higher Tempo attack he often needs to play a role in connecting that, but so many attacks just die through that connection. I’m looking at this tactically. Maybe his goals comeback, but he is the type of player that needs close to a goal a game to be a… Read more »

A Different George

The number of players in the history of football who have scored “close to a goal a game” is pretty limited. You are saying that because of Arsenal’s style of play, Ayubameyang cannot be “a net positive” unless he scores like prime Messi or Ronaldo. If that were true (and of course, it’s not), Arsenal would need to change their style of play.


Kinda yeah. Our record since he signed isn’t great. We’ve never been a champs league team. He doesn’t help others score. So he’s either banging in that many himself that he offsets that or we probably aren’t getting enough goals. Messi and Ronaldo scored at an incredible rate, but they also provided goals in abundance for their teammates. Auba’s at 68/128 league goals, which is a great record considered on it’s own (>1 every 2 games). But in the last year and a half it’s down to 14/41…not so great, compounded by contributing only 4 assists in that time as… Read more »


As you say, his style of play is opening spaces for others and scoring goals — these are immensely valuable to our attack. We’ve got killer attacking midfielders (Saka, ESR, Odegaard in time) and fullbacks as well as more mobile central midfielders who all exploit the spaces that Auba opens. I agree that we should have a Plan B striker who’s game is the opposite of Auba’s for those games when you need a Plan B, but I don’t think his fit in this team is at all difficult and I don’t think this team is carrying him in that… Read more »


Well it depends on our style. If like you are suggesting our aim is to play in the opposition half as much as possible, that suggests a slow possession based football. Auba is not well suited to that because that requires even more contribution from a CF to make intricate connections in and around the box. That style takes away space to run into – Auba’s game. So no, he’s not suited to that if that is where we are going. I don’t think and hope that isn’t where we are going because we are starting to look (at times)… Read more »


Liverpool play most of their game in the opposition half and I would not describe their football as a slow possession game, and when we are performing well we too are not slow. That’s exactly what Arteta said is the problem with our first half against Newcastle. I think in focusing on Aubameyang’s stats, you’re missing what he’s doing out there every game and thus not seeing the main reasons why he remains our captain and why Arteta persists with him each week. But I’m not going to change your mind; only Auba will, so let’s hope he does so… Read more »


Yeah, but this comes down to the pressing issue. They turn the ball over high up the pitch better than any team in the world. We’re basically the worst at it in the EPL at the moment and Auba doesn’t add much if anything in that respect – he chase around against Newcastle, but that was it. I’m definitely not cheering for his failure, I want the guy to score and in bunches, I just don’t think he deserves an infinite leash. And his fit is tough when he doesn’t score. Pepe’s leash on the other hand is basically zero.… Read more »

Billy bob

Bit worrying that are so-called experienced players are struggling (auba and partey) and I can’t think why!! Not like the kids are holding them back (the other way round maybe) not sure what Arteta can do about it!! Probably wishes he could sell Auba, Laca & Nketiah – fancy having three strikers who don’t really suit your style of play 😮

Man Manny

Last season after 13 games – 14 points.
This season after 13 games – 23 points.
Points differential – +9.

Scott Willis

Still one point worse from the “same” fixtures last year. Have a chance to pickup 2 points Thursday


We was our Brentford last season?😶

Crash Fistfight

How does that work? We won at Old Trafford last season, so wouldn’t winning on Thursday keep it as -1?


Saka scored his goal because Tavares drifted into the half-space and effectively changed from a left-back to an attacking mid-fielder. How on Earth do you defend against that, particularly when Saka has drifted across to create an overload? I’ve got lots of time for Tierney, but he just doesn’t do that sort of thing. Arteta must be so happy with that goal. Very exciting.


Tierney does do that, methinks.


tierney does advance up the field at least as high, but i feel like he’s more likely to go outside than drift in, no?


He does, often, but he also cuts inside — whatever space presents more danger. We’re incredibly fortunate with both players.


That was a superb piece of play from Taverez, who had an absolute gem of a game. His shooting was the only thing he did wrong. Massive influence on the result.


Not to mention his shoulder check on their striker when he was through on goal. I think that defending is grossly under appreciated. I think it was as influential if not more than the assist he gave. Excellent game.

Crash Fistfight

I couldn’t understand the moaning about that being a penalty. It was not even close.

Odegaard rugby tackling their player at a corner though? Very lucky to get away with that. Not sure what’s going on with VAR this season.

A Different George

It genuinely looked like an illustration of “this is a legal shoulder charge” from an instruction film. I don’t think there was even the slightest contact on any other part of the body, not a hint of being in the back instead of the shoulder, not excessively violent, the ball in the player’s possession. Perfect. (It is much better than the film of Xhaka demonstrating a slide tackle.)


Odegaard one looked like a pen to me too, but the one on Martinelli was a locked on penalty – there was nothing but intention to knock a player to the ground and it also should have warranted a yellow (which would have been a 2nd yellow) as it was dangerous play. Overall I’d say this was one of the better referred games of the season, and still quite a few questionable decisions – so is the standard of EPL referees.

Man Manny

I am so thrilled by our options at left back.
Tierney is pretty solid, but I think Tavares has it in him to be one of the best in the world in a few seasons.
I hope and pray we get back into Europe on a regular basis: we need to find a way to keep them both happy.
But if I had to choose, it would be Tavares all day long.


It’s becoming more and more obvious that the scouting dept. made so many good moves this summer. Kudos to them for finding so many young players who fit into MA’s
future team.


Can’t agree. I really like Tavares driving forward with the ball and cutting inside, but he has zero chemistry with Smith-Rowe and doesn’t overlap/interchange passes neatly like Tierney does. He also has been guilty of giving the ball away sloppily in bad positions. I’m super excited to have him but Tierney is still no.1 for me.

Wrighty's hats

I think it’s a good thing we don’t have carbon copy options – gives us different things to throw at opposition depending on the situation 🙂 (how long has it been since we’ve had that in any position?!)

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