Saturday, November 27, 2021

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: By the numbers

This match was never going to be easy and getting any points was always felt like it would take some luck. What this match was before kickoff was a way to measure Arsenal against one of the best teams in the world.

I think we got a resounding answer to how Arsenal stacks up, there has been progress during the unbeaten run, but the team still has a long way to go to compete with the elite teams.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: By the graphics

You may notice that these charts have changed slightly, I wanted to illustrate more of the uncertainty that is inherent in rating shots with xG. I wrote more about it here https://www.crabstats.xyz/thinking-about-uncertainty/

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: By the numbers

5 – Shots for Arsenal, the 5th time this season Arsenal have been held under 10 shots in a match.

19 – Shots conceded by Arsenal, the 6th time this season Arsenal have allowed more than 15 shots.

5 – Touches in the box for Arsenal, the fewest they have had this season, and tied for the fewest they have since April 3rd, 2021 where they also managed 5 against Liverpool.

39 – Touches in the box for Liverpool, the third most Arsenal have allowed this season and the 5th time this season Arsenal have allowed their opponent to have 30 or more touches in their box.

77.1% – Arsenal’s pass completion percentage, their 4th lowest this season and the 5th time they have been held under 80% passing

86.6% – Liverpool’s pass completion percentage, the 3rd highest Arsenal have allowed this season, and the 7th time a team has managed a passing percentage against Arsenal greater than 80%.

82.1% – The average passing percentage Arsenal have allowed this season, this ranks as the third easiest team to pass against in the Premier League.

One of the things this match made clear was how little trouble Arsenal caused Liverpool. Liverpool (like Chelsea and Manchester City before them) had one of their best-creating chances day of the season against Arsenal while limiting Arsenal from laying much of a glove on them.

The other thing this match highlighted was that Arsenal are relatively easy to play against. Teams have little trouble completing passes against them with an overall 82.1% pass completion rate against (third easiest), when the passes have an identifiable target the pass finds their intended target 87.8% of the time (easiest). Arsenal’s passes allowed in the opponent’s half per defensive action is the highest (lower pressing) in the Premier League. Arsenal have averaged 124 pressure events (a measure of how often a defender is challenging a player passing, carrying, or receiving the ball) which is 3rd lowest and if adjusted for the amount of possession would rank last. Arsenal also ranks dead last at turning pressure events into turnovers, forcing just 34 pressure-induced turnovers per match.

I thought the opening period (first 25 minutes) of the match was decent from Arsenal where Arsenal managed to limit the threat from Liverpool but the signs of trouble were there mostly because Liverpool were doing the opposite of what Arsenal were doing when it came to pressure. Some stats from that opening period:

3 – Passes completed into the box by Liverpool (that’s pretty good), Arsenal managed 1.

26 – Final third pass attempts by Liverpool, Arsenal managed 8.

5.9 – Passes completed in the defensive half by Arsenal per defensive action by Liverpool, Arsenal’s PPDA was 16.1

95% – Arsenal pass completion ratio compared to the expected pass completion, a number below 100% means they completed fewer passes than expected. Liverpool’s ratio was 103%

1 – Shot within 12 yards of goal for both teams

3 – Possessions that started within 40 yards of Arsenal’s goal for Liverpool, Arsenal managed 0.

Liverpool didn’t put up massive pressure numbers, partially because Arsenal didn’t have the ball long enough but when Arsenal did manage to hold on to the ball, Liverpool were very effective at winning the ball back.

6.7 – The number of passes Arsenal managed in their own half per defensive action by Liverpool.

37.9% – The percentage of pressure events by Liverpool where they won the ball back within 5 seconds.

57.6% – The reception percentage for passes that targeted Arsenal’s attackers (Aubameyang – 37%, Lacazette – 43%, Saka – 69%, Smith Rowe – 66%, and Ødegaard – 81%)

27.8% – The percentage of Arsenal’s possessions where they were able to enter the attacking third of the pitch.

This is tangentially related to another issue that really impressed me with Liverpool. After going up 2-0 against Arsenal they were able to control the match quite easily.

66% – Liverpool’s possession as a share of passes attempted.

64% – The percentage of field tilt (share of final third possession) that is in the favor of Liverpool

109% – Liverpool’s pass completion ratio compared to the expected pass completion, a number below 100% means they completed fewer passes than expected.

14 – The number of their passing sequences that 7 or more passes completed

7 – The number of possessions for Liverpool that started within 40 yards of Arsenal’s goal

2 – Shots allowed by Liverpool, both relatively tame with an expected goals value of 0.11 total.

5 – Shots for Liverpool, turning into 2 goals from 2.4 expected goals.

What Liverpool was able to do in this match is what I wish Arsenal could do to weaker teams when they take the lead. They weren’t nearly as heavy metal with their pressing with their PPDA rising (lower pressing) to 7.4 but it was still higher than Arsenal managed in any period of this match, but still very effective at disrupting Arsenal from developing attacks.

They were also very efficient in attack when the break was on springing quickly up the field but also at using their possession as a form of defense, methodically working the ball up the field when the break wasn’t on.

Arsenal is hiding in shame in this picture behind Leeds and Burnley

Overall this match shows that Arsenal still has a way to go to challenge at the top of the table and still probably needs to prove themselves to emerge from the messy muddle of midtable mediocrity.

@oh_that_crab

Sources: Opta via whoscored, statszone, understand and my own database. StatsBomb via fbref.

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Fuzz

This does not look great! We need to unscrew the handbrake and chuck it out the window

Dr Zebra

Haha and also don’t forget to start the car against the big teams!

Man Manny

Although this was a chastening defeat, I am keen to put things in perspective and say that this defeat does not affect us much in the grand scheme of things. West Ham, Man United, Sp*rs and Leicester are our direct rivals for the fourth spot, and they all lost bar one. We must beat Newcastle to strengthen our hold on 5th and hope Chelsea and City beat Man U and West Ham respectively. If we win at OT ( which is a distinct possibility), we’d be 9 points clear of them. I hope the players put Anfield behind them: the… Read more »

Nainsley Aitland Miles

In all honesty I would take a draw at Old Trafford next week.

btw

While I tend to agree regarding our position in the table, the stats, in particular the last plot of xG for vs xG against, is worrying. It suggests we are getting lucky, a little bit like Emery’s unbeaten streak before things fell apart.

Thierry Bergkamp (non negotiable)

The stats here say that we’re very fortunate to be in 5th position. It’s still very early days for this group, more improvement is a must

IamaGoober

See that’s what concerns me the most is ultimately the underlying data is still fairly poor, and that has not changed since Arteta has been in charge. Right now we are basically out performing our actual (and that out performance is as good as 5th). The statistical likelihood is, there will come a point when the data catches up to the performances, and I cant help but feel that is on the horizon especially when you take into consideration the Afcon will mean that quite a few key players will be missing from the end of December.. Our next 5… Read more »

Rogerbij

Exactly right we are fortunate to be in 5th or so based on XG for and against. My only quibble is it’s not early days anymore since Arteta took the reins. 22 years of Wenger and we were never close to being this bang average, and it doesn’t look to me like its going to change soon.

AlexP

It is naive to expect for this group to have played a much better game than we did. I feel the change of tactics for second half has backfired. In the first half, where Mane should have been sent off for 2 yellow cards ( by Kevin ‘I fucking hate Arsenal’ Friend), but wasn’t, we were pretty compact and actually had 2-3 good chances. In games against top teams more will be hard to come by. Nuno lost it a little bit but the kid is young and he will learn, the whole team will learn and understand, this is… Read more »

A Different George

I was going to disagree with some of the things you said, but then got to the part where you said we should buy Haaland. I was thinking about Mbappe myself. Maybe both.

Crash Fistfight

Are you sure that’s enough? Might need to add Messi and Ronaldo.

Oheozey

The most baseless game we have lost; thankfully Mikel let Liverpool dictate the day’s entertainment to which i would say was a bore.
When its Arsenal, is when the ‘A’ game is for show, so why pressure and chase shadows to have one single looping ball hit you sharpest.
Good learning exp for Sambi n Tavares as well as White about trust.

Alex

Sure. But we’re still progressing.

Daveo

“Arsenal have averaged 124 pressure events (a measure of how often a defender is challenging a player passing, carrying, or receiving the ball) which is 3rd lowest and if adjusted for the amount of possession would rank last. Arsenal also ranks dead last at turning pressure events into turnovers, forcing just 34 pressure-induced turnovers per match.” Great observation. Our press still sucks. It looked like things were improving a little for a while there, but I watched it close against Liverpool and we were useless in the press – particularly contrasting arguably the best pressing team of all time (Liverpool… Read more »

Futsboller

It is a gaping question for Arteta — why don’t we press more? I mean, we have the youngest starting lineup in the league – shouldn’t that mean we’ve got boundless energy out there? I imagine it is another element that needs time to develop, but Arteta should be doing more to exploit our youth out there on a weekly basis (and if we ever, ever got anywhere Liverpool’s style of play, turning the ball over so easily high up the pitch and with 2 quick passes creating a scoring chance, Auba would be king).

Daveo

It’s weird too because it’s clear our overall tempo has absolutely increased, I mean we really are pushing to attack quickly by rapidly moving the ball to our wingers and forwards. The obvious way to even more effectively execute high tempo attacking football is the force turnovers through and intensive, tactical pressing system. Auba and Laca in particular do a lot of running, but it’s kind of just to direct (not exceptionally effectively might I add) where the ball is directed instead of attempting to force turn overs by getting stuck in. It’s doubly weird because our last result against… Read more »

Dr. kNOw

The core revamp – which started only this summer – is just half-done, and in the goalkeeper and defensive positions. The improvements in defensive solidity and playing out from the back are testament to that. The bigger changes lie further forward in midfield and attack where no major signings happened. There is no offensive or defensive control of opposition behind the youth of Saka and ESR, the need for two players instead of one ahead of them to bring them into the game stretch play and score goals, and crucially, not enough end product between them anyway. It’s an absolute… Read more »

Wrighty's hats

I concur. I have a gut feeling that it is what he’s trying to instill in the whole team – we always (using a small sample of this season) play better when we’re pressing well and hussling for the second balls. Potential reason why it hasn’t completely clicked that the press needs to be for most or all of every game is precisely because they’re young, it takes experience to know that if things aren’t going your way in a game, you can’t reflexively start sitting further and further back. I think it’s more the psychological aspect of the game… Read more »

Daveo

I can’t really buy this argument. If we it’s our intention to press and we’re building up to it, we wouldn’t be last in the league at pressing we’d be midtable or something. I think this might be Arteta trying to do something differently to be ahead of the game, similar to how far he pushed our left-sided imbalance. I think he is trying to direct possession through player positioning, but it’s really hard to do particularly against better passing teams because the ball moves faster than the players.

Futsboller

I think you guys might both be right insofar as, to give Arteta the benefit of the doubt, we might be building up to the press by working on the collective and coordinated positioning first and thus aren’t yet in the phase of following up that first act (coordinated aggressive positioning — that might explain all of MA’s manic arm waving!) with a more visible aggressive press. When you watch Liverpool at their best, they move as a 10-man unit and anticipate passages of play, such that they have a gaggle of players ready to pounce without having to cover… Read more »

Daveo

The difference is Liverpool direct the ball into difficult areas through positioning, and then hit the geigen press button and go hard after the ball because when the fullbacks have it there are less passing options. This also includes super tight closing down of the midfield who are off ball making the passes even more difficult. With This they cause so many turn overs.

Wrighty's hats

Fair. Looking forward to seeing us play vs Newcastle and what the lineup will be.

Daveo

Showcase Pepe up top? Maybe he bags a hattick and it will earn us an extra 10M quid in January…? Best to be hopeful right?

Kostas

To put things into perspective Liverpool lost from us when they managed to huge defensive errors in one game. And their errors came from seasoned internationals like VVD and Alisson.
Let’s keep our temper here. It was much better than the last two encounters with the top 3.
Keep focused I the forth spot. Is there for the taking.
But let’s see.
I expect United and Leicester to bounce

A Different George

Van Dijk and Alison’s errors in that game were pretty hilarious. Having just won the league for the first time in 40 years may possibly have taken a bit of the edge off Liverpool’s intensity. Just a theory.

Teryima Adi

Ouch. That stings- the analysis makes us look terrible.

Not too worried about the numbers at this stage. This group have really only been together for what 12 weeks. There’s still an adaptation period.

Newcastle at home is as good a time as any to make a couple of tweaks and I’d like to see Tierney and Odegaard in for Tavares and Lacazette.

Fatgooner

A better manager would get more out of this group of players. How come Palace can go up there and get something and we can’t?

Crash Fistfight

You answered your own question.

Let’s just hope that we can do enough to get back into Europe, because I don’t think it’s beyond us, even if I still don’t think the manager is up to the task.

UpNorth

This stat are worrying. Losing for Liverpool away is one thing, but that stats also includes relegation teams. I did a super simple math lacking only one or two games,it showed that we at that time had played in average a mid placed team so the stats arenruiner by top teams too much. I still dont get the concept of Artetaball… He got a team of possible high press players, I saw Netherlands beat Norway last week,the dutch had most of the ball so Odegaard wasn`t able to do his offensive Magic, but that guy knows to apply pressure and… Read more »

Xzibit

Why did we not play Pepe?

Daveo

Swap auba for pepe. Worth a shot, not like we’re scoring many goals anyway and I feel like he would add more in build up than auba – if you play the ball top auba back to goal it’s pretty much the end of the attack. We don’t have the right balance to carry his lack of connectivity. He’s not getting enough goals to balance that out. He has the feel of a luxury player right now that we can’t afford the luxury of starting…

EmileSmithWhoa

A thought outside the numbers. Arteta likely chose to stick with Taveres for a big reason….you play well, you earn a spot. That must rank high on a world class team…must.

Bleeding gums murphy

We ain’t a world class team so play the best players. 😂

Jean Ralphio

We really need Xhaka and Odegaard in the team

Daveo

Oh yeah, xhaka was brilliant against £ity and vs £helsea… MOTM performances in both of I remember correctly.

loose_cannon

Been in two minds about this game. I appreciate the gulf in quality of these two sides, that this was a long shot and how we have shown progress since our shellacking against City. But this is still hard to take, especially given that Liverpool have dropped points against Brentford, Brighton and West Ham recently. They’ve been shambolic in defence at times this season but we’ve been equally toothless in front of goal and the stats here demonstrate that plainly. There’s been a lot of talk about the mistakes we made in defence but even more important for me in… Read more »

Billy bob

It seems like we get the big teams after they have had a chance to rectify stupidity – take Liverpool, they had the interlull to reflect and reboot!!! Likewise ManUre have got shot of Ole GS so what are the chances that, by the time we play them in a few games time, there will have been a positive bounce for them with the new manager? Wish we had played ManUre over the weekend and dished out that result, but it is what it is!!!

Forest gooner

Liverpool and city of today are real and barca of 10 years back. We got thrashed by the very very best in the Europe. Arsenal should be backed up to buy some top quality midfielders. Remember, only city’s midfield could match toe to toe with pool. And we were left with choosing a partner for Partey between Lokonga, AMN and Elneny. Only when we have a Cazola-esque player alongside Parety, could we March midfield of city pool and chelsea.

Viju Jacob

The stats are indeed damning and I’m shocked. Watching the match, to the naked eye, I thought our team has improved and didn’t think it was a 4-0 match. Oh well….

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