The League Cup is supposed to be a fun, only sort of serious competition, this match lived up to that billing. Arsenal made a bunch of changes, getting to see some players that haven’t featured much this season, plus a debut by a highly rated prospect that scored on his debut!
Overall it was a great night, with some fun stats but this will be a short and sweet post because it is late and after all this is just the League Cup.
Arsenal 5-1 Sunderland: By the graphics
Arsenal 5-1 Sunderland: By the numbers
19 – Shots by Arsenal, I hoped Arsenal could hit 20 because that would mean it was the third straight game of 20+ shots but I will still gladly take 19 shots and…
5 – Goals by Arsenal. This is the second most goals for Arsenal this season (6 against West Brom also in the League Cup) and 14 goals in the last 4 matches.
9 – Shots on target by Arsenal. This is the second straight game where Arsenal have put 9 or more shots on target, with 22 over the last two matches and 33 over the last 4 matches.
7 – Shots in Prime (12 yards or closer) by Arsenal.
39 – Touches in the box for Arsenal, the 4th match in a row where Arsenal have had 35 or more touches in the penalty area.
11 – Successful Dribbles by Arsenal, the most since Arsenal have since November 27th against Newcastle United.
35 – Progressive Passes by Arsenal.
Overall the story of this match was screw it let’s attack.
Cedric played incredibly high, Arsenal started with Mohamed Elneny in the single pivot, with two sort of strikers supported by 3 attacking midfielders. In the first half it seemed like the instructions were sort of along the lines of go be aggressive because even if the team concedes we are going to try to outscore them. It ended up with a pretty dodgy goal conceded but also led to Arsenal scoring 4 goals in the opening 60 minutes, that’s a trade-off most of us will make every week.
Eddie Nketiah repays the faith Arteta placed in him
6 – Shots, 1st among all players
4 – On Target, 1st among all players
4 – Shots in Prime, 1st among all players
2.26 – xG, 1st among all players
11.3 – Average Distance to goal in yards for his shots tonight. His goals were 3.2 yards, 4.2 yards, and 7.8 yards.
8 – Progressive Passes Received, 2nd among all players
11 – Touches in the box, 1st among all players
17 – Deep Touches, 1st among all players
0.22 – xG Buildup, 13th among all players
4 – Tackles, 1st among all players
100.0% – Tackle %, 1st among all players
2 – High Ball Recoveries, 3rd among all players
Nketiah was a perfect poacher in this match, with 3 goals inside 8 yards.
I don’t mean that to disparage him, because having the ability to find space that close to the goal is incredibly impressive. It is not a fluke that some players always seem to find the space on rebounds and crosses, it takes great speed over short distances, good anticipation, and excellent reading of the game, these are skills that Nketiah seems to be well-stocked in.
I don’t know if he will stick around with Arsenal but there is nothing that I have seen from Nketiah that says that he will be anything but an average or better scorer at the Premier League level. I would love to see him stick around Arsenal but would fully understand if he left to be something more than a backup somewhere else.
Nicolas Pepe comes to life in the second half
3 – Key Passes in the second half. In the first half, he had zero. He had 2 assists from 1.1 shot-assisted expected goals (xA).
3 – Progressive Passes in the second half. In the first half, he had zero.
5 – Deep completions in the second half. In the first half, he had 3.
6 – Touches in the box in the second half. In the first half, he had 5.
5 – Successful dribbles in the second half of 6 attempts. In the first half, he was 0 for 3 on dribbles.
4 – Progressive carries in the second half. In the first, he also had 4 (not everything was bad about the first half because he also did score).
I wasn’t impressed with Pepe in the first half, by the general consensus of Twitter this wasn’t an unpopular opinion. Now I don’t think he was bad (which others went a little further in expressing) but rather looked very rusty. Everything that he did seemed to be just a touch slow and didn’t come off. He did manage to take 3 shots and produce a goal but outside of that was a bit of his usual blackhole in the attack, where the attacking momentum was lost in his gravitational pull of multiple touches.
The areas where he received his passes I think illustrate this well.
In the first half, he was receiving the ball much closer to the touchline and more often in the attacking midfield band. In the second half, his touches moved more central and when they were wide it was significantly deeper. Receiving in those locations makes Pepe a much more dangerous player, he still wants to try and get the ball onto his last foot but in those locations, he has built-in options that make him less predictable and harder to defend. It was good to see him perform well (even with the caveat of the level of competition) to increase the depth of options for Arsenal in attacking midfield.
Sources: Opta via WhoScored and my own database