Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United: By the numbers

That match was equally exhilarating and exhausting. At the final whistle I wasn’t sure if I needed a nap or to go for a run.

This felt like one of the sternest tests of the season thus far. Manchester United were not great but a worldie and a goal from an error gave them a flattering tally that Arsenal needed to respond to.

And respond they did.

Arsenal have only been behind for 87 minutes before this match but they responded quite well, not panicking trusting that their performances would get the goal. In the end it got them two more, coming away with three points and five-point gap to second (with a game in hand).

That’s the official halfway point of the season, with Arsenal on 50 points (100 point pace, best ever), 45 goals (90 goal pace, a record for a 38 match season) and (32 goals allowed pace, 6th best). It has been a fun ride and I can’t wait for the second half.

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United: By the graphics

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United: By the numbers

24 – Shots for Arsenal, that is tied for the most they have had in a match this season. That is also the most shots Manchester United have conceded in a match this season.

2.5 – Expected goals, this is 5th highest total for Arsenal this season and the 11th time this season Arsenal have created 2.0 or more non-penalty expected goals this season.

7 – Shots for Arsenal that were inside of 12 yards.

18 – Shots for Arsenal that were inside the box

6 – Shots for Manchester United, this is the fewest that they have had in a match this season. This is the 12th time this season that Arsenal have held an opponent to less than 10 shots.

0 – Big chances for Manchester United. This is the second time Manchester United have created 0 big chances.

2% – The average probability of Marcus Rashford’s shots of turning into a goal.

17% – The average probability of Lisandro Martinez’s shot of turning into a goal.

1 – Shot within 12 yards by Manchester United

3 – Shots inside the box by Manchester United

On the simple shot metrics, this was far from a close match. Arsenal absolutely dominated this match on the chances.

62 – Touches in the box for Arsenal, this is the most Arsenal have had in a match this season, the previous high was 55. This is tied for the most a team has had this season, and 15 more than next highest Manchester United have allowed this season.

12 – Touches in the box for Manchester United. 5 in the first half and 7 in the second half. Gabriel Marinellli had 12, Bukayo Saka had 13.

86 – Touches by Arsenal within 25 yards of goal

18 – Touches by Manchester United within 25 yards of goal, Saka had 20.

Controlling space and territory makes this even more clear that Arsenal dominated this match.

More often than not outside of a couple of short spells the ball was in the Manchester United half, and in the second half was outside of their back.

I was a bit surprised when I posted the stats at halftime with the response where people commented that they were surprised how onesided it was statistically, feeling like this was more even. I have seen that Gary Neville has said that Manchester United went punch for punch with Arsenal in this match. In reality, I don’t think that is close to the truth or an accurate description of this match and is only being said that way because of the badge on the other team’s shirt. By almost every measure this was a pretty lopsided performance with Arsenal in control. on another day this ends a pretty comfortable 3-1 (or even 3-0) win. Arsenal got what they deserved.

Eddie Nketiah takes his chances

6 – Shots, 1.4 expected goals, 3 big chances, 2 HUGE goals

19 – Shots since taking over as the starter, that is good for 3.8 per 90

4 – Goals since taking over as the starter, 0.8 per 90

9  – Touches in the box against Manchester United

33 – Touches in the box since taking over as the starter, 6.6 per 90

6 – Progressive passes received against Machester United

42 – Progressive passes received since taking over as the starter, 8.4 per 90

4 – Defensive actions against Manchester United

14 – Defensive actions since taking over as the starter, 2.8 per 90

The worry when Gabriel Jesus went out with an extended injury was palpable, Eddie Nketiah has in retrospect made that seem silly (even if it wasn’t).

He has consistently found space to get off shots, done so where they are very good average quality and scored 6 total goals since taking over as the starter. His ability to come in and get shots is welcome but not overly surprising, what he has done is help keep the Arsenal attack ticking over with better-than-expected buildup and link-up contribution.

One of the last questions was whether he could score when the pressure was on. Well he answered that today with an equalizer and a winner.

Have a day Eddie Nketiah.

Oleksander Zinchenko passing master

68 – Pass Attempts at an 85% completion rate, 1st among all players

5 – Final third entry passes completed, 3rd among all players

7 – Progressive Passes completed, 1st among all players

4 – Passes completed into the box, 1st among all players

474.4 – Progressive Pass Distance in yards, 3rd among all players

1 – Key Pass

1 – Shot

355.6 – Progressive Carry Distance, 2nd among all players

12 – Progressive Carries, 2nd among all players

4 – Touches in the box

1.40 – xG Buildup, 1st among all players

2 – Tackles

100.0% – Tackle %

2 – Interceptions, 3rd among all players

3 – Blocked Passes, 1st among all players

5 – Ball Recoveries

Holy cow.

That is really all that is needed to describe Zinchenko in this match. He was everywhere, playing on the touchline, playing in midfield, playing in the attacking half space, popping up on the right. Basically, he was Arsenal’s roaming playmaker looking to link with anyone and everyone.

He also seems to make everyone better. He relieves pressure on Thomas Partey allowing him to collect the ball off the back line and turn and move the ball up the field. He is a great outlet for Aaron Ramsdale who loves that little chip out to him. His link-up play with Granit Xhaka (who is also getting really good at figuring out when to cover him moving around) has been wonderful, getting Xhaka into great positions to destabilize the defense.

Lastly, just look at his passion. He loves winning and has brought that mentality to Arsenal where it seems contagious.

Sources: Opta via whoscored, statszone, fbref, my own database


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Just what the doctor ordered. Finally, By The Numbers is here to fuel the buzz. Thanks!!!


Those Zinny numbers back up what my eyes saw. The best and most influential game I’ve even seen a full-back play. Our LB literally bossed the game all over the pitch.


Wow, it turned out we dominated the game. It think it was because of their 2 goals that it feels that it was like an even match.

Thierry Bergkamp (non negotiable)

The many comments on the match report, saying that utd played excellently, surprised me.
We must have been watching a different match, because all I saw was complete domination by Arsenal except for a sloppy first half


To be honest it felt like a draw. Maybe because of the stress I had all game long. Apparently the numbers show that we had them. Phew.


It did look like we were squeezing them tighter and tighter, but yeah, football is a low scoring sport, so even that level of dominance doesn’t guarantee anything.


An unbelievable result and performance.

It will go completely unnoticed and unmentioned, but we have 6 points from 6 playing United and Spurs.

We were strongly mooted by basically every pundit out there to drop points in both of those games — yet instead we’ve got two wins.

Out of 19 games we have only dropped 7 points all season, and if the officials weren’t completely incompetent, that would be as low as 4 points.

The league games against City will most likely be the decider.

Santi’s Thigh Grab

The league games with City will be the decider. If we can at a minimum win one of those City games, that should be enough to top them. For such a thin squad, this group is doing amazing. Arteta is ahead of schedule but everyone recognizes the ingredients are there for a proper title tilt.

Bleeding Gums Murphy

The league games with city won’t be the decider. Every game will be the decider. City dropped points at home to Brentford and Everton. We got very lucky at Leeds. People’s heads are running away with it. Stop projecting. Everton next with new manager will be tough. COYG


We battered them. end of. they had 2 very one-off type goals.


Agreed. Their first was good finishing by Rashford but we were careless inside our half. The second was self-inflicted plain and simple.

Nketiah is a serious, serious striker. The comparisons to Ian Wright are making more and more sense.


I’m really glad we managed to keep him. He’s always been a very convincing scorer (as your archetypical poacher) but he’s improved his all-round game to an excellent level, and Mikel (and staff) must be credited with that. He wouldn’t have been able to fill in so effectively before, but now there’s a real player there and even Gabriel Jesús must be a little bit worried as he won’t be an automatic started anymore.

Santi’s Thigh Grab

Eddie is the definition of taking your chances. He has every time when presented the opportunity.


Remember the home fixture vs. Moyes’ United? They were a crap MU having a crap season…
One shot on goal was allowed, yet we contrived to lose 1-2. (The winner was a deflected og.) The point is, even at their worst MU seems to get fortunate against AFC. This squad has the talent, grit, and fan support to prevail anyway.


Just a massively impressive performance. It was a huge game, two goals against the run of play against and in years past that would have been enough to knock to stuffing out of us, but this team is special, they just came again, and again, and again. Nervous wait on that 3rd, but it was absolutely what we deserved. One of the most dominant (and vital) 3-2 games I’ve seen. Cracking stuff!


It’s the same old story with us, even today we had to work very hard and had to outclass them the whole game just to get a marginal win in the last minute.
Fortunately this team has realised that they have to put their best display on at all times and they seem to be enjoying it too. I haven’t seen Arsenal play alibi football this season and I hope I never will again.

A Different George

What you describe is true of every team because that’s the nature of the league. Liverpool’s and Man City’s dominant sides of the last few years won some games in a walk, but had to struggle to eke out a win in many others, despite clearly being the better team on the day. Think how Leeds supporters felt after losing to us–when they were clearly the better side (probably the only game this year where we were not the better team for at least one half).


Agree with this so much. Luckiest team on the planet.

Spanish Gooner

And that’s the big difference now. In the past we’d concede a couple of statistically unlikely goals, lose, then get the calculators out. The Arsenal these days just scores 3 goals to make sure.

kampala gooner

Now that puts things in perceptive.


Country mate. Good to see other Ugandan gooners regulars on the top blog.

Hair on Ram's Tail

This is a great observation:
His link-up play with Granit Xhaka (who is also getting really good at figuring out when to cover him moving around) has been wonderful”

The part in parentheses is something is is easy to forget about. Zinchecnko is doing great roaming around, but when he does, someone else needs to cover for him, and Xhaka is doing just that. That kind of teamwork, with everyone working together, is why this team is where it is.


Wanted to say exactly that. It’s the much less glorified role to go back and cover for the wandering left back who’s seemingly free to follow his intuition and effectively whatever he wants on the field, Xhaka has to be the less flashy disciplined one, keep a constant eye on where his teammate is and moonlight as a part-time left back, not a position I think he’s ever played or would like to.

And he still managed to get a wonderful assist on top. Do not take him for Granit!


not a position I think he’s ever played or would like to…..


has he? I might have missed it, if so I take that back. Even so, 90% of the point still stands.

A Different George

Without diminishing what Xhaka does in this regard, Gabriel–with anticipation and pace–provides tremendous cover on the left side. And then Saliba shifts toward the centre and White or Partey cover for Saliba. Very much a well-drilled and coordinated team concept.


Even when he seemingly was causing trouble, Xhaka always had the ability to know exactly where he needs to be.


How about Odegards first time switches of p-lay across the entire field on numerous occasions


Zinchenko is the proverbial steel fist clad in velvet


Bobby Charlton. David Beckham. Eamon Holmes. Roy Keane. Mike Riley. Nobby Styles. Gary Neville. Posh Spice. Richard Keys. Cristiano Ronaldo. Fouling Phil Neville. Watch-tapping Alex Ferguson. Cheating Ruud van Nistelrooy. Diving Wayne Rooney. Diving Bruno Fernandes. Racist Ron Atkinson. Your boys took one hell of a beating today.

A Different George

Eamon Homes! Impressive grudge list.

Naked Cygan

I really don’t think we were that good in the first half. We were a bit nervous with too many misplaced passes from White, Ramsdale, Partey and even Zinchenko. 2nd half was a different story and we played really well and absolutely dominated them. Very happy for Nketia and I am sure he will have more confidence the more he plays. If I had to slightly critical of one player it would be Ramsdale. I think he could have done better with the first goal. He shouldn’t be getting beat from that distance. The 2nd goal too he could have… Read more »

Crash Fistfight

Agree on the 2nd goal but not on the first. I was more annoyed by the loss of possession and Partey not getting near him.


Absolutely nothing Ramsdale could do about that first goal. It is a beautifully disguised wonderstrike. That one is all on Partey. First the give away and then getting megged instead of just fouling him.


I was surprised how deep Man U wanted to defend. Maybe they thought we wouldn’t be able to penetrate that thicket in the penalty area. Their tactics were poor, and our execution very good. The refereeing was good today, which helped.

Thanks for the analysis. I would not have guessed the size of the statistical imbalance.

Spanish Gooner

It’s why I’m surprised at people talking about Man U going “toe for toe” or making the kind of progress Arsenal did 2 years ago. They’ve played the deepest line in the top 8 all season. That can get results against the top teams on the break, but it limits your ceiling compared to other systems. They’re an expensive version of last year’s West Ham and they’ll finish significantly closer in points to 6th than they will 1st.

Crash Fistfight

That’s quite surprising (considering Tottenham are one of the top 8 teams, haha). I think of them as a counter-attacking team, but I didn’t think it was that ‘bad’.

Crash Fistfight

I didn’t think they defended deep in the first half (and they looked better for it). Not sure what happened at half time, but Man U were worse and Arsenal were better in the 2nd half.


What happened at half time was that two managers decided on their second half tactics and told their teams what to do.
One of them got it right.


It seems like in the past two years or so we have been very good coming out of team talks. This includes the start of second halves as well as well as after those drink breaks they had during Covid, halfway through each half. My sense is that some of it is reminding players about the game plan and some of it is tweaking things tactically.


10 hours past Arsenal’s win. A night’s sleep past Arsenal’s win (For me). And I’m still buzzing. Adrenaline pumping. He’ll yessssss. Fuckinggg get in ladsss


Almost bedtime for me but I don’t want this day to end. 😁


Watching on Sky and listening to the scum over-glorifying every little thing Man U did..and pushing a narrative of how this was the game of the season, anybody could nick it, blah blah. Why is Arsenal so hated in England that Gary Neville, Keane, Carrager at all would rather Man City win it??

Santi’s Thigh Grab

First foreign manager? First EPL team to field an all black team? First team to recruit heavily from Europe, Africa, etc.? Building a new stadium? First team to introduce proper nutrition? The Invincible’s season? Take your pick.

A Different George

Wenger was not the first foreign manager in England–certainly Ardiles was up the road and I think Villa had someone too. But your main point is right: Arsenal were the “foreign” team, full of players who didn’t like to be kicked (like a real man) with fancy ideas about, you know, keeping the ball and, worse, nutrition. I think most of the bias comes from that period, when United were led by English stalwarts like Cantona and Van Nistelrooy.

A Different George

I should say non-British manager, as there were about a million Scots.

Crash Fistfight

When the hell did Arsenal field an all black team? I don’t even remember us having a black goalkeeper, unless Arthur Okonkwo has played for the first team without me realising it.

Ödegårds Magnifika Fot

I thought Carra wanted us to win it rather than City?


The entire match I kept thinking of the recent Arsecast Extra and how Zinchenko is a chess queen. He definitely bossed it yesterday and was by far the cheat code as well.


Zinchenko is a roaming playmaker leftback. How exactly do set up a team to defend against that?

Who knows? Who cares?

Love this Arsenal team.


Constant through-balls down the right attacking side while Zinchenko is roaming, or into the space vacated by Gabriel when he’s moved over to cover. I don’t know if teams haven’t figured that out yet or Zinchenko is just very good at choosing when to move and when to return. Probably a bit of both.

Zinchenko was amazing yesterday, turning up in completely different places during the same move, multiple times. It transforms how we can play.


Lots of excellent performances but I think Zinchenko was MOTM.

Bill Hall

What I want to know is how the fuck do we pick a player of the season when so many players are on fire at the moment 🤣


We lost out on Martinez – got Zinchenko
We lost out on Mudryk – got Trossard
We lost out on Felix – kept Nketiah
We lost Aubameyang – got Jesus
We lost Ozil – got MØ
We lost out on hundreds of world players – got Hale End
It seems the more we lose, the more we win! Edu took a lot of stick last season but his recruitment is going well now.


Ødegaard was specifically after we were turned down by Buendia, unless I’m misremembering. That was the best of the lot.


No I think we never really pursued buendia hard because they wanted Marty. I thought that was a big risk as it seemed it wasn’t moving forward until right at the end. Played it perfectly.


Just checked and we bid (apparently, hard to really know with these things) then Villa bid higher than our upper valuation and got him. Who knows. As with Zinchenko I suspect there’s often as much luck in these things than there is a grand plan.


Yeah, that does ring a bell. I remember I wanted Buendia, because I thought we were just wasting time on Odegaard as Real seemed to want him back and it was a position of desperate need. Then we nabbed Marty at an absolute steal and it was much relief. Good because Buendia never really kicked on and the difference is vast. Thank fk I’m not in charge…lol!

Santi’s Thigh Grab

We were never turned down by Buendia because there was never an official offer, as I recall.

michael budgen

‘I have seen that Gary Neville has said that Manchester United went punch for punch with Arsenal in this match. In reality, I don’t think that is close to the truth or an accurate description of this match’

As if Gnev needed any more discrediting when it comes to Ars & Utd, this about sums him up.
As a great man once said ‘everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home’


I very much doubt even Gary Neville thinks he’s got the prettiest wife at home. If she’s even half as ugly as he is he probably can’t even look at her during breakfast. “What do you mean dear, why am I holding this piece of toast in front of my eyes? Because the light is just too bright, if you just pull down the blind, ooh look what time it is, must go, toodaloo darling!”


Sorry that’s actually really unfair to his wife if he does have one (which I hope not for her sake)


If Zinchenko pushes inward/forward, who is covering that left back slot ? Or do they switch to a back 3 at that point with the RB also staying down in defense (and vice versa for when Tomiyasu moves forward)?
I wasn’t able to see this, since the camera moves with the ball, but I’d be curious to hear from some of the strategem plotters like Stillman and others.
(I know people focus on offense, though I feel, defense creates the surety to win games.)


Full backs always push on anyway. Most just hover down the same wide channel. The difference is White is less agressive and provides the solidity of a back three (or 2.5) when we’re in possession. I don’t see Zinny’s forraying as something that can be exploited, if anything if we lose possession he’s often central and helps breaks up play to get that ball straight back.


I love how he overloaded the right channel when it was clear that Saka needed some energy on the right side and it allowed Saka more time on the ball and Tomi to threaten the overlap. We had 3 players in that right channel at one point, it confused united and worked a treat. Perhaps it was unexpected but his passing is so reminiscent of Santi and the rhythm and flow in his builds up mesmerizes the opposition.

Absolutely love it


The fact he took charge to break the rules and tactics in order to change the pattern of play and try to force a breakthrough was awesome. Such a character and player of experience and responsibility.

It was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.

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