Thursday, May 30, 2024

Arsenal 5-0 Sheffield United – By The Numbers



21 – This season, Mikel Arteta has used 21 different players to form his starting XI, while in the first 10 games of the previous season, he chose from 16.

The last time Arsenal played Sheffield United in the Premier League, Aaron Ramsdale was in goal for the Blades. Counterpart David Raya made his sixth consecutive Premier League start for The Gunners, and there were five changes from the last match in Sevilla. Emile Smith Rowe got a first league start since May 2022, replacing Jorginho. Kai Havertz replaced Martin Ødegaard, Eddie Nketiah came in for the injured Gabriel Jesus, Jakub Kiwior allowed Gabriel to rest, and Oleksandr Zinchenko returned in place of Takehiro Tomiyasu.

18 – The visitors ranked 18th for goals scored per match, hadn’t won in 11 attempts, had failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 6 matches, and possess the worst defence in the league.

Collecting 3 points and delivering a strong performance was imperative. However, during the first 20 minutes, the two most threatening attacks came from two excellent, quick, long passes by Raya, releasing Martinelli, as the visitors aimed to defend from the outset.

The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute when Eddie displayed superb touch and finishing (0.75 xG, 0.96 xGOT) after a cross from Rice.

20 — Sheffield United ranked 20th for conceding from set-pieces.

The second goal arrived five minutes into the second half as Saka’s corner was not properly dealt with, and Nketiah smashed a shot into the top corner (0.14 xG, 0.81 xGOT).

His third goal was a thing of absolute beauty. He collected a pass from Smith Rowe and rifled the ball into the net from 20 yards (0.06 xG, 0.33 xGOT).

Vieira scored from the spot (0.79 xG) late on, before Tomiyasu, deep into injury time, added the icing on the cake (0.17 xG, 0.60 xGOT) from an Elneny flick-on.

4 – Goals from inside the box.

1 – Goal from outside the box as Eddie Nketiah scores his first Premier League goal from outside the penalty area.

2 – Goals from open-play.

2 – Goals from corners out of just three shots.

1 – Goal from the penalty spot, which marks Arsenal’s 6th penalty of the Premier League season, two more than 2nd-placed Liverpool for penalties awarded.

4 – Big chances created and 3 big chances scored.

13 – Attempts in total, with 10 from inside the box.

2.77 – Expected goals (xG) for Arsenal, 1.66 from open-play and 0.32 from set-pieces.

7.8 – Minutes per shot for Arsenal compared to 51(!) minutes per shot for Sheffield United.

8 – Shots on target (62%).

* The graph on the right only considers passes (not carries). Forward passes are rated highly, while passes backward, away from goal, are rated negatively.

133 – Touches by William Saliba, averaging just 0.7 minutes per touch. He led in touches in both the defensive third (53) and middle third (79) of the pitch. Saliba completed 96% of his 127 attempted passes, covering more progressive distance than any other player (67 metres), and was part of a defence that allowed only 2 shots, with one of those generously given by Opta. Wilo Saliba also ranked 1st in recoveries (12) and carries (107).

12 – Progressive passes by Oleksandr Zinchenko (1st overall), 8 passes into the final third (2nd overall), 1 key pass, 0.4 xA (joint 1st with Gabriel Martinelli), 3 through balls (1st overall) and 71 passes in the opposition half (1st overall).

This is precisely the type of match in which Zinchenko excels. Having players of caliber like him and Tomiyasu is a much-needed luxury, and their abilities seamlessly complement each other for various match scenarios.

4 – There were 4 take-on attempts with 3 completed (75%) by Gabriel Martinelli (1st overall), but none were as majestic as when Leo Trossard left Ben Osborne in a heap behind him late in the game.

Martinelli completed 2 passes into the penalty area (1st overall, tied with Smith Rowe), delivered 3 key passes (1st overall), executed 8 progressive carries (1st overall), made 6 carries into the penalty area (1st overall) and had 6 shot-creating actions (1st overall).

2 – Interceptions by Kai Havertz (1st overall), who won 3 (joint 1st overall) from 5 aerial duels.


32 touches, 14/20 (70%) accurate passes, 1 progressive pass, 4 shots, 3 shots on target, 3 goals, 3 blocks, 4 shot-creating actions, 23 carries, 2 progressive carries, 1/1 successful dribble, 1 clearance and 1 match ball.

Eddie has been fantastic for us, but unfortunately, no matter what he does, he’s rarely appreciated. He’s a brilliant backup striker, stepping up in tough situations. Two seasons ago, he kept us in the top 4 race. Last season, he contributed to our title run despite challenges. This season, he’s scored goals, earned penalties, and bagged his first Premier League hat-trick, equaling his best league goal tally.

Our squad is evolving, and we may upgrade our striking options. But for now, Eddie fills the role perfectly. He’s also increasing his market value, benefiting us in the future. How many better backup strikers are there in the league?

2 – Arsenal have kept back-to-back clean sheets in Premier League home matches for the first time since December 2021.

I still don’t think we’re performing at our best offensively, yet we managed to secure a comfortable win and score five goals. We kept a clean sheet at home and again witnessed some strong substitute performances. The match allowed for some players to be rested, with another opportunity in midweek. Next.

Follow me on Twitter @jonollington

SourcesOpta, fbref, @Orbinho twitter feed

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Rice leading us for the season in both interceptions and progressive passes, yup that just about confirms what the eyes see. As good and consistent as Saliba’s been, Ben White too, I can’t imagine anyone other than Rice winning our player of the season if we were to vote now.

Saka having the most tackles so far though is surprising, with all of his attacking responsibility and how much he himself gets tackled, to do that too is such an amazing testament to his character.


Re. Saka, maybe his tackling stats and general defencive awareness are so good because he played a good portion of his youth career playing defensive positions. Even after breaking into the first team he played a good number of games at LB.
This aspect of his game was certainly something that solidified his place ahead of Pepe, and continue to make him one of the best in the world in his position.

Teryima Adi

He’s played as a left full back before.


Im sure Ebo is aware B has played there, I guess it’s surprising he has the most tackles playing right wing. Shows how good he is at pressing and coming back to help defense.


Hopefully the confidence Eddie gets from this will give him that boost to take the hand brake off. Somehow he often looks a little self conscious on the pitch.

He’s got no hair but we don’t care...

Zero – The amount of sense it’ll make to put Ramsdale in against Brentford cold with no run up games.
Why the hell didn’t Arteta start him against Sheff Utd?


He’ll play the cup game on Wednesday.
And what’s the difference that being his first game or today being his first game back. Whatever the case there will always be a first game…

He’s got no hair but we don’t care...

Don’t count a Mickey Mouse cup competition with a vastly changed team.
Yes they’ll always be a first game but it’s an also in the face when the manager makes 5 changes against the bottom side and you’re not one.

this comment screams “I didn’t realise there was a cup competition on Wednesday but am too wedded to my argument to change it” – like I’m not saying it will definitely happen but how is it different starting Ramsdale against West Ham in the Carabao Cup compared to starting him against Sheff Utd in the league


That was some hattrick from Eddie! Two top class goals. Filthy stuff. I was wrong and you were right Eddie and Mikel.


I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve praise, but it was against the (objectively) worst team in the League.

If he can keep it up and it’s not a one off, then we have someone who can really spearhead our attack, but until then I still think we need a top draw striker or we won’t win the league.

I miss santi cazorla

Spot on! Teams he has scored against this season are Nott forest, fulham and sheffield utd. Critics still have their opinions reserved.


He scored some big goals against some big opponents last season Chelsea and Utd among them. Let Eddie have is moment being the main man!


He can have his moment all he wants, I will grant him that. But we still need a clinical striker who can stay fit if we want to go all the way.

Let me put it this way; does Nketiah walk into the team of any top side challenging for titles this season? If the answer is ‘no’ then he shouldn’t walk into ours either.


Hate to break it to you but he doesnt walk in to our team either. He is second choice behind Jesus. The question should be; ‘does Nketiah walk in to any top teams squad’ and the answer to that is yes.


He does, but he wouldn’t walk into any other. It’s fine if you disagree. I want him to do well and I hope he proves me wrong.

While I want him to do well, I also want Arsenal to be the best possible team it can be.

I feel like we also need an upgrade on Jesus. His finishing leaves a lot to be desired and is too injury prone to maintain the No. 9 role consistently.

A Different George

We should be clear: Gabriel Jesus is a world-class number 9 in every way except his finishing. If you want a player as good as him, except that he is also a top finisher (a combination 9 and false 9, as it were), you are talking about spending more than for Declan Rice. Liverpool’s Jota might be converted into that, and certainly Antoine Griezmann for another year or two but, honestly, there aren’t too many that fit that description.

A Different George

Yeah, except that first goal could have been against Real Madrid. In fact, I think Messi scored one just like it against them.


Thanks for the amazing statistical overview! Love this stuff!

Wanted to ask though, does anybody know why the Nketiah goal (and maybe the Tomi goal too) have such a low xG factor? Especially the Nketiah one is really close to the goal and he has quite a lot of space to take the shot as well. I understand there’s a bunch of players in front of him, but still 14% of scoring from there seems massively underrated…

Crash Fistfight

Yeah, that stood out to me, as well.


I believe it’s a question of the shots not being clear on goal with a lot of players between the ball and the goal. In my meaning that’s a flaw in the xG. It gets pretty skewed with these kind of goals.


Interesting, i always assumed xG was purely taking the position and time of the strike itself. But actually it includes the whole context of the action?

Where does this tracking begin and end? Like does the xG of a counter-attack measure from the point at which the attack starts, or when the person shooting receives the ball?

.. Or is this ultimately always subjective and just changes every time? Just interested! Thanks for the great article.


Great response Jon, thanks for the clarification! But I still feel these kind of goals when they’re scored is what create the need to put probability models in the context of the situation/game. Thanks for your great work, I find your articles very enjoyable and informative!

John C

Best stat of the game for me is 5 goals scored, zero goal contributions from Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard or Jesus.

Great to see there’s a layer of players behind those 4 who can contribute so emphatically so we can actually start to see the rotation required that will hopefully see us turn our undoubted quality into trophies


It’s a good point. I love that we have a squad that I’m equally happy to see start. We haven’t had that since the invincibles imo. No pressure then haha

I miss santi cazorla

I could not watch the game. How did Kiwior perform?


Kiwior was as good as good as he needed to be in defence, and looked really classy whenever he stepped out of the back line. I watched the full replay of the game on the Arsenal website.

Santi’s Thigh Grab

He slotted in well IMO. Good range of passing, seemed comfortable operating within the set up. Didn’t light the world on fire, played his role well. Blogs would have rated him a 7 without me looking at the player ratings.

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