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.