It was another tactically inept and disjointed performance from the Gunners in which central midfielders Xhaka and Elneny positioned themselves far too far from Arsenal’s centre backs, exposing Arsenal’s central defenders to counterattacks, and Elneny and Willock failed to efficiently and directly transition the ball from defence to attack which limited Arsenal’s effectiveness in the attacking third.
Both prematch and in game, Arsenal setup in the same 4-3-3 formation they struggled to implement during their recent 2-2 draw versus CSKA Moscow.
While Arsenal were able (or allowed) to dominate possession (72% to 28%), Newcastle’s game plan of defending deep and counterattacking at pace down the flanks, was much more effective than Arsenal’s slow, directionless attacking approach.
In terms of individual performances:
It was a mixed performance from Cech who produced 1 save and conceded 2 goals from Newcastle’s 3 on target shots for the match. Disappointingly, 1 of the goals Cech conceded was at his near post and replays showed he could have tried harder to keep it out. While he wasn’t particularly challenged from Newcastle’s crossing attempts (only 8 attempted crosses for the match), Cech did well when called upon to deal with them. 4/10
Deployed outside of his natural centre back position, Chambers showed poor defensive anticipation at right wingback (1 interception) but was very strong in his tackling (4 tackles). Despite his poor defensive anticipation, Chambers largely limited the attacking threat posed by his opponent, Kenedy (2 shots, 1 of which was on target, 0 successful forward dribbles, 2 inaccurate crosses and 1 inaccurate through pass). Offensively, while Chambers’ productivity in terms of transitional and attacking dribbles was limited (1 successful forward dribble), the young Englishman showed good attacking intent with his crossing, attempting 4 crosses for the match, 1 of which was accurate. Having endured Bellerin’s poor defensive production and inconsistent offensive output (dribbles and crosses) for the last few seasons, it was a pleasure to watch an actual defender in Chambers ply his trade in Arsenal’s right wingback role, even if it wasn’t his preferred position. 6/10
At fault for failing to cut out a cross which lead to Newcastle’s opening goal, it was a mixed defensive performance from Mustafi (2 tackles, 1 interception, 8 clearances and 10 successful aerial duels) who struggle to contained his Spanish opponent, Perez (3 shots, 1 of which was on target, 1 successful forward dribble). My primary criticism of the German’s performance was his poor defensive anticipation (1 interception) which presented Perez with some good shooting opportunities. That said, Mustafi was very dominate in the air and did well to simplify his defensive approach and just clear the ball when it entered Arsenal’s defensive third. 5/10
It was an underwhelming performance from Holding, who was very strong in his tackling (4 tackles) but struggled with his defensive anticipation (1 interception). The young Englishman also lost his aerial battle with his opponent, Gayle (1 successful aerial duel to Gayle’s 4) and he failed to consistently simplify his defensive approach and clear the ball when it entered Arsenal’s defensive third (2 clearances). Despite his struggles, Chambers largely contained his opponent, Gayle, who failed to attempt a shot or dribble for the match. 5/10
It was a mixed defensive performance from Monreal, who was strong in his tackling (3 tackles) but struggled with his defensive anticipation (0 interceptions). As a consequence, Monreal’s opponent, Ritchie, was able to influence the game (1 goal, 3 shots, 2 of which were on target, 1 successful forward dribble, 1 inaccurate cross). Offensively, Monreal, like Chambers, delivered a mixed performance, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) but attempting 5, albeit inaccurate, crosses. 6/10
It was a mixed defensive performance from Elneny, who showed strong defensive anticipation (3 interceptions) but wasn’t aggressive enough in his approach (1 tackle). Elneny’s defensive positioning was also poor as he left too much space between himself and Mustafi and Chambers, which exposed Arsenal’s right wingback and centreback to Newcastle’s counterattacks. Offensively, while Elneny’s passing accuracy (95%) was again excellent, his transitional passing (2 accurate long range pass) and transitional dribbles (1 successful forward dribble) weren’t plentiful enough to justify his selection in central midfield. Elneny also failed to show any real creativity with his passing (0 attempted through passes) which was an issue for Arsenal given Wenger’s tactical decision not to deploy any attacking midfielders between Arsenal’s central midfield and forward lines. 4/10
It was a similarly mixed defensive effort from Xhaka, who was very aggressive in his defensive approach (4 tackles), but showed poor anticipation (0 interception) and, like Elneny, was poor in his defensive positioning, leaving too much space between himself and centrebacks, Mustafi and Holding. Offensively, Xhaka’s passing accuracy was excellent (91%) as was his transitional passing (5 accurate long range passes). Xhaka also showed some creativity with his passing (1 accurate through pass), which was necessary given Wenger’s decision not to deploy any attacking midfielders. Xhaka’s only real blemish offensively was his failure, again, to contribute in terms of forward transitional dribbles. 6/10
A shock starter and an admirable, albeit somewhat underwhelming, defensive effort from the youngster, who was nice and aggressive (4 tackles) and did well to screen the space in front of Holding and Monreal. Like Xhaka though, Willock, showed poor defensive anticipation (1 interception). Offensively, WIllock’s passing accuracy was underwhelming for a central midfielder (80%) and his contribution in terms of transitional passing (1 accurate long range pass), transitional dribbles (0 forward dribbles) and creative passing (0 attempted through passes) was very poor. 4/10
It was a solid performance from Iwobi (3 shot, 1 of which was on target and 3 successful forward dribbles). He wasn’t helped by Arsenal’s slow build up play, congesting the attacking third. 7/10
A solid but somewhat underwhelming performance from Lacazette, who did well to finish from Aubameyang’s left wing cross and had a total of 3 shots for the match, but only 1 of which was on target. He struggled aerially with only 2 successful aerial duels for the match. Like Iwobi, Lacazette wasn’t help by Arsenal’s slow transitional play, which allowed Newcastle to establish a deep defensive block and deny the Frenchman the space to make runs in behind Newcastle’s backline. 6/10
Frustratingly played out of position on the left wing, it was a solid performance from Aubameyang (1 assist, 3 shot, 0 of which were on target and 2 successful forward dribbles). That said, the Gabonese striker looked at his best when he occupied a more central striking role alongside Lacazette. Wenger’s refusal to deploy the two up front in a striking pair and play to their off the ball strengths and clinical finishing skills baffles me. 7/10
Overall it was tactically inept performance by Arsenal. The Gunners’ defence while aggressive in their approach failed to demonstrate the necessary anticipation skills. That said, Arsenal’s defenders weren’t helped by the poor defensive positioning of Xhaka and Elneny in central midfield, which left Arsenal central and right side of defence particularly exposed. Offensively, while Arsenal’s wingbacks did their best to threaten Newcastle’s backline from crosses, Elneny and Willock failed to efficiently and directly transition the ball from defence to attack which severely restricted the goal scoring opportunities available to Iwobi, Lacazette and Aubameyang. Wenger’s failure to deploy any central attacking midfielders and leave the creative responsibility to Elneny, Xhaka and Willock, none of which have to date regularly contributed in terms of forward dribbles or through passes, seemed a gross oversight. With Burnley only two points behind the Gunners and Arsenal having not impressed on the pitch for a number of months, it will be interesting to see if the pressure brings out the pragmatist in Wenger for the match versus West Ham.
The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.