Arsenal Player Analysis: Newcastle vs Arsenal

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.

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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:

GK: Cech
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

RWB: Chambers
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

RCB: Mustafi
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

LCB: Holding
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

LWB: Monreal
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

RCM: Elneny
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

CM: Xhaka
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

LCM: Willock
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

RW: Iwobi
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

ST: Lacazette
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

LW: Aubameyang
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.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs Southampton

A lucky victory for the Gunners, in what was another disjointed and poor performance.

Surprisingly, Arsenal both setup in a 4-2-3-1 formation prematch and stuck to that formation in game.

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Despite Arsenal dominating possession (68% to Southampton’s 32%), the Gunners’ chosen attacking midfielders failed to regularly create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for the mobile and efficient Aubameyang and were fortunate that Welbeck’s repeated attempts on goal came off.

In terms of individual performances:

GK: Cech
It was a strong performance from Cech who produced 6 saves for the match and and did well when called upon to deal with the Saints’ 23 crosses. In terms of the goals Arsenal conceded, there was nothing Cech could have done to prevent either, with lazy defending from Kolasinac and Mustafi to blame for Southampton’s opener and a combination of poor defending from Wilshere and Chambers and some excellent approach play from the impressive Cedric responsible for Austin’s goal. 8/10

RWB: Bellerin
While his defensive anticipation was solid (2 interceptions), it was another match in which Bellerin struggled to effectively shut down his opponent, Bertrand, due to a lack of aggressiveness in defence (0 tackles). As a consequence Bertrand was able to attempt a number of crosses (4 crosses, none of which were accurate). Offensively, Bellerin was again poor, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) and just attempting the 2, inaccurate, crosses. Despite Bellerin’s ongoing run of poor form and being evidently ill suited to the right fullback position, Wenger continues to deploy the Spaniard in that role. 4/10

RCB: Mustafi
After a run of excellent performances from Mustafi, it was a match to forget for the German (0 tackles, 0 interceptions). At fault for failing to cut out cross which lead to the Saints’ opening goal, Mustafi was ousted by his main opponent on the day in Tadic (1 shot, which was on target, 2 successful forward dribbles and an accurate through pass). On the positive, the German was reasonably strong aerially (3 successful aerial duels) and he attempted to simplify his defensive approach and just clear the ball when it entered Arsenal’s defensive third (7 clearances). 5/10

LCB: Chambers
After an impressive performance versus Stoke on his last start, it was a dissapoointing effort from Chambers versus Southampton (1 tackle and 1 interception). At fault for failing to cut out Cedric’s low cross which lead to the Saints’ second goal, Chambers was well beaten by Shane Long, his opponent on the day (a goal from his 3 shots, 2 of which were on target). Chambers also lost the aerial battle with Long (2 successful aerial duels to Long’s 7 successful aerial duels). While Chambers did make some effort to simplify his defensive approach and just clear the ball when it entered Arsenal’s defensive third (4 clearances for the match), he could have done that with greater frequency to alleviate the pressure on Arsenal’s defence. 4/10

LWB: Kolasinac
A very poor defensive performance from Kolasinac (0 tackles and 0 interceptions) as his chief opponent in the match, Cedric, assisted both of Southampton’s goal with crosses from flank which the Serb was defending and threaten with 2 further crosses. Offensively, Kolasinac delivered a mixed performance, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) but attempting 3, albeit inaccurate, crosses. 5/10

RCM: Elneny
While Arsenal dominated possession, it was a much improved defensive performance from Elneny (2 tackles and 3 interceptions), who did his best to screen the space in front of Bellerin and Mustafi. Offensively, while Elneny’s passing accuracy (96%) was again excellent, his transitional passing (2 accurate long range pass) and transitional dribbles (1 successful forward dribble) were not enough to justify his selection in that deep central midfield role. 6/10

LCM: Xhaka
It was a mixed defensive effort from Xhaka, who was strong in his tackling (3 tackles) and disciplined in this defensive positioning but poor in terms of his defensive awareness (0 interceptions). Offensively, while Xhaka’s passing accuracy was very good (85%), his transitional passing (3 accurate long range passes) was substantially down on his typical level of production in that regard (6 long range passes) and he only made a solitary forward dribble. Overall, it an underwhelming performance from the Swiss. Hoping it is just a blip and not regression. 5/10

RCAM: Nelson
A shock starter and objectively it was a poor performance from the youngster, who failed to attempt a shot on goal, execute a forward dribble or attempt a through pass. His 91% passing accuracy spoke volumes of a nervous young player making sure he executed simple passes throughout. That said, if Nelson wants to meaningfully contribute to Arsenal’s play when occupying one of the attacking midfield positions, he will need to substantially increase his volume of dribbles, shots and attempted through passes. With so many of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders failing to produce in those key metrics, the opportunity is there for the youngster but Arsenal can’t afford to carry yet another unproductive player. 3/10

CAM: Iwobi
Despite grabbing two assists, it was an underwhelming performance from Iwobi (1 shot, 1 successful forward dribbles, 0 attempted through passes and 83% passing accuracy). Like Nelson, he will need to substantially increase his volume of dribbles, shots and attempted through passes, if he holds aspirations of meaningfully contributing in one of Arsenal’s attacking midfield roles. 5/10

LCAM: Welbeck
A mixed performance from Welbeck, who offered no real threat via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles) nor attempted any through passes but showed excellent goal scoring intent (2 goals from 4 shots) and passed the ball with a good level of accuracy (82%). 6/10

ST: Aubameyang
Apart from his well taken goal from Welbeck’s flick, it was yet another match for Aubameyang in which Arsenal’s attacking midfielders failed to create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for the Gabonese striker. Despite limited clear cut goal scoring opportunities since joining the Gunners , Aubameyang is certainly making the most of them with 6 goals in 7 games. 7/10

Overall it was poor performance by Arsenal. The Gunners’ defence wasn’t proactive enough and Mustafi wasn’t able to bail out his underperforming defensive colleagues on this occasions. In central midfield, while Xhaka and Elneny were solid enough defensively, a lack of quick and direct transitional passing and dribbling from both players enabled Southampton to get numbers in defence and stifled the opportunities for Arsenal’s attacking midfielders to execute through passes for Aubameyang. Arsenal’s attacking midfielders also failed to provoke Southampton’s defence with limited forward dribbling attempts. That said, the shooting efficiency of Aubameyang combined with Webeck’s sheer persistence in terms of shooting attempts was enough to get the Gunners the three points in the end.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow

It was a great outcome but a mixed performance from the Gunners, who were greatly helped by some strong individual performances by Mustafi, Xhaka and Ozil and some clinical finishing by Ramsey and Lacazette.

While Arsenal setup in a notional 4-2-3-1 formation prematch, they appeared to adopt more of a 4-2-1-3 formation in game.

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Despite Arsenal winning the possession battle (57% to CSKA Moscow’s 43%), the Gunners had to largely rely on the transitional passing of Xhaka, the creativity of Ozil and the clinical finishing of Lacazette and Ramsey to breakdown their Russian opponents.

Defensively, while Arsenal’s goal wasn’t overly threaten in the match, with CSKA only managing to get 4 of their 11 shots on target, CSKA did showed their effectiveness at transitioning the ball via the dribble, recording 14 dribbles in total. That combined with the poor defensive efforts of Bellerin, Koscielny and Monreal threatened to expose Arsenal at time, with Mustafi coming to the Gunners’ aid on a number of occasions.

In terms of individual performances:

GK: Cech
It was a strong performance from Cech who produced 3 saves for the match and did well when called upon to deal with CSKA’s 17 crosses. In terms of the goal Arsenal conceded, there was nothing Cech could have done to prevent what was a beautifully struck free kick from Golovin. 7/10

RWB: Bellerin
It was another match in which Bellerin struggled defensively (2 tackles and 1 interception) as his opponent Schennikov repeatedly beat the Spaniard via the dribble (3 successful forward dribbles) and was allowed to attempt a number of crosses (5 crosses, 2 of which were accurate). Offensively, Bellerin was also very poor, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) and attempting just the 1 cross for the match (though he made it count with an assist for Ramsey’s opening goal). 4/10

RCB: Mustafi
It was another excellent defensive performance from Mustafi (4 tackle, 3 interceptions, 8 clearances and 1 successful aerial duel). While he wasn’t particularly challenged aerial by his opponent Musa and the player, on loan from Leicester, was able to attempt 2 shots, 1 of which was on target, and execute 5 successful forward dribbles, Mustafi’s accomplished defensive performance ensured the threat posed by the Nigerian was largely dealt with. 9/10

LCB: Koscielny
While he wasn’t overly challenged by his main opponent on the day, Wernbloom (2 shots, 1 of which was on target and 1 successful forward dribble), it was an underwhelming performance from Koscielny (0 tackles, 2 interceptions).  The Frenchman’s lack of aggression in his defensive approach allowed his opponent attacking opportunities that he otherwise wouldn’t have had.  Disappointingly, Koscielny also lost the aerial battle with Wernbloom (3 successful aerial duels to Wernbloom’s 6 successful duels). That said, the Frenchman did a great job of simply clearing his lines throughout the match, which is reflected in his 8 clearances.  After Chambers’ impressive performance versus Stoke, the pressure is on Koscielny to improve his defensive production to justify his ongoing selection. 5/10

LWB: Monreal
It was a quiet day defensively for Monreal (2 tackles and 0 interceptions) as his main opponent Kuchaev offered a  minimal dribbling threat (2 successful forward dribbles) and failed to attempt a cross during the match. My only criticism of Monreal’s defensive performance was that he could have been more intelligent in his defensive positioning to completely nullify the limited attacking threat posed by his opponent. Offensively, Monreal, like Bellerin was very poor, only attempting 1 forward dribble and failing to attempt a cross. 4/10

RCM: Ramsey
It was a mixed defensive performance from Ramsey, who struggling to contribute in term of tackling (1 tackle) but demonstrated improved defensive awareness (3 interceptions).  That said, Ramsey’s defensive positioning was poor as he failed miserably to screen the space in front of Bellerin and Mustafi (which put significant pressure on Mustafi in particular). In terms of Ramsey’s offensive performance, despite and passing the ball with very good accuracy (85%) and scoring two goals, as a consequence of abandoning his assigned central midfield position to occupy a more attacking midfield role, it was an underwhelming central midfield performance by the Welshman as he struggled to meaningfully contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play (2 accurate long range passes and just 1 successful forward dribble).  Ramsey once again demonstrated that he is far more suited to being deployed as an attacking midfielder as opposed to a deeper central midfield role.  While Arsenal weren’t burnt by his incorrect deployment versus CSKA Moscow, it has proved to be a different story versus higher quality opposition. 5/10

LCM: Xhaka
It was an underwhelming defensive effort from Xhaka, who demonstrated solid defensive awareness (2 interceptions), but was not aggressive enough in his approach (1 tackle). Xhaka’s defensive performance versus CSKA Moscow was a distinctly poorer showing in comparison to recent weeks and I’m hoping it was just a blip.  Offensively, Xhaka’s passing accuracy was excellent (87%) as was his transitional passing (7 accurate long range passes) which was the catalyst for a number of Arsenal’s attacks. The only criticism of Xhaka’s offensive effort was his failure to offer anything in terms of transitional dribbles (0 successful forward dribbles). 7/10

RCAM: Ozil
It was an excellent attacking performance from Ozil who notched 2 assists, executed 3 successful through passes from his 4 attempts, had 2 shot for the match, 1 of which was on target and recorded 3 successful forward dribbles. While Ozil passed the ball with less accuracy than normal (80%), that was a consequence of the German taking more risks with his passing, which was very much welcomed.  For the amount of wages Ozil is being paid, he needed to increase his volume of dribbles, shots and attempted through passes and he did precisely that versus CSKA Moscow. 9/10

CAM: Wilshere
It was a poor performance from Wilshere (0 shots, 1 successful forward dribbles, 0 attempted through passes and 73% passing accuracy). After his recent poor performance versus Stoke, I noted that Wilshere’s time at Arsenal should be coming to an end due to his lack of offensive production (attempted through passes, goals and assists) when deployed in an attacking midfield role and his lack of defensive production (tackles and interceptions) when deployed in a deeper central midfield role. His abject performance versus CSKA Moscow did nothing to change that assessment. 2/10

LCAM: Mkhitaryan
It was a mixed but underwhelming performance from Mkhitaryan (4 shots, 1 of which was on target and 95% passing accuracy but 0 successful forward dribbles and no attempted through passes). Mkhitaryan’s historical performances indicate that he is capable of much better than what he produced versus CSKA Moscow, particular in terms of forward dribbles and attempted through passes. The challenge for the Armenian is to replicate those historical performances on a consistent basis for Arsenal. 5/10

ST: Lacazette
A clinical performance from Lacazette with 2 goals from his 2 shots for the match, one of which was a sumptuous volley. While Ozil did his best to feed the French striker, the same couldn’t be said of Mkhitaryan or Wilshere. Until Arsenal’s attacking midfielders begin to regularly create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for Lacazette, Arsenal won’t see the Frenchman’s true value. That aside, it was an impressive performance from Lacazette. 8/10

Overall, it was great outcome for Arsenal and puts the team in a commanding position going into the second leg in Russia.

That said, Arsenal will need to improve their defensive effort as they cannot keep relying of Mustafi to come to their rescue. Similarly, in attack, while Ozil’s performance set the benchmark which he needs to strive to replicate on a regular basis, he cannot do it alone and his fellow attacking midfielders need to substantially increase their offensive production.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs Stoke

Objectively, it was a disjointed and poor performance from the Gunners, punctuated by some excellent individual performances by Mustafi and Chambers and 2 well struck penalties by Aubameyang and Lacazette.

While Arsenal setup in a notional 4-2-3-1 formation prematch, they appeared to adopt more of a 4-2-2-2 formation in game.

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Despite Arsenal dominating possession (70% to Stoke’s 30%), the Gunners failed to regularly create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for the mobile and efficient Aubameyang and were largely directionless in their attacking approach.

That was largely due to Arsenal’s central midfielders, Elneny and Ramsey, again failing to transition the ball forward with speed to enable Arsenal’s attacking midfielders to create for the pacy Aubameyang.

This enable Stoke to:

  • set a deep defensive block and limited the available space within which Aubameyang could run into; and
  • launch counter attacks, led by the dangerous Shaqiri, when Arsenal’s ponderous attacking approach inevitably broken down.

Defensively, Arsenal’s centre backs, Chambers and Musatfi, were excellent despite being isolated by Arsenal’s central midfielders, Ramsey and Elneny, who again demonstrated that they do not have the defensive focus or desire to fulfil the defensive requirements of that role.

In terms of individual performances:

GK: Ospina
While it was not an overly busy day for Ospina, thanks to Stoke’s wayward finishing and inaccurate crossing, it was nevertheless a solid performance from the Colombian, who produced 2 saves for the match and did well when called upon to deal with Stoke’s 17 crosses for the match. 7/10

RWB: Bellerin
It was a quiet day for Bellerin defensively (1 tackle and 0 interceptions) as his opponent Sobhi failed to provide any offensive production for Stoke (0 shots, 0 forward dribbles and just the 1, inaccurate, crossing attempt). Offensively though Bellerin was again very poor, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) nor a willingness to cross the ball (0 attempted crosses). 4/10

RCB: Mustafi
It was an excellent defensive performance from Mustafi (4 tackle, 3 interceptions, 3 clearances and 3 successful aerial duels). While Mustafi wasn’t particularly challenged aerial by his opponent Shaqiri, and the Swiss was able to attempt 3 shots, 1 of which was on target, and execute 2 successful forward dribbles, but for the German’s accomplish defensive showing, Arsenal would likely have conceded one if not more goals. 9/10

LCB: Chambers
It was a similarly excellent performance from Chambers (2 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 clearances and 4 successful aerial duels). While his main opponent on the day, Diouf, was generally poor (1 shot, which was off target and 0 successful forward dribbles), Diouf’s limited offensive production was largely due to Chambers’ aggressive and intelligent defensive play. My only criticism of the young Englishman’s performance was that he lost the aerial battle with Diouf (3 successful aerial duels to Diouf’s 9 successful duels). That said, Chambers’ effort and application in the match could not be questioned and the youngster made the most of his limited first team opportunity in his prefer and best suited position. 8/10

LWB: Monreal
It was a very quiet day defensively for Monreal (1 tackle and 2 interceptions) as his main opponent Bauer offered nothing in terms of a dribbling threat (0 forward dribbles), had 1 shot, which was off target, and recorded 2 attempted, but inaccurate, crosses. My only criticism of Monreal’s defensive performance was that he could have been more aggressive in his approach to completely nullify the limited attacking threat posed by his opponent. Offensively, Monreal, like Bellerin was very poor, attempting no forward dribbles and just 1, inaccurate, cross. 5/10

RCM: Elneny
Despite Arsenal dominating possession, it was another dreadful defensive performance from Elneny (0 tackles and 1 interception), who failed miserably to screen the space in front of Bellerin and Mustafi. Offensively, while Elneny’s passing accuracy (88%) was excellent, his transitional passing (1 accurate range pass) and transitional dribbles (1 successful forward dribble) were very poor. 4/10

LCM: Ramsey
It was a mixed defensive effort from Ramsey, who was solid in his tackling (2 tackles), but woeful in his defensive positioning (0 interceptions). Overall, Ramsey failed to offer sufficient defensive protection to Chambers and Monreal. Offensively, while Ramsey’s passing accuracy was very good (83%) and his transitional passing was solid (2 accurate long range passes), Ramsey failed to offer anything in terms of forward dribbles (0 successful forward dribbles). An increased volume of quick transitional plays, either via the dribble or long range passing, is required from the Welshman if he wishes to meaningfully contribute to Arsenal’s offensive play. 5/10

RCAM: Ozil
It was an underwhelming performance from Ozil who only executed 1 successful through pass from his 1 attempt and had 1 shot for the match. Positively though Ozil recorded 2 successful forward dribbles and passed the ball with 85% accuracy. For the amount of wages Ozil is being paid, an increased volume of dribbles, shots and attempted through passes is both expected and required from the German when occupying one of Arsenal’s attacking midfield positions. 5/10

CAM: Wilshere
Like Ozil it was a similarly underwhelming performance from Wilshere (1 shot, 3 successful forward dribbles, 0 attempted through passes and 88% passing accuracy). Objectively, Wilshere’s time at Arsenal should be coming to an end due to his lack of offensive production (attempted through passes, goals and assists) when deployed in an attacking midfield role and his lack of defensive production (tackles and interceptions) when deployed in a deeper central midfield role. Unfortunately Wilshere did nothing versus Stoke to change that assessment of his on field performances. 5/10

LCAM: Welbeck
It a dreadful performance from Welbeck (1 shot, which was off target, 0 successful forward dribbles, 80% passing accuracy and no attempted through passes). Much like Wilshere, Welbeck lack of offensive production, whether it be in a striking role (goals and shots per game) or in an attacking midfield role (dribbles, assists and through passes), should result in Arsenal selling the player at season’s end. 3/10

ST: Aubameyang
Apart from his penalty and a well taken goal from a loose ball in the box, it was another match for Aubameyang in which Arsenal’s attacking midfielders failed to create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for the Gabonese striker. Despite this being a recurring theme for Aubameyang, as it was for Lacazette before him, Wenger continues to employ a tactical set up which fails to plays to his mobile forwards’ strengths,  depriving them of any regular clear cut goal scoring opportunities. The longer Wenger continues failing to adopt a tactical system that accentuates the Gabonese striker’s strengths and hides his weaknesses, the more I fear for the state of Aubameyang’s confidence. 7/10

Overall it was another poor performance by Arsenal, masked by two penalties from 50/50 challenges by Stoke players and a well hit strike from Aubameyang.

While the result will likely mask Arsenal’s poor performance in he view of many pundits, make no mistake, Arsenal’s individual and collective performance levels need to drastically improve.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

5-3-2 is NOT the short term solution for Arsenal

Recently I read an article from a fellow Gooner which proclaimed that switching to a 5-3-2 formation comprised of one of the following starting elevens, was the immediate change Arsenal needed to improve their poor on field performances.

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While I implore the author for their optimistic approach, there are some clear oversights in their proposition, particularly regarding the actual and perceived productivity levels of the players the author identified as central midfield options.

For a 5-3-2 formation, with mobile but slight of frame strikers, to effectively work, it requires the 3 central midfielders to be both productive defenders and highly effective at quickly transitioning the ball from defence to attack (whether via the dribble or a long range pass). This is critical as mobile, quick forwards need space in behind the opposition’s defence to effectively utilise their off the ball movement and a failure to quickly transition the ball from defence to attack allows opponents to set a deep defensive block, limiting the available space within which the forwards can run into.

Unfortunately Arsenal’s squad does not currently have enough central midfield options with that skills set in order to effectively execute a 5-3-2.

Firstly, while a midfield trio of Mkhitaryan, Xhaka and Ozil is undoubtedly talented on the ball:

  • Neither Ozil nor Mkhitaryan are productive enough defensively to meaningfully protect Arsenal’s defence.
  • If Ozil and Mkhitaryan were deployed further up the field to provide the link between Arsenal’s central midfielders and strikers, that would isolate Xhaka and allow opponents to press him (which he does not cope well with) and force dangerous turnovers in Arsenal’s defensive third.
  • If Ozil and Mkhitaryan were to rotate, with one of them occupying a more advanced attacking midfield role while the other dropped deeper alongside Xhaka to ensure the Swiss is not isolated, Arsenal would have insuffienct attacking midfielders to effectively link their central midfield and strikers.

Secondly, Ramsey, Wilshere and Elneny are simply not productive enough defensively (tackles and interceptions) to play in central midfield and are not productive enough in an offensive sense (goals, assists and through passes) to play in an attacking midfield position. They might look busy (Elneny), appear to provide a goal scoring threat (Ramsey) or seem creative (Wilshere) but if you closely analyse their individual contributions, they simply don’t produce on the field.

For that reason alone, I’d be happy to see Arsenal move on from Wilshere at season’s end and sell Ramsey. I was also really disappointed the club recently re signed Elneny despite his lack of on field production. The Egyptian’s re signing demonstrated to two concerning issues:

  1. Despite a new chief scout and head of football operations, Arsenal still lack the objectivity and ruthlessness to make recruitment and retention decisions which will actually improve the squad and the team’s on field performances.
  2. As a favourite of Wenger’s, Elneny’s re signing indicates that Wenger is staying on for another season as manager which means there will be more team selections based on his personal relationship with players as opposed to players’ on field
  3. production.

On top of the above suitability issues with Arsenal’s central midfield options, neither Bellerin nor Maitland-Niles (though he hasn’t had many opportunities) have proven themselves sufficiently productive defensively to protect Arsenal’s right flank.  In a 5-3-2 systems with two of Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Wilshere or Elneny in central midfield (either side of Xhaka), that would place that much more pressure on Xhaka and Arsenal’s 3 man central defence to cover up the right fullback’s defensive shortcomings.

All of the above indicates that switching to a 5-3-2 formation comprised of one or a combination of the abovementioned players, is NOT the immediate change Arsenal needed to improve their poor on field performances.

If Arsenal truely wished to adopt a 5-3-2 system of play, with mobile but slight of frame strikers, Arsenal’s central midfielders would need to be completely overhauled (possibly with the exception of Xhaka). Given that the transfer window is currently closed and Wenger is notorious for being resistant to changing personnel and tactics, I expect to see more disjointed and underwhelming performances from the Gunners between now and seasons’ end.

Freddie08

2017/2018 Arsenal Squad Profile

As Arsenal’s season winds to an underwhelming but not unexpected finish, and in preparation for the off season, it’s a good opportunity to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) for each position within a number of potentially suitable formation for the Gunners (i.e. 4-2-2-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-1-2, 4-3-2-1 and 5-2-2-1) and, using data from http://www.whoscored.com, develop a clearer understanding of the tendencies of each player in Arsenal’s first team squad (over their professional career).  The findings provide an invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition; and
  • which 11 players make up Arsenal’s most effective team in each of the abovementioned formations.

Note: The player rankings, starting line ups and formations outlined in this article are based on the assumption that Arsenal’s tactical basis is to stretch the game vertically by creating generous spacing between their defensive and attacking blocks so as to allow for quick forward transitions and space in behind the opposition’s defence. Specifically the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full backs, centre backs and central midfielders. While Arsenal’s attacking block is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

Internal player rankings

In terms of how each player within Arsenal’s first team squad ranks against their internal competition, seven positional categories were considered (goalkeeper, right fullback, centre back, left fullback, centre midfield, attacking midfield and centre forward). Different weightings were also assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group. These weightings were based on alignment with aforementioned assumption regarding Arsenal’s tactical basis.

It is also noted that the goals and assists per season data detailed in the below player rankings reflects  the average number of goals or assists for the respective player in each season where the player has started at least 15 league games.

Goalkeeper:

Goalkeeper Rankings

Right Fullback:

Right fullback Rankings

Centre Back:

Centreback Rankings

Left Fullback:

Left fullback Rankings

Central Midfield:

Central Midfield Rankings

Attacking Midfield:

Attacking Midfield Rankings

Centre Forward 

Centre forward Rankings

Formations and lineups

Based on the above analytical comparison, and assuming that Arsenal’s tactical basis is to stretch the game vertically by creating generous spacing between their defensive block (goalkeeper, right and left full backs, centre backs and central midfielders) and attacking block (attacking midfielders and strikers) so as to allow for quick forward transitions and space in behind the opposition’s defence, Arsenal’s most complimentary starting 11 in each of the below listed formations would appear to be as follows:

4-2-2-2

4-2-2-2-e1521595327559.png

4-2-3-1

4-2-3-1

4-3-1-2

4-3-1-2

4-3-2-1

4-3-2-1

5-2-2-1

5-2-2-1

While the defensive focus of a 5-2-2-1 formation and a 4-3-2-1 formation make such systems attractive, both systems would deprive Arsenal of Lacazette’s goal scoring threat, which is deficiency Ozil and Mkhitaryan are not likely to be able to make up for in the form of additional goals.

A more traditional 4-2-3-1 also has its appealing qualities in that it would allow Arsenal’s three most productive attacking midfielders (Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Cazorla) to be on the field and within Arsenal’s attacking block at the same time.  That said, this system would again deprive Arsenal of Lacazette’s goal scoring threat and all three attacking midfielders have demonstrated a tendency in the past to over complicate Arsenal’s attacking play and slow down the speed of Arsenal’s attacks when the ball enters the opposition’s defensive third. Such an approach fails to play to Aubameyang’s off the ball strengths.

Regarding a 4-3-1-2 formation, while the defensive security afforded by that system is appealing and it would allow both Lacazette and Aubameyang to be on the field and within Arsenal’s attacking block at the same time, the lack of multiple attacking midfielders may prevent Arsenal from being able to regularly create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for that striking pair.

With the likes of Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil and Mkhitaryan in Arsenal’s squad a more attacking 4-2-2-2 would appear to be the most balanced of the evident options available to Arsenal. However, for this system to work, Arsenal’s defensive block (i.e. goalkeeper, right and left fullbacks, centre backs and central midfielders) would need to consistently remain disciplined and focused on their defensively positioning and defensive responsibilities.

One thing which is for certain is that Arsenal, in regularly selecting Ramsey, Elneny and/or Wilshere in central midfield, have not got their  central midfield balance correct this season. Repeated poor team selection in that area of the field, combined with a lack of defensive discipline amongst Arsenal’s defensive block and slow, overly complicated attacking play amongst Arsenal’s attacking midfielders, has rendered Arsenal ineffective both offensively and defensively. While formation and personnel changes would appear to help correct some of those deficiencies, the effectiveness of those changes are likely to be impaired without a complimentary stylistic change from the manager.

Freddie08

Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs Watford

A welcome victory for the Gunners, with some impressive performances by Cech, Mustafi, Holding, Xhaka and Aubameyang but poor performances by Elneny, Mykhitaryan, Ozil and Iwobi.

While Arsenal setup in a notional 4-2-3-1 formation prematch, they appeared to adopt more of a 4-2-4 formation in game.

IMG_1877

IMG_1875

Arsenal were able to dominate possession (60% to Watford’s 40%), but unlike in Arsenal’s recently loss to Brighton, Watford were far more willing to commit players in attack, rather than employ a deep defensive block and counterattack. This stretched the game vertically and provided Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and Aubameyang with the space and time needed to attempt more lower risk through passes and make runs in behind Watford’s defence. It was a tactically naive approach from Watford but very much welcomed by the out of form Gunners.

In terms of individual performances:

GK: Cech
It was a strong performance from Cech who made 4 saves for the match, including 1 from a penalty taken by Deeney. The experienced keeper also did well when called upon to deal with Watford’s 24 crosses for the match.

RWB: Maitland Niles
It was mixed defensive performance from Maitland Niles, who was proactive and aggressive with his tackling (3 tackles) but struggled with his defensive positioning (0 interception). That said, he did enough defensively to effectively shut down his opponent, Pereyra (1 off target shot, 2 forward dribbles, 1 accurate cross from his 2 attempts and 0 attempted through passes). Offensively, it was also a mixed performance from the young Englishman, who made 2 successful forward dribbles but failed to attempt a cross. While his performance wasn’t prefect, and the penalty he conceded demonstrated his inexperience playing at right fullback, Maitland Niles demonstrated enough in terms of key performance indicators to justify his continued selection in the position ahead of Bellerin.

RCB: Mustafi
It was a very strong defensive performance from Mustafi (4 tackles, 7 clearances and 6 successful aerial duels). While his aggressiveness compromised his defensive positioning at times (0 interceptions), which allowed his opponent Richarlison to attempt 4 shots, 2 of which forced Cech into action, his proactive ball recovery skills, no non sense approach to defending and aerial strength can’t be questioned.

LCB: Holding
It was a strong defensive performance from Holding (3 interceptions, 7 clearances and 4 successful aerial duels). While the lack of aggressiveness in Holding’s defensive approach (1 tackle) gave his opponent Deeney some shooting opportunities (2 shots, 1 of which was on target) and he lost the aerial battle with the Watford striker (4 successful duels to Deeney’s 7), Holding was largely able to keep the experienced forward at bay. All in all
an impressive performance.

LWB: Kolasinac
It was a quiet day defensively for Kolasinac (2 tackles and 0 interception), as his opponent, Femenia, struggled to influence the game in an attacking sense (1 off target shot, 1 successful forward dribble and 1 accurate cross from 2 attempts). That said, some more intelligence in Kolasinac’s defensive positioning would have eliminated any threat posed by Femenia. Offensively, it was a poor showing by the Serb, with no forward dribbles and just 2 inaccurate crosses. His historical performances indicate that Kolasinac is capable of much more particularly defensively. He needs to show that now for Arsenal on a consistent basis.

RCM: Elneny
It was an underwhelming performance from Elneny, who was solid in his tackling (2 tackles for the match) and passed with excellent accuracy (92%) but his defensive positioning was poor (0 interceptions) and he failed to efficiently and directly transition the ball from defence to attack, whether it be via a dribble (0 successful forward dribbles) or accurate long pass (1 accurate long pass for the match). Elneny has demonstrated consistently that he hides in matches and fails to meaningfully contribute either defensively or offensively. His continue selection in central midfield ahead of youngsters such as Willock, Da Silva and Sheaf is one of many perplexing team selection decisions by Wenger.

LCM: Xhaka
It was a fantastic all round performance by Xhaka, who expertly screened Holding and Kolasinac (4 tackles and 2 interceptions) and was highly effective and productive at directly transitioning the ball from defence to attack (5 accurate long passes out of 6 attempts). His passing accuracy (90%) was also excellent. While Xhaka’s immobility restricts his ability to regularly execute success forward dribbles, which was again the case versus Watford, it was as complete of a performance as can be expected from Xhaka who has significantly improved defensively during the second half of the season. Arsenal’s man of the match for me.

RCAM: Mykhitaryan
Despite recording a goal and assist, it was an poor performance from Mykhitaryan (1 shot, no successful forward dribbles, a paltry 71% passing accuracy and 1 successful through pass from 1 attempt). It was a far cry from his excellent performance versus Milan and his overall offensive production needs to improve.

CAM: Ozil
It was a mixed performance by Ozil who impressed with his willingness to dribble at the Watford defence (3 successful forward dribbles), notched another assist from
a set piece delivery and passed accurately (81%). That said, Ozil again failed to consistently offer a goal scoring threat (1 shot for the match) and while he executed a nice through pass for Aubameyang early in the match, that was his only attempted through pass for the game. More offensive output is required by the German.

LCAM: Iwobi
It was a poor performance by Iwobi who, despite show some creativity with his passing (2 attempted but inaccurate through passes), passed the ball with inaccuracy throughout the match, only executed 1 forward dribble and had 1 off target shot.

ST: Aubameyang
A very strong attacking performance from Aubameyang who, given Watford’s attacking intent, was given space behind their defence in which he could make off the ball runs into. While he only scored 1 goal for the match, he showed his willingness with 4 shots in total, 2 of which were on target.

A great outcome for Arsenal, even though it wasn’t a good attacking performance. Arsenal’s ongoing struggle to find a central midfielder who can partner Xhaka and consistently defend as well as directly transition the ball from defence to attack continues. Xhaka’s performance in that regard has significantly improved, though none of Elneny, Wilshere or Ramsey have been able to consistently deliver the required performance standard. While strong individual performances from Mustafi, Holding and Xhaka were able to mask Elneny’s poor defensive play, the Egyptian’s overly complicated transitional play, combined with a lack of directness from Arsenal’s attacking midfield cohort, limited Arsenal’s potential goal scoring opportunity versus the Hornets. That said, like the AC Milan victory the week prior, a win is a win and hopefully Arsenal can produce a much more complete performance in the mid week return fixture versus the Italians.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.