Everyone will have their favorite moment of the match. The last time Arsenal beat Tottenham in the League was when Tomas Rosicky scored a screamer. The thing I will always remember about that goal was how his hair caught the light just as he was making his sprint and for a second it looked like he caught fire. Then he exchanged passes with Ox, which was more Ox just losing possession, and struck the ball into the corner.
The thing I will always remember about this match was Alexis having two close shots saved and on the second, the ball running out of play, and him making a Superman slide. That’s just me though. That’s what I’ll remember.
Ozil also had a good game, he created four chances for his teammates and one of them was one of the big chances that Alexis got on the end of. He also created three of those chances in the time between the 60th minute and the 84th minute.
That was a strange time in this match: Arsenal were up 2-0 and suddenly seemed to decide to go for it. Arsenal’s counter attack broke down time and again (which was frustrating) but when we did eventually create chances they were excellent and probably should have scored more. Arsenal’s attack cut through Tottenham’s defense as if they were standing still. Usually that’s a sign of fatigue but I can’t understand why they were tired: all of their players took the week off from international duty by feigning injury.
The Arsenal back line were not quite as easily broken down. We did require two spectacular saves – one from Cech off a Dire header and the other a block by Mustafi – but for the majority of the match Arsenal’s back 5 held well. The back line was made to look especially good because they were put under immense pressure.
Arsenal’s midfield duo of Ramsey and Xhaka were simply abused by Demebele and Sissoko. The Ramxhakle midfield attempted 14 tackles (9 for Ramsey and 5 for Xhaka) but only were successful on six. Xhaka was dribbled 4/5 times and also gave up two yellow card fouls (for which he only got one yellow). Xhaka gave the performance that all the pundits criticize him for: slow and seemingly daft. Meanwhile Ramsey showed that even if he is asked to be more conservative he plainly needs a speedier midfielder next to him as he can’t cover for Xhaka. That said, even Coquelin couldn’t cover. But the combination of Mustafi heading everything away, Koscielny covering, and Monreal intercepting was nearly perfect on the day.
All that said, my favorite moment of the day was all of the pundits eating crow! I don’t think anyone picked Arsenal to win this match and there were more than a few who picked Spurs to win. That latter, an away win against a top six team, is a huge call and suggests that pundit thought that the so-called “power shift” in North London was more than just a minor flashing of lights and was instead a complete blackout in Islington.
I’ve been critical of Arsenal and do think that the club have to turn things around if they want to be title contenders (plus, come on – Mustafi and Alexis wanted to move this summer and Ozil and Jack are out of contract, there is huge turmoil in this club right now) but time and again I have shown that the so-called (mind the) gap between the two teams is minor at best. Watch the 7amxG difference between these two teams, it’s just 1 goal right now (Arsenal have the advantage) and before the match was just 0.05 xG. Spurs are not as good as people think and Arsenal are not as bad as people think. Imagine that: the truth is somewhere in between.
The referees getting it wrong. I can honestly say that I would love to see the referees get it wrong every single week on the way to an Arsenal title. Not because of some perverted sense of “justice” for all the past errors: calling that “justice” would be like if your house got burgled five times and the cops responded, “ok, now you get to rob five houses that may or may not have had anything to do with this latest robbery.” But just because it would certainly precipitate the end of the problem.
And there is clearly a problem. Referees get it wrong all the time. I also watch Bundesliga matches (do not look to the Bundesliga for defenders, folks) and they get it wrong there all the time as well. And they have Video Assistant Refereeing!
My solution is a second referee. One in each half of the pitch. I think that the vast majority of calls are called wrong because the ref doesn’t see the foul clearly through the tangle of legs. But if the ref were facing the direction of the keeper instead of the other way, and if the ref had less ground to cover, he might be able to get the majority of these calls right.
My second solution is to ask the question “how much are they getting wrong?” You will never be able to eliminate all mistakes. Even American Football where the refs stop the game every 30 seconds in order to ponder the 3,000 page rulebook with help of a video ref and a team of lawyers they get calls wrong and there is controversy. There was another controversial awarded touchdown for the Seattle Seahawks just the other day – two players apparently caught the same ball, one defender and one receiver. So, who wins possession?
To find out how much the referees are getting wrong, I think we should apply xG to bad referee decisions. That limits the bad decisions to just a few instances where a shot was taken or a shot was wrongly chalked off. Example: in the City match, the xG added by the referee was +1.25. That’s a penalty and a big big chance. Even if you say it was a penalty (it wasn’t) and just take the big chance it’s at least +0.5. Against Tottenham, they complained that Alexis “wasn’t fouled” which led to a free kick, which led to a header from 12 yards out, which Mustafi scored. That was a far more difficult shot than Jesus’s goal. My calculations are very rough but I score that as a +0.1.* So, between those two games we already see a referee error of between +0.6 and +1.35 xG. If we looked at the whole season, I bet we see a pretty large error rate. Much, much larger than allowed by something like six sigma.
Doing a project like that would give PGMOL an objective standard to reach for. I wonder if they have thought of doing that?
Why can’t I just have a moment? Now I remember why I didn’t like this format! If I were to point out something ugly… it would be… that.. uhh… Ramsey and Xhaka were dribbled way too many times.
*I’d love to see what the Opta pros score that shot as, my guess is somewhere between +0.05 and +0.1.