Arsenal lost to Chelsea 3-2 and I think we can firmly state that this one is on Unai Emery.
It’s popular to blame the players and we did see some problems with the personnel in this match. Both of the center backs look slow and seem to have problems concentrating for a full game. At the sight of Pedro just ghosting Sokratis and Mustafi my stomach dropped and I honestly felt bad for them.
The goal move was started by Bellerin chasing Willian into midfield. Then Mkhitaryan didn’t track the run of Alonso until it was too late, Pedro stood a few yards offside and gained an advantage over Sokratis, who was waxing philosophical over a blade of grass, Alonso crossed the ball with no pressure, and Pedro just waltzed in for a goal.
For the second goal the defense was all the way up at the half-way line! I can’t tell you how dangerous it is to give any player 50 yards to run in to. But I’ll just put it this way: the pass to them doesn’t have to be terribly accurate, they don’t have to be terribly fast, they don’t have to dribble well, and their shot can be kind of sloppy. Even a player like me can score in those situations.
And those weren’t the only times that Arsenal were cut apart by Chelsea. Defensively we are a sick team.
Offensively we were also sick! But this time I mean that in the way that people mean “literally” to mean “figuratively”.
Arsenal created four big chances in that half. That’s the same number of big chances that Arsenal created in all of last season against all of the top 6 teams (away)!
Emery took Xhaka off at half time, brought on Torreira and then instructed the fullbacks to sit deep. In my Behind the Numbers piece for the Arsenal Review I show the first half and second half pass maps for the fullbacks. It’s pretty stunning.
As much as we like to think that we missed Xhaka’s sprinkler passes, we didn’t. We missed the runs of the fullbacks.
People also forget that Xhaka probably should have gotten a red card for his “tackle”. I’m gonna catch some stick for this but I don’t care: you cannot just run over and kick your opponent knee high. And he did that out of frustration. It was an intentional and reckless foul.
So, in the second half, he made the changes, we defended deep, and… we lost the match. We know what he did, but we don’t know why. Was he trying to save the defense further blushes? That didn’t work. Was he trying to show the team something? Was he experimenting with the midfield? Was he dropping Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil? It’s hard to tell.
That means Arsenal have now lost the first two matches under Unai. Emery’s record against other top teams has also taken a further beating. He still has zero wins over Pep (in 12 matches), and zero wins over Man City (in 3 tries) and zero wins over Chelsea (in three tries).
That said, it’s not the end of the world. We have 8 matches upcoming that are all winnable games. West Ham (H) Cardiff (A) Newcastle(A) Everton(H) Watford(H) Fulham(A) Leicester(H) Palace(A). Arsenal need to just get 20 points from the first ten matches and we will be back in contention for 4th place. That means we can even win just 6 of those 8 and as long as we draw two, we should be ok. I have Cardiff getting relegated, Watford as a relegation team and Newcastle as a relegation side. Leicester is also way down at the bottom of my prediction table as well. Everton is going to be a tough game and Palace and Fulham are going to be tough. But Arsenal should be able to beat most of those teams on that list and get at least a point off the other two.
This brings me to my season predictor. A few words about how this works. I took my xG goal difference rank, I used the team’s transfer business (graded), and then just moved teams around as I saw fit. The thing you have to understand about predicting the final league table is that there is so much variation in terms of injury and whatnot that you can really only sort of predict groups. Top four, mid-table, and relegation fighters.
That’s why so many stats houses change their predictions after every week’s matches and also why they use percentages. Anyway, here’s my one and only League Table prediction (which will be entirely wrong and laughable).
I may actually write something tomorrow (on here) because I noticed that Wenger gave an interview and it will tie in with the work I’m doing.