Stats prove* that it’s time to drop Xhaka

I think I have a solution. A way to stop all the arguing about who should start, Torreira or Guendouzi. It’s a pretty radical solution. It’s so big you could even call it a “Douzi”.

Start Torreira and Guendouzi.

Defensively, they are superior to Xhaka, far superior. Guendouzi in particular has been fantastic and the only reason Torreira doesn’t have larger “bulk” numbers is that he doesn’t play much. Look at how many duels Guendouzi wins every game, it’s crazy. Look at how many tackles Guendouzi and Torreira win. Xhaka is (we already know this) awful at tackles, more likely to foul than win the ball, and seemingly incapable of intercepting the ball. He is good at headers, I guess.

Passing, both players are either equal or superior. Neither Torreira nor Guendouzi give the ball away as much as Xhaka does with both his failed long and failed short passes – though they are caught in possession more often, but that would even out in the wash. In fact, I think Arsenal would be objectively better in possession with Xhaka off the pitch.

Torreira has the same “entry pass” ability as Xhaka and both players have an assist (Torreira’s was from open play, Xhaka was from a corner). And before we worry about “who will take corners” Ozil was boss of that before Wenger decided to give it to Xhaka. Ozil, Mkhitaryan, and Torreira can take free kicks as well.

Who will score from direct free kicks? The forwards. I would have Ozil take them and get the ball into the mixer for Lacazette and Auba.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that I know better than Unai Emery. I’m also not suggesting that this will ever happen. In fact, this post is actually meant to just highlight how good both of Arsenal’s young midfielders are. I do think that one day we will see this lineup and when we do, I think it will be a Douzi.


*they don’t.

Sources: Opta via and


  1. Interesting Dribbled past and Aerial dual stat. The idea of Xhaka important to our build up play cannot be falsiied until he gets dropped for a few games. It’s all a merry land when we win and who I am to stop your dream!

  2. Maybe I am missing something, but the sum if ground (7.2) and areal duels (0.5) for Douzi don’t add up to thr Total duels shown (12.9)

  3. The stats are a validation of what we can see, objectively, with our own eyes. That Guendouzi and Torreira offer more. Xhaka does offer something offensively, but shockingly little defensively. What the stats don’t show is doziness… bad appreciation of gathering danger, and positioning. I also wish that there a stat for sly shirt tugs and blatant shirt tugs 🙂 He can thump a dead ball and take a good corner, though, and that’s something.

    1. It’s more about Xhaka’s playmaking ability. Most players have Xhaka’s range of passing, better positional sense and better defensively, but what can’t be quantified is his decision making on the ball. Playmaking is a very underated quality. Players like Xhaka are not very good when it comes to a lot of metrics other than passes, but it’s what they do with those passes that makes them integral to most teams.

      Xhaka controls the tempo of the game (not alone though, the team has to help by making movements) and he allows our most dangerous players to play in the areas where they can cause the most damage. Matteo can play passes, but Xhaka’s value comes in knowing when to pass, when not to pass, who to pass and where to put the ball to progress our play. It’s like the difference between Pogba and Kroos. Pogba can do everything that Kroos can and more, but doesn’t have the playmaking ability to have a similar impact on a game that K roos makes.

      It is something that is hard to teach. I coach young player and I have a boy who has playmaking ability, I have not been able to leave him out the team even though he has glaring weaknesses. The team just plays better with him in. I have boys who can run faster, are bigger and dribble better, but having him to transition the ball allows all the other players so much better.

      I think is an example of British football’s lack of appreciation for this fundemental skill. It is not even a technical skill, it is mentally where these players thrive. Maybe that’s why Scholes and Carrick were so misunderstood for the national side and underused as well. Madrid have Kroos, PSG have Verratti (who has a disciplinary record just like Xhaka), Barca have Rakitic, Chelsea just got Jorginho, Roma have De rossi, Juventus have Pjanic and etc.

      So lets not limit Xhaka’s performances to the quantity of passes made and the range, that’s what he does. What is most important is why he played the passes he played and what the team got from those passes. I love the concept of pass value, but a back pass can be a very big positive, it all depends on the match situation and what you want to achieve from the pass.

      1. Very well put! I haven’t seen you post before but this is an outstanding debut. I’ve been struggling to articulate Xhaka’s value but I think you’ve just done it very well.

  4. Here is the other thing. If Xhaka is good in the air why is taking corners instead of being on the receiving end of it? Torreira should be taking them now.

    I also think Douzi and Torreira will be our midfield duo in the not too distant future unless Xhaka drastically improves his game. He has proven himself to be durable though and I believe Emery is managing the fitness of our young newcomers in addition to viewing him a leader in that CM position.

    1. Yes about managing their fitness, and not putting too much on their young shoulders too soon. As a lone DM we know that Xhaka’s hopeless, but in a double pivot with someone who works hard defensively alongside him, he’s a good, if fundamentally limited, player.

      Personally, I’m all about Guen and Torr being our starting CM partnership in the near future, and hopefully for the next decade. I just don’t think there’s any reason to rush it, unless Xhaka’s form is really bad, and in the last few games it hasn’t been. He’s a senior player now, and a leader (at least in theory), so there’s no reason for Emery to alienate him so early in his reign (same goes for Cech). But I also won’t really be disappointed if Emery drops him sooner rather than later, and I’m personally excited to see Guen-Torr on the pitch together.

      Here’s another thought (from my post on an earlier thread): why not start all three? Are they too similar to be a 3 man, possession-heavy midfield that provides a solid base for a mobile, fluid front three, a front three that’s then freed up to concentrate on attacking???

    2. PS I think he’s more an asset in the air on defensive corners than on offensive ones (these are similar but non-identical skills).

  5. Dropping Xhaka, who represents a sizable investment ( £40m was it) , would be a ballsy move by Emery, something I don’t necessarily see happening any time soon.

    From a defensive stand point though you are absolutely correct, Xhaka is and always will be a liability.
    Does he offer enough on offense to keep his place ?
    I don’t know.
    I do know however that Arsenal aren’t the kinda club and Kroenke isn’t the kind of owner who will look kindly on loosing millions in investment, which benching Xhaka would surely resulted in.

    Guardiola, Klopp and Mourinho ( maybe not anymore in Jose’s case) get a full backing at rearranging their squads with little regard for money but Emery isn’t in that bracket.

    Sanchez has been underperforming for United since his transfer but Jose persists with him because you don’t bench the league’s top earner without admitting to a major error in judgment in handing him such money when he was at the lowest point form-wise in his Arsenal career.

    Emery wasn’t the one who signed Xhaka but there are politics involved behind the scenes here as well .

  6. Winter is coming. So is life-after-Rambo (come January).
    (As much as I have enjoyed ‘Clutch’ Ramsey winning FA Cups?)
    Drop Aaron, play Matteo in the hole vs Everton.

    Ramsey was either going to deliver goals/assists this Fall– or pressing to deliver them. With a tally of 0/0? Clearly, the latter.

    Damn the torpedoes (and the stats)!
    Play all three of Guendouzi/Torreira/Xhaka.


    1. Yeah, I agree it’s an interesting option, but not with Guen “in the hole”. Guen is not a 10. Play a Barca style midfield 3 without a designated 10 (4-3-3), or a midfield diamond with Ozil at 10 in front of those 3.

      I don’t see Emery dropping Ramsey or deviating from his (somewhat lopsided) 4-2-3-1 any time soon, unfortunately.

    2. I like it.

      How about a 4-3-1-2?

      3: Guendouzi, Torreira, Xhaka
      1: Ozil
      2: Aubameyang, Lacazette

      I’m ok with Ramsey being dropped, and I’m saying this as someone who once thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. The contract situation, plus the injuries, plus the weirdness of his play.

      1. yeah, this is what I meant by playing a diamond.

        for me, the biggest downside here is not so much losing Ramsey as losing the wing play of both Miki and Iwobi (ok, they’re not traditional wingers, but they offer the team width that we rarely get elsewhere).
        but in certain games you could drop one of Auba and Laca for one of Miki and Iwobi, and play a 4-3-3 that would still have that solid midfield base. and of course when we’re chasing a game you could bring on one of those two for one of the deep midfielders and go back to the 4-2-2-2/4-2-3-1 we’re currently playing (just so long as we’re not sticking Auba out wide for any length of time–that should be avoided, I think).

        the other downside to the diamond is whether 2 of those 3 mids are really suited to play as box-to-boxers, rather than as holding mids. Like, how comfortable/productive are could they be in more advanced areas of the pitch? My gut says Xhaka’s the least mobile and therefore should be deepest most of the time, whereas the other two could develop their attacking games in promising ways (I suggested this in an earlier thread and Claude disagreed).

        Anyway, almost certainly all academic, as I don’t expect Emery to do this any time soon.

      2. I agree with you… up to a point. One, having uncommitted players with one foot in the departure lounge is a no-no for me, even if, like you, I really like the player. Heck, Sanchez brought astonishing productivity to Arsenal (however folks may want to revise history), but his last contract year was a disaster. Different circumstances for sure… Ramsey was not on the brink of leaving on transfer deadline day.

        Two, he’s not enjoyed the best use of his talents from Emery, even if he’s started all but one (I think) EPL game. The Ramseys and Leon Goretzkas of this world are not No. 10s… they’re classic No. 8s.

        No 1 is a really big deal for me and if he doesn’t commit to club and has a cloud hanging over him, Im Ok with us looking at other options and combos.

        But let’s assume for a moment that Ramsey is committed, and he does sign. What’s the best footballing outcome? It then becomes an issue that’s bigger than Ramsey, Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi. Much bigger. It’s about the balance of the whole XI.

        The problem is that Emery can’t accommodate all of Ozil, Ramsey, Auba and Laca, so he can’t make use of Ramsey’s strengths if he does.

        First, with Auba or Laca, he’s got to make a big call, on either formation or a single CF. If he’s not going 442, then he’s got to drop one of them, and I truly don’t envy him that choice. Second, he’s got to play a genuine wide player left, and for me Iwobi has played himself into the starting XI, on merit. THAT, against Vorskla, is how you play the wide attacking role, folks.

        So, with the players he has, 442 is the best formation. Im going with


        Torreira can be our conductor/orchestrator/holder. I’d much rather see Auba and Laca in the same XI, and the added firepower in a front 2 is droolworthy, so 442 would be my preferred formation.

        But since Emery likes a double pivot and will not go 442, how about a 4411 that, in motion, is a 4231?

        Ramsey or Miki -Torreira-Guendouzi-Iwobi
        Auba or Laca

        With Ramsey/Mhki and Iwobi joining the play, it fluidly becomes a 4231 at times. The team has most bases covered…. backfield protection, flank protection, orchestration/tempo setting, goals, creation, pace out wide. And it looks better balanced.

        I prefer to see Ramsey in what Wenger described as his Roy Keane role (help knit the attack + defend) where he adds significantly to the team’s productivity, alongside one capable holder/orchestrator, but Emery is the coach, and his preferred system is 2 pivots. Plus, he never listens to me, that Unai.

        1. I’d add that if you play 442, you have a hard decision to make about Ozil. The two strikers, Mhki (key in a 442) and Iwobi on the left offer plenty enough creativity. So would Torreira and Ramsey, 2nd in assists for us last year. Ozil can play wide left of course, but Iwobi interprets that role better, in his all-round play.

          In a 4411/4231 where one striker plays, Ozil would obviously be the first 1. That’s a natural fit. 442, not so much.

          442 is a case of be careful what you ask for, because many mightn’t like what it entails. But the current balance (the last team put out against West Ham) is unsustainable, because Auba is wasted wide left, and does not bring left-sided cut, thrust and defence to the role.

          Playing our two gold strikers together is one thing. Playing them in the right formation — and what it means for others — is another thing.

    3. Play the three of them
      That’s absolutely what I’ve been thinking also. Xhaka is a very good play maker, so let him concentrate on that side of his game & leave the defensive work to more specialised performers. Of course it will not happen while Ramsey is still in place, but how long is that going to last.
      Did you see Torreira’s terrific interception that set up our first goal. Xhaka would have been nowhere in sight for that action.

      1. Wow… leave the defensive duties to others. Granit Xhaka. Our deepest lying midfielder. That’s a bit of a tough suggestion to take on board, sorry.

  7. Emery is trying to win games, but figure out what to do with this team at the same time. My fondest wish is that there’s a plan somewhere to play people into selling position. If you sit Xhaka, you can’t sell him for much. Same with Ramsey, and for that matter, Mustafi, Auba, Laca or Ozil. When we don’t have anyone better who fits the Emery system, we play these guys because we can get more value from selling them in January or June if they have been playing regularly and seeming to contribute. I doubt we have such a master plan for roster improvement, but wouldn’t it be nice if we did?

  8. The BB HT report:

    You can make pretty much any team, no matter how crap, look world class when you have Mustafi in your side, who has this uncanny ability to make those around him look worse than they are. For example, does Sokratis give away that foul (which injures him) on the edge of the box if Mustafi had actually managed the tackle? No.

    In attack: more embarrassment.

    I will say, though, that Xhaka (apropos of the article) is at the heart of any half-decent attacking move, which usually involves him pinging the ball to the top left of the pitch.

    Torreira, the topic of much debate this week, looks nailed on for a red card if he comes on for the second half. I wonder if we’ll see Guendouzi replace him.

    Loss or draw looks more likely than a win at this point. We need to be a lot sharper.

    1. Apropos to this article, my sense is that Arsenal require three central midfielders right now and in this game they were playing with only two. Everton were getting overloads centrally which allowed them time and space to find their quick forwards’ runs. They also flooded the central areas and forced Arsenal to play through lines of quick, committed players closing them down and the AMs didn’t show well enough for the ball or were too slow to react to the closing down. It was excellent game planning by Marco Silva. But for some slow decision making in great positions and great play from Cech, we would certainly have fallen behind. To me Xhaka gets a lot of the blame just as our slower footed CB’s used to for the poor organization ahead of him that puts him in bad positions time after time. He also compounds that with a habit of playing 1-2 boneheaded passes every game. But to me he is not “the problem” and solving the problem is not as easy as dropping him.

      To me it’s not about who plays in CM but where they play and how many of them. As I discuss below, one of the attacking midfielders needs to be more positionally disciplined than the other, and right now it feels as if Ramsey in particular is playing too far forward in an attempt to hunt goals. He is taking up bad positions and isn’t in a position to help stop attacks when the ball is turned over, nor is he ever going to physically dominate anyone or dribble past them. That’s not his game. I hope Emery reigns him in or replaces him with someone else for the next game. The glory hunting version of Ramsey has always been an ugly player.

    1. It’s been a turd sandwich of a first half from us. Offensively, most things have gone through Bellerin. Nothing’s happening on the left or in the middle.

  9. Halftime.

    Richarlison is the best attacker on the pitch. It’s not an accident that so far he has more premier league goals that both combined (3 versus 2). Who, by the way, look hesitant and unthreatening. Aubameyang looks less effective out wide.

    Cech our best player. Bellerin has done OK trying to contain Richarlison, but he’s got his hands full. Xhaka (whisper it) has been tidy, Ozil anonymous. Torreira is on a yellow and will probably be subbed at some point, but I really like his nose for smelling danger and snuffing it out.

  10. That’s a beauty of a finish by Lacazette. We’ll need two more if we want to win this, though!

    1. The shambles is in midfield and in the gap between the forwards and the midfield. Neither Xhaka nor Torreira shielded the back four, turned the ball over constantly, and also didn’t bother getting forward. The back is fine.

      1. Agree Tim, though I’d add that the back four (especially Holding today) combined with Xhaka/Torreira to be poor in possession. You’re right that our biggest problem wasn’t their *defending* today, but they contributed to our buildup out of the back being frequently atrocious.
        Oh, and though Cech had a great day in terms of saves, in that second half he gave up all pretense of trying to play it out from the back and was just launching it long at the first whiff of pressure, coughing the ball back to them constantly.

  11. No idea how we won that game. We were dreadful.

    Actually, I do know how: one moment of brilliance from Lacazette and several moments of brilliance from our MOTM, Petr Cech.

    1. Yep. Similar to how Xhaka’s free kick basically won the game for us last week. Can’t see us beating Watford if they press us and they will almost certainly press us after watching that.

  12. It’s better to be lucky than good in this game. After so many years of hearing the old yarn about how possession without penetration means nothing and about how it doesn’t matter if you’re the better team if you can’t take the 3 points, I have absolutely NO SHAME about embracing 3 points on the back of that performance. We have difference makers in the front 4 and that’s exactly what they are doing, making a difference. Everyone knew that shoehorning that front 4 into the team would make us defensively more vulnerable, on top of a team that was already defensively vulnerable, but that’s who this team is this season. Top heavy. We were never going to become a great defensive team and putting too much focus on that would’ve only stymied the part of this team that is actually good, the attack. We always knew it would be a tough start but now it’s 4 straight PL victories, mainly because we have players who can score goals. And you know what? I’m happy with that.

    That’s not to say that thinks can’t improve or shouldn’t improve. I do still think the balance in midfield could be a lot better and today we saw it wasn’t simply “play Torreira” and things will get better. For my money, Aaron Ramsey isn’t contributing enough to the attack to warrant being played that high up the pitch, so the most obvious change I could suggest would be to either move him into a deeper role or to swap someone for him who IS going to make a difference up there. Yes the score card will say he had two assists today but you’ll never see a brace of assists that required less creativity than those. He doesn’t have the pace to get away on the break and hasn’t used the ball well enough even when he does. More importantly, he hasn’t been disciplined in a defensive sense as you would expect of him. Lots of running but I think it’s fair to say his priorities lie at the other end. Candidates to replace him are rather obvious: Henrikh Mkhtaryan and Alex Iwobi. The former would provide more end-product without sacrificing much defensively plus has amazing rapport with Aubameyang, while the latter has really come into his own physically and can give us someone who can carry the ball out on his own. Right now I think I would prefer either of them to what Ramsey has given thus far.

    1. So right, Doc. Put all of your best attackers in there and SOMEONE will eventually score. That’s the strategy. And despite how objectively bad Ramsey and Ozil both were, we still managed to score and win. Starting to wonder if we don’t leave them both out and play a straight 4-3-3 with Laca, Auba and Mkhi up front and Guen, Xhaka and Torreira in midfield trio. We would discover lots of space that’s currently being clogged by our dueling 10’s.

  13. Xhaka + Torreira + Cech = 1st clean sheet . Hooray.
    We were dog’s breakfast in the first half and dog’s lunch at the beginning of the 2nd half and then wham, bam, it’s good night Irene.
    Admittedly, Everton was playing like Unai wants us to play, with an effective high press and trying to score off the turnovers their press created. I don’t feel that we can take too much from this win since we have yet to put together a convincing performance against a team that was giving us a run for our 300K/wk.
    I’m not giving Aubameyang’s goal back because we’ve had those go against us in the past.
    Lacazette may have flubbed that first half-chance in the box but that goal he scored something special. From the camera angle I thought it was just going wide but then you Lacazette confidently turning away as the ball pings off the upright and you just say WOW! Like Tiger strolling quickly to pick the ball out of the cup while it is still on the way to fall in.
    What people fail to understand about Özil’s play is that he’s a hockey player who likes to hang out at the blue line waiting for a chance to make a play and not a player he wants to backtrack. Works in hockey if you have a strong defense but not in football if that defender is Bellerin.
    Holding certainly held (pun intended) his own. I hope Papathostapoulos just has a dead leg and should be recovered after a couple of cryogenic sessions.

    1. 6 saves by Cech, including 2 big chances saved. Arsenal were more open than in any match other than the one at the start of the season against Man City. We will get an absolute hiding by Watford if we play like that with those two in midfield. And you can bet your ass that Watford will press Xhaka like a flower.

  14. Read somehwere that lacazette’s goal was a lucky one.. I think differently though..that was the touch of a ruthless striker! What a strike!!!

  15. I promised myself not to criticize anyone for the first six months or so but certain things are just too weird to let go.
    How can you play out the back when all your midfield players are in the opposition half, and the gap between the three Arsenal players bringing the ball up the pitch and the next line is so great that they aren’t even in the same screen shot.
    This happened more than it should at this level.

    Ozil needs to take some shots to keep defenders honest.
    No opposition player thinks Ozil will do anything other than pass the ball even if he’s in on goal.

  16. This is such a confounding season. I honestly am not sure if we are getting better or worse. There were moments when Xhaka and Torreira seemed amazing, and others where I was cursing their existence. The attack showed some moments of brilliance, but then Ozil and Ramsey would turn the ball over – again. Too many chances given away on defense, but then Cech makes a ton of nice saves. This is a team in transition. Winning solves a lot of problems but we are really seeing the growing pains. We found ways to lose or tie games like this in years past, though, so I am smiling while I grit my teeth.

    PS – Loved this moment: Sokratis took the foul after Musti’s misplay, then looked at him and basically just gestured with great disdain to the effect of, “Just clear the damn ball, will you?” Get well soon, Papa. We need you.

  17. Must be said, as Im a consistent critic of Xhaka and especially given the headline of this post, that he played well today. Yes, he gave Cech one hospital pass near the end, and gave the ball away twice in 10 seconds trying to dribble (you heard right) out of a crowded space when a pass would have been the easier option, but we have to give jack his jacket. We called for Torreira to start and he didnt disappoint. I did want him subbed though, because I thought that he looked odds-on for a 2nd yellow.

    LT is the classic water carrier. Does all the dirty work, sweeping and tidying up behind everyone, putting out little fires before they become big ones, and even helping out Bellerin in defence. He’s also positionally astute, and reads the game really well. It’s very easy to miss what he does, because it’s not eye-catching. But he’s playing in what may be the most important position in our team.

    Just as we were moaning at our attackers, they both score. Touch of class from Laca, touch of fortune from Auba. However, he still doesn’t look comfortable out left, but if he scores every game or other game, it’ll be worth it. Ramsey can be satisfied with his game and was a constant danger, but we scarcely knew that Ozil was on the pitch till he was set free down the right by Lacazette with the pass of the game. But overall it was a turgid game. We lacked attacking cohesion

    Cech was our MOTM and kept us in it, and Richarlison on another day might have had a couple. What a bargain he looks for Everton. Cech looks more comfortable with the ball at his feet. Today, at least, he and Xhaka proved the doubters wrong.

      1. I agree with both of you. Xhaka was better AND diabolically bad. That’s who he is. He will make major mistakes, and ping some pretty passes here and there. He will be Jekyll and Hyde every game.

      2. I need to watch that game again, Tim. My expectations of Xhaka weren’t high going in, so maybe…

        Surprised Ramsey getting dinged, when he had a good game (maybe I need to watch again for this reason too :D). We seem to want certain players to play nursemaid to others we think lack something or other (or maybe we think should be exempt from grafting because it’s not in their makeup), but from my vantage point, I saw Torreira putting out the fires, commanding his patch and being the needed midfield defensive screen.

        I thought that Mesut was one of more indifferent performers. How does he escape critical scrutiny, as much as he seems to have done in these post-match comments? I thought he had ONE decent passage all game, running onto a an exquisite flick and squaring a ball to Ramsey, which he didnt even do that well. He’s our most gifted player, but in some games he can look like he’s not showing up. Not that he’s playing out and out bad, just that you don’t even know he’s there.

        1. I see Mesut him putting in so much more effort than in previous seasons. He had four tackles today. Four!

        2. I thought Ramsey and Ozil were both pretty average, Claude.
          The difference between the two for me is that I kinda gave up on Ozil and went from his great admirer to totally not giving a $hit.
          His lack of effort at times is just embarrassing to be frank but he’s got the club by the balls and he knows it. He’s not getting dropped.

          Ramsey is fighting for his last big money deal and he should be doing more in my opinion to warrant the type of money he’s being linked with.
          On current form I couldnt care less if he stays or goes.

          1. Ok, Ozil support incoming: what people seem to *never* see that I see is the ridiculous importance of his contributions to our buildup. When our buildup goes well (as it rarely did today), it’s almost always initiated by something he does.

            E.g. Everton came out of the traps well in the second half, and we couldn’t put together a functional attacking move to save our life in the first 9 minutes. It wasn’t until Mesut picked up a through ball from Torreira in a pocket of space (the ball from low midfield to high midfield that Wenger loved so much and Santi did so well) at the 54 minute mark, turned gracefully away from a defender and play a simple pass perfectly into the path of the onrushing Xhaka, that we were able to transition up the field and begin to put pressure on them (starting with that Everton handball in the box not given). About a minute later–with Everton still scrambling to get the ball back and relieve pressure–Ozil receives the ball in the middle of the pitch and hits an inch perfect long crossfield ball to Monreal high on the left wing. 3 and a half minutes later we are 2-0 up (with Mesut of course involved in the second as well).

            It is not an exaggeration to say that those 5 minutes won us the game, and that they almost certainly wouldn’t have come close to happening without those two subtle pieces of play by Ozil.

            This is what Ozil does, repeatedly and superbly well. And he almost never gets credit for it. E.g. Claude says he didn’t notice him at all until his run down the wing for the second goal, but for my money receiving the ball for LT in that pocket of space was far more important. That’s because RECEIVING THE BALL IN THOSE POCKETS OF SPACE, AND THEN MOVING THE BALL ON SIMPLY BUT ACCURATELY AND INTELLIGENTLY IS THE MOST UNDERRATED PART OF FOOTBALL. Massive shifts in momentum–indeed the match results themselves–often hinge on such moments.

          2. PS To clarify: I don’t think Ozil had a particularly good or even effective game today (thought both he and Ramsey were no better than ok).

            I think the balance and shape of our starting front four is off, but even so, I thought they were ok in the second half and could have been more effective if the very mediocre buildup play from our defenders and holding mids had been much better. The whole team could have done much better, but in the end did enough to win, based almost entirely on a 10-15 min period of decent attacking play in the second half (and Cech’s saves).

            I just wish other fans would properly factor in *all* important contributions to a match, including those that are (in my view) often crucial but equally often get overlooked for some reason. Ozil’s contributions frequently fall into this category, which is why I always feel I’ve gotta stick up for him, in the interests of fairness to what I believe I saw actually happen on the pitch.

          3. PPS About that thing I call the most underrated part of football: there was a great espn article about two years ago talking about some German stats folks who were beginning to prioritize gathering data on just that sort of pass. I believe they called it “stacking”, or something like that, but I can’t find the article… Anyone remember that?

          4. Yes, it is a german stat company headed by former Leverkusen midfielder Stefan Reinarrtz. It’s “packing”, it measures how many players any given pass passes and takes out of the game. I’m not sure on english sources for the methodology, there are some great articles in german, so I can’t point you to anything helpful.

      3. The way I see it, Tom nailed it when he said you couldn’t see the options for passes from the back. Xhaka was 82% passing which is not great but not awful either. Everton, like Newcastle before them, tired and flagged after conceding in the second half and that made everyone look better. But Xhaka seemed too isolated at times.

        I’m just looking at the heatmaps now and it seems pretty clear Arsenal were strategically attacking the left flank in this game. Xhaka’s positioning was far to the left of center, as was Auba’s and Ramsey’s. I think they were attacking the space behind…. Theodore James Walcott! And why wouldn’t you? I think I can remember him trailing the play on the Lacazette goal as well.

        On the other side, Everton had almost no possession in central areas in our final 3rd. There was a clear focus on diverting play wide when out of possession, maybe to neutralize Gylfi’s influence? It worked, just!

  18. We would have dropped points but for MOTM, Petr Cech. His steadiness and shot stopping saved another calamitous defensive outing. And a clean sheet, finally!
    Everton played with fluency in the first half and better finishing would have seen them go up a goal or two by the break. Fortunately, we have some of the best combined firepower in all of England and probably Europe now
    AubaLaca together might just equal 1 solo Henry.

  19. Don’t always agree with him, but on twitter Tim Stillman nails it:

    Tim: “Ramsey, Özil and Aubameyang all playing in positions that they don’t want to play in. Sooner or later a big decision has to be made on one of them. It’s a collection of our best players, but it’s not balanced.”

    Other dude: “To my eyes it’s Ramsey and I know technically he got 2 assists. He’s not a 10 and him Auba taking up two of those roles ain’t working great.”

    “Agreed- plus his contract situation forces the issue anyway. If you’ve got 1 striker you need Ramsey, if you’ve got 2 you need Özil.”

    That last sentence, in particular, perfectly sums up what’s wrong with our starting front four.

    Choose 2 of the 3 of Auba, Laca, Rambo. Combine with Ozil and one of Miki or Iwobi (aka a creative sidekick who can play wide). Watch the attack get more fluid.

  20. Very welcome 3 points.

    Can I just have a smug moment regarding Cech? Everyone was desperate for Arsenal to replace him over the summer, as a priority, and I was arguing that we should keep him and focus on the midfield and CB positions. I thought last year’s error rate was an anomaly in his career and I thought it would revert to the mean. I also pointed out that he was good in one v one situations and on big chances, which he proved 4 or 5 times yesterday.

    I’m not surprised he’s keeping Leno out of the side.

    I didn’t see the whole match yesterday but what I did see was still very scrappy and unpleasant in terms of playing out from the back and playing under pressure. I’m not used to seeing an Arsenal side so lacking in fluidity and control in possession. A lot of work to do here.

    And congratulations to Everton on coming to London to play and to win, it’s good to see. They are a good side and were unlucky.

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