5th in xG this season, 5th in xG last season – Arsenal overperformed xG by 12 goals last season. The numbers are actually 16 goals but we got 4 own goals and they don’t count as shots or expected goals. So, it’s 12 goals. Which was 2nd best overperformance in the League, behind Man City. This season we are 2 goals below our non-penalty expected goals.
6th in progressive passing this season, 5th in progressive passing last season – however… Arsenal are actually making more progressive passes per90 this season (2722 total yards) versus last season (2648). There are just more teams that are playing more progressively this season. We were 2nd in progressive passes per90 last season (53.9) and we are 1st in progressive passes per90 this season (57.1).
This season we are 2nd in final third passes and 1st in passes into the penalty area. Which is exactly like last season and eerily the numbers are virtually indistinguishable from season to season. Meaning: we are getting the ball forward and into scoring positions in the exact same way – or better than – we were last season.
Arsenal are also taking the same number of shots as they were last season, actually slightly more, 15.9 this season and 15.4 last season. And our shot creating actions per90 are also up in most areas over last season: from live passses, dead balls, and even from other shots. Where they are down, and down quite a bit, is shots from being fouled and shots created from our own defensive actions. These numbers are small however and should be viewed with a jaundiced eye.
The story is the same for touches in the final third and penalty areas. We were 2nd and 1st in those two stats last year and we are 2nd and 1st in those stats this year. In terms of progressive yards carried per90, Arsenal were 2nd in the league last season (1163 yds per90) and we are 6th this season but before you say “AH HA, we need Thomas!” I’ll just say that this season’s progressive yards carried numbers are functionally the same as last season (1149 yds per90). Our number of carries per game is the same, carries into the final 1/3 are down by 1 per90 and carries into the penalty area are up from 7.39 per90 last season (1st in the League) to 7.95 this season (3rd in the League).
The total number of miscontrols and dispossessed was 24 last season and it’s 24 this season. And one area where we are significantly worse this year over last year is in our dribbling. Last season we attempted per90 19.8 and won 9.24 – almost 47%. This season we are attempting 18.6 and winning just 7.55 or 41%. Not to pin “blame” on any one player but Gabriel Jesus’ numbers in terms of dribbles are down this season and especially over the last 6 matches. Jesus has only even attempted 6 dribbles in the last 5 matches which is a rate of about 2 per90, he was 4.85 per90 at Arsenal last season and is still almost 4 per90 this season. As I’ve said in my posts, more than any other player it looks to me like Jesus is carrying an injury or in some type of slump. Arsenal need him to be the agent of chaos in the middle. If he’s not doing that, then a lot of the good stuff in our attack breaks down and becomes predictable and easy to shut down with double-teams.
Trossard’s dribbling numbers are also way down and he also looks like someone who isn’t playing at his best. Martinelli is trying more dribbles but is losing more of those duels than last season. Ødegaard is also losing more dribbling duels this season than last. And Saka’s carries into the final third and penalty area are slightly down from last season, even if he is winning slightly more dribbling duels.
Here are the possession stats from last season:
And the ones from this season:
I believe that this should match what we are all seeing. That Arsenal are getting the ball forward, that Arsenal are then facing opponents who play with two banks of four, very tightly packed into the box, and that our main method of attacking that formation isn’t working at the moment because the center forward either cannot dribble (Nketiah/Havertz) or for whatever reason isn’t dribbling as much this year. That makes it easier to play against Martinelli (who is failing at dribbling more) and Saka (who can’t get into the box as much as last season) and easier to stop Ødegaard as well. The wide players also don’t have adequate competition/backup and many players aren’t getting the rest it looks like they need.
We are, of course, also not finishing our shots very well but that is a function of the opposition defense. Our expected goals per shot is down from 0.12 last season to 0.10 this season. And while that doesn’t seem like much on a per-shot basis, over an entire season where a team like Arsenal will take 590 shots (589 last season) it’s the difference between 71 expected goals and 59.
Every season presents a problem and this is the problem that Arteta needs to solve this season. It’s not just poor finishing (though 4 big chances missed against Liverpool is pretty poor finishing) but also how do we break down opposition defenses when they sit back and soak up our pressure. This is a problem that all of the big teams have. This is what we bought Havertz and Jesus for. Hopefully, over the next mini-break, Arteta can work it out and get Arsenal firing up top again.