Facing Manchester United is already a big match, adding in the Jose Mourinho factor takes it up a notch.
I must admit that with the derby against Tottenham, and this match that the matches against Burnley and Huddersfield would turn into trap games. Fortunately Arsenal have collected nine points from these matches and come in on a high for another huge match.
Lets dig into the stats.
Manchester United Offense:
Manchester United are currently in 4th place in expected goals but 2nd in non penalty goals. They are currently over performing in goals compared to expected goals by 20%. The over performance is pretty evenly distributed between open and set plays so far.
The shot distribution for Manchester United has been very good, 42% of their shots this year have come from the danger zone which is tied for the best with Manchester City among the top 6. They have also created 39 big chances which is third best and second as a percentage of their shots at 19%.
Looking at how their xG has been distributed this season, it is striking how much they rely upon Romelu Lukaku, and Paul Pogba, who has missed a significant chunk of time with an injury.
Manchester United’s xA is much more evenly distributed comparatively with the creative duties shared among a wide grouping of players.
Manchester United started the season beating up teams and matching Manchester City point for point. However in the middle of September their form began to dip, they have still collected points at a high rate but they have not nearly been as convincing in the process.
The biggest reason why is that their record sign Paul Pogba missed time with an injury that perfectly matches the drop in form and his return with two good performances. Pogba is one of the best players on the planet and he is the midfield engine that really drives their offense, allowing Mourinho to build a solid defense around him.
A lot of the stats talk this season has focused on Burnley’s defense, I wrote my own article on this but if you look at the numbers Manchester United aren’t that far behind in terms of over performance.
This season Manchester United have conceded just 47% of the goals that quality of the chances suggest they would expect to have given up. That is a huge deviation from what is expected.
Based on xG allowed Manchester United have been worse than Arsenal, and not many people would mistake Arsenal for an elite defensive team. Unlike with Burnley and their shot blocking it is hard to pin point any factor that would drive their opponents to convert shots at a historically low rate.
David de Gea is an amazing goalkeeper but a 4.1% overall opponent conversion rate, with just 13% of shots on target turning into goal is a bridge to far for me to credit him with all of this goal suppression.
This could be luck or perhaps some other factor that the stats are failing to pick up on.
This match is just about as close as two teams can be in my simulation model. Arsenal are the slightest of favorites based entirely on the match being at home. With my natural pessimism making me dread this match, I am happy that my model gives me reason to hope for the best. Up the Arsenal.