That Arsenal vs Chelsea match was an exhausting affair. It was end to end with both teams creating a number of dangerous moments. It was a heck of a game to bring me back into the thick of things after a pleasant winter break (I had a case of the Özil Flu).
The match really turned a very soft penalty (in my own opinion, it is that it WAS a foul, but Eden Hazard dived to sell it. By the strict rules of the game kicking another player is a foul but this soft a contact sure seems like something Arsenal almost never get called in their favor) that seemed like a gut punch to Arsenal and it took them a while to get back into the match.
Chelsea dominated the xG for the match driven mostly by 1.77 xG from Alvaro Morata and the 0.8 for the penalty (which may as well be 1 with Petr Cech still yet to save a penalty with Arsenal).
Arsenal had some very dangerous moments and did really well getting their shots on target. Arsenal and Chelsea were essentially tied based just on the SoT xG at 2.5 to 2.52.
I have also been working on a new way of trying to put players overall offensive contribution into context looking at passing, dribbles/carrying the ball and lastly being able to get shots off in good locations.
Both teams ended up at 2.2 for the match and this really illustrates that Arsenal had pretty steady pressure while Chelsea had a few big spikes (mostly the big one on one chances that Morata missed) where they produced almost all of their offense.
Here is the overall breakdown for each individual player:
Arsène changes the formation
Arsenal stayed with the back three for this match but it was pretty clear that this was less of a 3-4-3 and more of a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 depending on how specific that you want to try to get.
Looking at the average touch position the change in shape becomes very clear.
For this match Álexis Sanchez was the furthest forward player, based on average touch location. His average was the highest but he was often even with Alexandre Lacazette as a strike pair in a bit of a new tactical wrinkle that we haven’t seen much if any this season.
Lacazette’s average touches show him fairly deep but that is partially due to a few touches in his own half pulling the average down and also an illustration of how starved he has been of service in and around the box forcing him to come deep for any sort of touch to get into the game.
The other change that was fairly noticeable was Mesut Özil dropping into the midfield. He has been doing this more often since Aaron Ramsey has been injured to make it a midfield three instead of a two.
I thought in this match he really excelled at connecting the midfield and the final third, this is especially obvious looking at the final third entry passes, where he led all players with 14 completions out of 15 attempts.
Xhaka has a solid match
Of the two midfielders, Jack Wilshere has been the one getting the most praise after the match. While I thought that he had a pretty good match and showed great anticipation to pounce on the ball for the goal I thought for the match overall Granit Xhaka was the better of the two players.
Arsenal vs Chelsea— Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) January 4, 2018
Mid A: 86% Passing, 8 ball recoveries, 1/4 drib, 2/5 tackles, 1 interception, 0 dispossessed, 0.21 PPVA50, 1.34 xG Chain
Mid B: 85% Passing, 7 ball recoveries, 2/3 drib, 0/1 tackles, 0 interception, 1 dispossessed, 0.12 PPVA50, 0.59 xG Chain
Xhaka is player A and Wilshere is player B.
The stats for the two are pretty similar but Xhaka’s passing was overall more incisive and he provided a bit more defensively (a little like saying a cardboard box is better than a newspaper to stop a bullet) and seemed to be more central in the buildup play for Arsenal.
Wilshere got the goal and Xhaka screwed up a counter attack at the end of the match and those things really effect how people rate the two players in the match for the good and the bad.
Top 4 Race
The race for the top 4 is growing slimmer by the week. Before the Liverpool match Arsenal were ahead of Tottenham (37.7% to 37% to finish Top 4) and with a win could have put serious pressure on Liverpool but 3 straight draws later on the odds of earning Champions League through finishing in the top 4 are on life support.
If Arsenal don’t make up any ground in the next month it might be time to change focus to the Europa League and the Cups as a way to some what salvage the season.