Depressing result, instead of the normal 7amkickoff Index let’s try a little exposition.
I think of clearances as an indicator of how much a team is working the opposition defense. If team A forces team B into making 40 clearances and team B forces team A into just 15 clearances, then I think team A showed more attacking threat. In today’s match, Stoke forced Arsenal to clear the ball 51 times and Arsenal only forced Stoke to clear 30 times. Arsenal average 33 clearances a game, which is right in the middle of the pack at 10th best. Stoke average 32 clearances a game.
Stoke’s dangerous passes which forced those clearances mostly came in the air and Arsenal were forced to clear the ball 32 times in the air compared to Stoke’s 16. But even if we remove the headed clearances, Stoke still held an advantage of 14-19.
Most of Arsenal’s clearances, however, happened high up the pitch and outside the box. But the problem here is that even if we just count the clearances in the 18 yard box, Stoke and Arsenal both had 17. That means by that metric, Stoke created as much if not more havoc in the Arsenal back line as we caused in theirs.
Worse, 12 of Stoke’s clearances came in the final 20 minutes — after they had scored. That means that for the first 75 minutes, Arsenal only forced Stoke to make 18 clearances, quite an easy day at the office for the Stoke defense. In that same time, Arsenal were called upon to make 47 clearances. And when you work the defense that much, you increase the opportunity for the defenders to make an error.
If it’s any consolation, Mertesacker, Koscielny, and Gibbs led all players with 13, 11, and 10 clearances respectively.
The shots stats were just as bad. Shots in the 6 yard box and the area up to the penalty spot are much more likely to score than speculative shots from outside the box (about 40% to 3%). I feel like shots from distance actually show timidity and lack of discipline. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I saw Cazorla take not one but TWO cracks from distance when Podolski was wide open right in front of him, and right in the danger area where you expect teams to score at nearly a 40% rate. Stoke finished the game with 4 shots from that 40% area, getting three on target. Arsenal had just one and it was blocked.
Worse, Arsenal only created 10 chances in that game, mostly because Giroud was basically nullified through a combination of physicality and aggression. But Arsenal are at a four year low for shots created and have a horrible record when coming from behind. The opposition have scored first 7 times now in League play and Arsenal have only won one of those games (Wet Hams). Man City, Liverpool, Man U, and now Stoke have all beaten Arsenal when they jump out to an early lead.
Giroud was stamped on twice and we shouldn’t discount that stat just because he seemed to make a meal of most of his challenges. Stoke decided to be physical with him, the ref allowed it — and has a history of allowing physical play, and Giroud was bullied out of every ball. Giroud finished the game with 7 turnovers, leading all players, and also finished the match leading all players in “being fouled” with 4. That stat is debatable, however, if you felt any of those turnovers were fouls and fouls were turnovers.
If there’s a glimmer of hope here, it’s that Arsenal took 4 shots in the last 20 minutes of the game. It’s no coincidence that stat matches the arrival of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Wenger’s change in tactics to play a 4-4-2 with Ox providing width instead of having Sagna play the winger.. Ox led Arsenal with 2 key passes, both of which were really dangerous chances. Moreover, there were plenty of chances that he created which went begging.
Finally, Stoke’s penalty was lucky, let’s just put that out there. That was ball to hand if I ever saw it. And if you need an explanation of the new handball rules, Graham Poll provides one:
Regarding handball they now ask the referee to consider the proximity of the potential offender to the person last playing the ball, the speed of the ball and importantly whether the offender’s arms are in a natural or unnatural position.
So the question of intent is now, did the offender deliberately place his arms in an unnatural position to increase the chances of the ball hitting him?
If the answer to that is yes then it is correct to penalise that player even though it used to be argued that was ball to hand.
No chance that was a handball. Not under the new rules and not under the old rules. Koz was going for the ball and trying to balance himself. If you’ve ever played football, you know that you make that arm motion all the time when you’re in the air.
Not that Arsenal created enough chances to win that game.