Your key stat, 58.
Arsenal ended the game with 23 shots and 9 on target but It took Arsenal 58 minutes to register their first shot on target. In fact, the entire first half was a throwback to the bad old days of sterile possession.
In the first half, Arsenal completed 91% of 392 passes and had 69% of the possession. The most common pass combination was Koscielny to Mertesacker, with 19.
Sticking with the theme of that first half, Arsenal were able to complete 144 passes in the Swansea final 1/3 but only managed to get 5 shots off and zero on target. Swansea had just 19 passes into the Arsenal final 1/3 but, crucially, took 5 shots and got 4 on target.
Meanwhile, Arsenal are the most dribble-happy team in the League, averaging 16/26 successful dribbles per game and a 61% success rate. And Swansea attempt the third fewest tackles in the League on average, with just 16/26 a game and also have just a 61% success rate on their tackles.
But in that first half, Arsenal were just 3/8 dribbles, Swansea were 10/11 dribbles. Swansea only average 9 successful dribbles a game so 10 in a half is excellent by their standards. And by the end of that first half, Arsenal were just 6/16 tackles while Swansea were 12/15.
For 45 minutes, Swansea sat back, killed the Arsenal dribble attack, and let us play sterile passes around the 18 yard box.
Oh, and there were only two aerial duels in the first half. Each team won 1.
The second half didn’t start much better and it took until the 58th minute for Arsenal to get their first shot on target. They ended the match with 9 shots on target but 7 of those 9 came after Wilshere came on in the 66th minute. That is to be expected, Arsene traded off Coquelin’s defensiveness for Wilshere’s directness.
Coquelin had a quiet game, going 0/2 in tackles and just 1 interception. I thought he had at least one good tackle but Opta says NO.
His replacement Wilshere had an interesting match statistically. He tied Özil with 5 key passes but unlike Özil, all of the shots he created were outside of the 18 yard box. He also kept getting into dangerous areas as his teammates played him in behind the defense time and again but he ended the match going 0/6 on crosses. Like Coquelin I thought I saw Jack make a tackle (two actually) but Opta didn’t record them. I’ve asked Opta for clarification and will post an answer if/when I get one.
Meanwhile, Theo Walcott came on in the 68th minute and had just 7 touches; 5 passes and 2 shots. He completed 100% of his passes and both shots were on target. He was super efficient.
And finally, a huge shout out to former Arsenal ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski. Arsenal created three big chances in the game, got two on target, and he saved them both. In total he made 9 saves against his former team and had a top performance in terms of claiming crosses. It’s important to note, as I wrote on 7amkickoff in my pre-match post, that Garry Monk and Lukasz Fabianski worked specifically on this skill this summer. Monk said that the data showed Swansea was susceptible to crosses and so they specifically targeted that skill:
Obviously, Fab has that (ability to play with the ball at his feet) but I also wanted someone who could command the box and be very confident as I was very conscious of the crossing element. We did a study last summer about how teams attack and what were their biggest weapons and crosses were at the top of the list.
It worked. Fabianski has attempted a League leading 174 claims and missed just 3. That’s 61 more claims than 2nd most challenged ‘keeper, Robert Green. And you could see that work pay off today, Arsenal attempted 31 crosses (they average 23 per game) and were successful just 5 times. Of those 5 successful crosses 2 were chased down on the other side of the field and just one created a shot. Fabianski claimed every cross that came into his box today, shutting down Wilshere and Alexis who combined to go 0/12.
Still, he could have and should have probably lost that game when Alexis and Walcott both had shots right in front of goal. Just like in the old days, Arsenal played against a team that sat back, their ‘keeper put in an outstanding performance, and when we had a real chance in front of goal we couldn’t put it away.
And finally, it’s a misnomer to say that Swansea only played defensively and I disagree with Wenger on that point. Garry Monk brought on Bafetembi Gomis in order to try to win that game, it he was only interested in defense he would have played three DM’s like Chelsea do. Instead of defense first, what Swansea did was the same thing that Arsene Wenger did against West Ham in December at Upton Park, they played efficiently.
In the West Ham game, Arsenal completed just 195 passes to West Ham’s 293. The Gunners also only had 59 attacking third passes to the Hammers 95. But out of those 59 final third passes, Arsenal created 21 shots, got 7 on target, and scored 2 goals. That’s great efficiency.
Swansea only created 8 shots off 48 final third passes and they only got 3 shots on goal, scoring just the 1 goal. Not as efficient as Arsenal at Upton Park but it was enough, when combined with an efficiency in defense that shut down the best dribbling team in the League and cut out nearly every single cross, to win the game.
Oh, and Bafetembi Gomis only had three touches. That’s efficiency!