Crystal Palace is going to have a huge learning curve to get used to new manager, Sam Allardyce’s anti-football system. Allardycian sides are infamous not just for their defense first approach but also for their lack of tackles and interceptions. That might sound odd but it’s true, under Allardyce, his teams don’t seek to win the ball back, they seek to run the clock out.
The best way to beat this kind of team is to score. Because they can’t or won’t generally sit back and waste time with the score in the opposition’s favor.
What’s incredible is how well, then, that Arsenal’s side dominated Crystal Palace. Palace didn’t register a shot in this game until the 36th minute (Cabaye) and then had a brief flurry of activity between 35th-65th before being shut down by Arsenal’s defense and not registering a single shot for the last 20 minutes of the game.
Palace were dominated by Arsenal in almost every stat:
Passing – 639 to 351
Shots – 22 to 7
Successful dribbles – 9 to 7
Tackles won – 26 to 17
Loss of possession – 18 to 24
Those tackles and dribbles are important because it means that Arsenal “won the individual duels”. Many of Arsenal’s successful tackles came on Zaha who spent most of the match on the ground pleading for the referee to make the call. Zaha did finish the match with 4 fouls, more than any other player, but he also had 7 failed dribbles (of 12 attempted). 4 of those failed dribbles were in Bellerin’s corner, Bellerin won 2/2 there, Xhaka won 1, and Perez won one in the 18 yard box.
In the passing category, we have a strange stat. Xhaka played almost twice as many passes as the next guy on Arsenal. Xhaka was 97/115 in this match, 2nd on the team Bellerin was 57/62. And Xhaka was consistent across each half: in the first half he was 49/58 and in the second half he was 48/57.
One thing you need to see, however, is how both Iwobi and Alexis created 5 chances for teammates each. These are all from open play and 6/10 of them were in the Crystal Palace 18 yard box. (Screen Grab from the 442 StatsZone app)
Meanwhile, Allardyce’s Palace did win a few categories:
Offensive Aerial Duels – 4 to 21
Interceptions – 8 to 22
Clearances – 35 to 26
Headed clearances – 22 to 9
Fouls suffered – 7 to 9
Any team that deploys Christian Benteke will inevitably win the aerial duels battle. Benteke today punished poor Gabriel in the air, he only won 3/11 aerial duels. And they also used Benteke to win a bunch at the back post (SNEAKY SAM, putting Big Ben on Little Bell) especially in the second half. Townsend would cross and Big Ben was supposed to knock them down. Arsenal defended that tactic fairly well, Benteke only won 2/5 headers in the Arsenal 18 yard box (all in the 2nd half) with one for a shot that was saved by Cech.
There were also a few stats which didn’t make it. Arsenal’s two fullbacks, plus Lucas Perez played crosses so deadly that they are what Pep Guardiola usually considers “half-goals”. None of them found an Arsenal player but I counted four crosses that just needed to bounce off of Giroud or Lucas to score. Leave it to Giroud to miss the sitters and score a scorpion kick.
And finally, Arsenal only had one big chance in this game, Alexis’ shot at the end of the first half which was saved from point-blank range. He has now gone three games without scoring a goal, laying an 0/17 along the way. Before this little blip, Alexis had scored 12 goals on 48 shots for an amazing 25% conversion rate. He’s now fallen back down to just a superhuman conversion rate of 12/65 or 18%. I expect him to score a goal in the next match. At least one.
Oh, and he has two assists in the last three games. So, it’s not like he’s not helping the team!
Sources: whoscored.com, 442 stats zone app, my personal database