Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners at the Liberty Stadium today propelling the London team to 3rd in the table and sending foreigners Swansea down to 20th. The scoreline shows an imperious Arsenal but the underlying stats tell a slightly different story of a scrappy contest which took Arsenal forever to get started in and which required two own goals for the rout.
In terms of shots, Arsenal owned a slight advantage 12-14 but the Gunners didn’t take a shot until Alexis’ long range bomb in the 27th minute. Arsenal had several periods where they struggled to find an opening in this match and the resultant shot domination chart looks like this:
Swansea’s shots chart looks nominally better than Arsenal’s in the first 35 minutes but all of those shots were from outside the 18 yard box and thus low quality shots. Swansea, for their part, were universally awful throughout in terms of shots taken with the exception of a four shot outburst between the 61st and 65th minutes.
But Arsenal weren’t really much better. I divide the game into 18 five minute periods and Arsenal only took shots in 7/18 periods with the other 11 periods fallow. And most of their shot-quality superiority came from those two leaps in the 36-40th minute period and the 51-55th minute period. And I artificially inflated those two periods by counting the own goals as two shots for Arsenal. Despite the huge score-line, there were huge periods of this match where Arsenal toiled with no end product.
The passes chart shows similar periods where Arsenal struggled to find a rhythm.
Arsenal’s first goal came in that 36-40th minute band where the Gunners had one of their most productive passing periods. And both Naughton’s own goal and Alexis’ fourth were scored when Arsenal were completely dominant in this match. Arsenal may have toiled a bit to get their shots in but they were far from “undeserving” of the win.
One of the reasons Arsenal struggled to create with their passing is because Alexis was having an off day. He is already Arsenal’s 2nd worst passer this season (behind Giroud) with a 74% completion rate (his lowest in his career) but today was a particularly poor outing with just 65% of his passes on target. You know you’re having a bad day when you’re passing completion is below Giroud, who is possibly the worst passer I have seen at Arsenal and who has a career passing rate of 67%.
Alexis’ passing rate has taken a dip because he’s both been played as a center forward and because he’s been asked to play the creative role this season. He leads the League in Key Passes from open play with 55. But on a day like today, against a Swansea team threatened with relegation, he created just two shots for his teammates. Meanwhile, Özil completed 85% of his passes and had three key passes and Iwobi created two key passes with an 89% completion rate.
Alexis’ sub wasn’t any better, completing just 1/2 passes.
Alexis was also dispossessed 4 times, three of those coming after the 55th minute and two of them just before he was taken off.
Alexis didn’t like being taken out of the game but his poor pass completion rate, combined with his turnovers, the reality of him needing a break, and the fact that the game was already well won, were all good reasons to sit him.
One last thing I want to point out: Arsenal basically won all of the duels. They outpassed Swansea 371-508, out tackled them 19-29, won more interceptions 16-21, won more headers 10-16, and outpassed them in the penalty area 8-28.