In away games this season, Arsenal average 15.2 unsuccessful touches per game, that’s 5th highest and Arsenal also average 12.1 dispossessed, 3rd highest. Arsenal also boast (depreciate?) the most unsuccessful short passes of any team in the League in away games, giving the ball away 74.8 times per game on average. That’s almost 11 more (per game) than 2nd worst, Liverpool. Arsenal’s short passing in away games is so bad that they have given the ball away 897 times this season. That’s 136 more giveaways on short passes than Man City, who have completed 1581 more short passes than Arsenal in away games this season.
Comparing all 20 teams in away matches and combining all of the short passes and long passes together, Arsenal have given the ball away 1234 (not a typo) times this season off passes. That’s the most in the League and tied with Huddersfield.
The least four profligate teams are Man City, Chelsea, Man U, and Tottenham. Arsenal have given the ball away 250 times more than Man City – remember, this is just in 12 away games. That’s 21 more times that Arsenal give the ball away on passes, per game, than Man City.
The picture gets worse when we add all of the times that Arsenal are dispossessed, take a bad touch, or give the ball away on a bad pass. The Gunners average 130 of those events per game in away games. That’s per game and it’s 21 more times per game than Man City.
This pattern continues in home games. Using the same metric of combining bad touch, dispossessed, and bad passes, Arsenal are still among the worst in the League and down in the group with clubs like Burnley and Leicester who are counter attacking teams.
Arsenal’s overall possession stats are very high. They are 2nd in the League in possession percentage with 59% and total passes with 631.5 per game. But unlike the other top passing teams (Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Man U) Arsenal (and Liverpool) tend to give the ball away a lot. 20 times more per game than their peers.
With Arsenal, the majority of the bad touches, dispossessed, and bad passes were from Alexis Sanchez (396 of Arsenal’s 3128 turnovers as defined above, 13%). But from my view, the problem looks systemic. Xhaka has 336 of these events (his are mostly bad passes) and Bellerin 265. Granted, they get a lot of the ball but they are also supposed to be more careful with it because they are playing deeper. Compare them to Ozil 229 and Lacazette 220. Ozil especially, because he averages 69 passes per game and most of them are in the attacking zone where teams typically try to win the ball back more aggressively.
It’s clear that Arsenal need to clean up their possession stats and be more tidy with the ball. They put the defense under undue pressure by coughing the ball up so often and it’s especially a problem when the defenders and midfielders are the guilty parties. Whether subtracting Alexis and adding Mkhitaryan will fix that problem is unknown. Last full season, Alexis averaged 18 of these bad events per90 and in Mkhitaryan’s last full season with Borussia Dortmund he averaged 15 per90.
I’d suggest that getting a central midfield partner for Xhaka would be the most important priority.
Sources: Opta, via Whoscored.com