It is my great shame that I share a birthday with Sam Allardyce. And while Sam and I have the same star sign I don’t share his affinity for gum, for terrible football, or for saying dumb things while being recorded. My birthday is, however, my excuse for putting up such a lame BTN: I had dinner and a movie with my daughter instead of crunching numbers. Despite the fact that I didn’t spend much time on the stats for this match I uncovered a few bits that might surprise.
As we know, this summer Wenger courted several speedy counter-attacking players – notably, Vardy and Mahrez from Leicester City. Both players turned Arsenal down but Wenger found a Vardy-like player in Lucas and got a surprise from inside the team when Theo Walcott gave up his pursuit to be the number nine and returned to the wing with a renewed vigor both going forward and in defense.
Whatever the personnel, it was clear that Wenger had a plan for Arsenal this season. Wenger’s dream was to play with speedy, technical players, who can interchange across the front four, create for each other, and threaten the opposition goal constantly. If that was Wenger’s dream then this match against Ludogorets Razgrad was the stuff that his dreams are made of.
Through the first 13 minutes Arsenal dominated possession, making 90 passes to Razgrad’s 57. In case you haven’t been following this column for the last 4 years I will state again that possession is usually just a measure of passes. Uncharacteristic of an Arsenal team, however, the Gunners also won the ball back with aplomb, making 9 tackles, 4 interceptions, and forcing Razgrad into 7 losses of possession. But almost the second after Alexis opened the Arsenal account with a brilliant chip, Wenger flipped the team into a counter attacking side.
From the 14th to the 45th minute Razgrad owned the majority of the ball with 245 passes to Arsenal’s 154. Worryingly, Arsenal allowed 5 shots in that time forcing Ospina into two pretty good saves. Arsenal also did something unusual in that period, they pressed and tackled to win the ball back with 17 tackles to Razgrad’s 14. Coquelin was the standout with 5 tackles in those 30 minutes. And the whole team won the ball back in the passing lanes, winning 14-3 interceptions in that period.
Walcott scored Arsenal’s second and after that the Gunners grew in confidence defensively. Again Arsenal conceded possession, giving Ludogorets 302 passes to Arsenal’s 213. But crucially, Ludogorets had 5 shots in the second half compared to Arsenal’s 10 and none of their shots were in dangerous areas — all were on the edge of the box or further out. Meanwhile Arsenal were shooting in and around the 18 yard box.
This is textbook counter attacking football from Arsenal in the second half: concede possession but win more tackles (19-14), win more interceptions (12-10), and force more turnovers (19-9) while creating more and better shots. Nothing sums up that second half performance better than Cazorla creating a goal with what Opta marked as a long ball, through ball, fast break, assist.
1 – Career hat tricks by Mesut Özil
1 – Assists by Mesut Özil this season
6 – Goals scored by Mesut Özil this season (all competitions)
19 – Assists by Mesut Özil last season (League and Champions League)
8 – Goals scored by Mesut Özil last season (League and Champions League)
85 – Passes by Marcelinho tonight¹
51 – Passes by Francis Coquelin tonight²
4 – Chances created by Ox tonight¹
3 – Chances created by Marcelinho tonight²
24 – Final third passes by Marcelinho tonight¹ (tied with Wanderson)
15 – Final third passes by Özil tonight² (tied with Ox)
5 – Successful dribbles by Öx tonight¹
13 – Ball recoveries by Coquelin tonight¹
9 – Ball recoveries by Özil tonight (2nd on his team)
9 – Tackles by Coquelin tonight¹
6 – Tackles by Gibbs
6 – Interceptions by Coquelin tonight¹
4 – Fouls committed by Coquelin tonight¹
1 – Satisfying performance by The Arsenal
¹ – Led all players in this game
² – Led just his team in this game
Sources: WhoScored.com, 442 Stats Zone App