3 – Number of times Rob Holding was dispossessed in the first half (tied with Walcott and Alexis Sanchez).
Walcott and Sanchez finished the match having lost possession 6 times each but it was Rob Holding’s three that probably stood out the most. The first was in the 2nd minute when he was tackled by Bittencourt. Holding had to foul the little man to stop Köln from going on to score on a counter. The third was in the 39th minute when he lost possession way up the pitch and it took a sprint by Elneny to get back and cover his space. Holding also committed 3 fouls in the first half and only made 1 tackle.
While he was loose with the ball it was mostly because he was attacking. Holding had one of his best passing games of his time at Arsenal. He completed 92% of 51 passes, leading Arsenal at half-time in total passes attempted. Mertesacker led all players with 46 (of 49) passes forward and while Holding only had 30 forward passes (of 51) he made 8 forward passes into the Köln final third, more than any player except Alexis who had 17. Remember, those numbers are all in the first half! Alexis finished the game attempting 30 (of his 79) passes as forward passes in the Köln final third. More than any other player and the same as Iwobi and Elneny combined.
55 – Touches by Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the second half
AMN (abbreviated only because his name is so long) only had 33 touches in a largely anonymous first half where he was played out of position as a wing back. In that first half he didn’t make a tackle or interception and only had the one blocked shot. AMN did play a part in the Arsenal attack in that first half, making 9 passes in the Köln final third, including one sweet cross for a shot (key pass).
But in the 2nd half, Wenger moved him to the middle of the park and AMN really showed us when he can do. Besides the tackling and interceptions (1 and 2 each) 46 of his second half touches were passes and by bringing him into the middle of the park, he gave Elneny someone to play off of. Elneny only had 34 passes in the first half but 68 passes in the second. And if you’re looking at this from a purely passing standpoint, the midfield duo of Iwobi and Elneny had 65 passes in the first half while the duo of Elneny and AMN had 112 in the second half. Arsenal increased the number of accurate passes in the second half from 300 to 360 and those extra 60 accurate passes were entirely down to these two players.
I want to be very clear here: I am not saying that Iwobi is bad, that AMN is good, or anything as a knock on Ramsey. I’m also not saying that Elneny and AMN should be the starting center pair for the rest of eternity or even that they should get a look in every time the Arsenal midfield starts to look poor – the change in the attack and defense was nominal in terms of stats. But what we saw work well today was having two center mids who were more reserved and looked to build play patiently rather than going forward as soon as possible and as often as possible. Any one of Arsenal’s highly talented midfielders can do that.
I am also NOT saying that midfielders should never make runs – AMN nearly scored what would have been the goal of the season (so far) by making a run – but it’s important to note that the build-up to that shot was methodical. He didn’t just run up and stand next to Giroud after kickoff: Arsenal worked the ball and when AMN saw some space, he claimed it, then followed a string of nice little passes, made a dribble, and nearly had a great attempt on goal.
11 – Number of goals Alexis has scored from outside the box for Arsenal in Premier League or European play
Alexis’ goal tonight was something of a collector’s item: a goal from outside the 18 yard box from open play. Alexis has scored 11 goals for Arsenal from outside the box in European and domestic League play but five of those were from direct free kicks. The other six were from open play. One of them tonight!
2 – Number of goals Kolasinac has scored for Arsenal already
1 more goal and Kolasinac will tie with Monreal for goals scored for Arsenal and if he gets four more goals he’ll draw level with Kieran Gibbs.
Take Kolasinac’s defensive numbers (just 1 interception this season) with a grain of salt: Wenger’s back 3 system isn’t demanding as much defense from his fullbacks as his old 433 did. Even Bellerin’s interceptions numbers are about half of what they were last year.
12 – Passes completed by Jack Wilshere (of 14)
Other things Jack did: 2 dribbles (both successful) and 1 dispossessed. That was it in terms of Opta stats that I can lay my hands on! He also had that dummy, which he may have taken as a shot had he been in better form.
2 – Number of days it’s probably going to take me to figure out whether or not Arsenal’s back three has done anything good or bad for Arsenal’s defense and offense, so… meet on Saturday over at the blog?
Sources: WhoScored.com, my database