Good morning, folks. Circumstances prevent me from doing a post-match stats blog tonight but since I am an early riser and I have time this morning I thought I’d do the next best thing and offer a match preview. A sort of “things to look out for” while watching the match.
The first thing you have probably already heard is that in Premier League play (all these stats below are for Premier League play only) Arsenal have won 11 straight home matches. If the table is sorted by home form Arsenal are in 2nd place behind only Man City.
Arsenal have played 6 home games this season and scored 15 goals (of 23 total goals scored) and allowed just 4 (of 16 total goals allowed). What’s crazy about Arsenal’s home defensive record isn’t just how much better it is than the away record, it’s that Arsenal have allowed just one goal in the last five home matches. And one major reason for Arsenal’s great defensive home form is the center back trinity of Monreal, Mustafi, and Koscielny (MMK?). When they have played together (home or away) Arsenal haven’t conceded a single goal.
Wenger is probably going to have to rotate Koscielny. When Arsenal have played Holding, they have conceded 9 goals in 5 matches. When they have played Mertesacker they have conceded 5 in 3. It’s obviously not entirely those two player’s fault for all those goals but there is a hint of weakness in the Arsenal defense when Wenger chooses one of them.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield’s away form is dreadful. They have played 6 scored 3 and allowed 11. I don’t know which crazy person was saying that they did well against Man City in their last match (it was a home game for them) but the stats show that they did not: they gave up five big chances to Guardiola’s team and only City’s profligacy in front of goal prevented that match from being a huge blowout.
Huddersfield’s last two away games were both blowout losses: 4-0 to Bournemouth and 3-0 to Liverpool. In the match against the Scousers they only took one shot. ONE SHOT. It was from distance and it was off target.
Huddersfield’s problem is that they can’t hold possession and they can’t counter attack. Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey leads the League in counter attack shots with 3 (he hasn’t scored one YET) but Huddersfield’s leading counter attacker is Aaron Mooy. He has just one counter attacking shot (which he scored). This combination of not being able to control the game with the ball and not being able to counter attack is the main reason why their away form is so bad.
I’m not expecting Arsenal to just waltz all over them but anything less than three points today would be a huge disappointment. They are 3rd in the League in tackles in away games with 20 and they lead the League in away fouls with 13.5. And they lead the League in yellow cards in away games with 2.5 (no reds) per game. They are also the most dispossessed team in the League on away days (13 per game). And they have zero key passes off corners and free kicks in away games as well. The stats I’m seeing here are a team that doesn’t possess the ball well, isn’t a long ball team, doesn’t counter well, and doesn’t do set plays well..
For Arsenal it might be smart to start Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud. I know that Giroud did his “Inanimate Carbon Rod” imitation in the last match but with Alexis in the team and Wilshere I expect a lot more close control and ability to break down opposition defenders. Wilshere averages 7.8 dribbles per game in Europa League play (4.8 successful) and Alexis averages 3.4 successful dribbles per game in Premier League play. If Huddersfield is going to sit back and soak up pressure, having Arsenal’s two best dribblers on the field should lead to some openings for the forwards.
Also, in away games, the Huddersfield players who foul the most are their center backs. We could see a lot of set plays for Arsenal today and in those types of games having one of either Giroud or Welbeck in there to take the hits and give Arsenal an aerial presence in attack could be key. Giroud has scored 26 Premier League goals with his head.
One final thought: as measured by expected goals, Arsenal are the fourth most underperforming team in the League. They are off pace by over 5 goals, which is to say that by averages on shots taken, you would expect Arsenal to have scored five more goals than they have so far this season. That is entirely down to Arsenal’s rather poor big chance (one on one with the keeper, counter attacks, open headers from close range, etc.) conversion rate of just 29%. Arsenal have created a third best 35 big chances this season but only converted 10. If they had converted at the League average of 46% they would have scored 6 more goals and almost certainly would have taken a point at Stoke and may have won the match against Chelsea. I expect Arsenal to get plenty of Big Chances today – the Gunners have created 21 big chances in our six home games for an average of 3.5 per game – and hopefully they will convert.
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Sources: WhoScored.com and my personal database