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Arsenal 3 (3.1)-(1.6) 3 Southampton: The Debrief
Another painful draw
They say that 2-0 is the most dangerous scoreline and after feeling the pain of drawing from that position for the last two weeks, Arsenal decided to let the other team feel the loss of drawing from that position.
What a painful performance that the late fightback only partially makes feel better. It is hard to not feel like something special potentially slipped away last night.
On FiveThirtyEight’s simulations, Arsenal have gone from 56%, 51%, 41%, 35%, 25% over the last month for the title odds.
Things are only just in Arsenal’s hands (if City win their games in hand they are in front) but it now requires perfection or Manchester City’s re-tuned terminator soccer machine to slip up to re-open the door.
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Let’s breakdown what happened here.
Arsenal 3 (3.1)-(1.6) 3 Southampton: The Graphics
Arsenal 3 (3.1)-(1.6) 3 Southampton: The Debrief
78% - Arsenal’s pass completion percentage in the opening 13 minutes.
82% - Arsenal’s expected pass completion percentage in the opening 13 minutes.
82% - Arsenal’s pass completion in their own half in the opening 13 minutes.
60% - Possession in the opening 13 minutes.
The start of this game felt like for the first time the weight of the title chase shown through. After Aaron Ramsdale was too casual and played a pass that was easily read by Carlos Alcaraz and turned into a goal, Arsenal seemed to panic, losing their technical skill and playing a very un-Arsenal style of football. With Southampton pressing high the game was very open and in this instance that led to good things for the visitors compared to Arsenal’s typical ability to thrive when teams come to play them.
After the second goal Arsenal did start to establish themselves a bit more, adding 12 shots and the first real period of sustained pressure. What is hard to look past is what happened to start the second half. Southampton took off Alcaraz and looked to protect what they had switching to a back 5 and forcing Arsenal to break them down. Arsenal just couldn’t, here are some of the key stats from the start of the second half and Southampton’s third goal
196 - Passes attempted
168 - Passes completed an 86% completion rate with 91% for passes starting in the Arsenal half really highlighting how little closing down Southampton did compared to the first half.
79% - Possession
64 - Passes attempted in the final third
80% - Field tilt
0 - Shots
It is really easy to point to the goals conceded as the problem and yeah it is never good to have a team get 25% of their total goals scored away from home against you in one match (Southampton have scored 12 goals away from home all year) but going 25 minutes while down a goal without creating a single shooting opportunity is really tough to look past. It felt like if Arsenal were going to turn around the deficit it required getting back to level terms in the first 20-25 minutes so that the final part of the match could be wave after wave of pressure. Arsenal ended up doing that and it almost paid off but they left themselves too much to do in the final period.
The home defense
21 - Goals allowed at home by Arsenal, tied for 16th most in the Premier League, that is 1.3 goals per match which is tied for 15th worst.
3 - Clean sheets at home for Arsenal
16.4 - Expected goals allowed at home by Arsenal, 6th most in the Premier League, that is 1.03 expected goals per match which is the 4th most in the Premier League
7 - Times this season that Arsenal have held their opponent to under 1 expected goal.
1 - Clean sheet in the matches where Arsenal have held their opponents under 1 expected goal.
There is a lot of gnashing of teeth about Arsenal and their home defensive record after this match and some of that is fair. Arsenal DID allow a pretty bad Southampton team to create too many good chances.
The overall narrative about something special happening at home however I am not sure I can get on board with. This feels like when you slice data into small enough subsets you will find outliers and you can build a story around it. Arsenal at home don’t seem to be a massively different team than they are away from home.
Shots: 10.3 vs 7.2
Shots on Target: 3.3 vs 3.4
Non-Pen xG: 1.01 vs 0.93
Post Shot xG: 0.95 vs 1.1
Avg Shot Distance: 17.5 yards vs 15.7 yards
So a few more shots, but with a lower average quality and the same amount getting on target. The biggest driver here is that away from home Ramsdale has saved more than expected (+4.6), while at home he hasn’t (-4.7). Last night I also dug into the idea that it is more important to be defensively solid vs having a better attack.
Having a good defense is important and often is tied with just simply having more talent overall, but the numbers do suggest that you should favor a marginal goal scored vs a marginal goal prevented to accumulate more points. This is backed up pretty well with a great example this season of Newcastle with the best defensive record matched with just an above-average attack being in the battle for 3rd/4th vs being in the title race.
The young forwards shine
There are plenty of things to be negative about in this match and I got a bunch of that out in my instant reaction but I want to end on a positive note here.
2 - Goals scored combined, 1 each
0.8 - Expected goals combined, 0.4 for each
17 - Shot creating actions combined, Saka (10) and Martinelli (7)
11 - Key passes combined, Saka (5) and Martinelli (6)
2.0 - Expected goals assisted combined, Saka (0.7) and Martinelli (1.3)
10 - Progressive passes combined, Saka (7) and Martinelli (3)
6 - Dribbles completed combined, Saka (2) and Martinelli (4)
18 - Progressive carries combined, Saka (12) and Martinelli (6)
10 - Carries into the penalty area combined, Saka (4) and Martinelli (6)
37 - Progressive passes received combined, Saka (21) and Martinelli (16)
23 - Touches in the box combined, Saka (11) and Martinelli (12)
Of all the players on the pitch, these two really seemed like the ones that wilted the least under the pressure of the match. They were simply outstanding and if Arsenal are going to have a chance for the title it will probably be these two who lead the way.
Alright, that’s enough for now. There are a lot of raw emotions out there and it is very understandable but hopefully, Arsenal fans don’t turn on each other too much.