One of the best matches of the Premier League season ended 5-2, as Arsenal sensationally came back from two goals down to beat their North London rivals. It was an alarmingly open game, and not the first time this season we’ve had a big match with goals galore. It was not quite a game of two halves as much as three thirds, with Tottenham arguably dominating the first thirty minutes, while Arsenal swept away the rest of the game.
The game was the talk of the footballing world, and this was supposed to be final proof that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side were on the decline, and the Spurs were the new Kings. However, things didn’t quite turn out that way, even though, as Adebayor slotted home his penalty, every Arsenal fan could see his/her nightmare come to life.
A simple conclusion one might reach from reading the scoreline is that the defending from both teams was poor. Indeed, the first Spurs goal came as a result of a lapse in concentration in Arsenal’s defence. The second was a penalty (dubious, I grant you). Arsenal’s five, while none of them a direct result of a slip up, do make one question the strength of Tottenham’s defence!
So what do the numbers say? Let me start with the more obscure ones. Arsenal had roughly a 43% success rate with clearances, while the Spurs had a 63% success rate. It is hard to make sense out of these numbers, because it is hard to define what exactly a “successful clearance” is, and even then, clearances are not exactly key when it comes to defending. In the numbers that really matter, the two rivals are close to inseparable. Arsenal won 70% of their attempted tackles, while Spurs won 67% of theirs. They are similarly matched in statistics such as aerial duels won, ground duels won, etc.
One needs to take a look at the wider stats to see the difference between the two defences. Spurs conceded 23 shots to Arsenal, while the Gunners conceded just 11. Another key stat is Possession Won in the different thirds of the pitch. Tottenham won possession 36 times in their defensive third, but Arsenal won it 7 times in their attacking third (and thus Tottenham’s defensive third. I apologize for all the confusion!). So out of a total 43 possession duels in the Spurs third, Tottenham won about 84% of them. Compare this to Arsenal, who won possession 26 times in their own defensive third, with the Spurs winning it just once in that area, and you have a key difference. That is, out of a total of 27 possession duels, Arsenal won about 97% of them.
One can also see that Possession was clearly won more times in the Spurs third than the Arsenal third, implying that the ball spent more time in one area of the pitch than the other. This is a little surprising given the fact the Spurs manager Harry Redknapp introduced Sandro at half time – a player who is known to be a ball winner. His stats certainly do not make very good reading. In his 45 minutes on the pitch, he lost possession 5 times, and won it just twice, both times in the midfield third. As a deep lying defensive midfielder, that is not very impressive.
The more exciting aspect of the game, especially this game, has to be the attacking. Tottenham started off with a counter attacking strategy, while Arsenal went about with their slick passing game. It took some time for the Gunners to get into their rhythm, and Tottenham capitalized on that superbly by scoring two goals inside the first 30 minutes. Arsenal were forced into a do or die situation.
Here are the key numbers:
Two players who play similar roles in the two teams are Luka Modric and Mikel Arteta. Both are known for their amazingly high passing accuracy, and their ability to distribute the ball. Comparing these two, then, is a good starting point. Immediately one sees that Mikel Arteta proved himself the superior passer in this game. He completed an incredible 93% of the 81 passes he attempted, while Modric, uncharacteristically, completed just 82% out of only 49 attempted passing. The difference in total possession between the two teams (Arsenal 57% to Spurs 43%) is by no means enough to explain the difference in their passing. Don’t get me wrong, as you can also see, 82% is higher than most players in the game, but still a whole 5% less than Modric’s usual 87% accuracy. Mikel Arteta, just to prove a point, attempted more passes (32) in the final third than any two Spurs players put together.
The player that stood out for me, statistically, has to be Yossi Benayoun. He was amazing throughout the game, and put in arguably one of the performances of his English career on Sunday. What is even more impressive is that this came in spite of the fact that his inclusion in the line up was a major talking point before the game! His passing accuracy was the highest of anyone on the field who attempted more than 10 passes – an astonishing 94%. And if that was not enough, he played as a winger throughout the game, a position that does not always yield great passing numbers (Bale and Walcott had 74% and 70% accuracy respectively). For the final flourish, 48% of his passes were in the forward direction. But wait, that wasn’t the final flourish. The further up the pitch he was, the greater his accuracy became – he completed 96% of his passes in the attacking half, and, incredibly (running out of adverbs here), 100% of his passes in the final third (where he attempted no less than 13 passes). Indeed, as perfect a game as he is likely to play for a long time! One can only hope that he continues his form for Arsenal’s sake!
Another player who impressed was Rosicky, who had a healthy passing accuracy at 83%, scored a goal (after two years without one!), with a final third passing accuracy of 84%. While he doesn’t exactly stand out statistically as much as Yossi, he deserves a special mention since his passes did, to a large extent, dictate the pace of the game.
The Spurs player who showed most attacking intent was, surprisingly, Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He has recently got accolades for his understanding with Gareth Bale, and he put in an impressive display on the the left. He had the most passes in the attacking half (29) and in the final third (17). The one blot on his record was that he lost possession a total of 29 times. That is just not good enough, especially as a defender!
The wider details also paint a very one sided picture, dominated by Arsenal. The Gunners fired at goal 23 times, as mentioned earlier, and 15 of them came from inside the box, while 8 came from outside. Spurs had 11 shots on goal, 6 coming from inside the box, and 5 from outside. Arsenal also lost possession (bad control, for the most part) 13 times as compared to 24 times for Spurs.
All in all, it was a bad day at the office for the Spurs, and one they will want to forget as soon as possible. Scott Parker’s red card at the end just added insult to injury, and had very little effect on the game. One final word of advice for them – do not allow Robin van Persie 7 shots on goal. He will make you pay, and indeed his goal was the one that put Arsenal on level terms, and made me jump wildly, screaming ecstatically.
It was a great day to be an Arsenal fan, and the statistics prove that it was indeed a classy performance by a team that was in dire need of one. Arsene will be hoping for a repeat come Saturday at Anfield.
All of the Opta stats in this article are from the EPLIndex.com Stats Centre. To gain access to these stats and get author rights you can subscribe today: Subscribe to the Stats Centre!