Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorn’s on Sunday, giving them the point they needed to get back to the top of the table going into the international break. West Brom came full of confidence off the back of their victory at Old Trafford, and a strong attacking line-up with the intent of going on the offensive against Arsenal. This created a fantastically open game with plenty of chances at both ends, and a good mix of build up play (mostly from Arsenal) and counter-attacks (mostly from West Brom).
Arsene Wenger lined his side up with Mesut Ozil starting in the middle, while Jack Wilshere was again in his newly familiar role on the left of midfield, with Aaron Ramsey playing on the right to accommodate Matthieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta in the holding midfield positions. This midfield pairing serves Arsenal well, with both Wilshere and Ramsey offering plenty in their passing and offensive qualities, but as holders they tend to leave a lot of spaces behind them for the opposition to play through – Flamini has been a fantastic addition in solidifying the midfield when Arsenal don’t have the ball. With Jenkinson coming in at right back however, they had two full backs prepared to play very high up the pitch simultaneously. This set them up to be extremely vulnerable to counter attacks, and they were subsequently very lucky not to be more than one down after some poor finishing from Anelka.
Chances and Shots From Distance
As mentioned, the game was littered with wasted opportunities to stretch the scoreline, and while there were a total of 42 crosses between both teams, only 5 of these met their destination. As a result, many of the major chances for West Brom came from springing and getting in behind the Arsenal midfield, where Berahino, Anelka and Sessegnon looked a threat. Amalfitano was also dangerous in spells but lost possession a total of 24 times – the most in the team. Arsenal also managed to get balls in behind the West Brom defence, and Wilshere was unlucky not to get a good shot away after being played in. The next key feature of the game was shots from distance, where combination plays on the edge of both areas led to 7 shots from outside the box for West Brom and 9 for Arsenal (compared to just 5 and 4 shots inside the area). Sczcezny was forced into one particularly impressive save from Berahino, and up the other end, Arsenal were also given room to shoot, which led to Wilshere’s deflected finish.
Mesut Ozil Performance
Mesut Ozil was again a solid influence throughout the team, despite not getting on the score sheet or assisting, he was by far Arsenal’s most creative asset. He attempted 3 dribbles (joint most in the team) and created 4 of the teams 11 total chances, while he also took an massive 93 touches, eclipsing the rest of the team (Arteta and Flamini closest on 85 then 68). A massive factor in this is Ozil’s ‘maintenance of space’, which allows him more touches – he does better than nearly any player in the world. He goes to extreme lengths with his movement to ensure that there is nobody near him when he receives the ball:
In the image above from the Champions League game against Marseille you can see an example of the sort of positions he tries to get himself into before he receives. A clear passing lane and room to either receive on the half turn and go forwards, or room to play left or right if he comes into pressure. We saw examples of this during the West Brom game, but the point is he does this all of the time, which means his level of efficiency on and off the ball – which sets him apart from the rest of the team – comes as no surprise:
West Brom Threat
West Brom essentially un-did Arsenal by simply being proactive with the ball when possible, and organised without the ball. There were times where they kept the ball patiently, and their 340 accurate passes would suggest that they were not played off the park by any stretch of the imagination, despite losing the possession battle (which you would expect). West Brom matched Arsenals 11 chances, and created 2 clear-cut chances to Arsenal’s 1, suggesting that a more ruthless finishing performance could have easily seen the Baggies run away with the points.
Overall, the draw was probably the fairest result for both teams. Arsenal will need to continue to look at their defensive organisation, particularly from counter attacks and set-pieces, where they conceded sloppily (during the second phase following a corner) and looked most vulnerable. Aside from this they still have the foundations to mount a strong challenge to all top 6 teams this season and remain the Premier League’s team to beat. West Brom will also be pleased with 4 points from a possible 6 against Manchester United and Arsenal and 7 from their last possible 9, with signs of the new look forward line beginning to gel for Steve Clarke.