A scrambled, and somewhat dubious, late Mikel Arteta goal against QPR was enough to earn Arsenal their first home win since the Gameweek 4 hammering of Southampton last weekend but, once again, Arsene Wenger’s side failed to impress. While the return of Jack Wilshere was the media’s main focal point, there was a couple of more intriguing aspects of Saturday’s Emirates match worth examining…
Sagna v Jenkinson
Analysing the Gunners’ shape when in possession of the ball, what is noticeable is just how far forward Bacary Sagna (3) featured at right-back. Like Wilshere, the Frenchman was also featuring for the first time this term, with Wenger choosing to drop Carl Jenkinson to the bench after the youngster had played the first eight league matches; a decision the Arsenal boss admitted he didn’t take lightly:
“It was a tough decision, very tough. The team was a bit low in confidence and I felt experience at the back could help. Of course Bacary Sagna has an advantage on Jenkinson in experience. But I am very, very happy and thrilled with what Jenkinson has done until now and he will play again this season of course. It was a difficult decision, but I would like to give credit to Carl. What he has done is extremely promising and he is so young, so where he is now at his age now is fantastic.”
While Sagna helped Arsenal to their first clean sheet in six attempts, it was his attacking thrust down the flank that stands out. Comparing his stats in the QPR match to Jenkinson’s average for the season so far, his offensive forays are far more impressive. Sagna managed 98 touches against Mark Hughes’ outfit, only slightly up on Jenkinson’s 91.2, while both players are equal when it comes to minutes per touch. Indeed, there is little difference in terms of passes received either; just 61 to 57.1 in Sagna’s favour.
|Tchs||Tchs Final 3rd||Mins/Tch||Passes Rcvd||Passes Rcvd Final 3rd||Passes Final 3rd||Crosses|
|Jenkinson GW 1-8||91.2||25||1||57.1||16.2||13.2||3.5|
|Podolski GW 9||62||30||1.1||41||17||20||2|
The Frenchman, however, had 47 touches in the final third of the pitch compared to Jenkinson’s 25 per game over the first eight league fixtures. He also received 26 passes and made 20 passes in this crucial area – substantially up on Jenkinson’s 16.2 and 13.2 respectively. Factor in his nine crosses on Saturday, to the former Charlton man’s 3.5 average, and it’s fair to say that Sagna brought more than just experience to Arsenal’s first XI against their basement-dwelling London neighbours.
Indeed, Jenkinson’s average position when in possession over Gameweeks 1-8 (left) in comparison to Sagna’s against QPR highlights the difference in each player’s interpretation of the right-back role – a worrying sign for the 20% Fantasy Premier League managers who have transferred the former in since the beginning of the season.
For those eyeing up a straight swap for Sagna as a route into the Arsenal defence, it’s also worth noting his statistics in comparison to Lukas Podolski. The German (number 9 in QPR match above) was actually deeper in possession than Sagna, despite playing on the left of the Gunners’ attacking midfield three. Granted, the decision to sub him off for Andrei Arshavin on 71 minutes will affect his stats but nevertheless, it’s intriguing to see that Sagna had 17 more touches in the final third (47 to 30), made the same number of final third passes (20) and made more than four times the number of crosses than the summer signing from Cologne.
What is also noticeable from the average positions last Saturday is that Santi Cazorla (19) is the furthest forward of any of Arsenal’s starting XI when on the ball. While his number of touches (100) last weekend mirrored his average in the previous eight Gameweeks (100.5), the former Malaga man once again impressed statistically without producing the Fantasy points.
|Tchs||Tchs Final 3rd||Passes Rcvd Final 3rd||Passes Final 3rd||Chances Crtd||Shots In Box||Pen Area Tchs|
|Cazorla GW 1-8||100.5||49.2||28.2||26.8||3.9||1.2||3.5|
Cazorla had 65 touches in the final third, far superior to his previous average of 49.2, and the pattern continues in this crucial attacking area – the diminutive playmaker was also up on passes received in the final third (48 to 28.2) and passes made in the final third (43 to 26.8). While Cazorla was slightly down on chances created, he improved upon his penalty box touches and attempts from inside the box, though he’ll be hoping we forget this close-range sitter.
The main problem for Cazorla, however, is that Arsenal simply don’t have anyone to finish off the multitude of chances he creates. He has provided 34 goalscoring opportunities so far – nine more than any other midfielder – and created a chance every 24.7 minutes; second only to David Silva (22.4) for midfielders who have played more than three times in 2012/13. Yet Cazorla has picked up just two assists. Aside from the 6-1 win over Southampton, the Gunners have scored just two goals in three home matches and have found the net more than once on just three occasions this season. This leads us nicely onto our final protagonist…
The Frenchman arrived on the back of a superb season for Montpellier, where his 21 goals and nine assists fired his side to the 2011/12 Ligue 1 title. While doubts were understandably raised as to whether he could replicate the returns of Robin Van Persie, hopes were nevertheless high of his potential; having been the focal point in a 4-2-3-1 formation, many had assumed Giroud would slot in seamlessly as the lone striker at the Emirates. So far, it hasn’t quite turned out that way.
Having previously lost his place to Gervinho up front, Giroud returned to the first XI and has started the last three league matches, though last weekend was the first time Wenger has begun with his compatriot in an Emirates starting line-up. As the average position map against QPR illustrates, Giroud (12) is simply playing too deep when on the ball. Time and again, he drops back to link up with the Gunners midfield and offers Cazorla few options ahead of him as Arsenal forage forward. With Giroud up top, Wenger’s side simply have no one to stretch opposition backlines and create space for deep-lying players to utilise; all too often, their possession play is congested in the opponents half without offering any real cutting edge.
A comparison with Van Persie is an intriguing one. The maps below show Giroud (left) in possession over his home appearances for Arsenal, with Van Persie’s home games for the Gunners in the 2011/12 campaign on the right. The problem for Wenger is clear and is backed up considerably by the stats.
Last season, Van Persie managed 30.8 touches in the final third per home game – Giroud made 24 on Saturday. The Dutchman’s received 16.3 passes in this area and made 9.8, while Giroud registered 10 and five respectively at the weekend. In a game where the hosts had 67.1% possession and 323 in the final third, Giroud had a touch every 2.4 minutes; again, this is down on Van Persie’s 1.9.
Indeed, from penalty box touches (9.3 to six), to shots (5.3 to four) and shots in the box, with an average of 4.1 per Emirates match double Giroud’s Gameweek 9 output, Van Persie is head and shoulders above Wenger’s new forward.
|Tchs Final 3rd||Passes Rcvd Final 3rd||Tchs/Min||Passes Final 3rd||Chances Crtd||Pen Area Tchs||Shots||Shots in Box||Mins/Attmpt|
|Van Persie Home 2011/12||30.8||16.3||1.9||9.8||1.9||9.3||5.3||4.1||17.2|
|Giroud GW 9||24||10||2.4||5||0||6||4||2||24|
A crumb of comfort for the Arsenal boss in afforded by the fact that his side are still producing plenty of opportunities for his lone forward overall. Giroud has managed an attempt every 22.2 minutes this term, not too far away from Van Persie’s 20.2 in his final season in north London. The new boy fares worse in terms of shot accuracy, with 38.5% to the Dutchman’s 43.7% but when it comes to goal conversion, the problem is underlined. Van Persie scored with 17.2% of his efforts for Arsenal in 2011/12; Giroud has found the net with 3.8% thus far.
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to judge the former Montpellier man against the deadliest forward in the Premier League but it’s fair to say there’s a substantial difference in both the average positions and statistics that not only can go some way to explaining why Arsenal aren’t producing in front of goal, but perhaps highlight why Cazorla is having difficulty in flourishing as a Fantasy force, in spite of his superb statistics.
Unfortunately for Wenger, next up for the Gunners is a trip to Old Trafford this Saturday lunchtime. As he looks to address his ailing attack, there’s every chance the Arsenal boss will be served a costly reminder of what they once had, as Van Persie looks to add to his seven goals and four assists in just eight starts in a sensational start to life at the Red Devils.
*The Technical Area is put together using the statistics and maps available in our members area. For access to such data and tools on every player, team and match of the 2012/13 season, and for exclusive members articles like this, click here for details.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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