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@theweekend: Arteta and Cazorla Shine as Gunners Out-Class Hammers

October 7, 2012

Our weekly dose of statistical analysis from the Premier League at the weekend…

West Ham 1-3 Arsenal : Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott & Podolski…

It was a good test mentally as well, because we went 1-0 down with their first shot on goal. We came back and won this game. You could say that we had a good performance today overall.

– Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger (via arsenal.com)

Arsenal were made to sweat but eventually claimed a deserved three points from their trip to the Boleyn Ground after dominating possession and chance-creation for the most part. The first half was particularly one-sided, with the Gunners controlling proceedings for large parts; Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla were especially prominent. The visitors’ dominance was so much so that in the first ten minutes they enjoyed 80% possession, having completed five-times as many passes as their hosts. This pattern of control was regularly repeated throughout the opening forty-five minutes, only interspersed by the occasional long-ball forays of a struggling West Ham outfit…

The extent to which Arteta and Cazorla controlled the game (with the assistance of Aaron Ramsey) can clearly be seen on the Player Influence comparison below; they are comfortably the most prominent names. By contrast, the Hammers were heavily reliant on utilising Carroll as a target and there was little variation or subtlety to their play, noticeably so prior to the interval (although they did improve in the second 45’)…

I think he [Santi Cazorla] was overall a delight to watch, from the first to the last minute today. He was very influential in our team and it’s fantastic to watch him play.

– Wenger (via arsenal.com)

Mikel Arteta seamlessly linked play with those around him (he features in the game’s five most common pass combinations) and was comfortably the game’s top passer (106/111 at 95%). The Spaniard dictated the tempo of Arsenal’s possession, and although being occasionally pressed by West Ham’s midfielders (not regularly enough, mind), he still had the vision, movement, and quickness of feet to avoid being tackled or to move the ball on. Interestingly, he also won all five of his ground tackles. Arteta was aided by the close and constant presence of Ramsey, generally to his right side, and Cazorla, generally forwards, which meant he always had options, retaining possession or moving it on, and consequently leaving the hosts to do a lot of chasing (which would tell for Theo Walcott’s decisive goal). Santi Cazorla’s presence was the more telling however, as it gave Arsenal a vertical momentum (almost half of his 69/78 passes were in the attacking third) as well as a lateral one (through Ramsey and their wide players). Cazorla’s ball retention was excellent – he was not tackled once, winning all four of his take-ons – as he gave Arsenal an incisive threat to complement their impressive build-up play…

That Arsenal failed to score the opening goal despite their dominance owed much to the defensive resilience of Sam Allardyce’s outfit – Cazorla, for all his nifty footwork and incisive passing, all too often faced a bank of eight West Ham defenders and consequently struggled to find the killer pass (especially with striker Olivier Giroud too static for the most part). That West Ham took the lead owed much to a typically powerful run and an exceptional finish by Mohamed Diamé. It was as much against the run of play as it was well taken, although the manner of its creation was perhaps unsurprising for the player involved – Diamé won as many take-ons (5/6) as he made successful forward passes (5/12) over the ninety minutes. The Senegal international, who was booked for his celebration, was lucky to stay on the field shortly afterwards, flattening Arteta with a nasty late challenge. Had Arsenal not won this match, you can be sure Mr Wenger would have raised Phil Dowd’s bottling of a clear (second) yellow card as a significant moment in the encounter.

Arsenal’s equaliser, much deserved, arrived when they finally got in behind the West Ham defence (Cazorla, of course, feeding Lukas Podolski down the left) who flashed a cross in between ‘keeper and defence which was expertly poked home by a stretching Olivier Giroud, finally offering some effective goal-poaching movement in the West Ham area. It involved the sort of build-up Arsenal had been searching for, previously without success…

Walcott to win it for #Arsenal with a goal on the counter.

– SportingBlogs (via twitter.com)

In the second half, West Ham found it easier to approach Arsenal’s goal, with six efforts (albeit mostly wayward), to three in the first half. The Gunners were happier to maintain possession, but were more frequently pegged back by their hosts’ forward forays. Sensing this, Wenger introduced Theo Walcott, a player whose searing pace is amongst his most notable attributes – ideal for a counter-attacking goal (as predicted by this writer here). Sure enough, West Ham pressed forward and consequently left space at the back; Per Mertesacker cleared, Arsenal broke, Giroud fed Walcott in behind the Hammers’ high and disjointed back-line, and Theo finished tidily. Simple…

Then, with West Ham now pressing for an equaliser there was further space to be found at the back. Cazorla, who for most of the game was faced with a wall of claret & blue shirts in between him and the goal, was afforded a ludicrous amount of time and space to pick his spot and rifle home from the edge of the area. Again, simple. And game over too. Lastly, a word for Lukas Podolski, whose clever positioning and eye for a pass saw him create six chances for teammates. More of the same should see a steady flow of assists for the German international…

More Premier League analysis to follow…

@theweekend analysis archive: https://sportingblogs.wordpress.com/theweekend/

Source: fourfourtwo.com/statszone/ & the ESPN Goals app…

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