38/47 - Passes completed by Matteo Guendouzi. Matteo Guendouzi came in for a lot of criticism in this match for a shaky opening half of play by the end of the match, he was Arsenal’s most prolific passer, completing 38/47 attempts. In the first half he only completed 15/23 passes. Of his misplaced passes, two were long (forward), two were in the Man City final third, but the other four were in his own third and either backwards or sideways, setting up Man City for some great chances which they squandered.
Guendouzi seemed to struggle in Emery’s bizarre starting lineup but there was a moment when he went over and spoke to Emery and from then on he completed 23/24 passes, his only bad pass being in the City final third.
Matteo also lost the ball a lot. He was dispossessed just the once but had 6 poor touches for turnovers. Young players often suffer in center mid with their touch and perhaps it was a bit of a tough call to play him against a pressing team like Man City. Unlike his passing, this was a problem all match, losing possession 3 times in the first and 4 times in the second. He ended the match as Arsenal’s most fouled player (3) and along with the poor passing and giveaways, that’s proof that Guardiola targeted him as the weak link.
Guendouzi also had two high-profile errors. The one where Sterling ghosted past him for the goal and one where he missed a clearance, allowing Aguero in for a big chance. He was officially credited with just one error on the day.
I’d like to think that his defending sort of made up for his possession-loss, however. He was 2nd on the team in tackles, making 4/6 (Mkhitaryan was 1st with ⅝ and Mustafi was third with ⅘), he was 2nd in interceptions with 4 (Bellerin was 1st with 5), he was tied for 1st with blocked passes with 2, and also 2nd on the team in ball recoveries with 6.
Despite his shaky start, Guendouzi grew into the game and played well against one of the most difficult midfields in world football. He won the ball back more than any other player and tried to get it forward as much as possible. If anyone is to blame for his performance, I would suggest it’s Unai Emery: that starting lineup with Ramsey as a CF and Ozil playing deep as a RMF was strange. It was also a huge gamble to start a young player against Man City. But you can see what he’s going to turn into, or at least I think you can.
1 - Tackles by Xhaka. Granit Xhaka seems to be the most likely player to be dropped from Emery’s lineup and was replaced by Torreira in the 70th minute. Xhaka only completed 81% of his passes (the same percentage as Guendouzi) but he only attempted 1 tackle, had zero interceptions, and only blocked 1 pass and 1 shot.
Xhaka did pick up his first yellow card of the season, a classic Xhaka tackle; just sticking his leg out after the player dribbled past him.
Xhaka did have just 1 turnover but if he’s going to have almost all of the same problems as Guendouzi but none of the hustle on defense, and also only complete 2/4 long passes (Guendouzi was three for five), you have to wonder how long Emery will stick with him.
19 - Touches by Ramsey. The strangest decision of the day was starting Ramsey at center forward. I think I know why Emery did it - because Ramsey made two of three tackles and looked like his job was to press - but playing him up front was a complete abnegation of his talents as a footballer.
Ramsey is known as an all-action midfielder and the main thing that he adds to a team is the ability to run for hours and hours. He’s always available for a pass, he’s a good tackler, and he makes fantastic late runs in the box which often surprise the opposition DMs. Shunted up front, he spent the whole match in Stones’ pocket and only got 19 touches.
He was 1 for 2 aerial duels, he was 1 for 1 dribbling, he had 1 shot, he was 3 for 5 passing in the final third, and he created just one shot for his teammates.
When Lacazette came on, the Arsenal attack looked more dangerous though, stats-wise there was little difference because so many players were caught offside. Lichtsteiner was caught offside twice and Ozil twice.
1 - Shot by Aubameyang. I can’t stress this enough: the whole point of Arsenal’s attack should be geared to getting Aubameyang shots. I understand that City have a preposterously good defense and that they allowed the fewest chances, fewest big chances, and fewest shots on goal of any team in the Premier League last season, but it really seems to me that if you have a liquid fast player on your team, who has a history of scoring 24% of his shots from open play, and you’re playing against a team that wants to get forward and press high up the pitch, that you might want to exploit that player’s speed and get him some shots.
1.77 - Expected goals for Man City. 0.62 expected goals for Arsenal. City created two big chances in this match and Cech saved them both. If we are looking for a silver lining in this match, that’s probably it.
City also managed 9 of their 17 shots on target. Cech made 7 saves, again, that’s nice.
Meanwhile Arsenal created just 9 total shots, got just three on target, and created zero big chances.
Looks like both teams picked right back up where they left off.
Sources: Opta, my personal database