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Xhaka pressed, Cech saves, and Ozil tackles: Arsenal 2-0 Everton, Behind the Numbers

Xhaka PressGranit Xhaka finished the match against Everton with just an 81% pass completion rate, connecting on 82/101 passes. Xhaka hits a lot of long balls which drags his rate down (he was 10/19 on his long balls) but he’s also good for more than a few awful passes in every game, real “brain farts”. This is especially true when he’s pressed. From minute 1-10 Xhaka completed just 8 of 12 passes and gave the ball away twice in his own half (the other two missed passes were long balls into the Everton final third). And for the first 60 minutes of this match, he dropped 15 passes as Everton variously pressed him and let him control the game. Of those 15 only 6 were short and only two were in our own half. The rest were long passes or passes up front. After Arsenal scored the 2nd goal, he improved immensely and was 30/34.That said, one of those dropped passes was a corner so I don’t count that but the other three were all very poor - two bad short passes in the center of midfield and one bad attempted cross. One thing I can guarantee is that Watford will press him in the next match and see if they can get him to cough the ball up. TorreriaNot the most definitive performance from the little guy. 64 passes, 86% completion rate (55/64), 1 tackle (didn’t win the ball), 1 interception, and 2 blocks. He also dropped 5 of his 9 bad passes in the final 30 minutes and looked gassed at the end of the match. “in the second half we spoke in the dressing room about stopping their attacking moments with better positioning on the pitch”One thing I love about Unai is that he comes from a tradition where he’s not afraid to tell the fans why something happened. The quote above is from his post-match presser and while he doesn’t name names (I will in a second) he explains why Arsenal were much more effective shutting down Everton’s attack in the second half - improved positioning. This isn’t about Torreira or Xhaka. Their positions didn’t change hardly at all in this match. Nor did Ramsey, who played mostly left, nor Auba, nor Lacazette. It was Ozil. In the first half, the commentator here Stateside (Lee Dixon) ripped Ozil for a pathetic defensive display where he let three players just walk right past him and pulled out of challenges when they were there for him. It was part of the spirit of the team, to be fair, because the starting 11 only attempted 10 tackles in that first half. But in the 2nd half, Ozil alone had 6 tackles (led all players). Ok so, he only won the ball twice off those tackles (and was dribbled past twice) but he also had an interception in the 2nd half and led the team with 3 blocked passes! I know that Ozil’s job isn’t “destroyer” - he’s not an eater of worlds like Coquelin - but he is there to be part of the team and he can’t just let players walk past him with the ball without even putting in a challenge. So, while I’m just speculating here it looks like the half-time team talk was about Ozil’s “positioning” and how he should be putting in more defensive work. Credit to Unai if true. Clean sheets mean a lot, to a guy who sleeps on the floorCech kept his first clean sheet of the season but he had to work hard for it. Arsenal “only” conceded 9 shots but 6 were on target and Cech made 2 big chance saves. Total expected goals saved was just 1.25 but that kind of underplays how well he did to make those saves. Big chances are scored at almost a 50% rate, it’s like a coin flip, and 70% of all big chances are on target. Another way to look at this is that Hugo Lloris faced 43 big chances last season and only made 4 big chance saves. Cech has come up with a lot of big saves this season, 6, and has saved 75% of the big chances he’s faced. It’s better to not concede big chances but while Emery tries to figure out his defense and midfield it’s great to have a guy like Cech in there to make those saves and keep his team in the game.QqSources: for the Emery quote, for Xhaka's pass maps, for other stats, and my database for big chance saves and expected goals.