Chelsea 2 – 1 Arsenal: All the stats

Arsenal missed a chance to build on their good showing at Manchester City when they fell victim to two set pieces in a 2-1 home loss to early league leaders, Chelsea.

Set pieces have long been a problem for the Gunners, and with both goals coming off free kicks, Arsene Wenger may be wondering how to fix this problem.

Statistically, Arsenal held a 51%-49% edge in possession. Sounds fairly even. The secondary stats bear this out. Arsenal attempted 469 passes to Chelsea’s 458, and were actually more accurate, 88%-84%. Again, fairly even. Interestingly, in the final third, Arsenal attempted an amazing 173 passes vs. Chelsea’s 118. Seems dominant, especially when one considers that both teams completed 73% of their passes in that final third. Aerial 50/50 duels were also close, Chelsea winning 52%-48%. Ground 50/50 duels were won by Arsenal by the same 52%-48% margin. All of these statistics point to a very even game. And very even games are most often won by seemingly innocuous mistakes, and more importantly, by one team taking advantage of the other’s mistakes.

Arsenal actually outshot Chelsea, 17-7, and a 9-3 shot advantage inside the box and 8-4 outside would seem to indicate Arsenal dominated shooting. Clearly that didn’t help.
So, how did Arsenal lose? Rather, how did Chelsea win?

With the game 1-1 at the half, Arsenal took control during the beginning of the second half. Then, a defensive error handed Chelsea a second close free kick. Juan Mata made sure the kick caused Arsenal problems, with Laurent Koscielny diverting the attempted block/clearance into his own net. Koscielny has had a serious problem with own goals since joining the club, and this one turned out to be the decider. Couple this with another defensive error by Thomas Vermaelen leading to the first free kick, after which Fernando Torres schooled Koscileny after receiving it, and you have your answer. Chelsea won this game by punishing Arsenal’s defensive frailty on set pieces. They had 3 free kicks the entire game. Two of the three led to goals. And those two were conceded through poor defensive choices.

Instead of Gervinho’s wonderful equalizing goal being the only goal in a 1-0 Arsenal win, give Chelsea full credit for taking advantage of two Arsenal mistakes to take a deserved 2-1 win. One could argue in hindsight that not playing Per Mertesacker was a mistake by Wenger. However, even without hindsight, it’s easy to conclude that oft-injured Abou Diaby going off with another injury was the real reason Arsenal’s back four were again exposed.

For those who saw Olivier Giroud miss the best chance of the game, which would have evened the score at 2-2, consider this and be concerned. Giroud has attempted 11 shots this season in the league. Eight were off target, and two were blocked. Only one was on target. That needs to improve or Arsenal had better start outshooting teams by more than 17-7.

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