Teams and Line-ups
We made one change from the weekend, with Ross Barkley coming in for the injured Leon Osman meaning that Fellaini dropped back into midfield with Anichebe as the lone forward. Arsenal brought in Walcott, Mertesacker and Gibbs to the side that beat Norwich at the weekend.
Off the ball
Generally we did a good number on Arsenal’s passing game by swamping the middle of the park. The Gunners boast the highest pass completion (85.9%) and possession share (58.9%) in the top flight. In the first half particularly, we had them down to 79% for the majority, with their key link man and most frequent passer, the ex toffee Mikel Arteta recording just 55 passes during the game, way down on his 88 per game average. The Spanish schemer on average is dispossessed just 0.8 times per game whilst tonight he was dispossessed 3 times – more than in any other game this season.
The above takes into account pressing ‘contacts’ including tackles, interceptions, blocks and fouls broken down into 15 minute spells.
Fellaini was perhaps lucky to escape a booking early on for some rough stuff aimed at Mike Skinner tribute act Jack Wilshere whilst – despite the best efforts of Arteta – Darron Gibson just about stayed on the pitch after some tangles with Wilshere and Arteta. To be fair to the Spaniard, we didn’t mind him buying fouls and being a snide when he played for us! Overall we defended resolutely with Jagielka and Coleman particularly impressive in what was a high intensity tussle.
On the ball
On the ball, our own pass completion was decent, in the first half peaking at 83% with us having more of the ball (50.3%) than the Gunners which is well up on our usual stats against the top sides when we tend to be more subservient.
In the second half Arsenal turned the screw more, eventually finishing the game with 57% of the ball as we sat deeper but failed to instigate as many counter attacks as we did at Spurs.
Anichebe endured a frustrating afternoon and didn’t really hold the ball up and bring in the wide attacking midfielders as he should have done with MIrallas and Barkley only receiving one pass each from the Nigerian. Overall he received 24 balls which led to just 9 passes, with just 5 completed successfully.
The display of Ross Barkley in his ‘favoured’ role was one of the most promising aspects of the game going forward and he was more effective at linking the play than Anichebe.
Barkley received the most passes from Fellaini (7) and played in Mirallas (6) the most. His pass completion (86%) was well up on the 50% he posted vs Spurs and only bettered by Distin and Gibson (88%). He also made the joint most shots, through balls and key passes with his sumptuous slide pass to Anichebe in the first half and his long range effort in the second our most threatening ‘moments’ in the game.
This was a decent effort by the Blues in a game which was at its best in the first half. Overall we didn’t really create a lot of chances, particularly in the second half of the game when Arsenal overturned the passing figures which we shaded in the first half. The point doesn’t really do much for us but given our shocking record against Arsenal and in the context of the pressure they put us under in the second half, this was a point gained rather than two lost.