Manchester United’s 2020 started in a poor fashion, as Arsenal got a 2-0 in a match that used to be the most expected match of the season in early 2000s. But now it was a clash between two sides still searching for themselves. On the night, it was Arsenal who knew what they wanted and they got the match needed win, only their second league triumph since 6 October.
Yesterday we wrote about the four things we learned from this match after watching the game, but now we will consult the numbers in a more meaningful manner.
Deserved Loss Through Underlying Numbers
Looking at expected goals, we get to see the conclusion very similar to that of what we had seen by watching the game. Arsenal’s expected goals were at 1.85 whilst Man United’s stood at 0.72. There is a clear difference of more than one goal and whilst United maybe later on could have scored once, it would not have been reasonable to expected anything other than loss.
Also, it must be noted that United’s xG in first half was almost non-existent and that most of it came when the Devils were already behind and had to chase the game. It did not work out in the end.
Dribbling Shows A Lot
Using stats without watching matches is far from a good idea, but sometimes there are certain and specific moments when stats will tell you everything you need to know even without watching the match. It is not a smart idea to do, but it can happen. For example, if you watched the game yesterday, you could have seen that there were no balls coming from midfield to find the attacking trio of United’s players.
A simple stat of Nemanja Matic and Fred making 12 dribbles combined and basically topping Man United chart tells you there were not enough direct balls, through the lines, to open up spaces for Martial, Rashford and Daniel James. United do not have a clear way of playing and that can be learned just by watching the midfield patterns. That is down to the training ground.
Nicolas Pepe Does Well
Nicolas Pepe has had a lot of tough moments since joining Arsenal from Lille last summer, as many have already rushed to call him a failure. But this was his night. He scored the opening goal to put Arsenal ahead and he really enjoyed himself throughout. He was lively and dangerous, completing four out of seven dribbles on that right flank where Luke Shaw truly struggled with him.
Pepe did lose possession seven times, but that is what happens when you are risking, trying to be proactive. A really nice step forward.
Arsenal’s Pressing Surprises
And just a short thing at the end – Arsenal really surprised Man United with their energy and good pressing. That is something Mikel Arteta will continue to work on with his squad, but the way even Mesut Ozil moved around showed that Arsenal had much more desire than for the most part of the campaign.