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Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes enhanced by bodily edge and set-piece menace forward of Liverpool showdown | Soccer Information

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Roberto De Zerbi supplied no excuses for Brighton’s defeat on the Emirates Stadium on Sunday however he was keen to emphasize the standard of their opponent. “I feel Arsenal are among the finest, possibly this season the most effective staff within the Premier League,” he mentioned. 

It was a daring declare and it was attention-grabbing to listen to his logic. What’s it that makes this Arsenal facet so tough to play in opposition to? The primary phrases De Zerbi reached for in response have been “vitality” and “highly effective”. “We misplaced each second ball. We misplaced each duel.”

Brighton couldn’t compete bodily, in different phrases, and they don’t seem to be the primary facet to be overwhelmed by Arsenal recently. “Sure, they’ve good gamers,” famous former Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom. “However there’s a actual edge to them as effectively.”

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Watch highlights from Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Brighton

Rice, Havertz assist urgent recreation

The additions of Declan Rice and Kai Havertz have made a distinction. Their stature immediately made Arsenal a extra imposing staff and the duo have helped enhance their urgent recreation too.

The win over Brighton confirmed how. Mikel Arteta loves Havertz’s skill to win duels. In dialog with Sky Sports activities lately, the Arsenal boss additionally talked up the 24-year-old’s “soccer intelligence”. Mixed, they’re invaluable qualities out of possession.

With Havertz urgent centrally together with Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard, Arsenal have been in a position to disrupt Brighton’s build-up and pin De Zerbi’s facet in their very own half for lengthy durations. “We aren’t used to struggling on this approach,” mentioned the Brighton boss afterwards.

In response to Opta, Arsenal gained possession within the remaining third 11 occasions – their second-highest whole in a Premier League recreation this season and as excessive as they managed in any recreation in the entire of final time period.

There’s additional proof of elevated off-the-ball aggression within the reality Arsenal are permitting considerably fewer opposition passes per defensive motion, from 10.8 final season, placing them sixth, to 9.7 this season, shifting them as much as second.


Superior metrics defined

Shot-ending excessive turnovers: Sequences that begin in open play, start inside 40m of the opponent’s objective, and finish in a shot.

Pressed sequences: The variety of occasions the staff breaks opposition passing sequences at three or fewer passes by way of a defensive motion inside 40m of the opponent’s objective.

Passes per defensive motion (PPDA): The quantity of passes an opposing facet is allowed in between makes an attempt to win the ball via tackles, closing down, or different defensive actions.

Progress in opposition to:The typical quantity of distance (in metres) {that a} staff permits its opponents to maneuver upfield per passing sequence.

Havertz’s bodily prowess has helped make Arsenal much more tough to play via and his contribution to their urgent recreation is clear within the information. He’s making 23 pressures per 90 minutes this season. Against this, Granit Xhaka, the participant he has changed in Arsenal’s midfield, made solely 13 per 90 minutes final time period.

Rice, although, has arguably been extra essential, making certain that, even when an opponent is ready to choose their well past Arsenal’s press, they face one other vital impediment.

Rice has the athleticism to defend open areas and his knack for mopping up hazard behind Arsenal’s ahead line has already grow to be a function of the facet’s play this season.

Along with his pace and energy, Rice boasts very good anticipation, usually positioning himself precisely the place he must be to smother assaults and preserve Arsenal’s opponents on the again foot.

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Mikel Arteta explains Declan Rice’s ‘distinctive’ presence to Sky Sports activities

In response to Opta’s superior metrics, Arsenal at the moment are the best facet within the Premier League in the case of limiting their opponents’ progress upfield and that’s exactly Arteta’s intention.

“Greater than management, I need dominance,” he added to Sky Sports activities. “Dominance in the appropriate space and never permitting the opponent to breathe. We wish the opponent to really feel below stress always.”

Rice and Havertz have helped Arsenal obtain that dominance extra persistently and it’s not simply an offensive weapon. Helped by pinning their opponents again and limiting their scoring possibilities, Arsenal have the most effective defensive report within the division this season.

Together with Rice, the Brighton recreation confirmed the worth of getting a strong and aggressive centre-back pairing in William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, with the latter, specifically, making certain striker Evan Ferguson was given no time or house to carry the ball up.

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Sky Sports activities’ Gary Neville explains why he sees Arsenal as Man Metropolis’s solely title challengers

Set-piece menace enhanced

Arsenal’s elevated physicality additionally shines via on set-pieces. Their opener in opposition to Brighton, scored by Gabriel Jesus following a Bukayo Saka nook, was their tenth set-piece objective this season.

It’s the joint-highest whole within the division, along with Everton’s, and means Arsenal are already two-thirds of the way in which to matching their whole for the entire of the final marketing campaign.

Arsenal are a tall staff. Rice and Havertz are threats from dead-ball conditions however so too are Saliba, Gabriel, Ben White, and Takehiro Tomiyasu, amongst others. “In fact, the peak is de facto essential on set-plays,” mentioned Arteta after the Brighton recreation.

However peak is not any assure of success. Quite, Arsenal are indebted to the efforts of set-piece coach Nicolas Jover, who has labored with their takers in addition to these tasked with getting on the tip of deliveries, fastidiously choreographing each side of their routines.

“The takers are getting higher and higher,” added Arteta. “They’re understanding the place to assault in relation to what the opponent does effectively. Huge credit score to the coaches for the work they’ve finished – and large credit score to the gamers as effectively for getting into that and understanding how essential that is within the recreation.”

Arsenal’s assault has not been at its most fluid at occasions this season. Their prime scorers within the Premier League are Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah with solely 5 targets apiece.

Nicolas Jover joined Mikel Arteta's coaching staff in 2021
Nicolas Jover joined Mikel Arteta’s teaching employees in 2021

However the facet’s elevated menace from set-pieces has helped offset that inconsistency and, whereas penalties are categorised individually from set-piece targets, it’s price noting, too, that Arsenal have scored all six of their spot-kicks this time period – and that with 4 totally different takers in Odegaard, Saka, Havertz and Fabio Vieira.

It’s one other issue which displays effectively on the work overseen by Jover and there’s extra proof of dead-ball enchancment in how Arsenal are defending these conditions in addition to attacking them.

Luton brought about them issues within the recreation at Kenilworth Street lately, scoring twice from corners, however Arsenal have solely conceded one different objective from a set-piece all season within the Premier League.

They’ve restricted their opponents to solely 23 set-piece photographs – 12 fewer than some other facet – and their whole for anticipated targets in opposition to from set-pieces can be the bottom within the division at solely 2.18.

This robustness from dead-ball conditions isn’t a trait usually related to Arsenal however it’s one other space wherein their elevated measurement and stature is making a distinction.

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Paul Merson provides his verdict on whether or not Arsenal can win the title

Elevated emphasis on crossing

Arsenal have sought to faucet into their elevated physicality by diversifying the way in which they assault. With higher targets to intention at within the field, they’re placing far larger emphasis on crossing.

The numbers illustrate the extent of the change. Final season, Arsenal ranked tenth within the Premier League for tried crosses and even decrease, down in 14th, for profitable crosses.

This time period, nevertheless, they’re third for crosses, behind Everton and Luton, and second for profitable crosses, behind solely Liverpool. They’re making roughly 40 per cent greater than final season.


It’s not only a results of their enchancment from set-pieces, both. Arsenal are crossing significantly extra from open play too, rating third, behind Aston Villa and Brentford, for profitable open-play crosses, up from fifteenth final season.

The result’s that Arsenal have scored extra cross-assisted targets (9) than some other Premier League facet this season. In addition they cleared the path for headed targets, with eight.

It’s one other space wherein their new signings have helped.

Together with his last-gasp header from Odegaard’s supply in opposition to Luton and his back-post end following a nook in opposition to Manchester United, Rice accounts for 2 of their cross-assisted targets.

Kai Havertz celebrates after scoring Arsenal's second goal
Kai Havertz has now scored 4 Premier League targets for Arsenal

Havertz, in the meantime, accounts for one in all them due to his close-range header from Saka’s diagonal supply to clinch the win over Brentford on the Gtech Group Stadium. He had an identical effort dominated out within the latest defeat to Aston Villa.

It’s price noting that each one of these examples got here within the latter phases of video games. In opposition to cussed opponents, when Arsenal must conjure a objective in opposition to massed ranks of defenders sitting behind the ball, they now have a distinct weapon to make use of.

It is only one of some ways wherein the bodily prowess famous by De Zerbi on Sunday helps. The hope for Arsenal is that they see the distinction once more once they head to Anfield this weekend.

Watch Liverpool vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm

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