Wigan Fiasco – Stats and Charts Tell the Story

While doing the match preview I’d mentioned that we just don’t have the personnel to continue with the same formation. I’d also said Arsene is likely to continue with his system and will play Eastmond in the DM role.

In fairness and with the benefit of hindsight, we could have won this game even with the youngster in the team. Wigan are so bad defensively that an Arsenal team with only two or three first choice players managed to get a comfortable two goal lead. The problem however, was always going to be in defence.

Let’s look at some stats and charts that explain why we were so hopeless.

The following image shows the average positions of players on the pitch.

Source: The Telegraph

As you can see Eastmond was the only midfielder playing really close to the defence. Diaby and Nasri are pretty high up. When we have Song or even Denilson in this role this is pretty normal and it works against smaller teams. But with the youngster in there, we had absolutely no way of playing the ball out of defence through the middle.

If we look at the passing statistics, Eastmond made a total of 31 passes out of which 30 were successful. That’s nearly a 100% success rate and can easily mislead us into believing he did well. The fact was, and you could see this during the game, that no one really wanted to pass to him unless he was completely free in acres of space. This made his passing easier but completely screwed our passing game.

It got worse because Diaby made only 26 passes with 22 successful ones. He should have been much deeper supporting Eastmond. I don’t know what instructions were given to the Frenchman but he was completely useless on the pitch.

If you want some perspective on these numbers consider this, against Tottenham Denilson made 65 passes and Diaby 63. That’s more than the total of Eastmond and Diaby in this game. Similar numbers can be seen in other games as well.

To me it highlights the importance of the DM taking the ball out of defence and moving it forward. Even Campbell and Silvestre had almost as many passes as Eastmond. Just goes to show that by playing the youngster Arsene completely killed our midfield.

Most of the times we got the ball out of defence via the wings. This is evident from the fact that Sagna, Clichy, Rosicky and Nasri all have more passes than either of the two deeper midfielders.

We could still have won the lackadaisical encounter but for our loss of focus. After the two goals we just started kicking the ball upfield and even the movement on the wings came to a standstill.

The following image shows our passing chart for the last twenty minutes.

Source: Guardian Chalkboards

It would be easy to mistake it for the passing of a relegation contender.

It seems to me that Bendtner’s presence evokes a false sense of security in our players who feel their job is done if they hoof the ball up to him. The Dane won a few balls but our midfield was almost always in no man’s land so he just didn’t have any support.

Wigan pushed into our half and pressurised us. We hoofed the ball at every opportunity. Our midfield pushed forward following each long punt. Unfortunately, before they got forward we lost possession and the ball would be back in our defensive third with the midfield completely out of position. This led to constant pressure on the defence and they hoofed it to relieve the pressure. The cycle continued.

The telling statistic is that during this period, 71-90 mins, Eastmond made 1 pass and Diaby 3. Just proves what I’ve been saying about our midfield being in no man’s land and not supporting the defence.

In my match report I mentioned that our defenders were not at fault. I know they made some mistakes. But when the back four is under pressure for so long without any support from the midfield they are bound to crack.

After the match Arsene mentioned that he could see we were not focused.

No, I never thought the game was over. I saw that we were having difficulties keeping the ball and creating opportunities.

I was concerned before they even scored. We were comfortable, but we lost focus, discipline, and we were caught. It was not like us

It’s not rocket science. Anyone could see that we were all over the place. The bigger question is why didn’t we do anything about it? Le Boss could have instructed Diaby and Nasri to fall deeper, he could have brought on Traore for the tiring Rosicky, Eboue for Walcott or Bendtner, and he could have asked them to stay close to the defence.

What’s the point of bringing Merida on when we were clearly struggling and our defence was crying out for support?! What’s the point of Eboue coming on and running all over the pitch?! In the first image, if you look at his average position it is somewhere you’d expect a left winger to be. All this while Sagna was clearly struggling with a fresher and faster Moses!!


We shot ourselves in the foot by playing Eastmond. I’m not criticizing the youngster. It’s not his fault that he was thrown into the deep end but his presence, or should I say lack of presence, left us exposed.

Arsene got the tactics completely wrong and even when he could see the danger his decision making was inexplicable. The players should be getting instructions from the bench when things are not being done right. We also have to make substitutions that make some sense and the players coming on must have specific instructions.

We need an alternate formation with a better organized midfield to support the defence. The 4-3-3 is good when we have players like Vermaelen, Song, Cesc, et al in the team. It’s a disaster waiting to happen with Fabianski, Silvestre, Eastmond and Diaby.

It’s easy to point the finger at Fabianski or the defenders. Fact remains, blaming the keeper or the defence won’t solve our problems.

22 Responses to Wigan Fiasco – Stats and Charts Tell the Story

  1. nice analysis, desi 😉

  2. awail says:

    are u the new wenger with your stats

  3. harryo says:

    diaby should not be disgracing the shirt, not eastmond.he played all right. i was at the match. diaby walked about the pitch putting zero effort in. have you got the stats for that. diabys stealing the supporters hard earned money and that is unforgivable. at least sylvestre ,crap that he is put some effort in. fuk off diaby and disgrace some other club you lazy thieving muppet

    • desigunner says:

      Yes Diaby was quite poor as I’ve mentioned. What I don’t know is whether he had instructions to be higher up or to be near Eastmond. That would tell us more about what went wrong.

  4. arvind says:

    Excellent analysis but I think the issue is more fundamental. It happened when the team started lagging. All of a sudden, a big question mark appeared after wigan started scoring.

    In other words, the team did not do enough do defend as a unit and also had no plan as to counter the attacks by wigan. The issue is 2 fold I feel.

    first, its the mentality and fighting spirit to not give up at all. The players were shell shocked and looked clueless and dejected. Its not that they are not capable or mentally powering up. SEe how we responded after AR broke his leg!

    second, its the lack of knowing how to play team defense. We need a shell around the back four I agree and no one was wanting to do that. I saw nasri and TR7 way too high up the pitch all too often. Diaby was dribbling way too much into traffic.

    I feel if the players had the fight in them it would be half the battle. Using their skills to read the game and drop deep seems like a no brainer but to this lot,,,they just do not get it.

    • desigunner says:

      Part of our problems are definitely psychological but that is very difficult to understand without knowing the individuals personally.

      What surprises me most is that we tend to drop collectively. If one odd player is having a bad game or switches off it’s understandable, but our whole team goes to sleep.

  5. dan says:

    Desi, a well laid out argument. There are too many weak spots in the team, and when there are one too many weak spots the entire game plan breaks down.

    These things will happen to any team but again the proper adjustments and replacements were not available.

    If we continue to have injuries, which I believe we will and we continue to have replacements who are clearly not ready to play in the premiership(not to mention some of our starting eleven), what are we doing exactly when we talk about winning the league — we are just bullshitting ourselves. A team should have a plan b and a plan c if it expects to win something. I think it’s fair to say we’ve no intention of winning anything.

    • desigunner says:

      I completely agree that we need a plan b and c.

      Regarding the intention to win, well if the players had played anywhere close to their potential we’d have won our last two games. So the manager is justified in believing in them.

      When they don’t deliver the manager needs to really think about his options. A plan b or c comes in handy when the team isn’t playing at the level they should be. I’m hoping Wenger gets a chance to think about it during the summer.

  6. arvind says:

    The more I see how we fare with out Cesc the more I realize how utterly important he is for this team. All creativity and tracking back to help on D are non existant now.

    I think what we need is a true defensive coach. Tony Adams, where are you??????

    Does anyone know if AFC has a defensive coach or is this just Wenger?

  7. Steven says:

    Its Wenger’s fault if you ask me. How can you try to treat this players as if you had the Invincibles at their peak? These are young, inexperienced players remember? The same excuses you’ve given for their laziness and sloppiness in the last three years and yet you refuse to get tough with them in training and during matches?

    You stay at that touch line and scream at that fumbling Diaby, the pace-and-nothing-else Walcott, the lazy gum-chewing Bendtner, reversing Silvestre and a driving-runs-with-no-end-products Eboue. Constantly call even the top ones like Fabregas, Arshavin or TV to the touch line and repeat instructions or add new ones about their performances;they need it but to leave them without close guidance especially in big matches has been nothing short of suicide missions!

    I will never trust these players if I were Wenger; they’ve disappointed for three seasons now and yet he doesnt get it: for this set of players, you only stop shouting when they have EARNED the right to play with little or no supervision.

    As in the real homes, you shout at, correct, rebuke and keep a close monitor on your kids so they can stay focused and grow up right. As they grow older, the close monitoring, rebukes, and corrections ease up because they now know some things by heart. If these players call Wenger a ‘father’, he’s certainly being a very bad ‘parent’ if you ask me.

    By contrast, I’ve seen SAF shout at Evans repeatedly during the match against Milan;he kept shouting at the lad until Evans got it right. AW’s major failure has been his failure to teach these players how to defend, how to respond to big game pressures, how to play for pride against rivals just like Man Utd did against City.

    Question: Should Fabregas seal his dream move to Barca today, will he do more or less defensive work? I can assure you they’ll make him work his socks off. If he fails to put in enough, he losses his place; ask Henry. So why isn’t Wenger insisting he, and other players do so now? These players are so complacent in their defending its so pathetic.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not sure Arsene is the type who can shout at people. It might be better if he has a number 2 who could do that.

  8. ATLen says:

    This is the best post I’ve seen about this disasterous match.

    • Ash says:

      I agree- a really good post that doesn’t just moan about how poor we are or about our lack in depth. Really interesting statistics concerning the positioning of certain players. The defensive midfield position remains a problem area. Song has been one of the players of the season but we have no alternative when he is out. Why we got rid of diarra to Pompey was incredulous as he is the makalele type player we need. I hope Wenger goes for a Blaise matuidi type player in the transfer window but he will probably bury his head in the sand and stick with the inconsistent Diaby! Thanks for the excellent post.

  9. Desi, whats wid wenger who looks too passive when the chips r down thers in no guidance or suave tactical
    changes the wenger of old never did that we go wid one game plan nd if it fails we r doomed now it looks like we have regressed from last season

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t know, frankly. Arsene can clearly see the problems. His post match comments perfectly summarize what went wrong. But when it comes to taking action to set things right, we don’t see much.

  10. Jim says:

    What utter nonsense, Eastmond was our best midfielder against Wigan and dare I say best player.

    He played his role to almost perfection, and didn’t put a foot wrong.

    The kid has a big future here, the blame should be pointing at the Nasri’s, Sagna’s and Diaby’s.

  11. AJ says:

    I think the analysis is pretty good, apart from laying the blame on eastmond.. its not his fault players didnt pass to him, and its not his fault Diaby and Nasri played so far away from him that there was never a clear pass he could make to them.

    It was so obvious during the second half that we had lost our shape, so blindingly obvious that Nasri was far too high up the pitch and that Diaby was playing like a schoolboy all over the pitch with no thought what so ever. This is what makes the substitutions absolutely galling.. they made no sense at all. And Wenger was perfectly happy to shout at the officials for god knows what, but couldnt bring himself to actually direct any of his anger at his players, or give them some sort of useful instruction.. you know like a manager should do when things go wrong.

    Even when things where going wrong, we still had the players on the park and the bench to sort this mess out, the fact that we didnt tells me that only one man is to blame for this defeat and that is Wenger.

    • desigunner says:

      I think Nasri was forced to stay higher up the pitch because we kept hoofing the ball. Nasri was anyway supposed to be the most advanced of the midfielders. Can’t say the same for Diaby, don’t really know what he was doing in this game.

  12. Ole Gunner says:

    What weird analyses. Not trying to be hyper-critical.

    “As you can see Eastmond was the only midfielder playing really close to the defence. Diaby and Nasri are pretty high up”.

    That’s normal. That’s how we play in every single game including in previous games we won with Eastmond in the side. How many players do you want playing the holding role? 4?

    If anything, what that chart shows us is that we sat too deep, especially the 2 full backs who’d normally have an average touch position closer to the half way line.

    Also, you can’t aim to prove we couldn’t pass out of defence by showing that Eastmond completed most of his passes.

    “It seems to me that Bendtner’s presence evokes a false sense of security in our players who feel their job is done if they hoof the ball up to him”.

    If you look closely you’ll see that the so-called hoofs were goal kicks.

    • desigunner says:

      The statement that Eastmond was the only player close to the defence is a matter of fact statement.

      If I were the manager I’d have one more midfielder really close to him or even behind him. i.e. swap positions of Diaby and Eastmond. Simply because he isn’t ready to play that role. 1 pass in the final 20 minutes when we were really under pressure, 3 out of 8 successful tackles in the whole game and only 1 in the final 20 minutes from a guy supposed to be DM and closest to the defence!! That is decent proof that the guy had no clue what to do. It’s not his fault – the fault was to give him the responsibility when he just isn’t ready.

      Eastmond completed most of his passes is another matter of fact statement. In itself it doesn’t prove anything. You have to see it in the context of other details and what you’ve seen on the pitch.

      The full backs were deep which corroborates what I said about moving the ball out of the wings and not through the middle. Add to this most of the second half where they had to stay deep because the midfield never got into right positions to help out. It would have been a disaster if they’d pushed forward.

      Only half the hoofs are goal kicks. And there is something called clearances which to the best of my understanding are not shown in passes and which were long, aimless punts by defenders.

      The simple fact that there was hardly any attempt to play the ball on the ground can be seen from the 1 pass by Eastmond and 3 by Diaby. The ball kept coming into our defensive third and the midfield barely touched it. Nasri touched it mostly around half way line or further forward. So you have to wonder how the ball reached there!? It was hoofed.

      Even our goal kicks are often played short. In this game there was no hope of doing that towards the end.

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