Europa League Giants
2017/18 is Arsenals first foray into the Europa League for around 20 years, with a team that made it to the second round of the Champions League last season. Chances are, therefore, that Arsenal will make a pretty good go of the competition this season.
So far this year, for example, Arsenal have scored 8 goals in their 3 Europa League games this season. Contrast this to their Premier League form, which sits at 17 goals in 9 games.
This includes two away games in Europe, which have been serious banana skins for The Gunners in the league, except for the demolition of Everton on Sunday.
Arsenal have also conceded 12 goals in their opening 9 league games, compared to 3 in 3 in the Europa League.
The question is, does this mean that Arsenal are playing particularly better in Europe, or is it simply the case that the competition is weaker?
Performing to Expectations?
Well, in their 3 games in Europe, Arsenal have conceded on average 13 shots per game, 3 more than in the Premier League.
They have also made 4 fewer tackles per game, and produce 1 less shot on target in their Europa League games. This suggests that Arsenal are indeed performing very well domestically this year so far, but that this translates to some outstanding performances in Europe.
This is why Wenger is able to rest and rotate so efficiently for midweek games this season, in comparison to Champions League years. Many youth players have been given opportunities this year, and the rehabilitation of Jack Wilshere has been made possible by trips to Red Star, rather than PSG.
The hunger and freedom with which these youth players play can be seen in the sheer number of dribbles attempted by Arsenal players in Europe. On average, this figure is 14 per game, 4 more than in the Premier League.
Wengerball is Back
This is why Arsenal are managing to score so many on Thursday nights, without playing particularly well. Free and expressive football, inspired by youth but rounded off with quality, for example the stunning goals already scored this season, by Sanchez and Giroud in particular.
Fans, myself included, were naturally disappointed when Arsenal finished 5th last year. And missing out on the glitz of the Champions League is painful every Tuesday and Wednesday. But there’s no doubt that Arsenal are playing some of their most beautiful football in years, as a result of a well-rested. youth inspired side.
The team average about 635 passes per game in Europe so far this year, compared to only 600 in the league. More importantly, Europa League games see Arsenal misplace only 78 of their passes per game, whereas in the league this figure reaches 100 per game.
While the level of competition that Arsenal have been facing so far doesn’t quite match up to Liverpool or Chelsea, there’s no doubt that Arsenal are performing admirably in Europe this season. And more importantly, it’s good to see Wengerball returning to tremendous effect.