Arsenal’s second-half display against Watford was abysmal. The Hornets had 23 shots on goal in just 45 minutes yesterday which is an astonishing figure.
The huge dip in performance level can be explained by a number of different factors which we will examine in more detail below:
1) Emery’s famed pressing disintegrated
PPDA (Passes per Defensive Action) is the metric to show how many passes a team allows before they press to win the ball back. The Gunners averaged 9.32 passes last season before trying to get the ball back.
Against Watford in the second half, that figure was 41. It wasn’t that great in the first half either (averaging 25), but the drop off in the second 45 minutes is so severe that you have to ask what was said in the dressing room at half time.
2) A lack of composure on the ball
Watford did press a lot more in the second half. Their PPDA was an impressive 5.05 compared to just 13.36 in the first 45 minutes but that doesn’t excuse how badly Arsenal were on the ball.
They averaged just 2.39 passes per possession in the second period. In the first half, that was 7.37. It means they had five fewer passes every time they got the ball so it’s no surprise the defence was under pressure.
3) No endeavour to win challenges
The Gunners recovered the ball just 26 times in the second half. It is their lowest figure since the 3-1 capitulation to Rennes back in February, and there are certainly parallels between the two games in the way they imploded.
Even so, Arsenal went down to ten men before half time when Sokratis was sent off so there was an excuse for such a drop off in performance.
4) Conceding clear cut chances
The xG for Watford in the second 45 minutes was 2.39. That is the highest number in Unai Emery’s reign in charge. The closest figure to that was worryingly against Tottenham when they posted 2.31 in the first half of the North London derby.
This Gunners side is beginning to concede clear cut chances to opponents on a regular basis.
5) A failure to break up play
Arsenal committed just one foul in the second half despite the onslaught from Watford. It is the lowest number for any half of football this season, and considering how open the game was, it would have been sensible, in game management terms, to break up play and commit more fouls.
It suggests there was a level of naivety present on the pitch which meant the Gunners were unable to close the game down and bag the three points.