Arsenal in Europe's top four - In which field?

Statistics show that Arsenal enjoy more of the ball than any other Premier League team, and among the top four teams in Europe.

There are no surprises for guessing which team keeps the ball better than any in Europe's top leagues - It is Barcelona who are the continent's most 'possessive' team.

But as their 7-0 aggregate embarrassment in the Champions League semi-finals at the hands of Bayern Munich showed, that alone has not got them to where they want to be.

Even earlier in the season, in their 2-1 loss to Celtic, the Spaniards enjoyed more than 80 per cent possession but could not turn the tie in their favour.

From an English perspective, the very best team at keeping possession this season is Arsenal, whose matches have seen them enjoy the ball 58.7 per cent of the time.

This is substantially less than Barcelona, 69.2 per cent, but it is still high enough of a figure to see the Gunners ranked fourth best in the whole of Europe.

The two teams between Arsenal and Barcelona are German Champions League finalists Bayern Munich in second, 63 per cent, and French side Lille, ever so slightly above Arsenal in third with 58.8 per cent.

Now the comparisons, with data from Opta's Who Scored website, are not perfect - because each team plays in a different league and against different opponents, but they offer an indication in their respective leagues, at who is the best at keeping the ball.

In the Premier League then, Arsenal obviously are the highest team in the field - followed closely by four teams.

Manchester City are on 57.9 per cent, Liverpool 57.2 per cent, Manchester United 56.3 per cent and Swansea 56 per cent. Rivals Tottenham are down in ninth with 52 per cent.

Responsible largely to Arsenal's passing success is Mikel Arteta, who has made more successful passes than any other player in the Premier League, with 2,347 - at a completion rate of 92.2 per cent.

Of course this all begs the question as to whether the Gunners are doing enough with the ball. Intriguingly Arsenal have scored the same number of goals as Tottenham from open play, 41, despite having more possession in their matches.

Clearly the Gunners could be more clinical, and if they can be in their remaining matches starting with QPR away at the weekend, a top four place in the Premier League should be firmly within their grasp.

Do you think Arsenal use their possession intelligently enough? Is their strikeforce letting them down?

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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