Arsenal still dominate the Premier League with passing

Arsenal currently sit top of the Premier League two points clear after 24 games played but they often don’t get the credit they deserve for their passing.

TV pundits and analysts this term have been waxing lyrical over the play of teams like Manchester City and Liverpool but often I feel Arsenal don’t get the credit they deserve.

Perhaps that’s due to the fact the Gunners have been playing in that same style ever since Arsene Wenger arrived in 1996 with his continentally-influenced take on total football that, at the time, was completely unparalleled in England.

Maybe we take it for granted these days that Arsenal are going to dominate the midfield, dominate the possession of the game, make their triangles all over the pitch, play out from the back and keep playing through and around the opposition but we must not forget how good they are at it.

It might be their bread and butter on a Saturday afternoon at the Emirates but it’s not something a lot of teams on the planet can do with such efficiency and consistency. Perhaps only Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are as effective as Arsenal.

Manchester City have spent roughly between £700 million and £800 million over the course of the last five years importing and acquiring the players who can do what Arsenal players have been doing better than anyone else in the Premier League for almost twenty years.

Liverpool brought in Brendan Rodgers in order to get the Reds playing that style of football and all the plaudits went to the former Swansea coach as if he’d reinvented the wheel.

Yet Arsenal remain the best passers in the English game. Of the top five most accurate passers of the ball in the league so far this season, four of them are Arsenal players with between 93.1% successful pass completion and 92.4%.

PlayerTeamPass completion %Mins PlayedApps
Per Mertesacker Arsenal 93.09 1,980 22
Laurent Koscielny Arsenal 92.88 1,819 21
Mikel Arteta Arsenal 92.40 1,174 17
Mathieu Flamini Arsenal 92.38 1,134 18
Matija Nastasic Man City 91.89 1,027 13
Mamadou Sakho Liverpool 91.76 1,029 12
Ki Sung-Yueng Swansea 91.32 1,637 20

Mikel Arteta remains each and every season the most accurate passer of the ball; not only in England but often across the continent with well over 90% pass completion. Only one player has more key passes to his name this term than Mesut Ozil and that’s David Silva. Silva has 57 and Ozil has 55.

Manchester City have just one player in Silva who can achieve that level of consistency in his passing. Arsenal have at least three or four on the pitch in every game. Arsenal have no less than 13 players at present in their squad with pass completion rates of over 85% and no less than six players with over 90% completion. In fact only three Arsenal players who have played in the Premier League this term have completion rates below 80% (Olivier Giroud, Wojciech Szczesny and Yaya Sanogo).

City have four below 80% in their squad and even David Silva their best passer and playmaker has less than 90% completion. Yaya Toure works off a 90.5% rate and over at Liverpool even Luis Suarez only achieves a 76.2% completion rate at present. Steven Gerrard is on 85.6% and Coutinho is on just 78.5%.

We have watched Arsenal pass and move around teams week in week out for nearly two decades now but that is the only reason it hardly even gets a mention anymore.

They have taken 56.9% of possession across their games this term and scored 31 goals from open play, 78.7% of their goals, which is higher than any other team in the league.

Manchester City may get all the plaudits and be seen as favourites for the title but Arsenal remain the best passers in the Premier League, evidenced in no small part by their position in the table.

image: © wonker

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch