Tactical Snapshot: Reliable Ramsdale & Rampant Rice
Our data analysts dive into Stats Perform’s advanced metrics to pull out the key tactical snapshots from the latest Premier League action. Data visualizations, AI models and the occasional Arsenal bias can all be guaranteed, as Jonny Whitmore and the team dive into the numbers each week.
It’s hard not to start with Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale. His man of the match performance against Leicester City on Saturday drew huge plaudits, including Peter Schmeichel who called his save from James Maddison’s freekick “one of the best saves he’s seen for years”.
Ramsdale’s eight saves against Leicester prevented 2.4 goals, according to our expected goals on target (xGOT) model. This is more than any other goalkeeper has prevented in a Premier League game since Alex McCarthy shut-out Manchester City in the late stages of the 2019-20 season.
While his saves and attitude throughout the game understandably drew the most recognition, his passing and distribution enabled Arsenal to beat Leicester’s press with relative ease. Only Thomas Partey (45) attempted more passes in the game for Arsenal than Ramsdale (42).
While a number of his longer passes overran into the opposition half, the most notable ones were the three arrowed to the feet of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette near the halfway line that instantly bypassed the pressing Leicester midfield and forwards.
A passing range like this is important for Arsenal’s ability to build out patiently from the back. When he plays, Lacazette is a frequent outlet to feet in these situations and Aubameyang did this to great effect on Saturday too.
The penetration of these passes is evident in the number of opposition players that they bypassed. Only Jonny Evans (137) was able to bypass more players with his passing than Ramsdale (134).
15 of his passes (including the three up to the halfway line) bypassed at least five players. This progression from the back far exceeded his Arsenal teammates, with Thomas Partey and Gabriel the next closest with five of these passes each.
From deep positions, players have more opportunities to bypass opposition players, but it is often these passes that evade the press that have the most value in leading to goalscoring opportunities.
We spoke about the increasing importance for goalkeepers to be feature in the attacking build-up for their sides in last week’s Tactical Snapshot. Ramsdale has already been involved in eight sequences that have ended in a shot in the Premier League this season.
With passing like this, it’s only a matter of time before Ramsdale is involved in the build-up to an Arsenal goal this season.
Daniel Storey spoke about Declan Rice as England’s all-action, multi-functional holding midfielder in an article on The Analyst at the end of last season.
He put in another assured performance on Sunday for West Ham United, with a goal and an assist in their 4-1 away win at Aston Villa. He’s now got six goal involvements for the Hammers in 2021-22 already (three goals, three assists), which is already his best ever return in a single season for the club.
Rice’s assurance in possession has been unmistakeable this season too. In the Premier League, he has completed 91.8% of his passes. Only Rodri (91.9%) has a higher success rate amongst midfielders with 500+ passes attempted.
The 22-year-old midfielder has been very vocal about his intentions to get into more advanced positions for West Ham. His attacking output this season reflects this, but he has actually found himself taking more touches in deeper positions this season too.
Initially, this may lead you to assume that Rice has been playing more defensively this season. However, it also clear that he has been taking more touches in advanced areas too.
Rice has actually increased his overall involvement in matches for the Hammers this season. In the Premier League, Rice has taken an average of 75 touches per 90, a 23% increase in touches compared to last season (61 touches per 90).
The England international is an essential cog in David Moyes’ machine at West Ham. Only Aaron Creswell has been involved in a higher percentage of their open-play sequences (34%) than Rice (29%).
Comparing this to last season, Rice was the fourth highest ranked player in the West Ham squad, getting involved in just 21% of open-play sequences.
It is not only the frequency of his involvement here that is important. He is also recovering the ball for West Ham more than anyone else, ranking fourth in the Premier League this season for starting the most sequences in open play (140).
While recovering the ball is one skill, Rice is then able to initiate attacking moves from these situations. Only Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and Everton’s Allan have started more sequences that have ended in shots (15) than Rice this season (14).
It is this combination of defensive shrewdness and subsequent composure on the ball to play forwards that fans of David Moyes’ former team, Manchester United, may wish they had at the base of their midfield this season.
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