It is Friday, but the Decoding The Weekend column is back! In addition to our weekend review columns that go out every Monday, we will also start previewing some big fixtures every Friday as we now have a vague idea of what to expect from most teams. Using data and insights from our analytics platform, xvalue.ai, we have picked out some key details in three big games this weekend.
🏴 Premier League: Arsenal vs. Manchester United
The headline Premier League fixture of the weekend sees last season’s runners-up Arsenal take on Manchester United, for whom pre-season excitement seems to have petered out. The Gunners will not be in the highest of spirits either having conceded a very late equaliser against the 10 men of Fulham last weekend, so this is a match no one will want to lose.
An intriguing tactical theme to follow will be how Manchester United press Arsenal’s build-up. While Erik ten Hag always likes his side to try and win the ball back high up the pitch, the structures and systems he employs have often been questionable.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have been quite flexible with how they build up this season. Depending on the number of players the opposition commit to their press, they have alternated between a 3-2 and 3-1 base structure. Thomas Partey (#5) has been their first-choice right-back so far, as he can either invert into midfield or push up out wide to change shape. His average position in their pass network so far indicates that.
- Field Tilt: 71% – 62%
- Counters npxG %: 0.86 – 0.0
- BDP: 5.6 – 1.8
- Def. event height (m): 41 – 29
Takeaway: In a battle between two teams that like to keep possession and create chances by building up patiently, Manchester United’s inferior high press may cost them.
🇫🇷 Ligue 1: Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain
The hosts have gotten off to a horrific start to the season as they have just one point from three games. They’ve only managed to score a couple of goals while letting six in at the other end, so they have problems all over the pitch.
PSG, meanwhile, seem to be on the up after a slow start. A goalless draw against Lorient followed by a 1-1 result at Toulouse was somewhat concerning, but as Kylian Mbappé got going with his first start of the season against Lens, they looked a lot better.
Unless Lyon get their act together, this could get ugly.
- npxG per 90: 0.87 – 1.70
- npxGA per 90: 1.74 – 0.36
- xGD per 90: -0.88 – 1.34
- xPoints per match: 0.77 – 2.35
Takeaway: If Lyon play anything like they have in their first three matches, they could get easily blown away.
🇪🇸 La Liga: Atlético Madrid vs. Sevilla
The Europa League champions are in an even worse state than Lyon on paper as they have lost each of their three games so far, but their underlying numbers are somewhat less concerning. The trouble for them, though, is the fact that they have struggled in matches where they have been allowed to dominate possession and territory.
The reason that this is a problem is that this is exactly what Atlético Madrid will want to do. Just this Monday, they put seven past Rayo Vallecano while giving up a big share of possession. Sevilla’s weakness seems to play into Atlético Madrid’s strength, so this could be another good day for Diego Simeone’s side.
Lille seem to have all the pieces in place to enjoy a pretty successful campaign in 2023/24, but their execution needs to get much better.
- Field Tilt: 62% – 46%
- Counters npxG %: 16 – 3.5
- Counters npxGA %: 0 – 7.1
- xGD per 90: 1.28 – -0.46
Takeaway: Sevilla have struggled against counterattacks while keeping more possession while Atlético Madrid have looked deadly in this exact manner, so they should be heavy favourites for this game.
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About the Author: Neel Shelat
Neel Shelat is a self-styled missionary of the religion of football. With an unwavering passion for the game, he spreads the word about football from all corners of the world through in-depth features, profiles, analyses, and podcasts. Over the span of three years, Neel has established himself as a prominent freelance journalist and analyst. His insightful contributions have graced platforms like Al Jazeera, Forbes Sports, among many others. If you wish to stay updated with his latest insights and thoughts, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShelatNeel.
This series of articles is a collaborative effort between Neel Shelat, Soccerment Research, and the xvalue Team.