“The Invincibles” Arsenal 2003-04 Analysis (4) – Henry, Pires and Cole
How important were they?
If we consider the statistics of this left flank chain in 2003/04 season, we realised how important they were in the team. Firstly, they scored 60% of team goals. It was mainly because Henry and Pires were the top two goal scorers in the team.
Figure 1 Goal Scorers in 2003/04 Arsenal team
Secondly, they made 49% of team assists. In short, in every two goals, one of them was from the left flank assisted by one of these three players.
Figure 2 Assist makers in 2003/04 Arsenal team
In short, it showed that Arsenal 2003/04 relied heavily on the left flank to attack. The left flank attacking combination was formed by Cole (left back), Pires (left midfielder) and Henry (left striker).
Ashley Cole was an attacking-minded left back. He was good at crossing also. Firstly, 75% of his assists were made in the final 18-yard area.
Figure 3 Where Cole made assists in 2003/04 season
The following video shows the assists made by Cole.
This shows that he had the ability to make attacking runs to the final third frequently rather than staying in the midfield. Secondly, 50% of his assists were crossing. This shows that he was able to contribute for the team by delivering the ball into the box himself.
Pires was a left midfielder who drifted into central position by using his right foot. In season 2003/04, all his open play goals were scored in the central area. However, he was not the midfielder who scores goal by long shot in central area. His strength was to make attacking runs into the penalty area to score goals. 78.6% of his goals were scored in the central penalty area, 21.4% of goals were scored in zone 14.
Figure 4 Where Pires scored open play goals in 2003/04 season
The following video shows the goals scored by Pires in 2003/04.
On the other hand, he had made most of the assists in central area (57.1%). Zone 14 was Pires’s active zone because 28.6% of his assists were made in this zone.
Figure 5 Where Pires made assists in open play goals
The following video shows the open play goals assists made by Pires.
All the evidences above showed that Pires was a left midfielder who attacked mostly in the central area.
Henry was strong at attacking space behind the defence. This could be analysed by looking at the assists styles of Henry’s goals. He was good at exploiting space behind the defence because the largest proportion of his goals (30%) was come from through ball. It fitted his style as he was a fast runner. For further details about Henry, please refer to the invincibles analysis part 3.
All these three players were top players in 2003/04. More importantly, their playing styles fitted each other so that their combination made a great contribution for the team. Firstly, Pires was strong at passing through to the space behind defence. 43% of his open play assists were through ball. It fitted Henry’s strength because he was strong at attacking space behind the defensive line by his pace to score goals. The following video shows some examples of the combination of Henry’s run and Pires’s through ball.
Secondly, from the positional perspective, Pires tended to drift into central position and it gave more space for Cole to attack and make overlaps. The following video is an example of how it worked.
Thirdly, Henry was a striker who tended to stay at left flank. He had made most assists by crossing in the left flank. His style fitted Pires’s attacking runs into the central penalty area. The following video shows how they fitted each other in terms of their positions.