Since my latest post, Arsenal have played really well. They had a five game win streak snapped with last week's draw with Fulham. The reason for their success? Everybody in the media will tell you it is Robin Van Persie. The accusation that Arsenal are a one-man team has been reinforced by the spectacular failure of their other strikers to actually score, which is the most important part of any striker. However, I'd like to point out some significant holes in this idea.
First of all, I think people are forgetting that this is not the first year Robin Van Persie was good. He averaged a goal a game last year, albeit in less than half a season. His strike rate was better than anyone in the league on a per-game basis, proving that he is a world-class talent, if a little injury prone. I think he is one of the best players in the league and I'm not belittling his contribution.
Still, he is not the only person responsible for Arsenal's recent success. Let's look at some numbers shall we? Here is the efficiency table for Arsenal, the top numbers being over their last six games and the bottom for the entire season:
|Off Eff||Def Eff||FR||Opp FR||Possession|
|Last Six Weeks||130.35||73.46||38.10%||37.50%||59.67|
As you can see, Arsenal's Finish Rate has indeed gone up, meaning that more of their chances are being taken. That is probably attributable to Van Persie, true. But what jumps out at me is the Defensive Efficiency number of 73.46, meaning that Arsenal's opponents are having a lot of trouble creating chances even after normalizing possession. This defensive efficiency increase has led to Arsenal conceding .6 fewer goals per game over this stretch. Van Persie's finishing exploits over this period have garnered an increase in the Goals For column of the same amount and everyone is talking about it, but the defensive improvements have not merited comment.
Of course, the real story behind Arsenal's success (stop me if you've heard this before) is that they've played an easy schedule. Four home games and only one team in the top half of the table. Most people have been saying they would have been toast without Van Persie in these past few weeks; I counter those were the weeks they actually would have survived his absence.