Friday, December 2, 2011

There Are Other Arsenal Players

Jesus Christ, it's been a solid month! I knew going in that getting a new job would keep me from blogging as regularly, but not to this degree. I'm sorry to all of my fan. Anywho, a lot has happened in the past month, but I'd like to focus on what has been happening at Arsenal.

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
Total 121.85 106.12
31.33% 36.00% 58.92

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.

-Gambling Picks: I like West Brom over QPR at 2/1. They've both had a tough schedule over the past few weeks, but I think West Brom is a better team. The longshot? Villa over Man U at 4/1.

-What to Watch: I guess Sam Allardyce has been gone for a while, but it still sounds weird to recommend watching Bolton. Nevertheless, Bolton and Spurs are both among the most entertaining teams in the league, so watch their clash.

-Outlier of the year: Fulham vs. Tottenham. Fulham had 13 shots on goal to Tottenham's 5, 31 shots to 9, and 54% of possession...and lost. And not just lost, but lost 3-1! At home! And their one goal wasn't even a shot on goal, it was a Tottenham own goal! 13 shots on goal and NONE went in the net, that is futility my friends! I need to stop using exclamation points!

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