Written by Double98
Robin van Persie, the balon d’or snubbed, true king of world football, has been reeling in the plaudits for his exceptional scoring feats in 2011. By eclipsing Thierry Henry’s mark of 34 goals in a calendar year, and particularly by playing in a less competitive and more transitional team, he has booked himself a seat in the waiting room of the Pantheon of Arsenal Greats.
Of course he has to repeat the feat a couple of times and win a pot or two to get past the final interview stage to join Bastin, Wright, Adams etc as they all bask in the glow of eternal goodness of Denis Bergkamp and his able Deputy Thierry Henry.
Of course it has been easy for the press to label Arsenal a “one man team” when one man is always on the score sheet, when one man is always applying an audacious flourish to his finish. That’s lazy journalism. Judging Arsenal in that way is like buying a car because of how fast it goes. You need to know a lot more about a car and its vulnerabilities before you can decide whether to buy it or not.
Arsenal’s true vulnerability is that it is not a One Man team – one man teams are easy to address with 1 or 2 signings – it is in fact a Four Man team.
Since the season began the team has had a few chiropractic realignments due to the loss of Fabregas and now the spine is populated by (Keeper aside) Vermaelan, Arteta, Song and Van Persie.
An easy way to judge a person’s contribution is to compare how the team do with and without them. It’s not conclusive but outside of a clinical setting, its as moneyball as you get.
The Raw data
I’ve included two substitute appearances for Vermaelan and van Persie. So the first thing that leaps out is RVP has yet to miss a game – that’s startling given his history.
Arteta despite concerns over his fitness had played every game bar one, Song is almost ever present – while the Verminator’s attendance is a concern.
Moving on to the data analysis, the teams results are examined on each players participation record.
(Now before you get to digest the next bit, I want to let you in on a secret – this article started about a three man team and I thought I would see how our new Spanish Scouser impacted the team – it forced a complete rewrite!!)
According to this when Arteta is playing, we win 65% of our games and only lose less than 1 in 4. Van Persie on the other hand (likely due to his ever presence) has the worst team record but his personal haul is exceptional!
Vermaelan’s record is strange as he has the lowest win and (almost) the lowest loss ratio.
Now, I am not suggesting that RVP is not vitally important but I think this quick number crunch highlights the shared responsibility of our spine. And I know there are mitigating factors left (back), right (back) and Centre (forward) but the truth (or the damned lie) is, that our “Quarter Back” central midfielder, Arteta is our MVP and his contribution most dictates the fortunes of the team – through dictating the tempo and controlling possession.
Altogether the spine is our greatest strength and perhaps our greatest weakness. For when one part of the spine is missing the whole team does not function. See here when all four play / don’t play.
Wow – We’ve lost half our games that the 4 of these players did not play in, whereas we have not lost 90% when they have.
We can moan about Left Backs, Right backs, and Chamakhs, we can complain about Squillaci, Arshavin and Walcott but our real problem is an over reliance on the 4 players playing together though the centre of our team. That level of consistency is not feasible over a season. If they could, get this, projecting their performance out over a 38 game season would result in a points haul of 84 but when one or more of the four are playing the haul is 48. That’s quite a swing. In fact that’s the difference between a Title and a relegation flirtation.
When 2 of the four are missing its Pld 4 W 0 D1 L3!!!
That just shows how close / far away we are from realising Arsene’s vision and all our hopes.
What we need is Koscielny, Mertesacker, Wilshere, Coquelin and (Park, Chamakh, Walcott, OX) to either fill the gaps in that spine adequately or ship out.
Our young players need to concentrate on being not just good, but vital.