Robin Van Persie has carried a heavy load for Arsenal this season. The many who doubted his ability to captain and lead the team have been choking on their doubts for some time. With 26 Premier League goals and another 7 in other competitions it has been a banner season for the Dutchman and he is a definite contender for Player of the Year in England.
While Van Persie has led by example from the start of the season we have seen others ramp up their form in the last few weeks.
At times Tomas Rosicky has been playing like a man possessed or at least a man looking for a new contract – something he duly signed two weeks ago. Theo Walcott and Alex Song are two others who have stepped forward to help the Arsenal cause.
But if you are looking for one area of improvement that has contributed to a tipping point in form it would be full back. The return of Bacary Sagna and Kieron Gibbs (with Andre Santos also available again) has allowed Arsenal to play with more width and has allowed the team to press the opposition higher up the park. Although it can leave the team open to counter attack the benefits at the moment far outweigh the costs.
Statistics can be used selectively and you could simply use the information from the last seven matches and draw the conclusion that Sagna and Gibbs make Arsenal a much tougher proposition. But even during Arsenal very lean spell at the start of the season the statistics support the notion that Arsenal’s results are significantly better when they line up with “proper” full backs.
Bacary Sagna has played 14 Premier League matches this season including the loss against Tottenham when he was badly injured and had to leave the game. With Sagna in the Arsenal starting line up Arsenal has gained 69% of the available points; without him the % drops to 60%.
Moving on to Kieran Gibbs the difference is even marked. Gibbs has started 10 games and has been only the losing side twice – the other starts have all resulted in wins. That comes to 80% of points gained against 57% when he has not started.
But it actually gets more interesting when you bring Andre Santos into the equation. Andre Santos has started 7 games with 5 wins, a draw and a loss – that’s a points gained percentage of 76%. Not quite as good as Gibbs but not bad either.
When we look at the games Andre Santos has not started in (that includes Gibbs 10 starts) the points gained percentage drops to 61%.
Combine the starts for Gibbs and Andre Santos in the left back position and you get a record of played 17, won 13, lost 3 and drawn 1 – 40 points out of a possible 51 or 78%. Goals conceded 17 or a goal per game.
Without either of the two starting Arsenal’s record is played 13, won 5, lost 5 and drawn 3 – 18 points out of a possible 39 or only 46% of the points available. Goals conceded 22 or 1.69 goals per game.
Even more important than Sagna and Gibbs (or Santos) appears to be having a specialized left back starting each game.
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