The statistical reason why Arsenal played badly against Man U but well against Milan

The answer is incredibly simple.  In the Manchester Arsenal FA Cup match 64% of the Arsenal players were reserves – not the players you would expect to be in the first team if everyone was fit.

In the Arsenal Milan match however only 36% of the Arsenal players were reserves – 64% of the players on the pitch were the players you would expect to see playing in any game when they are fit.

The point is that although Arsenal’s second string team is strong enough to beat most of the teams in the EPL they can’t beat everyone – that would be asking too much.  Indeed if that backup team could beat everyone they would not stay at Arsenal – they would be looking for employment elsewhere.

These figures reveal the minimum level of first team players needed to take on the top teams – around 7 or 8 of the 11 need  to be our first choice players.   When injury levels or rotation take us below that we can slip into difficulty.

Obviously is some places we have problems – our reserve left back is very poor at the moment, although he was great last year.  For all the criticism he gets Senderos has improved this year and can stand in for Toure.  Eduardo has had some good games – but we really do need Van Persie back.   Eboue put in some good movement and passes against Milan, but in terms of fouls and diving he is a liability and we need Rosicky.

So it goes – the back up team is good – far better than most teams have – but it is not the first team, and we do need that solid core to hold the team together.