Do we really win more games when Cesc and Van Persie play?

Who is Arsenal’s Talisman? Cesc? Van Persie? Both? Or neither? – “Victoria Concordia Crescit”

By Dark Prince

I’ve always been asked by many of my friends – Who is more important to Arsenal- Cesc or Van Persie? Do we need only one of them in our squad to ensure a victory? Or do we need them both? Or is it just a perception we made when we lose them for many games due to injury? Do we really suffer when Cesc and/or Van Persie miss our regular games?

After some research into our past 4-6 seasons, I came up with some surprising facts and figures.

Looking at our 2010 season, it’s quite apparent that without Cesc and Van Persie, we look weak, lacking that ‘killer instinct’. This season, Arsenal has played 10 matches in all competitions, but Cesc and Van Persie have both played together in only 2 matches this season and Arsenal has won both of them – a 100% success rate. That’s something we all like to hear, right? – a 100% win record. But is this always the case?

First, we’ll have a look at Lord Wenger’s record at Arsenal.

Under Lord Wenger, Arsenal have played 802 matches, out of which, Arsenal has 466 wins, 186 draws and 150 losses. That’s a win record of 58.1%. That’s a marvellous record for a manager. Even Ferguson, with all his trophies, has only a marginally better win record of 58.9% in his 24 yrs at United.

By fair amounts, Lord Wenger’s success rate of 58.1% should be taken as a standard mark for Arsenal as a whole. And many fans will think that most of the losses for Arsenal in recent years is due to absence of Cesc and/or Van Persie, so as to assume that when Cesc and/or Van Persie plays for Arsenal, our success rate increases. Is that really true?

I think its safe to say that Cesc has been the most important midfielder for Arsenal after the Invincible’s season. So if we have a look at Cesc’s record since 2004, he has played 269 competitive matches for Arsenal (competitive matches only include premier league, carling cup, fa cup and European matches), out of those 269 matches, Arsenal won 160, drew 60 and lost 49. A success rate of 59.5%. That’s marginally better than Arsenal’s base rate of 58.1%. Not too much to be excited about i suppose.

Maybe when we divide Cesc’s record into different periods, we’ll have a clearer view.

P- 96, W-61, D-18, L-17
Success rate- 63.5%

P- 99, W-55, D-26, L-18
Success rate- 55.6%

P- 69, W-40, D-15, L-14
Success rate- 58%

P- 5, W-4, D-1, L-0
Success rate- 80%

Now these stats tells us a story, Cesc had a brilliant start to his career in his 1st couple of seasons. Having a success rate of 63.5% is superb especially when you’re still a teenager and are given the main playmaker role in Arsenal’s midfield. Maybe you can argue that we still had some of our Invincible players left to steer us to victory. Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t argue that Cesc has been our best midfielder since 2004. Though his win record dipped to 55.6% in 2006-2008, maybe because by our team was completely filled with young inexperienced players, but still he regained back in last couple of seasons with 58% win rate. That’s fairly equal to Arsenal’s base rate. Not bad but not as exceptional as his opening seasons.

We can’t conclude much from that, but maybe his absence in matches can prove a point. Maybe.

Now, since 2004, Cesc has missed out on 91 matches, most of those between 2008-2010. But out of those 91 matches, Arsenal won 53, drew 18 and lost 20. That’s a success rate of 58.2%. That’s a surprising fact. It somewhat points to the fact that Arsenal has pretty much the same record with or without Cesc. If we divide this record we can see a clearer picture-

P- 21, W-12, D-4, L-5
Success rate- 57.1%

P- 18, W-13, D-3, L-2
Success rate- 72.2%

P- 47, W-26, D-10, L-11
Success rate- 55.3%

P- 5, W-2, D-1, L-2
Success rate- 40%

I think the 2008-2010 period gives a clearer picture because Cesc missed a whole lot of games. Our success rate going down a little to 55.3%. So maybe after all it does make a difference, at least a little.

Now coming to Van Persie, by all accounts, he must be the most injured player in Arsenal’s history. Van Persie has missed more matches than he has played since 2006. Yes that’s right, Van Persie has played in only 121 matches out of 243 matches for Arsenal since 2006. Though Van Persie has been playing with us since 2004, I believe that since the retirement of Bergkamp and departure of Reyes in 2006, Van Persie has become one of our 1st team strikers.

So evaluating Van Persie’s win record since 2006, out of 121 matches that he has featured in, Arsenal has won 70, drew 31 and lost 20. That’s a success rate of 57.9%. Again we can see there isn’t much of a difference. Here’s a better picture-

P- 54, W-33, D-13, L-8
Success rate- 61.1%

P- 64, W-35, D-17, L-12
Success rate- 54.7%

P- 3, W-2, D-1, L-0
Success rate- 66.7%

As we can see, Van Persie had pretty much the same record like Cesc. Impressive record for 2006-2008, then going down. Only difference is that Cesc had a not-so-good record for 2006-2008 but Van Persie had a good record for the same period but for 2008-2010 period, its vice-versa.

Now looking at the number of matches that Van Persie missed, a tragic number- 122 matches missed since 2006. But surprisingly, Arsenal won 70, drew 24 and lost 28 matches out of that 122. The success rate at 57.4%.

Looking at it period wise-

P- 63, W-35, D-16, L-12
Success rate- 55.6%

P- 52, W-31, D-7, L-14
Success rate- 59.6%

P- 7, W-4, D-1, L-2
Success rate- 57.1%

Surprisingly, Arsenal won almost 60% of their matches which Van Persie missed in the last couple of seasons. Though its still near to Arsenal’s base rate.

So still, its pretty much close for both Cesc and Van Persie individually. But does it make a difference when both of them play together? Lets check out…

Out of the 243 matches Arsenal has played since 2006, Cesc and Van Persie have played together in only 91 matches!! That’s really sad to hear, especially when we know that Cesc and Van Persie combo is quite lethal. Out of those 91 matches which featured both Cesc and Van Persie together, Arsenal has won 56, drew 21 and lost 14. A success rate of 61.5%. Clearly showing that when both of them play together, Arsenal have a slightly better chance of winning. A better bifurcation-

P- 51, W-31, D-12, L-8
Success rate- 60.8%

P- 38, W-23, D-9, L-6
Success rate- 60.5%

P-2, W-2, D-0, L-0
Success rate- 100%

This clearly shows that when Cesc and Van Persie play together, we have a slightly better record.

But what about when neither of Cesc or Van Persie plays?

Since 2006, out of the 243 Arsenal matches, there have been 41 matches in which neither Van Persie nor Cesc has played. The shocking part is that Arsenal has won 28 matches out of those 41. A success rate of 63%!!

When we divide it, we get-

P- 15, W-1, D-2, L-2
Success rate- 73.3%!!

P- 22, W-15, D-1, L-6
Success rate- 68.2%

P-4, W-2, D-0, L-2
Success rate- 50%

A very astonishing record for a team without its 2 best players over the recent years.

So after all this, I’m still unsure about the answer to the question- Who is Arsenal’s Talisman? Who is that one person that provides the results for Arsenal? Is it Cesc?, is it Van Persie?, is it both?, or is it neither of them?

I’m unsure how to conclude. Maybe it’s just that Arsenal is not a one-man team. A more collective team that really doesn’t need to depend on any single individual. When we win, it isn’t a single individual performance, but rather a whole team performance.

Perhaps, if there is one individual that we need to count on, then it should be our legendary manager – Arsène Wenger. After all it’s his vision which has made us a winning team even without our best players. A team that can dominate against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.  Arsène Wenger has surely been faithful to the original motto of Arsenal – “Victoria Concordia Crescit” when translated means “Victory through Teamwork”. It reminds us of our true identity.

It tells us that in recent years, Arsenal is not just about its Legendary Manager, it is not just about its super talented young players, its not just about our extraordinary Stadium, its not just about our youth academy, its not just about being a top contender for each title for years consecutively, nor is it just about the financial stability on which this club is running. But it’s a combination of all of this. A combination of teamwork.  Not only within the squad, but teamwork from all sections, including the fans, the owners, the players, the manager and everyone working in Arsenal. A combination which has formed through the visionary abilities of a Manager par Excellence. Surely, Arsène Wenger has been the true Talisman for us over the last 14 years. That’s why we say – ‘In Arsène We Trust’!!

Keep the trust Fellow Gooners!! 🙂

By the way, Aaron Ramsey has played in 51 matches for Arsenal and Arsenal has won 36 out of them. Success rate- 70.6%!!

52 Replies to “Do we really win more games when Cesc and Van Persie play?”

  1. this post is amazing…keep it up…reminds people that we dont need cesc or van persie, just support whoever the boss sends onto the pitch in red and white and we will be fine.

  2. dint somebody say ” stats area like bikinis, they hide more than what they reveal”;-) i concur

  3. Some interesting points made there and great to see some facts that we don’t always need cesc and v.persie to win but i do believe you should of looked into it a bit more and find out against the big teams where championships are desided how do we stand because all to often were a playing very important games without our full starting eleven. And not just against big teams but also important matches against smaller clubs like west brom, yes west brom! this season where we slip up again when we are offered the chance to close the gap on the leaders and again we are without our three most important players that make the backbone to the team (vermaelen, cesc, v.persie). These matches are where we can show are tilte credentials and where we always fail to gain ground, how are we every goin to regain the premiership if we never close ground beat these teams, think of last season towards the end, easy matches on paper but very very important matches and difficult where they were all pretty must win matches and again with out cesc & v.persie though van.p did make some apperences towards the end. Just finishing off statistics don’t always tell the full picture many things can be missed in stats and sometimes its a question of feeling you get and trust me i think everyone has a better feeling when we have our two best players are on the field, the team just seems more threatening. Lastly alumina on stats are nearly identical as schwarzer, so do we really did schwarzer?

  4. we dont need non of them !! as long has we can get to outside of the box and JUST SHOOT !! NASRI ROSICKY DIABY DENILSON WALCOTT I HOPE U READING DIS ,JUST SHOOT ON SITE FOR ONCE, WHAT ARE YOU ALL SCARED OF !! ,the players that do decide to take shots are clichy song and sagna,and we all knw where the ball goes when they let fly…STRAIGHT into orbit..we need to mix it up a litte outside the box because too many teams sit back and anticipate the killer pass (which is anything but killer in most cases)and catch us on the break .we need to start blasting the ball in if teams sit back,that will make them think twice about not letting us play our killer many times have we conceaded from scorchers outside the box ?? were those players scoring any better in shooting then the players we have ??……….dont you think its ironic that a team that wears a cannon as its emblem hardly shoots at goal 🙂

  5. Very nice job and statistics, but i would have liked to see the percentages of victories and draws counting in success rate, that would I feel show a more accurate and consistent impact of the players.

  6. Fantastic post! This is not just regurgitated (hope that’s how you spell it) information but a clear analysis. Ofcourse there are other major factors in this analysis which play a massive part in the outcome, but even so a refreshing read! Maybe an analysis of how we do against the top 4 or the top 6 (Spurs and Man City) when these players are in the team and when they are not. Also an interesting statistic would be our away record with and without our ‘main two’. Top stuff!

  7. I don’t need statistics to see that our team struggle without Fabregas and van Persie. Great article though, especially the last paragraph about teamwork. It reminds me that even in my life I can not succeed alone without help from other people.

  8. Great article, Dark Prince. And I must say some very interesting conclusions.

    And for those who say we must shoot more from outside the box: Arsenal scored the most goals from outside the penalty area last season of all teams and if my memory doesn’t let me down it was some 19 goals.

  9. wondering by the fact ….! although he is a very important player for us,the team stat without him is good.

  10. Glamorous gunner, you really understand arsenal soccer.Anyway from my point of view and according to the calculations you’ve made arsenal does better in thier absence, also considering the game between Arsenal and Fcporto it played very well in thier absence.So Arsenal is better off in thier absence since the remaining players play with great attitude.

  11. Great article but it would be interesting to see how many goals arsenal have scored when they played and when they haven’t played. I believe we have scored and won matches more comfortably with them on the pitch

  12. great post, good to see what how influential cesc and rvp are to the team in recent history. But arsenal are a team, and i love the philosophy of this club. Arsene is a genius

  13. Good article DP though I suspect you’ve just made a rod for your own back mate. Like Arsenal Stevie and John, I’d also like to see the numbers (including Gf and Ga) for top 6, middle 7 and bottom 7. Have a sneaking suspicion that Cesc and RvP’s presence probably makes quite a difference…esp with the Chel$ki ManU L’Pool games.

    But it’s still a very interesting article.

    Walter. You just took the words out of my mouth. Have to confess that the number surprised me as well. Time to get the Verminator back and scoring.

  14. Intersting topic, but drawn matches are are a fact of football. I suspect that with Cesc and RVP we lose a lot less, and we manage to at lease squeeze a draw out of each match. So best analysis may have been % of games lost with or without our 2 best players.

  15. Interesting stuff, I suspect, though, that the percentages would change significantly in an analysis of Premier League matches only.

    Because I wonder how much these figures are skewed by the inclusion of Carling Cup results, a competition in which we often tonk teams from the lower leagues by very big margins (4-0, 6-0, or 4-1, say, if it’s Sp*rs).

    Part of the joy of the first home game of the season this year was seeing Cesc and RvP on the touchline, waiting to come on as subs together, our two WC finalists.

    Unfortunately, the WC seems to have taken something out of them both, and I can quite easily see them being in and out for the rest of the season, because they’ve had no respite this summer. (Same for Torres and now Kuyt at Liverpool. If you’re knackered from playing too much, you’re just more likely to pick up an injury.)

    The difference for us this year I hope will be that we do have a deep squad, with many players able to switch positions too. I wonder how many first team PL debuts/goals we’ll see this season, Wilshire and Lansbury and Gibbs have already been essential in this respect, and I’m looking forward to many others in 2010/11, plus the return of Aaron Ramsey.

  16. An extremely insightful article DarkPrince! Good stuff.
    Your research reveals some fascinating statistics. On the whole, for us Arsenal fans, these stats are surely mostly positive? If Captain Cesc does indeed return to Barca (and this actually isn’t a given, far from it in fact), your findings certainly alleviate any fears surrounding this (very cunning DarkPrince – I believe this may well have been one of your aims, well it’s worked for me!). In terms of Van Persie, the stats regarding his actual games played as well as those games played in conjunction with Cesc are shockingly low. Indeed they lead me to question whether despite his undoubted technique, skill, attitude and popularity, Robin is worth keeping at the club (if only we had had the phenomenon that is the Chamakh Attack for the past 2-3 seasons)? This is perhaps a question for another day. It is interesting to note that your research certainly reveals Wenger’s belief and patience in/with certain players (with regard to continuous injury problems) but this does contrast somewhat with our knowledge of Wenger’s ruthless streak shown in the past (done for the benefit of the team I hasten to add). You have opened up numerous possible discussions here Dark Prince as well as providing some significant reliant data for us Gooners to digest! Cheers.

  17. Top post, the stats are really surprising. However, a point to consider: It takes quite a while for players who were injured for a long time, to get back into shape. It’s very apparent for strikers, and I can recall game after game for Robin, where he couldn’t find the net – and then, when he started to get going – he scored loads (only to be followed by a stupid friendly injury … arghhh). Anyway, the same goes (albeit to a lesser extent) for Cesc.

    In that sense, the stats can’t measure those matches where we didn’t win even WITH Cesc or RvP – because they were the “gettign into shape” matches. I am pretty sure that if we’d “shave off” the first 3 matches of Cesc/RvP coming back from injury, the win percentage would be greater. Also agree with Clerknwell – stats should only look at EPL and CL matches.

  18. Thanx guys!! Jus came back online after almost 12 hours 🙂

    I think many have a valid point that looking at performances against top teams in EPL and also excluding carling cup matches has to be analysed.

    What i can do is go back and try to get back with the stats excluding the carling cup matches and also the fa cup matches. I think the performances against EPL and european teams should be considered more important.

  19. Also though the carling cup matches are very easy for Arsenal in the starting stages, we do have to accept that in the starting stages, we field the youngest and most inexperienced teams. Also we haven’t won the carling cup since a long time also.
    But still i’ll reassess my stats and get back with the figures consisting only of Epl and European games.

  20. Always analyzing.You only do these things to deceive yourselves or to make yourselves happy.But the truth remains that Arsenal is SCRAP,and cannot do without the duo.I guess the writer doesn’t know what else to do.Do you blame him?

  21. Dark Prince – Superb, absolutely superb. Great analysis and commentary.

    I think that most of us intuitively “know” we are not as good without Cesc and RvP even if the statistics are not clear on that fact. Like others have said, it would be great to see the goals scored statistics for all those periods as well. Come on man, get your act together!!!!!!

    Isnt it great that there is at least one truly terrible comment by Austino? Wouldnt be complete if there wasnt.

  22. Austino- are you suggesting that if cesc and van persie retire or leave arsenal, then arsenal is doomed?? Maybe you forget that there is always someone who will step up when cesc or van persie doesn’t play. Its been happening for generations. When viera left, cesc stepped up. When henry left, van persie stepped up. When cesc doesn’t play, someone else steps up. When van persie doesn’t play, then someone else steps up. Maybe the best example was bendtner for last year. He stepped up when van persie was out. You cannot deny that this is the same bendtner who most of us felt should leave. He had a huge part to play for us to achieve the 3rd place last season.

  23. Paul C- thanx 🙂

    Yeah you have a point. What i presented was raw data. I can analyse those matches and goals scored in them and will try to present a better view.

  24. Teams like Blackpool who we trash, it doesn’t matter if the duo starts or not. But when we need a grinding result, Fab just needs 1 second on the ball to change the outcome. When we went to Fulham last year etc. I doubt any of the two would have let us lose against West Brom. It is easy to see that the picture changes when they are on the pitch. Just look at Fab’s assist rate the last couple of years

  25. Fedda- its can be quite confusing to compare the blackpool and west brom game. Without cesc and Van persie, we were able to score 4 goals in the 1st 60 min….but in the same scenario, we couldn’t score a goal against west brom. Surely, blackpool and west brom are both weak teams….but still we show different results for both of them.

  26. i think we do a hell of alot better with cesc than without him, look what happened last eason agaist villa, if he hadnt of come on we might not have won, also the two matches against bolton, there are too many to mention but i believe we are better with him than without him

  27. Interesting statistics. I’m not sure I would be willing to read too much into them without perhaps a little further analysis. I think that Carling Cup games should be eliminated from the analysis because those are games in which we would reasonably expect to win with very few if any of the first team, let alone RvP and Cesc. Because one may assume that the presence of Cesc and RvP might be able to gain a draw when a loss might otherwise result, draws should also be analyzed separately or as a “successful” result. Finally, as a separate analysis, results against top of the table teams vs mid and lower table teams might yield a different conclusion. The raw statistics are certainly counterintuitive and seem to diminish the importance of Cesc and RvP to the team.

  28. Be interesting to see where West Brom finish in the PL. Looking at it now, they are not exactly “weak”, and maybe AW miscalculated by resting Wilshire that day? (Compare with our first PL fixture vs Liverpool, we are one of the few teams this year that had to play them while they still had Mascherano, ffs.)

    Agree w/ DP that our CC sides are often reserves-based, but they also sometimes come up against other reserves-based outfits (eg Liverpool CC team last year). And our reserves, padded out w/ Cesc and Ade, did quite well vs Chelski at Cardiff, even held their own in the fighting!

    In other news, Keith Edelman apparently advising RBS on the whole Hicks & Gillett hoopla – is he going to be involved in getting a new stadium built to replace Anfield?

  29. Great analysis. What it tells me is that we have excellent stats, with or without Van P and / or Cesc Fabulous. But I wonder what those stats would look like if they could do a full season or 2, instead spending so much time in that patchy form a guy is in when just coming back from injury. If they had a chance to BOTH become red hot after playing as regularly as someone like Sagna, barely missing a game, imagine what the stats would be like…

  30. Stats don’t lie.

    They are our most important players tho. Most talented. World Cup finalists 2010.

    They need to play together more often. They need to both be playing at the same time with the rest of our brilliant squad. Their little cameo appearances doesn’t allow consistency. Coming back for 2 games and getting treatment again won’t allow stability in the first XI

    My suggestion bulk up on muscle. Be bold. Put in tackles themselves. Make opponents fear them.

    Nobody came to the Highbury thinking they could take down a midfielder like VIERA or a striker like KANU!!!

  31. ……………………..Mannone……………………….

  32. Really interesting analysis Dark Prince, if only all sports journalists (and commentators) took the time and effort to do such due diligence before being critical.

    It would be interesting to key in all the individual stats like Dark Prince’s brilliant analysis for the entire team, and then see if we can extrapolate the combination of players resulting in the highest success rates. (Who knows, Eboue could be the key… LOL!)

    E.g. I rate v. Persie as the best striker in our team, and truly world class. But seeing that he’s been injured more than he’s played(!!), he may not make it to the statistical best team!

  33. Thanx guys!! I know these stats are quite raw which include carling cup matches. But carling cup matches only make up for 4-5 matches max per season. Its a small number.

    Also, as someone said, its quite difficult to judge a team by its position in the league. Coz sometimes some of the lower placed teams can get some good games in together and hav a good form. Best Eg is Wigan last year, they finished in bottom 7 last year but still were able to beat chelsea and arsenal last season. So we cant really say that any team in EPL is weak.

  34. “Even Ferguson, with all his trophies, has only a marginally better win record of 58.9% in his 24 yrs at United.”
    Marginally better u say????? he is been manager for 24 years and arsene is for around 14 years. 58.9 % over 24 years is phenomenal, out of this world at bpl level. U want to argue then argue with valid points not manipulated views…..

  35. Critic- 58.1 to 58.9…if you cant count, then that is what you call marginally better.

  36. Damn the stats!! The bitter truth remains that Arsenal perform better,and with vigour when both players(especially Fabrigas)are on the pitch.@Dark Prince,i cannot deny the fact that both players are good in their respective positions but you telling me they have stepped into the shoes of Viera and Henry is a big fallacy.This is apparently because these players(cesc and persie)are million miles away from doing what these two invincibles did during their time at Emirate or Highbury.Henry played to an extent that we gave him a name which in my language is “Igwe” meaning “king”;he scored so many goals,and was rarely injured unlike Persie.The point i am trying to make is that although these two players are not as good as Henry and Viera,they still remain the heart and soul of the current team,and when they are not there,the team becomes lightweight.The just shall live by faith.

  37. Dark Prince this is good work it will be interesting to get the analysis after you have chpoed CC but, my only worry is will this tell us anything about both player in/out of the team since they are unlikely candidates anyway? Scondly the CC like is already mentioned does not always have fist team squad will it help?

    Austino, nobody said these two replaces the likes of Henry and Viera but they steped in when those left. Why are you comparing them? will you compare the Arsenl of 34,35,36 when the won the leak three times with the Invincible and say which is better? or you could compare their similarities between the two not on player by player?

  38. @austino- each era has provides us with an exceptional striker, a exceptional midfielder and an exceptional defender as well as an exceptional goalkeeper. Van persie and Cesc already have shown us that they are exceptional. Van persie may not hav completely shown his worth bcoz of his injuries but Cesc has definately proved to be as good, if not better, than Viera. As for the defenders and goalkeepers, i guess Vermaelen should be the one for us and in Goalkeeping, though it might take a couple of years, but still it could be fabianski.

  39. I’d like to see the stats over the past couple of years for when both Song and Cesc have been missing compared to when at least one of them plays.

    It seems that without both of them we don’t control the ball as much as we normally would.

  40. South of Equator- the CC games only account for 4-5 games per season, so i dont think it will matter much whether we include them or not. But still if we remove both Fa cup and CC matches then we might have a little difference.

  41. Pweda- as far as i’ve read, Victoria Concordia Crescit translates to Victory Through Teamwork

  42. Interesting stats. My take is that you don’t need Cesc or Robin to do OK against lesser sides, but there might be a difference at the top games.

    Any stats on games against top 6 plus top European sides??

  43. Rhys Jagger- yes i’m gathering stats of Arsenal’s performance against the top 6 epl teams for each season and also the knockout stages of Uefa.

  44. Cesc and RVP obviously brings something extra to the table. But when they’re not around, we have quality players to replace them.

  45. Thats exactly what i’m tryin to prove here. Though we miss that killer instinct when Cesc and Van Persie aren’t there but we do have players who can replace them.

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