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July 2021

Do we win more games when Cesc and Van Persie play? The bigger picture

Do we really win more games when Cesc and Van Persie play? Part-2

By Dark Prince

Last week, many had argued that the stats which had been presented in the first part of this article did not show the true picture for Arsenal in the presence or absence of Cesc and Van Persie. So by the popular suggestion, I went a step further and collected the stats for Arsenal’s performance against the top 6 premier league teams, excluding Arsenal, of each season and also Champions League teams since 2006. And what I got was some interesting results.

Before I present the stats, I want to say that the top 6, excluding Arsenal, of each EPL season has been different since 2006. Also for the Champions League fixtures, I’ve only accounted for matches of the knockout stages, i.e the group stage matches have been excluded, and that is because, as many would agree, there has been hardly any competition for us in the group stages in the last 4 years.

Starting off with our performance against Top 6 EPL teams of each season since 2006-07, i.e 12 matches each year which gives a total of 48 matches upto the 2009-10 season.

Cesc has played 39 matches of the total 48 matches. Arsenal’s record when Cesc plays is as follows,

With Cesc –
P- 39, W- 15, D- 13, L-11
Success rate- 38.5%
Goals Scored – 58 (1.5 per match)
Goals Conceded- 53 (1.4 per match)

The first thing that comes to my mind is the low success rate we have against the top 6. Arsenal’s success rate being 58.1% in all competitions in Lord Wenger’s era. Also though we are scoring a good number of goals, we are conceding almost the same amount. We did have 10 clean sheets among those 39 games but we still conceded a lot in the remaining 29 games. The commendable part is that we lose only 28.2% matches against the top 6 when Cesc plays.

So what happens when Cesc doesn’t play?? An obvious answer,

Without Cesc –
P- 9, W- 2, D- 4, L-3
Success rate- 22.3%
Goals Scored- 8 (0.9 per match)
Goals Conceded- 10 (1.1 per match)

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Ok, I admit, against the top 6, we need Cesc to perform better. The success rate drops to 22.3%, goals scoring rate drops to less than a goal per match, it seems bad. Though we still only lose marginally more, 33.3% of those matches.

In conclusion, I can say that Cesc definitely makes an impact, a winning impact. But still Arsenal must try to improve on their low success rate against the top 6 to increase their title winning chances.

Now coming to Van Persie, we all read last week, the large number of matches he has missed since 2006. Its pretty much the same case against the top 6. He has only played 23 matches out of a possible 48 since 2006.

With Van Persie-
P- 23, W- 7, D- 9, L- 7
Success rate- 30.4%
Goals Scored- 31 (1.3 per match)
Goals Conceded- 27 (1.2 per match)

Well, our record isn’t as good when Van Persie plays. Success rate is low but we only lose 30.5% of the matches. Thats just marginally more than when Cesc plays.

So the stats should be worse when Van Persie doesn’t play, right?? Surprisingly no…

Without Van Persie-
P- 25, W- 10, D- 8, L- 7
Success rate- 40%
Goals Scored- 35 (1.4 per match)
Goals Conceded- 36 (1.4 per match)

That’s really interesting. We win more matches, score more goals without Van Persie. In fact, when Van Persie doesn’t play, we lose marginally fewer matches – 28% of our matches. Also our goal scoring rate is better without Van Persie. Quite interesting, eh?

Till now it seems as if, we can handle it better when Van Persie doesn’t play but Cesc remains an important part.

So what happens when both Cesc and Van Persie play together??

With Cesc and Van Persie-
P- 16, W- 7, D- 5, L- 4
Success rate- 43.8%
Goals Scored- 26 (1.6 per match)
Goals Conceded- 19 (1.2 per match)

Unfortunately, out of 48 matches against the top 6, Cesc and Van Persie have featured together only in 16 matches. That’s very low. But with both of them playing together, we have a very good success rate of 43.8% and our we lose only 25% of our matches. Our goal scoring rate too is at its best at 1.6 goals per match and we concede rather less.

It is sad that we don’t see both Cesc and Van Persie playing together a lot. Every title winning team has had a lethal combo of a midfielder and striker, eg, Viera and Henry, Ronaldo and Rooney, Lampard and Drogba, Kaka and Shevchenko, etc. We too have one but they hardly feature together because of their persistent injuries.

So apparently, we should be performing the worst when neither Cesc nor Van Persie play. Or is it?

Without Cesc and Van Persie-
P- 2, W- 2, D- 0, L- 0
Success rate- 100%!!
Goals Scored- 3 (1.5 per match)
Goals Conceded- 1 (0.5 per match)

Arsenal played only 2 matches which featured neither Cesc nor Van Persie. But both of them were won. A 100% success rate, sounds nice, doesn’t it? I know, its just 2 matches, but we did win them, it cant be ignored. This really gives us a hope that Arsenal does have a squad to beat the best teams without its best players.

The Chelsea game a couple of weeks before was the first game that we lost against a top 6 side (in this case, a potential top 6 side) since 2006 which featured neither Cesc nor Van Persie. But we did dominate that game and almost killed that game in the opening stages.

Now lets look at the stats for the Champions league knockout matches. What we get is an almost complete opposite result for Cesc and Van Persie.

In total we have played 16 knockout matches in Champions League since 2006. But Arsenal has won only 4 out of it. Yes, you heard it right. A success rate of only of 25%. And out of 16, Arsenal has lost 7 matches. Really disappointing. To be the best European side in the world, we have to perform better than that.

So does Cesc make a difference for us in the Champions League??

With Cesc-
P- 12, W- 2, D- 5, L- 5
Success rate- 16.7%
Goals Scored- 14 (1.2 per match)
Goals Conceded- 16 (1.3 per match)

Can you believe it? Arsenal has won only 2 out of the 16 European knockout matches when Cesc plays. A very low success rate of 16.7%. Loss is at 41.6%. We may score goals but end up conceding more also.

So what happens when Cesc doesn’t play?? The complete opposite…

Without Cesc-
P- 4, W- 2, D- 0, L- 2
Success rate- 50%
Goals Scored- 7 (1.8 per match)
Goals Conceded- 5 (1.3 per match)

Now though we have played only 4 matches without Cesc, we have a better record. 50% success rate is quite good, though the loss rate is also 50%. So would you prefer resting Cesc for the knockout stages of Champions league??

Van Persie’s European knockout stats are quite different from his Top 6 EPL stats. Though one thing remains the same and that is his absence from majority of the matches.

With Van Persie-
P- 6, W- 2, D- 1, L- 3
Success rate- 33.3%
Goals Scored- 8 (1.3 per match)
Goals Conceded- 9 (1.5 per match)

Now its Van Persie’s chance to shine. Van Persie’s success rate is double of that of Cesc’s. Though loss rate is at 50%. We are still conceding lots of goals.

Now without Van Persie for European Knockout matches.

Without Van Persie-
P- 10, W- 2, D- 4, L- 4
Success rate- 20%
Goals Scored- 13 (1.3 per match)
Goals Conceded- 12 (1.2 per match)

So without Van Persie, we perform poorly in Europe. 20% success rate is low, though still its better than Cesc’s. But we can still see that we do score goals without Van Persie.

So now the question arises…does the Cesc and Van Persie combo as effective together in European knockout matches??

With Cesc and Van Persie-
P- 4, W- 1, D- 1, L- 2
Success rate- 25%
Goals Scored- 7 (1.8 per match)
Goals Conceded- 8 (2 per match)

Now lots of talking points here. First of all, as usual, Cesc and Van Persie have played together only in 4 out of 16 European Knockout matches since 2006. A very low figure. Secondly, our success rate isn’t good enough even when both play together. Loss rate is at 50%, which is also disappointing. Also both goal scoring and goal conceding rate is high.

Now coming to when neither Cesc nor Van Persie plays. And yes, Arsenal again, surprisingly, performs better without both of them.

Without Cesc and Van Persie-
P- 2, W- 1, D- 0, L- 1
Success rate- 50%
Goals Scored- 6 (3 per match!!)
Goals Conceded- 4 (2 per match)

Yes, we scored 6 goals in 2 matches without either Cesc or Van Persie. We have a good success rate of 50%, though we played only 2 matches without them.

Maybe we all remember those two matches. Both happened last season. The first against Porto in the round of 16 which we won 5-0 and the second against Barca in the quarters which we lost 1-4. Though it required Barca’s best player to produce his best performance of last season to beat Arsenal without its best players. But we all know how we performed in the opening 20 minutes of that game in Nou Camp. That’s the potential we have even without our best players. Though we have be more consistent on that performance.

The stats for Arsenal against the top 6 EPL teams and European sides shows us where we need to improve. In both cases we are conceding a lot of goals. In both cases, our best players have missed a lot of games. But we have lots of positives as well, such as, in both cases, we score more than a goal per game. In both cases, we score lots of goals without Cesc and/or Van Persie. And also in both cases, we have performed better when neither Cesc nor Van Persie plays.

I think, as Arsenal Fans, all we need to do is to keep the faith, not only with Arsene Wenger, but also on each player that plays for us. All of our players may not be as visionary as Cesc or as clinical as Van Persie, but all of them are as important to the team as Cesc or Van Persie.

Every player has his own importance. And everyone gets a chance to prove his worth, and believe me, almost all of them live up to their promise and easily gel into our team. That’s why we have so many different goal scorers every year and probably thats why Arsenal as a team, has been one of the best in the world.

The best part is our squad is still young and can only improve each year. Players like Song, Diaby, Fabianski, Nasri, Walcott, Bendtner have improved a lot over the last couple of years and there is still lots of room for further improvement. The rest too will improve with time and experience. And with such a vastly improving squad, it wont be long when Arsenal start winning trophies, lots of them.

Keep the faith Fellow Gooners!! 🙂

Plumstead: the very last game. What happened as Arsenal got ready to pack up and head for Highbury?

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18 comments to Do we win more games when Cesc and Van Persie play? The bigger picture

  • Wonderman

    Dark Prince , what an excellent article !!! Football is such an emotional experience for most people that they completely disregard FACTS.Your article gives an interesting overview and your conclusion of the importance of the team cannot be overstated. The one point I would raise however, is that whilst the analysis has absolute numbers it is not strictly speaking comparing like for like with regards to standard of opposition each season, and that must have an effect on results. But it goes to show that things are not as black and white as they first appear

  • Although the quantitative figures are right, the sample sizes are different and the results can be used to support anything except the obvious. I accept Wonderman’s commentary too but the obvious is the goalkeeping. From time immemorial every winning team has had a goalkeeper that makes a difference. I good goal keeper saves his team about 10+ points a season. He is the difference between 0-1 and 0-0, 1-0 and 1-1 or even 1-2, etc. We (Arsenal) have two goalkeepers that routinely cost us the odd goal in a match. These add up to 10+ points shortfall at the end each season. A good, commanding, goalkeeper is worth everything: (1) A defender pushes forward, and goes up for a corner kick, with confidence
    (2)A defender takes a defensive position with confidence because the goalie will direct him if necessary, etc. etc.
    If you look back over the 5 yrs without trophies you will find that our goalkeepers have been responsible for the points shortfall. This is what needs addressing urgently. We must not accept a one-off good performance in many mediocre ones as the best we can have. If we had one of the top-class goalkeepers in the league at the beginning of the season, he would have saved us about 6-7 points in the premiership in the 7 matches so far. So why are we pussy-footing about a decent goalkeeper? It is a no-brainer!!

  • richard

    i think ‘lord wenger’ has become a tad stale …

    perhaps we would benefit from a younger, less arrogant manager. one that would accept weakness within the team and spend the £15m or so it would take to strengthen where required, with perhaps a few players over 5.1 !

    ….or perhaps even one that could think of a plan B as opposed to passing the ball into the net.

    perhaps then we may have a realistic chance of winning a trophy not just keeping the investors very happy.

  • Dark Prince

    Wonderman- Absolutely agree, the level of competition has increased a lot. A decade ago, it was jus United and Arsenal, then half a decade ago, Chelsea joined, and now City. Then there is the other teams who too improved and no longer pushovers like liverpool, villa, everton, etc. But i think the european scenario has remained pretty much the same, infact, in europe teams like AC Milan and Juventus have greatly fallen down in the couple of years. Thats why i hope we can perform better in europe.

  • aboubacker

    you don’t like RvP…do you?

  • Dark Prince

    Infact I love RVP…but i hate the fact that he’s injury prone!! couldn’t he be jus a bit more injury free?? then we wud hav performed much better!! 😛

  • Tom

    Analysis is good,but hey Fabs appearence makes it easier to win any hard game but not with RVP.
    You realise we score goals many times but concede goals easily.
    Major prob is Defence and goal keeping.

    Eboue should play sagna’s no in hard matches you will prove me rihgt, its harder to get passed Eboue unlike sagna.
    Lets enjoy the Sunday.

  • Dark Prince

    I think the defence and gk positions has been a talkin point for a few seasons now. But i really dont think the defence has any problems now after the arrival of Squillaci and Koscielny, though the problem still is the injuries. Both Vermaelen and Koscielny, our no.1 choice are injured. But overall they have been good additions.

    Coming back to our goalkeepers, there are 2 points which have to be noted. First, is the availability of a excellant world class keeper. This also raises another question, who are the current excellant world class keepers? Van der sar? Petr Cech? Buffon?Casillas? Valdes? Reina? Cesar? Hart? I think the list ends over there…all the rest are as good as Almunia…i dont think Schwarzer is better than Almunia. The 2nd point is the availability of the above mentioned goalkeepers. None of them are available. The goalkeepers which have been often linked and suggested by other fans are Shay Given, Afinkeev, Loris… Now neither of Afinkeev or Loris have played in the physical arena of EPL. So u cant say how good they cud be. And Man City wont sell Shay Given to any of their rivals.

    So eventually its the question of keeping faith in our current goalkeepers.

  • Clerkenwell Gooner


    Obviously I rate RvP, but that’s quite something – Cesc and him play together in only 25% of CL knock-out matches since 2006.

    Cesc has been chugging away since coming into the side at 16, and I don’t think of him as injury-prone, but RvP needs to go on to a Rosicky-style pay-per-play contract if this keeps up.

    It will be very interesting to see how RvP is re-integrated into the side with the emergence of Chamakh.

    And is it possible that Chamakh-Wilshire will deliver what Cesc-RvP always promises, but so far has not, because of this persistent, low-level injury crisis suffered by RvP?

    Because the Chamakh-Wilshire one-two for that 4th goal vs Shahktar was great, and if it’s the shape of things to come, then yes, please!

  • Wonderman

    @Dark Prince I think there is no doubt that we perform better in Europe these days, to the point where I sometimes think we play in a european style in our prem games. Do you remember the times when, with a so called more experienced squad we struggled and toiled to get out of the group stages, whereas now we look so comfortable in the Champs League group stages. I thoroughly salute your research as it has given me food for thought

  • Dark Prince

    Clerkenwell Gooner- RVP has a completly different style from Chamakh and Wilshere has a different style from Cesc. Robin is good in air and feet and Chamakh is mostly good in air, Cesc is more defence splittin passes and Wilshere more about one-two passes. Dont kno how it would turn out!! But atleast i can say that we have a wide variety of players!! 🙂

  • Byo

    Great stats, but wonder how statistically signifiant are the differences really!
    Good points about the goak-keeping situation, Dark Prince. I have never been convinced of Shwarzer, and I wonder how much one can be confident of Lloris or Akinfeev in the EPL. As an observation, consider what would have happened in the press if Almunia/Flapianski had commited the error by VDS(at WBA) last week.
    When I look at our performance this season, I still live every kick of the ball like in the past. The most important aspect I think we have to realize is we cannot know as much as the staff that are with the team daily, hence I have absolute confidence in their decisions.

  • Arsenal_stevie

    Arsenal defensivly are poor. Fisrtly keeper lets not even get satarted i think everyone knows what we have isn’t good enough. Now the defense i do believe wenger has signed very well this season but personaly i stil believe arsenal as a whole a poor defesivly, im what happened to the days we we could soak up the pressure win the ball and 2 passes later its in the back of the net? We know seen to have this kamikaze approach to defending where were playing a big teams and even smaller teams seem just push up so much were so easily exposed on a counter. We were the kings of counter-attacking football i personally believe we now are the kings of getting counter-attacked. Ferguson said last season “its all about the counter against arsenal”. That brings me to another point, Song, now last year i do think we was great for us just what has been needed in our midfield however in my eyes he does have some crisisim. I don’t think the has improved from where he has left off and his postional awearness is poor. I mean if were winnig agisnt bolton 3,4-0 well it doesnt bother me that much go bombs up field while someone covers but i would just love him to just sit there allow fab, nasri, whilshere, rosicky, arshavin, v. persie to play. Would it harm us that much? Against chel$ki and man u we loose the ball upfield with clichy, sagna upfield aswell as song i dont care whos covering we get undone easy as. Just too much space. Another thing is his decision making, i know hes meant too be a ball-winning-midfielder but does give away some sloppy fouls at times and pick up yellows. Im not having a dig at him before people say some thing its just constructive criticism but it does lead to me believing that we could bolster the squad with an extra defensive mid. How good would vieira could have been for us if we signed him last year to maybe just sit there as we no he hasn’t got the legs anymore, in crunch games his experience to get through them and plus the benefits to song and co. would have been great. Wenger said today “it was down to the fact we conceded first then chased the games and lost by more.” To me this just supports my first point about this kamikaze approach to defending where we just go gung-ho from the off. Finally our attack only thing wrong in my eyes is sometimes the lack of directness in moments of the match, counter-attacks sometimes seem to slow, maybe slightly longer ball allow arshavin and walcott to stretch thier legs a bit might not be a bad option at times, i know we did with henry before and lastly most importantly the lack of long shots is another issue, how many times have we been watching arsenal and just scream “shoot!!”

    Lastly Dark prince there are good keepers better than ours about its just about how much we are willing to spend.

    Thats my opinon on arsenal at the moment Dark prince today has shown us that v. persie and cesc is not all that important in big games with is intersenting stats but i think whats stated above could change that with a addition of our best players play aswell no matter what stats say. I welcome your opinions.

    Dark prince top man!!

  • C4

    @Arsenal_stevie, I think you have some valid points in terms of the defense. We need to do something about the way we keep getting taken apart by counter attacks. It’s so obvious to everyone we play that there’s a pretty simple formula to beating us. There’s really no shortage of ability when it comes to attacking. Even if we toned down our attacking a bit so we can defend better as a team, which ideally means guys like Song start defending again, we’d still pick teams apart when we reach their half. We don’t need Clichy, Sagna or Song much in terms of attacking. I’ve seen instances where only TWO of our players wreak havoc with an entire team’s defense. Our defensive players should learn to hold back a bit, it could go a long way in helping us concede less.

  • Dark Prince

    Byo- i agree with you, the staff are with the team every week know more than we or the media knows. They are paid for their jobs and being at arsenal means that they are top professionals. So we have to believe in their decision.

  • Dark Prince

    Arsenal_stevie- you have valid points about the counter attack which the other teams employ against us. I think the reason to this is a collective failure. There are many mistakes that we do that combines to concedin a goal. Our full backs, our defensive midfielders and our wingers are the main culprits i suppose. But its not because of one player alone. I’ve always believed that Song shud be covering up for the full backs when they go ahead up to provide a cross, then our full backs too often deliver poor crosses which often end up with their opposition, then the wingers namely Arshavin and Walcott too have to run up the other side to defend on the flanks when the counter attack begins which i’ve hardly seen till now. So its more of a collective failure by my opinion bcoz seriously, almost all of our goals are conceded by counter attack.

  • goonergerry

    Stevie-I believe that under Wenger Arsenal are a confidence side-and currently we are unable to beat the top 2 or possibly 3 sides.The problem is as much in the players heads as on the field. We need a result against one of the top sides to overcome this barrier. I also agree that we are vulnerable to the counter and defending on the edge of the box.
    Do we need a different formation when we play the top sides away? I say this because United and Chelsea especially look very comfortable in defence allowing us possession up to the penalty box-we end up playing endlessly across the pitch they wait for a mistake-hitting us on the counter. Are we not too predictable? Havent we got a defensive midfield solution already?
    Could we not play TV in front of the back 4 when he is fit?

    Vermaelen when fit looks an ideal player to play in front of the back four-could Arsenal play a back 3 with the 2 backs pushing forward?-maybe if we could get better final ball delivery from them.

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