Stats Watch: The Difference Between Arsenal and United

I've been waiting for the chance to dive into the repository of stats available at EPLIndex.com and today has given me a very little bit of time to do just that. The post isn't going to be a particularly long one but I'd like to spend a little time delving into that which separates Manchester United and Arsenal on the pitch thus far this season. Why these two? I still think of them as the two best run clubs in the Premier League because they are both still doing what they do with some sense of a budget. The managers are iconic. And, well, you get the idea.

This particular analysis isn't focused on where things have gone right or wrong in the transfer market over the Summer of 2011 or even before that. This analysis is focused on what has happened on the pitch over the course of the first half of the 2011-2012 season. What are those key differences that separate a flawed team (Manchester United) still in the mix for the title from a flawed team (Arsenal) no longer realistically fighting for that title?

The common wisdom would tell you that Arsenal are wasteful in front of goal. Do the numbers back up that assertion? Head below the jump for more data than you're used to getting from this outpost.

If you peruse the two columns of (fairly comprehensive) data, you will find that the two teams are nearly mirror images when it comes to the underlying statistics that make up the game - passing, tackling, taking shots on target, and chances created. Where does it all fall apart for the Gooners? Exactly where the common wisdom says it would. In front of the net. If left to your own memory would you assume that Arsenal had created more chances this season? An equal number of Shots on Target? Approximately equal accuracy in terms of shooting on net? Equally effective (or ineffective) quality in winning tackles and 50/50 aerial duels? I certainly wouldn't.

However, what we see is Arsenal's dismal record when it comes to converting all of those chances. Whereas Manchester United are converting chances at a rate of 20% of their chances while Arsenal are converting a dismal 14%. Just by way of comparison, the lowly Blackburn Rovers are converting at 16% (albeit on a smaller number of chances).

The only other item that seems significant here is the number of "defensive errors" - Arsenal are committing about three times as many (approximately 1 per match vs. 1 per 3 matches for United) as their Northern rivals.

Still, if you had to choose one way or the other to go, you'd say that they are already functioning well in the attack and they just can't put the ball in the net. Whether it is the more clinical Thierry Henry in the short term or someone else in the longer term it seems clear that Arsenal needs someone in the Steven Fletcher mold (incredibly efficient in front of goal) to offset the rest of the team.

It may be of interest to fans of Chelsea that their key measures going forward are almost exactly the same as Arsenal's and Liverpool are even more dire when it comes to their attacking efficiency coming in at a lowly 10% rate of converting chances.

If you're curious how Arsenal's individual attackers perform as part of the overall (in)effectiveness of the team there is a list below the graphic:

Ars_vs_man_utd_2011_2012_so_far_medium

Stats courtesy of EPLIndex.com

Player Chance Conversion
Robin van Persie 22%
Mikel Arteta 18%
Gervinho 15%
Aaron Ramsey 7%
Andrei Arshavin 7%
Theo Walcott 6%

Stats courtesy of EPLIndex.com

I hope you enjoyed this first look at the stats. There are certainly lots of other directions we can go with this sort of analysis so if you have any thoughts on other things you'd like to see like player comparisons, etc. Let me know and we'll see if we can create some sort of new feature out of it.

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