Numbers don’t tell the whole story, sometimes they can’t even tell part of the story, sometimes they can tell you the wrong story, and sometimes you just have to say “what the fuck?”
This is one of those times where everything applies.
I heard the announcer say the word “bully” so many times that I started to wonder if he was channeling Teddy Roosevelt. In reality, though, Vermaelen was at fault (mostly) for both goals and so if we are counting something in his game let’s do this:
3 – Successful headed clearances (of 4 attempts) by Vermaelen
3 – Successful aerials duels (of 3 attempts) by Vermaelen
0 – Successful headed clearances (of 1 attempts) by Koscielny
0 – Aerial duels by Koscielny
5 – Interceptions by Vermaelen*
5 – Interceptions by Koscielny
0 – Successful tackles by Vermaelen
2 – Number of times Vermaelen shit the bed today
Now here’s a place where numbers can tell the wrong story. If you look at the number of passes Arsenal made in the final third and compared it to the games in the 7 match win streak you see something like this:
The temptation is to see the number of passes in the QPR final third and surmise that Arsenal did OK in attack, but during the 7 game win streak Arsenal averaged 17 shots a game and only managed 13 today (many of which were poor). QPR invited the pressure and handled it well. This is the same tactic that Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland and Blackburn tried against Arsenal but with very different results.
You could also look at Arsenal’s conversion rate (goals/shot) over the 7 game win streak which was a whopping 16% (season average is just 12%) and compare it to today where Arsenal scored just one goal on their 13 shots and thus converted a measly 8%.
Which is just a fancy way of saying that Robin van Persie should have scored in his one-v-one with Paddy Kenny (that would have meant 2/13 or 15% conversion).
If we are honest, we really only have two stats that matter at this point:
2 – Number of times that Vermaelen shit the bed
1 – Number of game-changing saves made by Paddy Kenny
Which brings me to the final category: “what the fuck?” As soon as the final whistle went people immediately started having a go at Aaron Ramsey. I know, it seems incongruous that on a day when Vermaelen was clearly at fault for two goals people would blame Aaron Ramsey but hey… people.
I wanted to see exactly how he fit in with the other three midfielders so, I compared them. I know that the title says this already but I’m going to say it again: these numbers for Rosicky, Song, and Arteta are for the first 70 minutes ONLY because that’s how long Ramsey played.
I also want to point out that I don’t hate Ramsey, he’s a good player, and I am not doing this so that people can draw the conclusion that Ramsey is shit, that he’s “the new Denilson”, or that he has cabbage in his underpants. I was legitimately curious how he compared to the others because he seemed so anonymous today.
Rosicky’s numbers show a player who spent the majority of the game as the most forward center mid in Arsene’s “crazy diamond” midfield. Song was the deepest midfielder: he had the most tackles and the least number of both backward passes and least number of passes in the QPR final third. Don’t get too excited about Song’s forward passes, most of them happened in the Arsenal half as he brought the ball out. Arteta’s numbers show a link player who keeps possession and wins the ball back when his team loses possession.
I suspect the reason Ramsey’s numbers look so low in most categories is simply because Arsenal concentrated so much of the attack on the right where Sagna and Walcott were a real threat. The fact that Theo scored and the pass differences between Sagna (61/68) and Gibbs (27/36) back that perception up. Of course, this is a chicken v. egg argument: was the attack concentrated on the right because Theo and Sagna were good or because Gibbs and Ramsey were shit? I’m going to leave that to you to argue about.
The numbers that are most worrying are Ramsey’s dispossessed stats. Ramsey leads Arsenal in being dispossessed at 2.9 per game. To put that in context, the next four players below him are RvP, Theo, The Ox, and The Five Head: all forwards. He was playing in the Rosicky role earlier in the season, which would explain a high dispossessed number but against QPR he was a mirror to Arteta and as such needed to be moving the ball more quickly.
Which many people point out… he doesn’t do well.
What I don’t show in the chart above is the following, you’re real “what the fuck?” numbers:
108 – Passes attempted by Alex Song
90 – Passes completed by Alex Song
18 – Passes misplaced by Alex Song
11 – Passes played backward by Alex Song (of 11 tried)
26 – Passes played square by Alex Song (of 26 tried)*
53 – Passes played forward by Alex Song (of 71 tried)*
18 – Forward passes misplaced by Alex Song
7 – Attempted through balls by Alex Song*
1 – Successful through balls by Alex Song
2.4 – Average per game attempted through balls by Alex Song
7 – Number of times I thought “oh boy, someone’s been reading his press clippings”
*Leads all players
**Leads just his team