Tuesday, February 07, 2012
The Top Creative Arsenal Players since 2007 - Fabregas and who else?
After my piece in defence of Aaron Ramsey on Sunday, it seemed only fitting that whoscored.com would publish this piece today, which looks at the Premier League's most creative players since 2007.
It divides the number of minutes played by the chances that a player created from open play, producing a mixture of expected and surprising results. Only those players with over 1,500 minutes (approx 17 matches) were included. The stats come from Opta, so I would say they are pretty reliable.
We all knew he was special, but the fact Cesc sits at the top of this pile is unsurprising. He officially created goal-scoring chances at a faster rate than any other player in the Premier League during his time at Arsenal after 2007 - the 266 goal-scoring chances he produced equate to producing a chance every 33 minutes and 14 seconds. Basically, he put someone in a goalscoring position almost three times every 90 minutes, which is pretty staggering.
Just behind Fabregas are two other Spanish players currently lighting up the Premier League - David Silva and Juan Mata. Indeed, that Mata has managed to produce a chance every 36 minutes 46 seconds emphasizes just how quickly he has adapted to the Premier League, and probably also emphasizes just how poor Chelsea's forwards have been this season - not just Torres, but the likes of Anelka and Drogba as well. I was gutted that we missed out on Mata at the time, and the stats seem to confirm that he was a virtual ready-made replacement for Cesc. Too bad Chelsea parked the proverbial dump truck of money on Mata's lawn.
But it's the person in ninth-place which is perhaps most interesting to this piece, especially in light of my recent article. Yes, Aaron Ramsey stands ninth in the list of players who have created the most chances in the Premier League since August 2007. He creates a goalscoring chance every 43 minutes and 3 seconds. This is a more impressive record than the likes of Nani, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, to name just those included in the top-twenty. It's also higher than a person that many would like to see i the team above Ramsey - Tomas Rosicky. Rosicky's record is much more impressive than I thought, with a chance created every 45 minutes and 34 seconds. Again, this leads me to the conclusion that Rosicky is a player good enough to rotate with Aaron, but that Ramsey is ultimately the better player, despite the fact he is almost ten years younger than Aaron.
This would seem to confirm the central argument to my recent article - Aaron creates chances very effectively (if not as effectively as Cesc, yet) but he is hampered by a lack of players in the current side who stick the ball in the back of the net. Maybe with the rise of the Ox, Ramsey will finally get the assists to back up his creative play, and prove some of the doubters wrong.
If anything, perhaps the player who should be in the team more is Yossi Benayoun, who stands eleventh in the list. Despite being one of the thinnest players I've ever seen in top-flight football (seriously, he looks like he could break into a million pieces at any moment) Yossi is undoubtedly an underrated player, and I don't think we've really got too much out of him since he's been at the club. We're coming up to a point where we need to start rotating players, and you have to wonder whether Arsene will give him a real go or not. If not, then I suppose we'll always have this:
Two other ex-Arsenal players are on the list which are worthy of note. The first is Alex Hleb, who actually stands one place above Ramsey in eighth. I was always a big fan of Hleb, and, for moments in the 2007/8 season, he looked like he might be the world-class attacking force which could get us the league. However, I have never seen a player so adverse to shooting as old Alex, and maybe the reason he is so high on this list is the fact he always laid the ball off, rather than have a go himself. While he never fitted in at Barcelona, the fact they bought him should indicate that he was a better player than many gave him credit for at the time.
Lastly, there is a player who is one of the great tragic stories of recent football: Eduardo. The fact that he is in the top twenty for chances created, not scored, highlights the all-round creative game that Eddie had during his time at the club. When you combine this with some of the most clinical, ice-cold finishing I've ever seen in an Arsenal shirt, you have yourself a world-class attacking player. He was never the same after his terrible injury, but his ability in front of goal was simply magnificent in the first-half of the 2007/8 season. Given the fact he could also create, I maintain that the club should not have let him go when we did. Ask yourself - would you rather have Eduardo on the bench, or Chamakh and Park? Not even worth asking. And so I'll leave you with an emotional video which showed the scope of his talent. He may only have been here for a few years, but the courage he showed in returning from injury, as much as his deadliness in front of goal, means I will always consider him an Arsenal legend. Being a great footballer is sometimes about more than just kicking a ball: