Football Bulletin: Can Arsenal be fabulous without Fab?

With the transfer window now closed and the international break over its back to business as usual as form and team line-ups will now begin to settle.

After the 8-2 humbling at Old Trafford, Arsenal probably had the most pressing need to act decisively and it was a fairly run of the mill transfer deadline until Arsene Wenger was finally persuaded to do some deals. The highlight appears to be the signing of 75 times capped, 6ft 6in German centre back Per Mertersacker.

Common sense says though that the losses though will be hard to square in the short term: Nasri, Clichy and especially the captain Fabregas are key players, especially so in an Arsenal side lacking squad depth and experience.

But will Wenger’s dealings satisfy the Arsenal faithful in light of the dire start to the season? Can Arsenal be fab without Fab?

Arsenal Player Analysis

Thanks to the excellent Form Lab Black, we can analyse how teams perform with and without certain players. Appearances mentioned are based on starting and completing at least an hour in the last 50 games.

Let’s start with the players who have left:

Fabregas: Arsenal won just 35% of the 26 games Fabregas missed versus  64% of those games where he played. The average Points Per Game (PPG) dropped to 1.38 without him compared to 2.14 with him in the side and the Goals For Per Game (BFPG) slumped to just 1.5, in his absence too. No doubt about it Fabregas will be missed.

Nasri: Nasri missed just 15 games in the last 50, but, perhaps surprisingly, he appears to have been no great loss when on the missing list. Indeed Arsenal have actually performed better without him, making 1.9 PPG without him compared to 1.62 points with him in the side.

For the game at home to Swansea on Saturday, Arsenal also have Song, Vermaelen and Wilshire absent.  Of this trio, Song, appears to be the most significant absentee. In the 17 games he missed in the last 50, Arsenal won just 24% of the time, picking up just 1.40 PPG vs 1.91 when he plays.

The New Boys:

On the bright side, the two highest profile additions appear to add considerable value:

Per Mertesacker: Per Mertesacker missed just five Werder games since 2009/10 but those absences were disastrous for the men from Bremen. Those five games resulted in 11 goals conceded and just one victory.

Mikel Arteta: Since 2009/10 Mikel Arteta has played half of Everton’s games, with the Toffees winning 46% with him versus 33% without.

Weekend Bet Idea:

There’s no smoking gun in these stats, but I can’t help but think that Arsenal have come out of the transfer window net down.

Their opponents on Saturday are Swansea, and the Welsh side have not yet scored in three Premiership games – games in which they have also missed a lot of chances. Swansea have also enjoyed lots of possession thus far but they are unlikely to get things all their own way at The Emirates with a gaggle of Arsenal debutants keen to impress.

Arsenal’s record against promoted sides is relatively poor. They’ve won 63% of matches against such sides since 2007, but they are prone to the odd shock defeat (Hull in 2008/9, West Brom in 2010/11). Therefore Arsenal’s best straight win odds of 1.42 look tight to me.

If the Gunners are going to win, the victory is more likely to come in the second half. At home, Arsenal have the third best second half performance in the league winning the second half in 11 out of 20 games.

Bet: Arsenal to win the second half @ 1.75 with Expekt

Other notable transfers:

Raul Meireles, Midfielder, Liverpool to Chelsea

Raul Meireles has played 27 of Liverpool’s last 39 games and with him they scored 13% more goals per game and conceded 20% fewer.

Anton Ferdinand, Defender, Sunderland to QPR

Ferdinand has played 59% of Sunderland’s games since the start of last term and without him they’ve conceded 15% more goals per game.

Craig Bellamy, Forward, Man City to Liverpool

Cardiff scored 1.76 goals per game with Craig Bellamy last season, compared to just 1.30 without him.

Scott Parker, Midfielder, West Ham to Spurs

Scott Parker missed eight games last season – West Ham took just one point from those matches with a net GD of -15.


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