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Should Van Persie be more prolific?

What a fantastic season it has been for Robin Van Persie. At times the Dutchman has literally carried the gunners on his own shoulders, scoring 30 Premier League goals, 37 in all competitions. Arsenal fans have been sweating on their talisman’s future this season, with his deal set to run out in the summer of 2013. Personally I feel Van Persie will certainly stay for next season and undoubtedly sign a new contract to seal his foreseeable future at the club.

However despite it being such a fantastic season for Van Persie, it hasn’t been such a great season for Arsenal. Going in to the last day of the season Arsenal must beat West Brom to guarantee a Champions League place, fending off competition from Spurs and Newcastle. As an Arsenal fan I get extremely frustrated by our consistency and inability to defend in pressure situations, nothing new there I suppose. However another thing I have started to get a tincey wincey bit frustrated by was Van Persie’s inability to score relatively simple chances.

Now, I’m not for one second holding Van Persie accountable for Arsenal’s failures this year, nor am I trying to take anything away from the Dutchman, he has been absolutely incredible this year, and has been over the last two injury free seasons. However the game against Norwich on the weekend was a clear example of Van Persie missing relatively easy chances, easy chances which could have won us the game. Granted Van Persie’s two goals kept us alive in the game and almost won it for us, but for some defensive frailties, but Van Persie still hasn’t installed a certainty in my head that when he gets in front of goal, he will score.

So I have done some research into Van Persie’s season. The statistics show that Van Persie has had a total of 140 chances on goal this year in the Premier League, scoring 30 goals. That is a goal per chance percentage of 21.4%, a ratio of just over 1 in 5 chances scored. Now those figures didn’t mean much to me, depending on how you look at it, that statistic could seem fantastic or rather shocking.

In order to gain some sort of insight into that statistic, I analysed other strikers across the Premier League. Van Persie has had 25 more chances to score than his nearest competitor, Wayne Rooney. Wayne Rooney has scored 26 goals from 115 shots on goal, a percentage slightly higher than Van Persie of 22.6%. Not too much to worry about there I suppose, other than the fact that Van Persie has had 25 more chances than Wayne Rooney but has only scored 4 more goals. However in the grand scheme of things, there is a relatively small difference between the two.

Now the player with the highest chances per goal percentage unsurprisingly is Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse, who has scored 13 goals from 32 chances, a percentage of 40.6%. Not too concerned about that statistic because Cisse is a new signing and hasn’t had a full season to be judged fairly and comprehensively. The player who has the best chances per goal percentage, who has played throughout the whole season, is relegated Blackburn striker Yakubu, who has racked up a total of 16 goals from 56 chances, a percentage of 28.6%. In fact there are 4 more strikers who have scored more than 10 goals this season who have a better chance per goal percentage than Van Persie. These players are Javier Hernandez (25.6%), Sergio Aguero (22.2%), Mario Balotelli (24.5%), Grant Holt (22.2%), which is 7 in total when you include Rooney, Cisse and Yakubu. Only 3 players who have scored more than 13 goals this term fall behind Van Persie, they are Emmanuel Adebayor (18%), Edin Dzeko (19.4%) and Demba Ba (20.3%).

Only Wayne Rooney (59.1%) and Papiss Cisse (62.5%) have a higher shot on target percentage than Van Persie (58.6%), which shows that Van Persie has forced more saves from Goalkeepers than any other striker in the Premier League with a total of 82 shots on target. These are the exacy chances that tend to frustrate myself about Van Persie. One of one with the keeper, but somehow the keeper keeps it out, or rather sometimes, somehow Van Persie fails to score.

Understandably there is very little difference in the percentages, but when playing at the top level in the Premier League that extra 1% could be all the difference. I have never thought of Van Persie as an out and out goal scorer, I always held him in a Dennis Bergkamp mould, a scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer. Of course Van Persie has proven me wrong in that department, but in order to convince me completely and to install an Ian Wright, Thierry Henry esque faith in me that he is going to score when in front of goal, he must improve his ratio and start scoring from more of the chances he gets himself into.

For anybody who is interested here are a few statistics from the other strikers who have scored more than 10 goals in the Premier League this season.

Lowest Goals per chance % – Luis Suarez (10.2%) 11 goals from 108 chances

Lowest Shots on target % – Peter Crouch (42.6%) 20 shots on target from total of 47 shots

Lowest amount of shots – Papiss Cisse (32 shots/13 goals) Javier Hernandez (39 shots/10 goals)

Thank you for reading.

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