Cesc Fabregas: Gone, But How Much Will He Be Missed?

Anyone who knows half a thing about football knows that Fabregas was an important player for Arsenal, and a recent feature on Bleacherreport.com showed him to be 3rd in the Premier League all time assists per game ratio (only behind David Beckham and Thierry Henry), but just how much did Arsenal rely on him?

Overall Arsenal Performance

During the 2010/11 season, Arsenal finished 4th in the English Premier League with 68 points, winning 50% of their games, drawing 29% and losing 21% of games played.

They scored an average of 1.89 goals per game, and conceded an average of 1.13.

Cesc had no fewer than 5 injuries last season, missing 13 Premier League games in total, so lets look at Arsenal’s performance when he featured.

Arsenal With Fabregas

As can be seen from the above chart, Arsenal performed significantly better with Cesc in the team compared to the average, winning an extra 10% of games, drawing and losing both 5% less.

Goals scored per game when Cesc featured increased by 0.19 goals per game to an average of 2.08, and goals conceded decreased by 0.25 to 0.88 goals per game.

Had Cesc featured in all 38 league games and these stats been consistent, Arsenal would have picked up 77 points, enough to take them to a 2nd place finish, just 3 points behind Man Utd.

Arsenal Without Fabregas

The most alarming stats for Arsenal fans show that when Cesc did not play, the team won almost half the number of games, losing almost twice as many.

Compared to when Cesc played, goals scored decreased by 0.54 per game to 1.54, and goals conceded increased by 0.74 to 1.62 per game.

Had these stats been indicative of the whole season, Arsenal would only have picked up 49 points, only enough to finish 8th in the table.

The above numbers are also representative of the situation in the Champions League last season, and are pretty consistent with the numbers for home games. But the largest variation is in the performance of away games.

Away Games

Arsenal won a fairly impressive 58% of away games featuring Cesc, but when he didn’t play they only won a shocking 14% of games (just one win from 7).

Is this a bad sign for the coming season for Arsenal fans?

Another player who missed several games through injury last season was new team captain, Robin van Persie. Lets take a look at the stats regarding him.

Robin van Persie

Pretty surprising results I’m sure you will agree – Arsenal won just 44% of games when van Persie played, compared to 62% when he didn’t. Goals scored per game were 1.92 with van Persie versus 1.85 without, and goals conceded 1.20 per game with him playing and 1.00 without.

Not what you would expect to see considering he scored 18 goals in 25 games (0.72 goals per game – the highest rate in the Premier League).

The chart below shows a comparison between the various different combinations of Arsenal with and without Fabregas and van Persie:

Arsenal suffered their worst results when Fabregas was injured and only van Persie was playing. When they both played (just under half the games), the performance was pretty much on average.

Although we are only looking at a small sample which could be skewed with one or two odd results, the numbers seem to instigate a lot of Arsenal’s play relied on Fabregas for creativity – without him on the pitch, van Persie and the others were just not supplied well enough.


Shots – Goals / On Target / Total

Passes – Completed / Total
Final 3rd Passes – Completed / Total
Chances Created: Assists / Total Chances Created

This point is clearly evidenced when looking at the last 8 games from the 2010/11 season – Fabregas played the first 4, then was injured for the last 4.

In each of the games Fabregas featured, he made the most passes in an Arsenal shirt, the most in the final third and created the most chances.

In the 4 he didn’t feature, the picture is rather mixed. Ramsey (4 games), Wilshere (4), Song (3) and Diaby (1) were the utilised central midfielders, with none of them seemingly having a defined role or leader across all 4 games (either that or Wenger was trying different options in each game).

What Does The Future Hold?

Should Arsenal fans head out and buy a Swansea shirt hoping to enjoy better football with more fun? Not just yet, as one young Welsh man could be the answer.

Aaron Ramsey, 20, has featured just 60 times over 4 injury hit seasons, playing just 7 league games last season, but shows very similar qualities to Fabregas: high pass completion rates, majority of passes played forwards (with high completion), and a number of chances created each game.

If Ramsey stays injury free and is given a ‘Cesc’ role by Wenger, and as long as he doesn’t feel the pressure and try to do too much as he has occasionally for Wales when Captaining the side, he could well be Arsenal’s next hope.

The first game of the season against Newcastle saw Ramsey feature in this role, and as I type he provided the assist for the only goal of the game in the UEFA Champions League qualifier against Udinese. Only time will tell if he can fill the boots.

Keywords: football tactics, team tactics, premier league, soccer tactics, team analysis, Arsenal FC, Cesc Fabregas, Aaron Ramsey, Arsene Wenger, Robin van Persie

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6 responses to “Cesc Fabregas: Gone, But How Much Will He Be Missed?”

  1. gooneroses says :

    Great statistical approach here, nice write up as well! I hope Mr. Wenger can find a solution for the obvious problem shown from the two games (Newcastle and Udinese) which is the lack of creativity and killer pass in the final third. Anyhow, what is happening to Chamakh???

  2. Konsta K. says :

    Kind of telling the obvious about Cesc’s importance to the team, but those RVP stats are baffling! Good stuff.

  3. footyexperts says :

    Have you heard of the term “sufficient sample size”?

    • betweenthelinesfootball says :

      I did mention that in the article, but there are only so many games in the season and the results were interesting. The stats were consistent across EPL, Champions League and Cup, and represented a good mix of teams. The Away stats are the standout ones.

  4. Often Partisan says :

    Nice blog so far, very interesting to see the Van Persie statistics! Interesting to see that its the goals conceded stats that is affected mostly for the worse when he is playing rather than the goals scored – random hunch – something to do with defending set pieces? As I’d imagine the larger presence of a Bendtner or Chamakh (Arsenal’s usual alternative strikers) would be better for this than van Persie? As I said just a guess.

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