The Dan and Van Show

With Liverpool travelling to Old Trafford this weekend to face Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson has been trying to goad the Merseyside Reds as usual ahead of the match. The Scotsman has claimed that “Brendan Rodgers is taking a bit of a gamble” by signing Daniel Sturridge, as he had moved between several clubs already in his relatively short career.

I argued in the summer that signing Robin van Persie would be a gamble, as he only averaged 9.4 league goals per season, and had a poor fitness record, prior to 2011/12.

Luckily for Ferguson, the Dutch striker has delivered (both on a fitness and goals level) so far. But as he is in the prime stage of his career, whilst Sturridge is still only 23, I thought it would be interesting to compare their records ahead of the big match, as the two are the latest striking additions for the Lancastrian rivals.

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Robin van Persie: 2011/12 Distorts The Picture

As a Liverpool fan, I wouldn’t normally write about other teams or players. However, the news today that Robin van Persie will not be signing a new contract at Arsenal (and so only has one year remaining on his current deal) set Twitter alight, so I thought I’d look up his Premier League statistics.

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Goal Involvement: The Top Six

Following an excellent article on The Tomkins Times regarding the goal involvement for each Liverpool player, it was suggested that it would be interesting to see how the Liverpool players compare against their rivals from the other teams that finished in the top six last season.

Whilst the original study looked at all goal involvement (including passes in the build up to a goal) across all competitions, this will be solely based on goals and assists in the Premier League, as that information is far more widely available.

102 different players scored a goal and/or provided an assist for a team-mate for the top six last season. Where players (such as Andy Carroll or Fernando Torres) have played for two teams this season, the figures quoted are their total for both sides, to allow them a full season of data (injuries permitting of course).


Robin van Persie takes the honours here, though his tally was boosted by a couple of penalties, which helped him get past Berbatov into first place. Interestingly, discounting the spot kicks would make it a dead heat between those two.

Whilst Andy Carroll is seventh, the majority of his goals and pitch time were in the black and white of Newcastle United. In fairness though, his performances for Liverpool would still put him in ninth on the above list, with his two goals in 446 minutes of game time.

Liverpool’s highest placed representative for the season as a whole is Maxi Rodriguez, who scored a goal every 204.3 minutes, which landed him 16th place.

Although Michael Owen made a minor contribution to United’s title success, with three players in the top four (and Wayne Rooney just outside in 13th), it’s easy to see why they had such a good season.


Technically, first place should belong to Chelsea’s young Ryan Bertrand, who picked up one assist in the 33 minutes of league football he played last season.

Ignoring him due to his lack of game time, we can see that Cesc Fabregas, who was a lowly 48th on the goals list, leads the way here from Nani.

It’s perhaps surprising to see Didier Drogba make 5th place here, as he was only 23rd on the goal scoring chart. I’m sure this hasn’t been the case for the majority of his Chelsea career.

The Reds’ highest representative was Jonjo Shelvey, who came in at 13th place with one assist from 321 minutes of match time. It should also be noted that Luis Suárez came in at a highly creditable 19th place for his first half-season in England, after assisting a goal every 367.33 minutes.

Goals + Assists = Total Goal Involvement

As this is the key measure of this study, I have included the top twenty players (again ignoring Ryan Bertrand – sorry Ryan!):

Congratulations go to Robin van Persie, the only player to be involved in a goal more than once every 90 minutes played. Even discounting penalties, he would still lead the way with an impressive 76.87 minutes per goal involvement.

Again, Andy Carroll’s tally has been boosted by his Geordie exploits; for Liverpool alone he would drop to 24th place.

Dirk Kuyt therefore takes the Liverpool player of the season award on this ranking, as he did in the original study. It’s also encouraging again to see Luis Suárez grab a top twenty berth.

Again, Manchester United can boast a very good showing; six of the top twenty. It’s interesting to note that Manchester City managed to finish 3rd in the league, yet only have one representative in this table. An injury to (or the departure of) Carlos Tevez could impact them in a big way next season.

I’m sure you’re wondering about the whereabouts of PFA Player Of The Year Gareth Bale. He finished 47th in this table, behind (amongst others) our own Joe Cole, who finished in 43rd. Who would have ever thought that would have happened?

UPDATE: 3rd January 2012 – As Joe Cole is on the verge of leaving Liverpool, I tweeted that he had scored or assisted in the Premier League more frequently than Gareth Bale did in 2010/11. This was subsequently questioned, so here are the figures:

Player Club Goals Assists Total Minutes Played Minutes Per Goal Or Assist
Joe Cole Liverpool 2 1 3 794 264.67
Gareth Bale Tottenham Hotspur 7 1 8 2451 306.38

The statistics used in this article were originally sourced from The Telegraph, but I have today verified them via EPLIndex, WhoScored, ESPN Soccernet and the official Premier League website.

So it’s official – Joe Cole IS better than Gareth Bale!

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