27 June 2014

World Cup Watch: Do Arsenal Players Equal Wins?

Campbell celebrates his goal
against Uruguay
(Credit: Danilo Borges)
During the England vs. Italy game on the first weekend of the World Cup, as my home nation were losing, I turned to my wife and her parents and jokingly said that the reason the Three Lions were losing was that Roy Hodgson had neglected to select the Arsenal players in his squad. This was followed by a dawning realization that I may have actually been on to something; Spain had been thrashed by the Netherlands the day before, while Santi Cazorla sat on the bench for the majority of the game, while Joel Campbell inspired Costa Rica to a 3-1 victory over Uruguay in the match before England's. After this, I kept an eye on the trend. Germany started Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, brought on Lukas Podolski, and demolished Portugal. France's first game ruined my theory, as they beat Honduras with Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny, though I was bailed out on Twitter by my regular Throwdown partner Andy, who said that everyone would beat Honduras anyway. France then redeemed themselves - in the eye of my theory - by thrashing the seeded Switzerland, with Giroud starting alongside Karim Benzema for Les Bleus.

Other results which lend credence to my theory, in no particular order: Spain losing 2-0 to Chile1, with Santi only playing the last 20 minutes; England losing to Uruguay with Wilshere on the bench and Ox injured and Costa Rica beating Uruguay with Joel Campbell playing; Germany beat USA with all three of their Arsenal players starting, and Mertesacker's header leading to Müller's game-deciding goal.

Results that go against my theory, with qualifying arguments: France beating Honduras without Giroud and Koscielny - everyone beats Honduras; France's 0-0 draw with Ecuador, with Koscielny starting - they'd already qualified; all Belgium wins - they have one of the easiest groups in the tournament; England 0-0 vs. Costa Rica, Wilshere started - the Three Lions are terrible and had already been eliminated; Germany's draw with Ghana - that match was just crazy!; Spain's 3-0 win against Australia, Sant played 68 mins - La Furia Roja beat the lowest-ranked team in the tournament having already been eliminated.

So, if we believe my theory - and it's definitely a thing! - then Germany should be the favorites to win it all, France will lose to Die Mannschaft in the quarter-finals because they won't play Giroud or Koscielny and Costa Rica will beat Greece then the Netherlands on the way to the semis, with Campbell winning the golden boot(!). Now I think this whole idea is broken. Obviously the further we go, the more likely it is that quality will rise above, but for now, this is a trend worth keeping an eye on, and makes me feel much better about my pre-tournament prediction that Germany will be the first European side to win a World Cup on South American soil.

Arsenal Player Performances

The Three Lions were miserable throughout all three of their games, and it seems likely that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would have played some decent minutes as England lacked both pace and strength. Roy Hodgson went with the bewildering decision of giving Jack Wilshere the number 7 shirt, then preceding to play a central midfield of Gerrard and Henderson - the same midfield that choked away the lead of the Premier League. Wilshere did show flashes of his talent, but he was inconsistent and has recently admitted that his time in and England shirt might be running out. The one positive? We might get to see them both in New Jersey now.

Santi Cazorla played a total of 82 minutes through Spain's three games, and added no stats of worth.

Per Mertesacker has played every minute of Germany's campaign so far, has pass rate of 92.7% and his header from a corner was rebounded out to Müller for the game winner (sorry to mention it again!). The BFG has formed a solid backline, which has only really looked weak against Ghana. Mesut Özil has played all but 28 of a possible 270 minutes with a pass rate of 76% but no assists, yet he seems to be a key part of Joachim Löw's side. Poldi has played 54 minutes across 2 games, but was never really likely to feature too much with the number of Bayern Munich players.

Club captain Thomas Vermaelen was due to play in Belgium's second match but got injured before kick-off. Has played no minutes so far.

Costa Rica
Joel Campbell has been an integral part of the Ticos surprise run in winning the real group of death (3 teams in FIFA's top 10, CR 28th, opposed to 2 top 10 nations and Ghana at 37), scoring 1 and assisting 1. His performances have lead Arsene Wenger to state the striker will finally get his chance with the first-team squad during summer training.

Koscielny has seen 114 minutes of action across two games, helping France to win their group, having made 1 block and won 1 tackle. Hardly shining stats, but surprisingly, he is behind Mamadou Sakho in the defensive pecking order. Olivier Giroud has featured in all three of Les Bleus matches, scoring one and assisting on another - shocking most Gooners in the process with a lung-busting run down the left flank before squaring for Valbuena. 60% of his shots have been on target, but more importantly - for me anyway - he's looked good next to Karim Benzema, your humble writer's favorite target for this summer.

NB: I am not including any player that has agreed to move from Arsenal, or was included in the statement released by Arsenal regarding released players yesterday (sorry, Sagna, Park and Djourou!).

1 I feel so good about my pre-tournament shout out to Chile as the team to watch. It's good to be right.

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