Everyone loves a bit of maths at this time of the season don’t they? As the number of matches left to play ticks slowly into single figures and closer towards zero, journalists and fans across the country are all trying to work out the earliest date that team X can win the title or that team Y will be relegated. Let me break it down for you. As Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester City on Sunday – Manchester United will be crowned champions should they beat Aston Villa on tonight. The gap will be an unassailable sixteen points even though City have a game in hand. With that in mind surely Manchester United will dispatch of lowly Aston Villa comfortably come Monday evening? Villa have taken ten points from their last six and that’s the same as Champions League chasing Tottenham but if they are to get anything from the match at Old Trafford they will need their star player Christian Benteke firing all cylinders. Equally they’ll need to keep United’s front man, Robin van Persie quiet. Here I’ll analyse the two with a couple of interesting results. Two players at very different ends of the league table but nevertheless these two have more in common than you might think. For starters they were both brought in to their respective clubs in the summer with the view to providing the teams with a lift. Van Persie was seen as the man to make up the difference between United and last season’s champions City which he has done admirably despite a recent blip in form. I must admit when Benteke first joined Villa I wasn’t sure what role he’d have to play because I was unsure if Paul Lambert was going to use Darren Bent or not. To the big Belgian’s credit has seized his opportunity and kudos must go to Lambert for trusting his instinct.
Let’s get down to the stats and whilst it is always tricky to compare players from such contrasting sides the statistics do throw up some interesting questions. Let’s start with the defensive work that both players put in and as you expect Benteke is involved in far more aerial 50-50s (428) than van Persie (94) which suggests his team’s willingness to play the ball to his head. Van Persie’s heading is not his greatest asset and his technique and ability when the ball is on the floor mean United rarely play long balls towards him. Benteke’s undoubted superior aerial ability means he presents his team with a viable option when they are in trouble which is useful for a team that can often find themselves struggling in a match. Interestingly van Persie has made more tackles than Benteke but the Belgian has a higher success rate. As ever the tackle numbers for forwards aren’t extremely high and don’t provide too many clues into their importance to their respective sides. If we move onto the more attacking side of the game it is van Persie who leads the way with eight assists in total with five from open play and three from set pieces. Benteke has only managed four but it is worth bearing in mind just how many more goals United have scored this season than Aston Villa (39). This shows that Benteke has assisted 11.11% of Aston Villa’s goals this season whilst van Persie has assisted 10.67% of Manchester United’s. Van Persie has also created more chances (52 compared to 40) that weren’t assists and he has created four more clear-cut-chances. It is worth noting though that if you take out van Persie’s set pieces he has only created 33 chances which shows that a lot of van Persie’s importance to the team comes from his dead ball ability. It may seem unfair but that is just something that van Persie has in his locker that Benteke does not.
No matter what their contributions to the defensive and creative side of the game are strikers will always be judged on goals. Unsurprisingly it is van Persie who leads the way with 21 goals to Benteke’s 15 but it would be crude to let the comparison end there. First consider that van Persie’s 21 goals make up 28% of his side’s league goals which isn’t a bad figure but when you compare that to Benteke’s (41.67%) you really start to see the importance each has to their team. If you then compare the two players shooting accuracy you can see that Benteke’s (57%) is higher than van Persie’s (54%). Whilst the Aston Villa man has had less shots that is going to be expected because both the quality and quantity of his service is far inferior to that of van Persie’s. Benteke also has a higher chance conversion rate (23% as opposed to 20%) and a better clear-cut-chance conversion rate (50% as opposed to 39%) than his Manchester United counterpart. I’m not saying Benteke is better than van Persie because I do think the Dutchman is a better player and a better forward. The message I’m trying to convey with these stats is that in my opinion van Persie hasn’t had the amazing debut season a lot of people expected him to have. His recent drought has contributed to that but people seem to overlook Benteke perhaps because of his club or perhaps because of other young strikers around at the moment. The Belgian has been Villa’s match winner on many occasions this season and he will give United’s back line a difficult game. Villa should look at the way in which West Ham hassled and harried the United defence and use that to their advantage and perhaps they can nick a draw or even all three points. Benteke was (correctly) nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and he is going up against, amongst others United’s young striker Danny Welbeck. If I had to pick who to have in my team given their form this season it would be Benteke in a heartbeat, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the Belgian this season and I hope he puts in another good performance on Monday.
£20 wins you: Exactly 4 goals in the game: £95 Rooney to score 1st: £90 Benteke to score 1st: £260 van Persie to score 2: £65 Weimann to score: £100 [box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]