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Tuesday, May 8, 2012
RVP v Rooney, the three Robertos

Norman Hubbard

Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to and he'll try to answer as many as possible. I was wondering if you could do an analysis of the goalscoring of Robin van Persie compared with Wayne Rooney? Everyone's been awestruck by Van Persie's goalscoring exploits, but I don't think people realise he only has four more goals than Rooney in the Premier League.Zain H from the USA asked Well, Van Persie has 30 goals in 37 Premier League games (36 starts) and Rooney has 26 in 33 (31 starts). In all competitions, Van Persie has 37 in 47 games (44 starts) and Rooney 33 in 42 (40 starts). Van Persie averages a goal every 0.81 games in the league and every 0.78 games in all competitions, Rooney one every 0.78 games, both in the league and all competitions. If we compare their chance-conversion rates in the Premier League, they are very similar: Van Persie has scored 30 goals from 170 attempts, a rate of 17.6% and Rooney 26 from 152, scoring from 17.1% of his efforts. One measure, however, of a striker's value is to remove the penalties and, in all competitions that leaves Van Persie the clear leader with 34 goals to Rooney's 25. Another way to gauge their contributions is to look at the number of points a player's goals has earned his side: for instance, remove Van Persie's two goals against Liverpool and Arsenal would have lost 1-0, rather than winning 2-1, but take away his one goal in the 3-0 victory at Wolves and Arsenal would still have claimed three points. By that measure, Van Persie's goals have brought 23 league points for Arsenal and Rooney's just 11 for Manchester United. It is also true that the Dutchman has scored a much higher percentage of his side's league goals (42.3% to 29.5%), all of which suggests he is more important to Arsenal than Rooney is to Manchester United. If goals away from home are deemed harder, and thus count more, Van Persie has scored 13 to Rooney's nine in the Premier League. However, Rooney has more league goals against top-six opponents - eight to seven - and far more against teams currently in the top half - 15 to RVP's 10 - which may be of more importance to a title-chasing side. Rooney also scored twice against Manchester City in the FA Cup - Van Persie's only goals in the competition were against Aston Villa - but arguably the Dutchman provided more meaningful goals in Europe, striking against Udinese in the play-off to help Arsenal qualify for the competition, then Borussia Dortmund - with his three goals earning three points - and AC Milan. Van Persie also has 10 Premier League assists to Rooney's four, and thus ranks among the most creative players in the league (only four players have provided more) as well as being the division's top scorer. If Chelsea win the Champions League final but finish outside the top four, will they be the first champion to finish outside the qualifying spot in their respective league? As a follow-up, if they do win and finish outside the top four, will the Premier League get five spots for the Champions League? Usamah Rashid asked. To answer the second question first, no, they don't. The rules were amended by UEFA after Liverpool won the Champions League and finished fifth in the Premier League in 2004-05. Then five English sides entered the following season's Champions League - though with Everton losing a qualifying play-off with Villarreal, only four of them played in the group stage. Now the side finishing fourth in the Premier League would miss out on a Champions League place if Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on May 19. Meanwhile, Liverpool were the last Champions League winners to fail to qualify for the competition via their domestic league. They finished fifth in the 2004-05 campaign. Before that, the previous side to win the Champions League while finishing outside the top four in their league were Real Madrid, fifth in Spain in 2000. In the pre-Champions League era, where each country only had one place in the European Cup (apart from the defending champions), it was commonplace for the winners to only qualify for the following season's competition by lifting the trophy. There are three Robertos managing in the Premier League: Mancini, Di Matteo and Martinez. Was there a time or is there a league where we have three or more managers with the same name or surname? Bob Jenkins asked. This is actually the second spell when we have had a trio of Robertos - for much of last season, Di Matteo was at West Brom while Mancini (Manchester City) and Martinez (Wigan) were at their current clubs for the whole campaign. I'm unaware of any record - or indeed anyone looking for one - for managers with the same names, but the best I can come up is two seasons in the 1960s when the old Division 1 featured four Bills: Shankly (Liverpool), Nicholson (Tottenham), Wright (Arsenal) and Ridding (Bolton). Billy Wright, the former Wolves and England captain, had an extra 'y' at the end of his abbreviated name, but as all are short for William, I'd argue he belongs with the others. If any readers can come up with more, please let me know. And further to the last column, as reader Clayton Lambert pointed out, Nathan Blake actually has five relegations from the Premier - Sheffield United, Bolton (twice), Blackburn and Wolves.

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