STATS: Who is more influential – Rooney or Sanchez?

With this weekend’s showdown battle for third place between Manchester United and Arsenal fast approaching, Lewis Addley looks at who has been more influential in the Premier League this season, Wayne Rooney or Alexis Sanchez?

The two attackers go head-to-head in arguably their most important fixture of the season after Arsene Wenger’s comments regarding the difference coming third can make in terms of transfers. The game has added importance as the victor will edge closer to securing third place and will therefore avoid the Champions League qualifiers.

This has been another transitional season for United and it looks like Louis Van Gaal is getting closer to the side he wants and bringing United back to the top level.

Rooney has been used in a number of different roles this season and the United captain has remained very professional about it. He is still arguably the best striker for the Red Devils and his qualities have made him the stand out attacking option in the United side.

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Sanchez’s first season with Arsenal has been brilliant. He was nominated for PFA Player of the Year and he has been the difference in many of his side’s games.

So how do the two compare in their key offensive areas this season?

Stats via Squawka Apps Goals Assists Pass Accuracy Chances Created Shot Accuracy Duels Won Successful Take-Ons
Rooney 32 12 10 85% 45 51% 43% 38
Sanchez 32 16 8 77% 72 64% 51% 111

Having both played the same number of games, Rooney’s goal output is still impressive. It is lower than previous seasons, but being used in a midfield role on occasions certainly hasn’t helped. Sanchez does have a better goals-per-game ratio than the England captain.

Rooney has more assists, which isn’t surprising given he plays a more central role, and has a more successful pass rate. Surprisingly though, Sanchez has created more chances, as his ability to get his head down and run at defences makes him a very tough player to stop.

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Sanchez has a far greater success rate when it comes to take-ons which also gives him a better ‘duels won’ percentage.

Both are playing in similar squads and are certainly the key players when looking at offensive options.

Their battle this weekend will help to show who can perform at the highest level under immense pressure. Rooney could well edge it with the home crowd behind him but Sanchez will look to hurt the Red Devils where possible.

Who do you think is the more influential player, Rooney or Sanchez?

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FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Reading vs Arsenal

Competition: FA Cup semi-final – Reading vs. Arsenal

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Saturday, April 18 – 17:20 BST (12:20 ET)

Match Odds: Reading 12/1 – Draw 5/1 – Arsenal 1/4

Match Preview

Reading and Arsenal clash at Wembley Stadium for the first FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening as the Gunners look to reach a second successive final and continue the defence of their title.

Reading are undoubtedly major underdogs coming into the game as they sit eighteenth in the Championship and many will struggle to see how they can overturn Arsenal, but the beauty of this competition is that anything can happen.

Few would’ve predicted Bradford winning at Chelsea or Middlesbrough winning at Manchester City in the fourth round, so the Royals can approach the game with a nothing to lose attitude.

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Steve Clarke’s side are without a win in five games in all competitions and their last victory came in the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Bradford – the Royals have won just two of their last 12 (D5, L5). Reading have also seen off Huddersfield, Cardiff and Derby in their run to the semi-final.

Arsenal are the FA Cup holders and arguably the best team in the country right now after a run of eight straight wins has lifted them to second in the Premier League – the Gunners have also won 15 out of their last 16 domestic fixtures.

Arsene Wenger‘s last taste of defeat in the FA Cup was against Championship opposition in February 2013 when Blackburn Rovers won 1-0 in a fifth round tie at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal are undefeated in 10 FA Cup ties since then, including victories over Hull, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Manchester United in this season’s competition.

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It will be the Arsenal manager’s tenth FA Cup semi-final and should the Gunners go on to lift the famous trophy once again, they will become the most successful club in the history of the competition – they currently share the record for most FA Cup titles (11) with Manchester United.

The last time these two sides met, Arsenal ran out as 4-1 winners in a Premier League game back in March 2013. The last cup meeting between the two was that enthralling 7-5 League Cup comeback win for Arsenal in October 2012 at the Madejski Stadium after Reading had taken a 4-0 lead.

The Wembley stage is set and the FA Cup semi-final is always a great day for both sets of players and fans alike. Arsenal are heavy favourites, but Reading will relish the occasion that marks their best achievement in the competition since 1927 as they attempt to reach their first ever FA Cup final.

Team News

Reading will be delighted that striker Pavel Pogrebnyak will be available after struggling with a knee injury, although they will be without the on-loan Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah as they are both cup tied.

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Arsenal have rarely had so many options at their disposal in recent years as only Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are unavailable with injury. Wojciech Szczesny will start in goal as he continues his role as the ‘cup goalkeeper’, while Wenger could also rotate on-pitch slightly from the team that faced Burnley last weekend. Mathieu Debuchy and Jack Wilshere are both fully fit and available for selection.

Key Points

Reading’s last five in all competitions: L/D/D/D/L

Arsenal’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Arsenal have won all 12 of their previous matches against Reading, so the Royals will be making history if they win this one.

Key Player: Mesut Ozil – The German has put in some excellent performances in the last few months and on a big Wembley pitch, this is the type of game where he could really pull the strings and open up Reading’s defence.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 2-0 Reading – The FA Cup is a magical competition but it’s so hard to see how a struggling Reading side are going to upset the rhythm of an Arsenal team that can’t stop winning. The Gunners will be made to work hard but should ultimately win the game comfortably.

Olivier Giroud ‘proud’ of Arsenal’s fighting performance at Burnley

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has praised his teammates for their performance at Turf Moor against Burnley on Saturday after the Gunners secured a hard-fought 1-0 win.

The Frenchman has been on fire in the last few weeks and Burnley are the first team to stop him scoring for six Premier League games but Giroud is still happy with an eighth straight victory for the team.

“It was a tough game for us and we were a bit lucky. We did well to score early in the game because it was really hard for us. Burnley play with a lot of determination and it was a big fight, but we succeeded and it was a big win for us,” Giroud told Arsenal’s official club website.

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Arsene Wenger‘s side have often been criticised in the past of not being able to win games when they aren’t playing well, but the win at Burnley was certainly an occasion when Arsenal did just that and Giroud has echoed the importance of doing so.

“Sometimes you can’t play your best football every game and we tried to focus on not conceding a goal. It’s one more clean sheet so as long as we were winning the game, I don’t think we were too much in danger.

“If we were told that we were going to win this game 1-0 I would’ve taken that straight away. It’s never easy to win here. We kept our calm today, especially in the first half because they played really tough and it was a big fight.”

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Arsenal’s recent run has given them an outside chance of challenging Chelsea for the Premier League title, and while it is extremely unlikely the Gunners will bridge the gap on their London rivals, all they can do is keep on winning their own games and continue the winning streak

“It’s really good for us and I’m really proud to take part in these performances. We don’t want to stop here, though, we want to carry on and keep this good run and momentum going,” said Giroud.

Can Arsenal continue their good run of form until the end of the season?

Arsenal legends believe Premier League title race isn’t over

Former Arsenal strikers and club legends Thierry Henry and Alan Smith believe that the Premier League title race isn’t over yet despite Chelsea being four points clear of the Gunners with two games in hand.

“If they beat Chelsea, they will put some doubt in their mind,” Henry said on Sky Sports while talking after Arsenal’s 1-0 win against Burnley.

“But there is one thing I want to go back to what Aaron Ramsey said. He said, and we clearly understood because he said it two or three times, that he doesn’t like it much playing on the right of midfield. But this will do a job for the team.

“The run they are on is because they are doing things they don’t like, but they do it for the team. That’s why they are doing what they are doing, and maybe why they didn’t perform at the start of the season because they were not doing it,” the Frenchman added.

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Alan Smith agreed with Henry and thinks that Arsenal can put pressure on Chelsea if they win when the sides clash at the Emirates Stadium in two weeks time.

“They have to beat [Chelsea] if they are going to win the league, and that will put doubt in the mind of Jose Mourinho’s players,” Smith said.

“The way they’re playing, they’ve got more than enough going forward to make chances and score. Even against a defence like Chelsea’s.

“But they can’t afford any slip-ups you would probably say because you really cannot see Chelsea dropping many other points.”

Do you agree with Thierry Henry and Alan Smith? Can Arsenal win the Premier League this season?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Burnley vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – Burnley vs. Arsenal

Venue: Turf Moor – Saturday, April 12 – 17:30 BST (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Burnley 5/1 – Draw 16/5 – Arsenal 8/15

Match Preview

Burnley host the in-form Arsenal in the Premier League‘s evening game at Turf Moor this Saturday as their battle against relegation continues.

Burnley have just one win in their last ten games, but it has to be noted that was against the champions Manchester City at Turf Moor and they come into this game off the back off a 0-0 draw against Tottenham.

The Clarets are currently sitting 19th in the Premier League table and are running out of time to save themselves from the drop.

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With every team in the bottom five on the edge, their fight will still have many twists and turns but they have to start picking up points and it doesn’t come much tougher than this.

Arsenal are the in-form team in the league after winning their last seven on the bounce, which has made them Chelsea’s closest rivals for the title and they’ve pushed themselves up into second in the table.

Arsene Wenger‘s men have clicked into form at a vital stage of the season and this run will certainly help them attract big names in the summer.

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Sean Dyche‘s men have to take the same approach to this tie as they did from their astonishing win over Man City almost a month ago and they need to make their home advantage count during this run-in if they are to stay up.

It should be a tough, hard-fought tie with both sides having so much to play for at this stage of the season.

Team News

Burnley are set to have five sidelined as Steven Reid, Ross Wallace, Dean Marney, Kevin Long and Matt Taylor are all recovering from injuries. Sean Dyche will be hoping forward George Boyd can produce another moment of magic to continue his latest stint of giant killing.

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Arsenal will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczęsny will be fighting to be fit following minor injuries. Wenger will need his goal-machine Olivier Giroud to keep the goals coming as he has seven in his last six. His partnership with Alexis Sanchez has proved to be a hit.

Key Points

Burnely’s last five: L/L/W/L/D

Arsenal’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Winning Streak – Arsenal’s seven-game winning streak has seen them climb up into second and a push for the title is an aim even this late on. Their next game against Chelsea is possibly the biggest Premier League tie of the season.

Key Player: Olivier Giroud – An easy choice. Giroud is the man in form and now has a better strike-rate this season than fellow forward Alexis Sanchez. The Frenchman has notched an impressive 14 goals in 20 games.

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Score Prediction

Burnley 1-3 Arsenal – Arsenal’s momentum will overpower a spirited Burnley side fighting for their Premier League status.

Arsenal set to miss out on £10m Chelsea star as Inter move nears

Arsenal‘s pursuit of Petr Cech looks set to end in disappointment as the Chelsea goalkeeper is close to signing for Serie A outfit Inter Milan, according to the Express.

The Chelsea fan-favourite looks set to end his 11-year love affair with the Blues this summer after a frustrating season playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois.

Arsenal has been a rumoured destination for the Czech Republic international but that move looks all but over as Italian reports claim Cech is close to agreeing a deal that will see him join Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan.

Corriere dello Sport reported on the move for Cech from Inter, claiming the Nerazzurri will offer the 32-year-old shot-stopper a two-year deal with the option of a third.

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It is also reported that current Inter keeper, Samir Handanovic, is refusing to sign a new contract with the club, further fuelling speculation of a move for Cech.

Cech has won an impressive 14 trophies with Chelsea during his 11 years in England and played a pivotal role in their Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich in 2012, so his experience is at the very highest level.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Southampton have all been linked with a move for the Chelsea star, who Jose Mourinho values at £10 million but Inter Milan looks to be his next destination.

Would Inter Milan be a good move for Petr Cech?

Arsenal invincible says Gunners deserve to be champions this season

Former French international and Arsenal invincible, Robert Pires believes the club have done enough to deserve to be crowned champions of the Premier League this season.

Chelsea have led the way for much of the season and remain six points clear of second-placed Manchester City and a further one point ahead of Arsenal in third.

But Pires believes Arsenal would have been deserved winners this season.

“In my opinion, this year, Arsenal deserved to be champion, and they won’t be far away,” Pires told Perform.

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“I think, once more, there will be some little regrets at the end of the season.”

Arsenal are still to face leaders Chelsea at the Emirates on Sunday, April 26, in a match which could be too late for any impact on who is to be crowned champions.

The Gunners are forever compared to the invincible side of 2003/04 and Pires admits its frustrating for so many Arsenal sides to be so close to the same quality.

“It’s tough and frustrating for the fans. Every time, Arsenal is close,” he added.

“It’s because of the important games that you can’t lose, against Chelsea, City and United.

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“But this is the difference. Because against the smaller teams, sometimes there is a misstep or an accident.”

Arsenal take on Liverpool on Saturday in a key clash in the race for the top four and the Gunners can go into second with a win.

Is Robert Pires right to claim Arsenal deserve to have won the league this year?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Arsenal vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Arsenal vs Liverpool

Venue: Emirates Stadium – Saturday, April 4 – 12:45 BST (07:45 EDT)

Match Odds: Arsenal 4/5 – Draw 13/5 – Liverpool 100/30

Match Preview

Arsenal and Liverpool clash at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime in the Premier League‘s stand-out fixture of the weekend.

These two sides have been the best Premier League teams in 2015 so far and this game represents another huge moment in the race for Champions League qualification, with Liverpool five points adrift of fourth and six points behind third-placed Arsenal.

Defeat for Liverpool in this game will leave them desperately playing catch-up and they arguably need to go all out for the win to stand any chance of making the top four.

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Meanwhile, Arsenal can heap the pressure on Manchester City as a win would see them leapfrog City into second, even if only for a few hours.

The Gunners are on an impressive run of six straight wins in the league and have lost just twice in their last 15 games, winning 12 and drawing one.

Liverpool have also been in great form and their 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United last time out was their first Premier League loss in 14 matches after they’d been on a 13-game unbeaten run, consisting of ten wins and three draws.

Arsenal’s main man in recent weeks has been the in-form striker Olivier Giroud – the Frenchman has scored nine goals in his last nine games in all competitions as well as six in his last five Premier League matches.

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Arsene Wenger will certainly be hoping that Giroud and his Arsenal teammates can continue from where they left off following the international break.

Brendan Rodgers will be urging his players to call upon the performance that famously ripped Arsenal apart at Anfield in that 5-1 win back in February 2014.

The reverse fixture between these two sides this season ended as a 2-2 draw in dramatic fashion as a 97th minute header from Martin Skrtel rescued a point for the Reds after goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud had given Arsenal the lead following Philippe Coutinho‘s opener.

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Team News

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) remains out for Arsenal, while Danny Welbeck suffered a knee injury on international duty but could still make the squad. Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby all featured in a friendly against Brentford on Tuesday but it is unlikely any of them will play due to lack of match sharpness. Tomas Rosicky could also return to the squad following illness.

Liverpool will be without skipper Steven Gerrard as he begins a three-match ban following his red card against Manchester United. Martin Skrtel is also unavailable after he was suspended retrospectively for a stamp on David De Gea. Jon Flanagan remains out with injury, while Adam Lallana (groin), Dejan Lovren (abdominal) and Daniel Sturridge (groin) are all trying to recover and could be doubtful. Youngster Jordan Ibe is also out injured.

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Key Points

Arsenal’s last five in the Premier League: W/W/W/W/W

Liverpool’s last five in the Premier League: W/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Arsenal have only lost one out of their last 14 games at home to Liverpool in the Premier League (W7, D6).

Key Player: Aaron Ramsey – The Welshman is starting to show glimpses of the incredible performances we saw last season and his goals from midfield between now and the end of the season will be crucial – his battle with Jordan Henderson will be one to watch.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool – Arsenal are on a great run of form and Liverpool are missing a few key players. This will be a tight but very entertaining game and the Gunners should just edge it with the home advantage.

Stats: How important is Mesut Ozil to Arsenal?

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil is coming towards the end of his second season with the club now, yet many are still unconvinced with his performances and believe that perhaps he hasn’t lived up to his £42.5m price tag.

The German international helped the Gunners to their first trophy for nine years last season as they went on to lift the FA Cup and they’re currently third in the Premier League this time around, as well as having booked their place in the semi-final of the FA Cup once again.

Ozil has been hampered by injury throughout this campaign, which has meant the Gunners have played a large amount of fixtures without the services of a man who played in every game at Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph.

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Arsenal have played 14 Premier League games with Ozil in the side (W8, D4, L2) at a ratio of two points-gained-per-game, compared to 16 league games without him (W10, D2, L4) and they amount to exactly the same amount of points-gained-per-game – two.

So in that regard, Arsene Wenger‘s side are neither better off nor worse off when Ozil plays, but how does he compare statistically to the other attack-minded midfield players in the Arsenal team? Here is an average-per-game breakdown of numbers:

Arsenal midfielders in the 2014/15 Premier League (stats via Squawka)

Arsenal midfielders performance per-game in the 2014/15 Premier League (stats via Squawka)

The numbers show that Ozil has the most number of assists, chances created and key passes per-game out of any player, while only Santi Cazorla has a better pass completion rate with 88% compared to Ozil’s 87% – a miniscule difference.

Alexis Sanchez plays in a slightly more advanced role and has been prolific this season so he tops the goals-per-game charts. Only Santi Cazorla has scored more goals-per-game than Ozil.

At the beginning of March, it was also revealed that Mesut Ozil had covered more ground than any other Arsenal player since returning to the side in January, according to the telegraph.

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The criticism aimed at the 26-year-old often comes from his relaxed style of play, combined with the way he moves across the pitch and he certainly creates a divide in opinion.

It’s likely that some may never agree on what to make of Ozil and his hefty transfer fee is probably one of the main reasons that some aren’t entirely happy.

Man City, Arsenal & Tottenham the masters in late Premier League goals

Manchester City and Arsenal are the two sides that have scored the most goals in the last ten minutes of Premier League games so far this season.

Manuel Pellegrini and Arsene Wenger have both seen their sides score 13 times in the 80th minute and onwards – some of which have had a crucial impact on where they sit in the league table as it stands.

Tottenham are the next best team when it comes to grabbing late goals, while Aston Villa are the least likely to score in the dying embers of a game as this table shows:

Premier League goals scored in the last 10 minutes (2014/15 season)

Goals in last 10 minutes (2014/15 PL season)

Crucial late goals for Arsenal this season:

  • 16 August – Aaron Ramsey vs. Crystal Palace (91st minute) to make it 2-1
  • 23 August – Olivier Giroud vs. Everton (90th minute) to make it 2-2
  • 18 October – Danny Welbeck vs. Hull City (91st minute) to make it 2-2
  • 03 December – Alexis Sanchez vs. Southampton (89th minute) to make it 1-0
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Crucial late goals for Manchester City this season:

  • 13 September – Martin Demichelis vs. Arsenal (83rd minute) to make it 2-2
  • 21 September – Frank Lampard vs. Chelsea (85th minute) to make it 1-1
  • 08 November – Sergio Aguero vs. QPR (83rd minute) to make it 2-2
  • 07 February – James Milner vs. Hull City (92nd minute) to make it 1-1

Despite Man City and Arsenal having scored more late goals than any other team, neither of them have rescued as many points as Tottenham have in the last few minutes of a game.

Spurs have made a habit of leaving it late to break the hearts of their opponents and have done so on seven occasions.

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Crucial late goals for Tottenham Hotspur this season:

  • 16 August – Eric Dier vs. West Ham (93rd minute) to make it 1-0
  • 02 November – Harry Kane vs. Aston Villa (90th minute) to make it 2-1
  • 23 November – Christian Eriksen vs. Hull City (90th minute) to make it 2-1
  • 14 December – Christian Eriksen vs. Swansea (89th minute) to make it 2-1
  • 17 January – Christian Eriksen vs. Sunderland (88th minute) to make it 2-1
  • 07 February – Harry Kane vs. Arsenal (86th minute) to make it 2-1
  • 22 February – Harry Kane vs. West Ham (96th minute) to make it 2-2
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Without these late goals, Tottenham would be a staggering 13 points worse off than their current overall tally of 53 which would see them down in 11th place with just 40 points – so the late saviours have been essential to Mauricio Pochettino‘s side this season.

Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane have both scored three times in the final moments of matches and it goes to show not only how unforgiving the Premier League can be, but also how entertaining it is with a remarkable 122 goals scored in the final ten minutes of all games.

It also begs the question of how many fans will have missed vital goals by leaving a game early?