Joey Barton recently attracted the ire of passionate Manchester United fans when he pondered the definition of world class, purely a subjective term, but for him, Wayne Rooney did not fit into a category containing players such as Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo.
A fans favourite during his own playing days at Highbury, Paul Merson, writing in his prediction column for Sky Sports, also touched on this matter, citing Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott as two difference-makers for the Gunners but a pair whom are not yet at that level of the world's very best.
Is he right?
"The injuries haven't helped [Arsenal] - the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott might not be world-class but they are massive for the club - and without Theo they've so little pace in the team," said Merson, 46.
|Club||Mins/ Dribble||Cross Acc||Touches/ App||Mins/ Chance||Assists||Goals||Apps||Mins|
|Jesús Navas||Man City||42.24||27%||48.70||31.12||7||4||30||1,774|
|Ashley Young||Man Utd||34.74||16%||37.44||62.53||1||2||18||938|
|Hatem Ben Arfa||Newcastle||10.95||28%||35.19||43.43||3||3||27||1,303|
When compared to his peer group, Walcott is not the stand-out performer - Eden Hazard is - yet the Englishman is highly-ranked.
He out-performs Ashley Toung and Jesus Navas when it comes to completing successful dribbles - once every 28 minutes on average - he is the most accurate crosser of the football, creates a chance almost as frequently as Navas and Hazard and, when it comes to attacking efficiency (goals scored plus assists provided divided by minutes played), he is also exceptional.
Tottenham Hotspur attacker Andros Townsend, for instance, only effects the scoreline once every 1,208 minutes he is on a Premier League field, almost rendering his dribbling efficiency and crossing attempts (low accuracy) redundant.
Hazard, who is as close to world class as any Premier League attacker can be, has seven goals and 14 assists (or 21 times he has effected the scoreline) which is an attacking efficiency of a goal scored or assist provided once every 131 minutes.
Walcott provides a goal or returns an assist once every 95 minutes on average - an incredible statistic.
It is perhaps unfair to write Walcott off as not world class when he has not had the benefit of a full season due to injury problems but, if he did not suffer a cruciate ligament rupture and continued at his erstwhile form, then it stands to logic he could have returned an additional 16 combined goals and assists, to supplement the nine already banked.
|Club||Touches /App||Pass Acc||Duel Won /App||Tackle /App||Mins/ Chance||Assists||Goals||Apps||Mins|
|Yaya Touré||Man City||80.90||90%||4.42||1.71||49.42||5||18||31||2,619|
|Marouane Fellaini||Man Utd||71.44||88%||7.89||2.94||45.93||0||0||18||1,286|
Aaron Ramsey, like team-mate Walcott, is on the cusp of being the best in his position in the division, but still a level below the global elite. He is on the ball far more frequently per game than even Yaya Toure at Manchester City, but has the worst passing accuracy than the core five listed above.
However, his defensive work is a thing of marvel, winning more duels than all players profiled aside from Manchester United's maligned midfielder Marouane Fellaini. When he was playing, he also created chances with a greater regularity than Toure, than Steven Gerrard, than Morgan Schneiderlin and Fellaini.
Fans of Arsenal may deem Merson's appraisal of two of the club's favourite Britons harsh, but statistically speaking he is right. They are not world class… but they are banging on the door to be mentioned in the conversation.