Position : Striker
Nation : Netherlands
2011/2012 Appearances : 48 (3 as sub)
OK, let’s be honest. I genuinely doubt we would be anywhere close to 3rd without the guy pictured above. Signed for a meagre £2.75 million, way back in 2004, Robin van Persie has come a long way from being that ‘bad boy on the streets of Rotterdam’, to ‘captain of The Arsenal’. Blessed with god’s own left foot, he has been simply magnificent for us this season. After the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, he has taken over the mantle of captaincy and driven the team out of its darkest days to an automatic qualification in next years’ Champions League. While most of his previous seasons have been ravaged with injury after injury, he has been as fit as a horse this season and led the team from the front, and deservedly took top personal domestic honors such as the PFA Player of the Year and the FWA Player of the Years awards. No mean feat.
Here is a look at Robin van Persie‘s season.
van Persie looked the best of Arsenal’s players, attack wise in the opening encounter against Newcastle, which ended in a goalless draw. He was suspended for the first leg of the Champions League qualifier against Udinese, which was won 1-0. van Persie had Arsenal’s best shot at goal in a subdued Gunners’ loss at home to Liverpool. He scored his first goal of the season, in the second leg of the qualifier against Udinese, when he latched on to a Gervinho pass, to equalize the scores.
In the next game against Manchester United, Arsenal were soundly thrashed 8-2, with a weak van Persie penalty brilliantly saved by David de Gea. He would go on to score later, to make the score 6-2, but nonetheless it was an embarrassing scoreline. van Persie struck his effort against the post, in a narrow 1-0 win over Swansea, but scored a fine goal against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, from a Walcott through-ball.
Arsenal were poor again in the 4-3 away loss to Blackburn, when van Persie had couple of efforts kept out by Robinson. He turned provider late on when his cross was met by a Chamakh header. The Dutchman scored his 99th and 100th goals for the club, with a brace against Bolton, to register only the second league win of the season. The first was a low shot past Jaaskelainen, off a Ramsey ball, and the second was from a Walcott cross.
He came on as a sub for Marouanne Chamakh in the 70th minute against Olympiakos. He was lacklustre against an inspired Tottenham. He then turned match winner in the next two league games against Sunderland and Stoke. The first against Sunderland was from a Gervinho cross, after just 28 seconds, after he evaded the entire Black Cats’ defence. His second was a fine curling free-kick from 25 yards, in the 82nd minute, to seal a morale-boosting win. He had three efforts cleared off the line at Marseille, as the Gunners emerged with a late 1-0 win.
In a tight game against Stoke, van Persie came off the bench in the 66th minute, and scored 6 minutes later, to turn in Gervinho’s cross from the narrowest of angles. The trick would be repeated again 10 minutes later, to register a 3-1 win.
He was absolutely clinical in his next game, a 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge. After Chelsea had gone ahead from a Lampard goal, he scored the easiest of goals when Gervinho unselfishly set him up, to tap in. With scores level at 3-3 late on, van Persie capitalized on Terry’s slip, and rounded Cech to put the Gunners up 4-3. He made it 5-3 late on with a fine unstoppable strike.
He came on as 62nd minute sub for Park Chu-Young against Marseille, but failed to score. He scored the opening goal against West Brom, and assisted Vermaelen and Arteta for theirs. He was at his best again, against Norwich, scoring two more. The first was a straightforward tap in from a Walcott cross, after Gervinho had missed several chances earlier. The second was an exquisite chip from a Song pass, over Ruddy.
He added to his barrage of goals, with another brace against Borussia Dortmund. The first was a header, after some fine work by Alex Song on the left, and the second came 4 minutes from time, when he headed in an a Vermaelen header from a corner. He came close twice in a 1-1 home draw against Fulham. He was at his best again in a 4-0 win over Wigan. Vermaelen headed in his corner from close range in the 29th minute, and then his shot was parried by Al Habsi, allowing Gervinho to score in the 61st minute. van Persie got on to the scoresheet, after some intelligent work by Walcott.
He won more plaudits when he scored a sensational volley in the next game against Everton, on the club’s 125th anniversary, off a delightful Song long ball. He was at his best again, against Manchester City, despite a 1-0 loss. He scored a penalty against Aston Villa, after Arteta had been fouled, and then provided the corner for Benayoun’s header, late on in the game.
He was kept out in the next game by some inspired goalkeeping by Wayne Hennessey. He scored the only goal of the match against QPR, when he neatly tucked home an Arshavin pass. This bought his tally to 35 for the year, equaling Thierry Henry’s club record of 34, and leaving him just one behind Alan Shearer’s 36. Despite some good play against Fulham, Arsenal lost 2-1, and also went on to lose the next two games in the leagye against Swansea and Manchester United. He scored against Swansea, in the 4th minute, when he converted Arshavin’s long pass. He inexplicably missed a shot against Manchester United, but scored a fine goal from a Chamberlain pass, which went through Evans’ legs and past Lindegaard, as Arsenal lost 2-1.
He saved Arsenal from crashing out of the FA Cup, with two penalties against Aston Villa, when they were 2-0 down at one stage. He made several audacious attempts at goal against Bolton, but failed to score. He would get a hattrick and two assists in the next league fixture, a 7-1 mauling of Blackburn. The first two were pretty similar to each other, when the Dutchman turned in Walcott’s crosses, and the third was a fine tap-in from a Coquelin cross. He would set up Thierry Henry late on, who scored through a deflected shot.
He put in average performances in the next 3 games, against Sunderland, Milan, and Sunderland again. In Milan, with the Gunners losing 4-0, he had two of the best Arsenal chances on goal, but saw them both kept out by Abbiati. Arsenal went crashing out of the FA Cup days later.
He returned to his usual best in a 5-2 mauling of Tottenham, where Arsenal were trailing 2-0 at one stage. van Persie was at the end of many chances, but was kept out by the post or by some heroic keeping. He would score the equalizer late in the second half, with a brilliant curling shot past Friedel. He was the centre of creativity with Rosicky in the Gunners’ midfield.
He would be match winner again a week later, when he scored both goals in a 2-1 smash and grab win at Anfield. Despite the Reds domination, the Dutchman headed in a Sagna cross in the 34th minute, evading the challenge of Jamie Carragher, and scored a delightful 92nd minute winner, taking an Alex Song cross-field cross, into his stride. He scored a 43rd minute penalty to make the score 3-0, and the aggregate score 3-4 against Milan, where he was impressive yet again. But, he did miss a glorious chance when he attempted to cheekily chip Abbiati, which was kept out by the quick thinking goalkeeper.
He scored in the 15th minute against Newcastle, a minute after Ben Arfa had opened the scoring for Newcastle. He had some heated exchanges with his national team goalkeeper Tim Krul, but had the last laugh (troll) when Vermaelen netted in the 95th minute. He created some chances for himself and the team in a 1-0 over Everton, when his corner was turned in by Vermaelen.
He was in delicious touch again against Aston Villa, in a 3-0 win, but didn’t get on the scoresheet. He was marshalled well by the QPR defence, but missed the chance of the match, after skying an effort, having been played clear. He didn’t score against Manchester City either, but was at his creative best. He scored a penalty against Wolves, and then linked up well with Walcott, to help him score the second goal of the night, as Arsenal won 3-0.
He cut a frustrating figure against Wigan, where Arsenal lost 2-1 at home, and Chelsea, where he had 3 of his shots either hit the post, or had them saved by Cech. He scored the equalizer on 15 minutes against Stoke, a header from a clever Rosicky cross. He scored twice more in a 3-3 draw with Norwich at home. With Arsenal 2-1 down, van Persie remained onside, to collect a Song long ball to shoot past Ruddy, and 8 minutes later, he scored what seemed to be the winner, stabbing home a Rosicky pass. Arsenal nervously finished 3rd with a 3-2 win over West Brom, where the Dutchman even had to make a goal line clearance.
Here are few features of Robin van Persie‘s game.
1. Attack Play
van Persie, at the moment, is second to none in the Premier League, in terms of finishing. Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero and Papis Cisse come close, but van Persie has been magnificent this season. What is clear to see that his work rate has seen much improvement. Once touted as an out and out striker, he often drops deep, in midfield, allowing the quicker players such as Walcott and Gervinho to go forward. His heading, his shooting, all immaculate.
2. Possession, Pace and Positioning
I can rarely remember a moment this season where he has lost the ball, when in a midfield role. His ability to beat defenders, and his dribbling skills are a treat to watch. The injuries have taken a bit of pace out of him, but his positioning allows him to score all kinds of goals. Walcott and Song will vouch for that.
3. Intelligence and Fluidity
van Persie’s 15 assists are an indication of his talent and his ability to pick out a pass. He has been involved in 43 of 74 Arsenal goals, scoring 30 and assisting 13. His ability to shift weight easily makes him hard to mark. Liverpool, Norwich all tried, but in vain.
SUMMARY AND RATING
There’s no two ways about the fact that Robin van Persie is central to Arsenal’s game play. His goals have been one of the largest reasons that the club has finished in 3rd and qualified for next season’s Champions League. Arsene Wenger, will hopefully bust the bank to keep the best striker in the league at Arsenal. The Dutchman gets a 9.