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The Importance of Robin van Persie

Arsenal v Partizan Belgrade, UEFA Champions League Gp H 8/12/2010 Robin van Persie of Arsenal celebrates scoring the 1st goal 1-0  Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International 07783 913 777 Photo via Newscom

You have to feel that Arsène Wenger would like nothing more than to have a team of players molded in Van Persie’s style. Minus the injuries and the inconsistencies that they tend to bring of course.

It is obvious that Wenger is trying to follow the Barcelona model of tiki-taka football, with short passes and a loose formation. Everybody but Alex Song and the defenders seem to have a free role to move where they want. While it sometimes results in a lack of width, which doesn’t hurt Arsenal that much anyway as they’re not a very good crossing team, it means that they have a varied offense that drags defenses out of place.

Every year it seems like the style gap between the Catalans and the Gunners closes a bit, the young players are getting more experienced, and the team as a whole is coping better with the demands of the Premier League. This year they’ve even started pressing with a high line, aiming to win the ball back in much the same fashion as Guardiola’s side. The one thing they still lack however, is a directness with their play.

To watch Arsenal at Old Trafford was to see an offense that had no idea what to do when an experienced defense refused to buckle under the weight of canny runs and short passes. Creative outlets like Nasri and Arshavin were allowed a decent amount of freedom outside of the box, yet kept trying to be clever. It seems at times this Arsenal team is afraid to score a goal that doesn’t look like magic, to anybody watching it was obvious that they had to start taking some shots to keep the defense honest. For all Barcelona’s triangular passing, and one-twos they aren’t afraid to have a pop from distance. Not to mention the first time Nasri decided to display some fortitude Chamakh almost pounced on a rebound to level the scores.

There was a similar situation last year against Tottenham, where Arsenal badly needed someone unafraid to force the action rather than let the game flow. Van Persie came off the bench that game and immediately forced Gomes into a string of saves. Arsenal still lost that game, but they showed some verve, some intent, and what this team can be if they stop being so focused on artistry.

Of course this is why Van Persie is so important, because he already has the right spirit built in. First of all he can play as a trequartista, a complete forward, or even on the left in a front three, his adaptability making him perfect for Wenger’s system.  He has a vision that suits the Gunner’s style of play, as witnessed by some flicks to set up Vela and Nasri in the first couple of games since his return. Yet he can also be the striker Arsenal desperately need. They tried to address it with Chamakh over the summer, but while he adds directness and a different challenge for the opposition, his biggest strength is Arsenal’s biggest weakness. They don’t cross particularly well, their main wingers often cut in, and Chamakh just isn’t good enough with his feet.

Of course this is nothing but whimsy unless Van Persie can get himself healthy for the long run, because he was pretty ineffective after coming on against Manchester United as well. However there is still a long way to go in the season and Arsenal have coped quite well despite missing what could be their most irreplaceable piece. If they can incorporate him back into the lineup quickly, the title could be theirs.

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  1. goonergerry

    December 20, 2010 at 2:24 am

    For me RVP still has a lot to prove- he looks to have a way to go to get fully fit and start realising his potential. I dont in all honesty think he has had a long enough run to do that-I am not sure he can stay fit.
    Backing him to be the main striker is a risky strategy with his fitness record.
    If we want to beat United- we have to change the dynamics- they approach every game against us the same way- by sitting back- out muscling us in midfield and hitting us hard on the break. We have to counter this by firstly by keeping a clean sheet-and secondly by out manoevring them in midfield- by passing quicker and more accurately-then you might give RVP some space to work in.

  2. ss

    December 20, 2010 at 2:20 am

    RvP is a phenom and is light years ahead of Chamakh as far as quality goes; that’s not even up for discussion. What Arsenal needs is a true number 9. We need an Eduardo pre-injury, or Adebayor 2007. We need the type of guy that can take a defender on and get a shot off on target. As this article points out, sometimes goalkeepers need to be tested and defenses need to be kept honest with shots. Barca scores a lot of goals on deflections in the box and on balls goalies cannot handle. In fact, a good number of their goals end up being industrious, rather than spectacular. This is what Arsenal don’t seem to understand. Class play and industrious finishing can go hand in hand. If Arsene refuses to sign a striker, Walcott must play every match. He seems to understand the value of shooting, and his crosses have gotten much better. Again, a true number 9 would be a godsend.

  3. RVPFan

    December 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Just when I was about to lose hope at EPLTalk, this article pops up out of nowhere headlining the player who I always thought was the difference maker for Arsenal, and the epitome of the vision Arsene has for our club.

    However, his last couple of appearances from injury hasn’t impressed me much. I was hoping he could be a “hole” player behind Chamakh, but that experiment obviously failed. He has a devastating left peg and a ability to change the game in the blink of an eye, but he hasn’t shown any of that quality up front. Since, the World Cup appearance for Holland, there is something missing in the man I always admired and loved so much and I just can’t explain what it is.

    I go to Arsenal forum almost every day and feel really sad to hear proven Arsenal supporters comparing him to Chamakh and giving Chamakh the edge, just because he can stand on his feet. I know almost certainly that RVP has more footballing ability and brain than Chamakh and that is why I was hoping he could play as an attacking striker, behind Chamakh. I don’t know whether it’s the non existing service from the midlfield, or him having lost the touch, he is not the same player I know.

    For the sake of Arsenal and fans like me, he has to turn it around real quick. Arsenal are in dire-straits at the moment, and his contribution almost certainly would make the difference. No doubt, he has the ability, just needs to be showcased with full fledge, just as Wenger has trusted him all these years, he needs to prove NOW.

    • cabdi

      December 20, 2010 at 12:45 am

      rvp is just distruction of arsenal n he will never be the type of player arsenal needs he just unlucky injury man who will get injury again so plz arsenal need striker like henry im talkin about real deal n i hate this chamach who doesnt have legs to kick the ball to the goal,,,, i know we are good fans becuas we take this bullshit team from wenger ,

  4. weedz

    December 19, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Enjoyed your article SC. And have to agree about the importance of RvP. He`s our most senior and talented forward, even if we, as fans , have to suffer because of the huge number of injuries this player has recieved over his career with us and before.
    I say suffer because RvP has been our senior striker since TH14s departure, 3 seasons ago and has only completed 50 games a season once (08/09) in the last 9 or 10 yrs of his career
    Unfortunately, history will show that his injuries have cost Arsenal dearly in recent times. If TH14 had of had RvPs injury record, Ian Wrights` record would still be in place.

  5. Kereve

    December 19, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    RVP is so important, and I really hope that Wenger can start him as the Forward in the game against Chelsea. Just don’t wanna see such a good player sitting on the bench. A healthy Robin is so precious, so please don’t waste him in the AM. We all know the position he should be. I think C29 can have a rest, since he has been playing so many games and now it is his turn to relax for a while. Rotation is good for both of the players, since I don’t think putting RVP playing alongside C29 is a good idea.

  6. SLO-Gunner

    December 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    “is anything actually going to happen to Manchester United or other clubs with huge debts? ”

    I can’t decide whether or not this is a serious question….

  7. stonroy

    December 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I think gooners frustration is with Wenger. We all saw that Almunia wasn’t good enough but look how long it took for Wenger to see it. Wenger likes to believe in and develop players. The premier league is not a place for developing players, it’s a place for “developed players”! Or at the very most a couple of true prospects (Wilshere-Gibbs) surrounded by tried and true. Is that too much to ask? We have the most expensive tickets shouldn’t we get the results to back it up?

    • Joe

      December 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

      Well, I was going to say at least Arsenal doesn’t have major debt, but is anything actually going to happen to Manchester United or other clubs with huge debts? Short of any actual penalty, its hard to see why a club’s debt situation would matter to a fan.

  8. Joe

    December 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I love the article, but I think Arsenal is much further from a title contender than you believe. The points are deceiving – when they play the clubs you MUST beat to get the title, they fold. Year after year after year, they fold.

    I watched Barcelona dismantle Espanyol yesterday and definitely noticed the way they can change tactics in different circumstances. One of their goals had nothing to do with tika-taka, but was just a long pass played into space and sprinted after by Pedro. I believe Villa had a similar strike in the second half. There’s a lot to be said for forcing your own style on a defense, but I think a truly great team can combine this with an ability to wait for mistakes and pounce.

    Arsenal, it seems to me, aren’t there yet.

    • jm

      December 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm

      I actually think these big matches are a bit overrated. I mean, sure, they are more important than the matches against non-contenders. In the colloquial description, they are six pointers.

      But that’s all they are. They are not requirements on winning a title. If Arsenal was sturdier last season against weak clubs down the stretch, they would have had a real shot at the title. If they had beaten Hull, Wigan and Blackburn (all losses in March-April), they would have been +9, and only 2 points behind the champions Chelsea – easily within striking distance. Winning the league is about being better over the long haul, more consistent and more able to pull out results, not besting the other big clubs.

      Indeed, as an Arsenal fan, I’m considerably more worried about the points we’ve dropped (West Brom, Newcastle, Sunderland, Spurs because of the lead) this season than I am about losing to Chelsea and United again (especially away). A few extra points from those and Arsenal would be top of the league (even counting United’s game in hand as a win), despite losing to United and Chelsea.

      • Joe

        December 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm

        Yes all games are worth the same, but to say 2 points behind is “within striking distance” assumes that Arsenal would be able to strike, i.e. get crucial points in big games. Wins against the other leaders are “more important” because not only do you get points, but you deny them points at the same time. Two points back, five points back – back is back when you can’t deny the leaders when you play them.

        • Joe

          December 19, 2010 at 11:33 pm

          I just think that every team is going to get upset sometimes. Manchester United tied Fulham, Chelsea lost to Birmingham, Barcelona lost to Hercules…freak losses happen. But the champions find a way to pull it together and get the “6 point wins”, or at least get something out of important games. Manchester United beats Arsenal, Chelsea comes back to tie Spurs, Barcelona thrashes Real Madrid 5-0. Arsenal have yet to show me that kind of determination or ability to rise to the occasion when it matters. Still, a long way to go.

          • Sammy J

            December 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm

            I have to say that I agree with both of you. For Barcelona, and in the Spanish League, these big games are so much more important because of the gulf in class between the top 2 teams and the rest of the table.

            In England, it seems to me that there is a little more margin for error because of the parity that exists in today’s Premier League. There are 4 or 5 teams vying for the title at Christmas, which leads to a lot more uncertainty in terms of how things are going to play out in the long term.

            @Joe, you said that “Barcelona lost to Hercules…” 1) That was their only loss all season and 2) It made “El Clasico” that much more important b/c Real hadn’t lost at that point.

            For Barca, winning these “big games” is much more important because if you’re trying to win a title in Spain you have to win almost every game.

            In England, you can not win a game in the league since November 10th (*cough* Chelsea *cough*) and still be 3 points back of the title. This lessens the impact of these “big games” in the prem.

          • bill

            December 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

            I understand what you mean,but remember Arsenal did beat Man City 3-0 ,where Chelsea lost to them.

          • jm

            December 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm

            Sure, I agree that they are more important, and said as much. I just think they are less important than is commonly supposed by fans and media, who right off Arsenal as a title contender because they lose these matches.

            I also agree that every team is going to get upset, at that it is foolish to expect a team to win every single game against a non-contender. That said, if we assume they’ll a similar number as the other big clubs, then your position turns out true, but only trivially so (because those would be the only games left that could possibly decide it).

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