Has there been one more important, more valuable and more impressive than Arsenal's Robin Van Persie?
This season the shortlist for the player of the season will have names like Aguero, Silva, Rooney and Bale on. However has there been one more important, more valuable and more impressive than Arsenal's Robin Van Persie?
Arsenal have struggled at times throughout the season, although they are currently on a great run of form and have overtaken Spurs to lie in third place there has been serious questions asked of the team and the manager. Many, including myself did not expect this kind of resurgence, however defensively they have finally got their first team players back and their solidity at the back has been a massive reason for their improved performance. Yet, throughout the season, it is Van Persie who has almost single handedly put Arsenal in the position they are in.
This season Robin van Persie has a total of 34 goals & assists in the Premier League this season, no other player has more than 22! His record while staying injury free has been only bettered by Messi and Ronaldo. He is arguably up there as the best striker in world football today. Especially considering the talent he has around him.
It is amazing that he has been at Arsenal since 2004, and before 18 months ago he was forever plagued by injury. It seemed that the new Bergkamp was never going to live up to the hype, it seemed he was always going to be a player with the potential yet never reaching it with due to injury. Now, after remaining free of injury for over 12 months, Arsenal are reaping the rewards.
A matured man
This blog has accused Wenger of many failings, however his work with Van Persie has been more than impressive. Wenger has morphed this volatile young promise into a well rounded person and footballer. His work with Van Persie has been steady, yet from it has come a man who when fit appears able to rival the best in world football.
From an early age Van Persie's parents encouraged him to think for himself from an early age. His mother was a painter and his father a sculptor, both who hoped Robin would follow in their creative footsteps. This free thinking, creative player would be regarded of being arrogant and rebellious in his career, a reason why Feyenoord were more than happy to let go a player who offered so much potential, yet also so much turmoil. This meant Arsenal would get Van Persie for just £2.75 million.
Wenger took a gamble on a player that many believed did not have the mental strength and discipline to make it in top level football.
Wenger's development plan
Wenger believes that to coach a player is to ensure he completely expresses his talent in full, rather than make him obey strict tactical instructions. Through these methods Van Persie has certainly matured, he is now a leader where once he was a maverick. Wenger’s ability and desire to teach and not tell has it’s critics, and it is these attributes which make Wenger appear more suited to development than success driven senior football, yet one cannot fault his work with a number of players who he takes under his wing.
It is a remarkable test of Wenger’s belief and perseverance that a player deemed too selfish and too indisciplined at Feyernood could become captain of Arsenal. It is important to realise that with the right guidance and teaching that these players at 18-21 are still young boys, who have been thrown into a world of riches, pressure and expectations which far exceeds their young shoulders. It is imperative that they receive the correct guidance in order for them to come out of these years with maturity and discipline. Van Persie is the perfect example and Wenger’s decision is being vindicated by a run of performances stretching over 12 months.
Wenger believes that Van Persie’s biggest accomplishment has been his maturity, “Robin always had the vision and the talent, what really stands out is how he’s developed as a team player.”
A tactical change
Van Persie was always a shadow striker, a Dutch No 10, yet today he has been converted in to a modern no 9. Or even a 9.5 if you will, a player who drifts between a 10 and 9 with seamless fashion and allows himself to find space and time to create and score. The modern game requires the use of a striker less formation, where a static player number 9 has become redundant for an ever faster game, one in which space and time were restricted more. Van Persie now players as a 9.5, filtering between the lines. Guardiola has made Messi into this type of forward and Wenger clearly admires the style that Barca have.
With Adebayor's departure Wenger opted to go for the 4-3-3 in order to suit the Dutchman’s talent, although there are flaws with the system and certainly there is too much over-reliance on Van Persie, it has clearly aided his game and development. It is testament to Van Persie’s work ethic and desire to improve that he has improved his “weaker” foot and has scored more goals in 2011 with his right than he had done in all his previous Arsenal seasons combined. With a consistent run without injury Van Persie has been able to play at a higher level for longer, enabling him to show the world that his talent would not be wasted.
He has certainly improved his strength, being able to play as a lone forward, holding the ball up and feeding others. His ability to retain the ball and improved heading ability has improved his overall game and has enabled Arsenal to alter their style to be more direct when needed, having a player who possesses the necessary skills of a target man.
A mix of British and Dutch
Has the British game improved him? I would say so. The Dutch style seeks to develop creative, expressive players, those searching for the perfect goal, the perfect game. Van Persie’s path has taken him from seeking this perfection to understanding that first and foremost the game is there to be won. It is through this change in belief that Van Persie has taken his goal tally to remarkable levels.
This search for perfection is shown in his demeanour, his fashion and his football style. He eptiomises the culture of being Dutch, yet now he has aspects of the British game in his style, which have added more determination, strength and directness to his game, “I used to weigh up the options, think whether there was a chip or a backheel for beautiful finish. Now the ball has to go in. I don’t give a damn how.”
Most Valuable Player
In the US, they call their player of the season their Most Valuable Player. This is what Van Persie is, he is the MVP of the Premier League, because in my opinion, there is no other player who has done so much for his team this year. Man City have a supporting cast which makes most sides in the world envious, in the past two years perhaps Tevez has been their MVP yet this season they have shown that they have many players who cans step up and be relied on. United have more than just Rooney to get the goals and however good he is, he is not carrying the side. Obviously this is the hallmark of a winning side, being a team, having players around the top players who can provide and help out.
Arsenal simply have to keep Van Persie at the Emirates, without him they could be a mid table side, his goals have been invaluable, his contribution is not matched by any other in any other team. Nearly everything goes through him and when he performs then Arsenal are more likely to win. Yet, one man cannot do it all, Messi doesn't do it all, neither does Ronaldo, Rooney or Aguero. A successful side requires a multitude of quality.
Fans complain that Arsenal lack the ambition to challenge for the title and their reluctance to spend big is a major part of that, what is also important, maybe more so, is the wages offered. The wage structure at Arsenal, however admirable it may be, gives too much to those who don’t deserve it and not enough to those who do. If the issue is the wage then Arsenal need to alter their wage structure for this player. Chelsea, United and more so City have raised the ceiling in terms of wages, is this unsustainable?
For a league to be competitive yes, yet for these sides they want the best players and require to pay the best wages to do that. If Arsenal wish to compete then they need to retain their best players, right now Van Persie is their only world class player, and they need to pay him world class wages. Right now Arsenal need Van Persie more than he needs them, what they need to do is convince him that his future lies at the Emirates.
Does he owe Arsenal the rest of his career? I believe that he owes loyalty to a club which supported him through his injuries and educated him in being a footballer and importantly a mature man. What he wants, like any ambitious player is to be a winner, to look back at his career and feel he achieved something. What Arsenal need to do is prove that they match his ambitions. They need to go out and purchase three or four world class talents to surround Van Persie and show him and the fans that they mean serious business.
Van Persie could probably have his pick of any top side in Europe at this time; City and United would be great locations for him and I am sure Bayern and the top Italian sides would be interested; Milan would be a good fit and Inter need rebuilding, although without Champions League would he be interested? PSG may also be able to offer him riches and success though I do not believe he is required at Madrid or Barca, their squads are too strong in that position to need a player like Van Persie.
What if an offer of £25 million came in for him? Would Arsenal find it too hard to refuse; they have allowed a lot of good talent to leave before and it appears that if the price is right then they are happy to do business. On this occasion, they must refuse, the message it would send out would be toxic to the Arsenal brand and to their fans. Another world class talent lostindicates only a slippery slope down.
I believe he will stay, he appears very well settled at the club, he talks of his family being happy in London and stresses this is important to him. What Arsenal need to do is prove to him that they want him, and they are willing to give him the wages he has warranted this past year, and to show him that they will bring in the players around him in order to improve the side, to make them more competitive and give Van Persie a chance to win silverware as captain of Arsenal.
I have complained about Wenger and his methods, about the issues that have plagued Arsenal since their move to the Emirates and how they now need to show their intent, to their players, fans and opposition. If this summer will be a turning point for Arsenal then their first show of intent must be to tie up Van Persie, to prove that Arsenal are not a selling club but a team building for the future, and that the man who will lead the side and the new generation at Arsenal will be the leagues MVP, Robin Van Persie.