The importance of Van Persie: What was his contribution and how would his departure affect Arsenal’s line-up?

In total Van Persie scored 37 goals in all competitions last season, making 48 appearances (of which only three were from the bench). This contribution, and his leadership of the team as captain, clearly marks him out as possibly the most influential player at the club today.

The importance of Van Persie: What was his contribution and how would his departure affect Arsenal’s line-up?

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Andy

July 18th, 2012

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Robin Van Persie’s announcement that he would not be extending his contract with Arsenal before the current deal expires next summer was a worrying development for the club, but in many aspects unsurprising. It has certainly affected the atmosphere, but there was an air of inevitability preceding his statement.

The key question is just what was Van Persie’s tangible contribution and importance to the team, and how might they line up without him?

Van Persie has always been acknowledged as a very talented player, and this was clear when Wenger signed him from Feyenoord in 2004.

After spells of excellence combined with struggles with injury, Van Persie came into his own from January 2011 and the past 18 months have seen him develop into one of the world’s greatest strkiers.

The graph below charts his route to success, it is clear that since he has had the opportunity to play regularly without injury his goals per game ratio has almost doubled in five years, from 0.39 per game in 2007-08 to 0.77 goals per game in 2011-12.

In total Van Persie scored 37 goals in all competitions last season, making 48 appearances (of which only three were from the bench). This contribution, and his leadership of the team as captain, clearly marks him out as possibly the most influential player at the club today.

Departures last summer, including Fabregas in particular, left Van Persie a big fish in a shrinking pond. His form clearly points to this. The size of the pond must be seen as a key factor behind his decisions over the past few weeks.

Much has been made of Van Persie’s situation, the fact that the club protected him from contract speculation during this season and stood by him through several injury stricken seasons. When viewed in this light he can be seen as disloyal, and his statement did not provide the fairest reflection of the commitment the club has shown to him as a player over his career.

However, the desire to win trophies in the final stage of his playing time must now weigh heavily on Van Persie, and with his last and only piece of Arsenal silverware coming in the 2005 FA Cup, it is not surprising he is now looking to other options to fulfil his ambitions.

Considering the fact that Arsenal lost key figures in Fabregas and Nasri last season, the decision seemed more inevitable than it might have previously, but is still disappointing.

Wenger’s early purchases this season look defensive, and pre-emptive in nature, on the one hand they were obviously meant as a sign of intent to strengthen the squad, sending a message to Van Persie, but simultaneously, the signing of two forward players in Podolski and Giroud indicates that Arsenal were also investing to cover for any potential loss this summer.

Depending on the future of Robin, Arsenal now have several options for the line-up in the front three. Giroud has to be seen as a strong contender for a first team place after an excellent season with Montpellier, scoring 21 goals in 36 league appearances and winning the Ligue 1 title, however his relative inexperience in the Premier League may lead to Wenger shielding him from an extensive role initially.

Chamakh will also see this statement as an opportunity for him to rebuild his reputation at the club, though whether he could ever replace Van Persie is questionable.

Podolski is another option, though he has also played a wide position on the left, and it remains to be seen how Wenger intends to place him in the team. The wide positions will presumably be filled by a combination of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho.

Ultimately, the only positive outcome of Van Persie’s statement is that he has declared his intent relatively early, and Arsenal can now act quickly to avoid a scenario similar to the sagas last season involving Nasri, Man City, Fabregas and Barcelona. This is offset by the fact that he has effectively slashed the market price in stating that he will leave.

However, there are no clear offers on the table, so it may well be the case that the club have to wait some time to resolve this issue, and may even start the season with Van Persie in the squad.

Whatever the outcome, Arsenal began a new transformation process last season, and this summer is a continuation of the transition. The future lies in the balance, and the decisions taken over the next few months could decide the future of Wenger’s fourth generation team.

Written by James Gillespie.

 

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