Monday, August 25, 2008

Robin van Persie has a lot to prove this year, and he hasn't got off to a good start.

The reaction to the defeat on Saturday has been, undoubtedly, overblown. But due to the stratification of the Premier League into the Champions League teams, the UEFA Cup sides, and, well, the rest, defeats can no longer be treated in the 'c'est la vie' fashion they once were. People talk about the Premier League like it's a marathon and, in many ways, it is. But nowadays it's more like a marathon in which you have to sprint from start to finish. In the mid/late 90s you could easily afford to lose around 5 games and still probably win the league quite comfortably. Today, 2-3 defeats, at most, can cost a team its title challenge; that's why the reaction has been so strong. We've already reduced our breathing space and the season has barely begun.

And so it's important that a team sprints out the blocks if it wants to win the league. We did that last year, before we finally ran out of steam, but the start to this season has been pretty ugly. Two scrappy wins against Twente and West Brom, followed by a strange match against Fulham, one in which we dominated possession, yet could not find a rhythm to our passing, or conjure up more than a couple shots on target.

It's easy, as Little Dutch on Vital Football has pointed out in an excellent article today, to blame the usual suspects for the defeat. Eboue, despite being our best midfielder on Saturday, has been hammered, while other websites seem to blame William Gallas for the totality of our defensive failings, regardless of Almunia's inability to boss his area, or Clichy's rather lazy reaction to the shot as it went in.

Indeed, certain players seem beyond the pale when it comes to criticism.

Kolo Toure has not had a decent match for Arsenal for months. Yet, as soon as he's fit, he goes straight back into the team for Djourou. What message does that send to the young lad?

Theo seems to have lost all confidence in his ability, making stuttering runs against defenders that we know he can skin. He needs to man up, quickly, if he's going to make it.

But, for me, the arch-culprit of Arsenal's superficial early-season performances has been a player who I feel flatters to deceive all-too-often.

Robin van Persie.

Robin scores incredible goals. He has one of the most powerful shots i've seen an Arsenal player possess. He can bang free-kicks in from almost anywhere within 30 yards or so of goal.

But, to paraphrase Janet Jackson, what has he done for us lately? Against Fulham he was abject, sauntering round the pitch in a laissez-faire haze of indifference. 3 or 4 poor free-kicks were the sum of his performance.

If you're going to play badly, at least put some effort in. Denilson, despite only completing around 2 of his passes in the game, clearly broke his back trying to get things going for the side, and never hid from the ball. Robin was the polar opposite, skulking around the box, and missing the target with perhaps our best chance of the game.

My fear with Robin is that he's like some form of shadowy chancer. He turns up, scores a dazzling goal every 3 or 4 games, does very little else, then gets injured. There's not enough graft to his game at the moment, none of the energy that Dennis always brought to the table.

Maybe I'm being over-the-top in my criticism. But I feel that if he doesn't up his scoring rate, or improve his work-rate, or actually stay fit for more than half a season, his place in the first XI, if not the squad, should be questioned, especially when we have Eduardo's imminent return, and a young Carlos Vela who's impressed during pre-season.

One thing's for certain - if we don't start scoring soon it's going to be a long season.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I thought RVP was the worst Arsenal player on the pitch, except maybe for Gallas. In contrast, I thought Adebayor did reasonably well with the little he was given.

We do really, really miss the workrate of Eduardo. Our season ended when he did, and he can't come back quick enough.

My basic prognosis was that everything seemed to be going down the flanks, and we didn't have Cesc getting close to the D and working the angles from there, which Arsenal are so good at.

What must be said though, is that Arsenal are shooting from distance a lot more, perhaps not well as yet, but we were wanting more of that going into this season.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't blame Van Persie for anything, he wasn't great but the service he got was shit. As you say, Denilson hardly completed a pass in the entire match, neither did Eboue. Walcott was next to useless, Nasri was closer to Adebayor and Sagna was putting in crosses all day - where was the ball to feet for Van Persie? Non-existant. Despite that he still managed to get a couple of strikes in, his set-piece free kicks were disappointing but you can't expect a player to consistently score goals that way. His performance was more down to the shit playing behind him than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Sure, but out of three free kicks in good positions, you have to get one close, surely. That was my main gripe with RVP.

Anonymous said...

The best article yet written about the Fulham game.

RvP is one of our most over-rated players. He is a flashy hot-head who hasnt improved in his time with us. He can wind up his left leg and blaze the odd wonder goal, but then so could Tony Yeboah. He is light years off Dennis Bergkamp, literally not fit to tie his boots. To Dennis, the ball was a friend, something to be coerced and guided and treasured. To RvP its something that can only be smashed as hard as possible. I have never seen anything in his game to suggest he is the future No.1 striker at our club.

And also agree on Eboue. He was probably our best player (not saying much). He won RvP 3 free-kicks with direct purposeful running and took some substantial digs. Easy target for abuse though coz past behaviour and performance has been crap. Despite poor shooting, i thought he had a reasonable game against WBA too. He's a convenient scapegoat though...

Dont blame it on the moonlight
Dont blame it on the sunshine
Dont blame it on the good times
Blame it on Eboue...

Anonymous said...

RVP is a highlights player - he doesnt offer 90mins worth. However his ability to get a goal out of nothing is worth his place in the side. When we got those free kicks, who in the Arsenal squad would you want to take them?

He got a crucial assist against Twente that has put us in pole position and is capable of that sort of thing even when he is off colour.

Also, dont forget that he scored an absolute magic goal in Moscow on Wednesday so would have been knackered from the travel.

I understand you gripes towards RVP and there is NOTHING I hate more than when people call him the new Bergkamp (they are COMPLETELY different animals) but RVP is the one player in our squad capable of outrageous goals.

Have faith

Anonymous said...

Quote from someone else:
"RvP is one of our most over-rated players. He is a flashy hot-head who hasnt improved in his time with us."

Total disagree.

Well, some might expect more than RvP is able to deliver right now. Face it: DB10 is a unique player, RvP ain't a DB10. The problem is we all want him to be that. So we expect more of him. True, he isn't in his best form, but still a quality player who can score (brilliant) goals and also delivers (brilliant) assists. Remember the beginning of last season, RvP scored some crucial goals and was outstanding. I truly believe him staying fit would see us lift the trophy last season.

We got him from Feyenoord, wasn't a first team player, not even able to get into first team. Hoe can you say he hasn't improved at us? He made huge steps, now he needs to get his game to this high level week in, week out. Give him time, he's young enough to develop his game further to a more experienced player. I rather see RvP play, may be with less effort than Eboue/Denilson, who lose every ball they get, pass or whatever they did with it...

Anonymous said...

No i dont agree. I think RvP needs a good run in the side without injury and he'll start doing the business. With a little bit of luck on the injury side he can a gooner legend.
This loss could be the best thing we could hoped for. If wenger ever need a slap in the face to wake him up to the fact the squad is short and he needs to sign then this is it. Lets all hope he takes heed

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to argue with ur article....given that robin had 3'4 free kicks, all of which he blasted over the goal....comapre that to Deco, whose been playing in the PL for all of 2 minutes, steps up and bangs in a great freekick before the game has really started.....this leads on the bigger problems then? do we have to pay the big money to get the big names to get us the goals we need when losing against the like of far this season, the answer is YES.

Anonymous said...

RVP's free kick taking is not like that of Deco or Juninho. He just blasts the ball and has more accuracy than most people do when they smash the ball as hard, but he can't place the ball as well as others.

I think he will be very important to the team in the coming months and will improve but he just didn't look bothered against Fulham, neither did Theo. As for Anon 2:09, how can you possibly say you'd rather see a player who can't be bothered play in place of someone who's trying his hardest for the team? Van Persie will get his form back in the coming months but he needs to put in more effort because he's been rubbish in pre-season and this season.

Anonymous said...

What's more is that Van Persie's discussing a new contract when it's been since the start of last season that he has played well for us consistently.

Couldn't agree more about Toure always having a place in the side no matter what.

I understand that they might be tired but Van Persie and Adebayor scored for their countries in mid-week, why can't they do it for us? Sure they had shit service but Van Persie had an easy chance to score before Fulham went to the other end and scored themselves.

Anonymous said...

"Quote from someone else:
"RvP is one of our most over-rated players. He is a flashy hot-head who hasnt improved in his time with us."

Total disagree."

Total agree to the first comment. Besides the wonder goals there hasn't been many games where you have been able to say that RvP was awesome. On the contrary, he seems to be an invicible man with the bad attitude.

I also agree to the comment about Eduardo and Vela. When you see them around the box you have a feeling that anything can happen. Vela is still young but he has a fantastic movement and same way goal hungry and clinical as Eduardo.

King Eric said...

Has RVP actually recovered from his last injury? He has seemingly been on the sidelines or off the pace for well over a year now. Is he actually ever going to realise the potential he clearly once had?

And, just to contribute, he should never be compared with Dennis. He was one of the greatest players to have ever graced the premier league. A true artist and visionary AND, as all United fans would agree, a proper combatant. Dare I say it Gooners, a bit of a thug even. But one capable of the delicate and sublime.

That said, Bergkamp, like a fine wine or cheese, matured over time. He was by no means the finished article when he was young and, like RVP, flattered to deceive in his youth.

So, whilst I wouldn't write RVP off just yet, I think he still looks way off the pace, as he has done for some time now. This season is hugely important for him. He needs to stay fit and prove himself. Otherwise he could indeed just end up being remembered for that goal against Charlton. Just like Tony Yeboah...