RVP is the league’s MVP


After last weekend’s epic 5-3 triumph at Stamford Bridge, Wenger, again, had claimed that his side had turned the corner. However, the 0-0 draw against Marseille on Tuesday not only brought under scrutiny the measurements and dynamics of this particular corner that the North Londoners endeavour to veer out of, it solicited a more germane question of how Arsenal would fair without their talismanic – an overused term, not so here – captain Robin Van Persie.
After Van Persie’s momentous treble at the Bridge, Arsenal had made a resounding statement of growth. Au contraire, the infertility at home against Marseille – a side struggling in the French Ligue 1 – was unambiguously the corollary of Van Persie not being introduced into the game till the hour mark. By that time, the tone had been set at the Emirates in another one of those frustrating outings at home, where the Gunners dominate most matters on the pitch barring the goal count. With Arsenal’s reliance on their captain to score goals and provide moments of inspiration, Van Persie domineers over his teammates in terms of sheer vitality. Even so, Arsenal’s position on the league table, their season targets and of course their reliance on their captain connotes that Robin Van Persie is the most valuable player in the EPL.
Arsenal’s quest of finishing in the top four hinges on the performances – more relevantly, the fitness – of the Dutchman. And hence, he could singlehandedly be the difference between Arsenal finishing in the lower echelons of the top half, or ending up within the proximity of the summit. No other player comes close to matching the sway that the former Feyenoord man has on the shape up of the league table. Whilst, David Silva is the unanimously proclaimed ‘Player of the Season’ so far and he wheels the play in City’s colours, if one were to hypothetically take him out of the City line-up it wouldn’t exactly be catastrophic and the table toppers would still finish close to the top. The same goes for Rooney, Van Der Vaart, and anyone you care to name from the Chelsea squad. Even Liverpool don’t screen their emblematic ‘one man shows’ owing to a more balanced squad. If anyone comes close to matching Van Persie’s impact on the league, it’s Cheick Tiote for Newcastle, but that is owing to the Magpies punching well above their weight, albeit deservedly.
Van Persie’s recent goal-scoring stats are staggering indeed; 12 goals from 14 games this season, 28 goals in 27 EPL games this calendar year – he has scored 53 percent of Arsenal’s league goals in 2011; no other player has posted a higher percentage this season. It is criminal that he hasn’t even been shortlisted for the Ballon d’or award, when in all honesty his displays over the past year or so are next only to the big two of world football – Ronaldo and Messi. The personal accolades, however, are so intermingled, with the team accolades that sometimes the pool for handpicking the winner is blatantly obvious. The fact that there are eight Barcelona players in the shortlist divulges everything.
Following the unceremonious departures of the midfield duo of Fabregas and Nasri in the summer, Van Persie’s presence became all the more ominous. While most Arsenal fans would venerate Fabregas’ exploits as the vanguard of their play, it was Van Persie who stood out in the most significant occasions even in Cesc’s epoch. Fabregas – opulently dexterous though he undoubtedly is – quite often than not, failed to translate his supremacy against the big guns when the onus was on him. He was never fit enough to be the captain, with his lack of mental fortitude and his handling of his troops coming in question intermittently. Van Persie however, is a befitting leader, one who comprehends the game, marshals his troops and doesn’t hide in the big games. The only glaring question mark rests over his fitness, which is why Wenger is doing is best to keep his captain wrapped in cotton wool and not being over-exerted.
Van Persie – originally a winger who also had the versatility to play in the hole – was initially touted as the successor to Bergkamp’s throne and is now following the ‘goal-scoring’ footsteps of Ian Wright and Thierry Henry. But as things stand, with the Gunners’ potpourri of footballing struts, he is more paramount for the club than the aforementioned trio of Arsenal legends. And, Arsenal’s captain is clear as to where he stands on being a goal-scoring number 9 or the playmaking number 10, “I’m a nine-and-a-half” he told Arsenal magazine recently.
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid