Archive for September 29th, 2008

No room for luxury at the top – Van Persie, take note

49 comments September 29th, 2008

Robin van Persie is beyond doubt a luxurious player, capable of outrageous skill and moments of pure inspiration.  He has scored some remarkable goals, and had me on my feet applauding with some of his finer moments.  However, as I watched us lose to Hull, a thought struck me: Van Persie may not be just a luxurious player, but a luxury player.

Let’s get this clear: I’m not blaming RVP for what happened at the weekend.  Not even nearly.  But as I watched our attacking play, I realised we were missing the intelligent link play of Bendtner.  And that’s what led me down the following line of thought.

Bendtner and Adebayor have a few things in common, and that initially inspired some to suggest they couldn’t play together – a claim refuted by their outstanding work at Bolton.  What they share is a big frame, aerial ability, a team ethic, and decent technical ability.  They are all-rounders, and that is the mould of modern striker.

Of course Van Persie is technically superior to Adebayor.  But Adebayor compensates for his relative lack of skill with his work-rate, his capacity to score headers, his pace, and his closing down.  Van Persie, on the other hand, is a specialist – a player only really happy recieving the ball into his left-foot.  Van Persie will not often get on the end of a cross to score a header.  He won’t often burst beyond a back four to get onto a long ball and score a one-on-one.  He is not capable of doing those things on a regular basis.

Adebayor and Bendtner won’t score many thirty screamers.  But they provide options, and can score goals from a wider variety of situations than Van Persie.

Furthermore, the Dutchman is an individualist.  He seems to me to be the only player exempt from the remarkable team ethic Arsene induces.  On Saturday I noticed more than one occasion where rather than look for a pass, he drew a foul to earn a free-kick: a free-kick he knew that he would subsequently take.  Van Persie doesn’t run the channels, doesn’t challenge for high balls – he is brilliant at what he does, but does he do enough?

Look at the graft that Rooney and Tevez put in at United.  At Chelsea, Drogba is a one-man attack.  Even at Liverpool, the technically terrible but gutsy Dirk Kuyt regularly starts ahead of the more skillfull Ryan Babel.  Before the start of the season I said Van Persie had comparable technical ability to Cristiano Ronaldo – I maintain that belief.  But Ronaldo scores headers, launches on 50 yard dribbles, has the pace to get in behind, and works bloody hard up and down that line.  Van Persie: take note.

Bendtner and Adebayor will work hard, and work together, for ninety minutes.  Van Persie is a spectacular individualist impact player, but doesn’t possess the all-round game of the other two.  This was hailed as a ‘make or break’ season for the Dutchman.  With Bendtner and now Vela breathing down his neck (and Eduardo still to come), simply staying fit will not be good enough.

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