Robin Van Persie, the Dutch striker whom Arsenal bought from Feyenoord for a little under £3 million pounds, has developed into the most important player at the Emirates. Whilst before he was behind Thierry Henry, and even the likes of Juan Antonio Reyes, in the Arsenal pecking order he has now become the fundamental part and bedrock of this Arsene Wenger side. The development has not happened overnight.
It took plenty of time and there were moments along the way when many Arsenal fans pleaded with the coach, Arsene Wenger, to abandon the lightweight striker and sign a big name. This was before Robin Van Persie became a big name. Not just a big name, the Dutch striker is no longer lightweight. He is strong, quick, intuitive, attentive and, only recently, he has become consistent.
He has scored almost a goal a game in the calender year 2011 and it is the first time he has featured in almost 40 appearances in one year. Injuries have ceased blighting his career. Over the years Van Persie has been involved with a number of very good Arsenal teams, learning from the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, and developing alongside Cesc Fabregas, Ashley Cole and Theo Walcott. He was once accused, and then acquitted, of rape, Van Persie as a young man was associated with trouble, injury and a bad temperament. In 2011 he is the captain of Arsenal, has played in a World Cup final and scored goals against the best clubs in the world. In 2011 Robin Van Persie finally arrived. He became everything the potential promised he might. Another Arsene Wenger success, transformed from a peripheral left winger into a world beating striker, ala Thierry Henry. Plucked from relative obscurity and turned into one of the best players in the world. Robin Van Persie owes Arsene Wenger plenty. Football, however, is rarely sympathetic. Robin Van Persie wants, and deserves, to be challenging for the top trophies and to do that he needs to play in a team that doesn’t rely on him as much as this current Arsenal side does. If Robin Van Persie plays poorly, or doesn’t play, the team depends on too many inconsistent talents, like Theo Walcott, Marouane Chamakh and Gervino, or unproven performers, like Park and Oxade-Chamberlain.
The point was pertinent several months ago and Arsene Wenger had an entire summer transfer window to relieve the dependency. The manager failed to do so and it was no surprise to see Arsenal labour against Olympiakos without the Dutch striker, to struggle against Stoke City until he came off the bench to turn the game around and to fail to threaten against Marseille in the Champions League last night until he came on the pitch. As Arsene Wenger admitted after the Marseille match, leaving Van Persie on the bench was a gamble and without him in the team the side lacked an edge. That’s the truth lightly put. Without Robin Van Persie this current Arsenal team appear altogether ordinary and unlikely to achieve any glory.
Van Persie owes Arsenal and Arsene Wenger plenty but he is paying them back at an extraordinary rate. Soon the time will come when Van Persie will demand that Arsenal repay his efforts by providing him with a team that can support his ambition to challenge for the best trophies.