Why RvP has been this season's MVP by a country mile
12 April, 2012 12:42
Why RvP has been this season's MVP by a country mile
By John Cross
Robin van Persie should be the biggest landslide winner for the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year since the award began
The Dutchman stands head and shoulders above the rest. In fact, van Persie is, in my eyes, more deserving of the accolade than any of the winners from the last ten years - including Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 42 goals in all competitions before picking up the FWA gong in 2008.
Manchester United won the Champions League that season, the Premier League title and Ronaldo was the outstanding player. But what sets van Persie apart this season is one player's influence on a whole team. Not only has he scored goals - 34 in all competitions, 27 in the Premier League - but he has captained the team, led by example and been an exemplary professional.
Arsenal fans at this point will get themselves in a right old lather and go on about how unfair it is to brand them a one man team rather than revel in their captain's brilliance.
The fact is, though, that every team in the Premier League - and most in Europe and the rest of the world, too - would not mind being a one-man team if that meant having van Persie in their line-up.
Van Persie has brought the best out of Theo Walcott with his telepathy-like understanding. He has done the same for Alex Song. Mikel Arteta, too. Thomas Vermaelen also seems to be inspired by his close pal.
Van Persie's influence on the dressing room has been remarkable - and this from a player who joined Arsenal with a wild reputation after having left Feyenoord for just £2.75m with a few doubts about where his career was going.
Arsenal - and Arsene Wenger - has helped make him one of the best strikers in the world and a club legend. His latest milestone was to equal Ian Wright's record of scoring against 17 of the 19 Premier League opponents in a single season. Only Fulham and Manchester City have been excused.
Van Persie has also scored some belters, too. His goal at Liverpool sealed a remarkable away win and he hit another Goal of the Season contender against Everto, dispatching a another ball over the top from Song with brilliant timing and precision. Both of those games were hard fought and intense at a time when Arsenal were under pressure to get results to keep their season going. But when the pressure has been on, van Persie has delivered. Big time.
It has been a difficult season. Arsenal sold Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and it looked as if the club were going in the wrong direction. At the start of the summer, a few of us sat down with van Persie in a sweltering hotel room in Kuala Lumpur where the Dutchman made it clear he was concerned about the impending departures and his worries for the club.
Van Persie said back in July last year: "You need investment to keep up because, when you look around, Man City is buying loads of good players, Liverpool are doing it now, Man United have been doing it for years.
"So, in a way, you need to keep that up, because if everyone is doing something you need to do it as well.
"These days, proper players cost money. Sometimes you see players go for loads of money and you think: 'Is he that good?' It needs to be seen. Most of the time, they are."
Arsenal did struggle - even after filling the midfield gap with Arteta (an outstanding signing) and also bringing in Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andre Santos, Yossi Benayoun and Per Mertesacker.
Arsene Wenger did not spend huge on players like other clubs and, instead, van Persie rallied. He stayed injury free for the first time in his career and proved he is not only a world class goalscorer but a brilliant leader, too.
Van Persie has stayed strong, has become an example and has helped instil a new spirit in the camp which has helped the squad look stronger this season despite the obvious departures.
Arsenal have had some desperate lows: Blackburn away and at Old Trafford to name two. But they have come through them and their recent run of nine wins in ten games has left Tottenham minding the gap rather than the other way round.
Going from being nearly 13 points behind Tottenham less than two months ago to being five points ahead and in third place is remarkable. And that included an unprecedented run of four games without a goal for van Persie. That's a drought by his standards this season. It inevitably ended with an audacious penalty at Wolves on Wednesday night.
Van Persie has not only made himself the outstanding player of the season, he's made himself an Arsenal legend. For one man to have such influence on a team of 11 players is remarkable. On and off the pitch.
That is what the Player of the Year should be about for me. I was one of the ones who chose Scott Parker last season even though West Ham got relegated. Do I feel silly now? Not really. He was magnificent as an individual.
(See? I'm not so anti-West Ham. Not that he needed my vote with all West Ham's friends on Green Street, er, I mean Fleet Street)
Ronaldo was the same when he won it in 2008. Except I genuinely don't think he had as much influence on the team as van Persie has had with Arsenal this season.
That is another factor in this. Samir Nasri was getting great plaudits at Arsenal last season but has not hit the heights or grabbed the same headlines this season with Manchester City.
The grass isn't always greener. It may have more pound notes on it. But there's only so many houses, cars and boats you can buy. Call me naive, but if a player earns £50m rather than £40m over the course of his career, does it really matter?
Wouldn't that £10m be better invested in happiness, career contentment and being the star of the show? I'll never be that wealthy so I'll never know.
I don't think van Persie will go to Manchester City this summer. I don't think he should go to City, either.
Would he enjoy the same greatness there as he has done at Arsenal this season? No.
And as Nasri has learned, jumping ships doesn't always guarantee you trophies. Maybe it just proves you haven't got the necessary stomach required to fight for success.
Real Madrid could be a different proposition for van Persie. But again, he would not have the same influence as one player that he has at Arsenal. He is a fully fledged Arsenal legend whereas he would not get that status at the Bernabeu.
Arsenal are confident van Persie will stay whether he signs a new deal or not. He's got one more year left and, at 28, the pressure is not so great on the contract dilemma for Arsenal. But in weighing up his future, van Persie needs to reflect on and enjoy a season in which he has established himself as world class, been Arsenal's hero and put himself out on his own as the best player by a mile.