As we spend the summer salivating over one flavour of the transfer window player after another the one player of true world class who could make a difference to almost any teams season is due back in pre season training at Arsenal. Described by Wenger as a ‘top, top, world class player` and Dutch coach Marco van Basten as ‘too good not to play him` van Persie is the sort of mercurial talent that would fill the wish list of internet forums of most clubs if only he could stay fit enough for a sustained campaign.
In four seasons with the club he has started just 84 games. But those games and his 49 sub appearances have produced 43 goals. Many of them pieces of consummate skill and execution. The first of his brace against Blackburn in the 2005 FA Cup semifinal as he turned Lucas Neill and sashayed past Andy Todd was an early indicator of his sublime skill. Another goal against Blackburn much later in the league at Highbury as he cut inside two players from the right to unleash a left foot shot from a tight angle also comes to mind. And few could forget his airborne volley to score against Charlton.
As Henry left last summer most of us expected van Persie to assume the star striker mantle. He started well enough with good performances in the pre season Amsterdam tournament and Emirates Cup. In the latter producing a brilliantly executed goal against Inter. He also started the season well, scoring 7 times, until he stretched his medial ligament playing for Holland. How often that international curse seems to have stricken our players in the last few seasons. It came at a bad time for the club and for Robin “Everything was coming together before my injury – the week before I had been decisive in three games and you can`t really do much more than that”
The injury should have kept him out for not much more than 2 months. Having returned on schedule against Steaua in the Champions League in mid December all seemed well until overdoing it in extra training after the Chelsea game put him out for another month. In sheer frustration at missing so much of the season he has taken responsibility for pronouncing himself fit too early putting him out for another 7 weeks with a recurrence of the thigh strain. Following the broken metatarsal that ended the previous season prematurely Robin is, understandably perhaps, considered a little fragile by some supporters. However none of the problems he has had are related to a single physiological defect. They are all single-issue unrelated injuries. That at least holds out the prospect that he can remain fit and complete a normal season. His form in the European Championships was good enough, even though he wasn`t entirely match fit, to serve as a reminder of what we gain with him back in full action.
Gael Clichy is convinced of his worth to the team “..his return is going to be a big bonus for us – he`s such an important player” he says. Going on to tell us that Robin is a player who “…can change things from one free kick, one corner, one pass. That`s the kind of player you need and I hope he`ll be fully fit for the start of the season – it`ll be like having a new signing”
Various supporter forums list and analyse the merits of strikers from Villa, Huntelaar, Santa Cruz, Arshavin and others as gooners lust after them in the perennial summer game of transfer fantasy football that we indulge in until the real thing starts. Having seen not nearly enough of van Persie over the last two seasons, but more than enough to know that this is a very special player indeed, my fervent wish is to see what he can do going the full distance. Way beyond any interest or desire to see any of the current ‘wish list` favourites in an Arsenal shirt. There is a truly special player there that surpasses the potential of anyone I have seen listed in these and other forums.
We have been down this road before of course. In some ways there seems something of a risk in raising expectations by highlighting what we will gain if Robin van Persie really puts in a full shift but he is such a special talent and the anticipation so exciting that for me at least it is worth contemplating. In any event as Robin himself says “When you`re positive – and this is a thing for life generally – positive things happen for you.” Fingers crossed eh!
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