Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday March 3 2011
February has been another super charged month for the Gunners- the high of beating Barcelona rather counter balanced by the crushing low of losing an eminently winnable cup final. In between we have accumulated an unwanted record for being the only team in Premier League history to toss away a four goal advantage, yet have made progress in the steeple chase for Manchester United, sitting as we do, four points behind them this morning with a game in hand. In short, February has been a zoo in a jungle of a season. There have been many players that have shone as Arsenal have regularly applied themselves to a fixture every three days since time immemorial. Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou have continued to forge a formidable partnership at centre half; whilst Gael Clichy`s form has elevated back to his 2006 status. (As evidenced by the fact that the rush to instate Gibbs in the left back slot full time have quelled).
As you come to expect, Cesc Fabregas has been his imperious self, whilst Samir Nasri has continued his fine form. Nasri and Walcott have provided the perfect ingredients in the forward line to compliment van Persie. Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere has continued to flourish with a coming of age type performance when pitted against world behemoths Xavi and Iniesta. However, for February there is only one winner and the award is tinged with some sadness in retrospect given yesterday`s prognosis. Since the turn of the year, there can scarcely have been a striker on the planet more fearsome than Robin van Persie. I think we`ve gotten so used to playing without him over the last few years that we`re still sometimes so taken aback with just how good he is in a way we are not with someone like Cesc, whose consistent domination of matches is taken as read. Since New Year`s Day, van Persie has 13 goals in 12 appearances. Those sorts of numbers alone tell you just some of the story. As the focal point of an attack, with Drogba fading and Torres floundering, I don`t see anyone better in the Premiership right now. He brings others into play with his back to goal, finds spaces for himself and others with his running into channels.
Most consider RvP, rightly, to be an artiste. But he seldom gets credit for the "battering ram" style he is equally capable of utilising. The range of goals he is scoring also appears to attract little attention from the press; headers, right foot, left foot. 2011 has seen a variety. But perhaps where his game has come on the most this season is his effectiveness from crosses. Prior to this campaign, for Arsenal to be dangerous from a cross, one would have thought that Bendtner or Chamakh would need to be deployed. But Sagna`s improved delivery, together with van Persie`s increased effectiveness have made Arsenal mobile and dangerous in the air. Looking at some of the goals van Persie has scored of late, right footed efforts from an Arshavin cross against Birmingham, a Walcott cross against Newcastle and a Fabregas cross against Wolves. He also scored a header from a Sagna cross against Newcastle and very nearly repeated the trick against Birmingham straight after Nicola Zigic`s goal. Great players are the ones that strive to improve and continue to hone their strengths and work on their weaknesses no matter their standing.
His set piece delivery has borne fruit too with Koscielny`s winning goal against Everton and Squillaci`s goal against Stoke City. Arsenal do not loo nearly as fluent without van Persie in the side. But the biggest indicator of what van Persie brings to us arrived in the Barcelona match. Unusually for Arsenal, we were without the ball for yawning chasms of the game and van Persie had little to feed on but scraps. In fact, truth be told, his shooting had been slightly wayward for the first ¾ of the match and my friends and I wondered aloud if it were worth throwing Bendtner on in his place to vary the threat. But after a rather innocuous chip down the line from Clichy, van Persie produced a piece of genius that only the top players provide- it was when we most needed it too. Valdes was completely set on his line as van Persie set himself for the shot, it wasn`t until the very last second that Valdes shifted his weight. It was a gutsy and thoughtful piece of improvisation from van Persie- the shot was not on when he took it- he bluffed the goalkeeper and gambled that he would shift at the last second. Only the very best players have a football brain capable of working so lucidly under such pressured conditions. We now know van Persie is not in the running for next month`s Player of the Month award. Let`s hope he is fit in time for consideration of April`s award.LD.
August: Tomas Rosicky
September: Jack Wilshere
October: Samir Nasri
November: Marouane Chamakh
December: Samir Nasri
January: Cesc Fabregas
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Thursday March 3 2011
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