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Vital Arsenal Player of the Season

PFA Players Footballer of the Year, Football Writers` Player of the Year, Golden Boot Winner, Player of the Month four times this season, Vital Arsenal Player of the Month three times, scorer of 41% of Arsenal`s goals this season and a League ever present along with Szczesny. It wasn`t really a contest at all was it? Robin van Persie gained 46% of votes from readers of Vital Arsenal. I suspect it was only as few as that because a) he began to run out of steam in the last 6 weeks of the season and b) the choice was simply so obvious that voters, understandably, felt the likes of Koscielny and Arteta should be recognised appropriately in the voting. Strikers often do take more credit, more of the spoils and enjoy the high life compared to some of their colleagues. But there can be no rational argument that Robin van Persie hasn't been Arsenal`s standout performer in 2011-12.

For many seasons now, Arsenal fans have asked "what if van Persie could stay fit for a whole season?" This was the season "if" happened. 37 goals and 10 assists in 48 appearances. He started all but 7 of Arsenal`s games this season. 3 of those were Carling Cup games for which he was rested, 1 an F.A. Cup tie against Leeds for which he was given a sabbatical, the Champions League dead rubber against Olympiacos and the first leg of the Champions League qualifier against Udinese for which he was (harshly suspended). Arsene only rested him to the bench for one league game against Stoke in October. He didn`t repeat the exercise. Van Persie came on and scored two goals in the last 15 minutes to secure the three points. The Dutchman started every single game after January 9th.

It`s not just the lack of injury that bucks a trend. It`s the lack of suspensions. The club captain has matured immeasurably since the talented, yet spiky young man who honed his skills in Rotterdam cage football turned up in some garish pinstripe trousers in 2004. Undoubtedly fatherhood and marriage to wife Bouchra at a young age have mellowed him as a character. But his maturity into a great footballer and a model captain has been a treat to see. Behind the scenes it`s said that van Persie takes his responsibilities very seriously. He often organises team bonding activities. For instance, when it was discovered that Yossi Benayoun`s 2 year old and Robin`s 4 year old had birthdays near to one another, van Persie arranged for one of the Club Level suites to be hired out for a joint birthday party so that the whole squad could attend and bring their children and significant others.

It seems amazing to think van Persie played principally as a winger prior to joining Arsenal. He`s been shunted about a bit in his Arsenal career too. Many assumed he`d undertake the number 10 role of his compatriot Bergkamp. He`s been shoehorned out on the left in a 4-5-1 (a position from which he scored a fulminating volley against Charlton). He never really hit it off with Henry, he never had much of a chance to play with Eduardo, but enjoyed a prolific season alongside Adebayor in 2008-09 (his previously best season in terms of appearances). But it was probably in this season that it dawned on Wenger that his best position was as a penalty box striker. His unerring touch and lethal finishing were obvious from the start- his first ever Premier League goal against Southampton is testament to that.

But he began to show a knack for finding pockets of space and his touch in tight spaces will have convinced the manager he was better served exploiting those attributes in the most dangerous area of the pitch. His goal at home to Liverpool in December 2008 may have marked the moment the penny dropped. He peeled diagonally away from Carragher, received a long, lofted pass from Nasri and showed beguiling skill and strength to control, shift away from Carragher and squeeze into the net. Three weeks later he hit a stoppage time equaliser at Goodison Park in similar fashion. It`s all very well being able to unleash a shot from 25-30 yards- which van Persie is well capable of- but his touch and ability to find space meant that his shooting was better utilised inside the area. So in 2009, with Adebayor sold, the Dutchman became the focal point of the team as a lone striker.

The acclimatisation was swift, but, as usual, injury prevented van Persie really making an imprint on the position until the turn of 2011. He ended the 2010-11 season with a quite incredible scoring record. He picked it up this season too. Even with the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, van Persie was still able to find chances. When they came his way, he didn`t miss either. With Fabregas sold to Barcelona, van Persie became not just the central striker, but the focal point of the entire team. Wenger changed tack by playing Walcott and Gervinho- pacey, penetrative wide men. Ramsey- en energetic, box to box player; substituted Fabregas` craft and guile. Arsenal became more direct and put their play through van Persie. (He touched the ball every 1.9 minutes on average this season and took an average of 4.6 shots per game). Like other Arsenal giants before him- Vieira, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp, Fabregas- he is able to forge partnerships and combinations with his teammates simply because he is a good player.

Walcott`s powerful runs from the right have yielded many a tap in for van Persie this season which have probably massaged Walcott`s assist stats considerably. Van Persie stays alive in the area when defenders may have dropped off for only a split second. This is why he finds those tap ins so easy to come by and why Walcott finds it so simple to find him. The skipper has enjoyed finding a slither of space in the corridor between full back and centre half- a space in which Henry loved to roam. This is why Alex Song`s lofted, diagonal through pass has borne so much fruit. He gives Song a target with a subtle, peeling movement off the shoulder of his centre half. After which, he has the technique to produce finishes the likes of which few players are capable.

The side footed volley past Ruddy against Norwich, a similar effort from a more acute angle in the last minute at Anfield. Then there`s his coup de grace for the season. The winner at home to Everton. Song`s pass was everything you wanted it to be, it was lofted, it missed the head of Jagielka to find van Persie. From there, the technique was phenomenal. This image shows his body shape on connection. His pulls his shoulders inwards to make tramlines, which effectively acts as a guide for the ball in the same way a bowls player might. Then to connect with the ball with both feet off the ground is an unbelievably difficult skill. He catches it perfectly, his body shape is perfect, culminating in the ball following the "tramlines" set by his arms as it arrows into the bottom corner. To produce this level of forensic technique in a split second evidences a special, instinctive footballer. As he`s shown many times, this is a player capable of regular moments of inspiration that win football games. That volley against Everton won a tight game, as did his volley at Anfield. He can produce them under pressure.

It`s not just the quality or regularity of his goals. It`s the importance of them. Two against Bolton with the scores 0-0, two against Sunderland with the final score 2-1, a hat trick against Chelsea in a 5-3 win, two at Norwich in a 2-1 win, two against Dortmund in a 2-1 win, 1 against Dortmund in a 1-1 draw, the solitary goal at home to Everton and QPR, two in the 3-2 cup win at home to Villa, the equaliser in the 5-2 win over Spurs, two in a 2-1 win at Anfield, the equaliser in a 2-1 win over Newcastle, the equaliser against Stoke City in a 1-1 draw and two goals to both equaliser and put us 3-2 ahead in a 3-3 draw with Norwich. Before you consider anything else about his wider impact on the team dynamic, his role as captain, the nuances of his position, the goals he has created, that right there is your starting point. That`s a fair wedge of points that have emanated directly from his boot. The more his temples fleck with grey, the calmer and cooler his head has become under pressure.

Truly great players show hunger to improve. I read an article which, if memory serves, was written by fitness coach Tony Colbert, in which he says that van Persie is obsessive about his distance covered statistics. He sets himself a target for every game and immediately requests the data to see whether he has hit his target for ground covered during a game. He`s a team player, closing down opposition defenders and filling in to defend the flanks if Gervinho or Walcott are stranded centrally. Van Persie covered nearly 220 miles this season- an average of 5.7 miles per game. Only Clint Dempsey betters that in the Premier League. He both literally and figuratively puts in the hard yards for Arsenal. At the Arsenal museum, there is a quote on the walls from Arsene Wenger that simply says, "The best players realise that the team is the real star."

This is what makes van Persie a much better footballer. He realises his part in the totality of the team. That`s why he seeks out his distance covered statistics when most would just be happy to polish their golden boot. That`s why he organises team bonding activities as opposed to simply cruising Harvey Nicholls with his attractive young wife. As a captain, a goalscorer and as a team player, Robin van Persie has made even more out of the special talent which he undoubtedly possesses. It`s for those reasons he has been voted Vital Arsenal`s Player of the Season and it is almost genuinely questionable how that could be contested. It might not be the biggest individual gong he receives this summer, but it`s one he richly deserves nonetheless. LD.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday May 25 2012

Time: 11:57AM

Your Comments

Does anyone feel like this was always going to be a "loaded" competition due to RVP's metronomic left peg? No one else stood a chance.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Really good article Dutch. Interesting stat there on the distance covered, he really does work for the team. Would be interesting to see what would happen if the other players are shown this and told to match it - would make a marked improvement on results.
Galway Gooner
Re-eading the article it makes it even more important that we keep hold of him this summer as he seems to be the on pitch talisman we need and the off pitch glue that keeps the team together.
Scotch Eggs Rule
rvp, truly a legend here notwithstanding if he stays or not. with the first touch and calmness of bergkamp & the killer instinct of henry, he shares the same status as the two legends. how many players have managed to sweep clean the pfa players footballer of the year, football writers` player of the year and the golden boot in one season? only 3: henry (2 times), ronaldo (once) & rvp (this season)
One of the best tribute articles I've read in a long, long time!
Ya know, LD, you spoil us with these brilliant pieces, such that we get too used to it & think it's the norm. It isn't. Just look at the papers, print or online. :-)
Great write-up as usual LD; Fitting tribute to a great player.
As irritating as his consistency is, it would be a great loss to the Premier League if he left. How do you rate your chances if he did leave?
There is "no contest'! RvP wins this by a mile and more. He does possess the killer instinct of Henry but is not as 'luxurious' with opportunities as Henry is; where Henry will go for placement or subtlety, he will go for power. Robin has such a nose for goal and would treat each chance as if it will be the last he gets (one time he tried to be subtle was against Milan...the great chance for the 4th he missed, one on one with the keeper; it just was not his style not to BLAST that ball beyond Abiati instead of his attempt to loft the ball over him), which is his hallmark. Wenger just has to keep the man.
Spurs999 - he scored 40% of our goals this season, think that says it all really fella.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Lest I forget, his value is even echoed by his team mates with the Ox accepting to lose him will be a blow from which the club would struggle to recover: Its clear how important hes been for us with the goals hes scored, hes one of the best strikers in the world. Hes a massive part of the dressing room. I dont know [if he will stay] but I hope he does. What better testament of his worth?

Another aspect of his all-round importance, often missed by commentators is his defensive contributions. For every corner kick against us, Szczesny will always position Robin at the near post side to his left, a few yards in front of his own position; I have lost count of how many times the skipper has had to make the 1st ball clearance from this position. Someone needs to keep the stats for this and it will amaze not a few watchers.
Scotch Eggs Rule 40% eh? you'll be fecked if he goes...lets hope he does...Champions of Europe!!!
Probably not as fecked as Chavski would be if a certain Russian leaves.
Little Dutch
I like the CL, it's one of those competitions where even the little clubs have a chance of winning.
Scotch Eggs Rule
What an article again. LD who are you please? Can you give us a little background of yourself, what you do and how you acquired all these skills? These are meant for NYTimes, CNN and others but we get them here at VFArsenal. I get goose bumps reading these articles sometimes. If i had what you have here in the state, i will open the eyes of Americans who refuses to be part of soccer.
Ill be honest. I underestimated Robin Van Persie. I didnt realize how good he really was. Despite his storming end to last season, I felt it was because of the assistance he got from the likes of Fabregas. I thought that with Fab gone, he would not be able to score freely. That he would be frustrated at Arsenal and would leave unhappy end of this season. Well, he could still leave, but oh boy was I proven wrong or what. Robin is such a gifted player. Infact for sheer skills I would put him at the same level as Henry and Bergkamp. His touch is impeccable, he is two footed and he has an astonishing ability to get into the right positions. However this goes, RvP will be one of the very best to ever have played for Arsenal. The only Arsenal player who will walk into the starting 11 of any club in the world. Privileged.
considering rvp achieved his hat-trick of individual accolades without a title winning team - some would even claim this to be our weakest team in 30 years, it's amazing
No contest really. And provided he keeps free of injury I only see him getting better as he gets older, like Bergkamp. He'll move naturally back into an advanced midfielder position.
Wyn Mills
little Dutch, that ole chestnut...plans for a new stadium etc..dream on
Scotch egg yeah and your little team aint nowhere near!
Chelsea Football Club....European Champions!!!
Best bus in Europe , period.
I agree that van Persie is on a similar level to Henry and Bergkamp in terms of how good he is as what he does. Don't think he is irreplaceable though, as long as we improve as a team overall.
You'd better hope is all I'm saying springy and the dude's not immortal in any case. We lose RvP, we can buy another striker. You lose Roman, dust off your collection buckets but don't expect any of my loose change.
Little Dutch
Little Dutch your views are wide spread, its no surprise that you feel this way.No one is immortal this is true but give the man some credit if the worst case scenario came to pass.Collection buckets? I'll put yours in for you,been there done it etc. But it is there,cast in stone, European Champions!!
Immense for us this season for sure as without his goals we would have been screwed for sure. Just hope he signs a new contract and replicates his awesome form next season.
Ned Stark
By the way Little Dutch, Chelsea's Champions League win was obtained through sheer bloodymindedness and grit and determination...a huge slice of luck as most teams need, I admit, if big time players can't hit the target thats not Chelsea's fault....but the sheer bloodtmindedness, grit and determination is something Arsenal could do with. Forget your small mind nature for all things Chelseafor a minute and get on the Vital Chelsea site and offer up congratulations, if you are man enough or if you have done...Chelsea Football Club ..European Champions
springy, this article is about RvP. Nobody here gives a feck about your pathetic run to champions league 'glory' if you can call it that. Billion pounds and you win it like you were Stoke. Well done, now feck off.
Compare and contrast RvP's team ethic with his comrade Arjen Robben's
springy - there's also the small matter of the huge investment in the squad, which surely contributed to the win?!
Fantastic article LD. It's well written as usual, but there are these small tidbits that I don't read about elsewhere on the web, like the quote from Tony Colbert on the distance covered. Don't know how you get access to such info. Anyway, there is only one winner for this award, much deserved. Earlier, I thought it unlikely that RvP would leave, even more so after we got 3rd place. But the longer he takes to sign a contract, the less likely he will be with us next season. I really hope that Wenger holds onto him for another season and not cash in now. I'm a bit tired of our best players leaving. Although we seem to bounce back well enough, it's not conducive to a title challenge, and we end up setting our sights on 4th place due to this.
Not sure I denied that Chelsea showed grit, or indeed that their luck balanced out from some bad luck in 05, 08 and 09. But the ill gotten investment helped. Shrewsbury could have done the same thing but if you don't have the quality that stolen money buys it's harder. That's why you're desperate for my acclaim and my congratulations. Because you know you don't really deserve it. If and when we win the CL, the last place I'll think to visit is Vital Chelsea and I certainly shan't be begging for congrats from you.
Little Dutch
My feeling is increasingly that Robin won't sign, but that he'll stay for one more year.
Little Dutch
i believe rvp will not sign and will not stay for another year. wenger never forced a player to stay against his will. he is 29 soon, just won all individual awards & in the final year of his contract. he has also served the club for 7 years and still on a relatively low wage for his standard. most probably, wenger will allow him to leave for a 250k package elsewhere, an amount we will not pay. let's hope we can get at least 25 mil from his sale
I think the noises coming from the club suggest that we're prepared to do that. I don't think, though I don't know, that RvP would be terribly sad to stay another year. If he had, say, 3 years left on his deal, I don't think he'd be making a transfer request this summer.
Little Dutch
Slowly resigning myself to RVP being a goner. If he must leave just hope he heads abroad rather than becoming another one of the 'former gooner now at citeh brigade'
Ned Stark
There's no way City will bid for him.
It's becoming rather boring and repetitive to hear all the speculations about our best players leaving, season after season, and the hysteria it generates is even more irritating. I would want to keep hold of Van Persie, just as I'd hoped that Cesc would stay with us last summer, but I am prepared to say goodbye to him if he does choose to depart at the end of the day. No animosity, no bad feelings, as long as we get paid good money and Wenger invests the money in another striker. I don't consider Wenger infallible, and the likes of Squilly attests to his humanity, but he's about as close as we will get to having an irreplaceable staff on the books at Arsenal.
We're not desperate for the money, so I say we hold on to Robin and let him go next season.
Better to keep hold of Robin, even if to make the point that we won't be a shopping centre for every club that has money, unless the decision to sell is at our instance and not for only financial considerations. To be fair, very little a Manager can do if a star player wants out otherwise, you have an unhappy player in the dressing room, while still drawing a salary weekly.
*while still paying his salary*
little dutch..well turned..could'nt give a s hit bout your congrats as you well know and your response shows that....European Champions....Arsenal..spine of a jellyfish
So why are you begging springy? Doesn't really make sense for you to beg then to say you don't care?
Little Dutch
He's begging because he's a needy little cawnt, who supports a needy little club.
by the way, all talks are on rvp contract. what about walcott? no one seems to bother?
springy - Why would we even consider congratulating a pack of ***ts like you? If it was a team I admired or had time for then yes, but not 1 billion of the most boring dirge I've ever NOT witnessed.
Scotch Eggs Rule
The longer this drags on the more I get the feeling that RVP may leave. C'est la vie and all that, we've lost great players and replaced them or survived without them before and we'll do it again. It's not ideal, but what can we do when clubs with unlimited resources come sniffing around? Such is life, when clubs like Bordeaux lose players to us I'm sure they think it's a bit unfair we can offer more money than they can. Even though it's our money earned and not from some billionaires ill gotten gains it must still feel like that to the little guy. Even though none of the chav style clubs are any bigger than we are, it's still not a great feeling eh?
Scotch Eggs Rule
I resented Manure their riches in the early years of the premiership, but they earned it, and are within their right to spend it as they like. But the likes of the Chavs and citeh are in a league all by themselves, they haven't done anything to earn the funds they are throwing around, and the football governing bodies are doing fairly good imitations of Nero, these clubs will eventually kill football. Arsenal will survive, with, or without RVP. I hope he stays, he's a fantastic player, and seems a generally nice bloke, but as long as he's replaced, and replaced on time, I'll not be shedding any tears when he leaves. For the modern professional footballer, it's just a job, and I would not begrudge anyone the right to earn as much as they can, it's we the fans who can't leave, and we are the ones that counts at the end of the day.
Where does it say I want congrats...why would I want congrats from a bunch a losers like you?..dont want them as they mean nothing! I 'm taking the p i ss and you take it the other way...arrogance as usual, although you got feck all to be arrogant about...just letting you know coz you've all got your heads up your pun intended..loving the hypocrisy of the sad ole goonheads!!!Carefree!!By the way how much did you pay the WBA goalie...ant guesses????
"get on the Vital Chelsea site and offer up congratulations." Errrrrr, how about there Professor Science?
Little Dutch
feckin hell he's one confused knuckle dragging low brow, me springy me want arnsale fans say well dun ughhhhhh braaaaaiiin hurrrtts. well bollix to your validation YOU BOUGHT IT [UNTFLAP!!!!!
That's a great summary of van Persie LD, there's not much to add other than that I damn well hope he stays at Arsenal! As for the Chelsea fans, your club is advertising it everywhere. Funny how as soon as you become 'Champions of Europe' your magazine finds its way into my local Sainsbury's when it's been an Arsenal football mag monopoly for ages... Your club advertises Champions watches in the Metro... Champions this, Champions that, we KNOW, we saw it and believe me, it was not nice viewing. Chelsea are not a popular club, especially with your London rivals, I know it's hard to take springy but it's true. Nobody is giving Chelsea any notice or credit and it hurts your fans' pride. When you win trophies in a manner which inspires people, maybe then Chelsea will gain recognition as a truly great and legendary club. Nothing more to say on that.
springy - Just ***k off somewhere else you miserable little ***t stain.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Bit of a late response LD but as usual can only agree with every thing you say-for someone who does not appear to play the game I just wonder how your judgement always seems so reasonable and rationale?! My only issue is your comment on Kolscieny "bon faire" does not mean anything in French I think that you meant "Bien Fait"!

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