Arsenal threatened to pull off the greatest comeback in the Champions League when they smashed three past a subdued AC Milan and came within inches of adding a fourth on the night. As always, captain and talisman Robin van Persie was at the centre of the charge, spearheading Arsenal’s attack and rifling home a penalty just before the break.
There is sure to be a small pocket of Arsenal fans who are thankful that Arsene Wenger didn’t follow through with their wishes of a few seasons ago and get rid of the injury-plagued forward. 2011 and subsequently into this year, the Dutchman has proved just what an invaluable asset he is to the club, surpassing the 30-goal mark for the season – last done by Emmanuel Adebayor in 2007/08 – and going on to better Dennis Bergkamp’s scoring record for Arsenal.
…an outstanding piece of business…
There is certainly no hiding what an outstanding piece of business it was to pick up van Persie from Feyenoord in 2004 for a fee in the region of £3million. One of the best transfer deals in the history of the club? Absolutely. Even if it did take a many number of frustrating seasons cut short by injury to fully realise his potential.
Robin van Persie has grown into his role as club captain fantastically well. He’s a character and a leader that looks more suited to the captain’s armband than all of his predecessors since Patrick Vieira. He’s a captain on the pitch as well as off it, as he regularly asserts his newly found position to organise team meetings and gatherings to improve morale and eliminate cliques within the squad. From that, we’ve seen a great togetherness and shared responsibility from the senior players at the club – something which was not present during the days of Cesc Fabregas.
…only bettered by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo…
His numbers this season are phenomenal: 33 goals, 25 of which have been in the league, and eight assists. Numbers that are only bettered by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the continent. In what has been an outstanding last 18 months for van Persie, he has firmly established himself as the most consistent and most effective striker in the Premier League. A certainty for the Player of the Year award in England, and were it not for the talent on display in Catalonia, perhaps even a place in the top three for the Ballon d’Or award.
As has been talked about for what seems an eternity, Arsenal face an uphill task of securing van Persie to a long-term contract at the club, and one which is reflective of his value to the team. But the truth is, van Persie is not motivated by money, he knows he would be greatly rewarded at any major club across Europe but would prefer to remain at Arsenal. Quite simply, van Persie wants to see ambition from the club. He wants a few additions of genuine quality through the transfer market, and he wants to know that the burden to get the club out of difficult positions on the pitch is not solely down to him. A change of direction is certainly needed from the club, especially if they achieve the previously unthinkable and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Investment needs to be made, and with it will come a certainty that the Dutchman will extend his stay at the Emirates.