Robin van Persie has been a pivotal part of Manchester United’s title pursuit this season
Many fans ridicule it and simply remark that, in the grand scheme of the things, it really doesn’t matter. No, no – I’m not talking about the International break, but personal awards for players. Yes, the European Cup, Championship, FA Cup and League Cup are all more important – agreed. But when one of your players, like Wayne Rooney in 2010, Giggs in 2009 and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008 (and 2007) are awarded with such a prize, their contributions has aided the club throughout the season. Sure, sometimes you lose out – like in 2010 – but the award is a pretty good indication of a player who has made the difference in the season. This is why Robin van Persie must be crowned PFA Footballer of the year ahead of the exceptional Luis Suarez and brilliant Gareth Bale.
Of course there is obvious bias, but I will attempt to put an argument across that backs up the claim that Robin van Persie has been more important to Manchester United than Suarez has for Liverpool or Bale has been for Tottenham. This isn’t a criticism of those players, far from it, they’ve been exceptional this season – with Gareth Bale winning games on his own at times and Suarez over taking van Persie in the domestic goal scoring charts. But, Manchester United are still in for two domestic trophies, whilst Liverpool and Spurs are not (although Spurs still have a good chance of winning the Europa League).
It has been van Persie’s performances and goals that have helped United obtain a 15 point lead at the top of the table, whilst his dramatic last minute equaliser against West Ham United, kept United in the FA Cup. United travel to Chelsea on April 1st for the quarter final FA Cup replay, with many Reds hoping the Dutchman takes centre stage once again. Although van Persie hasn’t scored since the 2-0 victory over Everton in early February, no fan can play down his exceptional contribution to United this season.
Stats, goals and breakdown of the contenders
Firstly, I think its fair to say that there are only three contenders for the PFA Footballer of the year – Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale. So, I’ve broken down their domestic appearances and goals within those games:
*Please note, the ‘minutes’ on the left hand side represent the amount of time the player played within the match, rather than the duration of the match. Therefore do not assume the football icon represents time of goal.
Robin van Persie
Here are a couple of stats I’d like to highlight:
- In the league, Robin van Persie’s goals have been spread out more than Suarez and Bale. The Dutchman has only hit a brace or better in two fixtures, which both resulted in wins. Suarez has hit a brace or more goals in five fixtures, whereas Bale has achieved the same feat in three fixtures.
- van Persie has notched up one hattrick, equal to Bale – but one less than Suarez
- Manchester United have an 88% win rate when Robin van Persie scores. United have only drawn two games (away at West Ham in the FA Cup and away at Tottenham in the league) when van Perie has scored and are yet to lose a match
- Liverpool have a 56% win rate when Luis Suarez scores. Liverpool have drawn six games and have lost twice when the Uruguayan scores.
- Tottenham have a 79% win rate when Gareth Bale scores. Tottenham have drawn a single match (away at Norwich) and lost two games when the Welshman scores
- van Persie scored in ten games in a row that he played in. Suarez found the back of the net five games on the trot, whilst Bale’s best run has come recently and is also five.
Here is a summary of some of the stats analysed, which Luis Suarez comes out on top:
Chart showing a breaking down of stats for van Persie, Suarez and Bale
We can throw stats about all day long and although they are vitally important when assessing the success of a particular player (with Jose Mourinho being the greatest advocate for analysing individual stats of opposing players for his pre-match dossier), football is an art and we all want to be shocked and surprised by the magic that we see unfold before us. A through ball, a piece of skill or an unbelievable goal – things you just can’t teach, or analyse. All three players possess that ability.
Van Persie has the best technique in the league and his left foot is unplayable at times. Suarez is a dogged character, who can slip and slide through defenders with ease following a dribble. Tottenham are sometimes referred to as a ‘one man team’ due to the brilliance of Bale, which is no doubt due to his superb athleticism, his powerful shot (from dead balls also) and his versatility to move from a wide area to a more central position.
The purpose of this blog was to highlight the qualities of the three main contenders for the award and drilldown on their contributions to their respected teams. Liverpool rely heavily on Luis Suarez to deliver, which can also be attributed to that of Tottenham – of late – for Gareth Bale. Manchester United have a greater strength in depth, which is reflected in the reduced minutes van Persie has played in comparison to the other two players.
But there were times at the end of 2012 where the Dutchman carried United and was exceptional, pulling the ball out of the air with such grace and elegance – before smashing in a powerful left footed drive or switching play to be greeted with universal applause. His goals may have dried up since he hit the back of the net against Everton, but he has only completed one ninety minute match (against Reading in the last league match) domestically, no doubt due to Ferguson’s quest to beat Real Madrid. But United are fifteen points clear at the top of the table with nine games left. The Dutchman has played an enormous part in getting United into this position. For this reason, I believe Robin van Persie should be crowned the 2012/13 PFA Footballer of the year. But then again, like most Reds – I’d take a league and cup double over individual awards any day!
Who do you think deserves the award?