Robin van Persie deserves to be crowned PFA Player of the year

Robin van Persie scores again for Manchester United
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).

Robin van Persie stats

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

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Luis Suarez

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Gareth Bale

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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?

13 Comments on Robin van Persie deserves to be crowned PFA Player of the year

  1. I think you’ve just backed Suarez for the award as he has scored more goals with less minutes per goal and in a team with less all round quality, certainly for the first half of the season, and under a new manager

    You have to grant him the award if you ask yourself this question… “would he have performed better in a better team?” – that he is a contender means he is far and away the best player in the league

  2. Hi Tony.

    Thanks for the comment and like I’ve said, if RVP, Bale or Suarez picks up the award – no one can complain otherwise. I do not try and hide behind stats, and that table is fully in Suarez favour. But as we know, stopping and starting in football slows momentum and RVP hasn’t played as much domestic football in the past month and a half, which has surely hindered his goal scoring.

    All three are fantastic players and vitally important for their club. United are in a ridiculously good position right now – largely down to the brilliance of van Persie. Giggs spoke about the signing giving the players ‘a lift’ following last season’s extremely closely run contest.

  3. Hi

    One thing I have to thank you for is for NOT bringing up the ‘incident’ from last season, many jounalists have attempted to cloud the contest with this.

    I think most level headed football fan know Suarez is not racist, whether he said what he is accused of repeatedly saying, no one will ever know, but to be sentenced and punished without any evidence AND to continue to play against that tide of hatred is something not many could do, week in week out.

  4. Hi Tony.

    The Evra incident has nothing to do with this discussion, which is why I didn’t include any reference to it. I only focused purely on the football.


  5. Nice reasoned analysis but I have to say you just made a really good argument-for Suarez to get the award. The only point I see here for Van Persie to win it is that his goals are more “spread out” across the season than Luis Suarez and I have to say that’s the first time I’ve seen that argument and it’s pretty funny to read it. I did have a little laugh out loud moment there. You admit that yo are biased and I think that showed with the “most spread out” argument. No disrespect as I understand how bias undermines our thinking.
    To be fair Suarez, while not playing on the best team, has certainly been the best individual player in the league this season and for that reason he should win the individual awards. Scotty Parker won the thing when Tottenham did nothing in a season. Manchester United will win the league and possibly the FA Cup but if there is any justice in the voting Luis Suarez will win both Player of the Year awards and likely will win the Golden Boot.

  6. RVP won it last season and Suarez is in a similar position being the league leading goal scorer and a standout within his team. Arsenal probably would not be in the CL this year without RVP’s contribution, just as Liverpool probably would have been relegated without Suarez’ contribution. But I would be shocked if Luis won it because it is merely a popularity contest.

  7. I think Man Utd are in such a healthy lead due to the lack lustre performances of Man City and surrounding teams, rather than the brilliance of RVP, yes I am a Liverpool fan, so perhaps my view is biased, I wouldn’t have Bale up for player of the year, I just find him to be a one trick pony, a Ronaldo he is not, never will be. For me it has to be Suarez (you’d expect me to say that), but my reasoning is not on the goals he’s scored, which has dragged us from the quagmire, but the sheer brilliance, unrivalled skill at turning defenders inside out, even when things look lost he’s looking to get corners and throw ins deep within the oppositions half, I just don’t see RVP in the same league. For me its Suarez all the way, will he win it, I don’t think so as someone posted these are more a popularity contest.

  8. This argument is very biased, you can’t defend RVP for not scoring goals of late simply because he hasn’t been finishing matches. Even if the fact that he has been in and out of the team has affected his performances and goal scoring, why should he win the award when Suarez and Bale haven’t dropped in form.

    Also just because he is playing in a team that is going to win the league shouldn’t matter. It is about the individual performance, and although RVP is important to Utd, as you admit he is not as important as Suarez and Bale.

    Suarez deserves the award, consistently good throughout the season, important to the team, and goal stats back him up. Bale has played well in 2013 but didn’t start the season as well as RVP and Suarez.

  9. Tom, I have to say that is a tad unfair. I think I’ve laid out a valid argument for RVP and it is up to you to provide a counter argument for Suarez and Bale. I’ve assessed a lot of stats and commenting on the playing styles of all three players and I’ve made my choice with some solid reasoning. If you think Suarez deserves the award, fair do – but I haven’t picked RVP just on the fact that I support United.

    Brad – apologies if the spread out point confused you. Let me elaborate a bit, isn’t it better to score three match winning goals over three games, rather than scoring a hattrick in one game and not scoring in the other two, where you drop points? A few years ago Berbatov scored ten goals in two games – surely ‘spreading them out’, which makes the difference in games (like RVP against City) is better? Hopefully that clears up any confusion – why did you find it so funny?

  10. I think this argument is a very interesting one. Suarez right now for Liverpool is essentially what van Persie was for Arsenal last season, that we can all agree. In terms of importance to a team, Suarez wins it hands down. But that doesn’t disqualify RvP’s immense achievements this season. Just because he isn’t as “standout” as Suarez has been for Liverpool doesn’t make him any less a contender, it just shows he has better quality teammates around him.

    Furthermore, why shouldn’t the fact that van Persie is on the verge of being a league champion matter? Is that not an achievement? Being on the verge of winning a league title should definitely count in van Persie’s favor for Player of the Year; that is a credential for the player’s achievement this year. The fact that he is a huge part in contributing to the highest domestic achievement should swing this award in his favor.

    Suarez and RvP has performed at a similar level for the most part of this season. But a point differentiation is that RvP will very likely be going home with a league title. Shouldn’t this then give van Persie the advantage for Player of the Year?

  11. It’s a more balanced breakdown than I expected, so well done for all of the hard work. I’m a Liverpool fan so obviously likely to be bias in Suarez’s favour. Whilst I fully appreciate the qualities of the other two contenders, I unlike one of the other commentors’ think that Evra/Suarez gate should be taken into account. All season Suarez has been subject to an almost unpresidented level of abuse at grounds across the country, that makes his continued high standard of commitment and ability all the more praise worth. Giving him the award would be an apt reward both for himself and professional football, because it would demonstrate to the world that our sport is not only able to move on but genuinely celebrates ability and commitment. It would also demonstrate that this is a country where we all, in the final analysis appreciate excellence.

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