Robin Van Persie’s recent top form has led to many people saying that Arsenal are becoming a one man team. His 14 goals in the league this season is just two goals less than that scored by the rest of the squad combined. This on the face of it points to a staggering over-reliance on the inform Dutchmen.
Arsenal’s lack of depth
Wenger himself alluded to an over-reliance on RVP recently stating ‘”We are reliant on Robin, of course, because he scores many goals.’ Wenger though went on to state how he had faith in RVP’s understudies to provide goals in his absence, something they have so far failed to do.
In Arsenal’s case the stats paint a clear picture, or so it seems. The Dutchmen has contributed 14 Premier League goals with their next best scorer only chipping in with three and that is defender Thomas Vermaelen. Compare this to Manchester City who have Aguerro on 11, Dzecko on 10 and Balotteli on 9 league goals. Close rivals Spurs also have a much greater spread of goals with Adebayor on 8, Van Der Vaart and Defoe on 6 as well as Bale in behind with 5. What is worrying is that Chamakh and Park the two backup centre-forwards have only got 1 goal between them in the EPL this season.
If we consider Spurs and Liverpool to be Arsenal’s main threat for fourth, Liverpool have a £35 million back up in Andy Carroll as well as proven Premier League forward Bellamy waiting in the wings if Suarez gets injured. Spurs also boast depth with former Arsenal forward Adebayor, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko to look to up front, the latter’s value being seen with his late winner against Sunderland on Sunday. As well as this both sides have midfielders who can chip in with goals with Gerrard, Adam and Maxi at Liverpool and Modric, Bale and Van Der Vaart at Spurs.
A lack of obvious replacements does lead one to think that Arsenal would struggle without RVP who has had his injury problems in the past. However, Arsenal have always created chances (17 per game this season) and have always had strikers who score goals. Adebayor who is enjoying good form at the moment is not the most natural goal scorer but as the central striker for Arsenal in the 07-08 season scored 24 goals. Conversely that season was the one after Henry left, who many said Arsenal were over-reliant on back then.
The one man team
The way the game has evolved has placed such a huge emphasis on squads rather than individuals to an extent that it is inconceivable to accuse any team of being a one man side. In the aftermath of the sale of Ronaldo to Real Madrid many said United were finished yet two seasons later they won the Premier League and reached the Champions League final. With the evolution of modern tactics and the emphasis on squads one player simply is nowhere near as influential as people believe.
Andrei Shevchenko and George Weah were two great footballers in their prime neither of whom managed success at the national level as a result of coming from smaller footballing nations. Messi and Ronaldo play in international teams that are filled with top players who play regular Champions League football yet they have failed to deliver success to their respective nations, this shows that systems and squads are so much more important than individualism. Were Messi to get injured for Barca they would have a plethora of players capable of filling in such as Villa or Sanchez and the same can be said of Madrid with regards to Ronaldo they have Higuain, Benzema, Kaka who can all burden the goal scoring responsibility.
Another notable one-man team was City last season. Mark Lawrenson amongst other pundits unfairly and clearly incorrectly labelled Manchester City over-reliant on Carlos Tevez who scored 20 league goals that were crucial in helping City gain a top four spot. However new signing Aguerro and a resurgent Dzecko have meant that Tevez has not been missed at all. His exit from the first team has also led to an increased appreciation for the more subtle attacking role played by David Silva.
With Manchester City reportedly keen to try and sign RVP as well as his refusal to commit himself long term it seems likely that RVP will look to move on. He will turn 29 in August and this could be his last chance to move on and if he seriously wishes to win the games top trophies.
However by calling Arsenal a one man team this season is to overlook the good form of players like Gervinho and Song who have contributed 10 assists between them. In Song’s case one of his five assists was the wonderful ball to set up RVP’s wonder strike against Everton last weekend. Of course the goals he brings in will be difficult to reproduce if he leaves but one would assume Arsenal would invest in a new striker if this happens as City did with Aguerro when it became clear that Tevez was trying to leave.
RVP did not help them keep a clean sheet against Everton last weekend that was more down to the back four and Sczesny’s good form. However they are clearly over-reliant on RVP in front of goal and if they are to continue their good form will need to rely on other players such as Gervinho and Walcott to chip in with more goals.