Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Robin van Persie's goalscoring achievement in 2011 is better than Alan Shearer's in 1995

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie may have come up short in his quest to beat Alan Shearer's record haul for goals in a calendar year in the Premier League but the Dutchman's goals-per-game ratio suggests he still surpasses the former Newcastle United forward.

After Van Persie's solitary strike propelled Arsenal past QPR and into fourth, Arsene Wenger conceded his prized asset may regret not being able to trump Shearer's record, while the striker himself dismissed the chase for glory and basked on ending his side's year on a high, after such a woeful start.

But maybe Van Persie was already aware of his phenomenal average scoring rate of 0.97 goals per game over the course of the year. Neither Shearer, nor Thierry Henry, can boast that statistic.

Shearer's record of 36 goals is astounding, coming in 42 games. As is Henry's, of 34 goals in 39 games, giving them ratios of 0.86 and 0.87 respectively, but Van Persie has shown himself to be a much more consistent scorer.

Van Persie's importance for Arsenal has never been highlighted so clearly, and the Dutchman's frequent input throughout 2011 with vital goals has continued to boost Wenger's side.

The striker has been in excellent form this year, and while he has been unlucky to be part of a team that has won nothing since 2005, it is perhaps a home truth that had Van Persie not missed as many games through injury in the past few years, the trophy cabinet at the Emirates would have seen more silverware pass through its doors.

He will surely remain their most influential and effective player for the rest of the season; as Wenger said in his post-match press conference, why would Van Persie suddenly stop scoring when the clock chimes at midnight on New Year's Eve?

If he carries on his scoring form, Arsenal have an outside chance of challenging for the Premier League title. It is unlikely they will win it, sitting nine points behind Manchester City having played a game more, but with some reinforcements in January, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Van Persie could lead a late charge.

While they won't necessarily need to improve on their starting XI, something that is needed is strength in depth.

Wenger admitted that he may be forced to look for a left-back on loan in January with Thomas Vermaelen suffering a calf strain during the game, depriving him of yet another player who can defend on the left.

The players coming in for Arsenal to replace first-team players are not quite at the level required for a team who want to win the Premier League. They could be in a few years, when the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong [who is joining Wolves on loan for the season] and Carl Jenkinson mature, but until that time they need more players who can change games.

Players like Mikel Arteta, as talented as he is, cannot replace Cesc Fabregas, who departed for his home town of Barcelona in the summer.

Van Persie cannot be relied upon entirely to come up with the goods for Arsenal in every game, which is why he needs to be supported with some quality signings either in January or at the end of the season.

If that happens, Arsenal can truly hit the heights that they were achieving at the turn of the century, when the Invincibles were running amok in the league and dominating English football.

Certainly, the loan arrival of Thierry Henry in the coming days will serve as a timely reminder to Wenger of what his team could achieve with some stand out signings but for now, at least, Arsenal can thank their lucky stars for Robin van Persie. 

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