There is no denying that Robin van Persie experienced a career year this season. At age 28 he played his first injury free Premier League campaign, leading the league in goals and kept Arsenal in the top 4 with his impressive form. In the following pages we’ll take a look at the Dutch forward compared to the rest of the Arsenal squad, looking at the team’s total numbers as well as their numbers once van Persie is discounted. We’ll also examine the top goal scorer for the past three Premier League seasons, as we look at where Persie’s campaign rates in recent history.
At the start – there is no denying that this season is one for ages. Not only was he lethal finishing, he created a number of chances both from set pieces and open play. His 30 goals were the best in the Premier League, besting Rooney’s 27, as he played in a side where goals were at a premium. Those 30 accounted for 40% of the Gunner’s final tally of 74. Rooney managed his in fewer matches but also in a team that found the net 89 times, second only to Premier League champions City (93). That Rooney played fewer matches is a bit of a surprise itself as van Perise overcame his inability to stay on the pitch. Having recorded no more than 24 starts in any Premier League campaign, his 37 starts and 1 substitute appearance could be as much the root of his fine form as the sublime skill he displays. He clearly showed that he is capable of leading the line and providing a creative spark where necessary.
Thirty goals are no small feat. Over the past 5 seasons only two players have reached that plateau – van Persie and Christiano Ronaldo. This is a bit of an arbitrary qualification, though, as Rooney’s 27 this term, Drogba’s 29 of two seasons past and Rooney’s 26 in that same year are outstanding hauls which would have won the Golden Boot in many other years. What sets van Persie apart was the way the Arsenal attack was not only finished by him but, in large regard, ran through him. Looking at Arsenal’s total numbers for the season we can see that they were a top side in attack.
What is more remarkable is the level to which Arsenal was dependent on van Persie. In the below chart we can see RvP’s numbers for the 2011/12 season as well as the numbers for the rest of the Arsenal team. While his overall numbers are remarkable, more stark is the dearth of attacking prowess within the remainder of the squad. In the below chart the left column is van Persie, in the right column the total season numbers for the rest of the Arsenal squad.
Robin van Persie created 92 of Arsenal’s 504 chances on the season. He contributed 9 goal assists. Coupled with his 30 goals, he accounted for 39 of their 74 – 52.7%. The reliance on van Persie has to be worrying as Arsenal contemplate life without him. Even more worrying for Arsene Wenger will be his side’s poor shooting accuracy and chance conversion once van Persie’s statistics are discounted.
The 92 chances created by van Persie was far and away the most chances created by any member of the squad. Far behind RvP were Arteta (60), Ramsey (55) and Song (46). Similarly, his 30 goals are more than the next three players in the squad combined as Theo Walcott’s 8 were second best, while Arteta and Toman Vermaelen added 6 apiece. Van Persie, in fact, could have scored a few more with just a touch more luck as he hit the woodwork 10 times. With the PFA Player of the Year already won, the Golden Boot on the mantle and gallons of ink spilled in praise of his accomplishments, van Persie was without peer this season, but how does this season compare to the top goal scorers of the past three years?