Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughRobin Reliant - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Robin Reliant - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Robin Reliant

In the 82nd minute of a tense affair at the Emirates, Arsenal are struggling to break down a stubborn Sunderland side after former Gunner Sebastian Larsson’s wonderful free-kick cancels out Robin Van Persie’s early opener. In a performance so typical of the North London side in recent times, the passing is crisp and neat, yet there is no penetration and a lack of ideas in the final third. Yet, it is in these times when truly special players come up trumps and in Robin Van Persie, Arsenal have exactly that.

This was proved when the Dutchman stepped up to curl a superb free-kick past the bewildered Steve Mignolet and lead the under-fire Gunners to a confidence boosting three points.

Just a week later, Arsene Wenger came in for some scrutiny for starting his star man on the bench for the tricky fixture at home to Stoke, who have proved to be an awkward customer on numerous occasions for the Frenchman and his side. With just over 60 minutes gone, and Arsenal once again locked in a tight battle at 1-1, Van Persie was introduced to spark the Gunners into life.

He did indeed improve the side’s fortunes, but it was an explosion rather than a spark, as evidenced by his brace of close-range finishes leading the North London club to an eventual 3-1 win and another three points which catapulted Arsenal up to 7th in the table.

The jewel in the crown of the Dutchman’s purple patch was most definitely the three-goal haul in Arsenal’s incredible 5-3 victory away at Chelsea on Saturday. In a captivating match, which saw both teams abandon the art of defending, it was Van Persie who stepped up to lead his team to victory and confirm his status as one of the best strikers in the world at this moment in time.

In 2011 alone, Van Persie has accumulated a mammoth 28 goals in 27 Premier League games and after the shortlist was released for the Ballon D’or earlier this week, it is a massive surprise to not see the Dutchman’s name alongside Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and Nani as one of the Premier League candidates.

After Arsenal’s well publicised crisis at the beginning of the season, and in the absence of Jack Wilshere, it has been Robin Van Persie who has dragged the Gunners by the scruff of the neck and help lead them on a run of six unbeaten games since they were humbled by rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Yet after this incredible goal-scoring run by Van Persie, the question of whether Arsenal are over-reliant on their number 10 keeps popping up all over the media. This is dismissed feverishly by all involved at the club, including Theo Walcott: “It’s not a one-man show but Robin gives us that extra dimension, one that we never quite had before. We’re happy and hopefully he’ll stay fit and keep banging in the goals.”

Of course, Arsenal have a number of very good players, with Wojciech Sczcesny constantly improving himself and staking a claim to be Arsenal’s best keeper since David Seaman. Thomas Vermaelen, when fit, is a rock at the heart of the defence, and Theo Walcott seems to have finally grasped the fine arts of crossing and finishing.

But while these players are definitely very good, it seems Arsenal’s one world class player is indeed Van Persie, and at this moment in time, it seems as though he has to be on the pitch for Arsenal to show any penetration in the final third.

And while Arsenal are most definitely not just a one man team, the importance of tying down the Dutchman to a longer term contract is there for all to see. Van Persie’s current deal expires in the summer of 2013 and Wenger has to start negotiations as soon as possible, lest he find himself in a repeat of the Samir Nasri saga that ruined his whole summer.

However, working quietly to renew Van Persie’s contract will be nigh on impossible for the Frenchman, as speculation and pressure will continue to build until the matter is resolved one way or another. For Arsenal, this is massively important as Robin Van Persie could represent their only chance of continual qualification for the Champions League, and his departure would deprive the Gunners of yet another world class player and drop them further towards the realms of mediocrity.

Robert Johanson


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