Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Assessing Van Persie's options

DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Robin van P...
Robin Van Persie (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Arsenal's annual summer exodus continues this year with the imminent exit of captain and last season's talisman Robin Van Persie. Van Persie is not short of admirers, but it seems that the list of clubs in contention for his signature has been narrowed down to a trio consisting of both Manchester clubs and Juventus.

Manchester United


It really is a sign of how far Arsenal have fallen, that erstwhile rivals Manchester United are now considered front-runners in the race for Van Persie. The idea of an Arsenal player joining United would be considered blasphemous as recently as the Keane-Vieira years. However, Sir Alex Ferguson plainly doesn't consider Arsenal a threat nowadays, and sees no qualms in bidding for their captain and best player.

Pros:

Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United F.C.
Alex Ferguson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Robin Van Persie certainly fits the pedigree of player that Manchester United strive for. They need a striker to take the goal-scoring burden off Wayne Rooney. Furthermore, Van Persie also brings tremendous leadership qualities to the forward line. Danny Wellbeck and Javier Hernandez can certainly learn a lot from the Dutch marksman. Van Persie is also extremely adept at playing different positions, and his ability to cut in with his left foot from the right wing gives United a new angle in attack.

Having Van Persie, Rooney, Wellback and Hernandez in their squad gives United extra depth up front, and would enable them to have a concerted campaign for silverware both domestically and in Europe.

Cons:


Over the last few years, the Red Devil's attack has focused on rapid counters and direct wing play. Ashley Young, Nani and Antonio Valencia have been served with the remit of causing havoc on the wings and deliver the final ball into the box for the strikers to finish. The first caveat to this is that Robin Van Persie very rarely scores with his head. One also has to consider that for both Arsenal and the Dutch national team, Van Persie has become accustomed to playing with midfielders who play at a slower pace, and rely on incisive short passes and through balls to set up chances for forwards. Unless United plan to add midfielders of a similar ilk, Van Persie might struggle to adapt to Ferguson's current set of tactics.

Another potential sour point is Van Persie's comfortability with rotation. In fact Ferguson is bound to be more ruthless compared to Wenger, and won't hesitate to substitute Van Persie if he doesn't perform to the expected standards. After being the big fish for so long, this might be a concern. Although, it has to be said given his age and injury record, there is every possibility that rotation could benefit rather than hinder Van Persie.

Manchester City


After winning the Premier League in such thrilling fashion last season, clearly the establishment at Manchester City want to continue their conquest for domination by signing another marquee player.

Pros:


Van Persie would fit seamlessly into the superstar player profile that City's owners crave, and could be used as a magnet to draw other big players to the club as well. There were times last season when City seemed to get stifled by defences who marked Sergio Aguero and David Silva well. Having Van Persie as a left-footed forward adds another dimension to the City attack.

English: Roberto Mancini
 Roberto Mancini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Furthermore, Van Persie should feel comfortable at City with plenty of other Arsenal alumni at the club. He should have a great understanding with Samir Nasri, and he could be an excellent foil bringing attacking midfielders into goal-scoring positions. He will also enjoy receiving David Silva's through balls.

Cons:


Roberto Mancini already has four forwards to work with, and it could be a challenge accomodating Van Persie into the squad unless he manages to sell Edin Dzeko. It also leaves the role of Mario Balotelli next season open to question. With the mercurial Italian extremely high on confidence after an impressive Euro 2012, Balotelli might be expected to push on this season and expect regular starts, already a challenging task with the current set-up of strikers.

Furthermore, while Van Persie might link extremely well with City's midfielders, Mancini's tactics generally require his forwards to be either pacy, strong or a combination of both. Van Persie certainly won't top the tables for speed and strength amongst forwards in the Premier League. Mancini also requires his forwards to track back often and help the defence a la Carlos Tevez, which is a bit of an Achilles heel for Van Persie, who can at times go missing for long periods of the game.

Juventus


Juventus marked their return to winning ways with an extremely impressive unbeaten league campaign enabling them to conquer Serie A last season. The new season will see Juventus competing in the Champions League, and the Bianconeri know they have to add quality to their squad in order to maintain a concerted effort across all fronts.

Pros:


With all due respect to Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri, as a striker, Robin Van Persie is leagues above them and is befitting of the stature of Juventus. With Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic expected to play in the hole between midfield and attack, having Van Persie will substantially increase the Old Lady's goal threat.

For all their brilliant approach play, the one reason that Juve took so long to win the championship despite being unbeaten, was their inability to finish off teams leading to infuriating draws. Van Persie brings the guarantee of goals, and with a talented midfield featuring the evergreen Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Simon Pepe and Arturo Vidal complimented by Vucinic's intelligence and Giovinco's directness, Van Persie certainly won't lack for chances.

Cons:


Juve scored 68 goals on their way to victory in the last Serie A campaign, despite not having a single player amongst the top 10 goalscorers in this league. This is largely due to the fact that coach Antonio Conte has instilled an extremely fluid system at Juventus, that revolves around exceptional inter-changing of position and a high pressing game.

While Van Persie certainly has the ability to adapt, the tactical discipline and commitment required to fit in such a philosophy demands a lot from a player who has spent his last 8 years under a manager who has never appreciated the importance of tactics. This is why despite his meagre goal return, Conte believed in Vucinic, as the Montenegrin displayed intelligence in movement and passing to enable all midfielders to get in scoring positions. With Van Persie in the line-up, it is possible that Juve's fluidity and positional effectiveness could be compromised.



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