Thursday, April 15, 2010

Robin the Barbarian

Two minutes into his reunion with Arsenal football I was reminded of something about Robin van Persie. He’s not a nice striker. In fact he’s downright inconsiderate.

The way he leads the opposition on to think he’s going one way, then…wait…he heads the other direction. It’s really quite cold and unfeeling. Or when a defender moves in too close…well what can you say? In what can only be described as flagrant disregard for the spirit of competition he just turns smartly to one side and leaves the poor sod in his dust. He doesn’t even take the Arsenal standard of 10 seconds to dribble around in a circle before passing backward.

To get to the point, the chasm in attacking verve between van Persie and the rest of our team was so clearly apparent last night, you could almost hear the Dutchman verbally guiding his teammates through the clinic he was putting on. “Alright Samir, so here you see Dawson is confronting me…I mustn’t be polite, rather firm, even deceitful, shifting my weight one way before pulling the ball back across and onto my left foot for….” Just imagine the agape expression on the Frenchman’s face then as van Persie actually let fly from 20 plus yards out. Despite his goal against Birmingham a few weeks ago, surely the gentlemanly midget would concede that this was not his choice tactic for scoring, which probably also explains why the gentlemanly midget has only scored 2 Premiership goals all season (van Persie has scored 7…he’s been injured since November).

Horse placenta? Psssh…judging by the difference in finishing acumen between the Dutchman and Nasri/Diaby/Rosicky/Walcott/yes even Bendtner collectively, I’d have scrapped the trip to Serbia and just have equipped RvP with a peg leg for the last 6 months, because I’m beginning to suspect he has more scoring inclination and attacking directness in just one leg than most of his teammates have combined as last night they were again shepherded all-to-easily into the side channels of the pitch by their opponents. What was all the more discouraging was that Tottenham were not particularly good footballers on the night (are they ever?), but what they were good at was replicating the tactics of every other Premiership side who has had their way with Arsenal in their own defensive third from a positional sense, closing them down and forcing them where they want them to go.

For me, van Persie’s appearance last night was more a representation of the qualities of the Invincibles era than a reminder of the Dutchman’s own skill: inch perfect control, attacking drive, but most importantly directness and unflinching willingness to pull the trigger whenever the goal is in sight, a mindset that rarely failed to bring results for the Invincibles and rarely fails to yield goals for RvP. Not to take anything away from the hard work of our current squad, they’ve put their noses to the proverbial grindstone in the only way they know how for the last 6 months and have yielded some well-deserved results. But ruthlessness isn’t exactly the mindset they’ve exemplified, and for that they have been often punished. Whereas the likes of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas can force a goal from any and all angles, you get the idea sometimes that most of their teammates would just rather send a formal request embroidered on stationary than go through the barbarish process of entering an opponent’s penalty box uninvited.

One final observation on our performance last night. If you watch the 49 Unbeaten DVD, count how many times, after a goal, Robert Pires either bashes the ball back into the net after it rebounds out or at least attempts to (sometimes an opposing player disgustedly punts the ball out before he can reach it). It’s unreal: he does it or at least attempts to do it EVERY TIME a goal is scored when he is on the field.

Perhaps it’s an eccentricity, or just a unique trait of the kind of player we will never see again. But what it is, without a shadow of a doubt, is footballing ruthlessness personified. It’s too bad we haven’t seen more of it in the last 6 months, specifically last night. Let’s hope some more RvP clinics instill it into our current squad sooner rather than later.

So what to be said of Tottenham? Not much, the saying “act like you’ve been there” couldn’t be more apt after the Spuds set about honoring themselves in the only way they know how…..well don’t be thick! Of COURSE they sang about Arsene Wenger being a pedophile! Why it’s the perfect toast for the perfect victory…

With the Premiership now realistically out of our grasp (“you have to separate yourself from the immediate mathematic impression”), it will be interesting to see if a drop in pressure will lead to Arsenal taking more chances offensively instead of nervously passing the ball around the opponent’s half for hours on end. And who better to get freaky on (I mean in a footballing sense! Please…) than the masters of unpredictable themselves, Wigan. If you’re worried about a post-Sp*rs hangover leading to a dull Arsenal performance, don’t be…I wouldn’t be surprised if Roberto Martinez ran onto the pitch in such a scenario and threw the ball into his own goal just to spice things up.

Join Arsenal Review USA this weekend as we briefly review the week that was but mostly turn our eyes to pastures anew…umm…like keeping RvP alive and healthy indefinitely. Omar from the LA Gooners and former Arsenal America President Mike Kavanagh graced us with their presence, so if you want to hear from American Gooners like yourself, don’t miss this one…

Until then…be…strong.

Up the Arsenal!