Nearly twelve months ago, Arsenal came up against Barcelona in the Champions League and looked incredibly inferior. A year on and the competition has thrown up the same tie but this time, Arsene Wenger’s side look to be in better shape to compete with the La Liga champions. Barcelona favourite Johan Cruyff has already identified Dutch forward Robin van Persie as the danger man for the Catalan side, and with the striker in such impressive form, there is little wonder he is being pin-pointed as a threat to the Spanish giants. But why now are we only just waking up to the talent of Robin van Persie?
It seems the whole world has recently taken note of van Persie’s class. Not surprising really, when you consider just how good the former Feyenoord man has been this season since his return to fitness. But if you ask any Arsenal fan why their club haven’t kept up with the top two come the end of the last few seasons, they will only ever give you one answer: Robin van Persie.
Injury has plagued the career of one of the finest strikers in the Premier League in modern times. Technically brilliant on his left, he has now added goals with his right and head to make him into an ideal striker for your club, a horrible one to face for a rival. But he strikes me as the type of player who will never realise his obvious potential if he isn’t 100% fit.
At the moment, he is just that. Ask Mick McCarthy. Van Persie was brilliant against Wolves at the weekend and even managed to miss a couple before scoring twice to dispose of the Black Country side. Next up to conquer for van Persie is little old Barcelona and another chance to make everyone believe that he isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan. A once arrogant, injury-prone, one sided striker now has real aspirations of standing up against the world’s best, and I wouldn’t bet against the headlines being more along the lines of ‘the delightful Dutchman’ instead of the ‘magic of Messi’.
The pressure is on now for the 27-year-old to live up to all the expectation. He is coming into his prime, and with his maturity, there is no end to what Arsenal could achieve as Wenger continues to build around the likes of van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. Staying fit is vital though, not just to the player himself, but to Arsenal’s chances of winning any silverware this season. As good as they are, Sporting Gijon recently proved Barcelona aren’t invincible after battling to a draw. But a reoccurrence of an injured van Persie would put a huge dent in any title-winning aspirations Wenger may have for his side.
The problem van Persie has is that he won’t ever be considered one of the world’s best (which he is becoming to be) if he disappears into the background of top-flight football again due to his injuries. We have recognised the player he could have been and we are now seeing the player he can be. What he is remembered as depends on two things: fitness, and his contribution to the biggest of games.
The world is finally watching, Robin. Full steam ahead Barcelona.
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