Quitting Arsenal Was A Mistake
First things first, Happy New Year my dear readers, thank you for stopping by.
I had a little trouble writing today’s title. I had so many things to call it but I thought if the title mentioned the name of the person this blog is mostly about that it wouldn’t get read at all.
The various titles I had were “Why United are a one-man team”, “Robin should never have left, here’s why”, “RvP made a big mistake moving to United” etc.
Still with me? Phew… the name didn’t have you reaching for the hammer to smash whatever device you are reading this on then. Good, I’m glad we can be adults about this ‘person’ ;-).
I believe that Robin made a mistake leaving Arsenal despite what the table says.
Robin said recently that he is playing in a team of champions, a nasty dig at Arsenal many Gooners felt.
I’d argue that Robin is the champion and he left a team of could be’s to join a team of could be’s. I know many will argue that United finished 2nd without him and Arsenal finished 3rd with him but that doesn’t take into account the signings Arsenal and United have made, the improvement in Arsenal’s defending, their weak area from last season nor does it consider the weakness of United’s defence at the back end of last season and carried on into this.
Last season Arsenal were accused of being a one man team who would be stuck in mid-table if it wasn’t for Robin. That may have been true but we are doing okay-ish without him however United this season would be a mid-table club without our despised Dutchman or least they would be in an exaggerated table.
I said before he left that leaving would be foolish as player for player Arsenal were equal or superior to United and with our new signings and RvP staying we’d piss all over United and probably the league. Looking at the table now I’m not sure my belief was well placed but I think we would have been closer with him in the team.
Robin thought otherwise or his wallet told him otherwise or whatever you choose to believe his motivations were and he left for the 2nd worst club in the country he could have moved to from a Gooners perspective.
There are lots of if buts and maybes to consider and take into account when making statements like I have made but to simplify things I have just looked at with and without RvP in the league.
If Robin’s goals and assists were removed from United and not replaced then United would be languishing in 11th place. Yes, that’s right, 11th place.
United have scored 24 goals via Van Persie, either from his touch or via his assists. Sure, someone else could have come in and scored those goals but for this exaggerated table lets say that the replacement did not make a difference and the games panned out the same but without the impact Robin made. This is how the season thus far would have panned out without him.
Starting with Fulham in August, United without RvP drop 2 points and draw 2-2. A week later they lose 2-0 to Southampton as United have no Robin to score a hattrick. (A week later they could have drawn 1-1 with Liverpool as RvP wouldn’t have scored a penalty but I’ve decided to give United this penalty and win as I did not give them the penalty that RvP missed against Southampton).
Fast forward to October and they beat Newcastle 2-0 instead of 3-0 (goal difference can be crucial as City showed last season). Thirteen days later United go on to lose 2-1 to Stoke as Van Persie isn’t there with a goal and two assists. Similarly they lose 2-1 to Chelsea a week later as Van Persie doesn’t score his goal and he doesn’t hit the post with the rebound bouncing off Luiz’s head and into the net.
When United faced Arsenal in their next game they drew 1-1 instead of winning 2-1 as Van Persie wasn’t there to capitalise on Vermaelen’s mistake. Nor was he there seven days later to give an assist in the Villa game resulting in a 2-2 draw.
As November drew to a close and United faced West Ham at Old Trafford, Van Persie was not there to poke in a goal in the 1st minute and the game ended in a 0-0 draw. December opened not with a 7 goal thriller at the Madjeski but with a 5 goal cracker and without RvP’s goal and assist the game ended 3-2 to Reading.
On the 9th of December Man City came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 because Robin wasn’t there to score in Fergie time. In mid-December Purse Strings wasn’t around to score or assist in United’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland and he wasn’t there to assist in the 1-0 loss to Swansea either on the 23rd making for a miserable Christmas for the United faithful.
Boxing day was an exciting 3-3 draw with Newcastle with Little Garden Vegetable scoring a 90th minute equaliser instead of a 90th minute winner.
The New Year was slightly better for the boys in tablecloths as even without Van Persie and his 3 goals and assist they managed to win back to back games 1-0 against West Brom and Wigan although these meagre scorelines have hardly helped their pitiful goal difference.
And now, on January 3rd 2013, in an English Premier League without Van Persie, United would be stuck in 11th place, 21 points off top spot and 10 points off Arsenal in 5th. United would be propping up WBA, Stoke, Liverpool, West Ham and Swansea, not to mention the top 5 of City, Chelsea, Spurs, Everton and Arsenal.
In this scenario Arsenal would only be 1 point better off but United would be 27 points worse off and with 24 fewer goals to their names. They would still have conceded 28 goals and without RvP’s 16 goals and 8 assists they would not have won so many games from losing positions as they did over 10 times with RvP.
11 of their wins would have resulted in 5 losses and 6 draws as well as a draw ending in a loss.
Robin van Persie has been of the utmost importance to United this season and the difference between their squad without him sitting in 11th to him playing for the current league leaders. Again, someone else would have played in his place but there are no guarantees in football and we cannot say that his impact would have been equalled by another signing or different player. If Robin was that easily replaceable then United would not have spent £24m on him.
As I mentioned, Arsenal would only be a point better off if he never joined United but I think that shows the, for want of a better word, strength, of this team without him. With him who knows were we’d be.
There are many things to take into consideration such as pre-assists, different people being in the position that RvP was in when he received the ball etc and there is no way to determine how the league would look if he hadn’t moved to United but I think it is fair to say that they would not be where they are without him.
United certainly wouldn’t be 11th without him as someone else would have scored some goals, maybe not as many but some. Based on United being a decent team already without him I’m going to give them back half of the goals and points (12 and 13) that they lost when I removed RvP from the equation and that puts them in 4th with 38 points and a goal difference of 14.
Arsenal have a game in hand and with a goal difference of 18/19 any win would put them above United.
Before Van Persie left for United this is what I said/predicted. I said that United’s squad was no better than ours and the real difference was Van Persie and given those numbers I think I was pretty close to being right ;-).
In the above scenario, where neither team has Van Persie, Arsenal are 3 points behind United with a game in hand and a superior goal difference, backed up by a superior defence and almost equal attack.
I cannot say that Arsenal would have been better off with Van Persie because our goals have been shared around a lot and who is to say that those players would have scored still or that Van Persie would have scored their goals or assisted their assists but I think we can say that if United can gain half of the points and goals they lose without Van Persie that we can do the same and that takes us to the top of the table on 48 points and 52 goals scored, with a GD of 31 and a game in hand, which if won takes us to 51 points which is just 1 point behind the current tally of United with Van Persie. Like I said, if Robin wasn’t able to make that sort of difference then Arsenal fans wouldn’t be bothered about him leaving and Fergie wouldn’t have stumped up the extra £1.5m when Arsène upped the price at the last minute.
Regardless of these ifs, buts and maybes, United are still top and thus Van Persie has a better chance of winning the league than Arsenal do but I still feel he made a mistake and may look back on this move as a mistake.
I’m going to lay my cards out, I don’t think United will win the league this year because their defence is pants. Yes, their attack is superb at the moment but as Arsenal have found out to their cost in the past, a great attack won’t always save you from the errors of your defence. If, however, I am wrong and they do win the league it will be because of their attack more than anything else.
This is all pie in the sky of course and there is no way of saying that any of this would actually have happened if Van Persie had stayed because other players play and other players get signed etc but I do think that it underlines the importance of a player like Van Persie.
He clearly improves United and clearly improved us and we’re not far behind where we were with him this time last season so surely we can assume that United would be a weaker team without him, unless they signed someone of equal talent which wouldn’t be easy, and that Arsenal would be stronger with him. If we had managed to keep Van Persie I believe we’d be much closer to United than we are now. We might not be above them but I think the difference would be less than a third of the 18 points it is at the moment.
I think Chelsea or City will win the league this year, however the little boy inside me (do you see what I did there ;-)) still holds out hope that Arsenal can catch up, it’s not impossible but it is highly improbable.
I think the season will end with Manchester United probably above Arsenal but not by much and maybe Van Persie will realise that United wasn’t the better place to win a trophy and maybe he could have made the difference had he stayed at Arsenal.
Maybe he’ll look back and think that if he had stayed and helped us win something by being the difference between the two sides he could have retired a club legend and have been the captain that led the team out of the trophy-less wilderness.
He may win a trophy or two at United but he’ll never be a legend there. At best, he’ll be remembered as a guy with a few good seasons and someone they stole from Arsenal.
The guys in our current squad who help us win our next trophy will be remembered as legends though, here’s hoping that happens soon.
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