Evidence suggests RVP finished as a top striker, but he doesn’t know it yet!


Welcome to you future Robin?
Welcome to you future Robin?

This is not an article bashing our ex hero for the sake of it, although it is not surprising we Gunners enjoy that indulgence. No this is more a vindication possibly of a piece I wrote last summer when it became apparent our then talisman would depart. There has been much recrimination about the club’s decision to sell to a rival and this is natural because we sold what most fans believed to be a world class striker at the absolute pinnacle of his game and at the peak of his powers.

Well you know what happens after you reach the pinnacle or peak? You go down the other side.  And you know it takes a longer time to climb to the top of the mountain than to descend. In fact on the down slope the downward journey can on occasion be rapid. Enough of the clever analogies, I will get straight to the point.

The article I wrote last July revealed that of the 20 strikers who had scored 20 or more league goals (and there were only 20) in the previous 2011/12 season, from Europe big 6 leagues ,only 4 were 30 or over. If you are interested they were Ibrahimovic, Di Natale, Milito and Nene. Only 2 of these look likely to repeat the feat this season. Now we can all make statistics sing the tune we wish but they were the facts. The chances were that RVP would like so many others in the modern game find goals harder to score in your 30s.

When I wrote a piece recently asking why players can’t seemingly play as many games in the Premier League era as they did previously I was told that the pace of the game is more exacting, pitches firmer etc. Indeed the better playing surfaces make for more pleasing on the eye football but they are harder on the modern player’s body. Wear and tear kicks in earlier and RVP has had his share.

The facts and the truth in the case of RVP were sort of blanked out at the end of the last season by Gooners when he was our player. The reality was in March we all felt the breaking of Shearer’s EPL scoring record was a formality. With 10 matches left RVP needed 8 goals and such was his form we all thought he would make it. Arsenal’s form from February and March faltered in April and May and it coincided with our talisman failing to score in 6 of the last 10 matches. Of the 4 he did score the only one in a winning cause was a penalty versus already relegated Wolves and none were decisive strikes. As I say this dramatic decline in form and influence was missed or ignored by most in the Euphoria of grabbing 3rd from Tottenham on the last day at the Hawthorns. The truth is that had RVP been scoring still, it would not have gone to the last day and should not have. The turning point in his form is pictured below:

Dreadful miss for 4-4 versus Milan
Dreadful miss for 4-4 versus Milan

Did Wenger have the feeling that Robin in his 30th year was unlikely to hit the same heights? Was £25 million to good to turn down? Now who we sold him to of course is an entirely different discussion and I will not defend that call, but is there evidence that van Persie’s star is fading?

At first glance it is easy to conclude that he is as potent as ever with 20 goals in the Premier League. However only 5 of the 20 have come against the teams competing now for the top 6 places and he has not scored in the league for over 2 months until yesterday. The last time our greying Dutch friend hit the net in anger in the Premiership was on the 10th of February, until Sunday when he scored a penalty against Stoke. We all saw the relief in his celebration. He knew he needed a goal.

Anyway I am not intending to use only Van Persie himself for my research or to prove my point. I don’t need to as there really is emphatic and overwhelming evidence from the modern Premier League era to suggest dear RVP is unlikely to regain the form that took him to the peak of his individual attainment in 2011/12 with 2 Player of the Year awards. I am sure you might doubt this to be the case but here goes…..

Ian Rush – One of the greatest goal scorers in history of the modern game. Scored 26 in 1989/90 to nick title back from Arsenal in his 29th year and never came close to doing so again. His best league return after that was aged 31 in the first Premiership season when he hit 22 but on 14 in the EPL.

Andy Cole – The 2nd top scorer in EPL history hit 24 in his 29th year to assist Man U win the treble in 98/99 and 22 the year after in his 29th year. He never scored more than 13 in a season after that.

Alan Shearer – Fairs better than some but he hit 30 goals in his 29th year and never did so thereafter. The greatest scorer in the league’s history did continue to score but he nwver reached the heights he had prior to his 30th birthday/

Jimmy Floyd Hasslebank – The league’s top scorer in 2000/1 in his 28thth year and hit 26 goals for Chelsea in all competitions. He was pipped by Henry in 2001/02 in his 29th year when the Dutchman hit 29 that season. His highest total from then on was 17.

Thierry Henry – Our greatest ever hit 33 in his 29th year in 2005/6 and never looked like hitting his Highbury heights after that last year at the Home of Football. He only managed over 20 once at Barca.

Never gain to hit the heights again after Paris
Never to hit the heights again after Paris

Ruud van Nistlerooy – The Dutchman and Henry were great rivals for the Golden Boot in the early 2000s. The Dutchman  left Man U and hit 33 for Real Madrid in his 30th year, having scored 24 times as a parting gift to the Old Trafford faithful in his 29th year. He dropped to 20 goals in his 31st year and has not troubled the statisticians since.

Nic Anelka – The ex- Gooner topped the EPL scoring charts in 2008/9 with 19 goals in his 29th year. He hit 25 in all competitions for Chelsea. He followed this with poor returns of 15 and 16 in his 30th and 31st year.

Didier Drogba – The Ivorian slightly bucks the trend by having his finest season in his 31st year scoring a very impressive 37 goals in 2009/10 taking Chelsea to the title and topping the EPL Goal Chart with 29. In the next 2 seasons he managed 13 and 13!

I will leave the most pertinent until last….

Dimitar Berbatov – The Bulgarian was bought for big money by Sir Alex Ferguson helped them to the title in 2010/11 when in his 29th year Berba hit 20 league goals. He finished as the league top scorer but was dropped by the ruthless Scot for the title run in, with the younger legs of Hernandez being preferred. After a season mostly on the bench last term he is playing again for Fulham but despite the plaudits, he is playing every week and has 13 goals to date in 2012/13.

Why is the last example so relevant if it has not grabbed you yet? Well because it illustrates the point that Ferguson and United, rightly or wrongly are willing to splash huge cash get a quick return in silverware and then discard and make a huge loss on the investment. It would not surprise me to see RVP rotated increasingly next season in favour of Hernandez and Welbeck, assuming they don’t move for Falcao that is.


From this.......
From this…….
To this in 2 seasons?
To this in 2 seasons?

Just in case the above does not convince you that top strikers rarely continue performing into their 30s. we could just quickly assess the strikers currently at the top of their game around Europe? Here are the current top 5’s from each major league:

France – Ibrahimovich, Aubaneyang, Aliadiare, Cvtanich, Gomis

Germany – Lewandowski, Keisling, Mandzukic, Meier, Szalai

Holland – Bony, Finnbogason, Pelle, Altidore, Malki

Italy – Cavani. De Natale, El Sharaaway, Denis, Pazzini

Spain – Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao. Negredo, Castro

England – Suarez, RVP, Bale, Michu, Ba

(those players over 30 are in bold type)

So we have compelling evidence to suggest that the likelihood of van Perise’s career taking and upturn in 2013/14 are slim. Of the 30 players making up the top 5’s in Europe’s top leagues presently only 4 of the 30 strikers are over 30.

As we have seen above only Didier Drogba of all the Premier League’s top strikers over the past 20 years had bucked the trend and peaked beyond 30.

My guess is that RVP like Berbatov before him will play less of a role next season at Old Trafford or be moved back slightly. I do not see him leading the line with the same devastating effect as he did when he was 27 to 29 and the odds are in my favour. Another possibility is that we may see our former idol drop deeper as Bergkamp or Sheringham did but will we see him hit close to 30 or over again? History and compelling evidence says it is exceedingly unlikely.

Lukas Podolski coming up 29 a striker's peak
Lukas Podolski coming up 29 a striker’s peak.

Time will tell and I cannot deny the first 5 months of the season were painful to watch from a Gooner’s perspective. However what I do know with some certainly is that Podolski, Girouid and Walcott will be 28, 27 and 25 next season and all record suggest still have their prime ahead of them. All have hit double figures with ease in 2012/13 and it is hard to argue against a further improvement next term. Possible assisted by a new striker to be signed in the summer. Only this week Wenger has been talking of coaching Lukas to play more centrally. If this is our future then next 2013/14 could be the German’s year to hit the peak in scoring form.

Chances are my friends that we are approaching the peak of our form mountain whilst our erstwhile skipper will be beginning his slide down the slippery career slope, possibly assisted by a ruthless red nosed Scot we all love to hate.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66


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  1. Whilst your article has merit, I think it would be more balanced to also report on Goals per Game returned for these strikers in their 30’s. I would be interested to see that, because its reasonable to expect more injuries and less play time the older the players get, but if their return ratio does not decline then surely they are still worth it ?

    1. I could easily include that and it would support case further, because they are getting less games for a reason. The reason being they are not up ti playing twice per week in managers eyes or due to injury. Either way not a player to build a teal around I would venture. Thanks

      1. Very good analysis. You are also correct not to include the amount of games as you point out it only solidify your analysis. The fact that they are not playing a lot of games proof your point. Well done.

  2. I like your article and agree entirely with it . I retired at 62 after a couple of years I was desperate to find something to do, so I worked part time after 2 years of this I found I was very weary, so agreed to retire again but now I am 70 I find that I do not have the energy that I had 5 years ago. So yes even if you are in fine trim there is a age limit where you gone down hill.

  3. New two strikers Giroud and Podolski had ñetted 10+ goals and as much assistance too. The figure will go high next season for sure after summer signing of new winger.

  4. Nice article. The presence of Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck for Van Persie could see him dropped very quickly next season, if he doesn’t get the early season return he has had the last two seasons. Regarding Arsenal, it is encouraging to have Giroud, Walcott, Podolski getting lots of goals and assists, especially playing their first season together. The goals and assists of Cazorla and hopefully Chamberlain next season, plus another striker will mean that we won’t miss Van Persie or have to rely too heavily on one player, like we did had to last season. Getting £25 mil for him, a Champions League spot, and strengthening in the summer will mean all round good business. However, selling to United and effectively handing them the league, possibly at the Emirates the way things are going, should never be forgiven, wish we had sold him to Juventus.

  5. I think all those years arsenal nursed van persie back to health and him sitting on the injured list have possibly left him quite fresh.

  6. Van Persie footballing age is actually much younger than 30. He has a lot of miles left him considering he missed a lot of football during his younger years. Physically he’s in the best shape of his life.

    Besides 5 goals against the top 6 is a very good return and he still has Arsenal and Chelsea to go. He has 1 goal in 1 game against chelsea, 2 goals in 2 games against Liverpool, 1 goal in 1 game against Chelsea, 1 goal in 2 against tottenham and 1 in 2 against city.

  7. Interestingly all those strikers you mentioned played alot more football than Van Persie did when they reached 30. So its understandable that they burnt out. Van Persie is fresher at this stage in his career.

    Milito had the best season in his career at 30. Drogba peaked in his 30’s and likewise Zlatan. There’s no reason why a fresher Van Persie can’t follow suit.

    1. Drogba had a great year at 31 and scored very little thereafter.I am not saying he won’t have a role top play but I am saying he will not be leading the line week in week out. Drogba has a few crucial games last season but was no a top scorer by any means.

      I have not said he will be burnt out just that so many precedents suggests few are prolific in 30s

      Based on your logic Abou Diaby should have years at the top then having played so few games

      1. Yes but many of those strikers burnt out from playing every week season in season out, that’s my point.

        Your examples are quite weak as well. Van Nistelrooy had injury problems after his first season at Madrid, Berbatov was never really a first teamer at Utd even in his best season,

        Alan Shearer on average was more prolific in his last 5 seasons at Newcastle than he was in his first four. You say he didn’t score 30 goals again but only came 2 or 3 goals short of that total several times which is marginal at best.

  8. Simply one of the best thing I’ve got to read in recent times. I agree with you Dave and I hope you to be true and wish for it. The evidences are there, and history tells the story.
    Sorry to mention it but I wont even mind him ending the career with injuries before sliding down the heights which he has reached.

  9. Of a truth, I really don’t give two fcuks about RVP and his goal scoring offs and ons. Neither would I gainsay the fact that I loved the way he’s been hurting in his goal scoring drought untill recently at the Britannia Stadium.
    Stats don’t normally lie, and since they don’t, and RVP is gonna become useless as the days go by, then we gooners should have something to cheer about – Isn’t that what we’ve all been silently praying for?
    But the fact is that Arsenal seem not to know shame. A lot of players have left us and gone ahead to win trophies mostly in the very next season they left us. And us fans have been hoping that the season after we will win soothing. But no! The club doesn’t reinvests these funds. Even if they do, we only get average players. United will win the championship this season. Does any one of us here sincerely think that Arsenal have plans to wresstle the title next season from United? Your guess is as good as mine.
    Like I’ve always said on twitter, if Arsene, the board and Arsenal don’t make significant investments in quality and established players come summer, then fans are going be apoplectic and may take thier destiny in their own hands by way of making things difficult for the club management. I’m a one hell of a positive gunner, but I don’t think I can stand another trophiless year like this.
    Thank you Dave. You always have a magical way of manifesting the unexpected.

  10. 5 goals against top 6 is not a bad return IMO! Other than that there seems to be merit in your analysis, especially agree that Man U are quite happy to spend £25 to get quick results, unlike us!

  11. what’s gonna happen with the frenchman if Goldi takes the CF post? what i see is that Poldi s usually getting into mid areas even when he play LW. Iwouldnt like Poldi in the middle because that d mean Giroud to be out of place , as he is useless on the wings. Rotation could be an answer but then we need a LW ,,and both of the guys listed above would play less than nowadays.

  12. Six years crocked, Robin
    Six years crocked
    Six years crocked, Robin
    Six years crocked
    Six years crocked, Robin
    Six years crocked
    Oh Robin six years crocked

    Accused of rape, Robin
    Accused of rape
    Accused of rape, Robin
    Accused of rape
    Accused of rape, Robin
    Oh Robin accused of rape

    We stood by you, Robin
    We stayed loyal
    We stood by you, Robin
    We stayed loyal
    We stood by you, Robin
    We stayed loyal
    Oh Robin we stayed loyal

    You’re a CUNT, Robin
    You’re a CUNT
    You’re a CUNT, Robin
    You’re a CUNT
    You’re a CUNT, Robin
    Oh Robin you’re a CUNT

  13. You could say those strikers have burnt out from playing consistently over that amount of time or their bodies grew accustomed to it. I’d say because of van Persie being sidelined for as long as he was and thrusted back into the action as he was would be more laboring on his body than someone who played consistently over the same amount of time.

  14. Good article but im not convinced that he’s finished. Many people here are suggesting that since he was injured long time he has more gas then an average 29 year old forward. i dont know how much truth is in that but quite the same stuff has been mentioned by Rosicky and Diaby. Rosicky himself said that he does not feel like a 30 year old cuz hes been injured most of the time and has more energy.
    we will see next season.

  15. i totlly agree with you, the evidence show that at 29s & 30s is when most strikers realize their peak, then down fall follows, i think the same applies for defender but for midfielder they can advanc beyond 30……….nice one Dan

  16. Interesting analysis, but a bit flawed. Firstly, the goals to games ratio, which you mentioned in another thread, is actually relevant to the worth of the player. Yes, the players play less, but their effectiveness might still be the same. There is nothing problematic in having a striker who will play 15-20 games and score 12-15 goals. Now, whether it’s worth buying a player for 25 million who after one season is going to play less than 30 games is one thing, but having him here even in his older age as an option against certain teams is still fantastic. And anyway, 12-15 goals in a season is nothing to sneeze at. This, after all, appears to be the level of our current strikers.

    Players roles also change when they move teams. Henry was played as a left winger under Barca, and played a completely different role in a team containing Eto’o and Messi. To say it was all downhill; is a pretty gross exaggeration as he played a big part in two consecutive La Liga titles, including a swashbuckling performance to demolish Madrid in the Bernabeau as well as winning the champions league.

    Roles might also change as they get older. Van Persie might lose some of his physicality, but then he can always play a little deeper or as a number 10. Remember he was initially bought as the “new Bergkamp” as he has all the tools to play that role, which is why his loss to me is particularly galling.

    Yeah, it would be nice think that he’s declining, and like all players of a certain age in some aspects of the game he is. Doesn’t mean he won’t be effective or valuable to the teams he’s playing for. Our own resignings of Sol and Thierry show as much.


    Really good write up, Dave. I’d never have put the connections together with other top strikers.

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