I truly believed we would bounce back against Sunderland. The performance was better. But not good enough to overcome a few more strokes of bad luck. I do think if Webb had given that penalty on RvP early on we would have gone on to win. But he didn’t, and our performance just was not good enough to create many more chances. The main problem? Creativity.
Some have argued that putting van Persie up front restricts his influence on the game. As a striker, Robin is reliant upon the rest of the team to supply him with the ball. In recent matches against difficult opposition, RvP has found himself isolated, surrounded by defenders, struggling to find any space in and around the box.
Playing him deeper as a second striker, sort of like Rooney does for United, will give us a creative presence in midfield, making up for the lack of creativity from Song and Arteta.
It’s not a bad idea, but it raises some issues. Who do you partner RvP with? At the moment we don’t really have a world class striker to lead the line ahead of RvP. And it would require us to play more of a 442 shape that would creates its own problems (as I don’t think we have the players for it).
But most importantly, RvP is the best striker in the world. And thats not my opinion alone, bookies such as Paddy power have him odds on to become the highest goal scorer in the premier league this season. So why has Wenger moved him from a position where he is so effective? Although he has shown he can score goals from anywhere. Even when partnered with Mr.Adebayor he was prolific in the early part of the 07/08 season.
In response to Bergkamp’s suggestion that RvP was in the wrong position, Wenger said that while RvP can play behind the striker, his intelligence in and around the box can make him even more dangerous. I think Wenger is absolutely spot on there. I have never seen a striker as good as RvP at finding space inside the box. And even if he isn’t given any space, he creates it with his incredible first touch. And if you give him a half chance inside the box he will score (compare that to Mr.Adebayor who consistently missed sitters).
Also, our fluidity means that RvP is not restricted to stay ahead of his teammates and waiting for service. He will often drop very deep and get involved in the build up play (like Messi), especially on counter attacks he is often the one providing. If RvP drops back, our wingers or one of our midfielders makes runs ahead of him. So this fluidity allows RvP to be sort of in two places at once.
After the win against Dortmund, where RvP scored two goals, Jurgen Klopp said “I have never seen a player who plays so deep in midfield and yet is so dangerous inside the box.” The lone striker role allows RvP the freedom to roam and go where he’s needed. It also does not hinder his ability to create chances for his teammates, as he still gets loads of assists.
So my conclusion: leave RvP alone. Literally. As our lone striker he has blossomed into one of the best players in the world. Let’s not mess with a proven formula, because what we lose might not make up for what we gain.