The importance of Robin Van Persie for Arsenal can sometimes be understated as the forward adds balance both in attack and defensively with his link up play.
With 62 minutes on the clock in the first leg, one may have thought Arsenal were in the ascendancy. The trio of Fabregas, Diaby and Nasri were passing the ball with such assurance and minimal sense of urgency while United were readying Giggs and Berbatov to come on as substitutes. But then as the ball fell to Adebayor at the edge of the area, the Togolese striker hurriedly lashed over as if it were the only chance he was to get. Indeed, from open play it was as the Gunners clearly lacked that link between midfield and attack to make each intricate move count.
Arsene Wenger has deployed Cesc Fabregas in the number 10 role with mixed success; against the lesser sides the skipper has excelled but as the first leg with Manchester United showed, without him dictating things in the centre Arsenal lack the requisite personnel to pull the strings. And higher up, Fabregas will have difficulty supporting Adebayor without such coherence.
The return of Robin Van Persie will be a huge boost for Arsenal should he start. The Dutchman has arguably been Arsenal’s best player this season and his presence was sorely missed. He has scored 17 goals in all competitions and made 12 assists, 10 in the league putting him joint top while he has also fallen foul to the margins; had he hit the target surely more individual honours would have come his way as Van Persie has hit the wood work more than any other player.
Injuries have plagued the forward but it is debatable which level he would be at were it not for such setbacks. A run of games has surely helped his confidence and allow him to get his flow but Van Persie has admitted the responsibility of father hood, an injury while on international duty and the side’s relative failures this season have made him a stronger player. The stats show that as his decision making has hugely increased, playing more of a team role than one that was once thought 0f as individualistic.
Van Persie recalled Esteban Cambiasso’s goal – after 24 passes – for Argentina against Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup. “I scored a fantastic volley against Charlton two years ago , and if I had to choose between that and the goal of Cambiasso, I would chose Cambiasso because the whole team is involved. So beautiful.”
His mother and father are artists -his father, Bob, has a specially commissioned collage inside the Emirates of a crowd scene, made from Arsenal magazines. And Van Persie has been tipped to become another artist though this time with the ball. Comparisons with Dennis Bergkamp can become tedious but it is unavoidable; Van Persie’s hold up of the ball, shielding of the marker and the importance of operating between midfield and attack has been crucial to the side.
He also has another string to his bow, as this area he operates in means that the holding midfielder that many teams often deploy can be negated when he tracks back. This adds balance to the side and against Manchester United can be the perfect platform for the high pressure game that Arsenal so crave at the Emirates.