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Arsenal’s reliance on 9-and-a-half Van Persie a potential problem
Arsenal’s reliance on their captain Robin van Persie has been well-documented recently, after his game-winning performances against the likes of Sunderland and Stoke City at the Emirates. The Gunners have been labelled a one-man team, although it’s not as if van Persie has been scoring goals on his own.
He’s tactically vital to the way Arsenal play – dropping deep to link up the play and increase fluidity while also getting on the end of moves in the final third. His role could be best described as a “nine and a half”; in fact, van Persie called himself that last month. A detailed description of the fairly new role can be found here.
Van Persie is the final and vital piece of the puzzle for Arsenal – he drifts between the lines, creating space for others and bringing his team-mates into play, while of course getting in the box to score. He plays the number 9 role and the number 10 role, hence the name “nine and a half” – he creates and scores at the same time. As the linked article says, it’s difficult to find players who are good enough to play this role effectively.
As their captain and talisman, Arsenal have inevitably ended up building their team around van Persie – he is their current go-to man, as showed by the desperate of Arsenal fans to get him on against Stoke. Marouane Chamakh had failed to do van Persie’s job well at all, as he’s a completely different player, and when the captain came on the difference was obvious, and Arsenal seemed a new team.
The problem here is obvious – Arsenal rely on van Persie for goals and fluidity, which come from his relatively new role, but once van Persie is not available, Arsenal might struggle. So few players can do the job van Persie does, so once he is sidelined (which seems almost inevitable) the Gunners might find fluidity and goals hard to come by.
The reason for all these mights is because a potential replacement for van Persie hasn’t been tried out yet. I’m talking about Park Ju-Young – aside from a quiet appearance against Shrewsbury, the South Korean hasn’t featured at all. Even then he played on the wing with the again ineffective Chamakh in van Persie’s position.
There’s hope amongst Arsenal fans that Park will be able to fill in for van Persie in the nine-and-a-half role that Arsenal seem so dependent on at the moment. We know so little about him and have seen so little of him that at the moment it’s pretty difficult to tell if he’ll be able to replace van Persie when called upon.
Another way in which the Gunners may be able to compensate for missing van Persie would be to see the midfielders up their game. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey have been good so far for Arsenal, but haven’t offered van Persie the level of support he’d desire. They’ve contributed a couple of goals put together and a few more assists, but it hasn’t been enough.
When van Persie isn’t there, the duo will have to step up and offer more in terms of support and goals, otherwise Arsenal will most likely struggle. Jack Wilshere is out until at least February, so Ramsey and Arteta will most likely be first choice for a while. It may well be that their form and creativity will improve with confidence as Arsenal continue to build. We can only hope.
Posted by Arsenal fan Sam Drew
Follow Sam on Twitter at @chroniclesofal