Is Robin van Persie the best striker in the Premier League? The last two seasons, with a total of 56 goals and probably being the best player on a title-winning Manchester United side, probably prove that he is. Is it enough for another league title and finishing with a better taste than last year in the Champions League?
Van Persie finished with 26 goals and 8 assists last season, his first for the Red Devils, which went according to or probably better than planned. But in that impressive scoring record hides a long drought which United might not be able to afford once again, especially if Wayne Rooney is leaving the club, or isn’t going to be his usual excellent self next season, lacking the motivation and desire to do so.
From January 30 to April 8, Van Persie managed to score only one goal in 13 matches. That is Fernando Torres numbers from someone who hasn’t had a huge transfer fee or too many injuries to shatter his confidence. Van Persie simply couldn’t score for nearly three months, and some of his misses, especially against Real Madrid in the Champions League, proved to be quite costly. It wasn’t the case in the league, where United were dominant from the moment after they lost at home to Tottenham in late September.
Can United afford another scoring drought like this? At the moment, not significant signing has been made to a team that won the league with ease, but many attribute that to Alex Ferguson, not the squad, which didn’t really impress in terms of quality on the pitch during that long winning stretch. Efficiency shouldn’t be disregarded or underrated, but when the main cause for it is removed from the formula, it’s not going to last very long.
Maybe Wilfried Zaha, who was already signed last season, is going to be living up to his potential right from the start. He might be that significant signing United, especially after having so many problems with their play on the wings last season. It’s incredible that a team with so many easily spotted weaknesses did so well, but that speaks volumes to the ability of those who did preform well, and obviously to their former manager.
Van Persie is a good bet to score at least 20 more goals next season. How crucial will they be? That depends on how things mesh at City, who have made four expensive signings to bring back the title, and at Chelsea, where Jose Mourinho will try to rekindle the magic.
One thing is for sure – the only striker in the league that can hurt Van Persie claim for “best” is Luis Suarez, but as long as he stays with Liverpool he’s not a threat at the title. With their other two title challengers going through significant changes, United’s own managerial change isn’t followed by a huge turnover of personnel. Basically the same team, which might mean that with Van Persie having another excellent season, it could be enough to secure a second consecutive title.