Robin van Persie: Stat Breakdown for Manchester United Star's 2012-13 Campaign

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

Robin van Persie: Stat Breakdown for Manchester United Star's 2012-13 Campaign

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    Despite initial concerns over whether the Dutch star would be able to recapture his Arsenal form of 2011-12 as a Manchester United player, it seems concerns have been firmly put to rest after the striker’s first six months at Old Trafford.

    In the modern game, statistics, figures and number crunching are more pertinent than ever, providing us with some of the most in-depth coverage of those we’re watching.

    With a player as prolific as Robin van Persie, the stats, as well as the impact he has when playing, become almost as relevant a past time as watching the player on the pitch.

    That being the case, let’s look at the Dutchman’s season so far and break his continuing success down to its core.

    All statistics used are sourced via EPLIndex.com.

Attacking Accuracy

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    To get formalities out of the way, anybody who watched, heard or even strayed near the Premier League last season will have undoubtedly caught wind of Robin van Persie’s superhuman goal-scoring exploits.

    An unconventional south-paw in football terms, the left-footed hitman already leads the division’s scoring ranks, thanks in large part to what is, quite simply, an incredible conversion rate.

    In total, Van Persie has had 84 shots on goal in the league this season, 37 of which have been on target, equating to a ratio of 44 percent of all shots troubling the opposition.

    Of those 37 shots, 18 have been goals, meaning that just under a quarter of the forward’s shots result in a goal.

    Not that it takes a rocket scientist to come to such a conclusion, but to have a striker amongst your ranks that can, at least on paper, guarantee a goal for every four shots he has, is something to be excited about.

    It seems Manchester United’s reliable Robin would prefer to only shoot if he thinks there’s a chance at scoring, and if the chance isn’t there, to make one.

Wasted Opportunities

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    In a recent Guardian article, RVP astonishingly found reason to criticise his own standards this season, an incredibly appealing characteristic for any manager to see in their player.

    The Holland international believes he should have more goals to his name by now, saying:

    When I look back at those last 10 games it's a good step but to me it should have been 10 games, 14 or 15 goals. At least four or five I shouldn't have missed.

    If you look at the last couple of months, it explains it all. I'm seeing things again that I didn't see for a long time. When I first came to Arsenal years ago [in 2004], I saw things from [Dennis] Bergkamp and Thierry Henry I'd never seen in my life before. Now I'm seeing those things again and that makes me really happy. It's like a kid in a sweet shop. It's like: "Yes, this is nice, this is good, this is having fun, this is enjoying yourself." All these little things added together make a big difference. It makes me feel that I'm surrounded by champions.

    When one considers the chances that Van Persie has had at goal in the last five months, it becomes exactly as to why he might feel this way.

    RVP has seen 28 clear-cut scoring chances come his way this season, 11 of which have been cradled in the back of the net while 17 went astray. His other goals came from opportunities deemed to be far from “clear-cut,” and believably so.

    While no fan can expect even their best player to do the deed in front of goal every time, a certain level of play is expected at such lofty heights as Old Trafford, but at least Van Persie is aware of his tendency to waste so far this term.

Right Place at the Right Time

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    No matter how good a finisher a forward might be, whether they’re lightning-quick or have the strength of an ox, a good footballing brain is just as, if not more important than all the physical attributes in the world.

    The ability to read the field of play is one that becomes more and more valuable with age, as the joints begin to creak and muscles start to lurch.

    Although the Dutchman is physically in the prime of his life, it hasn’t stopped Van Persie from fully valuing the significance of just where to go and when to be there.

    In 23 league fixtures this season, Van Persie has made 67 penalty-box entries, meaning the forward hits a threatening piece of territory almost three times per game on average.

    However, while that may not sound overly impressive, it’s the trend in which those numbers come that bode well for the Red Devils.

    Of those 67 penalty-box forays, 28 have come in the last six games, edging closer to five entries per match of late.

    Such statistics extend to the Champions League and FA Cup also, with both of the Dutchman’s goals in a Man of the Match performance against CFR Cluj coming from inside the box, as well as his replay-earning FA Cup equaliser against West Ham.

    This instinct is a vital part of making it as an elite striker but is a surprisingly rare quality amongst many forwards, who are more keen to rely solely on any physical gifts they might possess.

Twinkletoes in the Tackle

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    As the old saying goes, you can’t score if you don’t have the ball, and unless one’s willing to rely solely on the incompetence of the opposition, then tackling is a pretty crucial part of the game.

    However, from looking at the numbers, it seems that despite his large frame, Van Persie hasn’t got “stuck in” as many may have hoped he would in these first months of his Manchester United tenure.

    Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, the Dutchman averages a challenge for the ball only every 8.32 minutes.

    Admittedly, hounding the opposition isn’t exactly a priority for forwards and is more the work of defenders and midfielders, but the “total footballer” is one who goes above and beyond expectations.

    When we compare the Red Devils talisman with his Premier League competitors, it seems that RVP may be a tad more timid than United fans are used to seeing in their forwards.

    Those others who would appear to be challenging for Golden Boot honours this season include Luis Suarez, Michu, Carlos Tevez, Demba Ba and Gareth Bale, all of whom manage a challenge for possession between every five and seven minutes.

    Given Van Persie’s extraordinary goal tally, it’s obvious that certain abilities bail the 29-year-old out of this particular shortcoming, but it would definitely improve the amount of chances he sees to work against the opposition just that little bit more.

A Selfless Soul

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    Admittedly, a striker’s main responsibility is to ensure that the ball makes its way past enemy lines and, more importantly, past the enemy goalkeeper.

    However, in the midst of his Golden Boot, Robin van Persie has kindly found the time in his busy scoring schedule to accommodate the mere mortals around him, creating chances for teammates by the bucket-load this season.

    Although he does have the worst passing success of any of United’s forwards (he’s currently simmering at around 81 percent), the ones that do make it through tend to cause damage.

    With nine assists across all club competitions this season, Van Persie is proven as an unselfish Red Devil already and appears to be settling in better at the Theatre of Dreams, game by game.

    In the Premier League, RVP has created 41 clear-cut scoring chances for those around him, the majority of which have been made from open play, and the Dutchman's dribbling completion rate of 80 percent will only help him deliver from the opposition’s “hard to itch” areas.

    As if being one of Europe’s leading scorers wasn’t enough, Van Persie appears to be seeking more competition in his hunt for continental glory, giving his teammates the chance to catch up.