Sergio Aguero vs. Robin van Persie: Who Is the Better Forward?
When the whistle is blown to signal the start of the Manchester derby on Sunday, numerous subplots are set to further invigorate a contest that divides one city and fascinates the rest of the world.
No underlying narrative will provide more electricity to the match for fans and neutral observers alike than seeing two of the sport's most sublime strikers, in Robin van Persie and Sergio Aguero, taking each other on in a battle to prove who is more brilliant.
Whether it is the deadly Dutchman or the divine Argentine who shines brightest could have a huge bearing on which side will depart Etihad Stadium wearing winners' grins.
Which of the two teams goes into the game with a psychological advantage is open for debate.
Manchester United are the defending Premier League champions, having usurped Manchester City's crown from two seasons ago. City, meanwhile, have strengthened an already impressive squad with a handful of major summer signings, including Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic.
Both sides are operating with new management and have had patchy starts to the season, having each recorded a loss and a draw to go with their two wins.
This is the landscape in which City's Aguero and United's Van Persie will do battle. Each gunslinger has his posse of highly skilled compadres at his back, but when those critical moments arrive, converting chances into goals all comes down to an individual's sharp reflexes, self-belief and coolness under pressure.
Premier League points are the biggest prize on offer on Sunday night, but two men in particular will have a prime opportunity to emerge with their elite reputations enhanced.
Let's take a look at how these elite front men stack up against each other.
|Name||Sergio Aguero||Robin van Persie|
|Club||Manchester City||Manchester United|
|Goalscoring record (clubs)||134 goals in 296 games||138 goals in 295 games|
|Goalscoring record (country)||19 goals in 45 games||38 goals in 79 games|
More than just a striker, "Kun" can fill any number of roles across the front line. Nimble and quick, he is equally comfortable nipping in to tap home at the back post as he is linking up play from a deeper position or cutting in from wide to threaten the goal.
When the Argentine first signed for City, then-manager Roberto Mancini compared him to one of the all-time greats, as reported by the BBC:
"Sergio is a photocopy of Romario, they are the same player," said Mancini.
"He is not 100% yet but he is going to be fantastic for us."
Aguero is not just energetic in his movement. The way he draws opponents toward him when the situation requires it or stealthily eludes them when he sees the chance to attack the goal is extremely intelligent as well.
A gorgeous short passing game and clinical finishing ability are the final two arrows in the quiver of this remarkable little footballer.
Robin van Persie
Blessed with the natural goalscoring instincts of a pure poacher and the guile and flair of a creative midfielder, Van Persie has the extremely rare capacity to conjure up goals from almost anywhere in the attacking third of the pitch.
Former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of how crucial the player he brought to Old Trafford had been to their league triumph, as reported by Jamie Jackson of The Guardian:
"He's been unbelievable. I think that he has to take a lot of the credit," Ferguson said.
"I think his goals tell you that, his performance levels told you that."
Athletic and lightning-quick in his decision making, the Dutchman can strike like a cobra before the player who is supposed to be marking him even knows where the danger is coming from.
As the highlight reels of his goals for the Netherlands, Feyenoord, Arsenal and United prove, Van Persie has a better understanding of angles than Thales of Miletus and a first touch that is so cultured it deserves to be displayed on the walls of the Louvre.
He is the exemplar of the complete striker.
Nominating the better forward out of Aguero and van Persie is like choosing between the Beatles and the Stones; it's a subjective decision based on personal preference (or club loyalty).
Both are masters of their particular art form and can be labelled as among the best in the world without too much contention.
Kun could boast a more complex mosaic of talents, highlighted by his prodigious dribbling ability, smart passing and sprightly movement inside and outside the box. He is flexible enough to take on whichever role most benefits his side and tends to bring the best out of his teammates.
Van Persie is more single-minded in his objective of scoring goals, which can also be considered an esteemed virtue. The Dutchman is perhaps the more clinical or the two when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net, and he enjoys an advantage in his aerial play and scoring from free kicks.
Who is the better forward?
He is also without doubt at the peak of his powers, while Aguero most likely has several years of improvement ahead of him.
Which player would you bet the farm on to prove the difference between the two sides on Sunday? Perhaps Robin van Persie can be considered the man most likely, and for that reason he edges this debate by the narrowest of margins.
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