Assessing Robin Van Persie's Greatest Obstacles Against Arsenal

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United in action during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium on August 11, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Sunday's Old Trafford clash between Manchester United and Arsenal is a massive occasion for all involved, but there is perhaps no one who feels the significance of the fixture more than Robin van Persie.

For the third time, the Dutchman will face his old club and look to uphold a 100 percent scoring record against the Gunners since transferring to the Red Devils in the summer of 2012.

However, Van Persie is facing an Arsenal side perhaps better than any constructed while the Emirates Stadium was still his stomping ground. Arsene Wenger seems to have formed a completely new power this term.

Although the Gunners cannot fall from their Premier League perch regardless of the result, a number of factors threaten to end Van Persie's three-match scoring streak, some of which he'll be all too familiar with.

All statistics are courtesy of Squawka.


Mathieu Flamini's Suffocation

As was confirmed by the official Arsenal Twitter account on Friday, Mathieu Flamini has resumed full training this week and should be available for Sunday's trip to the Theatre of Dreams.

For all the finesse and technical brilliance Mesut Ozil might bring to the Gunners' squad, there's no underestimating how big an impact Flamini is capable of having on his side, both with and without the ball.

It's an issue Van Persie will be all-too-familiar with given that he spent four years in North London with the defensive midfielder, but those around him may not be as informed.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal warms up warm up during a wet Arsenal training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group F match against Borussia Dortmund at London Colney on October 21, 2013 in St Albans, England.  (Ph
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Adnan Januzaj, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young—and to a lesser extent Wayne Rooney—won't have the same knowledge of Flamini's influence and so could be restricted in just how much ammunition they're able to give their star forward.

In seven Premier League appearances this season, Flamini has averaged three defensive actions per game, but also has a passing accuracy of 93 percent in that space of time, showing just how well he fits into the frustrating possession game that Wenger enjoys so much.


Route One Is Blocked

Conceding just nine goals this season, Arsenal's defence has played as big a role in their ascendancy as the attack, despite not clawing in as many of the plaudits.

That success has been in no small part thanks to the heroics of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, who stand as the most obvious players likely to come into direct conflict with their former teammate at Old Trafford.

Between them, the European pair have lost just six of their 26 attempted tackles this season, Mertesacker a particularly impressive example after winning 66 percent of all duels in the campaign.

To get a sight on Wojciech Szczesny's goal this weekend, the 30-year-old will first have to evade the two men who are bound to be given the task of marking Van Persie, which will be a tougher task than before considering the great form of the two defensive stalwarts.


Moyes' Midfield Matters

Upon signing Marouane Fellaini earlier this summer, there was the notion that Manchester United's woes in central midfield had found some absolution, but David Moyes has found that area of the pitch as problematic as any other.

Michael Carrick was absent for the trip to Real Sociedad during the week but could make a return from injury against Arsenal while Tom Cleverley's inclusion is also a hope for the hosts.

Fellaini was sent off against Real Sociedad in midweek
Fellaini was sent off against Real Sociedad in midweekDavid Ramos/Getty Images

While it may be out of his hands, Van Persie's supply will rely heavily on how United are able to combat the engine-room threat of their guests, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Flamini being among the club's most impressive players this term.

The Red Devils have a big task on their hands regardless of squad selection, but their star striker promises to suffer should matters be complicated any more by the absence of certain key middle men.