A worthy winner

Adam Bate takes a look at Robin van Persie's remarkable season

PFA Player of the Year Robin van Persie deserves award for carrying Arsenal this season

Robin van Persie has been named the PFA Player of the Year for 2011-12

"Without them I could not have achieved it," said Robin van Persie, honouring his Arsenal team-mates after being named the PFA Player of the Year. But many will be left wondering just where the Gunners would find themselves if it wasn't for the extraordinary season the Dutchman has enjoyed.

The statistics are stunning. Van Persie is the Premier League top-scorer with 27 goals. This season he completed an astonishing 2011 in which he fired 42 goals for Arsenal, including 35 in the league. That's even more than Gunners legend Thierry Henry ever amassed for the club in a calendar year.

It is not merely the quantity of those goals but their quality and importance to his club. The 28-year-old has registered over 40 per cent of Arsenal's Premier League goals in 2011-12. Predictably, that's a greater percentage than any other player in the division.

That includes the late brace to sink Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the immediate riposte against Newcastle and the last-minute winner at Anfield, not forgetting the equaliser against Tottenham that sparked a memorable comeback.

Match-winner

In total, Van Persie's goals alone have won Arsenal 22 points this season - far more than any other Premier League player this season or last.

It's a slightly disingenuous statistic when you consider that somebody else would have been playing up front to score those chances instead. But when that somebody is Marouane Chamakh, perhaps the point stands.

Fortunately for the Gunners, despite their injury problems elsewhere on the field, that's a problem they have not had to address this campaign. Indeed, the Holland international's fitness has been uncharacteristically impeccable.

Van Persie has played 50 games for club and country in the current campaign. Although some of his injury problems have been exaggerated - he has never played fewer than 30 matches in a season for Arsenal and Holland - it is already a career record for the player. And Euro 2012 is still to come.

With just one year remaining on his contract, the former Feyenoord star is in a strong position to opt for the club of his choice next season as the big beasts of European football monitor the progress of negotiations with Arsenal. Put simply, Van Persie's ability demands a team capable of winning silverware.

How Arsene Wenger fares in convincing the player of those capabilities will do much to shape Arsenal's fortunes next season. For Arsenal fans the hole he would leave would feel like a chasm. They have been shorn of too many heroes of late, having had to say goodbye to Cesc Fabregas and - for a second time - Thierry Henry in the past 12 months.

Over-reliance

And the PFA award serves to highlight that over-reliance on Van Persie's dream of a left foot. While he is the fourth Arsenal player to win the trophy, after Liam Brady, Dennis Bergkamp and Henry, he is the first to do so in a non-trophy winning season for the London club.

In the past, some Arsenal fans have derided former winners such as David Ginola and Gareth Bale of arch-rivals Tottenham for picking up the award by standing out in a side that had not troubled the trophy inscribers. Perhaps then, part of the reason for the award is also part of the problem.

"It wasn't easy for him," said Wenger after Van Persie competed without reward in the goalless draw at home to Chelsea on Saturday. "He was completely on his own at some stages, with not enough support."

It was an honest account of the match but it could easily have been a piercing assessment of life at the Emirates Stadium for Van Persie in 2011-12.

But that is Arsenal's concern. The PFA award is a salute to the outstanding footballer of the year. That man is Robin van Persie - a supremely-gifted player who has carried his team to the brink of Champions League qualification in a remarkable Premier League season.

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