Battle of The Strikers

(Getty)

Last weekend, we saw an aberration. And it wasn’t just that Tottenham Hotspur finally beat Manchester United at Old Trafford; it was the incidents that led to it.

Because, amazingly, Robin van Persie didn’t just miss one chance that could have sent points to the home team, he missed two. With the Dutch striker, that generally doesn’t happen.

More often than not, Van Persie settles games rather than leaves them open. Whereas many strikers do boost their stats with ultimately inconsequential goals, there are a few with a genuine knack for stepping up when really required. And, if we’re talking about the kind of key Eric Cantona-type strikes that bring proper equalisers and match-winners, United’s new talisman provides more than most.

Take Van Persie’s haul for Arsenal last season: Out of his 30 Premier League goals in 2011-12, 16 were directly responsible for 27 points. When you take into account his number of appearances, it is the third best points-per-game ratio in Premier League history (see table below), behind only Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007-08 and Alan Shearer in 1993-94.

This season, Van Persie’s goals against Fulham, Southampton and, most recently, FC Cluj, have seen him continue in a similar vein… with one big exception so far. And that does raise a few interesting issues for United ahead of their trip to Newcastle United.

Read more of ESPNFC’s Miguel Delaney’s analysis of Robin Van Persie, United’s defensive concerns and Newcastle’s attacking pair of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse in his article, Battle of the Strikers.

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