Not for the first time, Arsenal’s star striker injured himself scoring a goal, and the latest setback will now officially keep him out of his side’s next four fixtures at least – two of which are vital matches in Arsenal’s ongoing hunt for silverware. This injury could not have come at a worse time for the Gunners, with the finely-balanced Champions League return leg on the horizon next Tuesday immediately followed by the FA Cup trip to Old Trafford four days later. By the time he returns, Arsenal could effectively be out of a further two competitions after Sunday’s Carling Cup final defeat.
Since the turn of the New Year, van Persie hit 10 Premier League goals in a little over six weeks, an achievement that should put him up there with the very best. However, the injury suffered against Birmingham makes the No. 10 something of a luxury player and one who simply cannot be relied upon to win Arsenal the trophies Arsene Wenger and Gunners fans might expect.
Of course, one player does not make a team, but for a side that has struggled to replace Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry with similar, top-class forwards, being unsure of whether their main forward will be fit from one game to the next simply can ot provide the consistency Arsenal require to mount a challenge on every front.
Barcelona will certainly be happier planning to stop either Nicklas Bendtner or Marouane Chamakh as opposed to van Persie, and indeed the absence of the Dutchman could go a long way to deciding that contest. Aside from his goal against the Catalans at the Emirates, van Persie had an excellent all-round game, troubling both Eric Abidal and Gerard Pique throughout the match.
He has in the past caused similar problems for Manchester United – his strength, touch and vicious left foot will be missed, and his absence could well hand the advantage in the FA Cup to Alex Ferguson’s men. No player in the Arsenal squad aside from van Persie has the same level of goal-scoring threat and vision – he averaged one assist every two games last term – and if this is taken advantage of in two of Arsenal’s biggest games this season, then another campaign without a trophy will look increasingly likely.
It is a sad story for van Persie himself and indeed fans of the Premier League that he can only show in short bursts the ability he has, but can Arsenal continue to rely on an undoubtedly magnificent player who is only ever likely to be fit for half a season? Unfortunately, if any silverware is to be collected after such a long wait, the answer has to be no.