Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has now gone seven games without scoring, but what are the reasons behind his dip in form?
Ask any Manchester City, Chelsea, or even Tottenham fan and they will tell you that Van Persie has carried Manchester United through the season.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini attributes Van Persie to United’s success this season. While there is no doubt that the reigning champions have under-performed, Van Persie’s 19 Premier League goals this season have to count for something, don’t they?
Breaking it down, we see that Van Persie has scored a plethora of match-winning goals. In addition to that, he has also scored against City and Chelsea, as well as against Arsenal and Liverpool - all of the so-called big games.
However, recently the goals seem to have dried up. Now without a goal in seven games, Van Persie is starting to worry fans. For so much of the season, United have been reliant on their superstar striker to provide the match-winning spark. Without him scoring on a regular basis, they have had to turn to other sources for goals, such as the ever-present Wayne Rooney.
Additionally, more frequently goals are coming from defence. Patrice Evra, a full-back, has more goals this season than striker Danny Welbeck. The entire United team seems to be compensating for Van Persie’s lack of goals.
Having established this problem, we must now analyse the likely reasons behind this egregious drop in form.
While there seem to be several likely explanations, two seem to stand out above the others as being most probable.
The first has to do with the declining necessity of Van Persie’s contributions. At the beginning of the season, Rooney was horribly out of form, the midfield was being outplayed on a regular basis, and the defence was leaking worrying numbers of goals. Additional pressure was therefore placed upon Van Persie’s shoulders to deliver critical performances.
However, with the return of Rooney to scoring form, Van Persie is no longer the sole-bearer of the goalscoring burden. History has shown that Van Persie performs better when he is under pressure - as demonstrated by his carrying of a mediocre Arsenal team to a Champions League spot. Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson should allow Javier Hernandez more playing time in order to put the pressure back on the Dutchman’s shoulders.
The second explanation is the shift in United’s defensive situation, following the return of their captain, Nemanja Vidic.
It’s no secret that United’s defence has been near immaculate recently. With the return of defensive solidity, perhaps Sir Alex has signalled a shift from the cavalier offence-minded tactics he deployed earlier in the season to a tight, defence-minded strategy.
It is likely that, as a result, Van Persie’s goals have dried up.