Robin van Persie’s penalty double against Aston Villa yesterday was a landmark for the Dutchman.
The brace took his goal tally for the Gunners to 120, level with another great Arsenal Dutchman – Dennis Bergkamp.
Bergkamp may have been watching his milestone being equalled at home in Holland, but it would have done nothing lighten his mood after watching from the bench as his Ajax side were defeated by Feyenoord.
This landmark has lead to obvious comparisons between the two, and they are very similar but Arsenal fans will be hoping their scoring totals are only similar for a brief period.
It is a heartening sight to watch Van Persie show such ruthlessness in front of goal for so long, purely because he has the chance to do so fter such horrendous luck with injuries.
While it is accepted there are certain similarities between the two, in reality they are two very different players in both the way they play and in personality.
First, the likeness in the two is mostly to do with their impeccable technical ability and composure around the box.
Bergkamp’s ability to find a perfect through-ball for an incoming team-mate took on an almost mystical nature at times. This particular skill was seen mostly with the Swede Freddie Ljungberg coming in from the right.
‘The Iceman’, as many Gunners fans called him, sometimes didn’t even seem to look as he picked out another Arsenal shirt in the box.
Van Persie does have the ability to play sublime passes but his technical ability in and around the box is more attuned to creating chances for himself.
In the past season the 28-year-old has developed a skill that his predecessor was not able to achieve – playing the lone forward.
The former Feyenoord youngster’s transformation from Bergkamp-esque support striker, to all action centre-forward has been incredibly profitable for Arsenal, as it has seen him score 34 goals in 2011 and 25 strikes in only 29 games so far this season.
Bergkamp was never able to do play this role out effectively, but did so in Arsenal’s last trophy triumph in the 2005 FA Cup final against Manchester United.
The Dutch legend was anonymous in that tie, as he really only played his best when he had a partner to work off of.
His ability to find space in dangerous positions was matched only by his effectiveness at exploiting said positions.
This difference in direction could be based in their respective personalities and how the attitude of each player is so embodied by his style of play.
The elder Dutchman was softly spoken and calm most of the time, happy to lay on chances for team-mates at the expense of his own goal tally.
Slick flicks and chips were commonplace when he stepped out at Highbury and there was always a certain classical dignity to his nuanced game.
Where Bergkamp was full of guile, Van Perie is all about technical directness and forthright action.
The Arsenal captain is always thinking of goal and how he can breach the opposition’s defences, whether it is a long-range thunderbolt or cheeky dink over the goalkeeper.
Van Persie has now added this ruthless direction to his movement in the box and has discovered a knack for finding himself on the end of chances, mostly obliging to put the ball past the ‘keeper.
If the past year is anything to go by, the two won’t be level for long and the years of glory with Bergkamp will once again provide a painful contrast to the ‘close, but no cigar’ feeling that seems to pervade around the north London club these days.
However, it provides, for a moment, some context in which to compare two living Arsenal greats and the quality of their feats.
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