WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan
One is a club legend. The other is a legend in the making. “The invincible and the incarnation,” I would say. Very few players have left as big a legacy as Dennis Bergkamp did at Arsenal. And there is another Dutch master who is following the steps of his idol in becoming an Arsenal legend himself, our beloved RVP. Robin Van Persie’s desire to succeed at The Emirates is common knowledge, but his passion and commitment to bring silverware to Arsenal has gained him an extra special place in the hearts of the Arsenal faithful.
Bergkamp is widely regarded as the most talented foreign player to strut his stuff in the English Premier League. Not many can argue the fact that he is the greatest Dutchman to have ever played in England. “Dennis, The menace” was an enigma – a player par excellence and an inspiration for several Dutch players who dreamt of succeeding at the highest level.
One such player was Robin Van Persie. When he first arrived in London, Arsène Wenger said: “Van Persie is a Bergkamp with goals.” I just can’t think of a better compliment a player can get when he is just 20 years of age.
So, how do these two magicians compare? Bergkamp will be everybody’s answer in terms of talent. But has Van Persie got the potential to emulate his childhood idol? Is he destined to succeed after years of desperation and disappointment, largely due to injuries? Will he avoid those niggles to bring back the glory days of Bergkamp & co? Or is the Iceman untouchable?
Let us compare the two players on their skill, fitness and commitment to see whether Robin Van “Power” stands a chance of bettering his fellow Dutchman’s legacy at Arsenal.
One cannot hide the fact that both these players are technically as good as any. Bergkamp just oozed class when the ball was at his feet. His touch was perfect and his ball control was worth millions.
That amazing goal he scored against Newcastle describes perfectly just how good a player the “flying Dutchman” was. With his back to goal, he received a pass from Pires and with one flick (touch) of the ball he was free of his marker and then tapped the ball past the keeper.
It is a goal you can watch a million times and I promise you, you won’t hesitate to watch it once again. Such is the class of Bergkamp.
Bergkamp’s majestic goal
Van persie isn’t too far away. He is a naturally left footed player and he is technically one of the soundest strikers in today’s game. But sorry Robin, Bergkamp’s technique is just too good to compete against.
Van Persie’s volley against Charlton
It is a close contest here. Bergkamp wasn’t a bad striker by any means and has scored several amazing goals, but he generally played the secondary role in a two striker combination upfront. He has 120 goals in 423 appearances for Arsenal but that wasn’t Bergy’s main contribution.
He was generally the one who helped the likes of Wright, Anelka and Henry to score with his assists. His best goal was the one he scored against Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinal in 1998, and it showcased the striker in him.
Bergkamp’s goal for Holland in 1998, commentating by a BIG Bergkamp fan
Van Persie on the other hand mostly plays on his own, as a single striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He showed us last season how good he can be provided he stays fit.
He rarely misses anything inside the box and can score goals from the tightest of angles (Barcelona). He can volley a ball into the net from some unbelievable positions. Add to that his thunderous free-kicks, blemish- free penalties and reasonable aerial presence, you have a complete striker in your team.
An RVP wonder goal against Inter Milan
His 95 goals in 166 starts for Arsenal is an incredible contribution for he has never had a full season without any injury setbacks.
RVP – 9/10
ICE – 8/10
Bergkamp is the best strike partner one can dream of. In the second striker role, Bergkamp was ruthless with his wide range of passing and ability to create openings. He was someone who always brought his team-mates into play and he would virtually control the game from the ‘hole’ behind the striker.
His innumerable assists speak for themselves and he was one of the main contributors to Arsenal’s greatest striker, Thierry Henry, who later admitted: “Dennis is the best player I have ever played with as a partner. It is a dream for a striker to have him in the team with you.”
On the other hand, Van Persie is a striker that a midfield would love to play with. While he can reward your creativity by ruthlessly converting chances you create for him, Van Persie’s ability to hold up play is arguably one of his biggest assets.
Arsenal’s pass and move style of football demands its striker to not only finish, but to pass, hold up and create for the midfield. I can’t see a better player than Van Persie in this role in today’s football.
RVP – 8.5/10
ICE – 9/10
Movement and Strength:
Bergkamp wasn’t the quickest player around and you would have very rarely seen him outpace a defender, but Bergkamp more than made up for it with his intelligence.
Apart from his playmaking skills, Bergkamp was a player who read the game with aplomb. This made him one of the best movers off the ball and he would be in the right place at the right time. He was also one of the fittest players and never missed games at a stretch due to injuries. That isn’t Van Persie’s status however.
In a career that has promised so much, constant injuries have made him synonymous with the medical table. When he is fit, as he was for a decent stretch last season, he is brilliant. He can beat the offside trap by timing his runs to perfection and he has quick feet. He runs fast both with and without the ball and has this knack of always being available for a pass. He comes deep to get the ball regularly and I just hate to think as to how much more he would have contributed to us if not for those irritating injuries.
RVP – 7.5/10
ICE – 8/10
Bergkamp was a great contributor to Arsenal’s successes and has always acknowledged the club’s role in his career. Though his commitment was never questioned, there is no hiding the fact that he missed quite a few games due to Aviatophobia, though it is understandable. He is after all a human and we all have our own fears.
Given the circumstances in which Van Persie is currently in, the disciple’s pride in playing for the Gunners is instantly recognisable. The fact that Van Persie, who has never been so much as rumoured about in relation to a potential Arsenal departure in a hunt for silverware, is highly appreciable.
He proudly wears the red and white of Arsenal and has given his heart and soul for Arsenal whenever he has been out on the field. His criticism of the club has always been to try and improve it, and never has it been a case of wanting to leave us in search of trophies.
“I don’t have the inclination to go anywhere,” Van Persie had once told the club’s official magazine. “This is the best team for me to be in. The bottom line is that I want to win trophies with Arsenal, not with anybody else. I know you can win trophies in many countries and in many ways, but I want to do that in our way and in an Arsenal shirt.
“I’m sure I could win things at another team in another country, but would it feel like our trophy, my trophy? I’m not sure it would. Anything we win here will come from the heart and that’s what I want. It’s my dream and I see no point in speaking about other teams when I have these dreams. I think other people know that about me; I’m just hungry to win with Arsenal and that’s it.”
RVP – 9.5/10
ICE – 8.5/10
Bergkamp is a better player by these comparisons. Even Van Persie will accept that I imagine. Bergkamp gave us a unique style of play that has hardly ever been matched by any player in or out of Arsenal. He gave us joy beyond measures and for that; we all owe Bergkamp a fortune.
Van Persie has made sure we never felt the absence of “the flying Dutchman” once he retired. While Bergkamp will be a tough person to emulate, Van Persie has already become a legend in his own right. He has this commitment for a cause and it is a quality that will take you far in life and earn you respect.
Footballing skill will only take you so far; trophies, awards and ticky boxes from debating journalists. You need more than that to have a permanent place in the heart of the fans and to leave behind an irreplaceable legacy when you quit the game.
With this in mind, I salute Van Persie and Dennis Bergkamp – two of the best gunners of all time.
Two genius’ at work for their beloved Arsenal