Can Jamie Vardy do for Arsenal what Robin van Persie did for Manchester United?
The world of football loves a comparison. Situations, circumstances, achievements by one and many have been compared to those by others from the past time and time again, having been debated for years by all and sundry. One stands at a similar point as of today, as the whole world is looking on in awe as Arsenal choose to go pay a sizeable transfer fee for a player who has just ended the season a little shy of being the Premier League’s top scorer.
Jamie Vardy is far from a proper Arsenal purchase. He is a few months shy of his 30th birthday, a player who has not really played for clubs that thrive on possession football and has little in terms of top flight experience.
In fact, he was only playing non-league football a few seasons ago. The rise of Jamie Vardy as a Premier League force has happened only last season after Ranieri took over to unlock many players’ potential at the club.
However, at the touted £20 million fee, Arsenal are looking to procure a striker who will give them 20 goals in a season in the Premier League even if it is for a few seasons, with no intention of developing, honing or utilising his talents for a long period of time.
So, the comparisons begin, even before Jamie Vardy has agreed to a move, the idea that the move for his services is akin to Sir Alex Ferguson’s swoop in 2012 for Arsenal’s very own Robin van Persie.
The Dutchman moved from Arsenal to Manchester United for a similar sum and eventually went on to power the team to a Premier League title having scored 30 goals in all competitions. His purchase, by Sir Alex Ferguson, was with a singular eye towards drawing out enough of a performance for a couple of seasons to deliver the Premier League title to Old Trafford.
The point here is, that people see Arsenal’s move for Vardy down to the London Club’s desire to use the striker’s prowess to power them to the title. So, the big question here is, Can Jamie Vardy do for Arsenal what Robin van Persie did for Manchester United all those years ago? Let’s find out.
What Jamie Vardy Brings to Arsenal
In one word? Goals. You hand Jamie Vardy a decent sight at goal and he will make you pay. Leicester City was one of the teams to have created the fewest chances in the Premier League and yet they ran out as Champions. Jamie Vardy was their top scorer. You add those two statements up and you get a fair idea of Jamie Vardy’s lethal instincts in front of goal.
Jamie Vardy has pace and power to his credit. He relies on people creating an ounce of space for him and deliver the ball once he gets in position, a proposition that will see the duo of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil lick their lips. Jamie Vardy will also bring in a survival battle instinct that has been missing in Arsenal for years now.
Arsenal does need some killer instinct in front of goal. Olivier Giroud has qualities that make him a fine striker but he doesn’t seem to possess a game-changing ruthlessness to his qualities. Vardy will find that Arsenal are prone to slicing their opposition open and creating decent half chances with far more panache than Leicester City.
He will find himself in a buffet as compared to the Leicester scraps that he has been fed on. A simple addition of this to his ability to finish chances at an alarming rate could suggest, he’s in for a special season should he join the Gunners.
But wait! There’s a lot more to consider.
The Wenger Factor
When Robin van Persie moved to Manchester United, he came into the welcoming arms of an extraordinary manager in Sir Alex Ferguson. The use of the term ‘manager’ has special bearing here. A manager doesn’t necessarily need to teach his wards how to play football but enhance and extract all that they do know when the occasion calls for it.
Sir Alex Ferguson was impeccable at doing that by instilling a siege mentality into his players which reverberated throughout his team. His players were known to throw everything at their opposition and overpower them mentally in the game before completing the task by outplaying them using their abilities on the ball.
Arsene, as we all know, is a different animal. A winning mentality is something Jamie Vardy is blessed with naturally, for him every move is a matter of survival. He doesn’t need to be coaxed into that frame of mind, which arguably was something Ferguson did with Van Persie as he walked into Old Trafford as one of their own.
However, what will need figuring out is how Arsene Wenger approaches Jamie Vardy’s natural and instinctive approach to football. Arsene is a known proponent of the team expressing themselves with every kick of the ball. Often accused of worrying more about the aesthetics of the game than the end product, should Arsene choose to change any facet of Vardy’s game, there could be a reckoning that might prove detrimental to Arsenal’s expectations of him.
Arsene is an incredible manager but he needs to harness Vardy’s beastly instincts instead of trying to change him into Prince Charming (there’s enough of that in Olivier Giroud already). There needs to be an emphasis of enhancing what he does have to his credit, instead of pouring into Vardy’s head all the angles of a footballing education that have escaped him only to galvanise all that he does know.
Arsene Wenger desperately needs to get it right with Vardy to get this to work. All he needs to do is harness Vardy’s natural ability and not hope to give him a new super power instead.
Can Vardy Transform Arsenal?
Yes and No.
Confusing, isn’t it?
To put things into perspective, Robin van Persie gave Manchester United an incredible amount of goal threat. If a chance went up to Robin, you could be rest assured that he would bury it. After a few games, it sent a chill down Premier League defenders’ spines that Van Persie simply could not stop scoring.
With Vardy at the top of the attack, Arsenal will have that very same threat to their credit. However, it’s hard to say if Vardy’s mentality would rub off on his teammates and that’s an important matter because some of Vardy’s mentality is what Arsenal need.
This is exactly what Arsenal would’ve gotten had they been successful in their purchase of now Barcelona frontman, Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was known to possess a somewhat unbreakable mental strength which rubbed off on people around him. A facet Vardy shares except that it’s unknown for sure if the other players will make it a part of themselves too.
This is an important factor, particularly because scoring goals isn’t Arsenal’s only problem. Arsenal is a brittle team mentally. They’re well known to hold their own for most of the season and then fall apart in the business end.
This is something that has been constant in this team regardless of how much quality has been injected into the team over time. To this effect, Granit Xhaka’s purchase might be somewhat of a game changer if he is truly the leader that his marketing team seem to have projected him to be. Vardy is a strong character but Arsenal either need it to spread throughout the team from him or they need more characters like him.
The importance of this side of thought lies in the fact that even with Van Persie firing away the season he moved to Manchester United, in many matches it was the quality and drive of Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and even Dimitar Berbatov that got them across the finish line. Van Persie gave them goals but it was the mentality of the team that really took them to the title.
Hence, to put things into perspective, Jamie Vardy doesn’t necessarily transform Arsenal unless he changes his teammates’ way of looking at the game but right now, does he solve a major issue for Arsenal?
The answer is yes!