Is Van Persie the Premier League’s best ever ‘volleyer’?
Robin Van Persie’s stoppage-time winner at Anfield on Saturday was not the most spectacular goal of the Dutchman’s career but it could go some way to confirm his status as the best volleyer the Premier League has seen.
The Arsenal hit-man notched his 31st goal of the season when he latched onto Alex Song’s lofted through-ball to guide a side-footed volley past Jose Reina at the Liverpool stopper’s near post.
And while Van Persie faces up to some stiff competition in the history of the Premier League’s best volleyers, his ability to strike the ball in mid-air with power and precision on such a consistent basis could mark him out from the rest.
Looking back at the early years of the Premier League since its inception in 1992, former Manchester United and Chelsea striker and current Queens Park Rangers boss Mark Hughes was renowned as a fierce volleyer of the ball.
The league’s all-time leading scorer Alan Shearer also owns an impressive catalogue of strikes for Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United with his 20-yard screamer against Everton in 2002 living long in the memory.
And when the topic of the Premier League’s greatest goals is discussed it is hard to find a more spectacular effort than Paolo Di Canio’s rocket against Wimbledon in 2000 when the Italian met the ball with both feet in mid-air to crash it past Neil Sullivan.
But could any of the three names above, and the many more brilliant strikers of the ball who have graced the Premier League’s first 20 years, claim to be more consistent than Van Persie at this intricate skill?
Van Persie’s best can rival any with his gravity-defying strike against Charlton Athletic in 2006 edging even Di Canio’s in terms of agility. While his less spectacular volleyed goals often go under the radar, such is his ability to make volleying look like an easy skill to execute.
For example, the Dutchman’s winner on Saturday echoed his strike earlier in the season against Everton at the Emirates Stadium. With his team drawing and in a similar part of the pitch from a similar through-ball, the ball was despatched past Tim Howard with the laces rather than the side-foot and into the far corner rather than the near.
Whether it is finely judged side-foots or fiercely struck thunderbolts, Van Persie’s agility and technique makes him the man for every volley.
And in the form he is in, who would bet against him adding another to his collection before the end of the season?
Picture: Arsenal’s Robin van Persie (L) celebrates with Theo Walcott after scoring during their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble