Robin van Persie: Injury & Performance

With Robin van Persie currently out for a month with a thigh injury what better time is there to examine his career in terms of injury and performance. To do this I am goint to look at the players average mins played per game and his goal scoring performance.


  • Is RvP an injury prone player who enjoyed a rare, injury-free season in 2012/13?
  • Is RvP's injury punctuated season in 13/14 more in keeping with the rest of his career?
Career Numbers

This is what RvP's career in England look.

Season Mins Goals Mins Per Game Goals per90
S 04/05 1007 5 26.5 0.45
S 05/06 1207 5 31.8 0.37
S 06/07 1456 11 38.3 0.68
S 07/08 1073 7 28.2 0.59
S 08/09 2200 11 57.9 0.45
S 09/10 1250 9 32.9 0.65
S 10/11 1769 18 46.6 0.92
S 11/12 3250 30 85.5 0.83
S 12/13 3123 26 82.2 0.75
S 13/14 909 7 56.8 0.69

The Goals per90 numbers are really good. Football cliches tell us that anything approaching a goal every two games is a excellent scoring rate. If we take that cliche and look at the Goals per90 column then we can see that van Persie, more or less, has posted excellent numbers throughout his career.

The issue that van Persie had was all to do with staying fit and a clear inability to do so.


2013/14 is van Persie's 10th season in the PL. If we remove the current and unfinished 13/14 season we see that van Persie has posted >50 minutes per game on just 3 occasions. In fact, van Persie has only posted true full-time minutes in just 2 seasons. The great, and ultimately final, last season for Arsenal and his debut season for Man United.

The chart above paints a picture of poor health punctuated by a couple of seasons of rare good health.

In February of this year I wrote this on these very pages:


van Persie's incredible title-winning season in 12/13 made me eat those screen-capped words and, depending on your outlook, may well have justified the £25m fee and the alleged £250k per week wages over the life of a four year contract.

I still believe the length and value of that contract in combination with van Persie's record of poor fitness makes it a mighty big risk. Van Persie has a Premier League career average of 48.6 minutes played per game.

Is ~£13m per year in wages for a player who plays in roughly one of every two games the best allocation of finances. I don't believe so. Hell, of course Man United can afford to take the money hit but is that the point. Don't all football clubs (businesses) want efficiency in their spending?

We know, and Man United knew, that van Persie is a prolific scorer of goals and an elite PL striker. But for van Persie to make good on those things we know he needs to stay fit. Man United, or so it seems, gambled on the fact that the player could maintain 11/12's fitness record, and for a season van Persie did stay fit and was likely the game changer in the title race.

Now the player can't stay fit, and has seemingly slipped back into his old pattern of muscular injuries punctuated by a few games of top performance. To stay fit, and be of maximum value to Man United, it is possible that van Persie needs a personally tailored fitness plan. A fitness plan that doesn't involve endless running or over-working of a player with injury history.

You want the best out of van Persie, you need to keep him fit. If you want to keep him fit, don't over train him or over play him.

Bonus Charts


Black=rolling average minutes played per game. Red=rolling average of goals per90.

van Persie had a spike of good health - which continued until recently - from the age of 27. Right at the end of the black line we that spike level off and drop ever so slightly.

Goals per90 improved at the age of 28 and have maintained a steady, and elite, level ever since.


This chart looks at the same numbers but using 38 game spans. In all van Persie has 320 seasons of 38 game spans.

Again we see sustained improvement from the age of 27 and a leveling out of recent performance.


van Persie's recent injury woes may well be a short term blip caused by bad luck or a new manager with new methods. But when we place 13/14's injury data and minutes per game data against van Persie's 10 year Premier League career it fits. van Persie has mostly been a player who struggled with fitness bar two golden years of full health.

Man United signed the player after the first of those full years of health and squeezed out another full year of health during Ferguson's last year of management. Now the injuries are back and an injured player is of no help to a man like David Moyes who desperately needs help he get as he adjusts to life as manager of Manchester United.

This FanPost represents the view of the member who posts it and does not necessarily reflect the views of <em>The Busby Babe</em> or <em>SB Nation. </em>

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