samboggis
8th March 2012

Arjen Robben, not good enough to be selfish?

In 120 minutes of the 2010 World Cup Final, Arjen Robben did not complete a single pass to Robin Van Persie. Robben’s passing wasn’t much better in last week’s international between England and the Netherlands. The Bayern Munich winger scored two brilliant goals but he failed to supply Van Persie, the Arsenal forward who as […]
Arjen Robben, not good enough to be selfish?

In 120 minutes of the 2010 World Cup Final, Arjen Robben did not complete a single pass to Robin Van Persie. Robben’s passing wasn’t much better in last week’s international between England and the Netherlands. The Bayern Munich winger scored two brilliant goals but he failed to supply Van Persie, the Arsenal forward who as of Saturday has scored 31 goals this season in all competitions. Surely this is absolute lunacy? How could you be so arrogant, so selfish, that you don’t adequately feed a team mate who is on such “insane” form as Van Persie himself calls it?
Jupp Heynckes, Bayern’s manager, has seemingly reacted to this selfish streak by dropping Robben to the bench. Robben missed Bayern’s clash with Schalke, which they won. The Dutchman came under fire from former Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer, who described Robben as “selfish like so many others. He has to think more of being useful to the team.” Beckenbauer also criticised the winger’s habit of running to salute his family in the stands, rather than running to his teammates after scoring a goal. So why doesn’t Robben simply pass more? Surely this would make him into an even better player.
The modern games biggest and most celebrated stars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are extremely selfish and shoot with startling regularity. Messi has shot 123 times in 24 games this season in La Liga, scoring 28 goals. That is an average of just over five shots per game. Much is said about the Argentinean’s willingness to work for the team, but the stats speak for themselves. Ronaldo, meanwhile, has shot 157 times in 24 games this season in La Liga, scoring 29 goals. That is an average of over six shots per game. Robben on the other hand has shot 38 times in 15 games this season, scoring five goals in the German Bundesliga. He shoots on average just over twice per game.
Critics often talk about the selfish nature of Robben’s play, but he shoots half as frequently as Ronaldo. Robben is simply not quite as good. He scores one goal per seven shots whereas Ronaldo scores one goal per five and Messi one per four. Even Ronaldo has come under criticism from Real Madrid fans who think that he needs to pass more, especially in El Classicos. He pleaded for more affection from the Ultras Sur, the hard core of the Real Madrid supporters, in January and recently thanked them for being more affectionate in recent games. Ronaldo is good enough to plea with the fans and take a stand. He refused to celebrate his goal against Granada in a 5-1 win. Critics only call players selfish when they are missing and Robben misses regularly.
So what criticism or even advice can we give to Robben. Simply get better? Pass more; you are simply not good enough to do the things that you see on the La Liga highlights? I would say the latter, although probably in a slightly more polite way. Robben is undoubtedly a winger of rare quality, but much like his Bayern team-mate, Franck Ribery, he is not consistent enough to try and pull the spectacular off every time.


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