Tag Archives: Robin van Persie

Sports Figures Who Turned Over A New Leaf In 2012

2013 is here, but there were some things in 2012 that I still can’t shake. Honey Boo Boo, Nate Silver’s ’72 Dolphins performance, and a KimYe baby were all moments that rocked me to my core in 2012. We can all be thankful for the lack of a Mayan Apocalypse, and enough good health to make it to 2013. Last year was a productive one for myself and everyone involved with JLBSports, and it’s sad to see it go. A few sports figures are also disappointed to see 2012 slip away, but are surely excited with the prospects and future accomplishments that 2013 will undoubtedly bring. This bunch wasn’t in a great place at this time last year, but have now positioned themselves at the top for the year to come.

Robin van Persie
If not for Falcao, Robin van Persie would be regarded as the best striker in the world. He’s gone from being an injury-prone, trophy-less What-If type of player on Arsenal, to a healthy, in-form starter on first place Manchester United. He’s notched over 30 goals this calendar year, and has supplanted Wayne Rooney has Sir Alex Ferguson’s top option at forward. Here’s to the best striker in the EPL finally putting it all together at age 29, even if he is a Manc.

Adrian Peterson
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Adrian Peterson and his 2012 NFL campaign. He tore his ACL almost a year ago, and he’s come back better than before. A torn ACL at age 27 would end many running backs’ careers, or at the very least, limit explosiveness. Instead, Peterson came back from his injury 2-4 months ahead of schedule, and has gone on to light up scoreboards (and my fantasy team too. Taking him in the 4th round lead to a comfortable championship for me this year). His 6 yards per carry mark is the highest of his career, he’s already set career bests in rushing yards and all-purpose yards. With a 2,000 yard season in the back, AP has been an All-Day back, and the best player in football in 2012. Oh, and he’s doing it on a team that’s second to last in the NFL in passing yards. Christian Ponder has given Peterson no help at all, but he hasn’t needed it. History suggests that Peterson won’t be able to carry the Vikings to a Super Bowl, but at this point, nobody would be surprised if he did.

Jamaal Charles
Peterson has received all of the SportsCenter attention for his tremendous 2012 season, but Jamaal Charles has turned in his best season as a pro after a torn ACL ended his season in 2011. Playing for the 2-14 Chiefs, he turned in 1,500 rushing yards, all while playing within the NFL’s WORST ranked passing offense. The Chiefs might’ve gone winless this year without him.

Peyton Manning
This time last year, nobody was sure if Peyton Manning was ever going to play football again. Manning, along with Peterson, are now the top two contenders for Comeback Player of the Year, and the NFL MVP award. Manning leads the league in QBR, set a career high in completion percentage, and has thrown for the most touchdowns since his (then) record breaking 49 touchdown season in 2004. The Broncos are undeniably the NFL’s best team right now, and are primed for a deep playoff run.

The Indianapolis Colts
From worst, to, well, the playoffs. Andrew Luck having a banner rookie year was expected, but the playoffs? Jim Mora definitely wouldn’t have picked these Colts to make the playoffs in 2012. They have, however, been extremely lucky. They had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this year, only having to play three playoff bound teams, the Packers, Texans, and Patriots. The Colts have also had some immense luck (pun intended), as their -30 point differential is the worst of all playoff teams, and their -12 turnover differential is the 4th worst in the AFC. They may regress next year, but Chuck Pagano and Co. thoroughly deserve this magical ride.

Carmelo Anthony
2011 was one to forget for Carmelo Anthony. His Melodrama got him sent out of Denver, and into a Knicks cauldron that didn’t fit. In 2011, never gelled with Amare Stoudemire (the Knicks have a losing record with them in the starting lineup), and Mike D’Antoni never wanted him in the first place. 2012 has been a career revival for Anthony. Against the Miami Heat, he scored 41 points in the Knicks’ first playoff victory in over a decade, and followed that up a few months later by setting a single-game Team USA Olympic scoring record with 37 points against Nigeria. Those Team USA camps seem to do something to players—LeBron saw Kobe’s work ethic in 2008 and got better—it seems like Anthony saw LeBron’s leadership and do-it-all team mentality during the Olympics, and has applied it to his 2012 NBA regular season thus far. As the Knicks leading scorer and engine of the offense, he’s lead his team to the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference, and a few “MVP, MVP!” chants from the Garden faithful as well.

LeBron James
In the span of one month, LeBron James exorcised all of his demons. He basically played every minute of the playoffs for the Heat, played one of the best games in playoff history against Celtics in Game 6, hit every clutch shot he needed to hit throughout the entire postseason, took a crap on the “Who’s the best player in the NBA? LeBron or Durant?” debate, and won his first NBA Championship with 60% of Dwayne Wade. He’s no longer the most hated player in the NBA, because it’s not fun to root against a guy who doesn’t fail anymore. As much as I loved hating on LeBron, it’s kind of nice now to sensibly sit back and enjoy the greatest basketball player of our generation do night-in and night-out what nobody else has done before. I still puke at all of his Samsung commercials though.

The Los Angeles Dodgers
This organization went from being torn apart and broken thanks to a divorce case to having the highest payroll in baseball and Magic Johnson in the stands. They’re being dubbed as the “Yankees West”—a term that would’ve been appropriate for the George Steinbrenner Yankees, but not for the suddenly tight-belted 2012 Yankees, who are dead-set on getting under the luxury tax. The Dodgers’ projected 2013 payroll stands at $207.9 million, and they’ve taken on nearly $500 million in total contracts within the past six months. Whether or not any of the spending will lead to winning baseball remains to be seen, but Dodgers fans can rest easy at night knowing that their team is serious about winning for the first time in years.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

The New “Big Three” In English Football

Less than a day after Arsenal chairman Peter Hillwood said, “As far as I am aware, nobody has made any offer for him [Robin van Persie] and he is away so we are not in any dialogue at all. We are not in the remotest bit interested in selling him,” RVP has come out of the woodwork and declared that he would not be renewing his contract with the Gunners, opening the door for him to leave.

It’s already being reported that a £22 million transfer fee with Manchester City for RVP has been agreed upon, with RVP making £225,000 a week in wages. [Editor's note 8/15: Arsenal have agreed to sell RVP to Manchester United for £24 million. The points below still hold true.] It’s a huge blow for Arsenal on and off the pitch, but for footballing reasons, selling RVP now is the right move. Although he was the English Premier League’s Player of the Year last campaign, he’ll be 29 in August and has only had one injury-free season with the club. Wenger has a knack for selling players right as their descending from their peak (Henry, Campbell, Vieira), and this transfer is one that he’ll probably feel comfortable with.

As for RVP, nobody can blame him for wanting to leave. He knows his own mortality, and that he can only play at this level for 1-2 more years if injury-free. He needs to win now, and Manchester City United can gift-wrap him a medal next year. Can Arsenal? No, because they’ve joined the second-tier of English Football. Not the literal 2nd division, but the second-level of football clubs. They’ve lost their best player three-straight seasons (Fabregas to Barcelona, Nasri and RVP to Man United), have over £70 million to reinvest in player sales that hasn’t been touched (RVP’s transfer fee essentially pays for the Podolski and Giroud buys), and went another season without a trophy.

Once the RVP transfer goes through, Man United will have officially cemented English football’s new “Big Three.” Along with Manchester United and Chelsea, they’re now part of a Big Three that can outspend every other team. Let’s examine the Big Three, and where the other members of the old “Big Four” now lay.

THE BIG THREE

Manchester United
Forbes has listed the club as the most valuable sports organization in the world. Valued at over $2 billion, they’re worth more than the New York Yankees. Despite debts of over £400 million laid upon the club by the Glazer family, and despite the lack of big money buys the past few years, the team still has incredible spending power. A $100 million IPO on Wall Street doesn’t hurt either. Aside from their financial strength, Manchester United is always the odds-on favorite to win the League. Big Three material.

Chelsea
Winning the Champions League was nice, but they finished 6th in the League last season. Even with their floundering League form, Chelsea joins the Big Three because of owner Roman Abramovich’s billions. Realistically, he’s the only man who can compete with Man City’s spending. They’ve already fought off Man City for Eden Hazard’s signature this summer, so constant reinvestment into the squad to win titles will never be a problem for Abramovich’s Chelsea.

Manchester City
They’ve bought every star player imaginable. Owner Sheikh Mansour has spent nearly a billion pounds to since he bought the club, with roughly £565 million supplied solely by Mansour (the rest generated through Man City’s own operations). In September 2008, £500 million was set aside just for player investment—Man City has spent roughly £300 million of that in four years. They can’t spend quickly enough! All of that money finally returned something tangible last season, as they won the League title. Like it or not, Man City is now the most powerful club in world football.

THE “OTHER” BIG THREE

Arsenal
No trophies in over six years, no reinvestment into the squad, and watching their best players leave has caused a real split between Arsenal and the new Big Three. They just can’t compete on the same level so long as Arsenal’s board refuses to spend until Financial Fair Play regulations come in.

Liverpool
Still recovering from the financial and sporting calamity that was the Hicks and Gillett Era at Anfield, Liverpool finished 8th last season. New owners John Henry and Fenway Sports Group have the financial muscle to get Liverpool back into the Big Three’s zone (they’ve spent over £100 million out of pocket since their takeover), but the right mixture of coaching, players, and organizational principles will be needed to return Liverpool to glory. John Henry has to rebuild the organization from the staff to the stadium while trying to compete for Champions League spots. A difficult task that makes them a member of the second-tier.

Tottenham
They’ve only recently competed with the likes of the old Big Four and Manchester City, largely in part to the emergence of youngsters like Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon stars. Coupled with a bargain buy in Rafael Van der Vaart, and the loan of the season in 17-goal man (and former Arsenal striker) Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham has assembled a quality, top-four side. Where they’ll ultimately fail is their lack of cash. Adebayor may have to leave because the club can’t pay his wage-demands, and they haven’t spent more than £10 million on a player since 2009. Their record buy was four years ago in the form of £17 million David Bentley. At present state, they simply don’t have the investment to compete long-term.

With the new Big Three, and the “Other” Big Three being laid out, who do you think will finish in the top four next season?

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

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Bert Van Marwijk’s Dutch Undelight: Why the Oranje Crashed Out

Bert Van Marwijk’s Holland came into the European Championships as one of the tournament’s favorites. Despite landing in the “Group of Death” with heavyweights Germany and Portugal, the Oranje were still tipped to come out of the group and steal Spain’s thunder. Instead, the Dutch crashed out miserably, losing all three group matches and only scoring two goals.

Rumors of infighting between winger Arjen Robben and the rest of the squad were rampant all tournament, and were put on full display against Germany. Robben was substituted for Dirk Kuyt in the 83th minute, and instead of running to the bench, hi-fiving his teammate and getting a pat on the head from his coach (like every normal player would), he chose to hop a fence on the opposite side of the field, take his shirt off, and walk the long-way back to the bench. Imagine a pitcher in baseball getting taken out, and instead of walking back to the dugout, he chose to take a lap around the outfield, give the finger to the relief pitcher coming in for him, and toss his jersey into the crowd. By European football equivalents, that’s exactly what Robben did. If his message wasn’t clear then, when cameras caught him telling Van Marwijk to “shut up” after Van Marwijk wanted him to track Ronaldo’s runs in defense, Robben’s selfish disgust was put on display for the world to see. After that moment, Van Marwijk was never going to come back to the Oranje sidelines.

Van Marwijk is getting out at a perfect time for his career, meaning a bad time for Dutch football. His contract ran until 2016, but did he really want to oversee another World Cup and Euro? This was supposed to be the major tournament that the Dutch finally put it all together and won. It was the perfect time. This generation’s Dutch stars had reached their career peak. Current English Premier League Player of the Year Robin van Persie is at the height of his powers at 28, and is injury-free for once. Attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder is 28 and linked with a huge move to one of the Manchester clubs. Robben is, you guessed it, also 28 and fresh off an 18 goal season for Bayern Munich. Striker Klass Jan-Huntelaar was the most efficient striker in Europe this year, notching 44 goals in 47 games for Schalke at a ripe age of 28. These are four of the best footballers in the world, and top-8 in the world at their positions—yet they can only manage 1 goal between them at Euros? Now, the Dutch are a team trending down, as their top 4 players will be 30 by the next World Cup, and will surely be in decline. It’ll probably be hard for Robben and RVP—two injury-plagued players—to even be healthy enough.

Holland’s horrendous Euro display surprised many pundits, but should it have? Remembering their World Cup run in 2010, it’s easy for a finals appearance to gloss over what was a poor tournament by Dutch style standards. They had the easiest path to the finals, were incredibly lucky, Sneijder bailed them out of games, RVP was a black hole at central striker, and they played one of the ugliest games in World Cup history against an overpowering Spanish side in the finals. Let’s look back at each game in the 2010 World Cup for the Dutch:

Win over Denmark, 2-0
A Daniel Agger own goal and a Dirk Kuyt tap-in off a rebound (CLASSIC Kuyt) notches 3 points for Holland. Van Marwijk said after the game: “We wanted to play beautiful soccer but we lost the ball.” An ugly win. (This same Denmark side beat them in their opening Euro match.)

Win over Japan, 1-0
Sneijder scores after the Japanese keeper deflects the shot off his hand and into the net. RVP misses a ton of easy chances. Said Van Marwijk after the game: “Let me assure you that we really, really want to win and if we can do that in style, then great. But you have to be able to win ugly games.” The coach said it himself: an ugly win.

Win over Cameroon, 2-1
RVP and Huntelaar finally get on the score sheet against a Cameroon side that hadn’t won it’s previous 10 matches. Ho-hum.

Win over Slovakia, 2-1
Robben and Sneijder score, but the Dutch only complete 335 passes—their lowest total all tournament and only the 6th time since 1978 it had completed less than 350 passes in a match. So much for Total Football.

Win over Brazil, 2-1
A Brazilian side in transition fails to capitalize on an early Robinho goal. Sneijder reinvigorates the Dutch in the 53rd minute, scoring a free-kick 30 yards out from a crossing area after Melo deflects the ball into his own goal. Sneijder heads home the winner from a corner kick after Kuyt flicks it on at the near post. Again, not much beautiful football being played. Plenty of lucky football though.

Win over Uruguay, 3-2
A Suarez-less Uruguayan side just misses out. Captain Giovanni Van Bronckhorst scored his 6th goal in 106 total matches for the Dutch from a miracle Jabulani-powered strike. Has to be seen to be believed:

Sneijder scores a close-range shot after it was deflected off a defender, and Robben tapped home the third goal. Diego Forlan’s free-kick in the closing seconds goes off the crossbar. A thrilling win, but hardly an artistically appealing one. More Oranje luck.

Loss to Spain, 1-0.
Robben misses a 1v1 chance, and blows another 1v1 by somehow shrugging off a challenge and missing. The one time he could’ve gone down for a penalty because he was legitimately fouled, he decides to keep on going. De Jong gets away with the most blatant red card in the history of football, setting the tone for a flop and foul fest. Total bloodbath.

Although the Dutch had to bully Spain if they had any chance of winning, it still upset legend Johan Cruyff: “This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football.”

RVP had one goal all tournament, the back-four continued to look confused, and Sneijder’s 2010 luck with Inter carried over. As a whole, the team didn’t play like a team. The ugliness of the 2010 World Cup carried over to the 2012 Euros, except Sneijder’s luck wasn’t there to bail the Dutch out every time. The Dutch are an overrated side with star players who are poor for their national team. The Euros disaster can be attributed to Van Marwijk’s insane decision to start two defensive midfielders in an unbalanced 4-2-3-1, and to start an 18 year old at left-back (there are honestly no better Dutch defenders available?), while the rest of the blame can be bestowed upon a wasted generation of Dutch talent. They were just never that good to begin with. Better on paper than in practice.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49