The Van Persie Conundrum

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Game Strategy
Tags: , , ,

As I begin this fantasy premier league article, Robin Van Persie is currently on -23,456 transfers out for this gameweek. No, that minus is not a typo. It’s not a piece of dirt on your screen – try to smudge it off if you don’t believe me. My cat hasn’t decided to jump on the keyboard in a futile attempt to get his food a little early. There is no problem with the minus key. It’s actually correct. I checked it. Twice. It seems Van Persie is on the way out…

A few weeks ago, the mere idea of transferring out the mercurial Dutchman would have been met with chant’s of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” from most of the active FPL player base. After all, this is the man who sits comfortably on top of the FPL scoring charts on 171 points after a mere 25 gameweeks, the same man who amassed 269 points after delivering 30 goals and 13 assists for Arsenal last season. He is a rare commodity in FPL, a player you can nominate as your captain regardless of the fixture and expect to be handsomely rewarded for your decision. This season, as he delivers time and time again for Manchester United, this holds even truer.

Liverpool away? No problem. 6 points. Manchester City away? I got this. 6 points. Chelsea away? Leave it to me. 12 points. After all, there is a reason why he started the season priced at £13m and an even greater reason he is currently priced at £14.1m. With a current ownership of 44.4%, he is currently the second most owned player in the entire game.

By looking at the top 50 players in the world, we can examine the number of top players who have Van Persie and who do not. While the aforementioned percentage might lead you to believe that the split between Van Persie owners and non-owners would be close, the reality certainly is not. Out of the current top 50 FPL managers, just 7 do not have Van Persie in their current team, and 6 of those 7 have not had Van Persie at any time during the season. It seems that these players made a decision before the start of the season that spending £13m on a single player was not justifiable. With 43 Van Persie owners in the top 50, it is quite clear that having Van Persie has been a catalyst for success this season. It can even be argued that these 7 players are having a good season in spite of not having Van Persie in their side.

So why are FPL managers all over the world suddenly talking about taking the Dutchman out of their team as we head towards the end of the season? On paper, United have a super run of fixtures which could provide Van Persie with the perfect platform to beat last years points tally.  Surely there must be some excellent reasons that the Van Persie transfer has become a topic for discussion over the last few weeks? Let’s take a look.

1) Two Games, Two Blanks
For some managers, the previous two blank weeks are a sign that it’s time to move Van Persie on. As incredibly short-sighted as it is to base a transfer off the back of just 180 minutes of football, you will get a number of casual players who will sell Van Persie in favour of whichever player scored double figures the week before. To these players, it means nothing that Van Persie had scored 10 goals, 4 assists and 13 bonus points in the 10 games before this.

2) Differentials
A few managers are becoming desperate to claw back a lead and have decided that having another striker instead of Van Persie might be exactly what they need to beat their rivals. However, this type of decision is made every single week and would not account for the amount of chatter we are seeing on the topic.

3) The Double Gameweek
Other managers have their gaze firmly set on the superb Liverpool and Swansea double gameweek in GW26 and see the Van Persie money as the perfect source of funds to bring in Suarez, Gerrard, Johnson and/or Sturridge. While there are advantages in making this move, the over dependence on Liverpool and Swansea players will affect the ability of a manager to field a team of 11 players for GW27. With the double on so many people’s minds, it is clear that this is fuelling a lot of the talk that we are currently noticing.

4) Strengthening the Squad
On a similar note, many managers feel that multiple areas of their teams need investment and feel it is unwise to keep £13.0-14.0m of their funds tied up on a single player. With so many excellent striking options for millions less (including Wayne Rooney, who has stolen the limelight in the last two gameweeks), the downgrading of Van Persie frees up cash for more pressing transfers to be made.

5) Rotation doubts
Last, but certainly not least, is the spectre of rotation that is currently hanging over the Dutchman. In fact, of all the reasons to get rid of Van Persie, this is the one that is carrying most weight among the top FPL managers. It is clear that the arrival of Van Persie at Manchester United has been hugely successful. They are contesting the fifth round of the FA Cup, the knockout stages of the Champions League and possess a nine point lead at the summit of the Barclay’s Premier League. As we head towards the end of the season, the fixtures are beginning to pile up and there is concern that Van Persie could be rested for one or more of United’s Premier League fixtures over the next 4-5 weeks. It seems that an analysis of the Manchester United fixture list across all competitions is required to see if this is truly a valid concern.

Team: Everton
Competition: Barclay’s Premier League
Date of this match: Sun 10th February @ 1600GMT
Date of next match: Wed 13th February @ 1945GMT vs Real Madrid (UCL)
Opinion: I think there is absolutely no chance of Van Persie being rested here. Sir Alex Ferguson realizes the importance of beating Everton at home after throwing away the title last year in the same fixture. Everton were very poor defensively against Villa and I think United will need to score at least two to beat the Toffees. If United are winning comfortably come the 70-minute mark, I can see Van Persie being taken off with the Real Madrid game in mind.
Verdict: Van Persie should start and will play 75-90 minutes.

Team: Real Madrid
Competition: UEFA Champions League
Date of this match: Wed 13th February @ 1945GMT
Date of next match: Mon 18th February @ 1730GMT vs Reading (FA Cup 5th Round)
Opinion: Van Persie will definitely start this and will probably play the full 90 minutes as United try their utmost to get a result to bring back to Old Trafford. An away goal is absolutely crucial for United as I expect Real to score in both games.
Verdict: Van Persie will start and play 90 minutes.

Team: Reading
Competition: FA Cup Fifth Round Proper
Date of this match: Mon 18th February @ 1730GMT
Date of next match: Sat 23rd February @ 1500GMT vs QPR (BPL)
Opinion: I fully expect that Van Persie will be rested here. With all due respect to Reading, United should sweep them aside and book their place in the sixth round proper. Van Persie will be on the bench for the final 20-25 minutes in case he is needed.
Verdict: Van Persie will be rested for the whole game.

Team: Queens Park Rangers
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date of this match: Sat 23rd February @ 1500GMT
Date of next match: Sat 02nd March @ 1500GMT vs Norwich City (BPL)
Opinion: As Chelsea and Manchester City have found in recent weeks, QPR are proving to be a tough nut to crack under Harry Redknapp as I pointed out in the recent Burning the Blueprint article on Chris Samba ( Van Persie will have a full 10 days to rest and United will need all their strikers on form to break down the resolute QPR defense.
Verdict: I think Van Persie will start, and if United have a comfortable lead, he will be taken off after approximately 70 minutes. However, I think Van Persie might have to play 90 minutes to beat QPR.

Team: Norwich City
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date of this match: Sat 02nd March @ 1500GMT
Date of next match: Tue 05th March @ 1500GMT vs Real Madrid (UCL)
Opinion: Given the fact that United face a crucial showdown vs Real Madrid three days later, many FPL managers feel that it is likely that Van Persie will be rested. Norwich should pose little threat to United at Old Trafford and it’s certainly possible that Sir Alex will keep the Dutchman on the bench. However, Van Persie will have had a week to rest after the QPR game, and once the Real game is finished, he might be afforded another rest if United receive a favorable draw in the FA Cup. With that in mind, Van Persie could well start against Norwich, and if he does, I fancy him to score highly. A number of pundits feel that van Persie might start to keep sharp for the Real game. Even if he does not start, it is highly likely that he will be rested for the entire 90 minutes. Even in the worst case scenario, where Van Persie comes on for the final 15 minutes, I would prefer 15 minutes of Van Persie against a tired Norwich side than 90 minutes from many other strikers.
Verdict: If Van Persie is going to miss any match, it could be this one. However, managers will have sufficient time to make sure they have a good option as first sub when the gameweek arrives. He will be in my starting XI for that match just in case he starts.

Team: Real Madrid
Competition: UEFA Champions League
Date of this match: Tue 05th March @ 1500GMT
Date of next match: Sat 09th March @ 1245GMT vs West Ham United (BPL) OR Saturday 09th March @TBC (FA Cup)
Opinion: Regardless of the result at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, United will field their strongest here, and I fully expect Van Persie to be the key to beating Madrid on the night.
Verdict: Van Persie will get 90 minutes here.

Team: West Ham United or TBC
Competition: Barclays Premier League OR FA Cup Sixth Round Proper
Date of this match: Sat 09th March @ 1245GMT OR Saturday 09th March @TBC
Date of next match: Sat 16th March @ 1730GMT vs Reading (BPL)
Opinion: United are due to face West Ham in the early Saturday kickoff, but if they beat Reading in the fifth round of the FA cup, it is expected that the Premier League game will be moved to a date in the future. As stated, it is likely that United will be playing in the FA Cup and therefore the West Ham game will be pushed forward. If the game is rescheduled for following Wednesday (13th March), then I’d expect Van Persie to be rested again in this Cup game unless they get a tough game. If it is rescheduled for the near future, then United should have a very profitable double gameweek ahead. Looking at the teams remaining in the cup, it’s reasonable to expect that they will avoid facing one of the top teams in the draw meaning Van Persie will get a rest here. Even if there is a tough draw for United, I can’t help think that van Persie might still be rested.
Verdict: Assuming United are in the Cup and don’t have Manchester City or Chelsea, I expect Van Persie to get rested in the cup game. In the unlikely event that United lose vs Reading in the FA Cup, I see Van Persie starting vs West Ham.

Team: Reading
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date of this match: Sat 16th March @ 1730GMT
Date of next match: Sat 30th March @ 1730GMT vs Sunderland(BPL)
Opinion: Even if the West Ham game is pushed to the 13th, United have no games for 2 weeks after the Reading game which makes it easy for Van Persie to play both games. Reading can be a tricky side capable of scoring against any team (as United are aware of, having conceded 3 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season).
Verdict: I can see Van Persie play between 70-90 minutes here.

It seems that, once we take a closer look at exactly when Van Persie will be afforded a rest between now and the end of March, there is very little to worry about if you are a Van Persie owner. Even if he does get rested against Norwich, you have 3 weeks to ensure you have a good replacement on the bench. Certainly, for Jason Puncheon owners, he has a home game vs QPR to prove himself. If Van Persie comes on as a sub, I still think he could put points on the board. When United have two games in close succession, it seems that there is plenty time to rest Van Persie without affecting his Premier League minutes.

So having looked at all the reasons for taking Van Persie out, it’s important to reexamine the 23,500 transfers and put them into context because something isn’t adding up. He has a current ownership of 44.4%, which equates to approximately 1.141 million managers. When you consider that approximately 23,500 managers have transferred him out (not taking into account that 3,000 players have transferred Van Persie IN over the same period), it still only accounts for approximately 2% of his entire ownership. Just 2%! That’s 1 out of every 50 managers who own him, a tiny fraction considering the amount of discussion we have seen lately. However, this data is skewed by all the inactive managers who have stopped playing.

To see if a similar trend exists amongst some of the top active FPL managers, I decided to carry out a little research. I posted a poll on one of the world’s top FPL communities and asked the members about their plans for Van Persie. The results are very telling…

7.69% have never had Van Persie
70.63% have Van Persie and have no intention of selling
19.58% have Van Persie and are thinking of selling
2.1% had Van Persie but have sold him in the last two weeks.

Now ye’re talkin’ – that’s the solid facts we need!

As of now, just 2% have pulled the trigger. This is a tiny number, and one that mirrors the fact that only 2% of his current ownership have decided to carry out the transfer. It seems logical to think that if these managers wanted to sell Van Persie for another striker, they would have already done so. After all, his most likely replacements are all rising in price already (double game week participants Sturridge and Suarez have already risen by £0.2m, whereas Rooney has risen by £0.1m).

It seems that while many managers are indeed talking about it, they are refusing to offload the Dutchman despite the blanks in recent games, despite the double gameweek where Suarez and Sturridge have already increased by 0.2m and despite the impending fixture crush. With this in mind, one question has to be asked…

“Is all this talk of transferring out Van Persie just that…talk?”

The numbers seem to suggest that many managers are contemplating the move, but are deciding against it en masse for certain reasons. It seems clear that the vast majority of them are coming to the same conclusion. To them, the merits of keeping Van Persie far outweigh the advantages of selling him.

Firstly, most of the managers that own Van Persie bought him very early in the season when his value was close to £13.0m. Any manager who bought Van Persie early will lose approximately £0.5m from their team once he is transferred out. Many of these managers realize that, because the Van Persie money could be distributed to many other areas of the team, any move to reintegrate Van Persie into their team would require multiple transfers and the weakening of a number of key areas of the squad. With only 13 gameweeks left, the transfer is essentially semi-permanent. I think this is weighing on the minds of many. From my own investigations, many of the players I have spoken to who have transferred Van Persie recently have only bought him in the last month, and do not have to worry about losing money on the transfer.

Secondly, Van Persie has registered a consistency that very few other players have shown this season. By selling on Van Persie, they are losing a player who could be captained regardless of the fixture. As stated earlier, these players are like gold dust.

Thirdly, if Van Persie has a great week (and this will be the case more often than not), then you will stand to lose ground if you do not have him, especially as many will have captained him. To compound matters, if you are a player outside the top 50,000 players, many ghost teams (abandoned teams) have their captain set as Van Persie. It can be seen on the FPL summary page each week. No matter what the fixtures are, Van Persie is the most popular captain. I’d actually wager that if Van Persie was to miss a match this year, he would still be the most captained player.

Finally, if the West Ham game is rescheduled to a later gameweek, United will have a superb double gameweek, and if there ever was a player you need for a Manchester United double, its Van Persie.

It is interesting to note that between Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening, just 900 people  transferred Van Persie out. It seems that the “flood” of initial transfers out have already been reduced to a trickle. So whether you are thinking of keeping or selling the most expensive player in the FPL game, my advise is to not let the buzz on the internet sway your decision. The facts of the matter are above. As a FPL manager myself, I have no intention of selling Van Persie. But that’s just my decision…make what YOU feel is the right decison for YOUR team. But before you do, keep the following facts about Van Persie in mind…

-he has featured in every single Premier League game for Manchester United.
-he has scored or assisted in 18 of the 22 games he has started.
-he has amassed 18 goals, 9 assists and 31 bonus points in 2028 minutes of football
-he has only been a substitute twice all season (not counting his debut appearance vs Everton)
-he has scored 8 at home and 10 away

…and if you do transfer out the top player in FPL, prepare to spend the rest of your season in fear of seeing similar pictures splashed across the media…


After all, this is Robin Van Persie we are talking about. He hasn’t been given the FPL nickname “Robin Reliant” for nothing…


  1. Kunal Pradhan says:

    Man HOw much time u took to write this!!!!!!! WoW!!!

  2. david casey says:

    class piece of writing ,fair play,i will sleep better now that you have eased my brain on the van persie transfer saga,ill stick with him

  3. Tord says:

    Excellent article & a well founded conclusion! You’ve cleary done your homework, it was a joy to read.

    • Thanks Tord, it took some time to write but the positive feedback made it worth it!

      • Tord says:

        Well, it’s that kind of article that sets you aside from a lot of other so called ‘FPL experts’ online. Keep up the good work! Btw I found the article through your twitter account, so remember to keep posting links on twitter:)

      • haha thanks but I’m definately not an expert, but I usually finish in the top 5k. Am in top 700 right now so things going well!

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