Commentary

It's RVP for MVP

In saving Arsenal's season, the Dutch striker became the EPL's most valuable

Updated: April 20, 2012, 12:11 PM ET
By Ian Darke | ESPN.com

Robin van PersieAP Photo/Sang TanArsenal's Robin van Persie has a shot at breaking the 38-game EPL record for goals in a season.

It is that time of year when they hand out English Premier League awards -- and my vote for Footballer of the Year has gone to Arsenal's Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman tops the league's scoring charts with 27 goals, and without him you wonder what might have become of the Gunners this season.

After Arsenal lost Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, van Persie did not strike you as the ideal type to take over as captain.

His injury record was a worry, and his sometimes questionable temperament in the past did not mark him out as the leader that Arsene Wenger needed.

But van Persie has led by example and could yet break the Premier League scoring record for a 38-game season, currently shared by Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer with 31 apiece.

Those goals rescued Arsenal from its worst start for 58 years and has put the club within sight of what only two months ago seemed an unlikely third-place finish.

The good news for Gunners fans is that their talisman seems to be leaning toward staying at the Emirates, although Manchester City seems sure to make a tempting offer in summer.

The fact is that van Persie and his young family are settled in London, and he is loved at Arsenal. That must be a major consideration as long as the club looks after him financially.

If the Player of the Year title was won on pre-Christmas form alone, Manchester City's creator-in-chief, David Silva, would have won by a street -- but he did lose his way for three months.

Honorable mentions must also go to Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia, City's Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, Newcastle's deadly strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, and the USA's Clint Dempsey of Fulham, who looks like a top player now.

Scott Parker has been a huge influence since signing for Spurs, despite the recent slump that led to his curious remark that "even the manager doubts us." Everton's outstanding left back Leighton Baines and Norwich City's captain Grant Holt are perhaps others for the short lists.

An unsung hero award might go to Manchester United's center back Jonny Evans, who has grown in stature enormously while deputizing for the injured Nemanja Vidic.

[+] EnlargeKrul
AP Photo/Scott HeppellGoalkeeper Tim Krul is one of the reasons Newcastle is contending for a top-four finish.

Goalkeeper of the Year? Several contenders, including Tottenham's 40-year-old Brad Friedel from Ohio, and City's reliable Joe Hart -- who leads the race for the Golden Glove, given to the keeper with most clean sheets.

But I think my vote would go to Newcastle United's Tim Krul, who has been magnificently defiant and acrobatic in his club's surprising bid for a top-four finish.

Then there are those young players who have had a "breakout season."

Swansea's Joe Allen has been at the heart of his club's stylish debut year in the big league. Irishman James McClean has come from nowhere to be a rampant left winger in Sunderland's charge up the table.

Despite Blackburn's problems, the dangerous Junior Hoilett is obviously destined for a big club this summer, and Wigan's bold bid for survival has owed much to striker Victor Moses and gifted midfield man James McCarthy.

But the MVP must be RVP.

Ian Darke is a commentator for ESPN. You can reach him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/iandarkeespn.

Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, is ESPN lead soccer voice in the United States. He has covered the Barclays Premier League and the Champions League since 1982, and has one of the world's most recognizable soccer voices.