When Robin van Persie finished the 2011-12 season as the Premier League's top scorer with 30 goals, many fans joked that he would suffer a back injury going into Euro 2012 from the weight of carrying Arsenal for so long.
The same joke, it seems, is true of the Dutchman's prolific reign at Manchester Utd.
By scoring the quickest goal of the season after 32 seconds against West Ham on Wednesday evening, Van Persie helped the Red Devils maintain their slender one-point lead at the top of the table. However, statistics suggest that without the 29-year-old, Manchester Utd would be languishing in the bottom half of the table.
Van Persie has scored nine goals and provided four assists in 14 league games (two of which he started on the bench). This has given Sir Alex Ferguson's men 33 points and a goal differential of plus-15:
P 14 W 11 D 0 L 3 F 33 A 18 (+15) Pts 33
Statistics provided by Opta, however, show that Man Utd would have just 16 points and a plus-two goal differential without RVP:
P 14 W 3 D 7 L 4 F 20 A 18 (+2) Pts 16
This tally would currently be good enough for 13th place, sandwiching United between Liverpool and Norwich in the rankings with only three league wins.
Of course, without Van Persie, Manchester Utd would likely have someone else scoring goals in his place, so 13th place is not a true reflection of life without the Dutchman.
Equally, Van Persie is not relied on as heavily at Old Trafford as he was at The Emirates. His nine strikes in this campaign represent 27 percent of Manchester Utd's total goals. In 2011-12, he was responsible for 41 percent of Arsenal's 74 goals.
However, these statistics surely highlight RVP's value in the starting lineup and put paid to any of those who may have doubted his £24 million summer price tag.
Meanwhile, another multi-million pound striker who is earning his keep at the moment is Luis Suarez. The Premier League's top scorer has 10 league goals and two assists, keeping Liverpool in 12th place with 16 points:
P 14 W 3 D 7 L 4 F 18 A 18 (0) Pts 16
Without Suarez's efforts, however, Opta have deduced that The Reds would have only one league win and six points on the board:
P 14 W 1 D 3 L 10 F 6 A 18 (-12) Pts 6
Without the controversial striker's efforts, Liverpool would be seven points away from safety in the relegation zone and just one point ahead of Harry Redknapp's rock-bottom QPR.
Furthermore, Liverpool are relying on Suarez this season even more than Arsenal leaned on RVP in the last campaign. He is responsible for 55 percent of the Anfield club's league goals, and his strikes have prevented a further six losses for Brendan Rogers' side.
Sadly, Opta are unable to reverse-engineer this statistical trend to tell us how well Chelsea would be doing without Fernando Torres in the lineup...
Statistics: Opta via Daily Mail
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