On Saturday, Robin van Persie scored two goals, and Arsenal won. The three points were the most important result of the match, as the club claws its way back up the table after a disappointing start to the season. In the short term and maybe, depending on other results upcoming, in the long term, that's what this match was about. But unless something really unexpected happens, in the historical sense, Arsenal 3-0 Bolton will be the match where Robin van Persie scored his hundredth Arsenal goal.
Here are some numbers on the feat, all coming from my main man (at least I think he's a man?) Orbinho and this piece on the dot-com by Josh James. RvP is the seventeenth Gunner to reach the century mark, and is currently tied with Joe Baker for 16th place on the all-time Arsenal scoring table. Of his goals, 71 were scored with his left foot, 23 with his chocolate leg, and six whole goals via the header. 88 came from inside the box, twelve from outside the eighteen, and another twelve penalties. Five of his goals are from direct free kicks. He's scored 69 times in the league, 17 times in European competition, six times in the Carling Cup and eight in the FA Cup.
van Persie is the record holder for most goals at the Emirates Stadium, with 44; he's scored 41 times on the road, twelve at Highbury, and thrice on neutral sites. Oddly he's only had one hat trick for Arsenal - last year, against Wigan - but he has 17 two-goal games, including Saturday. And this is my favorite number: van Persie has ten goals against Blackburn in his career. His highest against any other team is five (Charlton, Wigan, Sunderland, Newcastle, Fulham).
The achievement is fitting, because it gives us a chance to honor a player who has been immense for Arsenal in the post-Thierry Henry era, but it should not define van Persie - he's done more for the club than just scoring goals, and this is a milestone that might have been met much sooner if not for troublesome knees, ankles, and hamstrings. Robin van Persie has his hundred goals, but he is not his hundred goals.
So this is a feat that deserves a celebration, and the best way I can think of to commemorate our newest centurion is to take a look at some of his most awesome goals. Note that I say "most awesome" and not "best": some of the goals I may rate higher would, in a vacuum, be inferior, but because of opponent or situation or other extenuating circumstances, I find them to be on another level. But surely we won't all have the same definition of "awesome," so feel free to continue the conversation down below in the comments. I'll give you the date of the match and the scoreline at the time of the goal (not the final score). I have three that are set apart from all the others, and several honorable mentions, which I present to you with no further introduction.
Arsenal 4-2 Tottenham, 29 October 2008
This is here primarily because of the opposition. Scoring against Spurs is always awesome in my book. But also the powerful finish is just fun to watch, and made even more impressive when you realize that he did it with his right foot. If he'd done this against West Brom it probably wouldn't have made my honorable mentions, but it was against Spurs. Also I wanted to do the one-minute double he had with Cesc in 2009, but I still can't watch Cesc score yet and Robin's contribution wasn't nearly enough on its own to make this list.
Arsenal 2-1 Inter, 29 July 2007
This is highly rated because it's a superb finish, and again with his weaker right foot, and because it's against Inter Milan and I always love goals against European powers, no matter what level they're on at the time of the match. Were Inter good in 2007? Yes, actually - they won the league. Does it matter? Only kind of. Anyway, here's why it's not higher: it was in the Emirates Cup, so it isn't actually one of the 100 goals (I threw you for a real loop there, didn't I?) and it doesn't really count. Watch it anyway, though. Also, fun fact: Hleb scored the other Arsenal goal in this match. One of these days I'll do a post about all seven of his Arsenal goals.
Arsenal 2-0 Wigan (2-1 agg.), 24 January 2006
This is from the Carling Cup semifinal, and it's just an awesome free kick from distance. Up and over the wall, then down and into the top corner. Pretty much unsaveable and just all-around beautiful. Let's not talk about the rest of that match.
Arsenal 1-0 Sunderland, 7 October 2007
This has a lot of cool stuff in it. First, there's the part where right after the foul is committed but before the foul is called, Diaby (I think) scores, but it's ruled out because of the foul, so everyone's upset because it might be a goal lost. Then the utter power of van Persie's shot, smashing off the bar and into the ground so hard it bounces all the way back up into the upper netting once and almost a second time. It's an absolute blast, and an instant reply to the not-goal just before.
Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa, 1 April 2006
First of all, I'm sorry about the music. I think this may be Robin van Persie's most underrated goal. The skill it takes to collect the ball and stop it going out, then to round the keeper and drag past several defenders, then finish from a close angle is just absurd. I'm not sure why this one tends to get overlooked (trust me, it does - I've spent the past three days watching Robin van Persie compilation videos), but it really shouldn't.
Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool, 21 December 2008
This one very nearly made my top tier, but not quite. This was December 2008's BBC Goal of the Month, and it's sublime. Some useless prat plays a great long pass, which Robin chests to the floor, then lasers past a diving Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina through a minuscule window of time and space. I don't know what exactly it is that separates this goal from the top three, but it's not much. This one's the best of the rest because of the level of difficulty, the level of quality, and the level of competition.
3. Arsenal 1-1 Barcelona, 16 February 2011
I am still not totally certain how the laws of physics allowed a human to do this. The angle of the shot is ludicrous - so much so that you can tell Valdes thought there was no way he'd even try it. It's a good thing he did too, because Bendtner + open goal = hilarity. When this happened I almost ruptured my vocal cords; luckily they healed in the few minutes between this and "ARSHAVIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNN!"
There are some overlooked subsections of this goal, too. Meerkat's effort to hold possession and keep the ball in, and the presence of mind to pass back to Clichy rather than trying to take on two defenders like he does from time to time. Robin's ability to stay onside, perfectly positioned for the pass to break on goal. Clichy's sublime chipped pass over the defense. And come on, it's against Barcelona, the self-appointed Defenders of the Spirit of Football. Every part of this goal is great, and the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.
2. Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn, 26 November 2005
Once again, I don't know what's up with the music, but this view of this goal was too good not to be the one I used. This is arguable van Persie's best goal, but not my favorite. But there is certainly a lot to love here. The opponent isn't as vaunted as Barcelona, but the sheer quality here is spectacular. He beats five defenders. He takes the ball almost a quarter of the length of the pitch, under heavy pressure. He does well to keep the ball in-bounds, then he makes Robbie Savage look absolutely silly (well, not that that's hard, but it's still great). And the finish, with power into the opposite top corner from a close angle. If you want to make a case for this as #1, I won't hold it against you, because this is a spectacular solo effort. One of the best I've seen from anyone, actually, much less just Robin van Persie.
And seriously, watch Robbie Savage. He tries to take Robin out from behind, and he falls over, then Robin scores. This was committed to video for our pleasure.
1. Charlton 1-2 Arsenal, 30 September 2006
This...THIS is a goal. The only way it could be better would be if it were against Spurs, or Manchester United, or Real Madrid. Everything else about it is perfect. The lead-up is great - it involves Hleb and Eboue, which certainly helps for me because I like saying Hleb's name and I still love old-school Eboue. The pass by Gilberto is a good start, then Hleb's through ball is superb, weighted perfectly to the charging fullback. Eboue's run is great, and then the cross, cut back to van Persie, is also quite good. Then Robin van Persie explodes from out of the picture, soaring forward and lashing the volley into the top of the goal, a nigh unsaveable shot. As good as the rest of the team's contributions to the goal, van Persie's finish is exponentially better. The celebration is a bonus: Robin running to the away supporters, mobbed by Henry and Cesc. And then Thierry's reaction (it's about 0:30 into the video), basically saying "yeah, I don't know how he did that either." If this isn't my favorite goal ever, it's certainly in the top three or so. If I was going to plan the perfect goal, this might be it. It's definitely the most awesome goal Robin van Persie has scored for Arsenal.