Who is better Robin Van Persie or Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Fulham manager Martin Jol has recently compared Robin Van Persie with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but who is better. Simon Bunn looks at the statistics.

Despite Wayne Rooney scoring the winning goal in Fulham’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United at the weekend it is Robin Van Persie that Martin Jol believes will be the man to snatch the Premier League title back for United, from their bitter city rivals, this season.

"Van Persie is the main man," Jol said. "He sets them up with little flicks and combination football and he also scores the most goals.

"He scores over 30 goals a season and will be top scorer again, as he was last year. He is like Zlatan. Wherever he goes, they will be champions. Van Persie has that quality."

Jol of course was referring to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s incredible record of winning eight league titles in a row, for five different clubs in three countries up until 2011. What the Fulham manager did fail to mention however is that Van Persie has yet to win a league title in his career. It is an oversight that has given his recent statement a lack of accuracy and more a feel of future fruition.

In fairness to the Fulham manager he does make a valid, if not obvious point with regards to Van Persie and Ibrahimovic being goal scorers. Both players currently sit top of the goal scoring charts in the Premiership and Ligue 1 respectively. But is Van Persie as good as Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

GOALS – Both players have phenomenal goal scoring records. This season Van Persie has scored 28 goals in 35 starts, compared with Ibrahimovic’s 34 goals in 39 starts. (All statistics cover all competitions including Internationals.) Over the previous 5 seasons Van Persie has scored 134 goals in 197 starts whilst at Arsenal and Manchester United. Ibrahimovic’s record over the last 5 seasons stands at 151 goals in 231 starts. In that time period Zlatan can boast a ratio of a goal scored every 1.53 games. Van Persie in comparison proves slightly more prolific with a goal every 1.47 games.

SHOT ACCURACY – This season so far Van Persie has managed 128 shots, 57 of which have been on target. Ibrahimovic manages to get more shot’s away, with 172 this season to date, with 79 on target. Over the previous 5 seasons RVP has totalled 771 shots, with 338 on target. Ibrahimovic in comparison boasts 866 efforts, 387 of which have troubled the goalkeeper. That means that the Swede slightly edges it over the Dutchman in terms of shot accuracy, with Ibrahimovic producing a 45% shot accuracy compared with Van Persie’s 44%.

ASSISTS – For such prolific strikers the pair also set up their fair share of goals for teammates. This season Van Persie has made 8 assists compared to Ibrahimovic’s 13. Over the last 5 campaigns Van Persie totals 49 assists and Ibrahimovic 56. In terms of assists to games ratio Van Persie is the victor, providing the crucial pass for a teammate every 4 games on average, compared to Zlatan who needs 4.1 games.

As you can see there is very little to separate Van Persie and Ibrahimovic, unless of course you looked at Zlatan’s trophy cabinet, but isn’t that the reason Van Persie left Arsenal to join Manchester United?

It was only a year ago that Ibrahimovic himself urged Van Persie to leave Arsenal in search of trophies, the Swede said, "When you don't win anything for years, people understand why you leave like Cesc Fabregas. Football is all about winning. If you don't win you want to go.”

"I don't know Robin personally but I remember him from Holland and what a talent he was - now he is complete. I don't know what he is thinking but I know what I would do.”

It is advice that Van Persie has since taken on board, albeit most likely not as a direct response to Zlatan’s comments. Yet for Ibrahimovic to heap such praise onto Van Persie shows the standards of football quality that the Dutchman has reached in recent years. After all Ibrahimovic is not a man that dishes out admiration freely, "What [John] Carew does with a football, I can do with an orange," is just one comical quote concerning the thoughts of a fellow professional.

Who do you think is better Van Persie of Ibrahimovic?

images: © Ronnie Macdonald, © prettyfriendship

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