Arsenal have relied on the services of Olivier Giroud up front since the £24 million sale of former top scorer van Persie to Manchester United in the summer of 2012, but with the Gunners completing a move for Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez, how does the former Udinese star compare to their former captain and talisman?
Firstly, let's look at Van Persie’s final season at the Emirates in 2011/12, in which he won the Premier League Golden Boot for his 30 goals in 38 appearances for the Gunners. He added 9 assists to the team to boot and was undoubtedly their best player.
Alexis Sanchez recorded his best goal tally to date at the Camp Nou last term, scoring 19 goals and making 10 assists across 34 appearances in La Liga. The 25-year-old Chile star has not been as heavily relied upon at Barcelona as the Netherlands striker was during his eight years at Arsenal and that is reflected in his first-team starts and his goal tally.
Sanchez averaged 1.9 shots per game last season in La Liga which is far below Van Persie’s 4.6 per game on average for Arsenal in his last campaign. Van Persie also achieved a superior number of key passes per game, 2.4 on average to Sanchez’ 1.4.
Where Sanchez is undoubtedly superior however is in his creative contribution to build-up play and his overall impact on the game all over the pitch – he clearly made a substantially higher number of assists in fewer appearances than Van Persie.
He achieved a slightly higher pass completion rate of 79.7% to Van Persie’s 78.6% and won a greater number of free kicks via drawing fouls with his driving runs.
The pair completed the same level of dribbles per game on average (1.1) and Sanchez was dispossessed half as often as the Dutchman, 1.3 times per game to Van Persie’s 2.4 times per game that term. He was flagged offside less often than the former Gunners’ skipper, 0.7 times per game to Van Persie’s 1.2 times per game.
Whilst Van Persie scored more goals and took a far greater number of shots that term than Sanchez did last season, in terms of efficiency the Chilean was actually the more dangerous in front of goal – 59% of Sanchez’ shots were on target to Van Persie’s 46%.
Overall, it’s clear than van Persie was functioning in a team where he was the most important player, the captain and the talisman and Sanchez has not seen quite that level of responsibility and status at Barcelona.
But, crucially, the new Gunners signing is more comfortable in possession, less wasteful in front of goal and contributes more for the team in terms of assists and creativity than van Persie did in his best season at the Emirates.
What this suggests is that, with a greater level of first-team access at Arsenal in the future, Sanchez can likely become a force for the Gunners that is more creative than Van Persie was as well as being more fruitful in front of goal - assuming he receives a similar level of service the Dutchman did that term.
At present, Sanchez is not a 30-goals-per-season forward but the stats paint a promising picture of a player with the talent to achieve that level of performance and consistency.
It took Van Persie eight season to reach that peak level of performance and fitness (prior to that, his best tally had actually been lower than Sanchez’ current tally, with 18 goals and seven assists in 2010/11) and by that time Van Persie was 27 years of age, two years ahead of Sanchez in terms of experience and development.
With those factors combined and taken into consideration it is fair would full expect Alexis Sanchez to go on to match or even beat Van Persie’s level of performance and importance to the team over the next two or three years - and that is an exciting prospect for Arsenal fans.