Dutch Genius: Goodbye To The Predictable Yet Unplayable Arjen Robben

You don’t have to understand football like Johan Cruyff to predict how Arjen Robben is going to play for 90 minutes; everyone knows, it’s his trademark; yet somehow, it’s unplayable. If the very best teams in the world can’t defend the ‘Robben Move’, then how can a manager prepare his left-back for 90 minutes of Robben?

If the very best teams in the world can’t defend the ‘Robben Move’, then how can a manager prepare his left-back for 90 minutes of Robben?

As the old saying goes: ‘why try to fix something if it ain’t broke?’, and that couldn’t apply more to the Dutch master himself. The success the winger has gained from traveling at such speed, cutting in from the right-hand side, and then finding the back of the net has brought 199 goals in 561 club appearances, to date.

When you compare this with other ‘world-class’ wingers, Robben’s success rate blows the rest out of the water. Angel di Maria, 89 goals in 475 appearances; Ryan Giggs, 168 goals 963 games,

It’s far-fetched to compare such figures when all players have followed completely different career paths – different leagues, different managers, different players around them. However, all three fall into the category of an ‘out-and-out’ winger, and all three are left-footed.

But then if you look outside of Robben’s remarkable goal-scoring record, the Dutchman still trumps the likes of di Maria for assists – something the Argentine has his own trademark on – as last season in the Bundesliga, Robben recorded nine assists to di Maria’s seven in Ligue 1:

“When something works, you just keep going.”

— Arjen Robben

How Robben can be so predictable, but so effective, is helped by playing in outstanding teams. Having the likes of Philipp Lahm constantly run by you on the right-hand side to put the defender in two states of mind has naturally paid dividends for Robben’s game. However, he’s not had such company in the Dutch national team but is still Holland’s fourth all-time goalscorer – joint with THE Dennis Bergkamp.

The Dutch winger’s farewell to the national side was a shame that it ended without a path to the World Cup, but he will certainly go down as one of the Dutch greats to grace the game, and probably go down as the last ever world-class ‘out-and-out’ winger.