Munich - Having won almost every title available in Germany, Spain, England and the Netherlands, there is not much Arjen Robben has not done, but that does not mean the Dutchman has fulfilled his lifetime ambitions.
Form of his life?
Anybody in attendance at the Allianz Arena last Saturday can vouch for that, as Robben marched to the penalty spot in the 81st minute intent on extending Bayern's 3-1 lead over 1. FSV Mainz 05. However, coach Pep Guardiola had other ideas, ordering Thomas Müller to take the spot kick instead, prompting Robben to walk away in a huff.
A lot has gone right for the 29-year-old lately. He played a worthy part in Bayern’s winning four trophies last season – not least by scoring the winning goal in the UEFA Champions League final – and while his place in Holland’s FIFA World Cup squad is virtually guaranteed. Yet Robben’s name is rarely featured in the headlines with Philipp Lahm earning recognition for his seamless switch to midfield and Franck Ribery being named 2012/13 UEFA Best Player in Europe. However, even with the French star sidelined against Mainz, it was substitute Mario Götze’s turn to steal the limelight.
While praise is being heaped on Robben’s team-mates, the Dutchman is beginning to merge and mingle within the masses. As talented an individual as he is, he is arguable better as an equal component of the Bayern collective, and in the Reds’ 5-0 win over FC Viktoria Plzen on Matchday 3 in the UEFA Champions League, he stepped aside to allow Ribery to take the spot-kick, even though he himself had won it and Guardiola has asked him to step up.
More variety in his game
It has to be said: Robben is in the form of his life. He has had a hand in 14 goals in 13 games (eight goals, six assists) – a better return than any other Bayern player. On the right wing, Robben is looking more dynamic than ever. Not only has he shaken off the knocks and niggles which have hampered him in recent years, he seems to have gained additional strength. Furthermore, he is no longer the one-trick pony, who cuts in on from the right and takes aim. Now there is more variety.
In the Champions League game against Manchester City FC he touched the ball past the defender to the right and scored with his seldom used right foot, while in the Bundesliga, he is putting himself at the team’s service more than ever having already set up three goals. Yet his greatest strength has not diminished as a consequence. The winger’s goal record is breathtaking: as well as his three league goals this season, he has netted an average of once every 128 minutes in the Bundesliga, making him the most potent midfielder in the history of Germany's top flight.
Among best company
His assists are multiplying too. None of his team-mates have set up more goals this season than Robben’s six, a statistic which only goes to improve an already impressive frequency of being directly involved in a goal every 74 minutes since moving to the Bavarian capital four years ago. So yes, if Robben is on the field for the duration, Bayern are going to score at least once.
So why is nobody really taking any notice of this? Robben delivered the answer by himself: “It’s definitely the best squad I’ve ever been on.” While Bayern’s march to the 2010 Champions League final would have been unimaginable without him, the current success of the side is spread over several shoulders, but this is something Robben has grown to accept also. “We need every player we have got,” he said.
See five of Arjen Robben's best goals on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel