WEB EXCLUSIVE: Gary Rowell on van Persie, Cattermole and West Brom

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist

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WHEN the end of the season arrives and the time comes along to hand out the awards, Robin van Persie will be right up there with contenders for Player of the Year.

The Premier League’s top scorer, he has been superb, but against Sunderland in these last two games, he has barely had a kick.

And I think we ought to praise the work of John O’Shea and Michael Turner in particular in the way that they have largely nullified him as an attacking force.

While we’re on about it, we can also salute Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley for preventing danger from the wing play which tends to be so crucial to Arsenal’s game.

But the shackling of van Persie was arguably the key, particularly as he has been so prolific against Sunderland down the years.

Watching him in both games, you could clearly see he’s a Rolls Royce of a player and if he leaves the Emirates at the end of the season there will be no shortage of takers among the best clubs in Europe.

It wasn’t that he was out of form against Sunderland or wasn’t interested. He always looked dangerous, as his perfect through-ball for Gervinho in Arsenals’ best chance of the match on Saturday showed. It was just that O’Shea and Turner worked their socks to ensure he barely got a kick.

Great defending.

MENTION has to be made of the towering performance of Lee Cattermole in the weekend’s game against Arsenal.

He came into the side after an injury lay-off and was right on his game, leading from the front and helping ensure Arsenal never got control of the midfield.

The difference between him now and at the start of the season is that back then he seemed indisciplined, seemed to be trying too much to make the difference.

Now there’s a control in his play and his temperament that was lacking previously. He seems to have got his head right and looks focused on his responsibilities and what he can bring to the team.

For me, he was outstanding and not only did he play well himself, he was a tremendous influence on his team-mates.

He’s always going to pick up yellow cards because of the nature of the player he is and he will have to keep an eye on that. But as a driving force, there’s few better around when he’s on his game.

IT has been such an absorbing few days, with FA Cup victory and Niall Quinn departure, that you can almost be forgiven for forgetting that Sunderland are in league action.

They have the long away trip to the Baggies on Saturday but I expect fans to travel in good heart knowing that Sunderland are in a rich vein of form and West Brom – despite their 5-1 win over Wolves at Molineux on their last outing – have been one of the poorest teams in the Premier League at home this season.

It’s never easy going to the Hawthorns but Sunderland will feel they can nick something.

Round the corner is the return game against Newcastle United at the Sports Direct Arena and Sunderland will want to go into that game in good shape.

But they can only concentrate on the game in front of them and that means looking to continue with their good form in the West Midlands this weekend, putting any thoughts of the cup or derby out of their minds.

READ the full Gary Rowell column in today’s Echo