The Great Debate Episode 1: Arjen Robben vs Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs' Unparalleled Success

Ryan Giggs has done what every player can only dream of. 13 Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues, one World Club Cup, three League Cups and four FA Cups over 24 glamorous years.

It's simple, in English football, Giggs' CV is simply unrivalled. Elite modern players across the globe, like Xavi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all boast of similar cup triumphs, but it's tough to argue their cases more than Giggs', based solely off of the Premier League's incredible competition.

From bursting onto the season as an uncatchably quick and nimble teenager in 1991, to dropping into a more intelligent and commanding role in his PFA Player of the Year-winning campaign at 36 in 2009 - Giggs has done it all.

The statistics will never tell the full tale with the Old Trafford legend, and if you base his ability off this, he'll be ranked in a category lower than modern Premier League stars like Leroy Sane and Sadio Mane, which simply isn't true.

From wicked crosses, to leaving defenders not even close to his shadow, Giggs truly could anything. When he was a lightning fast youngster, not many in Europe were like him. A decade on, as Cristiano Ronaldo takeover the famous left side of Old Trafford, the Welshman was thrown around the pitch, from centre-midfield, to the right-hand side - each year was as good as it's previous.

After stepping out 963 times from ages 17 to 40, Giggs personified what a successful, long-standing career means. He's arguably the first name on the list in the new Premier League Hall of Fame and his records within this may never be touched.

Arjen Robben's European Takeover

On the opposite end of the spectrum to Giggs, there is Arjen Robben, a man who made a gradual build to becoming the best winger in the world. Two fantastic years at PSV Eindhoven forced the newly found fortune of Chelsea to splash the cash on this up and coming 20-year-old.

An impressive seven league goals in 18 Premier League outings helped Chelsea win their first-ever Premier League title and place Robben within the 2004/05 PFA Team of the Year. This would establish the young Dutchman as one of the world's most promising talents, although, two more years at Chelsea didn't quite live up to the new hype he created himself.

Real Madrid were still interested, despite scoring just 10 goals in his last 74 appearances for the Blues. Two years at the Bernabeu - where brilliance is an expectation and not a hope - once again failed to match his exceptional year as a young talent at Stamford Bridge, netting just 13 goals over 67 matches.

However, when Robben joined Bayern Munich in 2009, the world became his oyster and that left foot become part of football folklore and cultural beauty. The Dutchman's debut season in Germany saw him bag 23 goals and earn Footballer of the Year in Germany for 2010 and place him as arguably the world's best right winger.

Seven Bundesliga titles would follow from his typical, Robben-esque cuts inside down the years, whilst a famous Treble would come in 2012/13. For the season after in 2014, individual titles become an expectation, rather than a dream from when he was a 20-year-old at Chelsea.

A Ballon d'Or fourth place, a World Cup Bronze Ball, the Dutch Sportsman of the Year, a FIFPro World XI place and a UEFA Team of the Year award would come in 2014. Then, with several more titles and tens of more goals from that year, Robben would call it a day at the end of the 2018/19 campaign.

Giggs at his peak

Picking Giggs' peak year is little hazy. Going off individual awards, the 2008/09 campaign is the Welshman's best year, where he won the PFA Player of the Year at the grand age of 36 and reached the 700 mark for United appearances.

In a year when Nicolas Anelka topped the goalscoring charts and Cristiano Ronaldo was a Ballon d'Or winner, Giggs even surpassed a free-scoring Steven Gerrard with his performances in the 2008/09 season.

The United number 11 only scored two goals and registered seven assists in this year, but his performances on the wing and in the centre were instrumental to the Red Devils' record-equalling 18th title.

In truth, Giggs' late surge for such a prestigious individual award is only a testament to his long-standing elite ability and this only works in favour for this debate. But, statistically, his better years were in the 90s, particularly the 1993/94 season where he bagged 17 goals as a lightning-fast, unstoppably tricky 21-year-old.

Take your pick on Giggs' peak year, as both the 1993 year and 2009 campaign are up for debate itself. However, it just shows how adjustable the Welshman was and how good he was over the years in transforming himself from a nimble youngster, to an intelligent midfielder playing much deeper.

ICYMI: Read who Newcastle United could sign when their takeover goes through, from Juan Mata and Wilfred Zaha, to Oliver Giroud and John McGinn.

Robben at his peak

Choosing Robben's best year is much simpler, as his best days fall in Germany during a decade worth of brilliance. Whilst he bagged a personal high of 23 in his debut season with Bayern, the 2012/13 record-breaking Treble season was arguably even better, whilst the prestigious individual accolades fell in 2014 under Pep Guardiola.

Injuries did slightly halt his Bundesliga season in 2012/13, making just 16 appearances that year. However, four goals in nine Champions League games, including a magical goal in the final, cemented Bayern's place in the record books alongside Inter Milan, United and Barcelona as the only clubs to win the famous Treble.

A total of 13 goals would come for Robben this year, 10 less than his statistically best season in 2009/10. In truth, from that season towards the Treble year two more seasons after this, Robben was perhaps the best right winger in the world. Back in those days, Lionel Messi did occupy this position for Barcelona a lot, which is perhaps his only competition for this claim.

At his peak, Robben spearheaded Bayern to a Treble, just as Giggs did for United. At the same time, he was also much more of a prolific goalscorer than his Welsh nemesis. A total of 107 goals were scored from 2009-2014, in what were unquestionably the peak years for this legendary Dutchman.

Giggs himself managed double digits in all competitions just five times across 24 seasons - something Robben made easy work of most campaigns.

Who gets in you side?

You choose.

Do you pick the 24 years of consistency and title-winning supremacy, whilst having the odd year of below-par statistics? Or do you take the gradual build in becoming the best, resulting in six years of unrivalled right-wing dominance?

Statistics don't tell the story for Giggs and if you judge the 13-time Premier League winner this way, you'll struggle to put him in a category not much higher than someone like Stewart Downing.

As for Robben, the Dutchman made an impact and won league titles in three of Europe's top divisions and finishing as the runner-up in the 2010 World Cup, and third place four years on.

So, six years of being the best? Or 24 years of consistency and transformation across multiple world-class squads?

Let us know who you would take for your side by tweeting us @FootyAccums.


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