Much has been said and debated over the past two days, since Van Persie’s statements regarding his lack of desire to renew his contract with Arsenal F.C. after it expires next year. From the most dignified to the least, from the least hateful to the most, many things have been said about the Dutch striker. A person who was, two months ago, a hero, a saviour, a legend, is now a traitor, an ingrate, a bad example, a mercenary. But is he, really?
The Netherlands striker, having just participated in an abysmal campaign at the Euro, and having only a year left on his contract, knows that his club do not hold the upper hand in any transfer deal that might happen. He also knows that his last season has been spectacular, with all the personal glory he could have hoped for lapping at his feet. Furthermore, he knows that the Sheikhs are now in football, and would love to hire his services. So, at first glance, yes, it does seem like he is all that and more.
However, the rumour mills churn out reports of how he is dissatisfied with the Club’s personnel, and the lack of silverware in recent years. He is dissatisfied with the Club’s inability to hold on to its stars, and the failure to replace those who leave. And he is dissatisfied with the lack of desire at the club. While it may be easy for an average Arsenal fan to laugh them off, claiming that Arsenal are just as hungry and capable as ever, a pundit might beg to differ.
I, as a United fan, am an outsider to the ways of the Gooners. I do not know the spirit, I do not know the heart, I do not know the emotion that flows through the hearts of the fans at the Emirates. What I do know though, is this. Arsenal do not intimidate any more. Gone are the days of the invincibles. Gone are Henry and Bergkamp, and, more recently, Fabregas and Nasri. The team may play flowing, attacking football but, without Van Persie, they lack a decisive cutting edge. They leak goals at the back, and while their ‘keeper is young, he displays nowhere near world-class potential. And even if Szczesny manages to take it up a notch, the defence lets so many past that a few are bound to find their way into the back of the net. No matter how many Arsenal score, the opposition might always score more. Even the most loyal of Arsenal fans knows this, and, more importantly, Van Persie knows this.
If I were an Arsenal fan, what would frustrate me most would be the failure to splash a bit of cash. While I do not like clubs spending obscene amounts of money on transfers, I do not believe that Arsenal’s replacements have been adequate. Replacing Spain’s first-team player, Fabregas, with Mikael Arteta, no matter how hard working and talented, can only be a stop-gap measure for a club of Arsenal’s ambition. The other quality mid-fielder, Andrey Arshavin, fell low on confidence after a good previous season, and was shipped off to Zenit, on loan. The wonder-kid, Oxlade Chamberlain, was used so sparingly, falling behind the often ineffective Theo Walcott, that even Piers Morgan found it hard to contain his frustration on twitter. The promising Jack Wilshere was sidelined for the entire season with an unfortunate injury.
The only good thing, in terms of personnel, was Vermaelen’s return from injury. Not only did the Belgian defender provide an assuring presence at the back, but also added a new dimension to Arsenal’s attack, with his famous forward runs. In light of all that has been mentioned, it is quite understandable why Van Persie wants to leave.
So, is this article meant to advise you to let your talisman leave? No sir, of course not. All the problems mentioned above, we have faced in the recent past. Where you saw Fabregas and Nasri leave, we saw Ronaldo leave, and I will be shameless enough to admit that we depended on him almost as much as you did on those two. Where Arshavin was loaned out, Berbatov was out of favour. Where you saw a lack of spending, we saw all of Ronaldo’s transfer fee siphoned off into placating the Glazers’ debts. Where you saw Vermaelen’s absence, we saw Vidic and Ferdinand both injured, along with a host of other defenders at different periods of time. Where you saw Walcott frustrate, we saw Nani flatter to deceive. And where you see Van Persie wanting to leave, we saw Rooney.
So, what did we do? What did the Gaffer do? We (well, most of us) loved him, and begged him to stay. The Gaffer sat him down, in spite of comments of rebellion aimed against the Gaffer himself, and had a nice long chat with him. And, of course, we gave him a fat new contract, making him the Premier League’s highest paid player. So, it’s obvious what works. All you need to do is love him, have Arsene Wenger talk to him, and offer him a fat new contract, not necessarily in that order.
Most importantly, however, if he does return to the Emirates for the upcoming season, do not victimise him. Rooney chose to have his shameful little tantrum right in the middle of the season, laying it all out bare, whereas Van Persie has chosen to make a statement in the off-season, using the most respectful of terms. If we can forgive Rooney, so can you forgive your Captain. More importantly, the last thing you want to do is to shatter your top scorer’s confidence and morale; without him, you probably wouldn’t be in Europe this year. Yes, Podolski and Giroud have arrived, but it would be a huge gamble to take, if you chose them to replace, rather than support, Van Persie.
We have seen Ronaldo’s “replacement”, Valencia, grow into a fantastic player. So might you, with Chamberlain, Walcott or even Arteta. So a little more patience, perhaps, if you have any left, would help you. But then again, go ahead, be impatient, boo him, make him feel unwanted. We’d always love to have him at Old Trafford!