I write this article as I read the depressing (seriously?) news of Robin van Persie being airbrushed out of the latest Arsenal online catalogue. Given the ridiculous amount of time I take to come up with a piece, who knows, Robin might have become an Ex- Gunner by the time I finish up with this one. Rewind back to November 14, 2009, what is so imperative about the date you ask? On that day, Robin suffered a ruptured ankle in an international friendly against Italy. Initially expected to be out for 6 weeks, events took a turn for the worst, things were said between Wenger and the Dutch FA and poof! — there went 5 months of Van Persie’s career, just like that! Ask a 26- year old (Robin was 26 at that time) top flight, world class footballer, how it feels like to spend 5 months on the sidelines, hopelessly, trying to put the pieces back into your career while you’re expected to peak at that time. For me, that was the last time, the treatment table got the better of Robin Van Persie.
Robin made an April return, played 6 months of decent football, had some minor injury blows, drafted in and out of the footballing scene. 2011 came along, who knew that the footballing gods had bigger, better plans for him stacked up in their lockers. All the bad providence, all the unfulfilled expectations, all the talks of him not delivering, all the episodes of Arsene and Arsenal showing faith in him, all the hard luck with injuries, everything came to a standstill, everyone stood dumbfounded as Robin had the sweetest 18 months of his career, a golden patch to kill for, breaking almost all records albeit them being personal, club or league.
Fast forward to the present as his contract situation (one more year to run) hangs by the most delicate of threads, him being one of the most sought after strikers in Europe, if not in the world, not to forget, that too after a disastrous EURO campaign (he had a really good season, didn’t he?). The media has spoken, dozens of news articles are being published regularly (phew! those guys are fast) from van Persie being in talks for an immediate move away to him going ‘house- hunting’ in Manchester, as rumor mills go into an overtime frenzy. The fans (even the most loyal of them) are confused on whether to call him a traitor or appreciate all his dedication, the hard-work, the professionalism and thank him for all the happy memories he has given us in the time he has been at the club.
“I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract. You guys, the fans, have of course the right to disagree with my view and decision and I will always respect your opinions.”- The official statement which came out on July 4, 2012. Damn, that hurts. (Mind you, not the most classy of things to release a statement of such magnitude on your personal website, keeping the whole fan-base and your employers in the dark about the whole situation)
Of course, every Arsenal fan or every football fan, in general will have an opinion on this story. Could we’ve handled the situation more intelligently? Should we’ve acted more quickly and made more signings just to persuade Robin to stay? Should we’ve given up on him during his tormenting injury-prone spells? Should we’ve resigned and thrown in the towel due to the petulant and undisciplined early phase of his Arsenal career? (For the record, he did spend a fortnight behind bars in June, 2005 due to an alleged sexual assault). It’s better to leave all the conflicting opinions and disagreements for the comments section. Let’s as they all say, move on.
Alright, before you start questioning the very reason behind the publication of this post and accuse the people at Sportskeeda of posting utter gibberish, let me break it down for you. In the midst of these chaotic state of affairs, something that apprehends me the most is the LEADERSHIP issue. Leadership? Arsenal? eh? It’s not the first time(in the last 5 years) that Arsenal have been accused of not having enough armoury in the captaincy department, maybe not the last. Captain’s armband? Is it really of that great consequence or is it over- hyped? Sure, it doesn’t make a difference in Fantasy Football where the game is based on individual merits and even a Titus Bramble can lead you to a Champions League victory (that’d be real sweet) but when it comes to tussling it out on the football pitch, the captain needs to demonstrate vigour, resilience and a distinct uprightness to prevail over his own vulnerabilities whilst overcoming the drawbacks of the team (Having already struggled with alcohol problems in his career, when Tony Adams decided to hang his boots in 2002, Arsenal had a custom- made replacement in the form of Patrick Vieira).
Really, have a look at the most successful clubs in the top five leagues of Europe (with due respect to the other (smaller) European Leagues, bluntly, I could never follow you, hence you’re just not good enough). Every single trophy, every single success story has a common logical explanation behind it. They had their own Captain. Leader. Legend. respectively. One guy, who irrespective of all the hassle, rose to the occasion and delivered. Ferdinand, Terry, Gerrard, Casillas, Puyol, Del Piero, Zanetti, Maldini, Lahm, together have spent a gazillion years at their respective clubs, spending a billion of them as captains. Although, it has been a sorry state of affairs at Arsenal since 2005 when it comes to wearing the captain’s armband.
After Vieira (the dogfighter) left in 2005, Henry being one of the senior-most and most successful member of the squad took over the role and followed it up with a worrying slump in our league form (we barely qualified for the UCL). After toying with Barca for a season or so, he made a move for the Catalan club. Consequently, William Gallas took over in 2007, the name was enough to raise many eye-brows. Willy, as I like to call him followed his reputation (he, allegedly threatened to score own goals at Chelsea when denied a transfer) up with some bizarre antics. He, ultimately had to step down in November, 2008 after publicly blasting his team- mates for not being hungry enough for success. Cesc, being one of the best and most experienced players in an extremely youthful squad was handed the captaincy role . Yet, the constant niggling injuries and the most fragile of hamstrings hindered him from realising his true potential. When Fabregas completed the dream move to his boyhood club in the summer of 2011, Robin took over and the rest, as they say is now a part of the history books.
If one follows the pattern of the last few seasons, it seems as though the guy chosen to be the skipper immediately looks for the exit door. Though Sebastien Squillaci seems like an ideal contender for this post, I think Thomas Vermaelen (vice- captain) deserves an automatic promotion for the position, IF Robin decides to leave. A thorough professional, a great athlete, doesn’t give up, likes to get in people’s faces, is offensively good (14 goals in two seasons. Decent, eh?), sometimes a little fragile defensively and yet, most importantly, a down to earth young man. Having been at the club for three seasons now (has played only two due to a series of setbacks in an injury recovery), it’d be interesting to see how he deals with the responsibility if and when Arsene tells him to step up.
“When you go back to your club for pre-season, and you look around the changing room, you want to see top players around you and think, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do something this season. This is where it’s happening.’
“That’s what van Persie is looking for. And maybe he’s had a look and thought, ‘Is this it?’
“When Robin signed for Arsenal, he was surrounded by top-quality players, big characters, and it was fantastic. Inside his head, he knew it was the place to be – alongside Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, myself, Tony Adams, Jens Lehmann, Ashley Cole.
“Van Persie came in, mixed it with a team who were used to winning things, and he got the taste for it. He joined The Invincibles and won the FA Cup in his first season, but since then… nothing.”- Sol Campbell, on the van Persie scenario.
While I was getting finished with this piece, I read a little old news about how Kolo Toure thinks that Manchester City can win the Champions League if they manage to sign Robin Van Persie (The guy took his wife’s dieting pills and got banned for six- months from professional football. How the hell does he know?).
P.S. Robin, I am pretty sure that you wont be reading this. Well anyways, I hope you make the right decision and sort this out as quickly as possible. Rest assured, I will never be able to hate you regardless of the judgement you make.