This article is an article I waited as long as I could before I started writing it. But I had to start it at some point in time; so well, let’s just get it on and start typing now.
The first note I have to make is that I will start from the situation when I write this and just checked arsenal.com and Robin Van Persie is still an Arsenal player. Wenger has said he wants to keep Van Persie at Arsenal. So I will start writing it that way. And I also will try to avoid bringing in too much feelings.
Last season was…. well you could say Van Persie’s season. Not that I am saying we were a one man team (I reserve that privileged one-man-team title for another player in fact) but Van Persie was Van The Man grabbing all the headlines during the season. He scored and kept on scoring. He was not injured and kept injury free all season. Wenger used him but gave him a few days off every now and then when cup games had to be played. But in the league, he was always present.
He started 37 games and the one he started on the bench he came on later. He scored 30 goals and he gave 12 assists. So he was responsible for some 42 goals for Arsenal last season. Those are impressive numbers. We cannot and I will certainly not deny this or brush it under the carpet. Robin Van Persie was immense for Arsenal last season.
It was his first real injury free season in 8 seasons. It was in fact even the first season he was able to start more than 25 games. So we have been waiting for it for a long time and when it finally happened, it was great to see. He scored a few spectacular goals in the season. He also had some tap in goals, but not many headed goals as this is his weakest point.
Some goals wouldn’t have been scored by other strikers, simply because they wouldn’t take the ball like he did. The volleys against Liverpool and Everton can be given as an example. I think only a few people would have gone for the volley on that moment. Just like his goal against Barcelona the season before. Those were world class goals and only world class strikers would have gone for that and delivered. Others maybe would have tried, but would they have scored? Hard to tell.
Now I don’t want to boast too much but I wrote an article before the start of the season 2010-2011 (2 years ago) and predicted that Van Persie would stay fit and would start scoring goals. That was a moment when some doubted Wenger when he told that he would use Van Persie as the main striker. He then got his last injury on his ankle after only playing one game, making my prediction look stupid. But after that, he came back and never got injured again. Well, not that we know. After all, what was fixed by the surgeons I think there was nothing more left to tear, break or rip.
If we now keep an eye on the current situation (Sunday afternoon), Van Persie is still an Arsenal player and Wenger has said he wants to keep it that way. Will he be able to reproduce another season like that? Yes, I’m sure he can. If he stays fit, he will bang in another 30 goals next season. But that would only be the case if he stayed injury free of course and if…. he stays at Arsenal. Because he can go to any team in the world but will he get the same service and the same support he finds at Arsenal? And by support I don’t mean from us but from his team mates.
Because (before his statement) he was the undoubted leader and face of Arsenal. The captain leading the team. Will he still be viewed like that if he stays? Only time will tell if the event would occur.
Will we miss him if he is sold? Yes, we will. I do not doubt that one moment. He has that something special in his game so just saying we will not feel it, is a bit too easy. We have to take in account that brining in a new striker in his place will take a bit of time to get settled again.
Giroud is the player that has the most similar presence on the field. He is bigger than Van Persie and would be bringing a bit more aerial threat to the team. But can we expect him to just step in and do what Van Persie did last season? It would be great but I think it will take a few weeks or even months to make him as effective as Van Persie was.
Because we have to remember that when Wenger moved Van Persie to the central striking role, he wasn’t the instant hit. It took both the team and Van Persie a few weeks to really get the feeling on how to play together. This will be no different when another player is brought in to his place. So we have to keep in mind that whoever will be put in his place gets the time and patience to take on that role in a different way.
Giroud looks the most likely and natural player to take that place in the centre of our attack. The top scorer of the French league, a left footed player, big and strong and technical on a good level. He should have everything to succeed if he can play the ball around with the rest of the team. Podolski could also play at that position but I think he was mainly brought to make our left flank stronger and score goals from there and provide assists to a central striker.
Those are both two players but we have to realize they come from a different league and have to adapt. We still have Chamakh and Bendtner on our books but it is very likely that at least one of them will go away, with Bendtner the most likely I would say. Will Chamakh regain his early form when he first came and Van Persie was injured? Time will tell.
Or will Wenger do something unexpected? He could bring Theo in from the flank and play him in the central role. Some think Theo would be able to play there, some think he will not. Again time will tell if he will be used in that place or not.
And who knows maybe we see a new rising star coming out of nowhere? Maybe Afobe suddenly starts impressing in pre-season and is given a chance?
But to find out the answer to all those questions we first need certainty about what will happen with Van Persie. If he stays, fine. But I don’t think he will be kept captain and if he goes… we will have a lot of goals to replace. But with the service any central Arsenal striker gets, we will always score goals.
Wenger will have the options in his head already. Whatever they may be we will just have to wait how things develop.
Published with permission from Untold Arsenal: Arsenal News. Supporting the Lord Wenger; coach of the decade.