When the news about Arsenal captain Robin van Persie was released last week, it was to be expected that Gunners supporters would take to social media in their droves to bemoan the impending departure of their hero.
A personal friend of mine referred to van Persie as “spineless” for leaving the club in its current state (without a trophy for several years and following a considerably poor season) and as current captain.
What he is forgetting, however, is that Cesc Fabregas, a former Arsenal skipper, departed when the Gunners were in a similar situation. He argues that the Spanish midfielder’s decision to leave was more justifiable, as he was moving on to his childhood team, FC Barcelona.
It is quite understandable that Arsenal fans are upset, considering the fact that van Persie has been injured for the majority of his career as an Arsenal player: last season was in fact one of the only years in which the Dutchman was blessed not to have any major injuries. Not only this, but van Persie also showed the best form of his career, scoring a remarkable 37 goals in 48 appearances and managing to win the Premier League’s Golden Boot.
Through an impressive campaign, the 28-year-old was also able to pick up a PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, FWA Footballer of the Year and other notable individual awards. Naturally, his success turned several heads, with the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain recently trying to acquire the services of the striker.
So when van Persie declared that he had no intention of renewing his contract, this was viewed as a sign of betrayal by Arsenal fans. The club and its supporters, who backed van Persie through his many injury-filled seasons only had a small taste of the greatness the Netherlands forward can achieve. Now they look set to be forced to watch him move on during the summer, or when his contract expires at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Are Arsenal the sort of club that should be losing a player of the stature and importance of van Persie? Considering the fact that they have lost the likes of Samir Nasri, Fabregas, Gael Clichy and others, the Gunners are not in a position to be losing such a vital star, considering the club’s status as one that nurtures its own talent.
If van Persie leaves, Arsenal will instead become a side known for selling quality players at the peak of their talents, replacing them with unproven alternatives.
Arsené Wenger is on the right path however, as he has been signing high-quality players such as Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, but as seen during the UEFA European Championships, Podolski was not in the same form he had at the end of the most recent campaign. Meanwhile, Giroud remains somewhat unproven, regardless of his 21 goals in Montepellier’s Ligue 1 title win.
The question that still lies in everyone’s head is, by the end of the summer transfer window, will Wenger have made any high-quality signings? Should, alongside the departure of the club’s big guns, further inferior signings be brought in, along the lines of Sebastian Squillaci, Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu Young, you could forgive Arsenal supporters for showing further impatience and anger.
Hopefully, for the fans, van Persie is only pulling a stunt similar to what Wayne Rooney did only a season ago: the Manchester United forward was able to secure himself an improved contract and take on greater influence in the club’s transfer dealings. Sir Alex Ferguson handled the Rooney “transfer” with a cool head and now it is up to Wenger to be able to do the same, perhaps by managing to persuade van Persie to sign later on during the season. If Arsenal are to regain their former glory, Wenger will have to be reasonable and match the spending of the club’s Premier League rivals, as too many Gunners stars are leaving for other clubs willing to spend more.
The next season could be the turning point for Arsenal FC, particularly if van Persie and the new arrivals at the Emirates Stadium could achieve something spectacular which might be enough to make the captain put pen to paper on a fresh deal.
Equally, the coming year could end up being a disappointing one that sees the sad story of Arsenal continue, adding to the current heartache widespread among Gunners supporters. And if the striker does leave, who would care to replace him as captain – Nicolas Bendtner?
Tweet the author | Kevin Nissanka
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