So its official. Robin Van Persie is no longer an Arsenal player. He is now Judas, a (Red) Devil. No player is bigger than the club however, and Arsenal will live on. When you look at the bigger picture, I believe there is every chance we could even be stronger without him.
First off I’m not that angry at the moment. I vented all my anger when our former captain released his precious statement. In case you guys missed it here’s my open letter to him, outlining my disappointment. If you haven’t read it, have a look, if not read it again. It brings this transfer into perspective and I don’t want to repeat myself now.
Right now I am feeling a sense of inevitability about it all, knowing this was coming. The fact that he has joined such a fierce and bitter rival though is quite disappointing, but as I said, the nature of his cold hearted statement meant that I was prepared for anything, even Man Utd. It has also helped me think rationally about the situation right now, and analyse what this means for us.
Without all the emotional vent in me right now, I’m able to assess this loss with a cool head. I know when a player leaves it is tempting to be bitter and highlight the player’s flaws in an effort to make ourselves feel better. The fact is Van Persie is a world-class striker, he scored some unbelievable goals for us in the last 18 months. He will be a huge asset to Man Utd, and it is disappointing he didn’t decide to further his career in an Arsenal shirt. Let’s not pretend he isn’t something special, you have to give him credit for that, especially given that he carried our season last year.
Having said that, there’s a number of reasons why this was a great deal of business. This guy was very injury prone, that’s a fact. For seven seasons he was on the treatment table for long periods and wasn’t able to get into a rhythm and show us his true worth. Over the past 18 months we finally got to see the real Van Persie. Sadly, the loyalty we showed to him during his time at the treatment table, and the belief Arsene Wenger had in him back when he was described as a “loose cannon” by former club Feyenoord (and put on their transfer list), this loyalty was not paid back to us. He is 29 years old. I am confident we would have got about two years at most from him at his peak, if he decided to stay with us. This isn’t exactly like when we lost Cesc Fabregas, a 24 year old who had his whole career ahead of him. That was a massive blow for us. This is still bad, but isn’t as big a blow. Essentially we received £24 million pounds for a player who is almost 30 and has had a history of injuries. If you ask me that is a massive gamble on the part of Sir Alex Ferguson (especially given the player will have no resale value) and a great bit of business from Arsene Wenger. Because of Van Persie’s world class abilities, and the fact that he could score another truckload of goals, this is also a gamble from Arsene Wenger, but it is very much a calculated gamble.
So why is it a calculated gamble? Well for the reasons stated above, we got a good deal but also the fact of the way we’ve recruited this season. Apart from Van Persie we haven’t lost any significant players, but we’ve brought in three world class players in Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski. You could argue that we’ve brought in three players to replace him. These aren’t unknown 17 year olds with “potential”, they are the real deal. No matter how much you argue that Van Persie carried our season last year and that we absolutely need him this year, the quality replacements we have brought in will mean that we will hardly feel Van Persie’s absence. We will be able to perform at the same level, if not better. There are so many reasons to be optimistic about these players, they all bring something different to the table. I’ve gone into detail about this, and here’s my recent post on it if you haven’t already read it. Last year we lost Fabregas and Nasri and didn’t replacement them adequately. That was hugely disappointing, but we recovered and came third with that team. Given that this season we’ve had our best transfer window for as long time, I wouldn’t be surprised if we improved on the 70 points we got last season.
People also tend to be shortsighted, not Arsenal fans as much, but mainly the media. We were never, and never will be a one man team. Along with the three new signings we have made there’s tremendous potential in the squad already, and all it will take is for 1-2 of these players to have a great season for the team performance to step up to another level. Gervinho has been the stand out player in pre-season and after a stop start first season interrupted by early suspensions and the African Nations Cup, he’s got his first full preseason under his belt and is looking dangerous. The topic of Diaby is one that frustrates Gunners fans, and with good reason. Any French coach you speak to rates him extremely highly, and they will all tell you that when he is at his best he is the first name they’d put on the national team’s team sheet. I really want to see this side of Diaby, and not see him on the treatment table. Touch wood he avoids injury this year. Then there’s Wilshere, we all know what he’s capable of, can’t wait to see him back. I hate to use Arsene Wenger’s phrase, but given Diaby and Wilshere were out of for the entire season last year, and given what they are capable of, they really are “like new signings”. Let’s not forget Oxlade-Chamberlain who had a breakthrough debut season, who never ceases to excite. Walcott is expected to sign a new contract, and he has plenty of room for improvement. All of these players are exceptional, players we already have and I can guarantee you at least two of them will have a breakthrough season this year, and will complement our new world class signings very well.
The deal to sell Van Persie was a great bit of business. While it was a bitter pill to swallow given the Judas is now a (Red) Devil, it was a calculated gamble, all things considered. As much as the media and critics want to stipulate that Arsenal was a one man team and that losing Van Persie is the end of Arsenal, they could not be more wrong. No player is bigger than the club, and there are plenty of players who have come in and are already at the club who will carry Arsenal this season and will achieve success. As Tony Adams said: “play for the badge on the front of the shirt and they will remember the name on the back”. Jack Wilshere will now take the number 10 shirt, most recently worn by Dennis Bergkamp.