The Fall Out for Arsenal and Robin Van Persie
Robin Van Persie announced this week what many of us had suspected, that he was not going to sign a new Arsenal contract. This means he will either be sold this year or let go for free at the end of the season. With a current value of around £30 million ($45 Million) it seems most likely that the former will occur.
Some Arsenal fans are consoling themselves with statements like “he only had one good season”, “he’s injury prone” and “we just picked up two good strikers”. But kid yourselves not, this is a major blow to the club. On the back of losing Fabregas and Nasri last season Arsenal could not afford to lose another marquee player, let alone THE remaining marquee player.
Robin Van Persie scored 37 goals last season, amongst them 40% of Arsenal’s Premier League goals. That is not easily replaced.
As far as the replacements Giroud and Podolski go, well we have all seen the results of Arsenal’s recent purchases of forwards. Gervinho and Chamakh started well, but faded badly. Park and Miyachi have barely played. Even players who are now successful in the squad took time to adjust to Premier League football. Look at Koscielny. I wish Giroud and Podolski every success at Arsenal, but reserve judgement.
So that is Arsenal’s loss. But what about RVP’s reasons for leaving? He states that it is not to do with money, but to do with winning trophies. Well maybe he is right. It has now been 7 years since Arsenal won anything significant and they do not look like doing so in the near future. They made a remarkable recovery last season after the loss of Fabregas and Nasri and lying at the rough end of the table early in the season.
The 8-2 drubbing to Manchester United really turned things around. The club dug deep into the murky depths of their pockets and picked up some valuable players. Mikel Arteta was a great buy. The defenders they picked up, not so much. To win anything Arsenal still need to pick up a world class creative midfielder and add some steel in the defence. As a life long Arsenal fan, I am hoping that new assistant coach and doyen of the famous Arsenal back four, Steve Bould can do that with the current first choice players, but I still believe that they need to pick up some decent cover, as injuries were a major reason for Arsenal struggling early last season too.
Arsenal’s second largest shareholder Alisher Usmanov has criticised the running of the club following Robin Van Persie’s statement and it falls much along the same lines. He condemns “the financial model, the lack of investment and club’s future strategic direction.”.
“As a consequence of this policy, which is dressed up as prudent financial planning, it is down to our manager and not the shareholders, to have to deal with the club’s tight finances, carry the burden of repaying the stadium debt by selling his best players and having to continue to find cheaper replacements.
“This policy is leading to the loss of our best players, often to main competitors, and even causes the players themselves to question their future at the club and the club’s ambitions.
“The situation with Robin van Persie sums this up.”
How many Arsenal fans could disagree with that?
Well I do to some extent. I believe that Usmanov is right in the current environment. Arsenal can not hope to compete with the apparently bottomless pockets of the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea. But the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations should make a more level playing field and I believe that this really is how things should be. Otherwise it is just a case of ‘he with the deepest pockets wins’.
This has certainly proved the case with Chelsea and City and they seem to be relying on these regulations being a toothless threat. The ultimate penalty is disqualification from European competitions. Other possible penalties originally included fines, the withholding of prize money, and transfer bans. As of early 2012, however, UEFA has had to shelve plans to ban player transfers following legal advice, and it remains to be seen if other threatened sanctions will be taken in practice, so they continue to chase every high priced player in the world.
My feelings on Van Persie? Well first of all I hope that he stays, maybe Arsenal don’t sell him and can turn things around sufficiently early in the season to persuade him to stay. Usmanov wading in may help. But if he goes I hope that he moves out of the Premier League. I would hate to see him coming up against Arsenal and getting jeered like Nasri.
But from his point of view it will not be all glory, no matter where he goes. He will not be the star of whichever side he moves to and may even struggle to hold a regular first team place. Look at Henry and Fabregas at Barcelona and Adebayor and Nasri at Man City. As they say, the love of money is the root of all evil, maybe the love of trophies sits somewhere up there too.