Belated Thoughts On The Van Persie Situation
After a ten-day holiday in Yankee Land, I return today to blogging and matters Arsenal. What was planned as a flight to cooler climes turned out be an ill-timed visit during a particularly intense heat wave. Weather-wise, it felt like being at home, what with temperatures hitting 100°F most days. Still, it was a welcome break and one that recharged the batteries somewhat.
Of course, the fourth of July fireworks were dulled by the release of ‘The Statement’ by Robin van Persie, followed a day later by an opportunistic piece of PR by that other Arsenal billionaire, Alisher Usmanov. The temptation to knee-jerk and shoot off a post was strong – but better sense prevailed and hopefully today’s thoughts are a little more balanced than what I may have put down in the immediate aftermath of RvP’s condemnation of Arsenal’s vision.
Back in April, this author had suggested that Robin van Persie’s contract extension would be difficult to negotiate for both player and club. This was mainly due to the considerable difference in financial terms between what Arsenal could offer and what clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea would be willing to pay. Van Persie’s statement seems to suggest that his mind was made up prior to the two parties entering into a financial discussion.
A lot has been written on the subject already – most believe Van Persie made a bad judgement call in trying to keep fans onside while justifying a possible move. There are those who feel his motivations are purely financial, while others believe Van Persie is right to have lost faith in Arsenal’s ability to challenge for titles. Like Alisher Usmanov, many have laid the blame firmly on the shoulders of the board. And of course, there is always a small section of fans that believe it’s Arsene Wenger’s stubbornness to spend big that has led to another star player departing.
I have previously voiced reservations about allowing players to dictate the club’s transfer policies, be it your star player or club captain. And I stick by that. If Van Persie believes his ideas might work better than Arsene Wenger’s, he is free to give up playing and start coaching. That time may come for the Dutchman, but it is certainly not in the present and he should be humble enough to accept that. The statement issued by him points to a lack of humility – Robin van Persie is effectively saying what some fans were singing at the Emirates in January – Arsene Wenger, you don’t know what you’re doing. It certainly does not show the respect he claims to have for the manager.
But specifically, just how does the club’s vision differ from Van Persie’s? Did he want certain players signed, did he want lucrative extensions for some of his team-mates, did he ask that a specific number of players be brought in? Perhaps Van Persie did have Arsenal’s best interests at heart, but is he more qualified than Arsene Wenger to make decisions on player recruitment, wage negotiations and future strategy? If Theo Walcott has a cracking 2012-13 (assuming he’s still at Arsenal come 1st september), should Theo be allowed the same privilege this time next year? And surely Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud would be considered ambitious signings by anyone’s standards?
It seems to me this is merely a case of a highly opinionated player feeling snubbed by the club’s refusal to take his demands into consideration, whatever those may be. It has manifested itself in a petulance at odds with the maturity shown by the Dutchman in the past 18 months. It has been his improvement as a person over the past season that makes his latest outburst hard to take.
Will Arsenal win trophies without Van Persie? I admit our chances are reduced without him but my connection to Arsenal is not with the trophies in the cabinet but with the philosophy the club has adopted over the years, especially since Arsene Wenger’s arrival and the move to the Emirates. It’s not about rights issues, low-interest bank loans or even FFP, it’s about keeping your house in order. Regardless of what the Sheikhs and Oligarchs would have you believe, football clubs will have to deal with the fallout of wage inflation and that reckoning will come sooner rather than later. Doing the right things pays in the end, and Arsenal are doing the right thing in not going bust while chasing titles.
A quick note to Robin – regardless of the manner of your departure, I will always appreciate your contribution to the Arsenal in 2011-12. Not just for the priceless goals but also for the leadership you showed during a difficult time for the club. Your form, fitness and class were crucial to clinching that vital Champions League spot in a season of terrible lows and terrific highs. And whatever your personal feelings during the campaign, your professionalism both on and off the field cannot be questioned.
You may even be right about Arsenal lacking your vision and ambition – although the moral victory would have been yours if you’d raised the question when lying on the treatment table for about five of your eight years at the club. A transfer request during one of those spells on the sidelines would certainly have convinced us of your lofty goals.
Still, I thank you for the entertainment you provided when you took to the field in the Arsenal red & white. And wish you well.
Thoughts on the Usmanov statement tomorrow. In the meantime Gunners, stay positive.