Out With The Old, In With The New: Arsenal’s Rebuilding Starts Tomorrow
After early moves in the transfer market, another summer of discontent has firmly set in at Arsenal after Robin van Persie’s move to Manchester United was all but completed last night.
Twitter’s in meltdown and predictions for Arsenal’s imminent demise are back in vogue. Salting open wounds, a respected English journalist based in Spain has said that Van Persie told Cesc Fabregas last summer he’d be off at the end of the season unless Arsenal won a trophy. It seems the Dutchman was moonlighting with United since January and had every intention to move to the Red Devils. If true, it means Robin was playing for a lucrative contract all along and never intended to stay at Arsenal. Click here to listen to Graham Hunter’s radio interview (@ 31 mins).
Besides the Van Persie shocker, the other bit of news which is fueling the fire is the possibility of Alex Song leaving for Barcelona. Rumours are circulating that the Cameroonian’s attitude in training has deteriorated dramatically and there’s been a major bust-up with Arsene Wenger. Of course these are unsubstantiated reports but there’s enough chat on the subject to suspect there may be something to the story. No smoke and all that.
When you look at the transfers objectively though, it’s hard to dispute that Arsenal are perhaps taking the best course, in fact the only course open to them. As good a season as Van Persie had last time around and as much as Arsenal would have benefitted from him being in the team for this campaign, the club were always going to struggle to hold onto a discontented 29-year old entering the final year of his contract. Similarly, Alex Song’s move to Barcelona would be justified if Arsenal went out and bought a more defensively minded holding midfielder having added the creativity of Cazorla already.
But there’s no denying that the negative vibes from Van Persie’s move will have affected the team’s preparations. Selling another key member of last season’s squad will destabilise the team even more. Also, Song has a contract running for another 3 years so we don’t even have to negotiate at present. By all means, let’s sell him next season and bank the money but it’s essential we don’t rock the boat any further this summer. A poor start could undo all the positive energy generated by the three new signings.
On the other hand, perhaps it’s best that Alex Song follows Van Persie out the door. Adebayor, Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy, Van Persie, Song. The Cameroonian is the last remnant of a team of youngsters that Arsene Wenger put tremendous faith in, a group of players that did not deliver.
Players the manager stuck by through injuries and poor form. Players that he tried to shape into world-beaters. Players that went missing for one reason or another when the going got tough. A group of under-achievers really. Does the blame for their failure lie entirely with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger? Or are these players equally culpable in the failure of collective? Perhaps flushing out the remaining members of that team is the right thing to do. And as much as I like Alex Song personally, if Arsene believes he should be sold then let’s get it done with.
The one criticism I have of the club is in the handling of the PR. Until a week ago, Arsenal seemed to be in the driver’s seat with regards to Van Persie’s future. Two days after Alex Ferguson’s call, we seem to have capitulated under United’s pressure. While the reality is that Arsenal and United were surely negotiating for a while, the common perception is that the Gunners can’t hold their own against the ‘big’ boys.
As such, Arsene Wenger’s manifestation of frustration at losing RvP only adds to that impression. Maybe Ivan Gazidis and his team could do more to take the heat off the manager. Like most fans, a bit of bravado from the club at times like these would be most welcome.
Amidst all this, the Sunderland game tomorrow assumes added significance. It’s a fixture Arsenal are expected to win every year but three points this time around are crucial. The fact that many first team players travelled far and wide to play meaningless international friendlies on Wednesday makes the job that much harder. There are injury concerns as well which is not good news either.
Back tomorrow with the match preview. COYG.