And so the worst news comes to pass to break me out of my two-day blogging break: Robin van Persie’s statement on his official website saying he will not sign a new contract.
The move has completely blindsided the club, the manager and the CEO, who apparently have all blasted agent Kees Vos over the phone in the past few hours.
In the statement, van Persie says:
“I have kept quiet all this time out of respect and loyalty for the club and as agreed with Mr Gazidis and Mr Wenger, but since there is so much speculation in the media, I think it is fair for you guys to know what’s really going on at the moment,” Van Persie said.
“As announced earlier this year I had a meeting with the boss (Wenger) and Mr Gazidis after the season.
“This was a meeting about the club’s future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all.
“I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days.
“Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal should move forward.”
Arsenal fans have lauded the early signings of Podolski and Giroud, who looked like a show of the hand from the club to show van Persie we meant business and still had plenty of intent.
This hasn’t been good enough for van Persie, whose eight years of service has yielded just one FA Cup as well as the sympathies of Britain’s press, who say the striker has been loyal enough to the Gunners to warrant a move away.
‘Loyalty’ is a pretty scurrilous word, there. Yes, RVP has spent eight years at the club, but until the past two seasons, constantly wore the ‘permacrock’ moniker.
Usually struggling to make more than 20 games a season, van Persie’s injury woes blighted him for many years, leaving him absent on many occasions where we desperately needed him for a title push.
He may feel there was no-one around him in 2010/11 when his amazing scoring streak began in the second half of the season, only for the form of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas to dip sharply.
His scoring boots stayed on for the whole of last season; the first in which he stayed fit throughout the campaign. But the stars were very much misaligned, as management bungled the preseason with Nasri and Fabregas’s departures and the team started not so much on the back foot as much as flailing to regain any footing.
No bones about it: van Persie got us into the Champions League and in so doing, repaid his £2.5 million transfer fee many times over.
Arsenal FC has itself to blame in so many ways over this saga. But yet again, it is another instance of players failing to acknowledge their own failings in a club’s demise. If RVP had been fit in 2007, or 2009, Arsenal may very well have had a trophy or two to show off.
In both those seasons, Arsenal had strength in depth as, without van Persie’s goals, the club made a fist of a title challenge and a Champions League run.
Now the club has shown its hand in acquiring exciting backup to his skills up front, and are actively seeking out competition for Alex Song in midfield.
The result? The club captain releasing a statement in the dead of night and nearly crippling Arsenal’s bargaining stance.
Arsenal must make the decision immediately: sell now, or not at all. If we do sell to City, do it on the condition we get Dzeko. He’s not the equal of van Persie, but City never played to his strengths and maybe we can. Otherwise, sell abroad, get some compensation and pump it straight back into the side.
If we don’t, he needs to be stripped of the captaincy. Future planning (if such a thing exists at Arsenal) begins now. Give the armband to someone reliable, someone who could be around for a few years yet. After only one season of top-flight football, Jack Wilshere is too young and too inexperienced. Thomas Vermaelen could be promoted, but the links emerging with Barcelona are already disconcerting.
My choice? Bacary Sagna. No nonsense, hard as nails and totally reliable.
One could easily sell the ‘stripping’ of the Arsenal captaincy to RVP by telling him – you have one season left with us. If you still want your big pay-day at another club, use this as a shop window. Play for us like you mean it, without the pressure of captaincy. Blood in the new strikers, and leave on a free. But do it like it matters, like it counts.
If there’s any whiff that this won’t be the case, bench him. I’m talking reserves bench. If player power is bandied about as much it is these days, it’s about time we got all Alex Ferguson on him and bit back.
I don’t expect to see that kind of hard-line stance. It’s an atrocious state of affairs. So much for being ‘halfway to a title tilt’. Knowing RVP’s luck, he’ll probably return to his injury-hit ways at his new club, but picks up a trophy off the back of other players’ work.
Excuse the bitterness. But I’m very slowly learning not to get too attached to the mercenaries which dominate the football landscape.