As Meatloaf once famously said: This is big time, this is larger than life.
Robin “Stapleton” van Persie is a Manchester United player. Barring the striker breaking his toe on the treadmill during his medical, RVP will sign for the Red Devils for a fee mooted around the £23 million mark.
If the news were not bad enough, it comes as Barcelona jet into London to secure the signing of Alex Song for a reported £15 million.
I’ll confess I’m cranking out the Gotye right now. We all had our hopes that RVP was different from the rest a long time ago. That hurt still lingers even a whole month after his famous ‘statement to the fans’. And to cap it all off, Alex Ferguson got to rediscover his ‘buying every league title since 1992’ touch with a filthy wad of fivers shoved into Arsenal’s back pocket.
Losing these two players can be justified or crucified either way. But what nobody can deny is it is yet another enormous gamble by Arsene Wenger. While commenting on France’s friendly against Uruguay, Wenger had this to say on RVP:
“We already recruited to replace him.
“It’s sad to lose a player of his quality. He had a year left on his contract so we didn’t have the choice.”
There are plenty of blogs and news providers that will give you the apocalyptic version of what could befall Arsenal this season. No doubt, we’ll yet again be mooted to fall outside the top four. But while trophies remain illusive, it must be noted that every time Arsenal has gotten rid of a ‘big player’ since Thierry Henry, the club actually improved its league standing the immediate season after.
After Henry left for Barcelona, Arsenal finished third with 83 points in 2007/08. Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri’s dual departure saw us crash and burn in that 8-2 Old Trafford humbling, only for Arsenal to miraculously recover and finish third last season, an improvement from the diabolical fourth (and League Cup loss) with both those players involved.
RVP’s departure will start off something a bit different from the usual ‘wait until he comes to the Emirates so we can boo him into the ground’ variety. For those of the bitter-and-twisted sort, we can now start up an RVP Injury Watch, in the vain hope that United have somehow pissed away 23 million big ones.
It’s a theory with plenty going for it. RVP’s one and only full season without injury since 2005 produced a stunning 30 league goals and individual honours aplenty. But before then, his appearances in an Arsenal shirt read like dialogue in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sporadic, rare and spaced out by long bits of nothing.
Approaching 30 years of age, one can only hope the permacrock lives up to his previous form and spends months keeping United’s physios busy, like he has for the majority of his Arsenal career. Call me petty, but if that had not been the case with Arsenal, the team would have won the trophies he was crying baby tears for.
Similarly, Arsenal fans can only be expected to dabble in Schadenfreude and wish injury upon RVP. His signing is seen as United strengthening and Arsenal yet again giving ground to its rivals. An RVP injury would negate the whole equation, apart from our club being a little bit richer. Already rumours abound over Javier Hernandez getting a bit shifty over the added competition for his spot at United, to which I’d urge patience. He’ll probably get more starts than he expects.
As for Song, I can only miss a guy who wears sunglasses inside a private jet so much. This kind of thing should be part and parcel of every scouting report on our players. I’d even go so far as adding a mental attribute in all new Football Manager games: douchebaggery. Good riddance.
It is beyond pivotal that Arsenal secure a replacement for Song. We can forego his creative output last season as the majority of his Hollywood passes and assists were chalked up thanks to RVP’s finishing abilities. With him gone, I would expect Song to be less productive in that capacity anyway.
But I wouldn’t see Song continue to try regardless, which would compound the fact he ignores his primary goal of defending for the team. The great irony of his move to Barcelona is he’s doomed to become a centre-back rather than some creative showpiece. But he’ll have enough money to buy more raybans and fly in more private jets.
The Nuri Sahin rumours (‘he’s a banker for Arsenal’) seem to be gravitating around Liverpool, while I’m still hugely doubtful Wenger will move for M’Vila with questions over his temperament.
Francis Coquelin did feature quite heavily in preseason. He’s been earmarked as a future first teamer and he’s shown tremendous performances both in central midfield and at right back when thrown into the mix. But Francis is yet another young player that could really do with a senior figure above him. Someone with the pedigree of a transfer fee, coming in from outside the club, with knowledge and experience to share.
Who that player is (if at all) is anybody’s guess.