With his brutal statement criticising Wenger and stating his desire to leave, Robin van Persie has burnt bridges. Here's why he might regret it, and has let many people down...
As I sit here writing, tears dropping down onto my keyboard (joking of course, I’m now emotionally numbed by the van Persie bombshell), it strikes me that when writing about the Robin van Persie situation, it’s impossible to do so without taking into account my love for the club, and what was my immense affection for the player. So instead of a thoughtful, analytical and logical article from my encephalon (thank you thesaurus), I’m going to let my heart do the talking.
Robin van Persie has been adored by Arsenal fans, worshipped as not just a hero, but the hero in this team. He was made captain by Arsène Wenger, the man who transformed him from a truant winger into one of the most feared strikers in the world; the winner of the Premier League Golden Boot, not to mention the various Player of the Year accolades he picked up recently.
I sang myself hoarse at the Emirates Stadium in the last few years singing van Persie’s praises. He replaced Cesc Fabregas as the target of my player-specific affections – Fabregas was my first proper hero, as I was slightly too young for Bergkamp, Henry et al, and his move to Barcelona was heart-breaking. And now van Persie turns his back on us too, as if the club hasn’t taken enough damage in the last few summers.
8 years he has spent in North London. Dennis Bergkamp was his hero, and he saw how much Arsenal fans loved and still love the non-flying Dutchman. It seemed as if van Persie would follow in his footsteps; he wore the number 10 shirt with pride, and soon was donning the captain’s armband.
There would be nothing more satisfying, surely, for van Persie than to stay at Arsenal, help the Gunners grow and win a title, overhauling moneybags such as Chelsea and Manchester City.
Dennis Bergkamp famously said this: “I really like Arsenal. But you, do you really like Arsenal? Or just with trophies?” – it seems as if for van Persie, trophies come before anything else.
The Dutch striker has almost irreparably burnt his bridges at Arsenal. His entire 8 year career with the Gunners, full of spectacular goals and warm memories, has been tarnished. As Matt Law said for the Sunday Mirror, he’s tarnished his legacy. But is it really worth it?
Nowhere else will he be as loved by the fans as here. 8 years of hard work and he’s willing to throw that away because to him, trophies and nothing else define careers. But take Aleksandr Hleb – at Arsenal, he was a vital part of the team, appreciated by fans. He left for Barcelona in search of silverware, and although he found what he was looking for, it can’t have been too satisfying – he was a bit-part player, nowhere near as prominent as at Arsenal, and you imagine if he hadn’t been there, Barcelona would still have won the trophies they did.
While trophies seem like the end to justify all means to some, surely the satisfaction comes in the way you do it? There would be nothing more satisfying, surely, for van Persie than to stay at Arsenal, help the Gunners grow and win a title, overhauling moneybags such as Chelsea and Manchester City.
Surely a career defined by a legacy, pride and loyalty, and ever-lasting respect and affection, is more gratifying than one defined by a tale of giving up when it got too hard?
Instead, it seems like van Persie is going to take the easy way out, and jump on the bandwagon of a team who would probably win something without him. You could argue that the satisfaction is in breaking into the team, but it would surely feel hollow winning the Premier League with Manchester City.
Van Persie must know from the immediate reactions of almost everyone that he has basically severed his bond with the majority of Arsenal fans. He could have gone down in history as an Arsenal legend, with a statue outside the Emirates Stadium. But he’s thrown it all away.
Surely a career defined by a legacy, pride and loyalty, and ever-lasting respect and affection, is more gratifying than one defined by a tale of giving up when it got too hard and jumping ship, no matter how many trophies won afterwards?
He claimed he would “always be a Gunner” – exactly what Thierry Henry said upon leaving, which leaves yet more bitterness in the mouths of Arsenal fans – yet he has just delivered the ultimate stab in the back to the club. As captain and talisman of this team, he’s expected to set the example for players, to be Mr Dependable; not leave when the going gets a bit too tough. Initial fears that he was not ready for the responsibility of the captaincy had been at first dismissed after he united the team, but now it seems as if those who questioned the appointment were right all along.
Not only have the fans been unflinchingly loyal to van Persie, but Arsène Wenger made him what he is. Van Persie owes a huge debt to Wenger, yet is deserting him when he needs him most.
Arsenal fans have had some torrid summers, and it seemed like this might be different – van Persie wasn’t like Nasri or Adebayor, he would stay right? Then we’d be able to strengthen around him, and improve on last season. In one fell swoop, he’s just completely crushed the optimism surrounding the club; the default gloom replacing the unfamiliar positivity.
A word too for Arsène Wenger. Not only have the fans been unflinchingly loyal to van Persie, but Arsène Wenger made him what he is. He stood by him during his injury problems, and his run-in with the police. Van Persie owes a huge debt to Wenger, yet is deserting him when he needs him most.
It’s all a little too familiar for Arsenal fans, always on the verge of something but being let down by impatient, greedy players who think the grass is always greener. Once again a team will have to be rebuilt from the rubble left by players throwing their toys out of the pram.
Champions League qualification is essential for the long-term future of the club, and if we miss out because a new-look team doesn’t hit the ground running, there could be even bigger problems on the horizon.
It’s an almost impossible situation now – Arsenal had to put together an almost all-new team in order to cope with the loss of Cesc Fabregas, and van Persie is as important as Fabregas was. That’s the problem with having a team built around one player. There’s no ready-made replacement, already integrated, adapted and settled into the team, to step into the hole left, as with when Henry left for example.
Arsenal will face another transition if they sell van Persie – transitions during a season can be disastrous as we found out last season, from the 8-2 at Old Trafford to the disastrous 4-3 loss to Blackburn. We were left behind after that poor start, as players adapted and the team learned to cope without Fabregas and Nasri, and the same could happen again without van Persie. The club survived, qualifying for the Champions League, but only just. Champions League qualification is essential for the long-term future of the club, and if we miss out because a new-look team doesn’t hit the ground running, there could be even bigger problems on the horizon.
On the other hand, many fans will be opposed to van Persie staying – as mentioned earlier, he’s torched his relationship with the supporters, who will take a huge deal of winning over. A massive U-turn would be required for van Persie to lead the line in the final year of his contract.
Whatever way you look at it, van Persie has put Arsenal in a horrible situation – the classic ‘rock and a hard place’ scenario. Arsène Wenger and the fans certainly deserve better. But who cares when you can win trophies? After all, winning is everything, right?
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