Arsenal. Class 2012. Baffling. Now dead. Now resurrected. Phoenix. A Gooner observed.
Their victory over Tottenham Hotspur, after going behind by two goals was a demonstration in resilience and spirit.
Their fightback after the Milan disaster, almost overhauling the four-goal deficit incurred at Milan, beating AC Milan three-nil at the Emirates, only emphasizes the enigmatic nature of the present class.
From such adjectives as "fragile," and headlines such as "20 Things Wrong with Arsenal," and "It is time for Wenger to Go?" the media has had to find other adjectives and headlines in the past two weeks.
The Guardian called the Milan rout "Glorious Failure", an adjective this writer had also used, writing immediately after the match. The Guardian, again, called the Tottenham humiliation "a pulsating display."
Whatever the critics think of Arsenal, there is one man about whom opinion is unanimous—Robin van Persie.
Last year he equaled and then surpassed the club record of most scored goals in a calender year, held by Thierry Henry at 34 goals and fell just one short of equaling Alan Shearer's Premier League record of 36 goals.
Since becoming fit, Van Persie cannot stop scoring. Already he has 25 Premier League goals and 32 goals in all competition this season.
Everyone is agreed. It'd be a shame if Arsenal were to let him go. But it is not a question of letting him go, it is more of affording to retain him.
Robin van Persie has yet to agree on talks to extend his contract, set to expire in about a year.
He has been consistent in insisting that talks be postponed until summer. So, although Arsenal have attempted twice to initiate talks, this can only happen with the cooperation of Van Persie.
Arsenal do not have the cooperation as yet. Van Persie insists this is nothing. Speaking to The Sun, he says:
I have been at the club for eight years and I am proud of that.
I am a true Gunner. I love this club and that is no secret.
I will sit down with the manager and president at the end of the season and we will have coffee together.
We will talk about many things but I already do that quite often with the manager anyway.
Speculations are that Robin van Persie wants to gauge the club's ambition towards wanting to win trophies in the coming season before committing his life to the club for another four years, an ambition that would lead the club to sign a few notable names.
If this is true, no one can blame Van Persie.
Arsenal have played Champions League football every year, a tradition and achievement the players want to retain this season.
That, though, for most players, is not ambition enough.
Robin van Persie, thus, would be justified—at least in the estimation of some—if he decides to leave to a club like Barcelona, a club that can guarantee him silverware.
If he decides to leave, he wouldn't be short of suitors. Rumors have linked him with Spain's two top clubs, and even with the cash rich Manchester City.
The big question remains therefore: Will he or will he not leave?
In the following slides, I discuss 10 reasons why I think he'd stay.
Back in August of 2011 when news broke that Arsene Wenger had made Robin van Persie Arsenal's new captain on the wake of Cesc Fabregas' departure, a writer, writing for The Real Arsenal opined:
"Robin inherited the captaincy out of seniority, talent and position – not for leadership qualities. The Dutchman is determined, but rarely noted for his bravery or communication."
This writer had surely not watch Robin van Persie score Arsenal's equalizer in the disastrous Carling Cup final, where the Dutchman got injured scoring the goal. The angle of the ball as it arrived in Birmingham's penalty area smelt danger.
There was no way Van Persie could hit the ball without hitting someone and likely incurring an injury.
Hit it, he did. Injured, he became.
If that wasn't bravery, I don't know what it was.
As for the communication part, here's what someone who knows better says:
Robin has matured from the boy who was a little bit emotionally impulsive when he arrived to the guy he is today,” said the manager.
It was difficult to predict but he is intelligent, he speaks his mind and you can talk to him as well. He takes advice and overall he has developed very well.
I think he has a combination of leadership on the pitch. He is technically a super-talent, certainly, and you gain respect from the others. Now he has added the second part, that means speaking his mind. It means you get a kind of credit
The word is that when Arsenal went to the dressing room two goals down to Aston Villa in the FA Cup clash in which Arsenal came back to win 3-2, via two second half goals, Robin van Persie made an inspiring pitch to his teammates to go win it.
So much for a person who is "rarely noted for communication."
What about the leadership part?
Daily Mail reported last December on how Robin van Persie and wife Bouchra have forged a more sociable and unified Arsenal, arranging and coordinating outings and parties, despite the fact that Robin van Persie does not drink.
I cull extensively.
The Dutch striker is the new controlling force at the club, rebuilding team spirit in the aftermath of the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, marshalling players on and off the pitch....
Under the Dutchman, Arsenal are developing a camaraderie off the pitch where club insiders say the influence of Van Persie and his wife, Bouchra, has been enormous....
The couple have been organising golf days and nights out at restaurants for the team and their partners. Insiders say the squad are socialising in a way that has not been seen for years, with Bouchra taking care of the wives and girlfriends and her husband mobilising the players.
And in doing so they seem to be forging a team spirit. Arsenal were once labelled fragile but now appear to have developed a backbone.
In the same report, Van Persie is quoted as saying.
'[Becoming captain] has been a kind of natural process. Off the pitch you notice it. I organise the group social outings, which ranges from a night out to a golf day. 'If I didn't do it, no one else would but I really enjoy doing this. And now I'm getting help from Thomas Vermaelen and different players. Everyone joins in organising.'
Daily Mail interpreted this to mean commitment to the club from the captain:
Van Persie's commitment to the team is enormously encouraging for the club. He may be out of contract in 2013, not currently in talks about a new deal and unlikely even to consider the club's offer until the end of the season, but he is not behaving like a man who wants to leave.
I am bound to agree. A person who doesn't care for the club may not go to this length to make sure the team 'has a life.'
Although longevity at club counts for little in a player's life when the chips are down, still, the fact that Van Persie has spent the better part of his adult life at Arsenal could be a factor in his decision to stay or not.
On the one hand it may mean he has stayed long enough and it may be time to seek other challenges, on the other hand, it may mean home to him, where he has made his name.
Let's give the man, himself, the last word:
I have been at the club for eight years and I am proud of that.
I am a true Gunner. I love this club and that is no secret.
In late December, Robin van Persie spoke the following words to reporters regarding the life of his family in London.
We love the life in London and I enjoy watching my kids grow up here. They grow up like the English kids with good manners and values of England.
The place where we live, just outside the city, is fantastic. We have everything we want.
The English people are so incredibly polite where I live. People are nice here. That makes life a real pleasure.
My children have become more English than Dutch. They have taken up the culture and values of England.
It makes me melt at times when I see how well my children are doing here. When Shaqueel has half-term with school, he does not want to go back to the Netherlands any more.
When it comes to moving or not, this could be a factor in Van Persie's decision.
David Beckham's decision to stay on a LA Galaxy rather than move to PSG has a lot to do with avoiding uprooting his family and exposing them to the ordeal of adjusting to another city.
But again, when decision time comes this could mean little...or it could mean much.
When Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007, after eight glorious seasons in north London, the joke was that he needed an additional business-class seat for his ego. He had almost transcended the club with his personality and status, and his departure was considered by some as necessary for the younger players to blossom. Henry had become such a focal point that his team-mates would feel compelled to seek the pass to him even when it was not on.
I am inclined to argue that the departure of Cesc Fabregas was necessary for the emergence and blossoming of Robin van Persie.
Prior to this season, no one would have considered Robin van Persie Arsenal's alpha star. Without doubt, it was Cesc Fabregas, even though Van Persie's ability has never been in doubt.
Sometimes it's necessary for someone to leave so that another may flourish. The argument, though, has to end there.
Big clubs have to accommodate a number of stars and egos, which means the stars themselves must learn to adapt.
But for alpha dogs such as Thierry Henry and now Robin van Persie, it could be somewhat jarring to no longer be the center of attention, but simply another fish in the pond.
Although biology could have been a factor in Henry's case, the fact that he never recreated his Arsenal form after he left could have something to do with this factor. But again, this simply is a conjecture.
But more cogent is this factor—the fact that the current system revolves technically around Van Persie, just as it did around Cesc Fabregas before he left.
This means that Van Persie may not recreate his current form at another club, where the system and emphasis may be different. It may be the factor that is affecting Samir Nasri, a case in point.
It might be best, then, for Van Persie to stay on at Arsenal if he wants to consolidate his current achievements there.
Staying on at Arsenal will enable Robin van Persie to build on his achievements and leave a legacy at the club.
Already, he has surpassed Thierry Henry as the club's highest scorer in a calendar year. He is just one goal short of breaking the Premier League record. If he continues scoring at the rate he is going, he may yet break that record.
That's immortality for you there.
It is the difference between an also-ran and being the theme of the story.
Cesc Fabregas currently is just another also-ran at Barcelona. Had he stayed at Arsenal, especially with the way the team was built around him, he could still be the focal point of Arsenal's current story.
Thierry Henry had already achieved so much at Arsenal, so that when he left, he was already in the twilight of his career. The same isn't true of Robin van Persie.
He now is just peaking as a player; he is just attaining the height of his powers, and so, if he is thinking of leaving behind a legacy somewhere as a player, this is not the time to move.
For, as I have observed above, the adjustment period and the fact that he might not be the focal point of his new team might affect his productivity, which might result in him becoming a bench warmer.
Therefore, although money is important, I am inclined to think that what matters more is legacy, immortality.
How many rich people have died forgotten? So, riches are not what matter most in life. Name does. I believe Van Persie has a higher chance of making a name for himself at Arsenal than elsewhere.
If this thought crosses his mind, it might persuade him to stay on at Arsenal.
Bob van Persie, Robin van Persie's father tells the following story to Daily Mail.
It has nothing to do with Arsenal...not yet.
The Van Persies had two girls when Bob met a woman in an art gallery. She approached him, explained she was a fortune teller and said his next child would be a boy.
When Robin was two weeks old, his father tracked down the woman to find out more. She said school would not interest him but, when it came to sport, he would be ‘a king’, ‘a Ferrari’.
He was, she explained, ‘an extraordinary boy’ who would play football for the Netherlands and earn money by the ‘bucketful’.
‘Every time the ball went out, he shot it back in a way I had never seen before.
‘From the first time I saw him, I knew this would be a Superman. He would run to training from his house, juggling the ball all the way.
‘Even when it was raining and training was cancelled, Robin would call and ask if he could come and train with me. Of course, that wasn’t a problem.'
I would say: “Robin, do your homework, it is important you have your diploma” but everyone was saying: “Robin, you’re going to be like Johan Cruyff”.
I can’t imagine what he was thinking. It was like: “Talk to the hand”.‘Some teachers had problems with that kind of attitude. In football, you can break a leg and it’s over.
But, at the moment, he is one of the greatest. When you see that goal against Everton, it is “A la Cruyff”.‘When you talk about the great Dutch players it is Cruyff and it is Bergkamp but in the future it will be Van Persie. We realised this 15 years ago.
Bergkamp...that's the connection.
It is said that Arsene Wenger bought the 21-year-old Robin van Persie from Feyenoord as replacement for Dennis Bergkamp, an Arsenal legend.
At Feyenoord, Daily Mail continues the narrative,
Van Marwijk struggled with the impetuous Van Persie and exiled him to the reserves before selling him to Arsenal for £2.75million in 2004.
Even by Arsene Wenger’s standards, it was a bargain.‘Feyenoord didn’t treat him well,’ says Hessel.
‘They labelled him a very difficult boy but Robin was not a difficult boy. Van Marwijk was keeping him out of the team and that’s when Arsenal came in. Feyenoord might regret their attitude.’
Bob van Persie’s art reflects the two decades he has spent watching his son play football. He sculpts tiny individual figures from old newspapers and magazines and creates a crowd at a match.
Hanging on a wall in his studio is a new work, which includes tiny flashlights to recreate the cameras which flicker in the crowd when a player nears the touchline. ‘I love the Emirates,’ he says. ‘I prefer it to Highbury.’
Using pages torn from the Arsenal Magazine, Bob created a work which hangs inside the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger rescued Van Persie from Van Marwijk and Feyenoord and gave him a chance even though the early Van Persie at Arsenal wasn't very easy to deal with, but that's where nurturing and mentoring are required come into the picture.
Robin van Persie got that at Arsenal and in Wenger. Moreover, Arsenal and Wenger have stood by Van Persie in his injury plagued years at Arsenal, which is just about every year he has been at Arsenal except this season.
It is part of his history.
It is something he should remember and appreciate.
If he remembers it and appreciates it, it could be a big factor in his decision to stay or not.
In the light of the foregoing, that may not seem so, but let's explain by appealing to Sonja Lagendijk from the Daily Mail article.
"All boys are rascals He has a big salary but he likes the spirit of the game, he doesn’t play for money."
How does she know this?
Well, she worked for years with young Van Persie. Some people can tell a person's character by observing them in their developmental years.
Moreover, when you listen to some of Van Persie's tweets, he seems like a down-to-earth family man, not a hot-head celebrity that he could choose to be if he likes.
Refer to the following pictures from his Twitter account:
The dad and his kids.
"We have a new family member!!!! Its mr snowman himself LOL," tweets Robin van Persie.
"Shaqueel made this for daddy @Persie_Official How cute!!" A tweet from Bouchra van Persie.
"Had a lovely afternoon with my gorgeous wife @Bouchra_vP ☺ who's new on twitter, welcome babes," is the tag that accompanies this one.
"Nah," says a Manchester United fan who then could proceed to dig out cuter tweets and pictures of Wayne Rooney and his family than these ones of Van Persie, or a Liverpool fan of Luis Suarez, or even an AC Milan fan of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
And the list could go on.
So this, in itself, means little.
But if Sonja Lagendijk is right and Van Persie does not play football because of money per se, then being a down-to-earth father and husband could mean that Van Persie may know a thing or two about things that matter.
The fact that Arsenal have been loyal to him, and the fact that his family loves it in London could be strong factors that convince him to stay.
Manchester City and Roberto Mancini are at it again. They want Robin van Persie. Why do they even think Robin van Persie would consider playing for them?
They have money, of course.
Mancini has hailed Van Persie as “one of the best strikers in Europe”, and says he will target the Dutchman in the summer.
The Italian has already raided the Gunners for Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy since being hired by City in 2009.
Although Mancini claims he expects Van Persie to sign a new deal and stay with the Gunners, his expression of interest will worry and infuriate Arsenal fans - and is a clear signal that mega-rich City are ready to test van Persie’s commitment.
Readers would recall that that's how City and Mancini unsettled Samir Nasri, a prelude to their signing him at a salary Arsenal couldn't afford to pay Nasri. I suppose they are convinced they can do the same with Van Persie.
But having become Arsenal's most important player, having risen to the rank of captain, I'm not sure Van Persie would go the way of Nasri.
I am guessing that many Gooners would forgive Van Persie were he to leave for either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
But to City?
That would give a new meaning to betrayal.
Many players won't do it. I don't think Van Persie will do it. But again, I only observe from a far distant.
Arsene Wenger said the following after the Liverpool match that Arsenal won 2-1.
We will do anything possible to keep him.
I cannot say much more because I have said that many times.
I am very proud that he has grown, having seen the boy arrive here timid and today being the player he is and the leader of the team he has become....
It was vital for us to win the game.
I must say it is hard for Liverpool to lose the game, they had a very good first half and we were not in the game.
I felt Liverpool played with a pace above us in the first half and our fluency was not there at all and we gave them too much room.
But as long as you are not killed off in this Premier League you always have a chance because every team has quality strikers to score a goal.
We hung on and played as well as we could and our goalkeeper and our centre-forward made the difference today.
What was flattering for us was to be 1-1 at half-time and in the second half I thought it was much more level.
They had to win the game and but we know we have Van Persie who can give you something special and overall it was not one of our best games but we refused to give in.
Emphases are mine.
Rob Hughes of the New York Times writes:
Wenger is a van Persie admirer, there is no doubt about that. But when the manager is criticized by ex-players who say he has erred by allowing van Persie’s contract to wind down to the point where it only has 15 months to run, what can he say?
Maybe that for many of the seven years van Persie has belonged to Arsenal, he has suffered injuries that made him a very expensive onlooker.
His goals have coincided not just with Arsenal’s need for a principal striker, but with health and fitness that he never enjoyed before.
Wenger admires Van Persie and would love to keep him, just as he had wanted to keep Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Mirror Football reported the following a few days ago:
Arsenal are ready to give Van Persie a £4m signing-on fee plus over £100,000 a week to fend off the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Juventus.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “I am convinced we have the funds to be able to compete at the very highest levels of the game.
“We will spend the money the club generates on our playing staff. The better and more efficiently we can do that, the more successful we will be.”
Whether Mirror Football's report is true or not, it stand to strong reason that if Arsenal want to really compete for trophies next season, they have to find a way to convince Robin van Persie to stay, and offering him a salary that is commensurate with his status is a good starting point.
Report, fresh from the oven, states that Arsenal have signed Lukas Podolski, who will join the club in the summer from FC Köln.
Lukas Podolski is poised to join Arsenal from Köln at the end of the season after the clubs reached an agreement in principle on a £10.9m transfer. The Germany striker is expected to sign a four-year contract worth £100,000 a week, according to sources in Germany
If, as has been speculated, Robin van Persie's dalliance at signing a new contract is so he can gauge Arsenal's ambition towards competing for trophies, then the signing of Podolski, even before the summer window opens, should be a good sign.
It is said that Arsenal have the same kind of agreement with Matias Suarez, the Argentine striker who plays for R.S.C. Anderlecht of Belgium.
If Arsenal can consolidate the Podolski signing (if indeed it's true) by acquiring a world-class creative midfielder to complement the option Arsenal already have, then, if indeed, this is the reason why Van Persie hasn't signed, it should convince him that the club at last is poised to compete for trophies.
“Without the others, I am nothing.” Robin van Persie said after the Liverpool victory.
Of Wojciech Szczęsny's exploits in this match, he said: “For me personally, Szczesny was our man of the match. He’s a world-class goalkeeper.”
Gervinho told Arsenal, back in January, to keep Van Persie.
I don't want Robin van Persie to be sold. Arsenal is a team that needs great footballers and leaders on the pitch.
And Robin is a player that pushes his teammates to work more and do more during a match.
It is a dream to play with him. He is the captain, the leader of the group, there is no doubt.
I could see it from my very first day at the club. I believe when our adversaries see Robin in the team, it is a huge psychological shock.
Arsenal is a team that needs great footballers indeed. They are what have been missing at Arsenal in the past six years. Robin van Persie is one of those.
Mikel Arteta wants Van Persie to stay, so does Theo Walcott, and it can only benefit younger players if he stays.
"I do not see van Persie leaving Arsenal," says Mikel Arteta.
He is completely unaffected by interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona and not thinking about his contract renewal either.
Now he is very calm and is not nervous about anything. I know he has said that in the summer he will consider things, talk it over and take the decision that he will take.
Szczesny, the Arsenal goalkeeper, thinks Van Persie will stay.
We are trying to make the most of it while he is here, he is a great captain and leader of the team and we are very pleased to have him.
I'm personally confident that he will stay at Arsenal. That is where he belongs and that is where he is at his very best.
Robin does his talking on the pitch by scoring all the goals for this club and I think that shows you his commitment.
It might be devastating to the players to lose Van Persie. The tacit pleas from his teammate should help persuade him to stay.
These 10 points mean little. They are talking points at most.
When all is said and done, it is Robin van Persie who must make up his mind to stay at Arsenal or to leave.
We can only hope that he stays.
We also hope that the club does its best to try to keep him, after that, it'd be left to Van Persie to decide whatever he wishes.
If he stays, great, but if he decides to leave, then more grease to his elbow. We must remember that no one player is greater than a football club. Arsenal will soldier on without Van Persie.
We have before, after Cesc Fabregas.
Still, the better wish is that Robin van Persie retires at Arsenal.