If Arsenal thought there was a lot at stake when they took the pitch against West Brom on Sunday afternoon, it's nothing compared to what rests on the outcome of the coming weeks.
While fans of the club will rightly bask in the glow of third place and a guaranteed Champions League spot, it's time to address the future of Robin van Persie, and Arsenal cannot slip up when it comes to their captain.
Throughout the season, when it seemed like all was lost, it was Van Persie who put the club on his back. The Dutch striker was the heart and soul of the Gunners, as he dragged his teammates to victory after victory with his dynamic performances.
Arsenal's talisman notched 30 of the Gunners' 74 goals (a whopping 40.5 percent) in 2011-12, and helped ensure that Arsene Wenger and company would continue to feature in the Champions League.
Van Persie has a year left on his contract, and with Euro 2012 looming on the horizon, club and player will sit down in the near future to talk about his future at the Emirates, a conversation that will determine a lot about Arsenal's intentions as a club.
Per BBC Sport:
"We will have a chat next week somewhere with the boss [Wenger] and Ivan Gazidis," Van Persie said.
When asked if his future will be sorted out quickly one way or another, he said: "You never know but Arsenal is a massive club, a great club.
"I have been playing here for eight years and I love this club. Whatever happens that will never change."
Much will be made of these comments, but the truth is that Arsenal has to prove their intent to ensure that Van Persie will continue to captain the Gunners into the future. Obtaining the signature of Lukas Podolski was a good start, but it's only a drop in the bucket if the club is going to return to the heights they once reached.
Wenger must toss aside his antiquated wage structure and offer his star player a contract worthy of his immense talent and stature. Now is not the time to haggle with someone that means so much in terms of keeping Arsenal competitive.
Not only that, but it's time to cut the dead weight that has long sat on the bench and free up space for smart, aggressive transfer business. Players like Marouane Chamakh need to go, and viable replacements need to be brought in to solidify the roster.
Where Will Robin Van Persie Play Next Season?
This is easier said than done, but has to happen to make the Gunners the competitive force they once were. For far too long, the club has been linked to top talent, only to watch it sign elsewhere. The days of haggling for signatures needs to end, and Wenger needs to put money into the transfer market to give Arsenal the depth and attacking venom they sorely lacked this season.
Van Persie means many things to fans of the club, and to see him go elsewhere a year after Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri walked out the door would be a hammer blow to the hearts and minds of Gooners everywhere.
This is Arsenal's fight to lose, and if they fail to put their money where their mouth is, they deserve to watch Van Persie tally goal after goal in another shirt next season.