Just days ago, Arsenal fans were hit by the dreaded news that captain, key goalscorer and all-around good guy Robin van Persie would not be renewing his contract. This undoubtedly sent shockwaves throughout the Arsenal fan base—but one overarching fear that was realised was that Arsenal, in not being able to lock up the Dutchman for a long-term future, had seemingly lost all ambition and had become a "selling club".
Married with van Persie's public "statement to the fans", in which he indistinctly lambasted both manager Arsene Wenger and the club's chief executive Ivan Gazidis, this created a nasty news day for Gunners' fans across the globe.
Yet within the last 24 hours, hope was perhaps reinstated, courtesy of this report from GiveMeFootball.com, which stated:
"However, according to Sky Sports News, Van Persie's contract situation is far from certain - despite his previous comments - and the Dutchman could yet pen an extension when Arsenal chief-executive Ivan Gazidis returns from holiday."
With this news potentially giving Arsenal fans hope, let's analyse the ways in which van Persie's alleged contract U-turn can spark a Premier League title challenge this season.
If these allegations prove true, this is a colossal sigh of relief for Arsenal Football Club.
Robin van Persie had what could easily be described as a career year in the red and white shirt last season, scoring 37 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions in a campaign which also saw him take the captain's armband from the departing Cesc Fabregas.
Despite his shaky form at the recent European Championship, wherein he could not lift a struggling Dutch national side (who failed to take a single point from any of their Group B clashes), Captain Vantastic remains both a potent goal threat, as the transfer speculation surrounding him indicates, and as one of the most sought-after players—let alone strikers—based primarily on his excellent 2011-12 form.
His contributions to the side proved he is far and away the most important player in the squad, and retaining the Flying Dutchman will prove absolutely vital if Arsenal are to mount a significant challenge to the stranglehold imposed by Manchester City and Manchester United atop the Premier League.
There can be no doubt in any Arsenal fans' mind that Robin van Persie was the club's player of the season and the single most important player in an Arsenal shirt last campaign—winning the PFA Player of the Year is indicative of such plaudits.
Yet even with his electrifying displays, his supporting cast contributed enormously to the club's third-placed finish in the Premier League.
The likes of Laurent Koscielny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs developed into genuine contenders for Arsenal's starting eleven, and stalwarts in the vein of Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Alex Song remained steadfast through their composed actions on the pitch.
Tomas Rosicky's feats in the latter half of the campaign represented nothing less than a true career renaissance, as his work alongside new recruit Mikel Arteta became the heart of the Arsenal midfield.
Keeping the skipper on board will raise morale in the camp through the roof, and maintaining the aforementioned fundamental players will be a completely necessary component for Arsenal's budding Premier League challenge.
Looking at the Arsenal champion teams of yesteryear, notably the Invincibles squad of the legendary 2003-04 season; a key component of that team's success was the inimitable mixture of club veterans and fresh blood. A good comparison to highlight this is in midfield: whereas Gilberto Silva won his Premier League winners' medal in that season in only his second year as a Gunner, his colleagues in the centre of the park—Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Fredrik Ljungberg—had won those same medals two years previous in the 2001-02 double-winning season.
It is this sort of continuity which will encourage continued growth and nurture the winning attitude within the club which it so desperately needs.
Say you're an in-form, in-demand, hugely talented young footballer linked with Arsenal in the aftermath of Robin van Persie's seemingly certain decision to leave his club (before the U-turn). You can look at the interest in one of two ways.
On the one hand, if you've got the ability to score goals in any situation embedded in you, this is an opportunity to lead the line at a club with continental pedigree and rich tradition, to follow in the footsteps of Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and van Persie. A daunting prospect for any man, and one only the most spectacular strikers in world football would be able to achieve with real success.
On the other hand, joining a club with all that history, but with the chance to play alongside a 37-goal-a-season hitman in skipper Van Persie—that seems like a lot more fun.
That by no means decreases the likelihood of netting yourself if you're one of Lukas Podolski or Olivier Giroud, both of whom became Arsenal players at the start of July. Instead, it opens up new avenues, methods of playing the beautiful game in a formidable attacking triad, or one of a genuine plethora of tactical innovations.
Should Arsenal hang on to their captain, the club will continue to be linked to players of undeniable quality, such as Fiorentina's Montenegrin trequartista, Stevan Jovetic (courtesy of Metro). The Evening Standard also reports the Jovetic interest, whilst simultaneously linking the club with Borussia Dortmund's Poland hitman Robert Lewandowski.
Similarly, the club remain heavily linked with Rennes midfield general Yann M'Vila, with Arsenal having been "set to sign" the 22-year-old France international the best part of three weeks ago (as per The Week).
The only thing seemingly missing from all this transfer speculation—the three aforementioned but a handful of numerous targets reported by media sources—is any strong links to a world-class defender.
While Vermaelen and Koscielny built up a strong partnership throughout the 2011-12 campaign, Per Mertesacker struggled to live up to his expectations despite injury and Johan Djourou looked weak, especially when played out of position on the flanks when such action was necessitated by injury to starting players.
Despite that, should Arsenal retain their captain and continue to add such talented players like Jovetic and M'Vila, they will continue to become a huge force to be reckoned with in the Premier League next season, further competing with the Manchester clubs and their rivals in London town, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
The scene depicted here occurred more than eight years ago, after Arsenal's domination of the 2003-04 Premier League season. The only silverware since was earned a year later, after a penalty shoot-out victory in the 2005 FA Cup Final.
The grim truth is that Arsenal are, in many critics' eyes, a club with a history that will not soon be repeated.
Isn't it about time Arsenal proved its doubters wrong?
If Robin van Persie plays, the domino effect his signing a contract will have will be remarkable. The effects listed previous are just three predominant consequences of such actions; many more will be smaller, but still notable and will certainly contribute to league success.
Arsenal are still a fantastic football club. This is the season to prove it to the world.