Arsenal Must Keep Robin Van Persie for One More Year and Try to Win Now
It's become a running joke, a perpetual punchline, an on-demand diss.
Worst of all, it's become the symbol of the latter-day part of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal reign.
Seven years have passed since Wenger's Gunners have won a trophy, not that you didn't already know. As a living, breathing footie fan, that piece of information has been imprinted on the gray matter of your long-term memory.
For Gooners, though, it's become something else. For Arsenal supporters, it's become lodged there permanently, loudly proclaiming failure like a sad-but-true branding mark, no longer a worrying presence so much as a part of everyday life.
Enough. Now is the time for Arsenal to make the stand. It's time, that is, to win now and let the chips fall where they may afterwards.
The past seven years have played out not entirely unlike Wenger's first nine at Arsenal, with a few key differences.
Wenger bought relatively unknown players, groomed them into stars and sold them for a tidy profit. Players came, players went and, for the most part, the fans continued to take solace in the fact that "Arsene knows."
But since that last piece of silverware—the 2005 FA Cup—came to North London, a few things have changed. Arsenal could just about keep up with Manchester United in Wenger's early days, but the influx of money and emergence of "stupid money" clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have changed the rules and the game.
Now, Arsenal and Wenger struggle to stay competitive. Now, the window for success—the window in which Wenger grooms his unheralded nobodies into Manchester City's starting XI—has become shorter.
And yet, there's still a chance. Right now.
Even with the well-documented financial disadvantage, and even after an awful start, Arsenal still finished third in the English Premier League last season. The squad, for all the criticism Wenger has received, is still strong.
Winning silverware, in other words, is possible. Right now. But to win silverware, Arsenal, Wenger and the board must commit themselves to winning. Right now.
To win now, Arsenal must keep Robin van Persie.
Hold on. Wait. Breathe.
That doesn't mean Arsenal must sign van Persie to a new, long-term contract. That only means Arsenal must keep van Persie around for the 2012-13 season.
Van Persie, as we all know, revealed recently that he won't sign a new contract with Arsenal. Fine. Let him go.
First, though, let him repay Arsenal for all the career-building and salary-inflating experience first. Let him repay Wenger, too.
Van Persie has one year left on his contract. After that, Arsenal could lose him for nothing. Fine. Let him go.
In another year, van Persie will be a few weeks away from his 30th birthday and his unofficial, over-the-hill footballer party. As an early present, let him help Arsenal break the streak. Let him be the man to lead Arsenal to a trophy.
Van Persie could fetch Arsenal up to £20 million in the transfer market, right now. Fine. Let it go.
Manchester City have enough Arsenal players already. They can wait a year for another, if they don't lose interest by then.
For now, the stadium is built, the club is healthy financially and with guys like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the squad, the future is bright.
For once, let the profit margins sag, even just a bit, and let the books balance just a little closer to the red. For once, try to win now.
It's been seven years since Arsenal last lifted silverware, and money isn't everything.
That's too long for a club like Arsenal, a club that covets a spot among Europe's elite. Modern football is a business, but business is best when a club is winning.
The squad is good enough to win something right now, and with new signings Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, van Persie's presence could make Arsenal's attack a fearsome, three-headed monster.
It's time to take a stand. Seven years have passed without silverware. The fans need this, and in truth, so does the club.
Just this once, ignore the bottom line.
Just this once, try to win now.
For now, the future can wait.
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