“Oooh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day...I’ve got a wonderful feelin’...everything’s goin’ my way!”
And so Santi Cazorla’s signing is confirmed! Ah, what a wonderful hour it was. I’d just eaten dinner, New Zealand was beating Australia at the Olympics, my room was nice and toasty-warm. Para. Para. Paradise, to quote Coldplay.
So, the past 24 hours have been viewed through the rosiest of tinted glasses. And thusly, rumour upon rumour was declaring that a remarkable U-Turn had occurred, that the talismanic Arsenal striker Robin van Persie had been “impressed” by the Gunners’ transfer market activity (“impressed”...god, what a horrifyingly condescending word for it) and was preparing to sign an extension to his contract.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Well, I know the odds of it actually happening are slim to none, but that’s what they said to O.J. and look what happened there!
Here are five factors that I think might influence Robin van Persie to stay with Arsenal.
Feel free to drop a comment with your own personal thoughts on the matter! There are no bad comments. Only bad people.
Jokes! But seriously, read, absorb, and have your say.
Santi Cazorla’s transfer to Arsenal has now been officially confirmed, which means that Arsenal now legitimately possesses possibly the strongest, most flexible, and certainly the deepest, attack in the Premier League.
Cazorla will presumably fill the central attacking midfield slot, unless Wenger opts to somewhat bastardize the 4-2-3-1 formation and instead play Cazorla predominantly as a False 11 cutting in from the left wing, with Podolski playing a goal-scoring role tucked in behind the main striker.
Regardless, with three players competing for the striking role, five or six players jostling for a position on the left and the same players looking for a starting berth on the right, Wenger has a veritable wealth of attacking talent in his ranks.
These players are not all in a similar mould, either: Cazorla and van Persie are the most technically gifted and skillful of the bunch, but Theo Walcott, and Alex Chamberlain (and, to an underrated extent, Podolski) are amongst the fastest, most explosive players in the Premier League.
Even if they don’t start matches (Theo should, The Ox, despite his promise, shouldn’t) they have the tools required to take a game by the proverbial (foot) balls at any stage.
Gervinho is something of a mix between the two: he is technically superb (and his preseason form suggests he is starting to mesh well in the Arsenal formation) but also possesses great pace and flair.
Giroud is a colossus in the centre-forward position: he is bigger and stronger than most of the Premier League’s centre-backs, and has the predatory instincts of a genuine goalscorer, while Lukas Podolski is a barnstorming finisher who strikes a football with an almost-dangerous crispness, and I would advise many of the goalkeepers in the Premier League to take out insurance policies against career-ending injuries caused by high-velocity football shots.
The point is, with or without van Persie, Arsenal is no longer a one-man team, and I think that is probably what RVP was most worried about.
He may have had a great season, but no professional athlete wants to be the sole focal point and hope of their team. It doesn’t work like that, especially not when that focal point is notoriously injury-prone.
In the arrivals and emergences of these big names, Wenger has sent out a statement of intent. In Giroud, Podolski, Walcott and van Persie, he has four players who can easily score 15 goals a season, and all of whom should really be aiming higher.
In Walcott, Gervinho, Cazorla and van Persie, he has four more players who can easily provide 10 assists a season, and who, again, should really be aiming higher.
In Ox and Ryo Miyaichi (who, presumably, will be given a hit-out this year), Wenger has two youngsters who are being touted as the next big things in world football, who have not played to the point at which other teams will have developed a counter-strategy for them, and who are quick, technically gifted, and creative.
According to Transfermarkt.co.uk, this seven-man front line (discounting Miyaichi) is, by today’s market value, worth around £119.5 million.
Anyone here ever played Doom? If so, you may be familiar with the term, BFG-9000.
We have a number of Big Guns here at Arsenal these days. Real BFGs.
OK, so I know this might sound a little similar to the preceding slide, and it is, but while that slide focused on the presence of famous, proven attacking players, this places more emphasis on the depth in the team as a whole.
At the heart of Arsenal last season were two fabulously talented engineers in Mikel Arteta and Alex Song, and these two did a phenomenal job at keeping the team ticking over, keeping the players working, keeping the ball moving, doing their job.
They were probably the most vital cog in the squad last season, and that is even counting Robin van Persie. All you have to do is take a look at Arsenal’s matches when one or both of these generals was missing to see how directionless the team looked.
There was a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the two, especially as Arteta was coming into his first season at Arsenal and Song, while experienced and proven, was faced with the prospect of his first season without Cesc Fabregas marshaling the midfield.
And they responded superbly. They alternated their defensive and attacking duties with splendid coherence and understanding, and their differing skill-sets complemented one another perfectly, with Song contributing 11 assists and Arteta, especially late in the season, scoring some fabulously important goals.
The beautiful thing is, the immense workload the pair had to share this year has now, almost immediately, been at least halved.
Wenger received an amount of stick from some quarters for describing the returns of Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere as being “like new signings”.
But, really, how else could they be described? They weren’t there last year, they are there this year. That means, yeah, we pretty much are gaining two new players...albeit players who are well-acquainted with the team’s playing style, their compatriots, and the manager.
The impending returns of these two excellent players significantly lessens the load on Arteta’s and Song’s backs, as (without meaning to sound crass) the “prodigal sons” interchange exceptionally well with last season’s midfielders.
Song and Diaby are both big, strong, physical players who like to venture forward and are capable in defense, while Wilshere and Arteta are both incisive passers with good first touches and excellent dribbling skills.
And let’s not even get into what Arsenal’s youth (and the prospective loan of Nuri Sahin) might do to Arsenal’s midfield!
Emmanuel Frimpong is getting to a point where he can muscle his way into the first-team for a few games a season, as is Francis Coquelin.
Both these players have great futures ahead of them, and let’s be honest: if you have a reputation as a bone-crushing, fearless defender who revels in the media spotlight, enjoys picking physical fights with mercenary ex-teammates, and have your very own personal verb, all at the age of 20...you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
Coquelin is simply Yann M’Vila in a better team and thus without quite as much first-team exposure. He has calmness, composure and restraint.
With a little help from his friends, and some positional and mental education (which he’ll no doubt receive in abundance from the Arsenal coaching staff) he could really become something.
The addition of Nuri Sahin would put Arsenal in the suspiciously delightful position of not only having seven players battling it out for four attacking roles, but having four players who can contribute in the “enforcer” midfield role (Song, Frimpong, Coquelin, Diaby...I know he’s more attacking-minded, but I can see him playing here) and four completely different players competing for the more attacking, advanced box-to-box role (Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Sahin).
WHAT. IS. HAPPENING!?!?!?!?!?
Even in defense, which is undoubtedly our weakest area, Arsenal is not as “up the creek” as we might like to think we are.
In Kieren Gibbs we have an eager young left-back in a similar mould to Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy who can only really go up, while Andre Santos is definitely no mug as his cover.
The Brazilian might lack Gibbs’ defensive discipline and pace, but he at least somewhat compensates for this with attacking flair and experience, and remember that he is second-choice...Aleksander Kolarov ain’t “all that” either.
In the heart of the defense we have three world-class centre-backs, two of whom (Vermaelen and Koscielny) are starting to form a beautiful understanding, and the third of whom (Mertesacker) is very much a positioning-style defender, and thus can adapt his game to playing with either of the aforementioned.
The only place where issues could genuinely arise is if Bacary Sagna cops it bad early-season and we’re forced to play someone out of position on the right for an extended period of time, but if indeed there are football gods they surely would not be so cruel.
What I’m trying to say is that whatever angle you look at Arsenal’s squad from, only one conclusion can be reached: that it is without a shadow of a doubt one of the deepest and most multi-talented squads in the Premier League. I, in fact, would not use the “one of” precursor, but it shall remain for the sake of political correctness.
If van Persie knows football (and as a professional footballer, he certainly should), surely he can see this? Surely he is not blind to this gorgeous mix of skill and speed, strength and finesse, youth and experience, and what wonderful things happen when such variety is put in the proverbial melting pot?
And when he sees this, surely...surely...he has to reconsider his statement.
Unless his ambitions involve single-handedly flying to the moon, claiming Arsenal are not measuring up to what van Persie considers himself capable of is, to coin an acronym, BS.
Despite Arsene Wenger’s well-deserved reputation for wringing talent out of young players, he has never really had the opportunity to coach a player from the beginning of his career (his meaningful career) right through to the end of his days.
The closest Wenger has come to this is probably Thierry Henry, who came to Arsenal as a 21-year-old and left for Barcelona at the age of 30, after nine fabulous years as a Gunner.
Van Persie’s age at the moment, 29, is around about the age at which most of Wenger’s best players peak.
Robert Pires enjoyed his best years for the club from 28-32 years of age. Dennis Bergkamp came to the club at 26 and, though he contributed heavily before the 29 benchmark, played his best football at around this point, and the Dutchman (probably due in no small part to Wenger’s nutritional and training philosophies) continued to perform at a high standard for Arsenal right up until the end of his career.
In a similar vein, the back four that Wenger inherited at Arsenal of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn were all in their 30s (Bould 34, Winterburn 33) when Wenger took control of the club.
Though an aging defense might have been seen by some as being a glaring weakness in the Arsenal squad, Wenger’s ability to adapt players’ styles to ensure longevity and continued, consistent output ensured that the back four became Arsenal’s greatest strength, at one time racking up eight consecutive clean sheets for the Gunners on their way to the 1997-98 League title.
In the elapsed years between these days and van Persie’s saga, there have been roughly two generations of Arsenal players that have been and gone.
Those elder statesmen of the Invincibles era who left did so because...well, because they had achieved all that could be achieved at Arsenal: they had won Doubles, they had gone through a season undefeated, they had reached the Final of the Champions’ League, and they acknowledged that a new generation was nipping at their heels.
Thus, Henry made way for Adebayor, leaving for Barcelona and a final shot at the Champions’ League; Vieira made way for Fabregas, Campbell for Gallas, Lauren for Sagna, Pires for Reyes, and so forth, all of which was perfectly understandable, all of which prevented Wenger from nurturing a player from beginning to end.
This next generation (the generation that has immediately preceded this generation) all left of their own accord: Adebayor, who was 21 when Wenger signed him, left at 25. Fabregas, who had been at the club since the age of 15, left at just 24; Cole, Clichy, Nasri, Flamini, Toure, are all in the same boat.
Van Persie is reaping the benefits of having had Arsene Wenger guide his development, but I wonder whether he has thought about what Wenger could do with regard to postponing his twilight.
Certainly the distinct grey streaks that have infested the Dutchman’s hair are a sign that Old Father Time never forgets, and this should be weighing on van Persie’s mind somewhat.
But a sure-fire way to guarantee that the inevitable years do not dilute his playing ability is staying at Arsenal and allowing Wenger to guide van Persie through what I would aptly call “the grey period.”
In much the same way as the similarly technically-reliant Bergkamp, van Persie’s career could be immensely prolonged by Wenger’s expertise, as the Frenchman will not simply see van Persie as a player, but as something of a son, whose game he knows inside and out.
I wonder whether van Persie would legitimately consider himself a success if he joins Man City, plays two or three more seasons, maybe wins a championship, and then sinks into a premature twilight of 10 games a season and a handful of cup matches.
If he stays at Arsenal, his best years could conceivably be ahead of him, who knows?
But if he leaves now, van Persie will do so in the knowledge that he has peaked (in football, in relevance, in life, indeed) and if that knowledge has set in, perhaps Robin’s faith in Wenger’s Batman might be restored.
Roberto Mancini has come out and said officially that he doesn’t think that City will be signing van Persie, barring any unforeseen circumstances (though, admittedly, City do specialize in unforeseen circumstances).
This leaves Manchester United as the only conceivable place that van Persie could leave to, but Alex Ferguson’s embarrassingly low bid of £10 million is perhaps an indicator that United really don’t need RVP, can’t afford him, and that their main role in this prolonged fiasco is simply stirring the pot.
This is poetic justice in more ways than one.
Van Persie has watched his young, superstar team-mates waltz out of the team on a whim to clubs willing and able to wave banknotes and coo sweet nothings at them with the fervour of hagglers at the stock exchange, just as they might have done to him at that age, had his career not been decimated by injury and circumstance.
The Dutchman, much as I love(d) him, showed splendidly repugnant arrogance in assuming that his one excellent season with the Gunners would elicit the same reaction from world football’s big spenders, and especially so given his current age and his history.
Van Persie evidently considers himself something of a world-beater, and when fit, he is most definitely capable of winning a club points on his own. He is one of the finest strikers on the planet.
But a true world-beater (you know, a Fabregas, a Henry, an Aguero, a Ronaldo) these are guys who will deliver the goods come rain or shine, through the good times and the bad. They are constants; rocks that remain strong as the waters of fate rush by them.
If van Persie ever had the idea that, as soon as he’d stuck his hand up and declared he wouldn’t sign a new contract, every club with over £100 million in the bank (and £200m in debt, obviously) would be climbing over one another to sign an injury-prone, technically-focused player who has spent his entire youth being trained in a specific brand of football which very rarely lends itself to other playing styles, he was barking up the wrong tree.
This is probably the influence of his agent, who would have made RVP think that his past season automatically qualifies him as being the best thing since chocolate.
But the footballing world doesn’t work like that. In order for you to supply yourself to a team, there first has to be a demand: van Persie trying to sell himself at this stage in his career is, truly, like trying to hawk off Seinfeld’s cashmere jumper with the red dot: we know how beautiful the cashmere is, and because of that, all we see is the cashmere.
RVP sees he is cashmere, and thinks he’s silk.
But whenever someone else takes a look? “Oooh, yes, that’s lovely...but what’s this red dot?”
“...It has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward”.
Those were his words, straight from the horse’s mouth, or at the very least straight from the horse’s mouth to the horse’s publicist who then touched up the horse’s spelling and grammatical errors, transcribed the horse’s words and...ahh, this has gone too far hasn’t it. Worth a try.
I don’t mean to sound like a jealous ex-lover in this slide, because that’s always how I feel when Arsenal is passed over or abandoned by a player.
Like when Cesc left us for Barcelona, and we were left kneeling in the rain, crying and forgotten, like the well-intentioned almost-girl in romantic comedies.
It feels like a personal insult.
But honestly, RVP. We are moving forward. How can you possibly say otherwise, now? Arsenal just bought Santi Cazorla. That’s a really, really big deal. He is a player who turned down Real Madrid. That means Real Madrid were really interested in him. Do you know who else Real Madrid have been genuinely interested in?
Yeah. So he’s good. Really, really good.
Van Persie has said time and again that it’s not about money, but just because you say something doesn’t make it true, unless you happen to be harbouring a genie in your inside jacket pocket.
There are four reasons why Robin van Persie would want to leave Arsenal:
1: He wants a ridiculous amount of money.
2: He wants to play at a club he can see competing for domestic league honours.
3: He wants to win the Champions’ League.
4: He wants to play in a league outside the Premier League.
Reason No. 1 is, obviously, out of our hands. But let’s just decide, for the sake of argument, to take van Persie at his word when he says it isn’t about money and discount this from the list of possibilities.
Reason No. 2 is void. Arsenal are absolutely contenders for the Premier League this season. Their squad is bursting with quality, both young and old, and the team is finally starting to mesh. Even without van Persie, they will give the Manchunians a run for their (considerable) money, but with the Dutchman, Arsenal are in the best shape they’ve been in going into a season since 2006.
Reason No. 3 is just as void as No. 2, because really, who knows who’s going to win the Champions’ League? Who even knows who’s going to do well? The only sure-fire semi-finalists, really, are Real Madrid and Barcelona...neither of whom is interested in RVP.
Since 2006, five different clubs from three different countries have won the Champions’ League.
Since 2006, three different clubs from two different cities have won the Premier League.
Trying to pick the Champions’ League winner is like trying to pick which of the Kardashians is which: you have as much chance through meticulous research and painstaking analysis as you would if you spun around ten times in a blindfold and pointed at a name.
As for reason No. 4, well, this just seems silly. When you’re a professional athlete who claims his motivation is to more forward, move upward, keep going, you do not take a step back, and any move outside the Premier League is a step back for any player.
You don’t need one of Arsene Wenger’s patented “decoders” to decode what van Persie wanted his statement to say: “I want a club that shares my ambition, and is willing to make financial sacrifices in order to fulfill that ambition, by bringing the best players possible in, so that they can play with me (I’m really good, you see) and we can win things.”
If that’s what he was saying, good on him. Because it worked. Arsenal has proven they have ambition, they have proven they can spend money to bring in proven, experienced players who can win things. These are facts.
If van Persie leaves now, the only explanation is that the only thing he wants is money.
But at least we won’t be kneeling in the rain, crying, as he departs.
We’ll be looking forward to the day that we (Arsenal, that is) are walking down an alleyway, and a great long pale-blue limousine with “Etihad Stadium” emblazoned on the passenger doors rolls past us, and the door opens, and a sniveling van Persie is thrown out of the car into the gutter, crumpled £100 notes blustering around in the wind, his cheeks stained black by runny mascara, his fishnet stockings torn...and we look down on him with something like sympathy in our eyes. And we give him a hand up, buy him a hot meal, and turn our backs on him.
That would be sad, I admit.
But better him than us.