Robin Van Persie to Manchester United: Why Arsenal Will Finish in the Top Four
It is being reported that Arsenal talisman Robin van Persie is going to complete a £24 million move to Manchester United in the near future.
An initial reaction of horror from Arsenal fans would be unsurprising; you don't tend to celebrate the loss of last season's top goalscorer and captain.
However, the Gunners are actually in a very strong position to finish in the top four without the help of the 29-year-old Dutchman.
So, try to look beyond the fact that Arsenal's best player is on his way to the other side of a deeply entrenched battlefield and look at these positives.
Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud
Arsenal already have Robin van Persie's replacements on the roster. That leaves them in a far better position than most other clubs after they lose a key player.
Lukas Podolski was signed in April and in conjunction with summer signing Olivier Giroud, Arsenal have a striking partnership that could well prove to be more potent than RVP's one man show ever was.
Not only are Arsenal no longer reliant on a single player to get the majority of their goals, leaving them less vulnerable to injury, they are now capable of fielding two serious attacking threats simultaneously whilst also having the likes of Gervinho on the bench.
This makes it tactically harder for oppositions to defend against Arsenal and also gives the midfield a better chance of finding players ahead of them.
Once you factor in Giroud's contribution of 21 league goals for Montpellier last season and Podolski's 18 strikes for Cologne in the Bundesliga, you realise that Arsenal are better off now than they were this time last season.
Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere
It is not just in the striking department that Arsenal have new additions.
With Arsenal having played the 2011-12 season without either of these two midfielders, it will be like the club has two new signings in midfield, except one of them is already familiar with many of the players in the squad.
With Cazorla playing as an attacking midfielder behind the strikers and Jack Wilshere playing slightly deeper, Arsenal should be capable of creating more than enough chances.
It may take Wilshere a while to get back into the groove of Premier League football, but the 20-year-old could prove to be a vital addition to the squad, especially with his return set to come shortly before fixtures against Manchester United and Tottenham.
Arsene Wenger has long promoted a style of play similar to Barcelona's tiki-taka, and Cazorla and Wilshere are exactly the type of players that will help that style of play succeed, even against teams with a physical advantage.
Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. The list of big-name players who have left Arsenal in the years since their incredible unbeaten season certainly makes for painful reading.
However, Arsenal have still managed to achieve top-four finishes with a consistency that only Manchester United can match.
In fact, last season Arsenal finished a place higher, scored more goals and collected more points than they had during Fabregas and Nasri's final season with the club.
So, why should this loss be any different? Arsenal have found a way to consistently qualify for the Champions League without having to spend in the way that Manchester City and Chelsea have and, as previously mentioned, they have already effectively replaced RVP.
Arsene Wenger clearly has a way to motivate his players in the wake of major losses and get more out of his remaining players. If Wenger is able to do the same this season and combine it with a squad that has a lot going for it, there is no reason why Arsenal shouldn't be right in the mix for a top-four place.
£24 Million in the Bank
Arsenal have just netted a tidy £24 million for Robin van Persie (£22.5 million up front), not a sum of money to be laughed at, especially when you consider he didn't want to stay at Arsenal and only had a year left on his contract.
The Gunners are notorious for not re-investing money earned from transfers. Cesc Fabregas left for an initial £27 million, with a further £5.2 million potentially on the way and Samir Nasri for £24 million, and whilst there was investment in the squad there was certainly money left over.
However, this summer's three big additions, Olivier Girourd, Lukas Podolski and Santi Carzola have arrived for £12 million, £11 million and £15 million respectively. That means that Arsenal have now used up the money they banked from their previous sales.
More importantly, that means that much of Robin van Persie's £24 million will be ready to spend on further reinforcements such as another defender and midfielder, especially if rumours of Alex Song's potential departure to Barcelona are to be believed.
Even if no more money is spent this summer, there will still be funds in the bank come January should the club's season need new legs.
Once again, Arsenal's finances must be being looked at with a fair degree of envy by their rivals, especially with the new finance rules on the horizon.
It isn't related to Robin van Persie's departure, but Arsenal's assistant manager Pat Rice retired at the end of last season after 48 years of service. His replacement is Steve Bould, the former Arsenal centre-back.
At a club where beautiful football and attacking are normally the priorities, defence has often been neglected. Arsenal certainly need to improve in that department; last season they conceded 49 goals.
As this report from the Daily Mail suggests, a move away from a purely attacking mentality is already being felt among Arsenal's players, which can only be a good thing. Thomas Vermaelen has even noted that he is "learning a lot" from Bould.
The 49-year-old partnered Tony Adams at centre-back during his time at Arsenal and knows how to run a watertight defence.
If the Gunners are able to combine their goal scoring potential with a greater defensive awareness, they will be far better placed to ensure at least a top-four finish than they have been in previous seasons.