Sky Sports has quoted Arsene Wenger describing the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, now officially confimed by Sky Sports, as a "massive gamble." More accurately, the deal is actually the biggest gamble of Wenger's storied career.
Wenger may he feel he was "forced" into the sale, according to reports in the Daily Mirror, but ultimately the final decision to allow the club skipper to sign for a major rival, rested with the Frenchman and the Arsenal hierarchy. That means Wenger is prepared to take the risk.
It's a risk he has taken with key players before, a gamble based on the assumption that a particular player's best years are in the past. With van Persie now 29, Wenger could have a point, but considering the number of games he missed earlier in his career, the Dutchman seems more like a late-bloomer.
If that is the case, expect the English Premier League trophy to be back at Old Trafford at the end of this season, and expect Wenger to be under fire for betting wrong. Of course, the Frenchman hasn't usually guessed wrong when parting ways with key performers.
When he cashed in on Emmanuel Adebayor, Aleksandr Hleb and Kolo Toure, Wenger certainly ensured Arsenal got the better end of those particular deals.
In an interview for French Radio stattion TF1, cited by the Daily Mail, Wenger spoke of the financial gains as the main reward from the van Persie saga, and it is certainly hard to fault taking a reported £24 million for a 29-year-old in the final year of his contract.
However, turning to the fee paid for van Persie as refuge hints at a deeper, even riskier gamble from the Gunners boss. Taking the money for van Persie shows that Wenger is still content to plan with the future in mind, rather than focusing first on instant rewards available now.
Arsenal could have made van Persie see out the last 12 months of his deal and banked on another potential goal haul from the prolific striker. That production, combined with Arsenal's new signings, might have been enough to claim the club's first trophy in seven seasons.
From a status perspective, that silverware could be worth as much as the immediate monetary gains, in this case £24 million. Recouping some of the money spent on new arrivals Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, balances the books and is classic Wenger.
However, it takes real bravery to stick to economically sound principles and ensure the future stability of the club when you haven't won a trophy since 2005. Wenger will be crossing his fingers van Persie won't be as good for United as he was for Arsenal.
However, sticking with his fiscally prudent, long-term view as another star leaves is the biggest gamble the Frenchman has ever taken.
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