Robin van Persie, with Cesc Fabregas, is one of Arsenal’s star players—a player of incredible poise and class. His left foot is one of the best in the world, combining power and precision. He can assist, and he can score. He embodies everything positive about Dutch football and Arsenal.
So why should Wenger consider selling him?
The Arsenal system has now become, thanks in part to the success of Emmanuel Adebayor, a 451 or a 4321, focusing on a fluid midfield, attacking wingers and a central striker capable of holding the ball up and being powerful in the air.
To play the forward position, Arsenal have Maroane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, who have all the criteria to do that, and Robin van Persie. Van Persie doesn’t have the same characteristics as Bendtner or Chamakh; he’s shorter, slighter, doesn’t have the same aerial presence and can’t hold the ball up in the same way. Arsenal also have Jay-Emmanuel Thomas, who obviously doesn’t have the class or star factor of van Persie, but has the make-up to play in the forward role preferred by Arsenal.
Van Persie could drop back to become one of the attacking wingers, but it’s not a position that is ideal for him; his talents would be somewhat wasted. He doesn’t have the pace of Theo Walcott or Andrei Arshavin, who are particularly successful in that area of the pitch.
Van Persie recently turned 27, meaning he should be about to come into his prime. He has reached an age where he has the maturity to be the leading goal-scorer for a team and won’t hide from the spotlight.
But any Arsenal supporter worth his or her salt also knows that at 27, he is three years away from Wenger’s rolling one-year contract. Given that in six years at Arsenal, van Persie has won just the Community Shield and the FA Cup, it’s likely he’ll be tempted to test his luck somewhere else in a bid to add some silverware to his career. Meaning that from an economic perspective, the best time to sell van Persie would be now.
Finally, the biggest blight on van Persie’s career is his propensity to be injured. He has never, in his whole career, played more than 30 league games in a season, and in the last three seasons he has played, on average, slightly under 20 league games.
Arsenal need far more from than a vice-captain and primary goal threat. He could make a wonderful recovery, a la Tomas Rosicky, but injuries seem to have been a negative factor in his whole career.
Arsenal could probably get around £12-15 million for van Persie if they sell in January, and could reinvest that money into someone who is available to play every week.