The fixtures are coming thick and fast at the moment although a lull looms with the international break kicking in after the visit of West Brom to The Emirates. It is a headache for Arsène when those encounters will not include a Carling Cup tie, a match where he will automatically rest most, if not all, of the starting line-up from the previous Saturday. Arsenal have traditionally always played on a Tuesday for their midweek fixtures so the scenario is not new or unusual.
For the manager, the question is complicated by one of the more injury-prone players in the past displaying talismanic properties at the moment. van Persie’s absence in previous seasons is made more galling by the form shown now. The term ‘world class‘ is attached to any Johnny Come Lately in this media-defined era; van Persie has hardly burst onto the scene, more of a slow burner.
Like others before him, the Dutchman typifies Arsène’s reputation for buying cheaply and enhancing a player’s value. van Persie’s cost now must surely be a ten-fold increase on his £3m price tag six years ago. To think that he joined Arsenal six months later than originally intended because the club had a cashflow shortage due to the new stadium project.
That price tag was fuelled by ill-discipline, something he has worked hard on at the club latterly successful in this area. The stunning ignorance of those who inhabit the internet was highlighted with claims of a ‘Nazi salute’ at the weekend.
Any semblance of knowledge about the Dutchman’s personal life would have rendered the idea too contradictory to be believed; such is the desire of some to find scandal in any situation, this gained traction to the extent that the player had to issue a denial via his Twitter account. It is the negatives of this information age, where malicious lies and truths told with evil intent permeate via the electronic garden fence.
van Persie is still the subject of speculation over his future, you suspect that as he enters the peak years of his career such tribulations over his future will always continue. Like many, I take the view that even without the pressures that currently beset the club, van Persie should just be paid what he wants. More than his predecessors, I do believe he wants statements of intent from the club. The former captain wanted a flight home whilst his midfield compadre just wanted a bigger salary. No signings could change their minds. The Dutchman you feel – rightly or wrongly – is content at Arsenal, driven by a winning mentality.
The perception of Arsenal as football club will do nothing to relieve these pressures, especially with Arsène joining those of us who doubt that Uefa’s FFP regulations have either the substance or substantial backing, to make them succeed. There are simply too many get out clauses and as Wenger pointed out, if Sion a small albeit wealthy, Swiss club has the will to fight the governing body through the courts, their bigger cousins will have no compunction in taking the same route.
All of this on a weekend when the soaring emotions of being an Arsenal fan came through. Such is the rollercoaster that at times you can be mistaken for an entrepreneurial Charon, refusing to take an empty boat back to the shores of the Acheron, filling it instead with the souls of disbelieving Arsenal fans ferrying them back to some semblance of belief.
Elsewhere, Theo Walcott is receiving some overdue praise. I have been critical of some performances and his shortcomings, Saturday proved that he has the talent and ability to overcome them. Having made Ashley Cole look distinctly ordinary, the expectations are there that Walcott will play that way every week. Unrealistic perhaps but he can play to some semblance of that level surely? That is not too great a level of expectation.
More than his actual performance, I was impressed by his intelligence. Stained by the ill-informed contempt of Chris Waddle, Theo cannot do right for doing wrong in some eyes. That is harsh; his goal showed an awareness that many never see, playing to the whistle whilst defenders stopped.
He wants to play centrally; it won’t happen in the foreseeable future at Arsenal and to some extent, performances such as the one at Stamford Bridge hold the key. Able to cut in from the wing, he can finish and create. Like van Persie some believe that he should not play centrally as the lead striker, feeding instead off a taller target man. Arsenal are not likely to play that way consistently and with his strength being pace, a wide position seems his immediate future.
As for Gervinho, well, Big Al did as much a job of making his Superman as anyone.