In a statement which reeked of agentspeak, Robin van Persie confirmed his intention not to renew his contract with Arsenal, as is his right. Amid the acrimomy, let us not forget that he remains an Arsenal player; he has not yet left. Whether he takes to the pitch against Sunderland on the opening day is another matter.
In the statement on his personal website, he claimed,
it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward
Money is not the root cause. Sorry, Robin, I don’t believe you. Like all of us, your head has been turned by the lure of fantastic riches. Like all footballing heroes before you, a mere mortal not a giant among men.
Presume for one minute though that amongst the double-talk, the reason he stated is the truth; he does not agree with the club’s philosophy. It is late in the day to decide this and if he really did disagree, he was not giving his all on the pitch as he claims. He was unsettled which meant we did not get 100% effort; 95% was pretty good, as it happens.
What are those differences though? At club and international level, he has seen first hand the success 4-3-3 can bring for the Spanish sides whilst the failures of Arsenal and the Netherlands are painful for (us and) him. Did he want the pragmatism which influenced the Spanish this summer, to be more prevalent at Arsenal? Would he prefer 4-4-2? That seems unlikely unless his admiration for Dennis Bergkamp led him to believe he would be more usefully employed in a similar role?
Did he want named individuals in? A player cannot dictate that. He might not like the signings the manager makes but he cannot demand his best friends join. Those reasons do not add up. Once more, the circle ends when you reach money. To paraphrase Scroobius Pip:
Samir Nasri? Just a player
Cesc Fabregas? Just a player
Robin van Persie? Just a player
Am I disappointed with the decision? Of course. Am I surprised? Not in the slightest. Everyone knows where he stands; we all know that this is his last season at the club, presuming of course that he is not sold beforehand. A late sale in August, no more than two days before the window closes, would be hugely disruptive for his new employers. The international break starts on September 2nd, inconveniencing them in trying to integrate him into the squad. Above all else, it has to happen when Arsenal are ready.
There are wider issues to be addressed, which is where the truth becomes unpalatable. van Persie is one of the game’s top strikers and he wants to leave Arsenal. I am sure that aside from money, a prime motivation is in wanting to win silverware. His statements about respect are guff. There is none. It is what he has not said that makes more sense, underlining the sheer lack of self-awareness.
I have always defended van Persie when he was called a crock but the desire for medals at the end of his career illuminates how costly his absences have been. Injured in equalising at Wembley; missing for most of the 2007-08 season when the club should have won the title. He scored seven in his fifteen Premier League appearances; it is not inconceivable that had he been around for fifteen more games the necessary points might have been secured, vital goals scored to regain or retain momentum. He will never admit this; he cannot for it identifies his own contribution to the collective failures.
Arsenal reacted in a manner you would expect.
We have to respect Robin’s decision not to renew his contract. Robin has one year to run on his current contract and we are confident that he will fulfil his commitments to the Club. We are planning with ambition and confidence for next season with Arsenal’s best interests in mind.
They have been planning for this all along. My own suspicion is that they have one major signing to make and there will be one another whom could best be described as a squad player. More importantly, the club has to tie down Theo Walcott’s contract to give some stability to the remainder of the summer. Too much speculation surrounds players at the best of time.
Equally they have to manage contracts more efficiently. Consecutive seasons with players being allowed to drift into the latter stages creates uncertainty. It leaves the player with the option to invoke his right to rundown the contract. Wages will become an issue that I am sure the club are beaten with but those who choose to make such a point show their lack of grasp in the economics; Arsenal cannot compete with the £200k salaries quoted. Even if you remove the ‘deadwood’ as they are disparagingly referred to, would the club be better in deploying that money one player or on two of say, Podolski’s level? Is Podolski at a lower level than van Persie? That latter question will be answered over the course of the German’s time at the club.
The final issue on this comes down to the captaincy. It must pass to a player who is committed to the club; van Persie is not and therefore should not be given the honour. For Arsène, it is an unimportant role; he wants a team of eleven leaders. But there is a symbolism for fans and that should not be overlooked.