Phew, glad you could make it today. Took me a lot longer than usual to get here, it’s a hell of a climb over the mountain of towels that have been thrown in following the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Thirty-five years ago today, Elvis Presley died. Two legends stopped in their tracks on the same day? One had achieved, the other flattered to deceive.
There is no doubt that to lose a player of that quality is a blow but it’s a strange state of affairs when a club sells its best player and you look back at the summer’s transfer activity, reflecting that it has been quite good on the whole. That’s not to dismiss Robin van Persie lightly, you cannot legitimately belittle a player whose form in the last five years is a goal every other game. He has had injury problems but has been fit for a season and a half. Don’t forget the majority of those injuries were impact, poor challenges by himself or an opponent.
According to David Ornstein, van Persie was told on Sunday before the match in Cologne that he was being sold. That fits in with the 20 minute runout. United have reportedly paid £24m for him with little information about the detail although the BBC from London believe that Arsenal are receiving £22.5m with £1.5m if United win the title or Champions League over the course of the next four years. I guess the ultimate irony would be if they won the one of the two with van Persie out injured for most of that particular campaign. Whether those figures are correct depends on to whom you are listening; United will claim lower, Arsenal undisclosed and sources at the club, higher. That’s the way of the footballing world. It’s a fool’s game to claim to be ITK.
So is the deal good for Arsenal? There are valid arguments to suggest it is, spurious ones as well. Ultimately, the finances suggest it is good in the short-term for the club. In some quarters, it is profiteering; others sensible business practice. Arsenal could – in my opinion, should – have kept van Persie to the end of his contract. Yes, it was giving up £24m but that money could have been made up in prize money. The club chose to take the definite cash instead. I understand that. I think from the footballing perspective that Arsenal might have achieved more with the new additions and van Persie at the club for a season. There are no guarantees though and history errs on the side of failure. Whether the deal is good for Arsenal will be seen next May.
That statement was the millstone around van Persie’s neck. Reports suggest that it was the straw which broke the camel’s back as far as the manager was concerned. He knew that the Dutchman wanted to go and despite a softening of the player’s stance with recent signings apparently matching his ambition and him signalling a willingness to sign a new deal, none was forthcoming. There has been a lot of speculation but we all know that once the manager has made a decision about a player, he rarely changes his mind.
Generally though, it is much easier to spend money when it is someone else’s which is where the arguments about capitulating to a player’s demands and paying others similar increases falter. No-0ne ever comes up with a substantive answer where the funding comes from. FFP – not quite dead in the water but certainly listing – precludes funding from a Sugar Daddy. Oh yes, they can invest in the asset purchase but not in the operational cost. Sure, we can renew the commercial deals. Can’t we? If it was so easy, why is not happening now?
Undoubtedly United have strengthened their squad, indicating that Ferguson is adhering to Arsène’s philosophy of scoring more than you concede. To some extent he has ignored what was considered United’s achilles heel last year; the defence. Whether a new striker is enough remains to be seen.
The key to all this is to reinvest the moneys. Do Arsenal need to do so now? The key is buy quality and for supporters to avoid becoming obsessive about the price. Cazorla cost less than Fletcher, a signal of lunacy in some quarters or desperation. Good business in both cases if objectives are achieved. The question is where to strengthen? The forward line has some depth despite the sale with Giroud and Podolski. They bring different strengths to the squad than the Dutchman, certainly the Frenchman is more of a target man than van Persie.
Given the choice though, the strikeforce would not necessarily be my first addition. Giroud, according to Grimandi, was an insurance policy. Arsenal need another one if the manager decides the money on offer from Barcelona is good enough to sell Alex Song. I don’t know who they have in mind for that role, if anyone at all; they will have. That and a substitute forward would be enough for me; Chamakh and Bendtner might think there is some hint of reprieve but I don’t see it although the possibility seems more likely in the Moroccan’s case.
Is that enough for you? Others want more defenders, more versatility across the back. I honestly do not think that necessary, they just needed organising differently, schooling in the basics. According to the interviews, that is happening with Steve Bould taking charge of the back four. Another goalkeeper? Some demand an older head, more experienced. Is Jens Lehmann busy? Complaints are rife that we have the so-called deadwood to shift, why add an ageing reserve to the squad? Are they guaranteeing better performances than Fabianski when required? I am not convinced of the argument in that sense.
Some are dismissing the new signings, the specious argument being that they have never played a minute of Premier League football. It is an argument I do not comprehend, it is just ludicrous. That being the case, no signing from outside of these shores should ever be made irrespective of the 100 caps they have gained for their country or the champions medal in another league. It also rules out signing current poster boy, Yann M’vila or is the hypocrisy of that stance now sinking in?
I expect some transfer activity in the next sixteen days. This transfer is more Stapleton than Brady, more Nasri than Fabregas. The player has made his move for the money – it seems strange to criticise for something we would all do although diminished by the sums involved – and foregone any longevity in the Arsenal pantheon. So be it.
With the season just days away, we move on. Sorry the vituperation you wanted isn’t here today, others with quantify it more gutturally than I.