Written by Mean Lean on Sunday, 12 August 2012 08:46
Later on today, we are likely to see something approaching the team that will start against Sunderland on the first day of the Premier League season and that is pretty exciting considering the quality three additions that we have added to the squad. Three offensive players, all with new qualities to add to our armoury.
While the new boys add to the anticipation of watching our Arsenal once more, there still feels as if there is an undercurrent of uncertainty, a slight feeling of not knowing whether you are coming or going. Well at least that is how I am feeling at the time of writing this and during my thoughts last night before I closed my eyes to go to sleep.
Robin van Persie has held the hand of a mascot and walked out with the captains armband for the whole of last season and that really means a great deal to Arsenal supporters. You are not just an Arsenal player but you are an Arsenal leader, a person that we look up to, the face of the current Arsenal team. The fact that he had the number 10 shirt almost made it worse for us. We have patiently waited for Robin van Persie to shake of his injury setbacks so he could follow the Dutch number 10 who wore the Arsenal shirt previously.
Dennis Bergkamp loved Arsenal, he rejected larger offers to stay at the place he loved and we will always be grateful for that. It seems as if Robin van Persie has rejected the possibility of having a similar status in the hearts of Gooners even if we have missed out on some crucial football from him over the years.
So what next?
The possibility of moving to Manchester United is very real, in fact it is probably the most likely outcome and on an emotional level that is quite possibly the second worst move, second only to our inferior neighbours. Remove the emotion from the situation and it need not be as awful as it seems.
I am not going to tell you that Robin van Persie is not a great player, I am not going to tell you that a team with him in it gives us less quality. That would be ridiculous, but I will try and explain how we can gain from this should it happen.
Arsene Wenger has made a career of developing players with potential, helping them fulfil that potential and then cashing in when they are on the decline. It was more important in days past when the Emirates stadium was built and cash was harder to come by. We needed cash to reinvest into the team and offloading past greats for large sums who were soon to hit a downwards spiral.
A great example was a Thierry Henry who was a couple of months short of his 29th birthday before he was sold to Barcelona. Funnily enough the same age that Robin van Persie is at present. The circumstances are a little different as we got more use physically from Thierry Henry and the Frenchman while having similar incredible technique as van Persie, relied much more on his speed which would diminish as time went on. Robin van Persie is not the quickest so his game is not based on sprints. Apart from their age, another similarity between the two situations is the dynamics of the team that surrounded both players.
The team became reliant on the spearhead and captain. When a goal was needed whoever was on the ball would glance up and first and foremost want to know where the main striker would run. van Persie became the only player in the box that would have the movement and supply the needed finish. This lead to opposition supporters and sections of the sports media to label us a one man team. Which to my untrained eye was incorrect. He was at times the one man finisher but he was not the team.
While I would throw van Persie up there along with the best forwards in the world, I would never push him up with the likes of Lionel Messi because players like Messi can collect the ball on the half way line and score the winner. Robin van Persie can never do that as he needs a team around him who will play for him. We have seen it enough times for his country. His Dutch team mates did not give him the same platform that he gets at Arsenal and his last tournaments at International level proved to be a personal disappointment even though Holland got to the World Cup final.
This isn't to say that he wouldn't succeed at Manchester United, if he gets good service and technical players to play with then he is likely to do well at least for the short term, although the end of last season followed by a dour European Championships remind me somewhat of Fernando Torres' final contributions to Liverpool before his big money move to Chelsea where he has never regained his form. You don't expect this to be the case with Robin van Persie who seems a more confident person but replicating last seasons form is not a guarantee.
My point is not so much about the future of Robin van Persie and his future form but of the Arsenal team. While the Dutchman's touch, technique and link up play are all superb a large chunk of his goals last season where all based on short movement and finishing. This can be replaced. In the past we might have been forced into looking within and perhaps promoting someone like Benik Afobe and hoping that he hit the ground running and would develop over time but instead we have a 27 year old German international who has scored goals for years, we also have Oliver Giroud who finished as top goalscorer in France last season but also gives us more options to score from crosses. We have the option to play both strikers at the same time as Podolski can play as a wide forward but not only this but we also have that creative player that we have been missing.
As good as Robin van Persie is, you would be hard pushed to find a Gooner who would not rather have Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla instead. The obvious argument would be to include van Persie in that list and that would have been ideal but it is looking unlikely through no fault of our own. We have offered to make him the best paid player in our history, we have also shown 'ambition' by strengthening our squad so if he still wants to leave then that is up to him.
Robin van Persie is unlikely to get better as a player, surely the most his next club can expect is a repeat of last season and that would be at a push. Hopefully we have the best to come from our new attacking players. Podolski and Cazorla coming towards their peak years, Giroud has years in front of him and his physical style will hopefully add to our repertoire. We can also spread the goals around the team and from more directions but that is not all.
Our recent spending has come from transfer surplus from the Cesc and Nasri departures last season along with the guaranteed Champions League income for finishing third. That cash will not last forever especially when you consider hopeful new contracts for Theo Walcott and perhaps Alex Song. £20m - £25m in Arsene Wenger's hands is almost the equivalent of £40m in today's market. Arsene is clearly rebuilding the squad and with the incoming cash from van Persie we could potentially see two more players of the quality of Podolski but in another position.
Whether he stays or leaves the club this summer, we should be in a much stronger position than we were last season.
Robin van Persie could still be forced to stay at the club should teams not meet his valuation but if he is to leave then I hope this happens quickly. I want to move on from van Persie now, better players have left and we have improved as a team over the course of our history. I am looking forward to the start of moving on by watching our three new boys along with up and coming talent like Serge Gnabry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain amongst others.
Our style of play, our attacking football, our preparation to games is what makes our team not individual players. We will go on and perhaps even improve.
Fancy writing your own articles for fellow Gooners to read? Click Your Vision section.