Arsenal cannot afford to sell Robin van Persie
This post first appeared on Life’s a Pitch.
It seemed as if we weren’t going to have another summer like this. Mindnumbing, monotonous, merciless weeks of rumours about whether our star player would leave. Perhaps it was naïve to assume that.
So now, instead of focussing on which players we’re going to strengthen our side with, we’re forced to lie awake at night wondering whether Robin van Persie will be at Arsenal come the end of August, a stream of sensationalist headlines begging for the attention of our mind’s eye. Tossing and turning on the possibility of losing our captain, again.
People will point to the occasions when we’ve lost a key player and recovered – when we sold Patrick Vieira, we got to the Champions League final; when we sold Thierry Henry we looked good for the title for a long while; when we sold Emmanuel Adebayor we suddenly looked a better side and put up another strong fight for the title. As well as all of that, other players blossomed and we stayed in the Champions League season upon season.
But what’s undeniable about all of those summers is that the sales weakened us, and in truth we merely managed to stay competitive. If we hadn’t caved in and sold some of the players we did, we probably would have been more competitive and maybe won something. Continuity is a big part of any side, and if you’re constantly in transition it’s not likely that you’ll be able to sustain a challenge for honours.
Arsenal have been in transition off of the pitch since the move to the Emirates, and it hasn’t helped that the sales of key players have led to numerous on-field transitions too. Arsene Wenger deserves great credit for continually shuffling the pack and using the resources at his disposal to create sides that have qualified for the Champions League each season.
However, you wonder that if this time, that might just be a step too far this time. Arsenal’s powers of luring players – financially and ‘footballistically’, to use a Wengerism – are dwindling as the likes of Manchester City go up in the estimations of players everywhere. Lukas Podolski was a terrific signing, but Arsenal moved early, and that doesn’t seem to apply to the rest of their targets.
Not only that, but Arsenal’s new style is based around Van Persie. He is the most important player in the team, and his goals and assists tally say it all. The Gunners have lacked a solid game plan for most of this season, but a lot of their new game is reliant on Van Persie, and, were he to leave, the script would have to be torn up once more – something Arsenal just cannot afford.
Having said all of that, Lukas Podolski is probably one of the most similar players to Van Persie out there; certainly there is nobody available who could do what Van Persie does as well as Podolski may be able to. However, it goes deeper than that – Van Persie is Arsenal’s captain, and selling him would surely be the final admission that Arsenal can no longer keep their best players.
The threat of being left behind by Manchester City and Manchester United is very real, and the teams below Arsenal are starting to catch up. It may well be that Arsenal have to think short-term for once in order to save their long-term future. As much as you would be opposed to missing out on a fee for Van Persie, the only way for Arsenal to make any progress on the field is by keeping the important players and adding to the strength in depth. Simply put, Arsenal cannot afford another transitional season. And if Van Persie goes, that’s exactly what will happen.