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The Abou Diaby conundrum

Abou Diaby is an interesting player. And by interesting, I mean incredibly frustrating.

All Arsenal fans must realise he’s immensely talented. Arsène Wenger agrees, and has persisted with the midfielder through-out his injury problems.

He has his fair share of detractors, and I’ve been amongst them. While his injury problems are frustrating, what’s also frustrating is how his attitude comes across when he does get on the pitch. Often he’s seemed vaguely disinterested, and his lackadaisical style leads to a lot of misplaced passes.

As I said, few people doubt Diaby’s talent. When he’s fit – and when he applies himself – he can be brilliant. I’d compare him to Manchester City’s Yaya Toure; a midfielder who, due to his appearance, physique and background, was pigeon-holed as a defensive midfielder, but is far more comfortable as a more offensive midfielder.

But the main difference for me, on top of the injuries Diaby has suffered, is application. When Yaya Toure plays, he seizes the game by the scruff of the neck, and imposes himself. Diaby, on the other hand, has often shied away from responsibility on the pitch and actually been fairly detrimental to Arsenal at times.

As mentioned earlier, his passing is often sloppy, and he’s sometimes very ponderous on the ball. In the past he has slowed down counter attacks and is regularly robbed of the ball while assessing his options.

There are some things he could do to improve this infuriating aspect of his game. He could make better use of his strength when shielding the ball, rather than timidly surrendering, but also improve his awareness – he needs to be aware of opposition players trying to win the ball, as well as being aware of passes to make, releasing the ball earlier rather than dwelling on it.

So far in pre-season, Diaby has looked good. He’s been able to play at the top of Arsenal’s three man midfield, and has looked purposeful and powerful, making use of his repertoire of attributes. His confidence seems back, and most importantly he’s swerved clear of injuries so far.

That confidence might be something I’ve over-looked in the past when criticising him. When you don’t get a run of games because of injuries, and simply can’t string one together, it must be difficult to build up any confidence, inhibiting your performances.

With the state that Arsenal’s midfield is in, Abou Diaby has a great chance to nail down a regular place in the side. Of course, that will depend on his luck with injuries, as few players have had such bad luck as he has (fellow Arsenal players Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky will contest that, though). But it will also depend on his attitude when given a chance.

He won’t be able to wander through games as a passenger, which he’s done far too often in the past. Arsenal’s number two (what a ridiculous number for a midfielder) will need to stamp his mark on games, and if he does he may yet revive his career in London.


Alan Dzagoev: a collaboration with CWD

I’ve teamed up with Culann Davies – better known as CWD – to produce a collaboration on Alan Dzagoev after Euro 2012. He created the video, I wrote the article. Enjoy.

Russia may have crashed out of Euro 2012, but Alan Dzagoev will step off the plane with his reputation much enhanced. For a player with an already large list of admirers in football, it seemed surprising that he was still playing for CSKA Moscow in his native country, but that may not be the case soon.

Recently 22, he’s still very young, but he seems to have been around for a while. In 2008 he was linked with Real Madrid & Chelsea, but a move never materialised. A goal against Manchester United in the Champions League in 2009 also raised his stock, but he remained plying his trade at the Arena Khimki.

Closing Dzagoev’s Wikipedia page for a second and adding some opinion, Arsenal lack creativity in the current side. Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri both left, and the rather more direct Gervinho was brought in, among a few others. I’ve gone on about this plenty of times on the blog, so I shan’t elaborate.

Instead, I’ll look at what Dzagoev brings to Russia, and might be able to bring to Arsenal. The one thing that stood out the most was his excellent vision. He showed this through his intelligent movement and positioning, as well as well-timed passes, including several key passes (see 0:19; 0:52; 2:18). According to, he made 10 key passes at EURO 2012, in just 3 games.

Footballing intelligence and vision is one of the most important things for a creative player. Dzagoev demonstrated this in spades in Poland & Ukraine, and despite not anything fancy, everything he did was done effectively. No step-overs or tricks, but all of his contributions were important – he showed that he likes to play a simple game rather than over-complicating things.

In terms of his positioning and movement, he constantly showed tactical awareness by drifting inside to make way for the overlap of Aleksandr Anyukov (see 0:57 –> 1:03). Furthermore, as one of the playmakers in the Russia team, his roaming inwards put him in a better position to create for his side. He also occasionally swapped places with Andrey Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, showing that he realises his job in the team, and also that he can act as a focal point (see 0:36).

Arsenal’s options out wide are all fairly direct – Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Gervinho are all players who like to either run with the ball or run onto it, rather than players who create by passing or just move the ball on effectively. A certain amount of balance is needed – if you have x amount of players wanting to run onto a ball, you’ll probably need the same amount who are able to supply the ball.

That was poorly worded, but Dzagoev would bring the playmaking abilities Arsenal have missed since Fabregas and Nasri left. Rosicky and Arteta were able to make up for the losses, but Arsenal still struggled creatively, in the first half of the season especially.

The Russian can play as a central playmaker or as a wide player, and this is the type of player positionally that Arsene Wenger has been looking for. Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Mario Goetze were all apparently on his wishlist last summer, with the former duo apparently being close to joining the Gunners.

The reason for this versatility being needed is the imminent emergence of Jack Wilshere and/or Aaron Ramsey as a central playmaker. One of the two was supposed to replace Cesc Fabregas when he left, but neither are ready yet, so Wenger will most likely be on the look-out for another stop-gap to back-up Rosicky.

Dzagoev fits the bill, as he would be able to move out wide once one of the British midfielders was ready, meaning neither of them was ‘killed’, as Wenger often puts it. The difficulty that his countryman and captain Andrey Arshavin faced in London may put the playmaker off, but their situations are different.

While Dzagoev has just enjoyed an eye-catching European Championship, like Arshavin before him, the more recent Russian starlet is younger, and has the rest of his career ahead of him. Arshavin was living off of the buzz of being brought in as Arsenal’s saviour in January, and once that wore off struggled for motivation.

I’m getting ahead of myself, but in his brief cameo role in Euro 2012 he was very impressive, despite Russia crashing out. With the injury problems of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, Arsene Wenger must surely have Dzagoev in his thoughts.

Podolski, M’Vila, Giroud: Arsenal fans’ optimism is being justified

For once, Arsenal fans have come into the summer transfer window with optimism. There were plenty of encouraging performances, some befitting a side challenging for the title, although they were too few to mount a serious threat to the Manchester clubs, especially considering the Gunners’ awful start.

Having tied up an impressive deal for Lukas Podolski – £10.8 million, an absolute bargain by all accounts – speculation was ripe that Yann M’Vila, the Rennes centre midfielder, was also on his way. M’Vila is incredibly highly rated in his native France, despite an apparently unimpressive 2011/12 season with his club, and has been compared with Patrick Vieira.

It had seemed as if M’Vila was practically a done deal, but the talk slightly died down in the build-up to Euro 2012, and it seemed like respected French journalist Lauren Juliens was off-the-mark when he tweeted that the move was 99% done. Never-the-less, Arsenal seem to be the only club properly in for M’Vila, despite tentative rumours linking him with a move to Italy, so the move still seems fairly likely.

There had also been talk of an Arsenal move for M’Vila’s France team-mate Olivier Giroud, but it had only seemed like an initial interest from Arsene Wenger. However, suddenly the move was on; Jeremy Wilson and David Ornstein of the Telegraph and the BBC respectively, two of the most reliable Arsenal sources, confirmed the move was as good as done, prompting wide-spread excitement among Arsenal fans.

With it looking as if Arsenal will start next season with Lukas Podolski, Yann M’Vila and Olivier Giroud added to the ranks – as well as perhaps one or two others – the discussion among Arsenal fans has centred around how Arsene Wenger will fit them into the side.

The North London side have been loyal to a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation since the 2009/10 season, and despite the absence of the previous playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, have continued playing with the same system, so it seems like they’ll persist with it.

The majority of the questions have been about how Wenger would fit Robin van Persie, Podolski and Giroud into the same team. Some have suggested moving van Persie out wide, or putting him behind Giroud, with Podolski on the left wing. However, van Persie has had his most successful season as the lone striker, the talisman of the team, scoring 37 goals in all competitions and winning various player of the year awards, so it would be foolish of Wenger to change his captain’s role.

It seems likely that Podolski will play on the left wing; it wouldn’t make much sense buying Podolski and Giroud for over £20 million between them just to keep them on the bench for the majority of the game, and the ex-Bayern Munich man has had success from the left with Germany over the years.

This spells the end of Gervinho’s stint as a first choice for Arsene Wenger – the Ivorian winger came from Lille with fairly high expectations, but struggled a little in his first season at the Emirates. The African Cup of Nations disrupted his progress, but he still seemed to lack confidence during his performances – although there were several promising ones.

Giroud will most likely step in as the lone striker if Wenger cannot or decides not to field Robin van Persie. He had to use his captain in every Premier League game last season, bringing him off the bench once and starting him in the other 37 games due to the apparent failures of Marouane Chamakh and Park Ju-Young, both of whom seem set to leave this summer.

As for Yann M’Vila, who still may not come in, he will be one of Wenger’s first choices in central midfield, behind the playmaker. Although Mikel Arteta and Alex Song both had good seasons, there were still flaws with the partnership, and when Arteta was absent the Gunners suffered massively without the protection he provided. Song was also at times far too casual, seemingly a little too comfortable with his position under no threat, so M’Vila would also provide fierce competition.

Furthermore, it would allow rotation: this will be key for Arsenal next season, as there isn’t one starting eleven which is clearly the best. Wenger will be able to select his side based on form, fitness and opposition, a luxury that hasn’t often been afforded to him recently, and this will also help to fend off injuries you’d imagine.

In any case, Arsenal are shaping up well for the new season, and it’s looking like the squad will be strengthened significantly. A couple more additions still seem necessary – a creative midfielder may be required, as may a back-up defender & back-up goalkeeper – but it’s definitely so far, so good for Arsene Wenger.

Scouting report: Alan Dzagoev – is he suited to Arsenal?

I was asked to produce an article for Sabotage Times on Alan Dzagoev during the game vs Poland, so having watched him intensely (trust me on that, I filled two pages with notes and he barely touched the ball) I wrote this scouting report type article on the Russian. Enjoy.

Many had said to look out for CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev for Russia at Euro 2012, and two goals against the Czech Republic only raised the hype around the diminutive 21-year-old. Some have tentatively compared him to Andrey Arshavin, and this has added to speculation linking Dzagoev with Arsenal to replace his national team’s captain, with a goal against Poland only serving to increase that speculation.

Other than his goal, the Russian number 17 had a rather quiet game, flitting in and out of the game. In a 4-3-3, there were some key facets to his role and positioning; for one, he consistently made way for the overlapping Aleksandr Anyukov, drifting into a more central role off of Aleksandr Kerzhakov. This was two-fold however – with it being a very strict three in midfield, Denisov, Zyryanov and Shirokov all played fairly reserved, with-drawn roles, with none of them being creative outlets. The playmaking duties were left mainly up to Arshavin and in part Dzagoev, who both had license to drift inside, and fully utilised that.

Dzagoev also went looking for space in between the lines against Poland, with the left back Boenisch following him up until the half-way line on occasion. He constantly dropped in closer to the midfielders to offer an option, and kept showing for the ball, which showed a hunger to get involved and to help his team out.

He wasn’t always drawn to the ball however – a criticism of Samir Nasri at Arsenal – but often used his team mates as references in order to position himself to keep the team’s shape. This intelligence was echoed when he got the ball, as he was happy to play simple football when Russia needed to keep the ball in midfield.

Further forward Dzagoev had little opportunity to show off his dribbling skills, about which much has been spoken, but he often looked to provide killer passes when afforded space. An example of this was when he played a great ball in behind the defence for Kerzhakov – he played the ball in between two defenders, weighted perfectly for his team-mate, showing not only his awareness but his precision.

Russia’s front three were fluid – surprisingly not dissimilar to the movement of Spain’s forwards, and with Arshavin given freedom to roam, he often popped up on the right; Dzagoev and Kerzhakov adjusting their positions accordingly. The latter played something of a false 9 role, although didn’t drop deep enough into midfield to be classed as one. However, with Kerzhakov often finding himself out wide, Dzagoev wasn’t afraid to act as the focal point for Russia, and he showed he was fully capable of doing so.

His end product was mixed, with a few blocked attempts at killer passes, and one lofted cross from the left which sailed over everybody’s heads and went out for a goal kick. However, his decisive contribution came after 37 minutes. Arshavin stood over a free kick, and whipped it in. Dzagoev made a good run, attacked it, and the ball seemed to flick off of his shoulder before flying into the corner of the net. While the execution of the header may be questioned, he did well to find the space to create the opportunity for himself.

He later demonstrated more impressive movement in the box – firstly he was right to hold his run as Yuri Zhirkov dribbled into the box, offering a great option for a cut-back, as he would have had space to shoot. Later in the second half he made a clever dart towards the near post, timing his leap well, and was on course to meet the ball before it was deflected.

Another intelligent run was made by the 5 foot 10 wide man through the centre, with Kerzhakov battling out wide. Russia had the ball in the centre, and he scurried into the space as the pass was released, on the same wave-length as his team-mate. The ball was a little too heavy for him to make use of, but he chased the lost cause and managed to knock it out for a Poland throw in, giving his side a territorial advantage.

This spatial awareness was continually demonstrated by Dzagoev in the second half especially. As the game became more open, he had more room to drop into, and he showed an excellent appreciation of space, leaving his marker behind consistently in search of the ball. On one occasion, not only did he do well to find space and release the ball having received it, he showed the vision to continue his run and get it back in a swift one-two, suddenly upping the pace for Russia.

That’s one thing Arsenal, apparently potential suitors, as mentioned earlier, have suffered – not having somebody to change the tempo of a game, in the absence of Cesc Fabregas. Dzagoev demonstrated this ability in glimpses against Poland, although Arsene Wenger will continue to observe his performances if he is at all interested.

Russia’s direct style certainly suits Dzagoev, as he gets a lot of opportunities on the ball in the final third, out wide and in the centre, and he uses the ball well, in addition to not having too many players in front of him to beat. Arsenal have been renowned for their possession game, but with the departure of Fabregas, and Samir Nasri, moved to a slightly more direct style of play, which might well suit Dzagoev.

The Gunners have missed the creativity both centrally and out wide in the absences of their two previous playmakers, and despite impressive performances from Tomas Rosicky still lacked something going forward in those positions. Arsenal have a lot of direct wingers now – Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Lukas Podolski are all in this mould, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Wenger moved for a more skilful player to play out wide – one who looks to come inside and dictate the play, providing the killer balls instead of getting on the end of them.

Dzagoev certainly demonstrated a liking for killer passes against Poland, and a couple were very close to coming off, if it hadn’t been for laudable defending from the Poles at the back. He showed great composure on the ball – calmness when under pressure from opponents, and a good first touch. With Arsenal possibly on the market for a creative option out wide who can also play as a central playmaker – moves for Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla were apparently close last summer – it might be plausible that Wenger looks to Dzagoev.

Here’s to the supporting cast

Although Robin van Persie won’s player of the season award today by more than a landslide, there are several who deserve mentions alongside the Dutchman – the three men above for instance. No, not you Mike Dean. I blurred you out for a reason. (if you genuinely are reading this Mike, more penalties please. Not for the other team as pictured above, you give too many of those)

As well as Laurent Koscielny, Alex Song and Bacary Sagna, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Wojciech Szczesny have all made sizeable contributions this season, and those contributions should not be written off simply due to the magnitude of van Persie’s. Not only did several of them lay on a great deal of van Persie’s goals, but they were superb in their own rights. Suggestions that Arsenal are a one-man team are way off the mark, even if their captain did score a large amount of the Gunners’ goals last season.

In his first full season, Wojciech Szczesny made some excellent saves and was a commanding presence between the posts. A lack of protection from the defence and midfield at times exposed him – especially to an apparent weakness from long shots – but he still made some vital stops and his distribution seemed to improve. A large character, he’ll be sure to be Arsenal’s number one for years to come.

Despite two leg breaks, when he played, Bacary Sagna was a beacon of consistency and was always his no-nonsense self at right back, further strengthening his claim to being the best in the league in his position. As well as the never-wavering defensive contributions, he did his bit when he went forward too, setting up van Persie’s header at Anfield for example.

Many had Thomas Vermaelen & Per Mertesacker down as our first choice at the beginning of the season, and by the end, Laurent Koscielny is the only indisputable choice at centre back for many, myself included. The Frenchman (older than Vermaelen, to my surprise) had a superb second season, showing everyone that he had settled completely with many flawless displays in defence. Deserving of far more than just 4.29% in the player of the season poll.

In midfield we were ravaged with injuries, which meant we didn’t see Jack Wilshere once, and we were often without Alex Song’s back-ups in Coquelin & Frimpong. Luckily Song was pretty much always available, and while his performances weren’t as consistent as his appearances, he still came up with important assists when we needed him to; mostly to van Persie, although an exquisite ball to Theo Walcott for our second vs Aston Villa springs to mind.

Alongside Song in a midfield pivot was Mikel Arteta, summer deadline day signing from Everton. I’ve written way too much about him recently as it is, but one more paragraph can’t hurt: he added some much needed stability and balance to Arsenal, as well as chipping in with some vital contributions going forwards. Arsenal’s record without him said it all.

The third member of the regular midfield – in the second half of the season anyway – was Tomas Rosicky, and the Czech excelled in the role between Robin van Persie, linking up well with the Dutchman as well as dropping in and creating a midfield three with Arteta & Song, which helped Arsenal’s fluidity a great deal. 2 goals and 5 assists weren’t brilliant, but something to build on next season – and the goal to put the Gunners ahead against Tottenham was pretty huge.

It may seem strange to some that Theo Walcott is the final member praised in this post, as his contribution remains erratic, but there were still some important goals and assists scattered here, there and everywhere. In 46 appearances (including 5 as a substitute) he netted eleven times and set up nine goals – that’s 20 goals he was directly involved in. Not a bad return for someone still only 23 and still developing.

All in all, despite a huge contribution from van Persie, there were still vital parts played by his team-mates, and he certainly couldn’t have done it without them. I suppose this is kind of a lazy season review – and it’s not anything to do with the recent Unsung Heroes series, despite some relatable content.

Bundesliga talents to watch

If you remember last year’s series, the FourAddedOn crew pinpointed a group of talented players from the big leagues in Europe that Arsenal should consider signing. From the Bundesliga picks last year, all the players mentioned went on to have terrific seasons for their respective teams. Hopefully we can witness the same with this batch of players over the course of next season.

Patrick Herrmann – Right Winger – Borussia Mönchengladbach

Gladbach have performed like a top team for a majority of this season, all without a big budget. They have done brilliant by using players already at their disposal. After one big season however, their team has started to get picked apart. With Marco Reus, Roman Neustadter and Dante announcing their departures before the end of the season, it will be difficult for them to repeat their heroics from the 2011/12 season. Winger Patrick Herrmann was a vital part of that squad as well and displayed great maturity for a player who has just made his break through over the last two seasons. He showed that he is a great modern day winger, able to both score and assist while not being restricted to playing out wide. He has a solid inside game, drifting into the right areas of the pitch and really stretching out defences by drawing defenders out of position.

Despite being primarily a winger, I feel he could prove to be a very versatile player and could be successful playing behind the striker as well given his skills.

Bernd Leno – Goalkeeper – Bayer Leverkusen

Germany has been churning out quality goalkeepers in the last decade or so. Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s popularity outside of the country in the last year or so just shows how far this phenomenon has reached. One of these talented, young keepers coming out of the Bundesliga is Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno, who impressed in Leverkusen’s Champions League run. Leno was initially loaned in from Stuttgart as a third goalkeeper. But after the backup for permanently injured René Adler didn’t perform well enough in goal, the then 19 year old was given a chance and didn’t fail to impress. His series of impressive performances led to Leverkusen making the deal permanent in January.

With Lukasz Fabianski stating his intention to leave the club this summer, Leno could be a serious target for Arsenal. Much like Szczesny, he shows a lot of confidence in goal despite being only 20 years old.

Gylfi Sigurdsson – Attacking Midfielder – TSG Hoffenheim

In this very post last year, I mentioned Sigurdsson and his talent as an attacking midfielder. After joining Swansea on loan in January, he wowed Premier League fans, contributing a lot to the Swans’ push to stay clear of relegation. Like Rosicky, Sigurdsson is an attacking midfielder who runs a lot, bridging the gap between midfield and attack. He’s very skilled at getting into goal scoring positions and possesses a venomous long range strike. Sigurdsson’s delivery from set pieces is impeccable as well and could add a whole new dimension to the team if we can get a proper freekick specialist.

As things stand, everything is up in the air. Sigurdsson would like to stay at Swansea and the Welsh club would love to keep him but Hoffenheim have rejected their initial offer, stating a fee of around €10m would be acceptable. Swansea play a good brand of football, much like Arsenal and we have all seen how well he’s done in a fluid system. Arsenal should pounce on the player as he’d be a perfect fit and add a lot to our midfield.

Robert Lewandowski – Striker – Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski has quickly turned from a simple pawn in Jurgen Klopp’s side to the go to player. After joining the German champions a year earlier, he failed to really make an impact and only emphasized the team’s reliance on players like Shinji Kagawa and Lucas Barrios. He was drafted into the squad after Kagawa’s injury halfway through the season and did show glimpses of his talent but nothing that would have readied fans for the 2011/12 he has had.

Once again, an injury was what brought him into the spotlight. This time, BVB’s man up front, Barrios, pulled up with a hamstring injury in the Copa America final and faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Dortmund’s goal output now depended on the Lewandowski. Despite a slow start, the Polish striker really hit form as Barrios was nearing his return. The Paraguayan understandably found it difficult to get back into the lineup with his in form replacement scoring left, right and center.

Barrios was so frozen out that he has now agreed to leave the club and sort out his life in China. Obviously, the fact that Barrios is on his way out will mean they will hold onto their top scorer even tighter.

Lewandowski has shown that he is a great all round striker over the course of the last year. The real dilemma for Arsenal is that we need a striker who can play the same role as Van Persie and while Lewandowski is the perfect candidate, it wouldn’t be easy to convince him to give up being a starter for Dortmund, especially as he’s just finding his feet in the Bundesliga. This is where Podolski is seen as a good backup as he can also play out wide. The problem with Podolski is that he doesn’t have the attributes to play as a pivot up front. He has been playing behind a big, commanding striker his entire club and international career because he isn’t that player himself.

So while Robert Lewandowski would be an unlikely signing in the near future, he is a player to really keep an eye on over the next few years and should be an example for the kind of striker we should be looking to to backup Van Persie.

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.