Transfer sagas have become a customary, almost predestined, tradition at Arsenal just as Wimbledon, the blooming of flowers and tropical precipitation in between scant smatterings of sunshine have for the rest of the country during the summer months.
With the transition from spring comes a recurring theme that has more than likely led to Arsene Wenger developing an irrational fear of the seasonal metamorphosis by as he battles to nip a stream of sleepless nights in the bud.
The long drawn out rigmarole of Patrick Vieira’s departure to Juventus in 2005 set the tone for what has turned into an unwanted narrative that Wenger has struggled to curtail. Vieira, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas have all fled the Emirates Stadium following a lengthy transfer melodrama that the Gunners always labour to bounce back from.
Predictably they’ve become entrenched in another long-running saga that could, once again, undermine their preparations for a campaign supporters hoped would pass without incident. 12-months ago the ‘will they, won’t they’ theatrics of Fabregas and Nasri was the catalyst for Arsenal’s catastrophic opening to last season that reached its lowest ebb in the backyard of Wenger’s greatest rival leaving the football fraternity wondering how they would ever recover.
Out of the five aforementioned players three have worn the captains armband on a permanent basis during their time at the club. It’s no mere coincidence then that current skipper Robin Van Persie is the villain in yet another unsavory transfer tale.
After all there is a discernible feeling of inevitability regarding his departure following the revelation that, with just a year left on his contract, he won’t be extending his stay in North London beyond the upcoming campaign. Whichever way you choose to analyse the current situation it’s fair to say any bridge leading back to the Emirates Stadium isn’t just burnt – it’s completely demolished.
Astonishingly the Frenchman is still endeavoring to persuade Van Persie to stay and see out the remainder of his career at the Emirates despite his very public denouncement of the clubs ambitions to end a trophy drought that has now stretched into its seventh year.
Wenger certainly has just cause in his efforts to convince the Holland international to perform a colossal U-turn and commit his future to Arsenal. 37 goals last term and an unnerving consistency, absent for a majority of his eight year spell, saw him rise to become the new sovereign of a club ailing from the heartache of losing its crown jewel.
Arsenal’s terminal decline during the latter of the past decade has been underpinned by the failure to suitably replace significant personnel after they’ve headed off for pastures new. The loss of Vieira initiated a choppy transitional period that Wenger has struggled to navigate and bring his side back to safe harbor. It’s therefore understandable why he is desperate to hold on to Van Persie.
But in the grand scheme of things cashing in on a player who’s sell-on-value has hit its peak could provide Wenger with the means to shift the Gunners from their long-term flux. An unflinching dedication to a philosophy of nurturing youth players and scouring the market for bargain signings hasn’t bore the results it did during his first five years at the club and left Arsenal with deficiencies in key areas.
When push comes to shove Wenger would be deemed clinically insane to turn away £20 million for a 28-year-old whose contract expires next summer and possesses an appalling injury record. The facts are that Van Persie has only managed to play more than 30 Premier League games in a season just once during eight years at the club. His proclivity to spend extended periods on the sidelines is only masked by his predatory prowess in the penalty area.
Clubs will disregard his fitness issues and view him as a bargain in an era where strikers of his calibre are considered valuable market commodities and notoriously difficult to pick up for a reasonable price. In Arsenal’s case it will become an easy sell as the transfer window clock ticks perilously towards its conclusion and the agitation levels of his potential suitors soar. Wenger has even picked up two forwards boasting exceptional goal scoring reputations built up elsewhere in Europe for a similar price to that which Van Persie will command.
The cost of acquiring Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud at a combined £22m is relatively inexpensive considering their records in Germany and France respectively. With Wenger likely to stick with a three-pronged attack next term it’s unlikely the pair have been bought to play second fiddle to Van Persie.
In fact Giroud is more suited to the target man role than the Gunners skipper whilst it’s expected that Podolski will operate from the left wing. And with the signing of attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla confirmed and Nuri Sahin reportedly close to joining on loan the question is where will Van Persie fit in? The truthful answer is that he doesn’t.
Cutting their ties with him would represent a blessing in disguise for Arsenal such was their reliance on him to dig them out of some cavernous holes last season. Van Persie has become somewhat of a symbolic exemplification of Wenger’s catastrophic shortcomings in the transfer market over recent years and regression into a entity dependent on an individual to keep them ticking over.
Removing him from the equation will force Wenger to look deeper into the flaws of his squad and allow him to begin addressing the critical issues that prevent the club from breaking out from their current rut. And whilst the sale of Van Persie will provide the means for the Arsenal chief to make the necessary repairs to his troupe it would embody more than just financial gain.
For so many years Wenger has seen dubious eyes cast over his leadership qualities, recruitment ideology nitpicked and capacity to guide Arsenal through a period of turbulence railed against. Removing that final obstacle towards regaining a sense of authority and pushing Van Persie through that exit door would finally allow him to trigger the final stages of a transition that threatened to bring Arsenal to its knees.