Why Arsenal cannot afford not to have a Plan B

Robin van Persie’s start to the season has rightly earned him universal praise. Too often footballers get lauded as world-beaters but the Dutchman’s form has been nothing short of sensational, galvanising Arsenal’s push back up the table. But are Arsenal and Arsene Wenger setting themselves up for a fall by relying too much on Robin?

Despite Arsenal’s awful start to the season, the one shining light amongst the initial gloom at the Emirates has been the form of star striker and captain van Persie. The Dutchman sits on top of the Premier League scoring charts with eleven goals in eleven appearances (a fine achievement when playing in a team that can’t currently compete with the top clubs yet van Persie has scored more than the likes of title-chasers Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney).

But whilst van Persie’s sparkling form in the short-term is a great relief for Wenger as he tries to turn his team’s season around, the striker’s long-term future remains in doubt and Arsenal need to look past the Dutchman and build a team around him that can support van Persie but also work without him.

The pitfalls of having a one-man team are well documented and whilst Arsenal do still have plenty of star names in their squad, their reliance on van Persie to score goals, assist and captain the team is a risky move.

The main concern surrounding the former Feyenoord man is his contract. The striker’s current deal expires in June 2013 and it has recently been reported that he will not consider a new deal until next summer. If his form continues in the same vein across the whole season then Arsenal will do well to hold onto a player that must be on many top European clubs radar with the clock ticking down on his contract.

Arsenal are all too aware of how contract negotiations and wantaway stars can have a disastrous affect at a football club and Arsenal must do everything they can to avoid a repeat of last summer when they lost both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Their departures left the club in turmoil; the loss of van Persie in a similar fashion would be disastrous for Wenger.

Van Persie also has a problematic recent injury record. He has shown that when fully fit he can be amongst the best strikers in world football yet the Dutchman has struggled with injuries in recent years. Losing their captain and talisman to injury for even a short period leaves the prospect of Wenger having to fill a very big hole in his team. At present there looks to be no obvious and consistent replacement for the goals, assists and leadership that van Persie provides.

Van Persie’s eleven goals (13 in all competitions) is a commendable achievement but in turn highlights one of the main concerns in relying too much on the Dutchman. Looking past van Persie’s tally, the next highest contributor in terms of goals in the Premier League is Gervinho, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta each with two strikes. Van Persie has also netted nearly half of Arsenal’s goal tally so far this season in the Premier League (23 in total).

The lack of goals supporting their main striker is a concern if Arsenal face a spell without van Persie, especially from the other strikers in the squad. No team would have the luxury of four van Persie’s in one squad but the likes of Gervinho, Walcott, Marouane Chamakh and Ju Young Park need to not only be trusted by Wenger but also start to repay that faith with goals.

But it is not all doom and gloom for Arsenal. They still have one of Europe’s best players on their books with the prospect that he could help them remain in the top four for at least another season. Whilst van Persie is currently the best player at the club, there are also promising signs surrounding other key players. Aaron Ramsey is emerging as a fantastic midfielder for the Gunners whilst they still have the luxury of welcoming back exciting homegrown talent Jack Wilshere from injury.

The likelihood of van Persie’s departure in the future has neither been confirmed or denied but Wenger must continue to build and develop a team capable of better supporting the Dutchman, the failure to do so may mean Arsenal risk a heavy fall if they rely too much on Robin and end up losing him.

Do you think Arsenal are too reliant on Robin van Persie? If you want to read more of my bite size, 140 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5

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