It’s a familiar scenario this summer at Arsenal, but there doesn’t have to be a familiar ending. Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri are just some of the players who have forced moves away from Wenger during his time in north London. Now, Robin van Persie joins that list.
Considering that we can teach apes and other less intelligent animals to learn from their experiences, from trial and error, you would think that, by now, Arsenal would have discovered a solution to this recurring problem.
Surely, after almost fifteen years of losing talented players to clubs with more money the Arsenal hierarchy would have come up with either preventative actions or definite solutions to this problem.
The real issue however, is that every time it happens at Arsenal they act as if they’re surprised, they can’t look ahead and realise that how they deal with the present situation will affect the near-identical future scenarios.
Whenever a player leaves the club under such circumstances Arsenal pretend as though he is the only one who would, in that position, take the same course of action. Both the fans and the club kid themselves. The whole situation seems so traumatic that they can’t even bare to think about the possibility of it happening again next summer.
However, considering the statement released by Kees Vos, van Persie’s agent, what options do Arsenal realistically have? Ideally, Arsenal would stand up to van Persie, they would make an example of him in the same way that Manchester City did with Tevez.
Nevertheless, the idea of Arsenal spending vast sums on wages for a player, who wasn’t even contributing to the cause, just to make a point seems desperately unlikely.
It is somewhat ironic that the only clubs who could afford to make an example of their players in this way are probably the only clubs who are so wealthy that they don’t have to worry about other clubs poaching their players.
Perhaps, though, Arsenal should view the situation not through a finance-tinted lens but instead through the eyes of their other players, who will undoubtedly notice the potential damage to the club’s reputation should they further mis-handle the state of affairs.
For this situation to have happened once or twice as it has done with Man Utd and Chelsea over the years is acceptable. For Arsenal to experience this mess every summer is clearly a consequence of their own actions.
Should they hold van Persie to his contract then they will lose money, and his performances may be below par, and his presence may damage the spirit of the team. However, are those negative effects as disastrous as letting another player leave? If Arsenal are incapable of persuading their players to sign new deals before they reach their final twelve months then they must start holding players to the end of their contracts.
Even if Arsenal can’t prevent their players from leaving, they need to alter the way in which they are lost. Each summer brings more damage. The club is in need of a serious PR boost and the only way they can do that is by turning this latest transfer saga in to some sort of moral victory.
Either they keep van Persie at Arsenal, strip him of his captaincy and continue to use a £200,000 per week striker for £80,000 or they can sell him to a club that he is not particularly interested in going to (i.e. Juventus or PSG) or they sell him to one of the Manchester clubs but ensure they get a player in return. For example, City are looking to offload Edin Dzeko and possibly Carlos Tevez. Why not swap van Persie for one of those players. That at least creates the illusion that although some big players want to leave Arsenal others wish to play for them.
Nobody believes that Arsenal’s hierarchy are making decisions, or implementing guidelines, without the best intentions of the club at heart, but that doesn’t mean situations like this aren’t the fault of the club.
Clearly the way they have handled high profile departures at the club has been unacceptable. I know that it seems as though every situation was different and there was a slightly different reason for every player wanting to leave. Vieira and Henry wanted the Champions League, Fabregas wanted to go to Barcelona, Nasri wanted money, van Persie wants more money and more trophies; yet the reality is that the majority of these transfer problems stemmed out of a culture of allowing their best players to leave.
If you combine this with forcing out all of the older players who did want to stay like Gilberto Silva, Robert Pires and Kolo Toure then Arsenal have created an atmosphere at the club whereby it seems totally implausible for any player to believe that they will see out their career at the club.
Arsenal have found themselves in a self-imposed rut. There is a way out, and it starts with van Persie. They must change the attitudes towards the club and there is no better way to prove that the club is bigger than any player than by making an example of their captain and talisman.
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