Walcott to Follow Van Persie

December 19, 2012

There is a worrying trend at Arsenal of players having their best ever season for us and then immediately departing to pastures new.

Samir Nasri was always something of an enigma for us until his final season. He was capable of great runs and great goals, but was also frequently a lardy-arsed passenger in important games.

Then came the first half of the 2010-11 campaign and Samir was like a man possessed. He was arguably the best player in the EPL up to Christmas.

As it turned it out, he had been possessed: by the spectre of a huge pile of filthy wonga dripping with crude oil.

Likewise Brave Sir Robin who, last year, finally fulfilled his potential to become one of the best strikers in Europe. We had nursed him through injury after ludicrous injury so that he could achieve his destiny. But once he did he shoved all those years of support back in our faces and upped and offed to the red half of Manchester.

Hleb and Flamini both also decamped immediately after their best seasons for us.

And now it looks like Theo Walcott is about to do the same.

In just nine starts this season (plus nine more appearances as a substitute) he has already clocked up the sort of stats that it has previously taken him a whole season to amass.

In his 18 games this year he has 11 goals and 7 assists – which is a quite phenomenal return. In the whole of last season (with 41 starts and 5 sub appearances) he scored 11 and made 10 assists. The year before that, in 25 starts and 13 outings as a sub, he scored 13 and had 9 assists.

In other words, this season he is performing at least twice as well as we have become used to.

The sad thing is, Theo’s displays have all the hallmarks of yet another player busting a gut to put himself in the shop window so he can make a big pay day when he leaves.

I would love to think Theo will stay, but every sign points to him departing. I don’t believe Arsene Wenger will let him leave in January (indeed Le Boss has categorically stated that that will not happen). But a summer exit is on the cards and, if rumours are to be believed, there is every chance an unofficial deal has already been done.

It’s a depressing thought: yet another hero whom we need to boo and harass when he turns out against us in alien colours. To be honest I’m getting pretty bored of booing our exes.

Some of us regulars on AA have better relations with our ex wives than we do with our ex players (although I believe Goonermichael still boos some of his erstwhile spouses).

Against Reading on Monday Theo got his wish to play as the central striker. You could argue that Wenger’s willingness to give him a chance there is an indication that Le Boss thinks he may still sign for us.

After all, we all know Theo has said it’s not about the money – it’s about wanting to play down the middle.

In truth, I just think it shows how all the cards are with the player: Wenger has been benching him and refusing to play him centrally precisely because he knows that he is going to leave.

But in the end, none of our other central attacking options (Gervinho anyone?) have really convinced so Le Boss has had no choice but to go with Theo, even knowing it can never be a long term solution for Arsenal.

So what do you think?

Is Theo having a stellar season simply because he is putting in more effort in order to get a huge new deal elsewhere?

Are footballers really that capable of turning on the brilliance switch for such venal, materialistic reasons? I find it hard to countenance, but the facts are starting to bear out the theory.

Or is it just that Theo’s years of learning his trade have finally started to come to fruition. He is now 23 and is about to enter his prime years. We fans have watched him thrill and frustrate us in equal measure but now he is turning into what we all hoped he could be: a deadly forward with devastating pace and a clinical finish.

Just in time to b*gger off elsewhere.

RockyLives


Virgin Sacrifice: I presume

November 2, 2012

There are games one anticipates with hope rather than confidence. You know the ones, the top 3 away and of late the trip to the Cave Dwellers. I have never enjoyed our games at the Old Toilet, we rarely do well and when we do it comes as a surprise – yes, we have had some wonderful wins and some sterling performances but on the whole we struggle. We have won once at OT in 10 years (PL) and just 3 times in 20 years.

Then there was last season’s freak humiliation. And before you Kent United fans get uppity, the 8 goals came from 14 shots on target. we had 9, you had 3 corners, AFC 5. A freak result which owed much to good fortune and a dreadful defensive performance from a patched up Arsenal – Traore and Jenks were our FB’s (CJ’s first PL game).

All football fans know that SAF signed a pact with the devil – the percentage of dodgy refereeing decisions and decades of outrageous good fortune are testament to his trip down to the Crossroads but last season the Oil money bought his luck. The Chavs shameful CL victory and MC’s last-second PL win must have shaken The Gorbals  Guzzler down to the tip of his steel toed boots. Having already sold his soul Ferguson is surely looking at other avenues to ensure his team’s dominance over the fickle fates….. see below

Sir Alex prepares for the game

Let’s get the unpleasant stuff out of the way early. Brave Sir Robin. An inspired purchase by SAF, a purchase which could win them the title. For us, a shambles of Titanic proportions. To BSR we are the lover scorned and he will pay the price whatever Mr Wenger says.

What can we expect of today? None of the MU players who conceded 5 (as we did!) midweek will start, as such, Scholes, Cleverly and Carrick will be doing their best to cripple Santi and Jack.  Their defence is said to be shaky but whose wouldn’t given their injuries at CB ? We can but hope that SAF has a meltdown and includes Wooton.

It goes without saying that MU sport some of the most odious men playing today. Evra, Rooney, Nani, Rafael, Ferdinand , Anderson, Fletcher, Young – all  beetle headed baculum (look it up!). I hesitate to put Ashley Young amongst these miscreants but despite being a Gooner, if the cap fits…..

I expect Mr Wenger to take a conservative view; he will not want his team humiliated again – if last season was tough for us, imagine how it was for him.

My Team:

I fully expect to see both Arshavin and Walcott at some point, especially Theo after his fine performance at Reading. But today we will need solidity, should we reach the hour point on level terms I hope AW will bolster the attack.

Much focus will be upon the performance of Jack Wilshire. So much riding upon his stocky frame and the strength of his ankles. If he returns to the form of two seasons ago this Arsenal team will be very, very strong. It is one thing to close down Cazorla with 2 players but having another creative genius allows Arsenal to continue to threaten. We must pray that the referee (Mike Dean – the world is watching) will protect him because you know SAF will be telling his miscreants to kick two colours out of young Jack

It is a great shame Diaby is not fit as this would be his type of game, we will miss Gibbs as well because it is inevitable SAF will target Santos.

This is a game which George Graham would have relished; put the Famous 5 in place of the current back 5 and we would stand a much better chance. Actually, scratch that ….. put Seaman into this team and it would be transformed. The stats show we have conceded just 6 PL goals which is astonishing given our goalkeeping frailty; it is a testament to a team ethic. But and this is a huge BUT, no team wins things without a top goalkeeper and we are lacking. Let us pray to Dennis that AW has a proper GK in his sights this January – watching Julio Cesar perform heroics for QPR last week made me wonder why he wasn’t in our goal.

Today’s Top Man:  I promised you David Livingstone (1813 – 1873) and here he is in all his pomp and glory:

No Beard – Not Knighted

A Scottish Protestant Missionary, he was the first white man to cross Africa. He also tried to find the source of the Zambezi, a 6 year expedition during which he “discovered”/named Victoria Falls and Lake Malawi. He then traveled into the East African jungle where he got “lost” for 4 years. Such was Livingstone’s fame that the New York Herald sent out Henry Stanley to find him. They met on the shores of Lake Tanganyika with Stanley humorously greeting him with the famous words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”  Livingstone died in Africa (malaria), his heart was buried in Zambia, and his body brought back to England where it was buried in Westminster Cathedral

BR doesn’t make predictions but he would be thrilled with a point and promises to buy Mrs Raddy something expensive should when we win.

Written by Big Raddy


Arsenal’s Worst Injury News Ever

October 15, 2012

Following Theo Walcott’s worrying injury against San Marino (who knew you could bruise a lung?) this seems like a good time to ask what has been the most damaging injury we have ever suffered.

I don’t mean damaging to the player (because surely Ramsey and Eduardo would jointly walk away with that one… well, hop away at any rate).

I mean damaging to Arsenal’s fortunes at the time.

Yes I know it’s a downbeat subject, but I’m feeling downbeat during this ridiculous two-week interlull*.

I know we’re supposed to be all “Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George” when Ingurland are on international duty, but I really couldn’t give a Gareth Bale’s uncle.

And so to the injuries which, given our abysmal history in recent years, should be a topic close to the hearts of most of us.

Fabregas Fractured

In the 2009-10 season Cesc Fabregas is proving to be an inspirational player. As the final day of March arrives, we are entertaining his DNA buddies from Barcelona in the Champions League quarter final (first leg); we are also sitting just four points behind Manchester United in the EPL, with six games to go. The Barca game finishes a 2-2 draw, with Captain Fabregas grabbing a memorable equalizer.

Unfortunately it emerges afterwards that even as he hit that goal to send the Emirates into ecstasy, he was suffering a leg fracture. Cesc misses the rest of the season and, without him, our form slumps. We lose the second leg in Barcelona and in the EPL we win only two of our remaining six matches to finish the season in third place, 11 points behind United.

If Fabregas had stayed fit, might we have ousted Barca and pushed on to CL and league glory? The answer to the first question is almost certainly “no” and to the second… “maybe.”

Van Persie (1)

Same season, 2009-10, and Robin van Persie is in fine form. He is named Player of the Month for October after a string of goals and assists. On November 14th he turns out for Holland in a “friendly’ against Italy.

A nasty tackle by the Italian defender Chiellini leaves him with an injured ankle and, supposedly, a six week lay-off. Clearly not wanting to become another of the “Disappeared Ones” in the Arsenal treatment centre, Robin pops over to Europe for some treatment with horse placenta and – Bingo! – six weeks out becomes five months.

Would a fit Robin have potentially sent us into the final run-in several points AHEAD of United rather than behind them? With the form he was in – very possibly.

Eduardo Horror Tackle

We probably all remember that day at Birmingham a bit too well. Arsenal are top of the league, the team are looking strong and, surely, glory awaits. Then, within minutes of the kick off, a lumbering Brummie oaf – Martin Taylor – dives in on our in-form Crozillian striker Eduardo and snaps his ankle in two.

The team are traumatised; captain William Gallas sits in the centre circle crying at the end of the game and, subsequently, our form drops quicker then a Towie girl’s knickers on a night out in Basildon.

Could we have won the league in 2008 but for Eduardo’s break? Most definitely YES.

Snap! Ramsey Horror Tackle

It is unbelievable when our boys have to experience an almost identical assault on another of their team mates, Aaron Ramsey, two years (almost to the day) later. In this case the offender is the Orc’s Orc, Ryan Shawcross, and the venue is the Britannia Ground where those classy Stoke fans boo young Aaron as he’s stretchered off to hospital.

In fairness, the team’s reaction was stronger this time round but we still had a disappointing finish to the 2009-10 season.

Did Aaron’s injury make a crucial difference? Given his youth and inexperience, probably not – but with the subsequent loss of Fabregas a month later it certainly didn’t help our midfield options.

Van Persie (2)

Come to think about it, this whole Post could have been about Brave Sir Robin, but I’ll keep it to two. In 2007-08, following the departure of Thierry Henry, it’s BSR’s turn to step into the limelight. He starts just as we would have hoped, with seven goals in 10 games. Then – yes, you’ve guessed – he goes off on international duty and comes back crocked. His involvement for the rest of the season is sporadic, to say the least.

Notwithstanding the trauma following the Eduardo injury, Robin’s full time presence in 2007-08 might well have given us the edge to find our way to silverware.

Ashley Cole

Football’s most charming man misses most of the 2005-06 season through injury, before following the smell of Maureen’s filthy lucre over to West London. We finish third that year, just ahead of the Spuds.

Flamini does a good job filling in in an unfamiliar position, but we undoubtedly lose something with not having Cole’s defensive solidity and attacking threat.

Could we have won silverware with him? A long shot, but it’s a possibility.

Those are the most telling ones from recent memory. There must have been devastating injuries from previous eras but I can’t seem to recall them.

Players just didn’t seem to get injured so much in the pre-Premier League age. Or maybe they did, but they were just pumped full of cortisone and sent out to get on with it: “Bruised lung? You’re havin’ a larf. Here, hold still while I give you this jab… that’s it – now get out there and kick someone.”

For what it’s worth, I believe the Eduardo injury was the most damaging of the ones I have listed.

The team was cooking on gas and I – and many Gooners – really felt the title was there for the taking.

The collapse in the team’s morale after the injury was disappointing (whatever happened to “let’s win it for Stumpy”?) but I do feel that we might have celebrated a 14th league title if it hadn’t happened.

What do you think?

And what injury blows have I missed off?

RockyLives

* © Arseblog


#once a gooner always a gooner?

September 22, 2012

I often come across this hashtag on twitter about former Arsenal players. Usually it’s in reply to Cesc or Henry saying something complimentary about Arsenal. Personally I think Cesc should be #oncebarcaalwaysbarca but that’s just me. I’ve always wondered how Arsenal fans make up their minds about which former players deserve our support/love and which deserve our contempt and the ones we could say neutral. Here is a list. Make your own minds up

Dennis Bergkamp

Real name God. Finished his career at Arsenal after signing several 1 year rolling contracts. The most gifted Arsenal player in my limited experience.

My Verdict Always a gooner

Ian Wright

Ian was top scorer for the Arsenal until Thierry took his crown. Since he retired he likes to wind gooners up on talksh*te and says he’s a Millwall fan but I think his heart is in the right place.

My verdict Always a gooner

Tony Adams

“Mr Arsenal” Spent his entire career at Arsenal. Famously said “Remember the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back”

My verdict Always a gooner

Patrick Vieira

He came from Senegal to play for Arsenal. He was a great player for us but I feel he’s tainted himself working (and tapping up our players) for the northern oilers.

My Verdict Traitor

Cesc Fabregas

Cesc came to us from the Barca academy when he was 16. It was inevitable that he would go back someday. I think his timing was all wrong. Whatever talent he naturally has, Wenger made him the player he is today (and he’s sitting on their bench)

My verdict Traitor

Ashley Hole

He was the best left back in a generation. Was offered 60K PW by Dein but the board objected and would only give him 55K famously making him swerve his car (if only) and go for a secret meeting with Maureen. Still can’t stop talking about us. I get the feeling he’s a bit bitter despite the trophies.

My verdict Traitor

Thierry Henry

Our all-time top scorer and Monarch. Like Cesc, he went to Barca but unlike the Spaniard he’d helped us to win trophies. He got the CL he wanted and dedicated it to Arsenal. Came back last winter and scored the winners against Sunderland and Leeds.

My verdict Always a gooner.

Robin van Persie

He was with us for 7 years, Spent a lot of time injured, had one season without injury and f***ed off. He grew up as an arsenal fan but the “little boy inside him” was screaming Manchester United.

My verdict Scum

There are plenty more but you get the idea:

Eduardo Always a gooner

Eboue Always a gooner

Freddie Always a gooner

Nasri traitor

Gilberto

Flamini

Lansbury

George Graham

Dixon

Seaman

What do you think?

Written by goonermichael


The Robin song does us no credit

September 4, 2012

I don’t think there is a better or noisier group of away fans in the Premier League than ours.

At the weekend, while the commentators pleasured themselves as they murmured about the “famous Anfield atmosphere” our boys and girls out-sang the Scousers all game long.

They were loud, supportive and funny.

I loved the many choruses of backing for Giroud as he plays his way (slightfully painfully) into the EPL and the hilarious Andre Santos song (“he drives how he wants”).

But for the second week running there was also loud singing of a Robin van Persie song that refers to the untrue rape allegation made against him very early in his Arsenal career (“she said no, Robin”).

I was saddened to hear this particular ditty and I’m trying to figure out why it bothered me (I have felt no such qualms about the songs of abuse aimed at Nasri and Adebayor).

The first thing – and I fully expect some people to heatedly disagree with me about it – is that I feel van Persie deserves more respect from Arsenal fans than many of the others who have angled for transfers in recent years.

He was at the club for a long time and although his glass ankles shattered far too frequently he always tried his best when fit. Last season he proved to be an excellent captain as well as a top striker and played a massive role in getting us to third place. If Robin had had 10% less effective last season we would now be settling in for “Thursday night, Channel Five” to quote another song that was belted out with gusto on Sunday.

He made one silly statement to force through a move – no doubt based on poor advice from one of his management team – in which he dared to assume that his view of how the club was being run was as important as Arsene Wenger’s. But apart from that he was quiet and dignified and has said nothing negative about Arsenal before or since. Nor do I expect him ever to do so.

Some people will never forgive him for going to Manchester United, but I’m sure the club could have sold him abroad if we had been prepared to accept less money, so he doesn’t share all the blame for that one.

(Incidentally, the other galling thing about that transfer is that, seeing United’s urine-poor performance against Southampton, they would be struggling for top four this year without van Persie).

The second thing that bothers me about the rape song is that it is factually incorrect. He was arrested following an allegation that, on police investigation, was determined to be unfounded. He was never charged.

Now I know that terrace songs are not meant to be judged on their accuracy (although it is incontestable fact that the w*nky T*ttenham Hotsp*r did, indeed, go to Rome to see the Pope and he did, indeed, tell them to f*ck off), but this is the equivalent of the scummy fans from Old Toilet and Riot Hart Lane singing about the false claims made against Arsene Wenger in his first days in the Arsenal job.

And let’s not forget that when the allegation was made against Robin he was one of ours. To sing that song now just makes us look like hypocrites. It would be fine to ridicule him for an indiscretion committed while under someone else’s colours, but for something he did (or didn’t do) as a Gooner? Really?

Thirdly, it bugs me that we have adopted a song that was invented by opposition fans who wanted to abuse one of our players. Surely we can do better than tinkering with other people’s sloppy seconds.

Finally I’m against the chant because it feels low class. One thing that has always separated Arsenal, its players and its supporters from other clubs is that we have conducted ourselves better than them. Even now in an age of crazy oligarch spending the way we run our club is a clarion call for sense and integrity.

And in that context seeing Arsenal fans abuse their former captain and hero over an untrue rape charge he faced while he was under our protection just sticks in my craw (not sure where my craw is, but that’s where it sticks).

On balance I would prefer that we didn’t abuse van Persie at all (although I’m probably in a minority on that one) and I would love to see us give him a polite round of applause when he takes the field against us in recognition of what he did for us last season. That would be classy.

Having said that, if the away fans want to abuse Robin (and they, more than anyone, have the right to sing what they want) I would rather see them restrict it to the bit about him being a front bottom. Or wait until he commits some new indiscretion while belonging to Manchester United and lambast him for that.

Or come up with a new chant that has wit rather than classless insult – maybe something about him and Fergie, or him and Rooney.

In fact – how about we try to come up with a new van Persie song ourselves? Any offers?

RockyLives


The revolving door – Where’s the legacy?

August 23, 2012
“…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings”
                                    ~King Richard, Richard II

What a start to the season last weekend. It started with the heir apparent running off before his coronation, continued through a war of attrition in our first game, and ended with us Songless. It’s the two men who’ve left I’d like to address as one word has been bothering me with regards to the way players seem to leave us these days…

Legacy.

I go to games with my dad, who drives 300 miles to games and has been going to the Arsenal for 50 years. I learned a lot about the history of the club, the players who’ve passed through and the managers who’ve overseen it all from him. My dad always…ALWAYS… speaks well of the players of the ‘60s, ‘70s, early ‘80s even…and the late ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s he gets misty eyed about them. Players like McLintock, Radford, George, Graham, Rix, Brady, Nicholas, Merson (responsible for a haircut my dad made me have that I’ve never lived down) and more are remembered very fondly……but time moved on and so did they.

Over the last few years we’ve seen a procession of players sold by Wenger. This is nothing new, he did it before the oil barons started throwing their cash at him. Shockingly, even Rioch, Graham, Howe and Neill sold players. The managers before them sold players, too. Were we angry? Rarely. Why do we get so angry now? It’s how they leave.

Brady left us way too early…my dad was gutted, not angry (even though he’d named my brother after him in ‘78!). McLintock went off to ply his trade in west London just two years after captaining us to the Double. George…Derby….Graham? Manchester United. Were people angry? No…disappointed. When Frank Stapleton went to Manchester United, though…that’s recalled with some resentment as he forced through a move to Old Trafford, with the fee having to be set by a tribunal…he was top scorer for three years, part of a team that went to Wembley three seasons on the spin, scoring in game against Man Utd…but now? Persona non grata as far my old man is concerned.

More recently, in the Wenger era, we’ve become Barcelona’s favourite shop. Hleb and Song have left in acrimonious circumstances…Henry and Fabregas only slightly less so, with their moves to Catalonia seen as inevitable by most, although neither move was welcomed. But what about the first two they bought? Overmars and Petit left us in 2000 for the Nou Camp. It was dealt with quietly – we got a pile of cash (by 2000 standards) for two of our best players – and it was very much in the traditional manner of moves, nothing but a sense of disappointment and a shout of “good luck” from Arsenal fans.

Then there’s the moves of Adebayor, Nasri, Flamini and most of all Ashley Cole to make my point. Cole…who admitted to nearly crashing when heard of a derisory £3m a year contract offer from Arsenal is now busy revising history to suit his new, 2012 version of events…it’s no longer about the money, y’see, he left to “win the European Cup”. So what if it’s 6 years later? From his armchair made of cash he laughs and shouts “F*** you, Cole don’t care…whatever…you’ll believe any old crap”. The other three, too, have been portrayed as mercenaries. Adebayor seems all set to fill Bogarde’s place in the record books as most expensive reserve team player ever.

Nasri…same as Cole. Bleats about leaving to win things when everybody knows the truth…otherwise why does he feel the need to go on? Two others have made the same move to Eastlands in the Wenger era…both are recalled fondly, neither encounter the boos and vitriol that the other three do. Clichy and Toure. Why? Because they were “good leavers”. When asked about our club, they’re always complementary. They didn’t force through moves publicly, didn’t badmouth the manager, the board, the fans and have acted with humility. See! It can be done!

RVP is a tough one…can see why he left (29, last big contract, wants trophies…*pukes*…), but not the ridiculous statement made on his website. Did he tarnish his legacy? Will it always be one of injuries and treachery or will we remember the glorious goal at Charlton, his magic 2011 and his decent captaincy?

If he went abroad…I’m sure it would be the latter. But Man Utd?! Sure we’ll find out at OT when 4,000 away fans get to vent their feelings…

As for Song – I remember (although I may be mistaken) early on in his Arsenal days, Wenger tried to sign one of the de Boers from Barca. Bid was turned down and he “threatened to go on strike” according to reports. Wenger refused to sign him after that…honourable. Is a player ever right to force through a move? Will Song’s legacy at Arsenal be one of a bad attitude, laziness and forcing his way out?

With all the transfers out of club over the years…which have left you with the worst memories? And which players do you think handled their exits in a way that didn’t tarnish your memory of them?

Written by Rhyle


Farewell Robin ……. shame it’s ended this way

August 16, 2012

So that’s it then, it’s official, Robin van Persie is on his way.

It’s a pity it’s ended this way, with van Persie (prompted by his agents, Kees Vos and Darren Dein) having forced his way out of the club by publicly undermining the club of which he was captain. It was clear when he came on as a sub against Cologne at the weekend, when the Arsenal fans in the house gave our erstwhile hero the most tepid of welcomes, that his statement had hit home; his hero status had evaporated.

But for all our frustration that we’ve lost our best player to our principal rival, and the sense of betrayal at the way that move was engineered, despite the time and money invested in a player who has had the worst of injury records and who was an under-achiever for years, we should remember the good times. His final Arsenal stats are more than respectable: in 278 competitive appearances (67 as sub), he scored 132 goals (at a rate of 0.47 goals per game) and provided 62 assists. But it should also be recalled that he has only surpassed 11 league goals in a season twice, last season (30) and the one before that (18). And he started more than half the league games only twice in his eight-year career with us.

He joined from Feyenoord for just £2.75m on 17 May 2004, arriving with a reputation as a trouble maker, his relationship with manager, Bert van Marwijk, having long since deteriorated into a feud. After a shaky disciplinary start with us (remember the silly red card he got, playing against Southampton, which prompted that rarest of things, the public Wenger rebuke), van Persie settled into his new position in the front line and began knocking in goals on a regular basis. And what beauties they often were: volleys, sweeping shots to the far post, little dinks over the oncoming keeper, pinpoint shots to the corner, his repertoire included all of them. Scuffers weren’t much of a feature. His cool head and intelligence were obvious. Yes, he is arrogant, but his talent justifies that arrogance. Thierry Henry said of van Persie: “Without going too far he has everything a footballer would dream to have. He can play anywhere he wants. I am not joking, it is up to him and his desire.”  And in January 2006, he signed a new long contract, saying “I am very happy with my team-mates and the boss. In fact a lot of my progress is down to him and his faith in me.”  As we can see from his “I want to move” statement from a few weeks ago, six years is a long time in football.

Here’s a link to a compilation of his Arsenal goals (be warned, the vid is 26 minutes long): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVzsSNDWRig. There are some real beauties (I’m especially fond of the double at the Bridge last season, the equaliser in the 5-2 against Spurs, a howitzer of a free kick against Sunderland a few seasons back, that near post equaliser in the 2-1 win over Barca and the amazing midair volley against Charlton years back). But looking back through that compilation, it’s noticeable that the last two seasons take up almost half the video. And in a sense, that underlines some of the disappointment about van Persie’s career: he’s been with us for years, Wenger took a rough young diamond and polished him into a real gem, but we never really got a full return from him. Injury after injury robbed van Persie and us of continuity until two seasons ago.

And just when we thought we might be able to have him lead us back to the top, he’s off.

There will be plenty of bitterness expressed about his departure for Man United, and his return to the Home of Football on 27 April 2013 is likely to be a feisty affair. Whatever happens between now and then, it is almost impossible to think that van Persie will return with any of the positivity that came with the return in enemy colours of Henry, Vieira, Pires and Fabregas. He forced his move and has joined one of our main rivals. But personally, I won’t have a go at him when he comes back to Ashburton Grove, I might even applaud him. Our bitterness won’t really have a lot to do with his selfish, disloyal statement, that will be long gone by then; the root of the bitterness will be the helplessness we feel at seeing yet another star that Wenger has created turn tail and join a direct rival. But can we really blame van Persie for that? After all, we exploit other the ambitions of other clubs’ players, so why should we criticise a player who sees a chance to guarantee himself a four-year contract worth at least £40m?

Van Persie’s departure underlines a few things: players, now more than ever, and whatever they say about loving the club and the fans, do not have anything close to the feeling for a club that fans do. I’m sure most players look on us as the over-emotional patsies who fund their gargantuan incomes but even those who have some feeling for the clubs they’re with (and I include van Persie in that group) in the end, and quite rationally, follow their self-interest. Even the big one-club players around usually wanted to leave at some point (Adams and Vieira wanted to go to United, Terry wanted to go to City and Gerrard wanted to go to Chelsea). Gary Nevilles are truly rare things. If we were just to accept that players are not and never will be like us, we’d probably feel a lot calmer about things.

Van Persie has also shown us that we will continue to lose quality players for so long as we don’t win silverware; it’s a chicken and egg thing, since if we still had the likes of van Persie, Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor, Hleb, Clichy, Cole, Flamini, Diarra and Toure, chances are we’d have been top of the pile by now. But let’s face it, the reality of the Abramovich-Abu Dhabi age is that we’re just going to carry on losing these players until somehow we start winning trophies – just as van Persie learnt from Nasri, so the younger players in the squad (Song, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere) will learn from van Persie. This will go on until the cycle is broken. But in the circumstances, for the club to get £22m to £24m for a player with only one year on his contract and who has publicly declared he won’t renew really is great on the business side. I still wish he’d stayed though.

The transfer is, as many have observed, a weird one for Ferguson. Every United fan I know says this deal doesn’t make sense. They only have two full backs, no defensive midfielders, ageing central midfielders, poor goalkeepers and centre backs who are ageing or flawed. The only departments in which they are well served are on the wings and up front. And yet the want to blow more than £60m on a 29-year old striker with only two decent seasons behind him and lots of injuries. No matter how good he is, that is very odd. I’m sure van Persie will be a success next season, but after that? I doubt it. It does make sense for van Persie though, it is the best route to the pot of gold at the end of his career. I don’t mean that in a bitter way, he’s entitled to pursue his career as he sees fit, he just didn’t need to do it quite like this. Perhaps there will be some after-the-fact PR efforts at appeasing us in the coming weeks.

What now? Well, the first thing for players, coach and fans alike is to dig in: the first game can’t come soon enough now, we need to get going and start showing why we believe in this squad, even without van Persie. And it is a very good squad, capable of taking the fight to our rivals – we’ll be written off by the know-nothing pundits of course, we are every year, but with Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud, as well as the quality players we have, we can compete. One advantage of having gone through these experiences so often in the past six years or so is that we are used to it, we know how to cope.

Will there be a signing to make good the gap left by van Persie? I think so, but I very much doubt it will be a star like Fernando Llorente. More likely Poldi will get the starting slot up-front, with Giroud being a tactical option, and a quality squad player like Clint Dempsey being recruited to provide depth. An interesting rumour that hit newsnow tonight (love those rumours!) was that Javier Hernandez might come our way, having been bumped down to fourth choice at Old Trafford. I really can’t see that happening, but if it did, great, the Little Pea is a proper striker.

So long, Robin van Persie. You promised much, delivered some of it, and spoiled it at the end. I hope your move to Manchester is a disaster on the pitch, but that you get every penny you wanted.

Written by 26may1989


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