Thursday, July 5, 2012

Déjà-vu for Arsenal fans as another hero wants to leave

So Robin Van Persie won’t renew his contract at Arsenal. Was anyone expecting otherwise? Sure, the headline may make some stories, but if Arsenal, and Mr Wenger in particular, have proven anything down the years, it’s that no star player gets his chance post-29 years old and they cash in when they expect the player’s level, and especially, his value to drop afterwards. The rule is being applied to Robin Van Persie.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but for the exceptional cases of Samir Nasri (money-related), Ashley Cole (money-related) and Cesc Fabregas (include your own reasoning here), who themselves pushed to leave the club, whenever Arsenal have let go of a player, they’ve done it with a certain age-model in mind. You can argue about some of the signings they’ve made of players close to their thirties, but how often have those players gone on to last long at the club? Those have either been panic-buys (see Arteta) or plan B buys (see Benayoun).

Below are a few examples of incredibly important Arsenal players who were all sold when they reached the 29-30 year old period of their careers. In other words, having reached or just finished their career peaks only to go on and flounder elsewhere:

Patrick Vieira - 2005 - 29 years old
Emmanuel Petit - 2000 - 30 years old
Marc Overmars - 2000 - 28 years old
Freddie Ljunberg - 2007 - 30 years old
Thierry Henry - 2007 - 30 years old
Lauren - 2006 - 29 years old
Nwankwo Kanu - 2004 - 29 years old
Sylvain Wiltord - 2004 - 30 years old
Sol Campbell - 2006 - 31 years old
Kolo Toure - 2009 - 29 years old

Why should Robin Van Persie be treated any differently by the club? He’s in his last year of his contract, he’s just had one very good season and is about to hit the 29-30 year old margin which Arsenal use a threshold for when to sell a player. The time to cash in on him is now. Arsenal have sold bigger players in the past and managed to move on, why shouldn’t they do the same again?

Right now, Arsenal are left with 3 options for Van Persie: the first option is to stand still. Keep him for his last season and during that entire time hope that results on the pitch will persuade him to stay on and sign a new contract, thus increasing his market value if indeed they do want to sell. The second option is similar to option one, but with the acceptance and knowledge that he’ll leave for free (people forget they bought him for only 2.75 million, so the loss financially is peanuts). The third and final option, which has become synonymous with Mr Wenger over the past few years, is sell him to the highest bidder (which always seems to be Manchester City).

Gooners must be feeling a bitter taste of déjà-vu with this scenario. Their top player wants to leave to fulfill his career ambitions, basically saying that he has no hope of winning silverware by staying at the club. Sounds familiar? You bet. The thing Arsenal fans have to consider though is that they shouldn’t get carried away by the emotions of the 1 good season their talisman has given them. He’s always been there and doing the job when fit, but last season was the first time in his entire career that Van Persie played more than 30 league games! And he’s soon 29! It was an exceptional season and one that will no doubt be difficult to reproduce. He’s always had niggling injuries that have prevented him from performing to his full potential. He’s now done that once. Can he do it again? Is it worth taking the risk of finding out, knowing that they could grab a good 20 million for him right now?

One question that remains, if indeed RVP does leaves, is where will he go? If he goes to Manchester City, he’ll just be another squad member. Juventus? Maybe, but how will he fare in Italian Football? I’d be surprised if Barca or Real snapped him because of their already star-studded front lines. My bet is on PSG. I might probably be wrong, but it’s just a feeling.

Or he might just be pulling a Rooney...if you know what I mean. 

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