As England prepare to launch their Euro 2012 campaign in Ukraine without star man Wayne Rooney for the first two games, questions have arisen as to whether the team can still challenge for the paramount prize. Back on more familiar shores and Arsenal could be facing a similar issue in the not too distant future. As a brigade of pundits continue to speculate Robin van Persie and his choice of club come August, Gunners fans will understandably be praying that their skipper remains at a club at which he publicly announces his deep affection.
Former Arsenal man John Hartson vocalised his thoughts on the matter, believing that the Gunners would be "fine as always" should they let the Dutchman go. In stark contrast Ex-Skipper Patrick Vieira stated that Arsenal have been "foolish" letting their star man progress to within a year of becoming out-of-contract. Describing the possible departure of van Persie a "trauma", the Frenchman continued, "it would be very hard to keep their (Arsenal) top players". Now a Football Development Executive at newly crowned domestic Champions Manchester City, Vieira will quite obviously have a vested interest in van Persie's future considering that his current employers are favourites to land the Dutchman, so his words may be influenced by circumstance.
What makes the importance of Robin van Persie so blatantly clear is the never ending hype and discussion surrounding his future. The introduction of Lukas Podolski to the Emirates Stadium cast a spell of doubt around the already uncertain destiny of van Persie. A left footed striker whose attributes are not dissimilar to those of Arsenal's number 10. If the Dutchman were to leave London, Podolski could be an adept replacement, especially when glancing at his goal scoring record for club and country. However, a large transfer fee will be received in lieu of RVP departing so an expectant fan base will quite rightly demand to see investment in a world class replacement. Lessons learned from last seasons panic purchases after the departures of Fabregas and Nasri, will surely kick Wenger into gear in the transfer market this time around.
It was not 12 months ago that the media hopped on board the "disaster at the Emirates" train, when aforementioned stars Fabregas and Nasri departed the club. Many expected Arsenal to implode considering their two most consistent performers had left for pastures new. However, this was not the case and the club continued to compete at a consistent level. Who is to say that if van Persie leaves, Wenger can't once again rebuild and maintain Arsenal's reputation one of Europe's elite? Granted, the loss of a goal machine is a blow to any team, plus the fact that he is carrying much of the weight of the clubs expectation on his broad shoulders alone, but Wenger is one of the most astute, resilient managers in World Football. Countless times in recent years when the club have had to let their stars depart, Wenger has pulled the club from the mire and transformed young, bit-part players into superstardom.
The other, not so pleasant side of the coin is that the Gunners lack of recent silverware is the predominant reason as to why their much loved players have left. If Arsenal had finished the season with a trophy, chances are van Persie would stay as tangible proof would be in his hands that indicates he is part of a team that can win competitions. Until a trophy of any shape or size returns to Arsenal, this problem of want away players may have a frustrating repetitive nature to it.
When Thierry Henry left Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas stepped up, when Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal, Robin van Persie stepped up. If Robin van Persie leaves Arsenal, who can step up? Podolski will certainly have many expectant eyes on him, as will a probable new arrival should the Gunners Captain leave. Jack Wilshere will also have a major role to play in the clubs future if an RVP shaped hole is obvious in Arsenal's team sheet. His long-term injury problems set aside, the young midfielder has already committed his career to his beloved club and with many footballing fans considering Wilshere to be a major talent for the future, he could be taking on some of the pressure that would remain ever present, should van Persie go.
The vast majority of Arsenal fans will be biting their fingernails this summer,should any stories arise of approaches for their main man, hoping that the Dutchman will re-sign for his current club. However, should he go, the undoubted panic that will fuel much of the media coverage of the event, need not be felt by Gunners fans. If anyone is to rejuvenate the team again, it will be Arsène Wenger. For now, van Persie remains a Gunner, and fans will breath a sigh of relief if the transfer window closes and the Dutchman is still leading the line at the Emirates.
Written by Matt Pegg
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