Having just defeated the side most rumoured to sign Robin van Persie in the summer in Manchester City at the weekend, the rapturous release of emotion at victory meant so much more than overhauling Tottenham for Arsenal fans. It showed they can mix it with the best in the division, they can step up and be counted when it matters. But can they convince their captain that his long-term future is at the Emirates? This remains to be seen in reality but here are a few pointers on just how they might go about it in practice.
Firstly, fairly recent history informs you that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Of course, unless you are Barcelona – in the case of Cesc Fabregas the Nou Camp turf is very bright, but in the case of Samir Nasri, Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, modern football is impatient as much as it is expectant and if you don’t hit the ground running, questions about fitting in with a system, self-motivation and desire inevitably rear their ugly head. Very quickly you can go from hero to zero, and the unforgiving press have shown that they can tarnish reputations in the blink of an eye. For example, Fernando Torres is likely to suffer in terms of gaining a Euro 2012 berth with Spain after his bumbling season at Chelsea. Wenger should use his powers of persuasion to convince van Persie that he is very unlikely to become a waning force at Arsenal, that this season hasn’t been a fluke and that he will remain captain, with the squad being built around his merits.
Secondly, van Persie should be reminded about the club’s transfer policy going forward. Now at the back end of the season, and with several key players fit again, we have seen what could be deemed as the true Arsenal in that an impressive run of form has been put together, coinciding with the fact that several of the young squad members needing to be selected at the start of the season in Jenkinson, Miquel and Coquelin have been replaced by senior statesmen. A criticism that has always been levelled at Arsenal is their lack of experience in a youthful looking squad, and already public about their approaches to sign Lukas Podolski, this pending move represents Wenger’s change of tact and amending of an error in that he now realises he needs leaders signed up early in order to avoid an end of summer rush. The deadline day bonanza at the Emirates was very un-Arsenal like and was almost a fan-pressured or last ditch attempt to try and re-invigorate a dire start to the campaign. van Persie should be reminded that this won’t happen next time round.
Of course, as Nicklas Bendtner once famously said that footballers are worth their multi-million pound contracts and that he merited his £50,000 a week wage, van Persie should be assured of boost in his contract to £100,000 a week. After all, if Bendtner was worth £50,000! But in all seriousness, the most important transfer dealing this summer will be the retention of their captain and an exit may have the potential to spark a mini exodus with senior members Thomas Vermaelen, Alex Song and Bacary Sagna perhaps growing disillusioned around the club’s ‘selling’ nature. Wenger should have a quiet word in van Persie’s ear and remind him that despite this season’s early cup exits, the Gunners remain on course to finish as high as third; an improvement on last season and that with Manchester City’s demise, a respectable points’ tally closer to the Citizens may be gained come May. It would be foolish for the Frenchman in charge, not to point to the fighting spirit and team efforts as characterised by the latest good run in the league.
Finally, van Persie should remind himself that he truly is a so-called ‘Arsenal man’ at heart. Having been at the club since 2004 and having played at Highbury as well, van Persie is not a ‘Nasri’ in that he recognises the club’s traditions, has overseen many years at the club and has been a loyal servant. Footballers change clubs all the time; it’s part and parcel of the fabric of the game, but van Persie would look out of place in another team. His balance, style and gameplay all complement the ‘Arsenal way’ and he has always respected Wenger as the man who forged him into a central striker and put him where he is today; at the forefront of the most talented footballers in the world.
A lot hinges on both the Gunners’ finish this season and just how good a story Wenger can talk up. If both are carried out efficiently and with the utmost care, Robin van Persie just might be an Arsenal player next season and beyond.
Written by Taylor Williams