I’m not going to link you to any sports site discussing about this topic as it is already quite widely known that contract talks with the Arsenal about extending RvP’s contract had not reached a favourable conclusion. Plus, the media has the persistently annoying trait of hyping up doom and gloom when a more level-headed approach should instill some sense into what had really transpired.
There’s no way Robin would sign the contract offered by Arsenal (said to be of a six-figure weekly salary and multi-million dollar signing-on fees) two days ago. If, as an Arsenal fan, you are disappointed that he has not committed his future here, then it’s understandable but the disappointment should be shelved for at least until after Euro 2012.
The following are the possible reasons why –
1. Ambitions of the club
Again, this is a very much-talked about point. Unless Wenger had taken out the cheque book immediately after gotten 3rd place last weekend and made signings of approximate quality as Lukas Podolski, van Persie would not be totally convinced that the club would rise up the Premier League standings, much less challenge for the title.
RvP also knows that the Arsenal is almost unable to stave off interest in their key players at the end of every season since Patrick Vieira became the catalyst of the idea that the Arsenal has descended into the status of a feeder club – at most, only deflecting trouble for one more season before conceding defeat.
The Podolski signing was only one piece of the puzzle to solve our progressively ersatz attack with Gervinho failing to impress me and Theo Walcott finding it hard to sustain a good performance every week. Park Chu-Young joining the club in late 2011 got me encouraged at the beginning but his time at the club is fast degrading into a farce. Maroune Chamakh also had a decent start to his career at the club but faded away without a whimper. Andrei Arshavin is looking rejuvenated from his Zenit St-Petersburg loan, so to return to the Arsenal and sit on the bench hardly makes any sense. The Gunners do have a promising talent in Alex Oxlade Chamberlain but as he’s still so young, the manager has to be a lot more careful about managing his progress.
Plus, the team clearly requires a lot more investment in other areas of the pitch that matter. I’m not the manager but even most fans think that some players at the club are either deadwood or not talented enough to play for the club and that clearing them requires far more deliberation as to their potential suitors and their respective replacements. It does not help that Wenger keeps telling the press that this team had the quality to win trophies. Resilience, maybe – but the footballing brain and experience to see out matches safely from a position of advantage is equally important. Overall, the team’s defensive frailties are plain for all to see. To be unduly worried about West Bromwich nicking a late goal against the Arsenal in the final match of the 2011/2012 season was weak because the team shot itself in the foot over and over again with dropped points against QPR, Wigan and Norwich in the final lap. Two draws and one win from those matches (strictly in that order) would have rendered the result at White Shite Lane and the Hawthorns of academic interest. Instead, we got to see the manager in a state of anxiety and frustration in the final match that was a poor one even by Arsenal’s declining standards.
The manager has to understand that the club had been amazingly lucky in its race for 3rd place. It may have been the footballing gods smiling down upon the Arsenal and long may it continue but it’s easy to overlook the possibility that Chelsea and Liverpool had the monetary resources to rectify some of their problems that kept them out of Champions League spots. Third place next season would be very hotly contested and if the club don’t strengthen adequately to meet this challenge, we may even be languishing in sixth spot come the end of next season, let alone playing keeping up with the two detested clubs of Manchester. The Spuds have had their own run of dropped points and they could point to the uncertainty created by the then-vacant England manager’s position and how Harry Redknapp somehow had delusions about being handed the reins, but as an Arsenal fan had pointed out to me before – we should be looking after our own back, not becoming engrossed about how other are faring.
2. Robin van Persie’s age
A super-inflated bank account is probably what most professional footballers dream about and more importantly, a trophy-laden cabinet to go with it as well. The last seven seasons had been barren for the club and player. The time is now or never for him to join a club where he has a better shot at wining titles and other accolades. While it is related to item 1 above, this is more of a personal issue. His Dutch teammates such as Wesley Sneijder, one year younger than him had won the Champions League with Inter Milan. Nigel de Jong also celebrated winning the EPL with Manchester City. Ibi Afellay made the switch from (now) humble PSV Eindhoven to the glamour of FC Barcelona and pocketed the La Liga title and Champions League trophy (not to mention other trinkets like the UEFA Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup). Bayern’s Arjen Robben also has the chance to win Europe’s top football prize this Saturday. If he’s not envious of his other successful compatriots, then he’s got either misguided ambitions or simply has overzealous love for the Arsenal. But now, as chief striker for the Netherlands, he would be under some peer pressure to win something, and fast.
3. RvP has more leverage in his negotiations with the club
Look, I’m not implying that he doesn’t love the club. We all know that he does, or else why would he stay on and fight on for the club during its darkest days like he did. I’m just saying that how much he feels valued by the club may be represented in very different terms than what we ordinary salarymen are willing to accept. Above the trite notion of dollars and cents, RvP holds the aces in these negotiations and he knows it.
If he could press for a more lucrative salary like most people think he would, then the club should not deny him if it is rational. Alternatively, if he wants the club to sign more quality players first before committing himself, he could also influence that. It’s possible that Euro 2012 could expose the club to more hidden gems and with Wenger’s eye for talent, it makes perfect sense to wait until the tournament is well and over first.
Obviously no player is bigger than the club, so van Persie would not be able to get away with all of his demands but I think that he has a very good chance of making sure the club understands where he is coming from.
4. Precedents – other things that we don’t know about?
Thierry Henry also gives Robin much to think about – the French ace extended his contract with the club until 2010 after Arsenal’s 2006 Champions League final defeat only to sign for Barcelona the very next season. So, it’s one thing about signing an extension with the club but quite another, when midway through, came to the realization that things aren’t exactly working out. We keep saying that players should honour their respective contracts and all that yadda yadda but as employees, we are also constantly seeking for other objectives – a new challenge perhaps, better salary definitely or maybe a better working environment or to be where the thick of the action really is and so on and so forth. Thierry came back to the Arsenal as a legend – an undisputed hero. Would that sort of arrangement and career path fit van Persie’s psyche?
Cesc Fabregas himself held on for one more year and then finally yielded to his desire to join the biggest club in his heart. I’m not saying that there is a particular lure of FC Barcelona, or Real Madrid who are indeed very classy clubs to play for but what really made Thierry change his mind is obviously more than just David Dein leaving the club and/or his mentor Wenger not staying on as manager.
Much earlier, Patrick Vieira joined Juventus in 2005 but it was a strange decision – Real Madrid had been waiting on the sidelines patiently since 2002 to garner his signature but he chose instead to sign for a club that was and is playing in a league that had seen better days (even in 2005). It could have been an arbitrary decision – one taken in a heartbeat, so we would never know what is going on in their minds or what their dreams are all about. Like how the picture of a young van Persie in an Arsenal shirt is aw-so-sweet but it does not foretell the future at all.
Besides, the club could tie him down for another four years but if things don’t work out, he’d be leaving as soon as the winter transfer window of 2012/2013 comes if certain clauses are not met or if the money clubs imposed their iron will and made the Arsenal an offer the club could not refuse.
I’d still affirm the belief that no player is bigger than the club.
Sure, the Arsenal had done itself no favours by letting Cesc Fabregas and that impish idiot Samir Nasri go at the start of the 2011/2012 season but one ex-Arsenal player, Aliaksandr Hleb was so sure that he would find success at Barca that he left the club in 2008. Later, he regretted his decision. If Samir’s move to City was motivated by money, then he got the money and is happy to the point that he deigned to stoop to another lower level and insult Arsenal fans. Cesc had consistently maintained that he wanted to only play for Barcelona (and not rope in other money clubs into the equation) and so the club and fans are happy to grant him his wish. But Hleb’s intention was to play football and win medals simultaneously. He got the glory he craved for but wished that he featured more for his team. Van Persie, adored and much-respected by Arsenal fans to the point that his own mother gets goosebumps from hearing the Gooners chant his name is probably what Hleb truly wanted in his heart of hearts – to have his name engraved in the memory of the fans, not titles that likely render prestige only to the club’s name fifty years from now (with fans in the future barely able to name all the players that won that particular title). Of course, if you have the cake, then you would want to eat it as well…
Another thing is – would Robin be automatic choice in his ‘new’ club if he decides to move on? If he suffers injury while playing for his new paymasters, then another player takes over and impresses – it’s too bad. If he hits a bad patch of form and is unable to gel with his new team or even get along with his new teammates, then he’s dropped by his new manager and gets sulky. Money clubs aren’t particularly known for their patience and tolerance – not like the Arsenal where the manager could even get away with seven seasons of failure to land any silverware.
With these points in mind, just relax and let the whole contract situation resolve itself.
If he signs an extension – well and good. If he doesn’t, then he’d always be remembered as an Arsenal hero – for taking us to third position with his goals and qualifying for the Champions League. The worst thing to do is to suck up all that gloomy shit that the newspapers are writing about and eat it like so much chocolate cake.