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Van Persie news is another case of deja vu
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.” Thomas Friedman
One can possibly change the quote to match the predicament faced by Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.
Robin van Persie woke up from a remote island somewhere in the Caribbean and decided to send a goodbye message through his own website which more or less read like this: ‘I have loved the fans. The fans, they are awesome. The boss? He is even better. I respect both the fans as well as the boss. But the boss and the club are in a different wavelength to me. I’m interested in winning trophies: something which the club are not. So it’s adios amigos.’
That essentially means two things. One, Arsenal will no longer be able to dictate terms in the transfer market with respect to Van Persie’s suitors. Two, It would make no sense for Arsenal (more on that later) to keep a wantaway and an unhappy man at the club once he has publicly aired his disappointment at the way the club is run.
Which brings me to Arsenal’s response. Wenger seldom keeps unhappy players at the club. So the first statement quite naturally focused on damage-limitation. Arsenal’s statement read something like this: ‘We retain the hope that Van Persie will honour his commitment to the club.’ Knowing Wenger, expect Van Persie to be out of this club before Arsenal kicks off against Sunderland. If he does keep him, it might massage Wenger’s ego a bit (after all his promises starting from last year that Arsenal will keep Van Persie come the next season). In my years of following the club, I have not known one unhappy player being at the club after becoming unhappy. Ashley Cole, Robert Pires, William Gallas, Patrick Vieira, Alex Hleb, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas were some of the players that were unhappy because of the (lack of) money or ambition on offer at the table and voiced their views. Wenger packed their bags for them and led them out (In some cases, he kept the player for one more year at best).
I think Van Persie has a few points in his statement. Especially this part:
“Out of my huge respect for Mr. Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.”
Wenger has stuck to two or three archaic ideas during his continued reign as boss of the club.
The notion that being captain of a top club in Europe is greater than being a part of a winning club in the same country or a different country is very flawed and Wenger should have realised this first and foremost. Henry, Fabregas and Van Persie were all given the captain’s armband in a hope to keep them at the club. But the first two players have already left the club to be members of a larger pond accepting that they will be a smaller fish than they were at Arsenal.
I hope Wenger realises the fact that modern day footballers are more than happy being smaller fish in a larger pond rather than be captain and that one big fish in a small pond.
And it has often been my belief that a football captain does little more than tossing the coin before kick-off. It’s unlike cricket where the captain has to be proactive at all times. It is not mandatory for a captain to attend all press-conferences. A captain cannot have any control over the other players in a game such as football. It’s more a clerical appointment, like the President of India.
Gone are the days of a club meeting the player’s representatives some 10 months before the due date of the contract for an initial round of talks. He let Nasri do the same thing. He now has Van Persie with just a year on his contract. Not just Van Persie but there is also Theo Walcott and Alex Song who have just 12 months to run on their contracts.
Of course I’m just a keyboard warrior thrashing out buttons having no idea whether or not Wenger or Gazidis have been meeting with any of the player’s agents a minimum of two years before the contract is up for renewal but from the outside looking in, it appears that Wenger is more than happy to let players come into the final 18 months of the contracts before even going out to get a pen.
It has often been said that at Arsenal, the number of players on or around the treatment table is higher than at other clubs. At other clubs, these injury-prone players would have either been demoted to fringe players or they would have been placed on the transfer list waiting for a bid of any amount so the selling club could cut their losses. But at Arsenal, things are done differently.
You have player X who goes into the treatment room. After coming out of that treatment room after a year, you have Wenger saying this: ‘X is like a new player. It’s like a new transfer for us.’
No, Arsene, non. He is not a new player. He was your player 10 months back. He is your player now. The only difference being he will now have to be put through rehab, made to play reserve games before slowly putting him into the first team. Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky, and Van Persie (laughs) have all benefited from the rather benevolent Wenger. It’s time he takes a rather hard look at what he does with these injury-prone players. Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen must surely be close to this list but the jury is out for them.
They (the media) tell me that he buys too many youngsters and when these youngsters blossom into players, they leave the club in search of trophies, fame and money. Most of that assessment is right. When you wake up the morning after the night before, you do start to see sense. Yes, there is nothing wrong in moving for more money. Here’s an example: You are X working for an employer Y and doing some good work but you feel you are under appreciated in the market. Z wants to hire you and gives you a blank cheque. You might probably go back to Y and ask them for a ‘meaningful’ salary hike. If none is forthcoming, you will most definitely jump ship to Z. Apart from the money, you will go in search of constant success. And that is exactly what the likes of Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri did. Move to another club which was able to give them a trophy. Something Arsenal have not given them in the last six years.
Coming back to Van Persie, I genuinely thought he would sign on the dotted line. No, not because I was living in a world of delusion. I just thought given that the club and Wenger stood by him when he had those injuries, he might have perhaps extended the hospitality by agreeing on a new contract. But he has already fulfilled his side of the bargain. Give Arsenal a chance to attract top European players by putting them in the Champions League for the next season.
Think about it and it makes more sense. The injuries have not happened for sometime. He feels in the pink of health and is at the peak of his powers. Where would he rather be? At a club which could guarantee Champions League year in year out but nothing more than that or with a club which promises him trophies? One after the other? If he does move, and I think he will, he might think of that saying about London buses, connect it with trophies and smile to himself…..
Posted by Arsenal fan Swaroop Swaminathan
Follow Swaroop on Twitter @arseinho