This summer I’ve restricted myself (read: only been arsed) to post here if we either signed or sold someone. So on that basis I suppose the departure of our captain, after eight years and 132 goals, to the club I most dislike in English football, probably warrants some sort of an update – even if it’s only to say ‘go suck a big bag of Manc dicks’.
Or does it? I doubt many of you are much in the mood to read more about him, and given that his legacy is now just so much scorched earth, there’s hardly any point raking it for any unburned memories. (If I save anything from the fire, it’ll probably be this goal.) I wrote after his statement that the manner of Van Persie’s exit made him no better than Adebayor. But that was before his destination had been confirmed.
In choosing Manchester United, and doing so knowing better than anyone on the playing staff what that will mean to ‘us guys’, Van Persie has instantly out-traitored the likes of Nasri, Adebayor and, for me, even Cole. (Co-blogger Dave makes much the same point on our season preview podcast.) But this isn’t me about to work myself up into some sort of frenzy. The way I feel right now I don’t think I’ll even be bothered to boo. Partly because I’m in my thirties, but also because it increasingly feels depressing to feel actual hate over sport. I dunno. Maybe the Olympics sent me soft.
(Seriously though, imagine how cool Arsenal fans would look if he walked onto the pitch at the Emirates and none of us even reacted. I admit it’s an unlikely scenario.)
What I do want to reiterate, though, is that he chose United. It wasn’t that he found himself with no other option – Old Trafford was always his preferred destination.
Two weeks before the release of Van Persie’s absurdly transparent statement, I was contacted by a fellow fan, who I trust completely, with a contact in the United offices. He’d been told that not only were United in for Van Persie, they were confident of signing him as he’d had a monumental row with Wenger. (This would be around the time of the first summer meeting to discuss a new contract.)
According to the source, it was so acrimonious that Arsene instructed the player’s agent to get as many bids in as possible, including Utd, who were at the time also trying to sign Moura. The collapse of that deal made Van Persie their primary target. Neither of us said anything at the time because, honestly, can you imagine the shit that would’ve come our way – but it all now chimes with what Amy Lawrence had to say in the Guardian:
"At the end of the last campaign, before the European Championships, he and his representatives sat down with Arsenal and made a set of demands about the running of the club that were so outlandish that the warning signs were impossible to miss."
The relationship, once so close – remember this celebration? – was irrevocably broken, and the decision to sell had been made. Everything since then from Arsenal’s side has been so much posturing to ensure the price was as high as possible. And rightly so.
What is now also certain is that an exit this summer had been Van Persie’s end game all season. Remember fans, so desperate not to doubt their hero, dismissed talk of the player visiting Juve’s training ground, or of him agreeing terms with City. (Bear in mind that all agreeing terms means is saying ‘yes, I’d be prepared to join for this amount’. No-one needs sign anything.) But I’ve little doubt that United were always in the box seat. According to Spanish journalist Graham Hunter, who claims to have come by the info via Cesc, our captain has been talking to them since January.
I’ve seen fans, understandably dismayed, asking how a supposed lifelong gooner could choose United, and pondering whether they need, or can afford, him anyway. I don’t know the answer to the first question. Perhaps he really thought there was more honour in moving to the red half of Manchester because he could point to that club’s history rather than City’s bank balance. As for the second question… Well, who cares? I’m sure they’ll fit him in somewhere, and given that they only lost the league on goal difference last season, it’s hard not to see them being very dangerous this time.
In terms of the financial side, of course they can afford it – even the silly salary. The terms of the Glazer’s recent IPO outlined (note: as a *risk* to investors, rather than a promise) that they would spend £40m net in this window, with that figure dropping to £20-25m in subsequent years. Let that sink in for a second. Even supposedly hobbled by debt, United plan to splash around £25m in transfer fees (it specifically does’t include the wages) every window. Just imagine how powerful they would be were it not for the vampiric Glazers hoovering cash out. Meanwhile, our net spend this window is just £5.5m.
So where does that leave Arsenal, given that we’ve just sold Utd our best player and we finished 19 points off the pace they set last time? Honestly, not in bad shape at all. I won’t insult your intelligence by claiming losing Van Persie is somehow good news. (Certainly, with our much-maligned commercial deals due for renewal in two years, the club is going to need to find something to be known for other than selling its superstars.) However, he’s 29 now, so a parting of the ways was in the post in a couple of seasons in any case.
Look at it logically: We need Giroud and Podolski to split Robin’s 36 goals between them. 18 goals each. Not impossible, but a big ask of players new to the Premiership. However, if the wingers and midfielders can also shoulder some of the load, it starts to seem pretty plausible. Crucially, it won’t leave us one knee knack away from Chamakh-shaped striker oblivion.
Factor in the increased creativity which ought to be offered by Cazorla and I’m feeling fairly positive about the season. (Yes, me, *I know*.) I’ve decided not to evaluate the transfer ins/outs until the window is completely over. But the news breaking now that Alex Song will be allowed to do one leaves such an obvious hole in midfield – STOP TYPING COQUELIN IN THE COMMENTS – that I will be astonished if we don’t see further arrivals before this window slides shut.
Well, I say astonished… It would also be a startlingly Arsenalish thing to do just as the season starts, but fingers crossed any one of Sahin, M’Vila, Capoue, Biglia or The Iron Giant are on the way. The other thing I wanted to say was that I’ve seen quite a few fans saying they’ll never be able to trust another player again. If so: that’s the best thing about the whole saga. I’m off to let the Song news sink. I don’t have to bloody write about him too do I?