It’s a statement that’s now akin to ‘play our best’ and ‘one game at a time’ in the annals of bad sports clichés.
It’s a statement that’s been uttered with regularity in recent days by Arsenal supporters worldwide – without the hint of irony that would’ve made its use acceptable.
Where we stand today:
On Wednesday afternoon Arsenal captain Robin van Persie issued a statement through his website that indicated he disagreed with the current direction of the club and would not sign an extension to a deal that expires after next season.
Caught flat-footed, Arsenal FC hastily released a three sentence response to the RvP salvo – featuring the ominous line “we are confident that he will fulfil his commitments to the Club.”
And finally – it wouldn’t be a story about the Gunners finances without them – Red & White, the investment company headed by Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri that owns 30% of the club, released a statement outlining their deep reservations with Arsenal’s financial strategy under majority owner Stan Kroenke.
The seven stages of grief don’t apply to every situation – I’m a big revenge/anger fan. The reaction to RvP’s online proclamation – one that led to the crash of his personal website- from the Gunner faithful was a combination of sadness, anger and bargaining. Acceptance is a long way off. Throughout the last campaign speculation regarding van Persie’s future was rampant. From about January onwards I began to prepare myself – he was gone.
I’m mad, not because he is leaving. Last summer was a confirmation of what we already know. A spend thrift approach is not enough to compete in England and Europe. Fabregas and Nasri weren’t the first and they won’t be the last. I’m not mad that he’s leaving after the club stuck with him during his injury problems – probably the most ridiculous gripe I’ve seen since Wednesday.
While strolling in the park amongst your garden variety non poisonous snakes it became clear. L’affaire RvP bothered me more than I initially let on.
1) The website – really?
At least service the damn thing before you release a provocative statement like that.
If it’s a ploy – one that aims to win over the fans and direct their venom towards the board – than it’s a poorly calculated one. For that matter, what was the difference in their respective plans? Who was willing to give Didier Drogba his own fiefdom in North London. Why include the jab about CEO Ivan Gazidis being on vacation – a claim vehemently denied by the club. Even if it’s true, the snipe reeks of pettiness. Again, I fully understand why van Persie wants to play this year out, but the website man. The website.
2) Player retention
From Red and White’s statement yesterday:
“The real conflict seems to be between the supporters’ expectations and your vision for the club and at the heart of this is the policy of so-called self-financing. The self-financing model was created to suit the major shareholders at the time, all of whom subsequently sold their shares. The previous decision by the board to fund the building of the Emirates Stadium with long-term debt was, we believe, certainly not about self-financing.”
Usmanov says he’s a fan. He says Red and White want to do what all clubs with the history of Arsenal should do: win trophies. Look, it’s a good read. As Richard Whittall laid out yesterday, Usmanov wasn’t happy when Kroenke took majority control of the club. For the board, the American is the safe option. For the fan, Usmanov is the sketchy money dream. The Arsenal blogosphere is abuzz with speculation indicating the beginnings of a civil war over majority control.
Is this the dream though? The eccentric Uzbek isn’t wrong. Trophies. Retaining talent is our best way of showing other clubs we mean business, for lack of a better term. What is the point of cultivating these stars from the nether regions of Europe if we can’t capitalize on the prime of their careers – and that’s a business decision, not a football one.
Selling isn’t the only option. If the club’s ambition is what truly concerns van Persie, Wenger has time to prove the Dutchman wrong. While Giroud and Podolski are a good start – more needs to be done.
I think it’s safe to assume this will not happen.
3) RvP’s legacy
We finish where we started. No individual is bigger than the club – correct. But this individual – one Robin van Persie – was damn important. van Persie’s statement unleashed the same torrent of abuse and vitriol faced by other Arsenal deserters. We will move on, I have no doubts. But the impact this makes on the field is impossible to measure. As James Martin puts it – the RvP of last season is not replaceable. Where he goes, rumors have both Manchester clubs and Juventus as the most likely destinations, will go a long way in determining what exactly his legacy is in North London. Staying in England will kill a lot of goodwill in my books.
Robin van Persie was who we wanted him to be. Our star from the big club that should spend, but doesn’t.