Arsenal have been handed a hammer blow with the news that Robin van Persie will not be extending his contract at the club, with the side now starting to think about life without their talisman. Arsene Wenger has an important decision to make in terms of whether to cash-in on the forward and recoup up to £20 million, or keep him for another season and lose the player on a free transfer next summer; however, Van Persie’s decision will not have come as a shock to the French coach.
Wenger has wasted little time this summer in bolstering his Gunners squad for the 2012-13 season, with the attacking reinforcements of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski signed up. Giroud’s signing in particular was an indicator that Van Persie was on his way out of the Emirates Stadium, as the ex-Montpellier man is an out-and-out forward, ready to step into Van Persie’s considerable shoes; Wenger will have known of his captain’s intentions to leave some time ago.
Despite a below-par Euro 2012 campaign for Netherlands this summer, Van Persie remains one of the most clinical and highly-respected strikers in the European game. It is hard to blame the 28-year-old for considering his future; the best players want to challenge themselves and compete for trophies. Given that Arsenal’s last triumph was back in 2005, it is only natural that the attacker is considering supposed interest from the likes of Manchester City, Juventus, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, amongst others.
Van Persie has been the main man for the Gunners over the last number of seasons, and as such Arsenal’s decision whether to sell him now or not will be a crucial one. If they do decide to cash-in on the forward, the pressure on the likes of Giroud will be accelerated. That said, the usually stringent Wenger has shelled out x million on the France international so must believe in his abilities to succeed. The Gunners started last season in a transitional status, and Van Persie’s sale would ensure a potential repeat in August, which could also lead to poor initial results as new players find their feet.
If they decide to make Van Persie see out his contract it may ensure a bit of continuity and allow Giroud to be brought into the role of main man on a gradual basis, but there are also major downfalls. The club’s fans’ response to their once-hero will be interesting to say the least, as their shining light may well now be transformed into the villain of the piece.
The north London club will be wary of Van Persie’s next destination also, with Premier League rivals sure to be circling. Seeing the Dutch superstar follow Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy to Manchester City would be devastating, watching him score for Manchester United heartbreaking or looking on in disgust as he wears Chelsea blue stomach-turning for Gunners fans.
It is for that reason that Arsenal must sell Van Persie before the end of the transfer window. With interest from Italy, Spain and France, Wenger can all-but select who to deal with, and can avoid his captain staying in England, whilst simultaneously receiving a financial boost to reinvest in the team. If the Gunners hold onto Van Persie they risk the fans turning on their skipper, and may have to suffer the heartache of watching him sign a pre-contract agreement at the Etihad Stadium, Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge in January.