by Farah Hussein
Since 2005, Arsenal have lost four captains. To wildly paraphrase Mr Wilde to lose one leader is unfortunate, to lose four seems like carelessness and perhaps it’s no coincidence that in those seven years the Gunners have remained trophyless.
Club are weakened by departures all the time but to sell on your skipper is to lose your very direction and worse yet from Patrick Vieira to Thierry Henry to Cesc Fabregas all that have donned the armband at the Emirates have gone on to win trophies elsewhere. This perhaps proves they were correct to leave Arsenal and bodes well for their latest ship-jumper Van Persie.
When Vieira left the Gunners for Juventus in 2005, he won the Scudetti with the old lady at the first time of asking before he was given to Inter where he won another 4 titles with them. Their next captain, Thierry Henry, was sold to Barcelona in 2007 where he won two La Liga titles in a row. Later when young captain Cesc Fabregas was also sold for Barcelona, he won the Copa Del Rey in the same season. And now, Arsenal have reluctantly sold their top scorer, best player and captain Robin Van Persie to rivals Manchester United. Perhaps Van Persie sought encouragement from this because there is certainly a pattern emerging where departing captains always seem to have the last laugh.
In this instance however – as with Fabregas – we have to give Arsenal credit because they plainly did everything in their power to retain him, offering him £130,000-a-week, a figure that presumably brought Wenger out in worry hives.
United simply blew that sum out of the water and, as is usually the case with football these days, money talked. With a rumoured £235,000-a-week deal and a four year contract in this case it shouted.
The Gunners have also lost other key players in recent years – the likes of Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Kolo toure, and Ashley Cole to name a few – and with Alex Song set for a £15m Barcelona move, the Gunners continue to haemorrhage key personnel.
Pre-empting RvP’s leaving their summer additions contain two top quality strikers in Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski but surely neither – or arguably both combined – can come close to matching their predecessor’s 30 goals in a season and minus the Dutchman’s ingenuity in conjuring up magic from nothing Arsenal could struggle to break teams down this term; an old problem they would hate to see resurface.
It is anticipated that vice-captain Thomas Vermaelen will be promoted to wearing the armband but if Arsenal end the coming season without trophies once again I wouldn’t blame him if he left seeking success elsewhere. Thereupon the cycle will simply continue.
So the issue leaves us doubting, will Arsene be able to manage the team without Van Persie and end the season with a trophy? Will they lose Thomas Vermaelen and more key players next summer? And are Arsenal losing captains because they aren’t securing any titles? Or are they not securing any titles because they are losing their captains?
In this case, who will have the last laugh? Van Persie? Or Arsenal? The past suggests at the former.