by Liam McConville
So finally the end is in sight. A saga that was threatening to become longer and more drawn out that the third Pirates of the Caribbean film is almost over. Arsenal and Manchester United have agreed a fee for Robin Van Persie. Now only personal terms have to be agreed and a medical passed (which might not be that simple given the Dutchman’s chequered history with injuries) for the prolonged move to be complete.
With only a couple of days before the start of the season, everyone can focus on the football again in what appears to be a move that could yet suit everyone. Manchester United will have a world-class forward to bolster an exciting front-line; a possible partnership with Wayne Rooney will leave many United fans drooling. Van Persie has probably increased his chances of landing the club silverware that he craves, not to mention a very substantial pay rise.
But where does this leave Arsenal and Arsene Wenger the man who turned Van Persie from a mere prospect to the devastating forward who claimed many an accolade last season. On the face of it £24million for a twenty-nine year old is very good business for the Gooners. Sure the loss of the influential Dutchmen will sting, but no player is irreplaceable and in football every player has their price. Every season Arsenal are written off as pundits declare that this will be the year that they fall out of the top four. However every year Wenger proves the doubters wrong and there’s no reason to suggest that this campaign should be any different.
Last year Arsenal lost their best two midfielders and endured that sort of start to the season that makes every fan shudder. Yet they recovered to third, although they again finished the campaign without silverware, there were plenty of positives to leave the Emirates faithful feeling optimistic over the upcoming season. This brings the build-up to Saturday’s opener against Sunderland into some sort of perspective.
Yes they’ve lost their best player but at least the business has been conducted before the start of the season, making any possible disruption to the squad minimal. Arsenal have brought in three quality players themselves, Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski will help fill the gap left by Van Persie and then some. These measured and astute signings are again in contrast to the frantic panic buying of last August when Wenger quickly sought to bring in bodies to lift a demoralised side.
Add into this the exciting progress of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and some of the performances of Theo Walcott towards the end of the season and Arsenal fans still have plenty to be excited about. They finally have an established and commanding goalkeeper in Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen will be a big player at the back if he can stay fit.
There is also Alex Song, a player who flourished last season. Song has been linked to Barcelona this summer but Wenger will be hoping he will stay and make a similar impression to what he did last year. Jack Wilshere who missed all of last season, will again compete for a place in a strong looking Arsenal side, should his injury hell finally end as scheduled, he could return to action this autumn.
Overall with all things considered, it suddenly doesn’t look so gloomy for the Arsenal fans that are likely to vilify Van Persie for his move. Of course these things can go both ways; any side will be weakened by the loss of a striker who scored thirty league goals last year. With Song being linked with a move to the Nou Camp and Walcott stalling over a new contract, Van Persie’s departure could spark yet another mini exodus from the Emirates.
However, Arsenal have lost top players in the past and the departure of last season’s main man has been offset somewhat by the fact that his attacking replacements are already integrated into the squad. Football is littered with examples of clubs doing better after selling their best player, this could be another one of those times.
Arsene Wenger has a habit of proving people wrong, so don’t be surprised to see Arsenal to go from strength to strength this season and maybe end that silverware drought as well.