The evening is warm but there is a chill is in the air. Arsenal are leading Real Madrid by a goal to nil with minutes remaining in the Champions League final. Despite dictating possession for the majority of the match, Real Madrid have failed to penetrate, until a through ball by Ozil finds Ronaldo who leaves a flat footed Koscienly behind. As he races towards the Arsenal goal confronted by an oncoming Szczesny he steps over twice before rounding the keeper to his left. The stadium is silent. Still. Ronaldo, with minimum back lift rifles the ball goalward. A scrambling Szczesny can do little as a last gasp effort to save his shot is in vain.
A familiar feeling settles among The Arsenal faithful. Dejection fills the hearts of all those watching. Shoulders are slumped as the ball is slowly taken back to the centre circle until Robin Van Persie grabs the ball from Abou Diaby places it down purposefully and visibly lifts the players. He looks upbeat. The ball is played neatly around and Cazorla has a neat exchange with Jack Wilshere. With seconds left of normal time, Wilshere attempts an audacious chip but can only hit the bar. Van Persie applauds the effort. As the end approaches, Arsenal regain the ball and work it around well with some fantastic movement from Podolski on the left opening up some space for Van Persie. Cazorla threads the eye of a needle with a delicious pass which is cushioned perfectly by Van Persie on his right foot onto his preferred left foot. He is through and chips an oncoming Casillas. Ramos slides and is agonisingly close but cannot prevent the inevitable. The crowd erupts and Arsenal are surely the Champions of Europe. Elation fills my heart and I am finally content with my life. That is, until I wake up. The sinking feeling when you realise it was all a dream and you turn over and bury yourself back into your pillow.
As interesting as that must have been for you, it was not without purpose that I shared with you, the dreams of a mad man. It made me think about what could be and what should be.
Yesterday I purposefully navigated my narrative away from the subject of the Captain's future for a number of reasons. I wanted a positive post full of hope highlighting a feeling of excitement among fans (especially with the "imminent" transfer news). I also feel it has been talked/written/speculated about so much so that talking about it yet again would be pointless.
However with the increased speculation of incoming talent and my own proclamation of hope yesterday, it got me thinking about his future yet again. I re-read the statement he released and aside from it enraging me it really made me curious as to what might happen.
“Out of my huge respect for Mr. Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.”
This is clearly throwing down the gauntlet and attempting to ensure that there can only be one outcome. The vultures at City were already circling but they must have been delighted when their job was made exponentially easier following this statement.
So what are we to do as a club? Are we to give in to yet another mercenary who this time hides behind the guise of the direction of the club? I understand the stance that many have with regards to wanting to cash in on the player and move on but I, for the life of me cannot accept this. I do not think we should sell him as it is yet another admission of our diminishing power at the summit of the world’s super clubs, of which we certainly are one.
So what is the alternative? Well, quite simply keep him for the year and then he can see his contractual value decrease significantly which only serves to shoot himself if he so chooses to go down that route.
He is an Arsenal player and unless a sizeable offer (which he agrees to) comes from abroad then under no circumstances should we entertain the notion of him playing for our direct competitors. Aside from it directly weakening us, it by the same token strengthens our opponents and that is something which I think will cost the club far more in the long term. Worrying about the loss of a £20million transfer fee might well be short sighted. In fact I would argue that the cost of selling him now could in theory cost more in the form of losing out on Champions League football. In all honesty I think we have strengthened in a way that we can cope with his departure to some extent so I do not see us dropping out of Champions League football but it is of course a possibility.
At a minimum we should keep him until the last day and play him in the first few games of the season so as to ensure that our two new strikers gain some acclimatisation time. Despite my introduction, I am not living in dream land and neither am I naïve to the fact that, in all likelihood neither of the aforementioned scenarios are going to happen or are even likely. I fully expect the club to try and cash in and sell him to Manchester City in the near future which is a complete shame.
It will fully taint the memories of a great player and will again highlight an inability to keep hold of key players.
On the flip side though, it is clear that by keeping him and some further additions we have truly strengthened our side and it would represent our strongest squad in years. If we compare our potential squad to what our squad looked like at the start of last season then you will see there is a huge gulf in quality. For all the complaints about “panic buying” all the players added value to the side with the only exception being the puzzling Park situation. When comparing the squad to the start of last season we can add Santos, Mertesacker and Arteta as well as the more recent additions of Giroud, Podolski and potentially Cazorla and Sahin to what we had at the start of last season. Which is five to seven quality additions better off. Add to that the rise of Oxlade Chamberlain and the return of Jack Wilshere (and Diaby) and we have a completely different side. By keeping Van Persie, even if it is just for the season, would it not be a squad capable of challenging for the trophies? After all that is all the fans want, a side capable of challenging whether we actually win or not.Is that not worth losing out on £20million?
If we take £20million are we going to be able to buy 30 league goals for that level of money? I cannot see it happening and instead what we will have is a period of adjustment which could cost us more than the money we might miss out on. More important than the money though, this should be about principle. Nobody can just handpick our best players every year to strengthen themselves and weaken us. We are no feeder club, we one of the biggest football clubs in the world, steeped in history and tradition and it is time we, as a club believe it again.
It is time for The Arsenal to stand firm and keep the players we want to keep. The statement of intent that this would send out to the footballing world would be similar to the effect of a major signing being unveiled. I would venture to guess that Van Persie would be professional enough to play at his best so I cannot imagine it harming the club. Come on Arsenal, make my dream a reality. I know keeping Van Persie doesn’t guarantee success but it certainly enhances our chances of winning silverware. As the club have told us time and time again, that is the clubs priority.
We can all dream.