RvP & Theo: Decision Time Should Be Sooner Rather Than Later
Arsenal is a selling club. You don’t sell your best players, what sort of message does that send out?
The messages are loud and clear: Robin van Persie must stay at all costs; Signing him will be like having a new player; Losing him twelve months on from Fàbregas and Nasri, shows a lack of ambition. Which one of these you choose to believe – if any – underpins your vision of Arsenal Football Club. What message does it send to the rest of the squad? The answer to that is in the replacing of van Persie, that is the signal of the club’s intention. That is what defines the quality of the squad, ambitions et al.
van Persie is in the spotlight for all of the right reasons and some of the wrong; scoring goals and the ink in his pen running out when it comes to signing a new deal. The telepathic understanding on the pitch between himself and Alex Song is extended off the pitch to his manager according to Peter Hill-Wood. Years ago, Norman Gillett had the exclusives from Arsenal managers appearing in the Daily Express sports pages; Hill-Wood has gone down a notch preferring the Daily Star as his media outlet of choice.
According to the chairman,
We haven’t talked to Robin yet, but I spoke to Arsene (Wenger) recently. He is very confident he will stay and I very much hope he will
From memory, I don’t think I have ever seen Arsène be pessimistic about a player’s future, not at this stage of the proceedings at least. And I am unconvinced that the Champions League is crucial to the Dutchman remaining at the club. Certainly it seems not matter to some players, M’vila for example apparently weighing up offers from Internazionale as well as Arsenal. Personally, I believe it will boil down to two issues: future signings and money. The former is being taken care of whilst the latter is not so much about matching the riches on offer at The Etihad or Nou Camp; it is about recognising the Dutchman’s worth, enabling him to remain settled.
The timing of his injury-free season was fortuitous to say the least, coming twelve months before the end of his current contract. The shop window is freshly cleaned and the new fashion has been fully displayed. Arsenal have benefitted as much as the player with his goals propelling the team into a possible top four finish when the start of the season and January suggested otherwise.
But the time has now come for decisions to be made. Arsène has made it abundantly clear that he wants the player to stay. The player has been positively non-commital in that whilst he has not derided the idea of finishing his career at the club, he has been positive about Arsenal as has his father in his views about his son’s relationship with his current employers. But not the defining statement.
All of the focus is on the player’s perspective but what of Arsenal? The club need the situation resolving as quickly as possible. Keen to retain the player they have options and appear to be, financially speaking, better placed to exercise them. They can sell or he remains for the final year of his contract, with the latter offering a longer-term perspective in acquiring a replacement. That is the key to both of these scenarios.
There is a nervousness in some quarters about these negotiations, about what the future will hold. My argument over all of this is that the negotiations need not be protracted. In all likelihood, van Persie has made up his mind already. He will know what the club is ready to offer; I am sure he probably knows who they are trying to sign to a certain extent; you suspect that dressing room gossip in that sense is somewhat better informed than those from outside care to admit. Nothing should be that much of a surprise.
Resolving the outcome immediately post-season serves both parties well. If he wants a move, Arsenal can facilitate that for him provided he tells them and a suitable replacement is ready. To me, that is the least he can do anyway. Having stood by the player for injury-riven seasons, is there not a shred of loyalty that precludes protracted negotiations? I would have thought so but this is not my decision to make, it is for the Dutchman. I don’t think it is wide of the mark though, to state that protracted negotiations will serve no-one’s purpose at all. And it is important to recognise that was not out of altruism on the club’s part; they knew they had a good player and wanted to retain his services.
And whilst the attention is on van Persie, Theo Walcott is in a similar position. I find his reluctance to talk to the club curious to say the least. He is a young man who has been inconsistently productive and ambitious as he is, has much learning to do. His career is at an important juncture; make the wrong move now and he might be the next Jermaine Pennant – obviously leaving out the criminality bit; the right move might see him fulfil that potential which is so readily talked about. Indeed it is down to him realise that himself, to know that his ambitions can only become true if he takes the step to the next potential. There are not many other clubs with as tolerant and nuturing an environment at the top level as Arsenal.