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Robin gives Arsenal the finger, Wenger gets blame

On Thursday both Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson were queried by the gathered press about the one thing the two teams have in common, the transfer of star forward Robin van Persie from Arsenal to Man U. Ferguson revealed that United targeted van Persie, paid over the odds to get him, and beat out better offers from rival clubs to win the player’s signature. Meanwhile, Wenger revealed that he had no choice and that the deal was painful. But it was the man at the center of the trade who wasn’t questioned by the press but who, through the details, was revealed to be the real pivotal figure behind the whole move.

We now know that it was a series of phone calls between Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson which sealed the transfer. Wenger stood by his valuation and Manchester United ultimately paid £29m for Robin van Persie, a 29 year old in the last year of his contract. It was a figure that Ferguson balked at, as any rational human being would do, but which he ended up paying because as he put it “you either want him or you don’t, and you have to pay the price that the club is sticking out for. (And) we wanted him badly.”

We also had it confirmed that there were rival offers on the table from Man City and Juventus. Wenger made it clear that his preference was for van Persie to go to Italian champions Juventus even if that meant a significant discount on the player’s transfer fee. Wenger did not want to sell to United, he knew it meant strengthening a rival and weakening his own team. “But what is painful is to see United so far in front of us,” he said. “We knew when we sold him to United that would be the case.”

Juventus did their level best to lure Robin, putting together what Ferguson called “an amazing” compensation package. Beyond the money, there are footballing reasons why a move to Juve is a great one for Robin. The Old Lady plays a wonderful brand of football, had just gone 49 games unbeaten, are the Italian champions, and have no established star center forward. Robin van Persie would have walked into that Juventus side, taken the starting role, and would have probably led the bianconeri to the league title and probably challenged for the Champions League title.

But we also now know that Robin van Persie demanded to be traded to Man U in what must be classified as the biggest “fuck you” to a club since Sol Campbell promised to stay at Tottenham before switching to Arsenal. By demanding to e traded only to Man U, Robin essentially did exactly what Cesc Fabregas did the season prior. That left Arsenal with only two choices, hang on to this dressing room cancer and run his contract down for a year or sell him to Man U for an exorbitant sum. Arsene Wenger chose the latter.

Many argue that the club should have just held on to him. That Robin would have no choice but to be professional and play out his last year. I’m not so sure about that. His Independence Day “letter to the fans” was anything but professional. He publicly accused management of “being on vacation” (which was not true) and worse, openly stated that he disagreed with the manager over the direction of the club.

This wasn’t just any player making such a statement. This was the club captain, a guy who many of the young players looked up to, a guy who everyone respected. Suggesting that player should be kept around in training, on the pitch, and pouring poison into the ears of the younger players is unrealistic. The team dynamic thrives on trust and respect and Robin had shown himself to be untrustworthy and disrespectful.

So were the two choices really two? Or was there really only one choice? Wenger has said that he had no choice. I tend to believe him here.

A lot of ire is being directed at Arsene Wenger over this transfer but it’s largely misguided. If you want to blame anyone for Robin’s move to United, blame Robin. He disrespected the club and chose a hated rival as the only destination he would accept thus forcing Arsene Wenger to sell. And worse, in so doing proved that he didn’t give two fucks about the fans either — “you guys”.

And lastly, I don’t buy the argument that Arsenal didn’t replace Robin. You might not like the players that Arsenal brought in to replace Robin, but you cannot say that the club didn’t try. Podolski and Giroud are easily marked as the two players that Wenger brought to replace Robin’s position (forward) but to replace his intangibles, his superstar qualities, Arsene bought Cazorla.

All three of those players are seasoned professionals and have made the jump from foreign leagues to the Premier League with aplomb — slotting right in to the Arsenal system and ranking among the top players in the League. In many ways it’s a testament to Wenger’s ability as a manager that he can have two superstars in two consecutive years force through sales and is still able to rebuild his team on the fly using only players from the transfer market. I’ve been a sports fan all my life and I’ve never seen a team sell off two superstars like that and do anything other than sink like a rock to the bottom of their league.

This is not to say that Arsenal shouldn’t be active in the January transfer window. I’ve been clear on that. It’s also not to say that I wouldn’t have loved Arsenal to buy Falcao, of course I would. Rather that we as fans should be placing the blame for why Arsenal sold Robin van Persie precisely where it belongs, on Robin van Persie.

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70 thoughts on “Robin gives Arsenal the finger, Wenger gets blame

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ignatzuk

    Thanks for this piece on RVP. I can’t understand how people can read what you wrote and then in the coments still ask why Arsenal didn’t sort out his contract earlier or sell him to Juventus instead of Man U. The answer is obviously because RVP didn’t want to do either. A contract requires both parties to sign, and if one of those parties is a cunt there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

    As for last night, well I still rate Kos, despite his title of King of Blunder. With 11 against 11, who knows. Positives are Diaby and Jack.

    But overall, things are looking pretty ropey right now. Things are about as bad as last season, but last season we enjoyed a spectacular Spurs collapse. This season I don’t think we’ll be so lucky. I hope for some transfer activity but I don’t think that’s where the answers lie. I haven’t seen an Arsenal team consistently peform so far below its potential for a very long time.

  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1limeta

    More than anything right now , I think we need a change of managerial direction. You know why Man utd have had such continuity with trophies and success? Their manager is a leader, an example, and his desire doesn’t diminish after any major success. Ever since the invincible s season, It looks like Wenger lost the plot. After 1999 though, Ferguson did what he does. Analyzed the situation, made the necessary changes, and kept winning. At 70+ years, he’s still mouthing off to refs and other managers, giving players the hairdryer when they need it, and most importantly is beyond passionate about winning for his club. All this used to be Wenger. But the way its looking, he’s steadily dropped from the Champion calibre manager, to a championship level one. I say that because any forward thinking manager with what Wenger has would look at top four as the base requirement, and not the objective. Im not saying i’m the man for the job or that i know who is(‘cough’ Guardiola ‘cough’). But its becoming increasingly clear its not him anymore.

  3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1sevin

    Fuck rvp, he’s gone and dusted and is propelling utd to new heights while the dick that rules our club is running it to the ground. I received a text early in the second half. “Things will only change when Arsenal fans refuse to pay to see this.” And therein lies the rub. As long as the stadium is selling out, then there is no imperative to change. If people are willing to pay caviar prices to consume sausage meat, that is exactly what the club will continue to serve up. No need to spend more giving better quality if they do not have to. The fans have been sold a pup, although gradually, a growing number of them are taking the decision to stop paying for it. Every summer it gets harder and harder for the club to sell all the season tickets.

    At least they won’t be able to claim a full house on Wednesday against Swansea, unless they give away about 10,000 tickets to local schoolchildren and claim those as sold seats, even if the kids don’t come. Certainly, my guess is that about 15,000 of the 45,000 season ticket holders won’t bother attending, maybe more. The atmosphere at kick off will be very strange as many will not get there in time for the 7.30 start. The place will literally be half empty. The shape of things to come…?

  4. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1BrahmaBull

    Tim:

    In light of the game against the Mancs and your column yesterday about Arsenal’s scouting and signing preferences I would like to offer a supplemental theory on our signing patterns of late… reading a number of Wenger biographies and through the testimonies of former players, Wenger comes across as a composed, professional, respectful personality whose preference is to leave players to their own motivation and self-improvement programs whether its individually or collectively. He is not the manager to give rah-rah speeches to rally the troops before battle, shout at players during half-time, to withhold playing time as punishment, to send players packing for dissent or a string of poor performances. He expects players to show up on time for training, be prepared and committed and work things out amongst themselves. That includes tactically, as Arteta more or less admitted a few weeks ago when he said members of the team had agreed amongst themselves to watch more videos and take extra practice.

    This would offer insight into why he was open to letting dissenters or grumbling players go these past several years (going all the way back to Lassana Diara to the more recent Song) without putting his foot down on them, and has shown a preference for younger players that he can control (for a time) owing to his status, or older players that are appreciative of the opportunity that Arsenal represents and have learned through experience the professionalism needed to succeed. It’s the 21-26 year olds, the players in their primes, that he has difficulties with, whether they are home-grown or brought in from elsewhere. They are at an age where they regularly will assert their independence, demand responses from their manager either tactically or motivationally, and Wenger is either a) cannot be bothered or b) is incapable of handling this type of player. That’s why players in that age range are scouted so extensively, to determine their character which is not as obvious as skill and talent. Koscielny, Sagna, Vermaelen – all good guys with the character to work hard for the team and take ownership of their own performances and development.

    That said you hear news that Newcastle is signing Loic Remy for 9m, a good French striker who could help us, and wonder why wouldn’t he sign with Arsenal, or Marveaux or any of a range of other good players for decent prices that could have helped us against the Mancs. He gives Diaby chance after chance because he’s a good person, that gives Wenger no grief and works hard, which Wenger has a preference for over actual players that could have helped yesterday like a M’Vila.

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