“I am looking forward to helping the club to challenge for more honors. The squad is full of players at the top of their game, which they have proved by winning the Premier League” – Robin Van Persie (April, 2004)
These were the words spoken by Robin van Persie as he sat beside manager Arsene Wenger in his unveiling as an Arsenal player eight years ago. Back then, Arsenal was the Champions of England, with an exceptional reputation for developing young players and winning silverware. For a youngster who has since admitted his reservations about leaving Rotterdam, it seemed that for the budding van Persie this would be the perfect place for him to blossom into one the best strikers in the world and pick up copious amounts of silverware along the way. Much in the same vein in as his hero and then teammate Dennis Bergkamp had done already.
Some of the hopes held for Van Persie at Arsenal have since come to fruition. Eight years on, van Persie is undoubtedly one of the best strikers on the planet. His scintillating form throughout the last eighteen months has carried Arsenal. His plethora of majestic goals has continued to wow football supporters across the globe. His manager Arsene Wenger, who does not dish praise out flippantly, said last that if it was not for the injuries that have plagued the Dutchman throughout his career, then maybe we would have been talking about him in the same breath as the likes of Ronaldo and Messi. A big “if”, a big “maybe” but one that you might be hard pressed to argue against.
For Arsenal fans however, there are no “ifs” or “buts” when it comes to the amount of silverware the club has picked up in the eight years since Van Persie’s arrival. The Dutchman has sampled just a solitary trophy success in 2005, when he was partially involved in Arsenal’s FA Cup final triumph over Manchester United. Otherwise, van Persie has been involved in Arsenal sides including stars such as Henry, Fabregas, Nasri, and Clichy but ultimately has nothing to show for it.
The aforementioned players moved on to pastures new in order chase the glory they feel that their talents warrant and they have all since gone on to lift silverware with their respective new clubs. Now it looks as though at the age of twenty-eight, Van Persie is prepared to make the same sacrifice after eight years at the club. He has openly stated he will not be signing a new contract with the Gunners, sighting the clubs lack of ambition as the reason for his refusal.
Whilst the predicted scramble for van Persie’s signature has yet to fully get going, with the two Spanish giants full to the brim with attacking talent, at the moment there seems to be four probable destinations for the Dutchman should Arsenal choose to cash in before he can leave on a free next year:
After watching his former teammates Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy pick up the Premier League title in their first season at the Manchester club, they must be a tempting option for the Dutchman. They look set to dominate and challenge on all fronts for the indefinite future. City look the best choice for him if he wants to pick up trophy after trophy and be paid a handsome amount to do so. The only potential concern for the Dutchman would be the amount of strikers City already have on their books with Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez all vying for a spot in Mancini’s first eleven. But you would assume if City are serious on Van Persie, either Tevez or Dzeko would be out the exit door.
It was claimed in some of the tabloids today that Sir Alex Ferguson is particularly confident of capturing the signature of Van Persie in front of rivals City. The United manager will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last summer where City pipped him to the signing of another former Arsenal star Samir Nasri. If Van Persie was to go to United then the potential of a strike partnership with Wayne Rooney would undoubtedly set tongues wagging at Old Trafford and would present an insurmountable task for many a defender throughout the Premier League. United should be able to match City’s wages offered and provide guaranteed first team football for the Dutchman week in, week out. You can’t help but feel that for Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans, a move to Manchester United would probably hurt them the most after they were such close competitors for so many years.
It was reported in Gazzeta de la Sport today that Milan are eyeing up Van Persie in order to replace the recently departed Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Rossoneri will have money to spend after the Swede’s transfer, as well the departure of Thiago Silva, both to PSG for a total of around £50m. The hole in the side that will be left by Ibrahimovic couldn’t be filled by many strikers, but Milan president Silvio Berlusconi believes van Persie could be the man to do so. It is thought Arsenal would prefer to sell to a club abroad and a club as decorated and prestigious as Milan could well tempt the Dutchman.
The Old Lady of Italian football were one of the first clubs to be linked with van Persie when it became apparent he would be available this summer. After an unbeaten, title winning season Juventus will be back in the market for the Worlds best players after a short hiatus from the very top bracket of European football. He would be the main man at Juventus as he would more than likely spearhead their attack, receiving sufficient support from messieurs Marchisio and Pirlo. Manager Giuseppe Marotta admitted it would be a “dream signing” for the fans, but the Turin outfit still look to be serious competitors for his signature should Arsenal chose not to sell to a rival English club.
Arsenal on the other hand must dust themselves down and look to build for the future without their talismanic skipper. All in all, the squad looks more than competitive on paper. Szczesny, Koscielny, Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain all look to be burgeoning players who will fulfill their potential in coming seasons, with Jack Wilshire also waiting in the wings after some terrible luck with injuries. There are also established quality players throughout the midfield and back four, the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Mikel Arteta and Alex Song could command starting berths in a lot of the top sides across the continent.
It remains to be seen how The Gunners will fare going forward however, as it is here they have to rebuild. Giroud and Podolski are both new to the Premier League and it will be intriguing to see how they both adapt. There are still question marks for some around Theo Walcott’s influence on the side, but he will have to chip in with more goals in Van Persie’s absence, especially as the new signings find their feet in the Premier League.
After more than a decade of watching Arsenal play some of the most exhilarating football i’ve ever witnessed, it feels strange to say that Arsenal’s biggest stumbling block this season could be putting the ball in the back of the net! But this is the obstacle that they will have to conquer if they are to finally pick up that illusive first trophy in seven years.
What club would best match van Persie’s ambitions? Which side would his arrival benefit the most? How do you think Arsenal will fare this coming campaign?
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