Why Arsenal can be positive despite Robin van Persie’s imminent exit
Arsenal supporters should remain positive despite Robin van Persie's imminent departure, writes Reuben Lewis
Although this summer’s transfer activity ostensibly seems like a failure for Arsenal, there are reasons to be positive.
If Robin van Persie departs, his absence should be compensated by players in other positions. It is likely there will be greater emphasis on wing play and the arrival of Olivier Giroud, joint top scorer in Ligue 1 last season, will introduce another dimension to the side.
At 6ft 3ins, his physique, aerial ability and protection of the ball will be a highly effective foil for prolific German striker Lukas Podolski – another shrewd summer acquisition by Arsene Wenger. The German’s acute positional sense and thunderous left foot – if married with Giroud’s game – could be used to devastating effect.
They were two of Europe’s most coveted strikers before being snapped up by Wenger for little over a combined £20m. With 39 league goals between them last season, compared to Van Persie’s 30 strikes, Arsenal fans should think positively and forget about the Dutchman, who is now nothing more than a distraction to the team’s pre-season preparations.
Indeed, it is a familiar scenario for Arsenal supporters, who, for the umpteenth time in recent years, are witnessing their best player move on to another side in search of silverware and more money. It is a sad indictment of the acquisitive culture of the modern footballer – the days of loyalty are long gone.
However, there is no evidence to suggest this will have a detrimental effect next season.
In 2007, Arsenal captain and legend Thierry Henry departed for Barcelona. The following season, Arsenal finished third in the league – an improvement from the preceding year.
This was repeated last season after the loss of Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri as Arsenal finished in third place, and with Robin van Persie’s imminent departure, who is to say they will not finish as runners-up next May?
It is important for Arsenal fans to remain objective – Van Persie is 29 years old and last season’s goal-scoring phenomenon was something of an anomaly – it was the only time in his Gunners career that he managed to surpass 20 Premier League goals in a campaign.
Bearing in mind his susceptibility to injury, it is highly unlikely he will replicate the same kind of form next season. Goals must emerge from other sources whether the Dutchman stays or goes.
Other players will naturally raise their game and flourish due to less reliance on one man. Instead of Van Persie being the focal point, with team-mates looking to find him continuously, others will begin to feature more prominently and influence the game.
One thing Arsenal lacked last year was goals from midfield. Aaron Ramsey, heavily criticised last season due to his apparent profligacy, is the man who has the potential to rectify this.
Before his leg-break, Ramsey displayed all the attributes of a goal-scoring midfielder, with his direct style, shooting ability and energetic runs from deep.
The Wales captain is a confidence player, and with a few goals to his name and support from the stands, he could certainly flourish and provide an important source of goals for the Gunners.
Perhaps this time round Gervinho – who played a major role in Lille’s Ligue 1 triumph in 2010-11 with 15 goals and 10 assists – will come to the fore.
Maybe even Marouane Chamakh, clinical during the early stages of his Arsenal career, will regain his form as a direct consequence of a change in system.
Just think: this time 12 months ago, who would have predicted Alex Song would add the label ‘playmaker’ to his CV?
If Van Persie leaves the north London club, it will of course be a blow, and signal a change in strategy, as one would expect after the departure of your best player. Arsenal’s system was essentially based around the Dutchman last year, and his contribution extended far beyond just goals.
A central midfielder – ideally the injury prone yet exceptionally talented Abou Diaby – may well adopt a more offensive approach, to provide the creativity and assists from the ‘No10’ position.
Objectiveness is required by Arsenal supporters, and this whole episode could indeed be a blessing in disguise.