Morning all from a Dublin where summer has arrived. I assume that the absence of torrential rain is a sign of summer. Maybe I’m getting it wrong.
We’ll start today with the news that Robin van Persie’s agent has apparently had a nice cup of tea and a chat with Juventus who would very much like to sign him this summer. None of which is any surprise, nor should it bother any Arsenal fan unduly. It might well be ‘tapping up’ in the strictest sense of the word but it’s also just the way these things happen.
And being brutally honest, the reason Robin has said all along he’s waiting until summer to decide his future isn’t because he’s too busy with Arsenal or ‘concentrating on this season’, it’s to see what his options are and then make up his mind. I would suggest there was a reluctance to commit to Arsenal early because of the shape we were in at the start of the season. Seeing an important player like Cesc leave, seeing a player who thought he was important like Nasri leave, and the fact we didn’t do any business until the end of the transfer window (coinciding with an 8-2 pounding at Old Trafford) would hardly leave any player inclined to sign a new contract.
But beyond that he’ll be 29 when next season kicks off and he knows that realistically this is his last ‘big’ contract, his last chance to make a move to a big European club and play football elsewhere while still in his prime. If his agent has listened to what Juventus have had to say then you can be quite sure his agent will know what’s on the table from all other interested clubs, and given the 18 months van Persie has had, that’s pretty much every major club you can think of.
The only thing a player has to do with a new contract is sign it. His agent/agents/management meet with the club, a deal is agreed, the player signs. The idea that any footballer is ‘too busy’ to make something happen is nonsense, if there was a willingness to sign a new deal then it could all be done pretty efficiently. Robin and his people are waiting to see what others have to offer and, with that information, put themselves in a stronger position with Arsenal when it comes to what we can put forward. That’s just the way it goes.
And if it all sounds a bit negative, it’s not supposed to. I don’t blame Robin for not entering talks this season. We were a shambles in the summer and the early part of the season and if fans were worried then why wouldn’t he be? If other clubs come sniffing around then that’s natural and a consequence of having one of the most highly-talented strikers in the world playing for us. It’s why there were always stories about Vieira, Pires, Henry, Fabregas – the biggest clubs always want the best players. So when you see the inevitable guff about Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man City, Juventus or whoever, don’t stress too much. It’s just the way the business of football operates.
Personally, I’m unsure what he’s going to do but I think in some ways it’s in Arsenal’s hands, more than with previous situations. Firstly, we’ve got to ensure we finish third. Secondly, we’ve got to do some proper business this summer. That means cleaning the decks a bit and adding some real quality to the squad. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I think Robin wants to win stuff with us. He’s captain, he loves the club (as much as any player can, I guess – not that this has stopped others from leaving though), and I think he’d rather be a part of a truly competitive Arsenal side than go anywhere else.
As I type that it’s hard not to think we’re on familiar territory here but hopefully mistakes of the past have been learned. Others will be able to offer more money but if we free up some of our wage bill and find ourselves more inclined to distribute it evenly (based on importance and performance rather than this vague communist ideal we work to) then I think we can compete in that regard. Ultimately it won’t be about money though, it’ll be about how a player reaching the peak of his career wants to spend those years. And that means it’s down to the manager to convince him, and more importantly demonstrate to him via his transfer business, that Arsenal is a club at which he can achieve success.
Still, que sera, sera, and all that. I’m hopeful Robin will stay – for everything that will entail about the way this season will have finished and what we do when it ends – but I’m not going to worry too much about the newspaper headlines and stories which are going to continue to crop up until the situation is resolved one way or another.
In other news, Manuel Almunia wants to stay. In London. Relax. His contract is up this summer and he’s going to leave the club after eight seasons. What’s interesting is that Lukasz Fabianski also wants out, having seen Wojciech Szczesny overtake him in the pecking order at club and country, while Vito Mannone does not want to return to sit on the bench after playing most of the season for Hull. While people will focus on strengthening forward areas, and perhaps even midfield, we’re going to be left with a bit of a gap in the goalkeeping department and that’s something the manager has to fix.
The young Argentine, Damian Martinez, is highly thought of at the club but perhaps we need a bit more strength in depth than a 20 year old without a first team appearance to his name. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what we do.
Right, that’s yer lot. I’m off to have a cuppa with Barçblog (that’s a blog about bars with a ç in their name, not Barça). Till tomorrow.