So yesterday morning the Manchester Evening News reported that Robin van Persie was on the brink of signing for Manchester United.
They said he could leave our training camp and sign as early as last night. Clearly that didn’t happen but there does appear to be something going on. Apparently van Persie told Juventus he was in advanced talks with another club and also apparently doesn’t want to join Man City, leaving just United in the mix. And obviously, given the history between the clubs, there’s a reluctance on our part to sell to them.
Things might well have softened between Wenger and Ferguson down the years but they are a rival and reports suggest we want a premium to the fee to sell to a club which is going to be challenging for the Premier League title. Ferguson spoke about the potential deal last night, saying:
We have made a bid and they’ve been trying to negotiate with other clubs. I don’t have a gut feeling on it at the moment, I must admit. We’re not getting any breakthrough with Arsenal. It’s difficult to say why they’re operating this way. I don’t know what their thoughts are because they’re not giving anything away.
What a funny guy. Difficult to say why Arsenal are operating this way indeed. He knows fine well why Arsenal are behaving in whatever way he says we’re behaving. Despite van Persie’s obvious desire to leave, we’re under no obligation to make it easy for him, and we’re certainly not going to make it easy for him to go to United. In fact, given that the last piece of transfer business to the club was them selling us Sylvester, I’d be inclined to be as difficult as possible. We owe them.
The ‘captain’ is away in Germany at the moment and many people are studying the training camp photos to get an angle on what he’s set to do.
‘He looks pensive there, he must be thinking about which club he wants to sign for.’
‘That’s a contended smile, I think he might stay.’
‘Why are there no other players around him. He’s a loner, he’s going.’
‘Haha, Andre Santos called him bruv.’
Jokes aside though, Arsenal have to make a decision here. We might have signed three very good players so far this summer but from everything I hear it’s made no difference to van Persie. His desire is still to leave the club. If he thought he’d have his choice of whatever club he wanted due to his incredible form in the last 18 months, he seems to have misjudged that badly. Or maybe he knew all along that there’d be a short supply of teams willing to pay him the money he wants.
If Juventus are out (although I think there’s still some chance he might go there), and City are out (although I wouldn’t rule them out fully yet), then all he’s got left is United. To many the idea of him going there is unthinkable, but the key is whether or not he’d go there himself. If he would, knowing what he knows about Arsenal, Arsenal fans, and how he’d be perceived by going there, then if there is criticism or anger it ought to be directed at him, not the club if we decide to sell him there.
I’m sure the club also know how disappointed some fans would be if we sold to a direct rival and not just any old rival. Our history with United has been somewhat diluted in recent years due to the emergence of Chelsea and Man City and our failure to consistently challenge for the title, but the idea of selling our captain to them will see some recoil in horror. But what if United offer £20m and Juventus are only offering £8m or £10m because they can’t afford any more because of what they’re willing to pay van Persie?
Can we realistically turn down £10-12m in a summer in which we’ve spent big and probably do need to recoup some cash? Can any business afford to turn down that much money? As I’ve said previously, I’d prefer for us to sell him abroad, ignore the Premier League interest in him, even if it meant we got less money, but I’m not the one making that decision and it’s easy for me to suggest we reject a huge offer simply because it bothers us on an emotional level. That money could be re-invested in the team. We’ve got great value this summer with three good signings around the £12m mark, maybe we could do that again.
I don’t mean to say there aren’t footballing considerations too. A United with Robin van Persie is a better United, as long as he stays fit, but I’d be much more worried about a United with a decent midfield than a United with a 29 year old for whom we’ve gotten a massive amount of money. However, we have to make a decision. Talk of keeping for the final year of his contract sounds plausible but the reality is van Persie wants to go, and keeping him means keeping an unhappy, discontented player. He could well be professional and give his best but we’ve all been following football long enough to know that it’s very rare for a player in van Persie’s position to stay.
So, the club are caught somewhere between a rock and a hard place but at the same time they’re pandering to nobody. If Ferguson says Arsenal are being difficult then great. We have every right not to be dicked around by another club or by a player. If we’re trying to get the best deal for Arsenal, whether that’s from a financial point of view by squeezing United for a bigger fee, or making it clear to van Persie he stays or goes abroad (thus pressuring Juventus to up their bid or van Persie to lower his wage demands), then fair play.
But we have to marry that stance with what’s best for the team and the preparations for the new campaign. This particular issue aside the team look happy and in good spirits during the training camp. There seems to be good camaraderie, a positive atmosphere, and hopefully that will translate itself into performances once the season starts. A transfer saga, featuring a player who is captain in name only, is something of a distraction but fingers crossed we get it resolved as quickly as possible and as well as possible.
I’ll hold fire on what I’d think of van Persie if he signed for Man United, but I guess you don’t need to be an expert to figure it out.
Finally for today, a reminder that if you’re interested in any of the Arsenal related books from GCR Books, using the code Arseblog at check-out gives you a 10% discount.