The RvP Conundrum

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Ever since Wednesday morning, when Robin van Persie met with the club to discuss his future with us, speculation into what went on at that meeting has gone into overdrive, and many people who are far more informed than I, have given their views on what will happen next. I have no idea what RvP is thinking right now, but by going through the issues at hand here, I hope to show you that it’s not as clear cut a situation as it appears.

Robin van Persie is nearly 29 years old and next year will be the last year of his contract. He’s just completed a season that established him as the one of the premier strikers in world football and his market value will never be higher than it is now. The next contract he signs will probably be his last chance to sign a “big-money” deal. (I hate that phrase in football, as any contract in the Premier League is big money in the real world. But you know what I mean.) So it makes sense to evaluate all options available to you before making a decision, right?

The word “loyalty” gets thrown around like a dog’s bone when it’s used in a footballing context, and it’s no different here. Arsenal fans are constantly claiming that van Persie should show “loyalty” to the club that helped develop him into the player he is. Really? It’s too easy to just say that because we pay a player a ton of money that he should be thankful for it, but football is a profession just like any other, and when someone who is good at their job is coming up to the end of their contact with a company, surely it’s prudent of them to make sure that they get rewarded for their output, whether it’s at their current workplace or somewhere else, right?

We say we want our players to show “loyalty” but in reality it’s only the good players that we want to stay. Imagine if Almunia or Squillaci asked the club to show “loyalty” to them and give them a new deal? We’d be foaming from the mouth at the supposed “arrogance” from them in expecting us to reward them for nothing, yet we expect van Persie to show us loyalty in the same position. We’re more than happy to see the club kick Chamakh and Park to the curb, but when a player chooses to leave on his own accord, he’s a “traitor”.

Those two positions are totally incompatible, but it’s how a football fan processes information. Everything that leads to giving us an advantage is given a positive spin and everything that affects us negatively is the worst moral crime in the history of football. You don’t believe me?

  • Cesc Fabregas – Our captain decides that after eight years away, he wants to go back home to play for his home-town club that he had played for until he was 16, and to play for his idol, Pep Guardiola. Arsenal talk him out of it once before but can’t do it a second time. And because the only club he could ever contemplate leaving Arsenal for is Barca, there’s no bidding war for him, which limits his market value. All of that is reasonable, but because it affects Arsenal negatively, we label him a traitor.
  • Lukas Podolski – Just finished a season at his home-town club as top scorer, but they still ended up getting relegated. If he showed the same sort of “loyalty” that we expect of our players, then he should stay at FC Koln and help them get back into the top flight, right? Buffon, Del Piero and Nedved stayed at Juventus when they got demoted from Serie A, but because Podolski is coming HERE, then we don’t care about “loyalty”, we’re just glad that he left to come play for us.

See what I mean? “Loyalty” is a misnomer and shouldn’t be given as a reason for a player to stay, as we expect the exact opposite behaviour when we want a player to come play for us. So I’m not expecting any acts of “loyalty” from van Persie, and you shouldn’t either. All we can do is go through the variables of the situation rationally and draw a conclusion. So let’s do that…..

  1. Money – No matter what way the numbers get presented, the fact of the matter is this; he could get a lot more money elsewhere. We could probably go as far as 4 years/£150,000 a week with a £5m signing on bonus. Not exactly chicken feed, but Man City could easily add another £100,000 a week to that. In the real world, the difference between £150k a week and £250k a week seem negligible, but this could be van Persie’s last big payday for the rest of his life. If he wants to provide the same quality of life that his family has now for a long period of time, then he need to fully maximise his earnings now, whilst the opportunity to do so is there. So if you were him, wouldn’t it make sense to send your agent out to other clubs and get an idea of what you could earn elsewhere, so that if you decide to stay at Arsenal, at least you know you’re being paid like your market value suggests you should be?
  2. Ambition – Again, the advantage is in van Persie’s corner. The list of clubs that would want to sign van Persie isn’t a group of clubs that aren’t competing, it’s the cream of Europe that wants his services. It’s the Barca’s, the Madrid’s, the Juve’s and, yes, the Man City’s that want him. So no matter where he plays next year, he’s going to be competing for trophies.
  3. Ego – This is where Arsenal have their biggest hold over van Persie. We’ve seen this season that Robin loves being captain. Dutch players tend to be more confident than others, almost to the point that it comes across as arrogance. Dennis’ greatest asset wasn’t his unbelievable technique, it was his supreme confidence in it. He knew he was better than you, and he had no qualms in showing you how. Robin is of the same ilk (Remember his little tiff with fellow Dutchman Tim Krul at the Emirates this year? All game long, Krul was letting Robin know that he was losing. When Arsenal took the lead in injury time, Robin was only too glad to inform Krul of what the scoreboard said.) and he enjoys being “The Man”. If he leaves Arsenal, he leaves being “The Man” behind him too. He’ll be just another face at Man City or Juve and he’d be Messi’s Plan B at Barca or Ronaldo and Jose’s sideshow at Madrid.

So what do I think will happen? I think he’ll stay. I think reason no.3 is far more important to van Persie than either 1 or 2 is, but we’ll need to address both of them to totally convince him. The most important thing is that if van Persie decides to leave, then we act quickly on it. Our mistake last year wasn’t in selling Cesc, it was waiting two months to replace him adequetly. That can’t happen again. If van Persie wants out, then we should sell him as soon as possible and bring in a replacement of sufficient quality so that his output isn’t missed. We’ve already got Podolski, are we worse off with Podolski and Falcao than we were this year with van Persie and Chamakh/Park? Hardly.

So until we hear for certain on whether van Persie is staying or not, let’s just plan for his departure anyway and hope that we don’t have to implement that same plan. Arsenal is bigger than any player, so whoever is the world-class centre-forward playing for us is irrelevant, just as long as we have one. That’s far more important than anybody’s “loyalty”.

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  • Robin

    Professional sportsmen want to play against the best and with the best.  Part one is complete, we will play in the CL again next year. Part two is a bit more tricky. I hear you on the ego side, but I doubt RVP’s believes he would be Messi’s plan B or Ronaldo’s sideshow. His ego would put him on a par. The question is who would you rather play along side, Messi, Ronaldo, Silva or Theo, the OX and Gervinho?  Only RVP can answer that. 

    I want him to stay, but the last few seasons have proven we do not have the right to expect our stars to stay. I remember how I felt when Brady left, it’s a terrible feeling and I don’t want to experience it again, but that’s football. We’ll get over it.

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  • Beerbuddy

    Excellent stuff.Was saying these exact words to my other half last night.If i’m honest,i’m dreading the thought of Robin leaving.Mainly because i’m scared we wont bring in a sufficient replacement,and with the kind of bids we’ve put in for players anywhere near his class it looks unlikely.Our wage structure needs sorting out on so many levels too.If i worked for a company through an agency and did the same job as a direct employee but got half the wages,i would want to leave the agency and join the company.Makes sense to me.There’s no way we can afford £250,000 pw but at least be real and make an Robin an offer that shows respect for his talent.

  • mystic

    Until we know that RvP is leaving, lets plan for him staying. Oh and if the board had any bollocks they would tell RvP that he IS STAYING next season no matter what happens this summer.

    Ultimately I don’t give a monkey about any players feelings, only what is beneficial to Arsenal on the pitch. There is no doubt that RvP and Podolski up front would have a major impact.

    If he is desperate for silverware let him try with Arsenal again next season.  If Arsenal don’t win anything he will be off for nothing, but it is a gamble worth taking.

    Short-sighted, blinkered, biased, optimistic, Arsenal until the day I die.

  • balkrishna

    superb read 

  • blaxx

    It is all VPs’ decision but one thing he should remember is that of all those arsenal players that left when we needed them to satay. Am talking of the likes of Vieira, Fabregas, Nasri, Henry and the list goes on. Their prolific form seems to start depreciating as soon as they decide to leave Arsenal. They end up not playing first team football like they thought they should. As I said its all up to him and as he ponders what to do next let him think about it. We want him to stay and show the world what he has and can do coz he got the opportunity at Arsenal but lets see.
    Gunners for life!

  • Agra Madyastha

    i just hope that if he does leave, we get a quality replacement. the problem with last season’s summer is that we didnt guarantee CL football. (i hope) this summer will be different with CL spot already in our hands. it is up the board & manager now to add more quality / find replacement ASAP

  • Algumbo

    Very good well balanced read. I think it’ll come down to the club’s ambition, in other words who else they bring in. I also believe it’s better to let him go now if he wants to leave and get some money to replace him. Losing him for nothing next season is financially ludicrous. Having said all that, I don’t see any big names being signed due to the wage structure. Until that changes, let’s face it, we’ll lose our top players every season. No way we can seriously compete on the cheap.

  • hamboy

    I agree. I love the man and hope we do everything we can to keep him but if the offer is right and he wants to move on then I won’t wish him any ill feeling, he doesn’t owe Arsenal football club anything. I just hope that if he does go it is to Juve or Barca – anyone but those cunts up in Manchester (both sets)

  • Arranfarrell

    great piece but i think the bit on Poloski not been loyal cause he left when they went down is a load of shite ! Basically what you saying is that nobody should ever leave there first club and show loyalty ! 

  • OMG Arsenal

    NO PLAYER is bigger than the Club and that is axiomatic, nonnegotiable and written in stone. RVP loves AFC and he sees Wenger as a father figure but he’s not a 16 year old starstruck kid, he’s one of the top 4 strikers in the world, has a family he has to look out for and owes AFC no more loyalty, nor does he have any more obligations, than any other players who has been out with injuries and who were supported by the club.
    I feel, but without any firm conviction, that he will resign and that he is trying to squeeze as much blood out of the rock that is AFC, as he can. His major concern apparently is to win trophies although I’ve never seen any direct quotes from him saying that is his raison d’etre at Arsenal.
    Today’s Footballer has to stockpile the riches while he can because at 35-37 he is a spent force (or probably sooner in RVP’s case) and may not get a coaching, training or other Football-related job as easily as he got a playing role in his heyday. Supporters have to see the situation through his eyes. He wants AFC to succeed and to be a title winning captain but if he seriously doubts their willingness to invest and talk the walk then he’ll do a Na$ri sooner than later. Na$ri’s comments were not lost on him.

  • Mario

    The question of loyalty is a question of contribution.  Cesc contributed a lot during his 8 seasons, so I surely don’t begrudge him a move.  Speak to any Cologne fan and you’ll see how much they value Podolski’s contribution during his many years there.

    Van Persie has done a lot for the club since Jan 2011.  However, for most of this time here he has been injured.   Hard to imagine that he actually hasn’t can two full seasons back to back.  Remember that fiasco when he wanted to go get horse placenta rubbed into his ankle?

    His loyalty should be to the club because we stuck with him and gave him a new contract when all the bandwagon commentators were saying he was never going to have a complete season

  • Pop

    Say thank you Robin, sell him for as much money as we can and wish him all the best. Invest in other players and try to keep the wage bill down.
    Now Pep’s gone from Barca, can we have Cesc back? Half price of course.

  • http://davidlarteyblog.wordpress.com David Lartey

    Despite anything that happens all I want to see is Robin playing for us next season. Whatever has to be done has to be done. Arsenal as a club should not always put a player at a position where he would have to make a decision based on loyalty. I really hope Arsene and Arsenal learned from last summer.

  • Axim

    It begs to ask the most important question in this saga: why haven’t Wenger and Gazidis signed up RVP by now? This should have been done last summer. Wenger and his team are incompetent, many may disagree with me but they suck.
    Why haven’t they improved the squad? Anyone who knows anything about football can see Arsenal’s deficiencies except Wenger. I see him suffering on the bench but he deserves whatever comes to him because these are the seeds he has sown. Personally, I don ‘t believe we will anything with Wenger and Ivan. It is like groundhog day. If our captain is obviously holding us to ransom, can you imagine what the dressing room will be like?
    RVP will hopefully show some loyalty considering how long he has been inactive and the team has stood by him.

  • Nijwmzen29

    maybe off- topic. but now that chelsea have won the champions league, does that mean arsenal will have to go through the qualifying stages? i hope not

    • Murukesh Mohanan

       Nope. We go directly to the group stage.

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  • Old Northbank

    Very good analysis Stephen. Agree with everything you write. Perhaps you miss an important point in favour of the argument the RVP will stay – and I don’t think this should be under-estimated – this is the affect his family will have on the decision. His wife has come out and said very clearly how happy and settled they are in London. I think this will have an enormous bearing on his decision. What would help to ensure a positive outcome would then be Arsenal’s ambition; 1 or 2 more good signings now would certainly help here.

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  • thw14

    Nah, nah. You’re completely missing the point. Every football fan does this loyalty thing, true, but Arsenal fans have a right to do it more than most.
    A very underappreciated part of the transfer strategy after the new stadium has been the way we approach young players (as opposed to just the fact that we target younger players). That includes, one, extremely generous salaries at the earliest stages of their careers, when NOONE would throw that much money at them. Second, actually playing them, again practically unheard of in teams competing against us, who would much rather get a 26-27 year old in and play them despite “killing” (Arsene’s term) a younger player. Third, and most important, and maybe this isn’t so much of a strategy as an inevitable fallout from the first and second – stick by them through serious injuries. This must nevertheless be appreciated since we could’ve always just cut our losses early but we didn’t. We didn’t. Through all the times that they were disappointing, unavailable, recovering etc. we didn’t. Each and every player that leaves Arsenal speaks glowingly of the relationship that they had with the manager. It’s true. He showed an incredible amount of faith in very young players. And, after they leave – in hindsight of course – an unjustified amount of faith. This was a choice we made. And we can see that it has turned out badly. Those that came good – Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor etc. demand better in one way or the other, forgetting that no-one would have given them as much as we did before they became so good and hence so demanding.Those that don’t come good stay unabashedly on inflated salaries doing very little to justify them. Basically we wrongly judged player psychology. That doesn’t change the fact that player psychology is fucked up.van Persie – I love him and think he’ll stay. This is for those who think he’s entitled to leave. First, he’s had two good seasons. Henry, for example, had seven. Payday? Let’s rewind. At the time that he was cocooned in horse placenta, noone would’ve taken him on. He was recognised as a chronically injured striker, struggling even with the help of one of the best med teams in the world. Loss of form or age is far less of a turn-off than a rep for being perma-crocked. He WOULD NOT have been taken in by any club even one step below Arsenal. He would’ve had to go to a very mid-table team and try to resurrect his career from there. See, for example, Owen Hargreaves. How’s that for financial security? We kept him, through his 10-match a season phase, on something like 80,000 pounds a week, with the opportunity to come back at any time onto the biggest stages in world football. So we gave him financial security when he wasn’t really earning it because we judged that when he’s good, he’s incredible. We made that trade-off in our accounting knowing that we had to take these gambles on players to earn their loyalty because we couldn’t earn loyalty in the scumbag fashion i.e. oil money. And now we have to turn around and console ourselves saying “yeah, we tried to inspire loyalty, but it didn’t work cause that’s market sense”? No, we tried to inspire loyalty and players are not human enough to respond to it. When you spot an asshole, don’t be afraid to call it.van Persie’s concern was that we weren’t ambitious in the transfer market and I think, unlike others, he really meant that. Now that we’ve changed, I think his loyalty will take precedence over his concerns.If he does leave, though, I will not have the slightest compunction in adding him to a long list of disloyal, disrespectful ex-Arsenal players.