“The Grabbing hands grab all they can/
All for themselves after all”
Everything Counts- Depeche Mode, 1983.
Not the most poetic line of Martin L. Gore’s songwriting career, or indeed the most grammatically correct one. But, 29 years after it was first released, it seems an apt line to begin today’s blog.
And, clearly, it refers to the news that broke yesterday evening, news that put a definitive end to one man’s career, nay, love affair with Arsenal. News that Manchester United were only “pleased” to announce, they had reached agreement with Arsenal over a transfer fee for our captain. He came, he saw, he scored- a lot, he got injured- a lot, and then he buggered off. Thanks Robin. Maybe it’s just how United announce things, but I can’t help thinking of how Arsenal have been, generally, “delighted” to announce a big signing. And, to me, they don’t come much bigger than the Premier League’s top scorer and Player of the Year. Ok, United haven’t confirmed the move, but it’s a done deal- Arsene even said so on French television last night- and United are only “pleased” about it? Maybe I’m reading too much into it.
You may well be directing the anger towards the board and Arsene for sanctioning the deal, but it’s difficult to see how there was any way back from Robin’s statement earlier in the summer. A statement that had a similar effect to Bain’s bridge bombs in The Dark Knight Rises. I’m sure you’ve all read Amy Lawrence’s article in the Guardian today- Arsenal knew they had a problem with van Persie well before that statement dropped. So, what to do with the hottest striker on the planet and just twelve months of contract left? All they could do was try and get the best deal possible. I would have liked us to hold out for £30m but if it’s true that we got £24m for a 29 year old with his injury record, then that’s good business. Sorry, but it is.
We thought Robin was different. In a cynical world, we thought, mistakenly as it turns out, that the pictures of a 13 year old van Persie in an Arsenal shirt meant something. We thought that he got what it was like to be one of us. Don’t get me wrong, I am disappointed he’s going, but I can understand why he might want to leave. What I don’t get is how the captain of Arsenal Football Club can talk of loving us one minute, before shaking hands with Alex Ferguson the next. Doesn’t he know what that means? Doesn’t he remember the club that he joined and the battles at Old Trafford between 2003-05, his manager repeatedly and relentlessly abused by the very same fans who will now welcome Robin with open arms? And what about the touchline hug with Arsene after his equalising goal at home to Barcelona? It wasn’t that long ago…
Against this background, you have to ask, what the hell happened?
Whatever did happen, it would be remiss of me not to thank Robin for his immense contribution to our Champions League qualification last season, that goal at home to Spurs was one of the best I have ever seen, the hat trick at Chelsea just… well, it was a hat trick at Chelsea! But it’s difficult not to feel that we’ve been largely cheated. We waited a long time for van Persie to mature, a long time for him to stay fit. He finally manages it for one season and then decides to do one. There again, that kind of attitude hardly speaks to someone you want alongside you in the trenches now, does it? Sitting here and saying a player like Robin will not be missed would be bullshit. However, just after I saw news of the deal breaking on Twitter, I was folding up an Arsenal shirt. It was inside out and as I folded it, the words “Victoria Concordia Crescit” appeared in front of my eyes. And I thought to myself that if that’s true, then why would we want to keep someone who doesn’t want to be here anymore? The club is bigger than him, it’s bigger than any of us and it will endure as it always does.
At least it’s been done before the season begins; we can go into it free of the crap that followed us into last season. And we can really get behind the new boys. I don’t know if you’ve picked it up in what I’ve written before, hopefully you have, but I am genuinely excited to see them all in action. I think we’ve recruited players that can hit the ground running and really make a difference to our team. Perhaps the biggest difference this year is, as I alluded to t’other day, we’ve actually got some genuine competition for places this year. If you take the team as a whole, the spine of it- especially with the Darren Dein advised Alex Song also inching towards the exit door- represents a new beginning for the Arsenal. And, bearing in mind our fortunes over the last 7 years, that can only be a good thing.
This is, in all probability the last time I will be blogging before Saturday afternoon, so if you’re going, enjoy it. Maybe I’ll see you there.
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