When it comes to judging a player, not as a talent, but as a person, I like to think that I have a fairly good idea about what is what. I am aware that when they pull on that Arsenal shirt I might pop on my Gooner-tinted glasses, but when it comes down to it, I can generally tell what type of person a player is. I always knew that Cesc loved Arsenal but would return to Barcelona, that Nasri would have his head turned by money but when it came to Robin van Persie, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Before the summer started and he basically forced a transfer without handing in a transfer request, making sure, laughably, that he would still get his loyalty bonus even though he was showing nothing that even resembled loyalty, I was sure he would sign a new deal. Not hopeful. Not wishful. Sure. His statement hit hard when it was released because of that certainty. Here was a player who had been pictured as a kid in an Arsenal kit, he was a fan, like us. He was a player who Arsene had stood by while many fans called for him to be sold because we couldn’t rely on him and his glass ankles. He was a player that Arsene had taken a chance on and refused to give up on, had nursed through injury after injury. He was a player who, not more that 12 months earlier had said
The bottom line is that I want to win trophies with Arsenal, not with anybody else. I know you can win trophies in many countries and in many ways, but I want to do that in our way and in an Arsenal shirt.
‘I’m sure I could win things at another team in another country, but would it feel like our trophy, my trophy? I’m not sure it would. Anything we win here will come from the heart and that’s what I want. It’s my dream and I see no point in speaking about other teams when I have these dreams. I think other people know that about me; I’m just hungry to win with Arsenal and that’s it – Robin van Persie, February 2011
Now, fast forward to a great season, the like of which he had never experienced before and not only did he want to leave but he was doing in it in a way which showed no love for Arsenal. He was sticking the knife in and twisting while he told us how beautiful we were and hoped we heard the words rather than feel the sting of the blade.
He made a liar of his dad who said that his son would never play for another English side and he made a fool of his wife and mother who had spent their time gushing about how much they loved Arsenal and how well they had been treated.
And still, as the summer rolled on, I began to think less about the statement, the knife, and more about the words he had uttered during his time with us and I started to believe that he would climb out of the corner he had backed himself in to and stay. As City and then Juventus withdrew from the race to sign him I became certain that he had over-estimated his negotiating position and that the simplest thing for him to do would be to say ‘sorry’ and we could all get on with the season ahead. I was certain he would never, could never, go to Manchester United.
An Arsenal fan wouldn’t do that. An Arsenal fan *couldn’t* do that.
But van Persie is not an Arsenal fan. He is a player and I allowed his sweet talking throughout the years to blind me to that.
When the news came through last night I was shocked at how little anger I felt, I guess deep down I knew. His statement had broken what little trust I had left in footballers and for him to agree to move to Manchester United was just another kick to my faith that was so battered it could feel no more pain. When Cesc last summer I was gutted. This news barely registered.
People will and have questioned Arsenal’s ambition but we cannot compete with the money that the oil barons are throwing at football nor United’s complete disregard for the debt they find themselves in and I’m ok with that. As one United fan said yesterday, United are a car, they need an engine and what they’ve bought is a set of really awesome fuzzy dice. But United don’t concern me.
We have brought in three fantastic players in Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla and we have done it without putting the financial future of our club at risk. Even as van Persie walks out the door, we are stronger now. I know opposition fans have a hard time understanding how Arsenal fans can be anything other than gutted at losing a worldclass player but what they don’t understand is that we’ve been here before. We’ve watched them leave and we’ve watched as another player stepped up to fill the void. This season we aren’t wondering who it will be and we know the responsibility of keeping us competitive won’t fall on the shoulders of just one man.
We are stronger, no matter what other fans think.
I’ve had my heart broken one too many times for your betrayal to register Robin. You could have been a legend at Arsenal but you’ve thrown it all in for one last payday and the fans will never forgive for this act. You spoke of wanting to emulate Dennis Bergkamp, a man who once said “I love Arsenal but you, yes you, do you love Arsenal or do you just love Arsenal with trophies?” a man whose actions backed up his words. Now you find yourself in the same category as Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri, and Emmannuel Adebayor.
We would have built you a statue Robin but now you get to play for the fans who called you a rapist and the man who stuck by you and believed in you during that time a paedophile. You will realise what you have done one day and you will be sorry.
But it will be too late then.
It’s too late now.
You might win trophies but they won’t make up for what you have done. You could have been a legend and I won’t even say ‘I hope it was worth it’ because, while I might have got so much wrong when it came to you Robin, I know that one day you will realise that it wasn’t.------------
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