Time will tell who gets best deal out of van Persie
Published: 19.08.12 / Written by: David Gold
Robin van Persie’s departure from Arsenal to Manchester United has ignited fierce debate already over who will be suited better by the transfer.
On one hand, some claim Arsenal have got the best deal, getting £24 million for a player who wanted to leave with just one year left on his deal at the Emirates. And a player who has had one and a half consistently good seasons.
The flip side is that van Persie’s best year was last time around, the best player in the league in 2011-12, and the best goalscorer in the division. Manchester United have also now got probably the best strikeforce in the league in Wayne Rooney and van Persie.
But there are so many ‘if’s about the deal, that it is almost impossible to reach conclusions about it yet. For one thing, United need to accommodate both van Persie and Rooney in the same team. There is a tactical dilemma for Alex Ferguson here. Presumably playing both means that Rooney will play behind the Dutchman. That will mean Rooney has significant pressure on him to drop back into central midfield to help out. They should be helped by Shinji Kagawa’s arrival in this area, giving them added dynamism, but Rooney’s ability to track back is sometimes questionable, and United could easily be exposed against better teams in this area of the pitch.
The other big ‘if’ on Manchester United’s part is if van Persie can even stay fit. He is notorious for getting injuries and historically fails to complete most seasons. If his injury record at United is only half as bad as at Arsenal, United may have misspent £65 million, taking into account both transfer fee and wages.
Then there is the Arsenal perspective. Many are arguing that Arsenal have lost a player, without whom, they would not have finished in the top four last season. This is one of the most simplistic and daft arguments bandying itself about.
It is true, that without van Persie’s goals, that Arsenal would not have finished in the top four. It is also true that without Mikel Arteta’s calm assurance in midfield that Arsenal would not have finished in the top four. They also would have missed out on the Champions League if Laurent Koscielny had not kept the defence together in the first half of the season, if Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs had not recovered from injury, if Tomas Rosicky had not rediscovered his form or if Alex Song did not play any of his trademark throughballs. Oh, and then there is Theo Walcott, whose eight goals and eleven assists were not an irrelevance.
The same argument can be made about most teams. Football is a team game, and any side achieving anything is reliant on a number of players all performing key roles, not just one.
So Arsenal will not be as badly affected as those who put forward this argument claim. They will still dominate possession, Theo Walcott and Gervinho will still get the ball out wide and cut it back into the centre. And now there are two players, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, with a calm finish in front of goal. That is the next big ‘if’. Podolski and Giroud are key now, and whether the two players adapt quickly and score regularly is a major issue now. If they do, Arsenal may have come out of this deal well. With an added creator in Santi Cazorla, and Jack Wilshere to return, Arsenal have the potential to be better this year than last, even without their talismanic Dutchman. But potential has been the watch word at Arsenal for years now. If they do not live up to that potential, then losing van Persie will be a major blow.
So the ramifications of van Persie’s move are largely unknown. But there are two things that have been unerringly consistent during the Premier League era. One is that Manchester United are always in contention for the title, and they usually win. The other is that Arsenal will lose their best players, find a way to adapt and continue to compete near the top, qualifying for the Champions League. What should be expected is that both of these things happen once again this season.