Hard-line Van Persie stance represents Arsenal and Wenger's biggest gamble

The north London outfit have told their captain that he is to stay at the club for another season despite expressing a desire to leave the Emirates in his letter to fans last month
By James Goldman

In amongst the barbed criticisms of Arsenal's transfer policy and the concerns raised about the direction in which the club are headed, Robin van Persie's very public outpouring earlier this month, of course, included the declaration of undying love for the club he had, in effect, just requested to part company with.

By flatly dismissing out of hand Van Persie's desire to seek a fresh challenge after seven fruitless, injury-interrupted seasons, that bond will be tested, potentially to breaking point, now that the Gunners have opted to get tough with their captain and prized asset.

It is a commendable stance for the club to take, particularly given the way in which they have been relentlessly bullied in the transfer market on a yearly basis since the move to the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal look set to keep the Dutchman

Still, it represents either a gamble of astonishing proportions, one which could still see both sides fail to achieve what they truly hope for, or the latest act of bravado in an energy-sapping saga that could well stretch beyond the start of the upcoming campaign.

By and large it is the draining effect this Groundhog Day scenario has on everyone connected with the club that has forced Arsenal into adopting this approach, regardless of the financial hit they will take should Van Persie depart for nothing this time next year.

Silverware or no silverware, Arsenal's status as a leading member of the European aristocracy remains intact, and will do so while they maintain their Champions League status. A club of that size, therefore, no matter how prolific they might be in terms of nurturing young talent, cannot afford to continually cede to player power.

"Imagine the worst situation - we lose [Cesc] Fabregas and [Samir] Nasri," Arsene Wenger said this time last year. "You cannot convince people you are ambitious after that. You cannot pretend you are a big club.

"A big club holds onto its big players and gives a message out to all the other big clubs that they just cannot come in and take [players] away from you."

The actions of Nasri in particular, who moved on just weeks after those words were uttered, may have made his former manager look foolish in one sense, but in another, Wenger's sentiment was endorsed by the former Marseille man's relatively new employers.

Van Persie's online temper tantrum may have been ill-advised but, unlike Carlos Tevez during Manchester City's Champions League defeat in Munich last September, he has not yet refused to take to the field of play.

The pressure to sell Tevez to the highest bidder, or even kick him out of the club altogether, following that episode was intense. His conduct may have been appalling but City were prepared to play the long game and when their title challenge required a shot in the arm, Tevez was there to provide it. They behaved like a big club should - putting prizes ahead of personal point scoring.

Perhaps, in some ways, this show of defiance from Arsenal may just convince Van Persie there is life in the old dog yet, more so than the signings of Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud, who will start their debut campaigns in England with significant question marks hanging over their heads, will.

That, however, is something of an idealistic hope. The more pessimistic and altogether more realistic scenario is one which will, in all likelihood, see a disgruntled Van Persie ask himself 'why me?'

Having seen a succession of close friends and former team-mates depart north London for larger pay packets and, in many cases, instant trophy-laden success why should the 29-year-old be the one constrained by this newly-adopted hard-line policy?

That said, once the season gets underway it is impossible to imagine Van Persie, assuming he is still at the club, giving anything other than total commitment to the cause.

Moreover, if Wenger feels his skipper has not yet rendered his position untenable, then we must assume his team-mates would still be comfortable taking their lead from a man so openly at odds with the club's hierarchy.

With six weeks to go before the transfer window slams shut Arsenal have shown their hand early and placed their house on Van Persie. They most hope beyond hope they have not invested in a busted flush.

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