Ex-Gunners manager believes Frenchman will learn from exits of Fabregas and Nasri and make striker stay put but warns club they need to stop relying on prolific Dutchman
By Rob Stewart
Rioch, who preceded Wenger as Arsenal manager, is certain that the Frenchman will do his utmost to keep the Dutch international this summer and is bullish about his prospects of persuading him to commit his long-term future to the Premier League club.
Van Persie, who has scored 31 goals this season, is out of contract next year and has put off talks over a new deal but despite the growing uncertainty Rioch is backing Wenger to keep him at the Emirates and avoid a repeat of last summer’s transfer activity that saw key figures Fabregas and Nasri leave the club.
“They lost their key player in Fabregas and to a certain extent Nasri which sent a signal out and it is not a very good signal when you lose your best players,” Rioch told Goal.com.
“It may have happened at Manchester United with Wayne Rooney but it was dealt with swiftly and effectively to keep him at the club and the impact it has had at the club as been terrific.
“The dilemma for Arsene is not just adding to the team and re-building it but hanging on to Van Persie. That is one of the greatest dilemmas that he faces.
“But Arsene is the sort of manager who is always learning and he will want to make sure the mistakes of last summer are not repeated. He will do his utmost to keep Van Persie and I would back Arsene to convince him to stay on.”
The 28-year-old Van Persie, who is rumoured to be interesting Manchester City, has proved to be a talismanic figure since taking the captain’s armband from Fabregas.
Arsenal are on the brink of elimination from this year’s Champions League as they prepare to face AC Milan on Tuesday night in North London, attempting to overcome a four-goal deficit.
However, Van Persie’s goals have kept Arsenal on course to qualify for next season’s competition by virtue of a top-four place in the Premier League and Rioch believes that replacing him would cost an astronomical amount.
“The great Arsenal team that Arsene had some years ago of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, [Marc] Overmars, [Robert] Pires, [Fredrik] Ljungberg, [Sylvain] Wiltord, [Patrick] Vieira and [Emmanuel] Petit – can you imagine how much each of those players would cost today to purchase,” Rioch added.
“Thierry Henry in his prime would be at least £50 million and Vieira would be £30-40m , Petit £30m, Bergkamp £40m. And they don’t have that revenue to spend on players that are going to cost that amount of money.
“Unfortunately that is how people are measuring the club – by the great players that they had in the past but they are just so expensive to bring in now and finding a replacement for Van Persie would cost the earth.
“Therefore over the years he has had to buy carefully and develop and go for potential rather than ready-made in some cases and of course you pay the cost for that and the cost is that although they have been in the Champions League every season they haven’t won a trophy.
“Along the way you lose your best players such as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and now they have the scenario with Robin van Persie so it is a difficult scenario but I think Arsene will have a strategy to make sure things work out well on this one.”
Rioch, who heralded a new era at Arsenal when he brought Bergkamp to the club, believes that bringing in a new striker could help Wenger get Van Persie to stay put.
“Arsene had a difficult period at the start of the season, he came through that but it is evident that they need another goalscorer,” Rioch continued.
“You can’t rely on Van Persie to be the sole provider of goals at your club. You need more. That is one of the key areas that they haven’t resolved.
“They brought in Gervinho and [Marouane] Chamakh but they haven’t actually produced the goals that are necessary. Theo Walcott hasn’t produced the goals that I thought he was capable of. They lack sufficient goal-threat.
"You can’t depend on one player for that. It is not enough at the top level. You have to have more than one. That is one area that needs to be put right.”