thumbnail Hello,

Keown: van Persie departure would set Arsenal back years

The former Gunners defender is worried that it would take a long time for Arsene Wenger to find anyone to replace the Dutch striker, whose future remains uncertain

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes that it could take the club years to recover if they lose star striker Robin van Persie this summer.

The Dutchman scored 30 times for the north London side this season, but has just one year left on his current contract and is understood to be weighing up his future options having won just one FA Cup winner's medal during his time at the club.

And Keown says that the Gunners captain's influence and quality would be very difficult to replace.

“Arsenal are desperate for him to stay and have lost too many players in the past,” he said at a Carlsberg pub football event. "If Van Persie were to go as well, it would take a number of years for them to recover from that."

The Netherlands international has seen former teammates Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy leave Arsenal and go on to win major trophies in recent times, but Keown feels that he might not get the same adulation elsewhere.

"It is his heart against his head," he argued. “It would be quite refreshing if a player decides: 'This is my club, I am not going to play anywhere else and am going to show that faith and trust which was shown in me. I am going to believe in project Arsenal have.' It is swapping the love for him here if he goes to another club, he might find it a little bit of a difficult transition which he does not want to make."

VAN PERSIE'S 2011-12
And, despite Van Persie heading off to this summer’s Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine with his future still uncertain, Keown feels that the club and fans need to be patient and allow him to make up his mind.

"We need to give Robin time and not suffocate him," the ex-pro continued. "Robin understands and we all understand he is very much a special player for Arsenal. The adulation and respect which he has at Arsenal, Robin has worked a footballing lifetime to get that.”

Follow GOAL.COM USA on