Sports writer, Alex Davis, explores the story of the underdog in the 2015-16 season up and down the Football League.Written by Alex Davis on 5th May 2016
Wenger to blame for Van Persie exit
Joel Lamy believes the legendary French manager has allowed the situation at Arsenal to deteriorate rapidly and will have to change his methods in order to turn things around...
Manchester City fans have been predicting Robin Van Persie will come to them for some time. ‘Van Persie is ours’ they were singing when the two sides met in December and now that possibility has become much more likely after the Dutchman announced in a statement that he would not be signing a new contract with Arsenal. It is a familiar feeling for Gunners fans having seen a number of players leave to the blue half of Manchester since they came into money. Whilst Emmanuel Adebayor has never settled since his move, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri now have Premier League winners medals to their name.
Nasri has been a figure of much contempt for all football fans, claiming he left only for the money. Arsenal fan Piers Morgan has constantly attacked him on Twitter and a video went on YouTube shortly after a League Cup defeat to Liverpool where two fans were seen telling him he should have stayed at the Emirates whilst the Frenchman was driving.
But those who have derided Nasri, claiming that he would just be a benchwarmer, should now acknowledge that he was right to move club. I am no admirer of the player – and his behaviour after France were knocked out of the Euros was shameful – but he has been vindicated in his decision to leave Arsenal by the events of last season.
Since Van Persie announced he wanted to also leave Arsenal, fans have been lambasting him for his lack of loyalty and wildly stating that the club will be better off without him. It is understandable that supporters now spurned will pretend that they can do without the Dutchman, but it is complete fallacy if they think they can compete for anything better than the FA Cup and third place should he depart.
This lack of ambition is why Van Persie has left. It is not always about money. If it was then he would be going to China, Russia or the Middle East like many other players have, with the name Samuel Eto’o immediately springing to mind. He is a player in the prime of his career and he wants to have something to show for his considerable talent when he eventually retires.
Many have said that Van Persie has shown a lack of loyalty by leaving, that Arsene Wenger deserves better having stuck by him when he had injury problems. It is an understandable point, but Van Persie has repaid the faith shown in him by Wenger. He showed it by almost single-handedly making sure Arsenal had Champions League football next season, by scoring 30 Premier League goals and carrying a team which was in disarray to third place, thus denying Tottenham a return to Europe's elite. That’s some return. Van Persie has 12 months left on his contract and is fully entitled to let his run down if he wants to, just as in the same way Wayne Bridge was fully entitled to keep his enormous wage at Manchester City while they tried to get rid of him. Luka Modric wants to leave Tottenham, we are told, but having been tied down to a long-term contract he continues to give his best for the club. This is how it should work.
As long as they continue to give their best – just as Nasri did at the start of last season despite wanting to leave – supporters should not complain when players depart. This is not like the situation at Liverpool where Javier Mascherano refused to play against City.
If Arsenal fans really want to turn on somebody for their best players leaving they need to look at the manager. For the last few years the mantra “Arsene knows” has been shown to be wrong. Wenger did an unbelievable job turning Arsenal into one of the biggest clubs in Europe, one who would win domestically all the time and even reached a Champions League final. But since 2006 his inability to spend on a couple of players when the team was still near the top has led to this desperate situation where the Gunners will soon be at a similar place to Liverpool.
In 2007/8 Arsenal had their chance to win the Premier League but capitulated after drawing to Birmingham City where Eduardo suffered his horrendous injury and captain William Gallas sulked on his own. Since then they have capitulated every year when trophies were in sight – such as the League Cup against Birmingham City– or in important matches against the likes of Newcastle from four goals up. Experienced players were allowed to leave and replaced by youngsters. A solid back-line, the catalyst to Manchester United and Chelsea winning the title, was disregarded. Despite making a profit unlike most other clubs, cheap alternatives like Mikael Silvestre, Sebastien Squillaci and even an older Sol Campbell were brought in while Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski were chosen between the sticks for a long period when all followers of the club knew that a better alternative was needed.
These are the reasons why top players are leaving Arsenal. They see a club always trying to do things on the cheap, where third place is now acceptable. Top players like Cesc Fabregas and Nasri can leave and are replaced by the likes of Mikael Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. Both are good players, but neither is in the same class. And still, Arsenal have a back-line where even a two goal lead never looks secure. This is why Van Persie, like so many before him, wants to leave. He sees a club unwilling to push itself towards major trophies. The finances are there, but Wenger is unwilling to move on from his trusted fiscal policy. He has a let a potentially great team break up by not spending when he had the chance and now most of the best players will soon be playing (and winning) at rival clubs.
It used to be said that players would never have things as good when they left Manchester United, but the same can no longer be said for Arsenal. The club has pushed itself into a position where supporters get charged huge amounts to watch a team who have won nothing since 2005 and have gone downhill rapidly since then. The fault, for all his previous genius, lays at the door of Arsene Wenger.