As I watched Robin van Persie celebrate his first ever title win at Old Trafford last week, I couldn’t help but feel happy for him. The joy on his face as he smiled and waved at the fans on his lap of honour was there for all to see. As befits a world class player, he had a league winners medal at last and was playing in a team commensurate with his talents alongside legends such as Rooney, Ferdinand and Giggs.
If such a scenario was possible at Arsenal he would’ve stayed. If he thought for one second he could do a lap of honour at the Emirates instead of Old Trafford, and be all smiles as he hugged Wenger instead of Fergie, he’d have signed a new contract with us.
I was as upset as the next fan when he left but I understood his reasons. He called Arsenal unambitious and I had to agree — after all, it was a combination of continually selling our best players (despite having £120m in the bank) and high ticket prices that prompted me to give up my season ticket last summer.
He was predictably slated by angry fans and bloggers calling him a judas and accusing him of moving for the money. In cyberspace people were writing his name as ‘van P€r$ie’ as they presumably believed he should’ve sacrificed the best years of his career to fight for fourth place every season out of a misguided sense of loyalty.
The truth is this — van Persie had reached the age of 29 and won nothing. In recent seasons key players such as Nasri, Fabregas, Adebayor, Toure and Clichy were sold to generate money that wasn’t invested back in the playing staff. He looked around him on the training ground and instead saw Ramsey, Squillacci, Arshavin, Chamakh, Djourou and Fabianski. How was this squad full of youngsters and cheap signings ever going to win the title?
He had just had the season of his life and was at his peak — it was now or never if he was going to get a move to a club where he could realise his dream and win trophies. Having lost faith in Wenger to deliver (witness his famous “No!” reaction when Wenger stupidly hauled off Oxlade-Chamberlain against Man Utd) he realised he needed to move.
What’s wrong with that? Of course he got a pay increase as Man Utd have a bigger wage budget, but does he really deserve to be booed for wanting out of an unambitious club to try and win some silverware before he retires?
Compare the van Persie saga with that of Adebayor — now there’s a man who deserves to be booed. Adebayor worked hard during his time at Arsenal in order to secure a big move, openly courting Milan and Barcelona before signing a bumper contract renewal after holding the club to ransom. Just a year later though he wanted to move again and this time the fed-up board cashed in on him, selling him to Man City.
Is this really someone celebrating a pay rise?
He played well for a season but then became complacent. After all, he had his big wages now so why bother continuing to put a shift in every week? He quickly fell out of favour and somehow blagged a loan move to Real Madrid. Again he was impressive as the possibility of a permanent contract motivated him, but it never materialised. So he was loaned to Spurs the following season and played out of his skin, bagging 18 goals and 12 assists as he looked for a permanent contract which AVB handed him last summer. He was awarded a £4m signing on fee to compensate for his wages being reduced from £170k a week at Man City to £100k with Spurs and given a nice long contract until 2015. Kerr-ching!
Content with his new deal, Adebayor quickly fell into the comfort zone at White Hart Lane. I’ve had the misfortune of watching him a number of times this season thanks to my Sky Sports package and he has turned in dozens of lazy, inept performances, only managing six goals and not a single assist.
Now this is a man who deserves to have his name written as Ad€bayor — a true mercenary only interested in money. Does that sound like van Persie, who has been on fire for the whole season, playing his heart out every week to achieve his dream of lifting the Premiership trophy?
Which brings me to yesterday’s match and the reception he received. First of all, the guard of honour is a sign of respect to the new champions and the fact that some Gooners tainted it by booing van Persie as he walked out smacked of a lack of class.
RVP was then booed for his first few touches, but after scoring he remained calm and showed respect for Arsenal and the same fans who were booing him by not celebrating. He did the same at Old Trafford when he scored, unlike Adebayor of course, who ran the length of the pitch to slide on his knees and goad the Gooners after his first goal against us.
So I’m at a loss as to why our former captain, who gave everything every time he pulled on our shirt, was shown no respect. He moved to win trophies which we weren’t interested in competing for, not money, so I don’t see the problem. He cannot be accused of being disloyal because Arsenal refused to match his ambition and forced his hand. If anything Wenger let him down by asset stripping the team in order to put money in the bank and surrounding him with the likes of Jenkinson, Diaby, Park, Benayoun and Santos.
Don’t boo van Persie for wanting to play for a club which tries to win trophies — boo the board/Wenger for neglecting the team so badly that not one of our players made the PFA Team of the Year for the first time in four years.
If you booed van Persie or think it’s right he was booed, I’d love to know why in the comments. I’d also say you need to ask yourself this pertinent question: What type of club sells their captain and best player to their big rivals? The answer is an unambitious one which prioritises profits over trophies. Arsenal were only too happy to accept £24m for a 29 year old because it made financial sense, no matter how good he was, and they didn’t care that it virtually handed the title on a plate to a team most of us loathe.
Ironically, by selling van Persie to a club who they claim to be competing with, Arsenal demonstrated exactly why he wanted to leave. If you think it’s anything else you are kidding yourself.
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