For the second straight summer, Arsenal had the chance to show that their not just a feeder club but actually one of the greats in England. Arsene Wenger had a chance to prove he’s a manager great players want to play for. Instead, Robin Van Persie chose Manchester United and Alex Ferguson.

It’s not just Van Persie’s choice. Arsenal and Wenger saw that despite coming back to training and seemingly pleased with the direction the club was taking, no extension was being signed. Van Persie said after Euro 2012 that he won’t be renewing his contract and stayed true to his word, throughout the entire saga.

Maybe the friendly match in Koln convinced Wenger to sell Van Persie. It wasn’t as bad as the media tried to make it look, but his star striker did get booed quite a lot by the Arsenal fans, or at least some of them. Maybe it was also the trigger that finally pushed RVP to look for an exit after believing and saying that he actually wants to stay with Arsenal if the club shows they are ambitious and plan to win titles. Maybe he wanted to see if United and Ferguson were that serious about him, staying on target throughout the summer, while Manchester City and Juventus dropped out of the race.

Where does that leave Arsenal? Instead of looking like prime contenders for the title, right up there with the two Manchester clubs, their three signings this summer suddenly look a little less impressive. Anytime you lose your best players, for the second straight year mind you, it looks bad.

Especially when it’s to a direct rival for your titles, for the second straight year. Arsenal may call themselves a big club, an play in a big club’s stadium and have a huge following, but everything they do in the transfer market says second tier. Says we’re happy just to be in the Champions League and stay out of the big boys races.

Don’t tell Arsene Wenger, but he lost a bit more in terms of credit. Great managers keep great players. Great managers convince great players from leaving by showing them they’re about winning and that staying with them is the best thing to do. Wenger may do it well with the younger players, but his magic keeps running away from him, a little bit more each year.

Arsenal are the biggest club in London, but are below Chelsea in terms of prestige and appeal. We’re not even mentioning the Manchester clubs or other big teams from around Europe. Maybe he and the club are trying to show the world you can run a big club differently. Without going after the biggest names in the market, and without spending uncontrollably through the summer. Maybe in a few years from now, Arsenal will have the last laugh. Not likely, but Wenger’s a dreamer, and Arsenal’s only major title will appear in their fans’ dreams.

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