Robin van Persie is the main reason Arsenal are back in the mix for a Champions League spot, despite the terrible start, despite the 8-2. You can talk about Wenger’s good work, the stabilizing of the defense and new players finding and adjusting. It’s all true, but RVP being the best finisher in the Premier League right now is above all those.
An absolute tear for the 28 year old Dutch striker, arriving seven years ago from Feyenoord. As Theirry Henry said about him this week while visiting the Arsenal match and watching the statue they built for him, Van Persie wasn’t the nicest of fellas when he first arrived from Rotterdam. Things change, years go by, and Van Persie has become Arsenal’s captain, leader and best player.
Maybe all he needed was the responsibility, knowing that all eyes are on him, that all the expectations were on him. Playing second fiddle kept him at bay, shying away the best of his traits. The last 12 months, since coming back from a long injury, have been magical. No titles, not with Arsenal. But Goals? They just don’t stop coming.
Van Persie has scored 32 goals in his last 39 Premier League matches. He has 40 goals in the last 53 matches in all competitions. The best striker, maybe even player (tight competition with David Silva in my opinion), in the Premier League this year. His scoring numbers are right up there with Mario Gomez (15 league goals), Cristiano Ronaldo (17 goals) and Lionel Messi (17 goals).
Like the best Arsenal had to offer, be it Thierry Henry or Cesc Fabregas and even Samir Nasri to some extent, Van Persie won’t be staying here for life. He doesn’t have the urge to return to Spain like Cesc or any other Spanish or Latin player does when playing in other European Leagues. He seems more committed than Nasri ever did. Still, the current Arsenal aren’t a big enough club and name to hang on to a player that will draw interest from the richest clubs in the world.
There’s the matter of the contract, which expires in 2013. Theo Walcott’s going down the same road, but his ability, despite improvements, isn’t at the level RVP has been showing us. He isn’t getting his boots kissed by Wojciech Tomasz Szczęsny. Wenger, despite the need to enjoy the moment, needs to avoid a summer like the last one. If they can’t convince the Dutchman to extend his contract before May, they shouldn’t kid themselves thinking he’ll still be there come August or September.
Despite the name, the stadium, the history, Arsenal’s only one Cup Winners’ Cup make them a less attractive destination than Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United. In a couple of years, playing for AC Milan and Juventus will be the dream it used to be. Maybe even next year. The Serie A is back on the rise, I have no doubt. Financial powers? Manchester City is the next, or even the now big thing. Chelsea, despite their problems, are still a major force.
Don’t believe footballers, don’t believe professional athletes. Money rules the game, backed with a hunger for glory. Athletes, and footballers/soccer players in this case, have only 10-15 years to make the most of their careers. Loyalty and promises of never leaving the club aren’t a part of the equation anymore. Empty words. Don’t be fooled to think Van Persie will stay with the Gunners if he feels the chance for titles and more money is elsewhere. Right now, it is.