Arsenal won't R.I.P

The worst-kept secret in football is out.

Robin van Persie will not be renewing his contract with Arsenal and is almost certain to leave before the start of the new season.

That much, at least, most of us could have guessed.

What no-one expected was the ferocity of his attack on the club and the damage that he has attempted to inflict on Arsene Wenger - the man who turned him from a brattish young starlet into one of Europe's most sought-after strikers.

If van Persie had simply said that he wanted a new challenge, as Thierry Henry did before him, his departure might have been more of a clean break and less like the removal of a stubborn sticking plaster from a hairy leg.

If van Persie had offered an emotional reason for his departure, like Cesc Fabregas, he might have received more sympathy.

Hell, even if the Dutchman had dropped all pretence and announced that the chance to double his wages was impossible to turn down at his age, then people might even have applauded his honesty.

But to punch Arsenal in the face with one hand, while patting their head with the other was reprehensible.

He cannot say that he loves the club and wants to see the return of the glory days while he attacks his manager's judgment and undermines him in public.

"Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans, I don't want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward," said van Persie.

Like Wayne Rooney's barbed attack on Manchester United's transfer policy in 2010, this is less of a constructive point and more of a cynical attempt to curry favour with dissenting supporters.

It would have more of an impact if Wenger hadn't just splashed tens of millions of pounds on Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, two international strikers who, in reaching the latter stages of the European Championship, achieved rather more this summer than van Persie.

Respect? Where is the respect for Wenger in that statement?

Where is the respect in hanging your manager out to dry to ease your passage from the club?

He'll get his move now, that much is certain.

Arsenal do not have the resources to treat him as Manchester City have treated Carlos Tevez.

And with thudding inevitability, City are the most obvious destination for van Persie.

If he really does have any respect or affection for Arsenal, he'll turn them down and head for Spain, where Barcelona and Real Madrid would both be interested in his services.

In the next month, we'll see exactly how sincere his love for the club really is.

And what of Arsenal?

Where does this leave them now?

Well, I'll tell you where it leaves them.

They are the third best team from 92 in England.

They have qualified for the Champions League again, as they have done for 15 consecutive seasons.

Still the same

They will play in a beautiful, modern and highly profitable stadium that they built with their own money.

They will play entertaining and attacking football, as they have done since Wenger arrived.

They have two new strikers and a returning Jack Wilshere.

They have another generation of young talent available from the most productive academy in British football.

Soon, they will have a very large gap in the wage bill and around ?15 million ($30m) in extra spending money.

To say, as some already have, that van Persie's departure marks the end of Arsenal as a force in football, borders on the hysterical.

The Gunners survived before van Persie and they will survive after him.

Thanks to the careful planning of the manager whom he tried to discredit on Wednesday, Arsenal are better set for the future than almost all other British football clubs.

Van Persie will get his move, he will get his pay rise and he may even get his medals.

Only Wenger will retain his legendary status at Arsenal.

Some things are more important than money.

"Robin van Persie is looking at the next few years when he's 28, 29, 30; he thinks they can't win trophies. You don't want to say it but you probably have to agree with him." Former Gunners striker Alan Smith believes van Persie wants to join a club who can win trophies.

"I'd have liked him to stick it out. I'm a bit gutted really. He's burnt his bridges. If he comes back and they don't sell him, the fans are going to slaughter him." Former Arsenal midfielder/forward Paul Merso.

"I think he knew three or four months ago that he wasn't going to stay. That's football these days. People move on quickly. Arsenal have to accept it and move on." Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour.

npsports@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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