…No, no it is not, but I’ll get to the whys and why nots of Van Persie’s worth to Manchester United later on in the article, for now, good morning to you and I hope you’re well.
After a day of rain yesterday, we’re back to a booming sunshine today. I love English weather and the unpredictability of it all. No, really, I do, I’d bloody well hate it if it were sunny all the time and I had a tan. Anyway, less of the weather, you don’t want to hear about that, I’ll save weather talk for my blog with Sian Lloyd, you’re here for the Robin Van Persie story.
Robin Van Persie moves to Manchester United
Yesterday evening, as I was erecting a wardrobe, Arsenal announced that terms had been agreed with Manchester United for the sale of Dutch striker and Arsenal captain, Robin Van Persie. The transfer fee is £24 million and Van Persie signs a deal worth £200,000 a week for the next four years.
On face value, Manchester United have captured the best striker on the planet, a guy who won every single player of the year award there was last season and scored thirty-plus goals for Arsenal. As I say, at face value, it seems that United have caught a real gem, but, if you scratch a little at the surface, there’s a few doubts surrounding the merits of this deal.
Breaking it down, £24 million for a 29 year old striker with an incredible injury record is a lot of money, even more so when you include wages into that and it brings the total outlay on Van Persie to above £65 million. For his first six seasons with Arsenal, Van Persie never scored more than 11 and last season was the first in which Van Persie scored more than twenty in a season for Arsenal. There has never been any doubting of Van Persie’s talent, but I do question whether or not he can stay fit enough for United to justify spending so much considering his record, which lets face it, isn’t that great.
Not only do Van Persie’s injury problems concern me, it’s how he will fit in at Old Trafford. No, I don’t mean if he’ll fit in with Rio Ferdinand, or whether not he’ll get along with Nani, what I mean, is will Van Persie fit into the system United currently have? I ask, because both he and Rooney are so similar in terms of their style, that I don’t think there is room for them both in the same starting eleven. Both forwards like to drop back, with Van Persie stating that his preferred role is that of a ‘false ten’, who drops backs to create and join in with the midfield play, not necessarily hang about on his up front all day. The same applies with Rooney, and with Shinji Kagawa, signed from Borussia Dortmund, who is also a similar type of player in that he likes to dictate play close to the forwards, will United have sufficient room? Me, I doubt that Rooney, Van Persie and Kagawa can play in the same side.
While I have doubts over United’s shape and how they will accomodate the £24 million presence of Van Persie, I also question whether United could have better spent their money? Signings for deep midfield (something I’ve been going on about for two years now) and a left-back to replace Patrice Evra. The job of United’s midfield players has been to gain possession and then sweep the ball out wide, which is predictable and has blighted them for over a year now. Kagawa is a great midfield signing, but he’s never played as a deep midfielder before, he’s a forward in essence and signing a creative midfielder to partner Michael Carrick would have been far more beneficial to United than the signing of Van Persie.
For me, Sir Alex Ferguson has indulged in a signing he doesn’t really need to keep disgruntled sections of the United support happy. The trouble is, most United fans I’ve spoken to are dubious over Van Persie’s signing, adamant that their money could have been better spent and they are absolutely right in believing that. Last summer I said that United needed to sign a top midfield player, with the names of Wesley Sneijder and Samir Nasri heavily linked with moves to Old Trafford, but nothing happened. I claimed that United would not win anything unless they signed a creative midfielder, and guess what – they didn’t.
I am not doubting the talents of Van Persie, far from it, he’s the best striker in the world right now, but at 29 years old, for how much longer before he begins his decline? Is that a good risk at £24 million? I don’t think United really need Van Persie and that will become apparent enough as the season goes on, of that I’m sure.
What does this mean for Arsenal?
As I’ve said previously, £24 million is a fantastic deal for Arsenal. To sell a player with less than a year left on is contract, at the age of 29, for £24 million, is fantastic business. Arsenal have signed three players: Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, all of players of great quality and I don’t think Van Persie will be missed.
Arsenal have always been a very fluid team and in the season in which Fabregas and Nasri were still at the club, the fluidity of Arsenal going forward was scary and that has long been a strength for Arsenal. Last season, out of necessity, Arsenal had to be more rigid with how they played, creating a supply line dedicated to Van Persie’s left foot. Arsenal lost the fluidity, but still managed to finish in third, a place higher than they had achieved with Fabregas and Nasri the previous season. Basically, Arsenal found a way of coping without them and will find a way to cope without Van Persie.
Using Borussia Dortmund as a comparitive now, the first of their two consecutive Bundesliga titles was won by playing to a rigid system like Arsenal did last season, feeding Lucas Barrios. It worked for Dortmund, but then Barrios picked up a serious injury before last season started and Robert Lewandowski, signed the previous summer, had to replace Barrios. Lewandowski is a player who likes to go wide and move about, so Jurgen Klopp, the Dortmund manager, recalibrated his side to be more fluid, changing the system to accomodate Lewandowski. As a result, Dortmund won a double, sold Barrios as they no longer needed him and unearthed a class talent in Lewandowski.
Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla will bring Arsenal back to a more fluid approach, beneficial to how Arsene Wenger likes his football to be played. Although no one player may score more goals than Van Persie did last season, you will find that the goals will be shared about more. Outside of Van Persie, there was only really Theo Walcott who offered a consistent goal threat, whereas this year, of Walcott stays, then the attacking options are phenomenal and though the goals won’t be scored en masse by one individual, they will be shared about as a result of tinkering with their system, just as Jurgen Klopp did last season with Dortmund.
With Van Persie now sold, Arsenal’s net spend is at zero when the sales of Ozyakup and Carlos Vela are taken into account, plus the fact that Van Persie had to waiver his loyalty bonus, consequently meaning that Arsenal have about £30 million to spend should they require it, courtesy of the Queensland Road property which was sold earlier this year.
The litmus test for Arsenal, is how they spend the Van Persie money. Personally, I don’t think a high profile striker is needed in particular, but back-up strikers to supplement Podolski and Giroud. If appropriate back-up is brought in to the Emirates Stadium, then Arsenal have had their best summer of spending since time began.
That’s all from me today.
See you tomorrow.