The expected destination of Manchester City could see the Dutch striker numbered among the mercenaries who feel the magnetism of immense wealth, but that would be grossly unfair
Arsenal should be grateful, although that is unlikely to be the mood that envelops the Emirates. Robin van Persie has performed wonders for the club but recollection of his goals, creativity and technique will only be relished after a long pause. The main feeling is composed of loss and anxiety now that he has decided to leave, although the club could hold the disaffected player to the final season of his contract.
The expected destination of Manchester City could see him numbered among the mercenaries who feel the magnetism of immense wealth, but that would be grossly unfair. After all, he joined Arsenal eight years ago. Many a player would have departed some time ago, given that there must always have been suitors for a gifted individual who is equally as adept as creator or finisher.
His attachment to the club, as with many footballers, is likely to be a mixture of practicality and calculation. We can assume he was well-rewarded and London, as the capital city, most likely has another sort of appeal. Perhaps, too, he was strung along by hope. The fact that there has been no trophy for Arsenal since the 2005 FA Cup does not stop followers of the club, as well as footballers, from being tantalised.
Van Persie would, in particular, have been tortured as much as tantalised when neither he nor Dennis Bergkamp were released from the bench in the 2006 Champions League final, where Arsenal were defeated 2-1 after taking the lead. It may not be an occasion for the club's supporters to relive but the extent of the means at Wenger's disposal then is noteworthy. Bergkamp, admittedly, was 37 then, but Van Persie was kept out since Thierry Henry was the spearhead.
The talent in the ranks was great, but the standard has not been maintained. No one can pretend that there is such competition for places any longer. In these circumstances, Arsenal's supporters are remarkably composed. Protests are not expected at a club that has made it seem as if claiming a Champions League place is a formality.
The memory has already faded of the decline last season that could have cost them a Champions League berth had it not been for bungling by Tottenham Hotspur. Even so, those events might have made as much impact on Van Persie as the terms available at the Etihad. Arsenal's fans rejoiced that afternoon, but they did not really forget the indifferent play that got the club into difficulty.
Van Persie has presumably borne that in mind, making him particularly pensive this summer. He might not have been eager to see rivals in the squad, but at least such company of that sort would have shown dynamism at the club. As it was, he would not have dreaded losing his place in the lineup to, say, Marouane Chamakh, who scored once for Arsenal last season. A striker such as Nicklas Bendtner was sent out on loan to Sunderland.
It does Wenger an injustice if we do not hail the recent revival of someone such as Theo Walcott, but there never appears to be quite enough depth to the squad. The manager is still acclaimed, and so he should be. Neither the splendour of the stadium nor, at its peak, the grandeur of the football is to be ignored.
It is certainly recognised by fans digging deep to buy their season tickets as well as those who have paid simply to join the long waiting list. No one expects insurrection just because trophies are so marginal to Arsenal's existence of late that defeat by Birmingham City in a League Cup final met with little more than a sigh.
Wenger has done so much in the past that he still carries plenty of credit irrespective of indignities such as that Wembley appearance. Arsenal do have a stadium to pay for, but a better balance of ambitions has to be struck. Bricks and mortar, no matter how impressive, do not make for the ideal monument.
Wenger too often points hazily to the prospect of a club that will have extraordinary prospects once the debt is gone. Van Persie cannot be deemed a mercenary after all the seasons in north London, but in the end he ran out of patience. Arsenal fans are stoical and loyal but they know how he feels. Read More
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