Simply uttering the name of Robin van Persie is enough to make the blood of many Arsenal fans boil but it seems the story isn’t as clear-cut as we’ve been led to believe – and fans anger should maybe be directed elsewhere.
The exit of van Persie five years ago was a major story at Arsenal, with the Dutchman having spent a decade in North London working his way through the ranks and fighting off consistent injury problems to become the star-man and Arsenal’s captain.
Boasting 132 goals from his time at Arsenal, van Persie is established in the Gunners all-time top-ten scorers and would have likely broken into the top-four in the ranks if he had remained at the Emirates Stadium. Instead, he left to join Manchester United and Arsenal fans had to cope with seeing a potential club legend lift the Premier League with one of their rivals.
Throughout the whole saga, van Persie was painted to be the villain of the story and fans quickly turned on the man they had adored for years. His statement accusing Arsenal of having a lack of ambition kickstarted it all, with the end coming with the Dutch striker’s ‘little boy’ comment.
Volea antológica de Van Persie vs Charlton en Septiembre de 2006. ¡Que viva el fútbol maestro! pic.twitter.com/FvYNcYN0Zj
— Fantasía Fútbol (@FantasiaFutbol) August 7, 2017
Between the timescale of those two statements though, the situation behind the scenes at Arsenal seems to be one of a dictatorship – as it was the board, and Arsene Wenger, who pushed van Persie out the door; or at least that’s what’s being claimed.
Clock End Talk have described the situation in a short audio clip, which states their story has been backed up by people at the club, indicating that van Persie was happy to stay after the summer signings of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla; three players the striker believed proved the club matched his ambition.
van Persie was not prepared to sign a new contract immediately but there was a chance he would extend his deal during the 2012/13 season. However Arsenal, in need of the money and being unable to afford losing van Persie on a free, said no.
Accused of being disloyal by Arsene Wenger, the man who crafted his career, the Gunners pushed him out of the club and painted him as the villain. In the following years, Arsenal did manage to end their trophy drought but it’s taken until this summer for Wenger’s side to fill the void left by van Persie with the addition of Alexandre Lacazette.
The truth about Robin van Persie makes me sick to the stomach. Absolutely hated by Arsenal fans, it wasn't even his fault.
— Connor Humm (@TikiTakaConnor) August 14, 2017
Whilst it can be debated whether van Persie would have signed a new contract in North London and it’s widely known that the Gunners couldn’t afford to lose out on a cash windfall as they continued to pay-off the Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger’s arrogance may have directly resulted in a lack of success.
When van Persie was sold, the Dutch striker was one of the finest forwards in the Premier League and he was a major factor behind Manchester United’s title success that season. Had he stayed at Arsenal, there’s every chance he could have led the Gunners to league glory that’s eluded them since 2004.
What’s most irritating, though, is the fact it took Arsenal so long to find a replacement as even the following summer in 2013 did not see the Gunners sign a top-class forward, instead signing Mesut Ozil – a world-class signing but one that wasn’t provided with the opportunity to make a huge impact due to the lack of striking ability ahead of him.
In the years since Arsenal have signed Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi to assemble a spine in the side that’s capable of potentially winning the Premier League but Lacazette’s arrival this summer simply took too long, as the Gunners could have had a title to their name five-years ago.