Lists are fun!

Paul Merson
Ian Wright
Steve Bould
Nicolas Anelka
Marc Overmars
Emmanuel Petit
David Seaman
Ray Parlour
Martin Keown
Edu
Patrick Vieira
Robert Pires
Thierry Henry
Jens Lehmann
Freddie Ljungberg
Kolo Toure
Emmanuel Adebayor
Sol Campbell
Samir Nasri
Cesc Fabregas

By now, you've seen through this tiresome writing trope enough to know that the preceding is a list of players that Arsenal have sold or allowed to leave on free transfers since the start of the Premier League (I wanted to go back further but then I realized nobody really wants to read a phone book). Looking over the list, you see some superstars and you see some Edus, but you mostly see a list of fairly legendary, or at the very least extremely important, names in the history of Arsenal. What's the common thread through that list?

Arsenal are still a functioning club. They still manage to fulfill a fixture list every year, they still manage to win a few games here and there, and oh by the way, they haven't finished lower than fourth in 16 years.

It's at this point you say "hey man, a lot of the names on that list didn't leave at the peak of their powers, as RvP is about to do". Which is true, but it doesn't matter - big names leave all the time. Look at the list again. How many of the names on that list were big names or elite players before they got to Arsenal? Few, if any. Arsenal turn nobodies into somebodies, and there's no reason to think that it won't keep happening. Arsenal has that reputation, and while it might somewhat suck that players develop here and leave, I'd rather be Arsenal than Sunderland.

There has been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments about the status of Arsenal at this point. Are they a 'big club'? Are they not? Is it a place players want to go? My answer to the first question is, who gives a damn?

The first question is actually mis-stated, in a way. It should read "Why did you become an Arsenal fan?" If you chose to follow Arsenal because they are supposed to win trophies all the time, and forever retain all their top players while doing so, you're probably pretty disappointed and angry right now, and after the last few years. And I can't blame you, although I would gently encourage you to think about things a little differently and understand that (HOARY CLICHE ALERT) sports is not about the championship but about the journey towards it. Are trophies nice to win? Sure they are. Are they necessary in order to remain a fan? Not really.

But if you chose to be an Arsenal fan because you like the way they play, and because you like the way Wenger does things, the particulars shouldn't matter all that much - players come and go, trophies arrive or don't, but the game itself and the community of fans around which it is built - particularly here on this side of the world, where we don't get the thrill of going to the Emirates every week - is still a thing of joy and fun. That won't change next season, or any season until Wenger leaves - Arsenal will still be Arsenal, and that's enough for me. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but if Arsenal were suddenly relegated to the Blue Square Premier League, I'd still be an Arsenal fan, without hesitation.

I've been a fan of this club since before there was a Premiership, and since before Champions League football was a virtual guarantee (and since before the Champions League admitted non-champions). Arsenal are bigger to me than the annual trophy hunt - Arsenal are ingrained into my sporting fandom in a way that almost no other team or sport is. It's an exaggeration to say I live or die with Arsenal, because life is more important than sports, but it is no exaggeration to say that Arsenal play a very large part in entertaining me, and have done for a long time. The loss of one player won't change how I feel about the club - never has, never will.

Come August, I will still feel that same thrill of "oh hey Arsenal are playing again!", and come every Saturday, or Thursday, or Wednesday, or whatever effing day Sky decides that games should be played on, I will still feel those little butterflies that say "I think they'll win but what if they don't oh man I can't watch but I have to watch".

Does it suck that Robin van Persie is leaving? Sure it does. But is it the end of anything? Not even close. The season starts in just over a month - it's the start of something. It's the start of a new season, and what could be better than that?

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