Obviously the news that Robin van Persie will not sign a new contract is suboptimal, and a surprise. I thought that, given the signings we had made so far this summer and the apparent love for the club van Persie had, he would sign a new contract. Obviously, he will not. I do not, for one second, buy the excuse that he thinks the club is going in the wrong direction. Who is Robin van Persie, a footballer of 29 years old, to tell Arsene Wenger what direction Wenger's football club is going in? Van Persie's head has obviously been swayed by the money on offer by Manchester City, which isn't surprising, and will continue to happen until some sort of wage cap is put in place, as, quite frankly, Arsenal cannot compete with the money on offer. Van Persie obviously wants to go; why else would he write a statement that frankly burns lots and lots of bridges? Despite that, he should not be sold; he should be held to his contract.
There is no obvious replacement for Robin van Persie. And, given that van Persie's statement has just knocked a third of his transfer value off, there's no way Arsenal could afford such a player. Arsenal have more pressing needs even if they were to keep van Persie; a defensive midfielder is needed, as is a creative player, though that can wait. Adding a world-class striker to the list is too much to do in one summer, especially as every single football club will now know we need a striker (which is another way the club's captain has hurted our club. Cheers, Robin). Arsenal have bought, of course, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, but both will need time to adapt to the Premier League.
Getting the £20m for van Persie (and it wouldn't be more for a player who is 29, in the last year of his contract and clearly wants to go) will not help Arsenal next season. £20m can get you very little in terms of players who have Premiership experience and are good goal-scorers, and getting another player from abroad would be risky. With the new Premier League television deal, Arsenal will get that money back if they keep their place in the top 4, a position under threat by a resurgent Chelsea and a Tottenham who have just gotten rid of their biggest liability in Harry Redknapp.
Thus, Robin van Persie should be held to the final year of his contract. There is no reason to sell; the money is not worth it, and losing a third key player after the summer we had last season would be very bad. The pressure is also on van Persie to perform; if he has a bad season, he may find there's less money on offer. If van Persie refuses to play or refuses to train, the club is well within their rights to sue the player, much like Manchester City did with Carlos Tevez. Van Persie obviously wants to play hardball, as evidenced by the statement he released tonight. Arsenal, unlike last summer, should do the same, and play hardball back.
It's not ideal. It's not nice that van Persie, who claims to love the club while also stabbing it in the back at the same time, released the club's dirty laundry into the public arena. It's not nice that we stood by the player despite his legal and injury woes, and after one good season, he wants out. It's not nice at all, and because of that, we should be past niceties. We didn't play hardball with Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona and got a crap deal. We played hardball with Manchester City and Samir Nasri, and got £25m for a player who had an overrated 3 months and although a key player, was replaceable. Robin van Persie is not replaceable, directly. It'll be tough to swallow, and it'll be depressing to know he's off at the end of the year, but he must be held to his contract. Otherwise, Arsenal will again be in the position that they were in last summer, a situation that all parties want to avoid. One way to avoid is by keeping your best players, even if it's against their will.