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Alexis’ transfer is nothing like Robin van Persie’s

Most of Billy Haisley’s columns come out the back of this machine.
Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images

It looks like Deadspin and Billy Haisley are at it again. If you’re not familiar with Haisley’s work, well, you’re the lucky one. But if you are, you’ll know that Haisley is, shall we say, not the biggest Arsenal fan in the world; when you combine that viewpoint with a complete and utter inability to think through a writing assignment, and a ready willingness to pander to narrative rather than actually do anything resembling analysis, you get things like this:

If you had to pick a single image to represent Arsenal’s enduring subjugation in English soccer’s hierarchy, you could do a lot worse than one showing Robin van Persie lifting the Premier League trophy.

And away we go! One sentence into this steaming pile of possum shit and we’re talking about Arsenal’s subjugation and which cherry-picked event highlights it best. But hey - if this is the exercise we’re tasked with, I guess I’ll play along. My entry for the single image to represent Arsenal’s enduring subjugation in English soccer’s hierarchy? The fact that Billy Haisley gets paid Actual American Cash Money to analyze Arsenal on a website made famous for publishing athlete dick pics and for going bankrupt thanks to posting a video from a hidden camera of Hulk Hogan fucking.

van Persie famously pined for that title after failing to win it with Arsenal after nearly a decade of trying, and following his best individual season with the Gunners, his status as a superstar confirmed with a fully healthy year and a league-leading 30 goals, he forced his way out of losersville and joined Manchester United, a club actually known for winning things.

van Persie scored a lot of goals during the 2011-2012 season – his last at Arsenal. This is not inaccurate. Let’s also not forget he did this after staying healthy for the very first time in his Arsenal career at the age of 28; his 37 goals that season accounted for nearly 30% of his total goals with the Gunners. Previous to his breakout year at the age of 28 – you know, far from his prime years – he spent injury-plagued seasons trying to outscore teammates such as Eduardo, Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas, and Andrei Arshavin, all who finished seasons with higher goal tallies than van Persie.

Incidentally, “A fully healthy year” also serves as the best possible recap of van Persie’s entire Manchester United career.

Presumably, van Persie was just the kind of player the club would want to build their fancy new juggernaut around. A genius striker getting a little long in the tooth but not too much, who loved the club and had been there for a long time and would truly understand what it would mean should Arsenal eventually win that long-elusive EPL title.

The way Haisley puts it in the above passage assumes not only the benefit of hindsight (which, goddamn dude, take this into account the next time you lose enough oxygen to your brain to think writing about Arsenal is a good idea), but also that his level of production from 2011-2012 would continue well into his twilight years at Arsenal. The facts – things which are prominently missing from large swaths of his article – say otherwise: van Persie would play in all 38 matches his first season at United; he featured in only 21 and 27 the next two seasons respectively, failing to hit 20 goals in all competitions each of those seasons before being fucked off to the soccer retirement home known as the Turkish Süper Lig. All this during a time when Haisley thinks he should have still been banging in goals for Arsenal, remember.

Rather than locking him down with a fat contract and surrounding him with an expensively assembled squad capable of winning trophies, Arsenal couldn’t give van Persie the money nor the teammates to convince him to stay.

Yes, the squad during that summer of 2012 wasn’t nearly as strong as United’s. However, van Persie was offered £130,000 per week and a £5 million bonus (which equates to £32,000/week over the three years his contract would pay him) to stay at Arsenal prior to his statement of intention regarding his desire to not sign an extension. Were he to stay at the club with that wage package and baring any sort of salary increase, it would put van Persie as the third-highest player on the team today, six years later. It certainly wasn’t money – a very old and tired narrative that no-nothings like Haisley love to trot out - that made van Persie leave.

Where van Persie knew he could win titles with was United, and despite knowing how crucial a piece their star striker could prove for the impending title race, Arsenal were forced to assent to van Persie’s transfer demand by selling him to the club he had chosen.

Two things here: first off, Arsenal used the van Persie money to bring in Olivier Giroud and his 105 goals in five-and-a-half seasons (seasons in which Giroud sports higher season average AND median goal totals than RvP, by the way, while also a full three years younger, and at a wage cheaper than what Arsenal would have to give to “superstar” van Persie), and Santi Cazorla, one of the most versatile midfielders Arsene Wenger’s had since Cesc Fabregas. But also, I’m highlighting this sentence for when Haisley inadvertently self-owns himself later on, starting…now:

And today, the poor Gunners faithful have yet another darkly iconic image of the sorry state of the club: that of Alexis Sánchez making the same move van Persie did by joining United.Of course, you can’t discuss the transfer without talking about the context behind it.

Well, rational people can, but Haisley can’t.

Alexis was in the final six months of his contract with Arsenal, and made no secret about his plans to leave the club on a free transfer once his contract was up. Arsenal had a choice: either sell Sánchez in the winter window for some kind of return, or see him leave for nothing in the summer. On paper, then, the transfer of Sánchez in exchange for United’s out-of-favor attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a pretty solid consolation prize. But this too ignores some crucial context about the club Arsenal claim to be.

Haisley completely contradicts what he thinks Arsenal should have done with van Persie compared with Alexis. You can’t say on one hand that Arsenal had an option to watch Alexis see out the final months of his contract and get nothing in return, yet declare that Arsenal were forced to assent to van Persie’s desire to not sign a contract extension. That’s not how this works. But in Haisley’s drowned-out, muddled thoughts, it does.

Further, while it’s entirely fair to say that Arsenal dinked around with resolving Alexis’s situation last August, it’s completely unfair to say that you need any more context than what’s been laid out everywhere regarding the changes the club has made within its footballing operations side of the business since last summer’s Deadline Day. Instead of losing Alexis for nothing, they gain another attacking player out from the death trap that is Jose Mourinho (see: Kevin de Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay, and the pedestrian season Eden Hazard threw up during Mourinho’s last half-season at Chelsea his second time around that club) for fucking free!

Mkhitaryan is the same age as Alexis, and fits a dire creative need from a midfield/wide position much in the same way that Alexis, in theory, helps United’s attack become more diverse.

A smart, ambitious Arsenal would’ve ponied up the cash it would’ve taken to get Sánchez’s signature on a new contract back a season or two ago, when his salary demands were high but realistic. (By the time Alexis had made it clear he planned on leaving for free in the summer of 2018, the Gunners had no chance of matching his requested salary even if they’d wanted to. Hell, even Manchester City blanched at the crazy money United were willing to throw around. Still, Arsenal definitely could’ve signed Sánchez up for a couple more years had they been more willing to expand their salary structure for him when they had the opportunity.)

It’s almost as if you have no idea the history of Alexis Sanchez’s contract negotiations with Arsenal leading up to the day he left for United!

The £280,000/week wage would have made Alexis the second-highest paid player in the EPL, barely trailing Paul Pogba, a salary that would have been higher than better players than him, such as de Bruyne, Hazard, and Harry Kane. Yeah, sure, it’s Arsenal’s fault for not ponying up the money.

A proud Arsenal would’ve stuck to their guns, making Sánchez play out the entirety of his contract, in the process retaining their best hopes of securing Champions League soccer next season through either a top-four finish or a Europa League title, and demonstrating to fans and the rest of the league that the days of them being bullied by the bigger clubs were over.

And here’s where Haisley owns himself. What the fuck, my guy? A proud Arsenal would have stuck to their guns making Alexis play out the entirety of his contract? You said that Arsenal were forced to assent to van Persie. It’s the same situation! And guess what? With Alexis on board, Arsenal are throwing up their worst season under Arsene Wenger. Retaining him has proven to be a very shit strategy, yet you think “principles” and “morals” to prove…something…are worth more to clubs than fucking money. Get to fuck.

Rather than that, Arsenal revealed themselves to be just as cowardly and money-conscious as ever, accepting a United castoff in exchange for one of their own crown jewels.

Maybe, just maybe, this is part because Alexis Sanchez was never getting £500,000 a week from any club in the entire solar system other than Manchester United. PSG and Manchester City, the two clubs whose owners have enough money to spend £500 million on a singular painting, were never giving Alexis that sort of wage. But yeah, Arsenal are cowards and money-conscious.

From their perspective, the Mkhitaryan trade is the best they could’ve hoped for. Mkhitaryan is only a year and a half removed from being the best player in the Bundesliga, and if Wenger can coax the Armenian back into a state of confidence with promises of attacking freedom and beautiful interplay with Özil and Lacazette and Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, there are perfectly good odds that Mkhitaryan comes good. That said, their new attacker isn’t quite a natural fit. For one, Mkhitaryan is 29 (though how old is 29 really?), and in an already aging squad with at best a couple players you could realistically imagine winning an EPL title, it’s difficult to see why the club would clog up so much money in a key attacking position for an older player who doesn’t seem to advance the squad’s needed rebuild.

Because Arsenal was never going to bridge the divide between letting Alexis’s status linger into this month unresolved, and going through a complete and thorough squad rebuild, in January alone. Further, bringing in the quality of Mkhitaryan and, soon, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is exactly what Arsenal needs to do to replace the experience Alexis leaves behind. Bordeaux’s Malcom was rumored for quite some time a couple weeks ago, until Arsenal realized he’s had less than half a season of solid production and would have cost them £50 million. That’s the player you buy for the future (and with more end-product than what Malcom’s given Bordeaux, a side lingering near the bottom of the table), whereas Alexis’s departure needed replacements added immediately. These two moves do that.

And probably worst of all is that the Mkhitaryan deal and the allegedly impending Aubameyang ones have ended Arsenal’s interest in Bordeaux’s 20-year-old Brazilian winger, Malcom, who is exactly the kind of young potential superstar the club should be prioritizing over an older player with limited upside like Mkhi.

Yeah, see, it’s hard to analyze the state of the club when you can’t stop your mouth from sucking your arms purple. Maybe Haisley finally gets around to proving his point…

Sánchez too made a good decision, leaving a perennial also-ran in favor of a club with at least a real possibility of winning big things in the near future, and will be racking up lots of minutes and truly insane amounts of money while doing so. (Both of those things—minutes and money—wouldn’t have been in such steady supply had he joined his other suitors in Man City, though his chances for trophies would’ve been much better.)




/world’s longest fart noise

Seriously, Bill. A brain-damaged snow monkey could do a better job than this. And probably has, somewhere.

For Arsenal, though, the transfer only creates more uncertainty and unrest.

Francis Coquelin (!!!), one of the least-talented players the club consistently started for a period of time since well before Wenger arrived 21 years ago, was celebrated and wished a fond farewell by every teammate of his at Arsenal with a social media account when he left earlier this month for Valencia. Go take a look at Twitter, Instragram, and Facebook, Billy, and find those same players saying goodbye to Alexis on those platforms. Go ‘head, I’ll wait to hear which ones are your favorites.

A top-tier club with dreams of winning the title should not be locking older players into big contracts, especially not players for whom there exists persuasive evidence that they just might not be good enough anymore.

Yeah, same. I very much disagree with paying a player half a million pounds per week well into his early 30’s when all empirical evidence suggests that he’s starting the decline of his career.

For all the talk about Arsenal are now something more than what they have been over the past decade or so—the kind of club that would find a legit star like a van Persie or a Sánchez only to let them go win titles elsewhere in England—moves like this latest transfer seem to say that Arsenal remain who they’ve long been, and they don’t have much interest in changing that.

Except for the fact that Arsenal is taking away power from Arsene Wenger through multiple backroom appointments, and they shrewdly pawned off a guy disliked by virtually every teammate of his searching for the best possible pay day to their direct rival, in return for a player who furthers their ability to create goals and has been described as a model squad member and person by everyone who has spent time around him. Except for that, you’re right on, Billy.

TL;DR, Billy Haisley is awful and should probably stop writing about Arsenal.