Van Persie, Kane, and Tottenham’s catch-22…


It’s not often that we wallow in the muck and the mire, but, when we do, I hope we can still come out smelling like roses. While we’ve been busy little bees in the transfer window thus far, our North London rivals have been almost as busy, signing Maddison and Vicario while making the loans of Kulusevski and Porro permanent deals. Still, looming over that entire mess of a club like a sword of Damocles is the future of one Harry Kane, who refuses to commit his future to the club while flirting openly with Bayern. It’s a saga we know all too well.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to commiserate with our erstwhile rivals. If anything, I’m sizing up their chances at competing with us. Short version: even if Kane stays, they won’t compete with us. Taking a broader view, though, there are echoes in Kane’s situation that reverberate all the way back to the summer of 2013. It was then that our own talismanic striker, Robin van Persie, made it clear that he wanted out of London, creating an inescapable catch-22. The summer prior, after all, had seen us forced to sell Fabregas and Nasri. Still, van Persie was finally fit and delivered one of his best seasons with the club. However, by broadcasting his intent to leave, he created the conditions that guaranteed his departure.

Whom did we sign that summer in an attempt to persuade van Persie to stay? Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, and Santi Cazorla. While each of them become cult heroes in their own rights and for their own reasons, none of them was the kind of signing that would convince a player like van Persie to stay at the club. The previous window wasn’t much better; none of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta, Mertesacker, Gervinho, and Santos were going to get pulses racing.

That’s some catch, that catch-22. By openly agitating for a move, van Persie made it infinitely more-difficult to sign the kind of players that would convince him to stay. Who in their right minds would join a club that was being held hostage by its best player, its only world-class talent, its talisman? Anyone worth the asking price would be asking “why should I join a club that’s about to lose its best player on the vague promise that doing so will convince him to stay?”

And so it is with Harry Kane. Like van Persie, he’s wasted his best years surrounded be inferior talent. Aside from him and maybe Son, I can’t name a single player I’d want in our squad, certainly not as a starter and maybe not as a substitute. Okay, maybe Kulusevski. He’d do well as Saka’s deputy. Again, though, Kane is a victim of his own demands. With that squad in desperate need of an overhaul, and with the sunset of his own career growing ever closer, he’s right to hedge his bets. However, like van Persie, he has to recognise how his own hedging hinders the club’s ability to sign the kind of players that would help him pursue or perhaps even win silverware.

Were he to pledge his future to Tottenham, he might very well convince two or three players to commit as well. He might even convince Levy to spend the money it would take to make Tottenham legitimate contenders for silverware at some level or another. The Prem title? Nope. An FA Cup or League Cup? Far more likely. A fully committed Kane would the difference between signing Caicedo, Mount, or Onana and signing Vicario, Solomon, and Maddison.

Making matters worse, even selling the talisman is no guarantee that Levy will know what to do. It was the year after we had to sell van Persie that Tottenham sold Bale only to re-invest in the likes of Soldado, Lamela, Capoue, Paulinho, and Eriksen (the last of whom did prove to be quality). This is Tottenham’s Scylla and Charybdis. They can’t keep Kane and sign a few other top-shelf players. They can’t sell Kane and sign a few top-shelf players.

Pick your literary allusion. Catch-22. Sword of Damocles. Scylla & Charybdis. Whichever way you slice it, it looks a lot like a sinking ship.

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9 thoughts on “Van Persie, Kane, and Tottenham’s catch-22…

  1. A Simple Truth

    I get the analogous connection, but you’re pointing the finger of blame in the totally wrong direction…it was easy for RVP to become the scapegoat, but this move and others, like Nasri and Sanchez, were all about Wenger’s increasingly fragile ego and his growing disdain for “divaesque” players who might usurp his monopolistic reign…these along with his underwhelming transactional pursuits led some, like the aforementioned RVP, to logically conclude that we weren’t seriously committed to the notion of competing with the best and the brightest

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I’d submit that RvP was wrongly scapegoated. By the time he left, it was clear to anyone who was paying attention that Wenger either couldn’t or wouldn’t spend to bring players in. Whether that reflects on Wenger’s ego is between him and his therapist (if he has one). I’m not sure any of us can peer into his inner workings with confidence. I’ve written in the past about how Fabregas should shoulder much more blame than van Persie – van Persie’s departure draws more ire because of how he handled his departure and how well he performed at “Vanchester”, helping them win the Prem title that might have been ours had he stayed.

      1. A Simple Truth

        Jon-one needs to only look at a few of Wenger’s own actions to make those logical inferences…first those whom he personally recruited…all but a few, like Pods and maybe Arshavin, were all soldier types who were either going to police the locker room for him, like every captain or vice captain he chose, or soft spoken introverted types…those that didn’t kowtow were summarily removed from the equation…the fact that we had an ever-revolving armband scenario for over a decade speaks volumes…in fact, oft-times donning the band was a clear sign you were on your last leg with the club

        secondly, his lack of spending even though it was clear that we were flush with cash, unless you bought into the whole new stadium ruse…Gazidis not only told RVP that we could have competed with the best in Europe, he showed him physical proof of that fact, thereby implying that Wenger was the stumbling block…if Gazidis was Kroenke’s bitch and the owner didn’t want to invest why oh why would he not face the axe for publically propagated this message…the AKBers loved to blame Gazidis, yet once Wenger was gone and Gazidis was allowed to put his stamp on an organization, with Milan, he righted their long wayward ship seemingly overnight…Cheers

  2. jw1

    Have to agree Jon– that Cesc was a more hurtful departure than RVP. Van Persie could see the writing on the wall for his own career. It was finite and he knew it. B2B stellar seasons in the PL with Arsenal and ManU– then fell off into Turkish and Dutch leagues until 2018/19.

    Cesc just retired a month ago. Had a stale few years at Barca– then won the PL returning to Chelsea. Don’t really care to see either turncoats back at the club in the future in any capacity TBH.

    Santi Cazorla is another story. Would love to see him return to Arteta’s staff at some point.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Exactly right. I have a post a few months back from before you started commenting that explores this in more depth:

      Van Persie had to know his career was close to its end and didn’t any part of yet another rebuilding project. Fabregas left in his prime and, as you put it, had a few stale years. It’s an interesting thought experiment – just how much would Fabregas have grown had he stayed? He had the makings of being a generational talent, a future legend in the making. Yes, he won silverware, but I don’t think he ever reached the potential he showed when he was here.

      Cazorla is indeed another story. I’m thrilled to see him continue to play and impress. He’s a magician. I could certainly see a role for him here after he retires. He has an undeniable charisma and talent to transmit!

      1. jw1

        My reply, here, being situated between yours and bob’s below– is just about right.

        Relating how a young(ish) Declan Rice has made a choice to work toward creating glory– by moving to a team that may hit the heights the old-fashioned way– by building-up a roster of talented youngsters to challenge for titles. Rather than hitching a ride with City, a financially-doped club, sailing close to sanctions.

        Very much how Fabregas did it– by begging-off to Barca, then Chelsea. Cesc has been on teams that won silverware 17 times in a career spanning 20yrs. Only in five of those situations could he be considered central to achieving those titles, otherwise, riding the coattails of all-time greats at Barcalona.

        It’s funny. When I went down the rabbithole on Cesc’s stats between 2012-14 it looks stellar: 9G/10A, 11G/12A, 8G/14A– until you realize those were seasons where Lionel Messi was bagging 50G, 46G, 43G respectively in La Liga alone.

        All the Barca games I watched back then– and I watched a ton of Barca replays– can say I rarely ever noticed Cesc Fabregas.

  3. consolsbob

    Perhaps an interesting possible parallel with some of our present ‘hot’ young stars. One hopes not but we need to win to ensure that history does not repeat itself. I think we are less likely to fall again into Arsene’s mindset.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Arteta has shown himself to be quite a lot less tolerant or indulgent than Wenger was – even if various fans interpret Arteta’s approach as dictatorial. If anything, Wenger was probably guilty of giving key players too much leeway as part of his laiissez-faire, “let the players express themselves” mindset.

  4. Jon Shay Post author

    Great point, JW. Rice might represent the kind of player who wants to fight for (and earn) silverware rather than being just a hood ornament or trinket, as Fabregas was at Barca.

    Spurning the advances of flat-track bullies such as Man City and Bayern might be offer an interesting insight into Rice’s psychology – maybe he’s the kind of player who wants to know that he’s played an instrumental role in a squad’s success. If that’s the case, he’s hands-down the kind of player I want at this club.


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