Tag Archives: Robin Van Persie

What does Kane's calamity mean for Arsenal? Good times.

As of this writing, the ball that Harry Kane blazed over the crossbar to consign England to a 2-1 defeat to France has been found in near-Earth orbit, having forced the International Space Station to adjust its own orbit in order to avoid the ball. For as high as it sails, the trajectory of Kane’s career threatens to follow an opposite course.  This had the makings of a make-or-break moment for Kane, and its outcome may just break him. It could do the opposite, but the circumstances do not bode well for the 29 year old, who is facing the very bleak and very likely end of a career bereft of silverware of any kind.

First, a bit of context and comparison. It was 1998 when a 29 year old Dennis Bergkamp missed a penalty in a shootout against Brazil. He suffered a season-long slump that may or may not have cost Arsenal a chance at a treble. We lost in the FA Cup and League Cup finals and finished second in the Prem. By then, though, Bergkamp had won numerous honours for club and country, thereby removing most of the pressure that Kane must now feel having failed to secure England’s place in the semifinal and fumbling a chance at overtaking Wayne Rooney to become England’s top scorer.

By contrast, Spurs fans might say, our own Bukayo Saka flubbed his penalty against Italy at Euro 2020. This is true, but the contrast couldn’t be starker. That Saka was a 19 year old ingenue pressed into service at a moment’s notice, not the captain of club and country as Kane has been. What’s more, Saka at least forced a save from Donnarumma, which, had it been a pen like Kane’s, would have at least offered a second chance. Beyond that, Saka has come back with a vengeance, insisting on taking—and converting—all three penalties since that miss. He’s now a 21 year old whose future looks so bright that you have to look away for fear of blindness. He’s won a trophy already, most likely the first of many, and doesn’t suffer the burden of a barren career. He’s playing a for a club atop the Premier League with room to grow. It’s possible, maybe even probable, that his current season will end with one trophy…and that would be two more than Kane has ever won. 

At a broader level, Spurs are in bad shape. Key players, like Kane (29), Lloris (35), and Son (30), are ageing, the rest of the squad are decent but not world-beaters, and their youth pipeline is nonexistent. Oh—and they’re saddled by stadium debt and run by a manager who specialises in short-term results, exactly the kind of results that this squad will find almost impossible to achieve. Their best chance was that gilt-edged 2018-19 season when they made it to the Champions League final only to succumb to Liverpool. They had it all: a young, dynamic squad; a progressive, determined manager, and, it seemed, ambition. However, that’s where it all fell apart. They made no transfers that summer and then wasted more than a million pounds on Ndombele, Bergwjin, and Sessegnon in the following window. In fact, it’s hard to point to any signings they’ve made in the last three or four years that have been unqualified successes. 

By contrast, we seem to have a plan and a manager with the vision and determination to implement. Of our major signings of the last few years, we have one flop—Nicolas Pepe—and numerous successes: Ødegaard, Magalhães, Partey, Saliba, Tierney, White, Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Jesus, Zinchenko. No, not all of them were under Arteta, but we’ve at least avoided the panic-buys and flops that have characterized Tottenham. We’ve also cleared out enough deadwood to build a log cabin.

And that brings us back to Kane. He reminds me a bit of Robin van Persie. He must be looking atround at his teammates and assessing his own age and wondering how many chances he’ll have left. Like van Persie, he has to realise that he’s running out of chances, and his supporting cast is not up to snuff. Unlike van Persie, his conttract lasts another full year, limiting his leverage. He can’t really force his way out, and his list of suitors is getting shorter by the day. Man City have Haaland. Barca have Lewandowski. Man U just parted ways with an ageing, slow striker. Would PSG take him? They have become a sort of senior circuit of late. Wherever he goes, it’s past the point at which Tottenham can get a massive fee for him.

If he stays, he runs the risk of follwoing Ronaldo’s path, saddling the squad with a past-it would-be galactico to whom others in the squad will defer, consciously or otherwise. He’d still score goals; he’s too good not to, but the squad would stagnate. 

There is a chance, of course, that Kane will rebound from his mistake in a manner similar to how Saka rebounded from his. Saka, though, could see his entire professional career unfolding before him, door after door after door opening.. Kane, on the other hand, might have seen doors slamming shut. Even going into this World Cup, he looked weary and jaded. He logged heavy minutes at this World Cup to no avail. Worse, he’ll now carry the burden of feeling that he failed his country. I don’t wish misery on anyone regardless of who they play for, but this is the kind of misery that is more likely to crush than it is to inspire.Spurs are out of the League Cup already, face a tricky Champions League knockout with AC Milan, and sit eight points behind us (and we have a game in hand). 

Long story short, I don’t see Kane rishing phoenix-like from the ashes of this debacle. Do you?

Cesc was a bigger snake than van Persie could ever be…

 …and I dare you to prove me wrong. During the shiny, happy international break about which no one anywhere has anything remotely resembling a complaintTM’, we have some time on our hands to revisit old gripes and issues. To white, we’re here to judge once and for all why Cesc Fàbregas on his best day is a bigger snake in the grass than Robin van Persie ever could be on his worst. 

They share some similarities, to be sure. Each jilted us in a horrible fashion, confirming the worst rumours about the club’s ambitions and undermining Wenger’s plans in the worst possible ways, but, at the same time, heaping our scorn on van Persie is taking the effect and making it the cause.

Let’s enter the TARDIS and go way back to the 2009-10 season. In the Prem, Fàbregas had delivered 15 goals and 15 assists and looked to be hitting his prime at just the right time. Van Persie, meanwhile struggled with injuries, played in just 16 Prem matches, but found enough time to contribute nine goals and seven assists. There was reason to believe that a fully fit van Persie and an in-form Fàbregas would positively erupt in the 2010-11 season. Instead, as Fàbregas flirted with a move to Barcelona, his numbers slumped somewhat: three goals and 13 assists. Not bad, but a bit of a slowdown. Van Persie, by contrast, continued to plumb his depths, playing 25 matches and getting 18 goals and seven assists. If he had been playing alongside a fully-invested Fàbregas, who knows what he could have achieved?

Instead, Fàbregas sandbagged it through that season and forced his way out of London, in his prime, and flitted off to Barcelona, and for what? Yes, he scored some goals, and, yes, he won some silverware, but he was only ever a bolt-on part, a hood ornament. He had to know that his return to his “boyhood club” would be difficult; he had to know that he had next to no chance of supplanting Xavi, Iniesta, or Busquets—indeed, he didn’t. For the most part, he was slotted in here and there as an accessory. Had he stayed at Arsenal, he would have continued to grow and evolve and flourish. He could have become legend.

He traded all of that for a fat wage-packet and a few trophies. Hell, Alex Song did as much.

By doing so, he pulled the rug out from under Wenger, who had been building a squad around him, who had made him captain,who had grand visions of what such a squad could achieve. His season-long flirtation and eventual departure didn’t just deprive us of one of the best players we’d had since the Invincibles. It confirmed our status as a selling club with no ambition. It discouraged transfer-targets from joining. It convinced others in the squad to leave (more on that in just a sec). Whom might we have signed had Fàbregas committed himself to the club? A few names come to mind: Hazard. Benzema. That other Touré. Mascherano. We were heavily linked to all of them and more, but uncertainty around the club’s ambitions, fueled by Fàbregas’s flirtations with Barça, scotched them all. 

Let’s turn to van Persie. Yes, it stings to think of him going to a hated rival, and, yes, he really did sh*t the bed with his announcement, but look at it from his perspective. He watched as the heart of this squad—Fàbregas, and then Nasri—left for bigger wages. Nonetheless, he soldiered on. In the window in which we sold Fàbregas and Nasri, we brought in Arteta, Mertesacker, Gervinho, Ox, and Santos, none of whom felt all that inspiring. Van Persie turned in his best season to date, playing all 38 Prem matches and scoring 30 goals, winning the Golden Boot along the way. He almost single-handedly dragged us to a third-place finish in the Prem. That’s a sharp contrast to Fàbregas’s dawdling as he forced his way out of the club. He had reason to hope, nay, insist that we reload.

The club’s response was, well, tepid to say the least.

While we did sign Giroud, Podolski, and Cazorla, none of them were of a calibre to elevate the squad. Van Persie must have looked around, looked at himself, and seen that the club were launching yet another re-build. The ambition just wasn’t there. We knew it. Fàbregas and Nasri confirmed it. All that van Persie did was act on it. He had to know that his body only had a few seasons left in it. Indeed, he gave to Man U one scintillating season, one really good season, and one pretty good season before going off to Fenerbahçe. 

Who are we, then, to heap abuse on van Persie, who was after all only responding to a series of events that Fàbregas had set in motion? Yes, when the rats are deserting a sinking ship, it’s the captain’s duty to go down with the ship. That’s asking a bit much of van Persie, innit? Fàbregas saw that the ship was starting to list a little and threw an anchor at Wenger and the rest. 

None of this should convince you to embrace van Persie. However, the worst-case scenario is that he saw the writing on the wall. Fàbregas is the one who scrawled the wall. Sure, he pops up on social media to claim he’s still a Gooner at heart, but that’s puerile, putrid pablum right there.

Before I leave you, I’ll go out on a limb. I blame Fàbregas for putting us in the predicament we’d found ourselves in ever since he left. There was a vision of Arsenal. He ruined it. Maybe there’s something cosmic in the notion that Arteta, signed the same summer that Fàbregas set sail, might restore our former glory.

Still here, loyal reader? Take issue with what I’ve asserted. Prove me wrong or forever hold your peace.

The returns of Nasri and van Persie: prodigal or pathetic?

They were to be the core of Arsenal’s renaissance, technically gifted players capable of turning a game on its head through individal flourishes or team chemistry. Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie, along with Cesc Fàbregas, comprised one of the most potent attacking trios in the Prem…until each of them bolted in acrimonious, avaricious ways. Last summer, of course, we had the Cesc soap opera, culminating in his return to the wrong London team. This summer, we can sit back, put our feet up, and enjoy the not-at-all-sad unraveling of the other two. If the stories are to be believed, Nasri wants to come back to Arsenal, and van Persie is to be sold “secretly” to Fenerbahçe. True or not, the mere existence of the stories is delicious to me and, I hope, to you. Let’s roll in the mud a bit, shall we?

Nasri, who left in 2011 for Man City (just nine days after  Fàbregas forced his way back to Barcelona), has been linked with a return to Arsenal by Football Insider in a story that offers little in the way of direct evidence, other than Nasri’s warm feelings towards Arsène, saying “I’m close to Arsène Wenger, I’ve always said he is my football father…he’s the best manager I ever had in my career.” Beyond that, though, it’s slim pickings. It does derive from the larger possibility that the entire Man City squad could face a massive overhaul after failing to win the Prem or make much progress in the FA Cup or Champions League. For Nasri, it has to have been frustrating, going from one of Arsenal’s brightest future stars to one of Man City’s options. His contract runs through 2019, but at 28, he has to wonder what his future holds. He might be young enough to have options, but is he good enough to play for Arsenal?

Van Persie, on the other hand, is a shell of his former self. He’ll be 32 in a few weeks but looks aged and decrepit. He’s now two seasons removed from his peak, when he scored 30 league goals for us in 2011-12 and 26 for Man U the following year. Age, injury, and attitude have all conspired to undermine him to the point that Holland teamamte Pierre Van Hooijdonk claims that he “received information from Turkey about Robin and Fenerbahçe. You knew that United had sent people to test the water for a move,” perhaps during the January window. His contract runs out in 2016, and somehow it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to use that as leverage as he did with Arsenal. That deal may now come back to haunt him, as it’s unlikely that any club will be willing to pay him that £200k weekly wage. It’s an albatross around his neck, and for as much as we seek a striker, he no longer seems like a stark upgrade on Giroud.

While each man can boast of having won more silverware than they had at Arsenal, those boasts ring hollow when stood up to what they traded to get it. I won’t wax rhapsodic about what could have been had they stayed; I’m sure you can imagine it for yourselves. Instead, I’ll imagine them as those fleeting glory days of theirs circle the drain like used toothpaste, together with the adoration and self-respect they might have enjoyed. Each of them will continue to chase the next big payday and eventually come to realise that the cynicism that motivated them to leave will earn them the same cynical treatment in return. They once deemed that Arsenal was not good enough for them. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the ironic turn of events.

Our midfield is so stacked now that, even if we were interested in Nasri, he’d have to accept a spot on the bench. While it’s true that we’re still looking for a world-class striker, van Persie no longer qualifies for that label. I’m sure they’ll each find a club willing to give them a tidy weekly wage, but it’s unlikely that either one will get his first-choice destination. It sure won’t be Arsenal.

Thanks, as always, for your visit. Feel free to share your thoughts below–you can log in with twitter, facebook, or gmail; or you can comment as a guest with any valid email.

Picking over the Man U carcass, or, kicking a club while it's down…

A season that once felt brimming with promise and potential just one week ago now seems to have gone off the rails—and yet we still sit in third place, behind two of the heaviest-spending clubs in Prem and ahead of another. So why the gloom and doom? A week ago, we knew that three wins and a draw would secure second place. Swansea didn’t get the memo. Or maybe they did. At any rate, we now go into the belly of a beast hoping to catch lightning in a bottle a second time.

Somewhere in there is a warning, something about lightning never striking twice in the same spot, but I don’t think it quite applies here. Even if Man U are eager to qualify for a Champions League spot, they’ve looked more than a bit wobbly in their last four or five outings, needing a generous penalty to slink out of Selhurst Park last weekend in order to end a three-game losing streak. Making matters worse for them, Wayne Rooney limped off at halftime and might join Michael Carrick and Rafael on the injured list, as might Shaw, Rojo, and van Persie. The absence of that last one might prove to be a blessing more to Man U than to us as it deprives us of a spite-laden motivational target while liberating Man U’s offense from his fading skills and me-first attitude.  More-pertinent might be the absence of Michael Carrick who, despite his age, has been a crucial if overlooked cog in Man U’s play. Without him, there’s frequently a lack of form or structure to the defense that we might be able to exploit.
The loss to Swansea might have been a kick in the teeth, but it might be also be the kick in the arse we need to go into Old Trafford with intensity rather than complacency. We’d been riding high, and although I’m not a fan of the idea that a team needs to lose in order to refocus, I’d trade a loss to Swansea for a win over Man U nine times out of ten. Our lads have got to be angry at the chance they’ve squandered—finishing second now depends on Man City dropping points—and this bodes well for invading Old Trafford. The last time we were there, of course, we won in stunning fashion to earn a place in the FA Cup semi-final. Winning this time through would confirm third place in the Prem while keeping the heat on Man City as well. They have to visit Swansea and host Southampton, neither one an easy task.
For all of the hand-wringing of the previous week, we could very well emerge feeling quite good. Despite their win last weekend, Man U look vulnerable, and we could deliver a knock-out punch on Sunday. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace allows Man U to back their way into that fourth place finish; whether this saps their desire for the third-place fight is another question. Should we win or draw, we’ll have thrid place sewn up; even if Man U win, we could still finish above them by taking four points from our remaining two matches—not that I see us needing to. They spent 150m on transfer fees this summer and were unburdened of any continental commitments, yet they’ll finish fourth thanks more to the ineptitude of others than to their own efforts. Yes, they’ll qualify for Champions League play, but it’s hard to feel like this squad will remain intact. If we can nab the win, we can exacerbate the exodus all the more.
Man U 1-2 Arsenal (09.03.2015)
Arsenal 1-2 Man U (22.11.2014)
Arsenal 0-0 Man U (12.02.2014)
The two clubs first met on 13 October 1894, a 3-3 draw between Newton Heath and Woolwich Arsenal.
Arsenal have won their last five away-matches in the Prem.
Arsenal haven’t won a Prem match at Old Trafford since 17 September 2006.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Debuchy, and Arteta have been ruled out, while Welbeck and Ramsey face late fitness tests.
Ospina; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.
This one has the looks of another barn-burner, but the Gunners should find a way past de Gea in order to steal three points.
PREDICTION Man U 1-2 Arsenal.

This preview first appeared at Goonersphere and reappears by permission.

They're droppin' like flies rather than facing the Arsenal…

In the buildup to the dust-up at Old Trafford, one trend stands out: there’s no one worth his salt who really wants to play against Arsenal on Sunday. Between injuries and transfer-rumours, it seems that anyone worth his salt is finding a way to eschew what could be a vital clash between clubs seeking to qualify for a Champions League spot. Man U need a win on Sunday if they expect to stay in the running; a loss or draw would essentially relegate them to fourth place, meaning that they’d have to endure a two-leg qualifier to get in, much as Arsenal have time and time again. With that in mind, one might expect an “all hands on deck” attitude from Van Gaal’s outfit. Instead, however, it looks like Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw will join Michael Carrick and Rafael among the walking wounded, with Robin van Persie and Marcus Rojo coming up lame as well. It’s almost as if the entire squad has up and quit on the season. Fine by me.

I know what you’re thinking: surely, the absence of Rooney frees up van Persie or Falcao to run amok. After all, they’ve each had their moments against us, haven’t they, and when one of them falters, the other steps up? However, the ugly fact is that neither van Persie nor Falcao has justified his price-tag of late. Falcao hasn’t scored in 560 minutes of play, and van Persie hasn’t scored against anyone worth scoring against in 931 minutes (with apologies to Burnley, Leicester, and Newcastle, against whom he has scored). The potential absence of Rooney would seem like handing the car keys of a Porsche to a teenager—except van Persie and Falcao are looking more and more geriatric and brittle week by week. There was a time when those names inspired fear, respect, even awe—but those days are long-gone. Of course, there is still a possibility that one or both could deliver a stunning goal, but that’s starting to feel like the exception rather than the rule.

The absence of Carrick might matter more than that of Rooney; the cagey 33-year-old has been instrumental to Man U’s stability, shielding an oft-shifting backline and shuttling the ball forward to the more-creative types. His absence denies Van Gaal a vital player in the middle of the pitch. Of course, it’s not as if Man U are bereft of options. After Rooney and van Persie, there are still threats to consider such as Juan Mata,  Marouane Fellaini, and Angel Di Maria. Then again, that last one hasn’t started a match since being sent off against Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final and hasn’t scored a goal since the first week of January (against Yeovil, for those curious). We’ll still have to contend with Fellaini’s elbows and Young’s dives, but it’s starting to feel like this is a Man U that is sinking rather than rising.

Add in the all-but-confirmed rumours of David de Gea’s summer-move to Real Madrid, and it does feel like our erstwhile rivals are clutching at straws—if only they had a world-class keeper who could bail them out, again and again and again, and again and again and again…de Gea has almost single-handedly kept his club in contention (by “almost single-handedly”, I refer to the fact that the man has frequently used two hands while also being the only one staving off ignominious failure). If it proves true that de Gea does jump ship, we might be witnessing the slow sinking of a once-proud club, one that spent £150m on transfer-fees last summer only to flounder its way to fourth place, thanks in large part to the ineptitude of other clubs (Liverpool and Tottenham, to name two) rather than its own, um “eptitude.”

Man U were supposed to ride a perfect storm of circumstances—Van Gaal’s hiring, that £150m in transfer-fees, a campaign free of continental commitment—straight towards the top of the Prem. It hasn’t quite played out that way, and Arsenal have a chance to take Man U down yet another peg, again at Old Trafford, suggesting if not proving that there’s something to be said for a degree of stability and fiscal sanity. If Arsenal can go into Old Trafford and win for the second time in as many tries, we’ll have secured a third-place finish, qualifying outright for Champions League play, while Man U will feel lucky indeed to have finished fourth. Who knows how many rats will desert a ship that hasn’t quite sunk but that has certainly failed to float?