Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Should Robin van Persie Get a New Contract? Remember Thierry Henry.

Not so long ago, in a stadium not so far away....

Arsenal have had a hard season. On the final day of the campaign they've leap-frogged their rivals into fourth spot and secured Champions League qualification. Yet another worry has not quite disappeared. Their captain and best player has still not signed a new contract. His goals, more than anything else, have kept Arsenal in contention all year, and his hat-trick in the season's final game has secured their spot in Europe. Yet rumours surrounding his departure in the summer's transfer window have persisted, and Arsenal fans continue to worry about the future of their captain as they go into the biggest game in the club's history.

Arsenal lose that game, but keep their captain. Just two days after losing to Barcelona in Paris, Thierry Henry signed a new deal. He stated: "I've never played in Spain and never will. This is my last contract". Arsene Wenger placed Henry's decision to agree a new deal on the same level as winning the European Cup: "I had two aims at the start of the week: to win the European Cup and then to make Thierry stay". 

So how did that work out?

In the following season, Henry scored about a dozen goals in a year that was marred by injuries. He was rushed back for a Champions League game in February against PSV, aggravated old wounds, and was ruled out for the rest of the campaign.

Then, in late-June, Henry left. He signed for Barcelona in a deal worth 24million euros, or about 17m pounds (following the 2007 conversion rate).

So, after all that stress and all that worry, Arsenal basically got one more year, and about ten more goals, out of a player who had already peaked, and whose body had started to lose its ability to withstand the rigours of regular, top-flight football.

Moreover, Arsenal also lost out on a huge amount of money. While we should perhaps be wary of taking David Dein's pronouncement at face value, the former director claimed that Arsenal had turned down two £50 million (about 70m euro) bids for Henry in the summer of 2006. Added to that was the size of Henry's final contract. The AST estimated that Arsenal paid Henry about £10 million during his last year at the club. Not only had he got a notable bump in wages in his new deal, Henry also received a signing-on fee of around £5 million in his new deal.

Arsenal had therefore paid Henry about £1 million per goal during his final season, and they had lost out on maybe £30 million in transfer fees.

Why have I taken this extended trip down memory lane? Because I feel it's relevant when discussing Robin van Persie's potential new deal. At present, there seems to be an agreement among Arsenal fans that Robin has to sign a new deal. If he were to leave, it would be a catastrophe. We would be losing our best player - perhaps our only world-class player.

There is a lot to be said for these fears. If Robin had not been at the club this season, we'd probably be languishing in mid-table. Indeed, if he was to be injured tomorrow, I very much doubt we'd end up in the Champions League spots.

But I feel we have to stand back and think about Robin's potential new deal rationally. Is it wise to give a new, bumper package to a player who, before 2011, had never managed to get through an entire season at the club without a serious injury? Indeed, it's worth noting that even until late 2010, many Arsenal fans would have depicted Robin as a player with tremendous ability, but one that could not be relied upon to get through the majority of a season intact. Now, most of the injuries he's suffered while at Arsenal were contact injuries, rather than inherent weaknesses in his body's physical make-up. But who knows what impact having so many serious injuries in his early career will have on Robin as he enters into his early thirties? With Arsene currently pushing Robin to play 90 minutes in almost every game he plays (even when 7-1 up against Blackburn), who knows what long-term effect that will have on his body?

So my concern is this - should we be giving a new, enormous contract to a player with a questionable injury record; who is, like Henry was, at his peak and who is only going to decline in the coming years; and who's value is only going to depreciate, if he were to leave after 2012?

In short, is there not a worry that we've already seen the best of van Persie? Should we cash-in on our asset at the peak of its value, rather than trying to squeeze potentially lower returns out of it, at a higher maintenance cost? If Robin's injury-problems were to resurface, we could be faced by a nightmare scenario where we do not have the potential funds of any RvP transfer to re-invest in the squad, and where his huge wages could become a burden to the club's ability to grow.

There is also the concern that Robin has become too important to the team. As Henry said, after Arsenal's much improved performance in the 2007/2008 season: "Because of my seniority, the fact that I was captain and my habit of screaming for the ball, they would sometimes give it to me even when I was not in the best position. So in that sense it was good for the team that I moved on". Football is a team sport, and it is always extremely damaging when one player becomes too central to a team's success. Arsenal were rejuvenated in 2007/2008 because the burden of expectation was shared more widely amongst the squad, rather than the team continually looking to one player to produce the magic.

The difficulty in this comparison is that the squad in 2007 was much stronger than that which we have today, and that the level of competition in the Premier League is also higher in 2012 than it was in 2007 due to the rise of teams like Man City and Spurs. I'm not convinced that we currently have the players who could step up in the manner that certain people did during the 07/08 campaign, but this could change with a few wise purchases.  Especially if we continue the clearout of the dross in the squad that started last summer, Robin's transfer fee could help us in our efforts to rebuild the overall quality of the squad.

To conclude, I want to make one thing clear - Robin van Persie is a magnificent player and I think, on balance, it would be good for the club if he stayed. I would be, on an emotional level, gutted if he left. But, and this is the only 'but' I am trying to inject into this conversation, remember Thierry Henry. Giving star players in their late twenties huge contracts is not always a great idea. The club could lose out on a huge amount of money - in both fees and wages - that could be invested in bringing in new, younger talent. Players in their late twenties, especially those with Robin's track record, have injury concerns that cannot be ignored. There is no guarantee that Robin will be able to reproduce his current form in future seasons; indeed, even if he does stay, this will probably be his best season at the club.

My main concern is that the club would simply bank any transfer fee for Robin, as they have done in the last few years. If selling Robin is merely a means to pay-down the stadium debt a little bit faster, then we should resist selling him at all costs. But if Robin's sale was part of a long-term effort to renew a failed squad with better players, would it be so terrible to lose him now?


schmoud said...

I think this is a very insightful article and I agree wholeheartedly. I don't think anyone can argue the fact that we have a lack of quality in the side(particularly in midfield-made worse with jack's absence). I think you hit on one of our 2 main issues at arsenal right now. The other being tactics and organization. I just don't understand some of the tactical and organizational decisions that Wenger makes and I think we could do better with the players we have if we played to their strengths and not idealistic Wengerball.

Anonymous said...

Great idea!! Let's get rid of our best player. In fact, let's become a proper feeder club and bring on players to sell to Man City, Barcelona etc before they reach their peak. That way we could make loads of money that will keep Kroenke an friends very happy, while we pay the highest prices in Christendom to see a mediocre, mid-table team. Fantastic idea that!

schmoud said...

@Anonymous I don't think you got the point of the article. None of us would like to see RVP go, but the chances of him having another season like this are statistically small. Plus, if (and as is stated in the article if is a very real question) the funds from RVPs potential sale would be reinvested to add missing quality to the side. Would it really be the end of the world. You have seen in the last 2 games what happens when we get bossed in midfield. What good is one of the best strikers in the world if the midfield can't get them the ball?

Anonymous said...

It is in the best interest for Arsenal to renew the contract of Robin Van Persie. RVP reminds me of Bergkamp, a player where in his late 20s was scoring and maing goals for our team. After that he became more of supporting role to strickers and especially to Henry. His maturity and experience has helped the team and many young players were able to learn from the Dutch master. It is no coincidence that since his retirement we have not won any trophies.

As a result, Arsenal should strive to renew the contract of RVP, possibly for life, in order for the team to learn from these dutch master. Arsenal needs players with experience and leadership in the field, and RVP has both of them.

Old Arsenal Fan said...

Is it purely coincidental that RVP just happens to have his best (questionable)year - without injury, just before he is due a new contact? Let him go, the blokes a waster - a user and definitely not a captain. And please do not mention him in the same breath or sentence as Denis Bergkamp. RVP is not fit to lick his boots.

bohos82 said...

Henry had how many strong years in a row? The argument that this could be RVP's best season are rally not supported. Players that are classified as world class are in that category because they tend to be good over a sustained period of time and Robins has only began this year

Tom said...

I don't think that you can make this decision based purely on the financial side of things and ignore the emotion/psychological side of things - just as with henry.

Letting Henry go a year later may have cost us a large amount of money but what would the cost have been had we not qualified for the CL in 2007? What would the effect on the team been had we lost Cole, Campbell, Pires and the Henry?

As you mentioned RVP's injuries have been contact based - look at how he rode Givet's lunge compared to how he was injured away at Blackburn last year - he has learnt to get out of the way. This is completely different to Henry's injury problems which were based around his back and sciatic nerve. That's something which can only be managed and never cured.

You also neglect to mention that Henry's ego which led him to berate long players on and off the pitch and fall out with Wenger over team selection - RVP this year has been the polar opposite.

Even with the financial side of thing, I doubt RVP would be on the same wage and signing on fee that Henry got. So all things considered Henry's situation was a one off and shouldn't have a baring on the decision to renew RVP's deal.

akya said...

Very good read. I agree with almost all points but one. What guarantee is there that the sum of money received after his sell would be reinvested in squad.. and I mean really invested in making the squad stronger and not like spending 500k on some 19 year old.. I think wenger does not count in my mind to do that sort of change. So this sort of change would look like a possibility and maybe perhaps a good thing if wenger isn't in the picture.. My two cents..

Anonymous said...

Well said sir but you cant guarantee that the young replacements will be good enough for the league best ex ashravin also its proven it wont be reinvested and we will get some like park in return
Atleast we know Persie and all the advantages and disadvantages related to him. All we need is a proper backup for him.
We even need him to show our ambition to other people we are to sign and that we are abig club
And more he deserves it.

Anonymous said...

Great article (came here via ArseBlog) and I agree with your reservations. A part of me wants to wish him good luck & farewell to Spain, a player like him deserves to win the CL.

But here is the very worst case scenario:

* RVP is badly injured for Holland in Euro12 and so is unsellable in summer 2012.
* He returns in April 2013 to play for an Arsenal team similar to that of now.
* So he walks out on a Bosman in summer 2013.


DB said...

I agree that it's worthy of debate, certainly if we were actually to 'cash in on our asset at the peak of its value' - but we won't be. With one year left on his deal, you're not talking about choosing between the gamble of keeping him (and hoping he maintains his form) or £50m in the bank (which I would argue is his worth). Instead we're choosing between the former and c.£25-30m in the bank due to a crappy bargaining position.
This makes the risk in giving him a new deal at his age one worth taking in my view, as quite honestly with £25m we couldn't buy a suitable replacement if only for the goals he scores in this market.
Also I agree with some previous posters that the psychological impact of selling our only world class player after the last two seasons would consign us definitively to 'selling club' status, and the supporters would also go nuts.
All in all, we have to keep him.

Russ C said...

interstign article. great to see a different argument to that peddled in the press.

didnt realise you were back writing -- will keep checking for new articles.

Hamish said...

I agree with this, especially when you consider that he will play in the Euros and come back exhausted. Obviously I want him to stay but that doesn't mean he'll be the same player next season

Anonymous said...

This is a terrific piece of writing! I am not sure whether I agree or disagree, but your ability to think rationally about the subject is extremely thought provoking.

I have now bookmarked your blog!

Many thanks...!

Logs per Day said...

You are right in the respect that RVP's sale might fund some quality transfers in the summer. However, knowing the business done by Arsenal in recent seasons I doubt that that money will be used for rebuilding the squad. If it happened with TH14, doesn't necessarily mean it will happen with RVP. If he leaves then I don't know what next season will bring, it might shift us more down the table,not to mention the repulsion of quality footballers towards the club.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. I agree with your sentiments about what can go wrong with selling RVP. In theory, that money could be used to strengthen the club overall, but I'm convinced based on past history that the powers that be at Arsenal just won't spend the money. They'll maybe buy a couple more 17 year olds, crow about how frugal the club has been, and settle uncomfortably into mid-table.

Kanonier said...

Well said. But one thing to consider is the fact that RvP is the last man standing name wise (Theo maybe another). Letting him go could send an awful message to others and hinder us in acquiring the necessary additions to our squad.

RICKY ROCK said...

As ever, a well balanced presentation of a none straightforward dilemna from Goonerboy. I think the final few posters I read have swung the argument towards the "heart" position, which says we should try to keep him - but not at any cost.

I remain unconvinced that we would get such a fee for him in his last year to allow for a massive rebuilding of the squad - and the questions raised about whether or not this would be forthcoming for such business is a very valid one. More to the point, I don't think this squad is anywhere near as bad as current form suggests: our problems are more tactical than one of personnel - with the exception of strikers.

I think we could probably raise as much money from selling a clutch of underperformers (you know who they are!) as we could an end of contract RVP sale - certainly at least enough to invest in a decent striker to support him. And it seems more likely than not that there will be other funds available to supplement this and other potential signings. The rest of the gaps that may need filling from selling on said underperformers can be filled by some youngsters who are progressing from showing promising to genuine worth in the team - the Ox and Coquelin to name the obvious. And don't forget that we have Wilshere coming back!

A final point I would make ... although Henry's final year with the team (not counting this one!) was a poor one, it was not indicative of his performances over the next few years. Yes, we definitely had the best of his footballing years but he went on to spend at least two seasons as an important member of a Barcelona squad that won a zillion trophies; there is nothing to say that had he stayed, he would not have played as equally a significant role for us. Whilst Henry's own comments about the squad reliance and subjugation to him remain a moot consideration, I don't think this applies to RVP. Assuming RVP is not after a Rooney-esque type deal, despite the obvious risks the Goonerboy and others have highlighted, on balance I think there is more to be had from him staying than not.

critic said...

Emotionally i am not able to agree with u but logically u make sense. But still it's speculations that whether he will remain fit or not.

Ben said...

Its a very interesting opinion and I do agree with a lot that you've said. The thing that I think most discussions have missed is the loyalty debate. I personally feel that Wenger should keep vP if possible. I don't think many people get the impact that having experienced players in the squad has. Yes, we will lose out on cash, but I think it will be a step in the right direction with regards to club loyalty getting established. We want younger players to want to stay at The Arsenal until they retire such as Giggs and Scholes at Manure. And I also think that all the fans saw the impact TH14 had on his loan now...

Anonymous said...

Do we cash in to maximize our ROI or do we keep our world class captain who blasts them in for us? Are we fans of economics or football fans?

Anonymous said...

Thankyou ArseBlog for mentioning this blog, it has been scripted with a lot of thought and essentially provoking statistics. Nice reading goonerboy .

Gr8 to see all the fans instilled with emotions regarding RVP, the man of the moment as well for the season.

Let me just start by saying that RVP has been the closest to a world class striker (or legend if I may) Arsenal can be proud to say has produced. In light of recent events at the club, both on and off the pitch, it has become clear that we are essentially built on a financially profiting ideology. Nevertheless our past is indicative of the fact that trophies are won with talent and not money, most of us will surely rebuke given the present quality of talent available. Premiership requirements have not been met.

For the club it is necessary to learn from past mistakes but selling RVP is not a mistake.
He has served us well for all that he is capable of. Wenger would certainly not want to part ways with RVP next season, but given an opportunity to play for a potential CL winners next season, I would support RVP, with a lot of remorse, if he decides to move on and aim for greatness away from Emirates.
Bottom line, it is up to RVP and Wenger to decide what is better for him. As fans supporting a great club and me personally, would like to see the re-incarnation of 'The Invincibles' of London before the Professor retires.

Santimug said...

I think Arsenal's best bet is to make use of the 50 million available right now, that's enough money to sign a few good players, it'll motivate RVP to stay and the rest of the team. Most importantly they'll support him and take some pressure off him. Madrid and Barca, the 2 likely buyers, have spent loads of money recently and may not even need him, so we would probably get ripped off like we did with Cesc. Arsenal have been a top club, if we want to stay up there, competing for trophies, we must act like an ambitious club.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, and some fair points made. One big difference between Henry and Van Persie is that for Henry pace was one of his key assets and his injuries basically ruined that. Van Persie doesn't really rely on that so it seems likely that the skills he has won't decline so quickly.
The point about not relying on one player is a good one, but I think this squad has shown that it's not able to pull together to replace it's star player - look at how we (haven't) replaced Cesc. Still, if the money from any sale is reinvested who knows what could happen?

Anonymous said...

I agree with this article with the proviso that we were much better prepared for losing Henry if he'd gone a year earlier than we would be for RvP.
That said...and I know it is kind of sacrilegious to say so in a season where he has pretty much carried us... I don't think van Persie is a very good captain. Some of our most leaderless performances have been this season where the team quite literally looks lost on the field and they and us can't wait for the final whistle. I don't think you could replace him as captain and keep him though so maybe there is another point in the let him go and reinvest the funds column...

Anonymous said...

In the Jan 11 transfer window I don't think too many fans would have complained if RVP was sold . Now they believe it would be the end of the club the way they are talking . I say get rid of him now cause he has only had one great season in 7 seasons he has been at Arsenal . The other 6 seasons have been mediocre at best.

Anonymous said...

Great article. I think the gulf between the squad then and now is much bigger than you imply (for starters we're comparing arguably the best midfield the clubs had in the last 20 years with undeniably the worst) but I agree its worth thinking about. If we get 40 million for him it's certainly conceivable that we can come out with an equal or better team next year if it's invested well enough. The problem is this will be much more difficult without qualification, which paradoxically would probably push RVP out the door anyway......and offset the gains from transfer fee for that matter.

Anonymous said...

The subject is certainly worthy of debate, but while Arsenal have demonstrated a desire to sell talent, the investment side of the ledger is as big an assumption as RvP getting knackered at the Euros. I'd tend to agree with those who proposed actually investing the current transfer surplus in veteran talent to complement RvP, rather than continue to furnish our reputation as a selling club. Watching our captains leave for greener pastures won't help us keep Jack or AOC when their time comes.

Spork said...

Whatever happened to the days when your captain got to play out his last few years at the club, get a testimonial and then take on a coaching role? Modern football really does have a nasty side to it, doesn't it?

Santori said...

An excellent and rational article.

The only thing I'd beg to differ is that I think RVP is a slightly different player from Henry. He has a bit of DB10 in him.

I think he may be good for us for another 3-4 seasons if reasonably fit if at very least in playing second striker (perhaps a plan B may finally develop) and provider in the slot.

Also bearing in mind our current lack of striking options up top, it seems to me more sensible that IF we keep him, we bring another striker in early-mid 20s for Chamakh/Park who can brdige between RVP and the Afobe/Bunjaku/Campbell generation.

However point taken with regards the added burden RVP's improvement in contract will take out of the slice of the pie.

There will be a reasonable amount of strikers on market this summer IMO.

Suarez position at stuttering Liverpool (possibly a 3rd season out of top 4) is questionable. Podolski, Giroud, Leandro Damiao will also come onto market. So there will be options for us toreinforce/reinvest given the sale of RVP.

BUT there wion't be any guarantees that the striker(s) brought in may hit form and deliver like RVP.

Therefore on the face of it, we are better to hold him at very least for a limited season (absorb some loss) till end next season in terms of on pitch performance.

Whether he will sign of course is entirely debatble.

I would think any chance of us having him extend would have been hanging on a thread after Milan and would have entailed that we :

1) Seal Top4 (or better)
2) Win the FA Cup
3) Invest in 1-2 top players over the summer (possibly over our current max threshold if need be)

In the absence of the cup and the unlikely prospect of number 3, I am not quite sure if even the guarantee of top 4 is good enough.

In essence, it is somewhat out of our hands.

The other side of the coin in analyzing the situation would be to consider the player's own motivation. RVP is hitting 30 shortly, this will be the last hurrah for him to win some trophies and more importantly make a pile of dosh before he is retired from the scene.

I can see a move away to a club offering a big end of career paycheck for the next 4 seasons as something very very tempting indeed, and I don't think we can begrudge Robin for that.;)

Anonymous said...

I’m amazed. Some of the fans are even starting to sound like the board. Looking to cash in on RVP is not best for the club. We all knew how good he was but now that he is finally showing his true potential and considering how much time and effort we’ve invested to see him reach this potential, selling him would be a backwards step if we actually ever wanted to win something. We should be looking to get 4th and even if we don’t, we should be making the right signings to build a team that can win. To do that it would be logical and a lot easier to keep the best players we already have. He is one of them.

He’s got at least two more years at this level and he is an intelligent footballer. Someone above mentioned the Bergkamp role and the need for a veteran in the Arsenal team. I agree. Besides Henry’s recent cameo I can’t think of any recent Arsenal player who’s played for us from his mid/late 20s into his 30s. We really have lacked experienced players these last few years and it’s showed. Selling our most experienced player would be a huge mistake in a series of huge mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Does this sound a) attractive and b) doable?

Sell Theo Walcott and promote the Ox in his place. Arsenal are exciting and a bit more unpredictable when the ox plays. Walcott always seems to offer so much but generally is a let down. He's so far from being an invincible.

Invest in another top quality striker to play with Robin. A proven and experienced leader and winner. Nobody in the word could convince me that RVP couldn't forge a partnership with the right type of player. Having another strikes takes the burden off Robin, allowing him to be rested occasionally, which then decrease his chances of getting injured.

Also sell Arshavin, Rosicky, Diaby, Bendtner, Denilson, Djourou, Squillaci, Chamakh.

Get Wilshere back to his best, he is going to be the beating heart of the Arsenal teams for the next decade.

Around all this activity, you start a PR campaign in the press, saying we are taking the steps to rebuild the team in order to win the champions league. Create a winners message, redevelop a winners mentality and momentum and get people looking over theirs shoulders. Stop being losers, as has been the case in the last few years.

Try to realise the immense potential that is inherent in the squad. Everyone talks about a lack of quality, but it's just nonsense. Wenger just isn't getting the best out of it.

Find a f*cking leader in the team! Is it schczeny, is it Vermaelen, is it Mertesacker, is it Wilshere? Whoever it is, stop giving the armband to players like RVP and Fabregas who are citicised by pundits every week because they are not leaders. It all just builds negativity around the team.

In other words, sell the dross, promote the players who can make a difference, add some real quality to the team, keep RVP, realise some potential, create a winners mindset, get the injured players back. Win games.

Honestly, for a man of Wenger's experience, intelligence and capabilities, doing all the above would not be very hard at all. It wouldn't all be totally straightforward either, but even to do some of these things would help arsenal get back on track.