Arsène Wenger should sell him now
10 July ~ Over the past week, it seems that every football columnist and social media junkie has given his tuppence worth on Robin van Persie's refusal to sign a new contract with his once beloved Arsenal. A number of quotes attributed to Van Persie have been circulating but it was a statement from the club that may have given a fair few Arsenal fans the willies: "Robin has one year to run on his current contract and we are confident that he will fulfil his commitments to the club." Arsène Wenger is surely not thinking of forcing Van Persie to see out his contract and risk losing him for nothing next summer.
Keeping a player who is set on moving is never a good idea; the player is unlikely to replicate previous form if he doesn't want to be there, and a disgruntled individual could cause disruption in the dressing room. Throw in his age and chequered injury record and cashing in on him looks the only reasonable option.
The club are thought to value their captain at £25 million. While this may seem a bit steep for an injury prone, ageing striker, the reported interest of Manchester City, Real Madrid, PSG and Malaga, as well as Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan, could easily spark a bidding war, causing the fee to reach or even surpass Arsenal's valuation. After all, a fairly recent, similarly high-profile transfer saga took David Villa, a player whose age, goal tally and penchant for spells on the sidelines drew comparisons with those of Van Persie, from Valencia to Barcelona in 2010 for €40m (£31m).
The question of how Van Persie will be replaced depends on how much he is sold for, plus how much cash is already available, and how much Arsenal want to invest in other areas of the squad. Since we can only speculate at these figures, it be worth looking at the likely formation to be adopted by Wenger next season and where this mystery signing will fit in.
If he sticks with the 4-3-3 formation of the past few seasons, possibly converting into a staggered 4-4-2, and that he is unlikely to hand £10m Olivier Giroud bench-warming duties, the likely vacant position is that of a creative second striker. A player who can unlock resolute defences, drop back into midfield and make late runs into the box to good effect, thus also going some way towards mitigating the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer.
A player who fits this remit, as well as representing a realistic acquisition for Arsenal, is Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic. However, La Viola appear reluctant to sell their prized asset, who is also attracting appreciative glances from Chelsea. Alternatively, Wenger may look for an internal solution to his pre-season predicament by partnering Theo Walcott (has been hankering after a central role for the last few seasons) or Lukas Podolski (spent the majority of last season playing as a Number 10 at Cologne) with Giroud at the business end of his starting eleven.
There are clearly a number of options at Wenger's disposal, but whichever one he chooses, the players and fans alike will be hoping he puts his plan into action pretty sharpish. The last thing they want is another embarrassing pasting away from home before the transfer window has closed. Stoke on August 26, anyone? Robert Treasure