“It’s always tease, tease, tease,” sang the Clash in their only number one single in the UK, eerily foretelling the saga of nearly every half-decent Arsenal player in the summer over the last few years. After the furore caused by the RvP statement a few weeks ago it’s all gone quiet. Interest from various clubs is reported as cooling or warming up depending on the weather, though mostly cooling these days. Newspapers and twitter ITKs continue to make stuff up or publish on the flimsiest of evidence just to appear as though they know what they’re talking about. Meanwhile Arsenal look like they’re about to sign a highly rated Spaniard (don’t tell anyone, I think it’s a secret). Presumably RvP’s agent(s) are working feverishly behind the scenes with every club they can think of to secure the best terms for him, should he decide to actually do the decent thing and ask for a transfer. Every now and again Peter Hill-Wood gives a quote to his mates at the Star. Meanwhile the rest of us just sit here waiting.
With the signings so far and the almost inevitable addition of Cazorla, Arsenal definitely have a stronger squad than last season. As individuals that is, whether they can play better as a team is another matter, but that’s what Wenger is normally good at so I’m pretty confident there. I’d still say Arsenal are outsiders for the title rather than anywhere near favourites, but that’s the nature of football these days – you spend huge or you aren’t favourite.
So the question is, is RvP’s mind being changed by the paper improvement in the Arsenal squad? Does he in fact want to stay now, but is still holding out for more money? Or is he a bit worried about how his statement is going to leave his reputation if he stays, and thinks he’ll either be hated or look like a bit of a tit if he says he didn’t mean it, and Arsène is a great bloke after all?
Some people are saying, “We’ve made good signings, that shows the ambition, he should sign the new deal.” I say hang on – if we’ve made good signings then we don’t need him so much, so why pay him more? He’s 29. Sign him for another four years and he’ll be 33. I’d bet we get one good season out of four in that, with his injury record. The problem is we don’t know which season it will be. But injury-prone players don’t usually stop being injury-prone suddenly in their late twenties and he’s had a solid 18 months injury-free. Something is going to give soon. Pay him more on a longer deal and all we’re doing is hampering the chances of getting other players in because more money is being tied up on an asset that will be worthless at the end of four years.
Before anyone says he won’t be worthless in four years, two words: get real. If he signs for Arsenal again then assuming he’s still playing at all in even two years we’ll get £5m tops.
So I say let him stay if he wants to, but on the same deal he’s on now. Don’t pay him more, don’t sign him for longer. Maybe – maybe – he’ll have another brilliant injury-free season, but there’s probably less than a 50% chance of that.
As seems usual these days, the player can’t actually bring himself to put in a transfer request, preferring to make statements that stop just short of it. Money is involved there – he won’t get his loyalty bonus if he asks to leave. But as he hasn’t actually asked, why should he choose where he’s going? None of us want to see him at another English club (especially as there is a small chance he’d still be great next year), so all I ask is that Arsenal tell him he has two choices: stay for another year or be sold abroad. If he stays he can go where he likes next year. If anyone still wants him. And let’s face it, most of the really big clubs – the ones as big or bigger than Arsenal – don’t sign many 30 year olds, and if he spends as long in the treatment room in the coming season as his career average would suggest, the queue will be even shorter.
In summary, I don’t want players holding the club to ransom, however good they are. Buying well so far this summer has meant the club now has more cards to play, and RvP’s hand is getting thinner as money gets sucked out of football throughout Europe by the overall financial situation. It’s interesting to see what RvP will do, but it’s not something I’m in the least bit worried about now.