Childishness, damp squibs and terrible tackles: The return of Robin van Persie

So Robin van Persie came back for his first return to Arsenal this weekend, his sweaty palm already anticipating closing around a Premier League medal. There are many ways of looking at the whole Van Persie situation as an Arsenal fan. Some think his actions and departure were justified, some blame the Board or manager, some hate him. Well, most hate him to be fair, but some recognise that there’s really no point getting attached to players, and once gone they are best forgotten. Support the ones who play for Arsenal now, be nice to the ones who used to and gave their all for as long as was reasonable and right, but don’t bother wasting energy on those who have left to ply their trade elsewhere.

In my head there is a scale for all issues like this. No one is 100 per cent bad, but everyone to a degree is looking out for himself. We never know the full story of who said exactly what, when and why, or why events transpired the way they did. Did Van Persie fall out with Wenger? Did he make totally unreasonable demands because he wanted to leave anyway, so justified it by saying the club would do nothing he asked? Did Kroenke insist on a sale so as not to lose the player on a Bosman a year later? And if so, did Kroenke insist on selling to the highest bidder, even if that meant vastly changing the title odds in the high bidder’s favour? Did Van Persie have the chance to go to Man City for more money, but went to United for trophies? (And more money than at Arsenal, of course, but potentially less than at City.) The answer to all those is ‘maybe’.

All we do know for sure is the content of Van Persie’s public pronouncements – which were very much in the ‘I love Arsenal’ area until fairly soon before he left – and the statistics of his career. The statistics tell us that Arsenal stood by him for a long time when he was injured, paid him handsomely and tried to keep him happy. Some say he abused that by playing in internationals for his own selfish reasons when not fully fit, contributing to further injury absences. Maybe he doesn’t come across as a particularly nice person, but it’s easy to misinterpret quotes (sometimes misquotes) in the press.

The famous incident when Arshavin replaced the Ox in January last year was probably a turning point, but at least showed Van Persie’s desire to win – and most fans agreed strongly with his opinion that night.

Where does this leave Van Persie on the Scale of Gitness? In Arsenal player terms, the manner of his  leaving is not much different to Henry’s, and probably not quite as bad as Cesc – who made it quite clear he was only going to one place, and feigned injury for some months until he left, while scuppering any chance of getting true value from Barca. Henry is treated differently because of the trophies he won and the fact he kept relatively quiet, but he only stayed an extra year and got a £5m bonus for it. Then again, I’m not party to what any of these players were promised by the manager or anyone else at the club, so I may be judging too harshly, or perhaps not harshly enough.

Given all that, how should we have treated Van Persie on his return? Tim Stillman wrote an excellent column on Arseblog a couple of days ago explaining his own feelings. You’ve probably read it, but in summary Tim is in favour of childlike behaviour around football – supporting your team no matter what, chanting that they are by far the greatest ever seen (even if you support, say, Scunthorpe) and taking delight in the pratfalls of officials and the failure of rivals – but he is against vitriol and childishness – such as calling a returning ex-player a c*** for 90 minutes, threatening all and sundry with a good beating, or singing songs that you complained about other fans singing when the player was one of yours. And I fully agree. Football is not serious; it’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. That’s why it was invented.

Maybe some people genuinely do think it’s fun to contort themselves into a rage and spit bile at someone for 90 minutes rather than try and enjoy the football. To me that looks as though they haven’t quite distinguished between childlike and childish.

In the event, Arsenal v Man Utd and the Van Persie reception all turned into a bit of a damp squib. There were some boos, some name calling, but largely the crowd was more concerned with supporting Arsenal, who looked for a good while as though they might beat Man Utd for once. Walcott was marginally offside before scoring the opener, but perhaps the linesman gave the benefit of the doubt to the attacker (as he’s supposed to do), and it was very difficult to say there was any daylight between Walcott and the last defender. On Sky, Alan Smith kept going on about Walcott’s leg being definitely offside. Err, don’t they just do it on where the torso is Alan? Not sure legs are included in the equation.

For many reasons it was preferable that Man Utd had already won the title last Monday. Obviously they wanted a win against Arsenal, but not with the same urgency that they’d have had if they still needed points to confirm themselves as champions. But for a feeble backpass and a terrible tackle from Sagna it might have been an Arsenal win. As it was, Arsenal showed enough spirit to give reasonably hope for the remaining games, though the lack of genuine options at centre forward is another ‘I told you so’ moment for Arsène Wenger with Giroud absent.

The much talked about guard of honour was also rather a non-event. Ten seconds of polite clapping from Arsenal players and mostly, it seemed, indifference from everyone else. Ho hum. What’s important is that this summer sees us build a squad with a realistic hope of being given a guard of honour be some other mugs this time next year.

Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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9 thoughts on “Childishness, damp squibs and terrible tackles: The return of Robin van Persie

  1. Agree – too many embarrassing fans in the Arsenal these days. At Highbury we had just true supporters now we have a sizable number who just come to swear and abuse other teams and players. We are in danger of losing the moral high ground we have over neandrathals like Stoke and West Ham and that other lot up the road. Even the disgusting chanters in Man U dont look so bad compared to our fans who call an ex-player a C*** for 90 minutes. Let’s show some class!!

  2. Just want to point out a something was massively understated here:
    “…In Arsenal player terms, the manner of his (Van Persie’s) leaving is not much different to Henry’s…Henry is treated differently because of the trophies he won …”

    Not much different?
    – Henry helped Arsenal win trophy after trophy for years.
    – He scored goals and made assists at a legendary level, not for 18 months but for years
    – Henry was no sicknote, he played monster league-leading minutes for years
    – I dont recall Henry ever playing for France regularly while feeding Arsenal sicknotes
    – When Henry was leaving he didnt have his agent call a press conference to announce that Arsenal sucked, that he would not be re-signing for Arsenal even if he broke his leg, and Wenger was a fool for not letting him pick the team and buy Affelay and Rafael Van Der Part-Time-Player.

    Most of all I remember that Van Persie was for a very long time, one of the flashy-but-little-end-product young players that Henry tolerated for many years and spent a lot of time helping him.

    All in all the truth is that RVP received a much better overall reception than he deserved. That nonsense with announcing that Arsenal sucked and he was leaving – while still under contract – was simply appaling and lost him all the respect he had earned, as far as I was concerned. I wouldnt go and boo him at the stadium, but to me he was just a nonentity from that point on. I have never seen such gross disloyalty from a player, let alone one who was indulged for the batter part of 8 years.

    Other players were the ones carrying RVP for most of his Arsenal career. Then one good season and oh he was too good for the team – so good that he was even calling a press conference to announce it? F him. I hope he suffocates in his pile of money.

    • For once – I agree. RVP was paid quite handsomely for years to sit on the treatment table and as soon as he had his first injury-free season and a corker of one, he was off.

      Granted, I wished we would have kept him for the last year, but I admit that he made that impossible with his public statement.

      I also think that most fans didn’t mind Henry leaving because of his service over the years while RVP didn’t really provide that other than the last year.

      RVP fully deserves any vitriol that he gets.

  3. A few quick comments.

    1. Henry didn’t really leave in similar circumstances did he? Arsenal had not long renewed his contract and could easily have rejected the offer from Barcelona. The simple fact was that Henry had just had a bad season (by his own high standards) and was deemed to be medically past his best by the club. It was classic Wenger – get rid whilst there’s still some market value – he did it with Gilberto, Vieira and many others. Van Persie had run his contract down to 1 year and then agitated publically to get a move away. They’re not comparable deals in my book. And, although we’re unlikely to know this for sure, it’s pretty much accepted wisdom that Henry a) took a slight pay drop and b) he largely left for personal reasons (i.e. his divorce).

    2. Henry is also treated differently because of the simple fact he moved abroad and not to a club hated by the fans. That’s why Stapleton is hated and Brady given legend status when they both left Arsenal for more money. Fickle, yes, but when was football support ever rational?

    3. “On Sky, Alan Smith kept going on about Walcott’s leg being definitely offside. Err, don’t they just do it on where the torso is Alan? Not sure legs are included in the equation.” Actually the current interpretation of the rule is that it’s offside if any part of the body from which the player can legally play the ball is in an offside position – hence Smudger was spot on. It was a narrow call, much like the one the ref made when Sagna actually played the ball first.

  4. There is no comparison between rvp and Theiry Henry. The former isn’t fit to tie his boot laces. World Cup winner, Euro Cup winner,Champions league winner, not to mention multiple premier league and FA Cup winner. Add to that Henry’s skill and pure footballing ability. Comparing rvp and Henry is like comparing a silk purse with a sows ear. No it will take a lot more than that little corner boy in Manchester can conjure up even at his best to be mentioned in the same breath as the great TH .Legend .

    • I was certainly not saying they were comparable as players Noel. Thierry was an absolute joy to watch for about 7 or 8 solid years at Arsenal – even opposition supporters mostly appreciated him.

  5. What do you mean Football is not SERIOUS??? Why don’t you (author of this article) go & join Man United, if you think ‘us fans’ spending our hard earned money to watch Arsenal & buy their merchandise is not a serious, we’re not the rich f*cks up in the boardroom & in the cloak rooms with piles of money to throw away!!!

    Many a Arsenal fan work hard to earn their money & I think the spineless son-of-a-beech Van Persie deserves the worst reception any ex player can get coming to the Emirates. I’m a tolerant fan but I take exception to the notion that we as fans must accept cowardliness & be cordial about traitor’s, especially from a player that was injured more of the time than not.

    I’m not a vindictive person but Van Persie should not expect any sympathy, empathy or any good luck wish from me – & I imagine many other die hard AFC supporters to – if, heaven forbid, bad luck befalls him.

    When any hard working fan (or fool in your eyes) decides to support their club, they do it with every bit of valor & dignity, we – the fans – chose to face the insults & humiliating banter thrown at the club we love, while every player on our books has the luxury of using the excuse “I have to earn a living thats why I’m still at this club”.

    Just to be CLEAR!! Which of the following does not become Van Persie:
    Definition of a traitor:
    “One who violates his allegiance and betrays his country/club; one guilty of treason; one who, in breach of trust, delivers his country/club to an enemy, or yields up any fort or place intrusted to his defense, or surrenders an army or body of troops to the enemy, unless when vanquished; also, one who takes arms and levies war against his country/club; or one who aids an enemy in conquering his country/club.”

    Also, leaving Arsenal is not the traitorous act, but leaving to join the enemy/competition is traitorous. If you had one bit of love for AFC you would have at least joined a club outside England!!!

      • Uhm Phil, you’ve lost the plot….

        Next time, do your smug-self a favor & read up what “VINDICTIVE” means.. & then come back to this post & show me where I sought revenge in my post???

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