Will Arsenal History Repeat Itself?
Will the 2012 summer transfer window close as disastrously as it did last year for Arsenal fans?
That is the question many are asking as the protracted saga of Robin van Persie lingers longer than an unloved soap.
Van Persie’s non-move has been written about more than any other saga this summer but there are a couple of other subscripts bubbling under the surface that will worry Arsenal fans.
Defensive midfielder Alex Song was widely derided when he broke into the first-team squad but last season was one of the more accomplished performers, providing a number of crucial assists for van Persie. Now he is being linked with Barcelona.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without an Arsenal player linked to the Catalans. We’ve seen Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry, Alexander Hleb and of course Cesc Fabregas make the journey to the south coast of Spain with varying degrees of success.
The difference between van Persie and Song is stark.
The Dutchman is looking back on a phenomenal season in the English Premier League. But he is in the last season of his contract, is 29 years old and has had a career marked by long spells in the treatment room. There is a logic to selling him to the highest bidder possible on the back of one prolific season.
Song on the other hand is much younger, has more room to develop and is under contract through 2015. There is no pressure to sell from a management point of view.
Manager Arsene Wenger is reportedly unhappy that yet another of the players he signed young and developed into a real talent is apparently being touted around Europe’s top clubs. But what does he expect? He has been quick to bring young foreign talent to North London in the past and sell for a vast profit. Does he really expect the best players in the country to attract no interest at all?
One other player being linked with a move away is winger Theo Walcott. He has been infuriatingly inconsistent since making the expensive move from Southampton as a 16-year-old and, despite being a regular starter when fit, he continues to frustrate teammates and fans with poor delivery — so important for a striker — and poor finishes.
Walcott sees himself as playing down the middle and Wenger has said at various times in the past that he too sees him in that position. But it hasn’t happened yet and, with the signing of Olivier Giroud, the feeling has to be that the manager still doesn’t see Walcott as a first-choice striker. Which leaves people wondering if not now, after six years at Arsenal, then when?
With Gervinho and Lukas Podolski both able to play wide, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — a Walcott with a six-pack — also adept at playing wide, has Wenger’s patience with the one-time prodigy finally worn thin?
Walcott is, like van Persie, entering the final year of his contract and has yet to sign a new one. There has been reported interested from Liverpool but the club is no longer the giant of the English game.
For Wenger, the transfer window opened early with the signings of Podolski and Giroud. The recent addition of Spanish midfield Santi Cazorla has further raised hopes in the red half of North London. With those three additions, plus van Persie, Song and Walcott, fans can honestly say that they have a squad that can really push for honors.
By allowing these three sagas to drag on so long, Wenger risks having a repeat of last season when Fabregas and Samir Nasri were allowed to leave almost at the last minute, leaving the French manager to go on a mad supermarket-dash looking for replacements.
Arsenal fans hope history does not repeat itself.