So, that funny sound that all the Arsenal fans are making right now? That sort of weird, high-pitched, strangled sound that’s a cross between exultation, relief, betrayal, and anguish? It can only mean one thing — the one thing that’s been in play for six weeks now, ever since Robin van Persie took to his website on Independence Day (well, America’s, but his apparently as well) to announce that he was leaving. Arsenal’s striker and captain became Arsenal’s want-away striker and captain. And today, he’s finally gotten his wish, is singing “Time For Me To Fly” in the manner of REO Speedwagon, and will be donning the checkered tablecloth jersey of the Red Devils in the coming season.
So, what are Arsenal fans doing, other then circling April 27, 2013 on the calendar — the date that ManU comes to the Emirates and everyone gets to boo RVP in-person? In my circle, most are doing several things in succession:
1. Saying they knew it was coming — which is pretty obvious for anyone who’s been following the transfer saga, and looking at the moves that were being made.
2. Going into Irrational Exuberance Land/The Justification Zone, and reasoning that Arsenal with Giroud, Podolski, and Cazorla is greater than Arsenal with RVP. I’m in this camp — van Persie’s late-season swoon combined with his craptacular Euros had me wondering if he’d perhaps used up all of his goal-scoring mojo in the first three quarters of last year’s campaign. I’m going to pretend that Ligue 1 is a reasonable testing ground, that Podolski’s going to flourish away from a Bundesliga bottom-feeder like Koln, and that Cazorla’s limited minutes in Spain’s Euro 2012 campaign isn’t a suggestion that he’s not world class.
3. Some variation of “and the horse you rode in,” “good riddance,” “wait ’till you’re back on the training table and we’re winning trophies,” or a simple “suck it” directed toward RVP. The July 4 breakup note allowed Gooners to go through denial and bargaining — Gooners are now either in full-on anger or (see point 2) moving rapidly toward acceptance.
4. Wondering, okay, NOW what do I do with this van Persie jersey? (I sold mine on eBay last week. I figured I was acting preemptively on an inevitable August move. Somehow, I sensed this wouldn’t drag on until January.) And wondering, aloud, okay, assuming Verminator gets the captain’s armband, who gets to wear #10?
For Arsenal fans, it’s not thrilling, but as soon as RVP said that he had a different vision of the club’s direction than the club had, the cliched line in the sand had been drawn. That statement really means one of two things — they won’t get me the help I need, or they won’t pay me. When Arsenal responded to the public call-out by landing last year’s top French scorer, the German national team’s #10, and an up-and-coming creative midfielder from Spain, it seemed to be Arsenal’s brass saying to RVP, “Okay, either you believe that we’re committed to winning, or you leave and we can spin this into being all about the money for you.”
There are still questions for this Arsenal team, to be sure. Is Song going to Barca? Is Szczesny as bad as his stint as Polish goalie in the Euros suggested? Is the defense going to get burned multiple times once again? Does Arteta’s hair move? Is there D-mid help on the way?
And yet, there’s reportedly an enthusiasm among the squad (if Arseblog is to be believed, and it’s apparently Cazorla-related), without the pressure facing the other top teams. Man City has a title to defend and seven strikers to make happy. ManU now has to figure out how Rooney and RVP co-exist, plus they lost the title in hilariously heartbreaking fashion. Chelsea are defending Euro champs but couldn’t crack the top five of the EPL on their own. Spurs and Liverpool have new coaches and unsettled transfer situations.
At the very worst, for Arsenal fans, at least now we know what’s happening — it’s not Nasrigate revisited.