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If Anyone Can, Van Can

Good afternoon, morning, evening depending on your geographical/ topographical situ. This has been my first article for a little while. The little matter of a holiday in Spain, as well as boring career issues have prevented me from etching my thoughts for a while. Yeah, and a good old fashioned case of writer's block to boot. As I have mentioned in the past, the whole issue of transfer speculation does not exactly get my mojo going. In fact, I would venture that the sight of Boris Johnson in a sumo thong would do more to get my juices flowing (no, I haven't been drinking).

But with the primary summer gossip amongst Gooners focusing on what we need, I prefer to think about what we already have. This also provides stark contrast to those outside of the club who appear hellbent on reminding us what we have lost. It is interesting that the departure of Henry has sparked such delight amongst the anti-Gooners, over the last few weeks I have been teased several times about his departure. I find this interesting because those looking in from the outside appear to regard his sale with more significance than we Gooners. Those of us who watch Arsenal more regularly realise that Henry's stock in the side had fallen over the last two years, that his enthusiasm had evaporated. Even Mourinho and Ferguson have questioned the significance of the sale. Of course, when a Spud or Whammer or Scouser or some other such biological construct is faced with this logic, we are dismissed as sour. (Even when I provide the naysayers with articles I had written on the subject some months before his departure). So it was with some interest that I read Don Howe's comments on the transfer in the Arsenal magazine last night (though this is not a plug, if anyone from the magazine is reading, and there are any jobs going, consider this aside very much a literary wink in your direction). The journalist immediately mentioned that Don broke out into a big smile, he was quite candid in his assessment that Henry's body language suggested a move was the right thing for all parties, and that, essentially, certain players were now being entrusted with extra responsibility. Giving young players something to prove is often the best way to accelerate their development, for instance, Cesc Fabregas's growth in stature since he stepped into Vieira's sizeable boots. Howe went on to say that Henry's departure essentially lifted a shadow from the team, the tallest tree in the forest has been chopped down, presenting the other trees with the chance to compete for the sunlight.

A name Howe mentioned again and again was that of Robin van Persie, and that brings me onto the point of this article. van Persie is a special, special talent. Anyone with a functioning set of peepers can see that his touch and technique are utterly flawless. The Dutch striker's development has been cruelly curtailed by unfortunate injuries at crucial times. His last two campaigns have been prematurely ended by injury just as he appeared to be ingratiating himself as a real star in the team. Despite missing around 40% of last season, he still finished as top scorer (though that also serves as something of an indictment on our shot shy midfield). Had he stayed fit, Robin may well have been in with a decent shout for the golden boot.If a rich vein of form in the winter of 2005 gave us a glimpse of van Persie's potential, then his form last season saw at least some of that potential realised. van Persie became a trump card for Arsenal, a match winner. He is a player possessed of a rare quality to win a match in a moment of brilliance. One can point to his two goal showing at the Valley last year, the second of his goals quite literally taking the breath away. But we all knew that he was capable of doing that, it was around Christmas last year that I think he really arrived.

Allow me to elaborate. The post Christmas cracker at home to Blackburn has to be one of van Persie's worse performances in an Arsenal shirt. He looked languid, fatigued and unable to trap sand on a beach. With four minutes remaining, he twisted Andy Todd inside out and won the game with a superb individual goal. Three days later, we journeyed to Vicarage Road and he was worse still. Looking apathetic, lazy and argumentative, castigating Baptista for taking a shot in a promising position. With five minutes remaining, he twisted Danny Shittu inside out and won us the game. Special players do that, in their worst, most frustrating games, they can win it for you in an instant. Cantona did it with alacrity, Henry was dreadful in the San Siro and invisible in the Bernebeu. But we don't really remember that do we? van Persie's performance at the Valley was nothing special either. His goals were.

In fact, that game at the Valley showed another side of van Persie that we are all familiar with. Minutes after his equaliser, he aimed a senseless kick at Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink which should have seen him red carded. van Persie is a player with a little of the devil in him, he also knows how to con an official. The dive against Hamburg, the sneaky handball leading up to a penalty award against Tottenham (doesn't your heart just bleed?) Often this is a hallmark of a special player (unfortunate as it may be), Rooney, Maradona, even our beloved Dennis Bergkamp had it in them. Alan Shearer is probably the filthiest footballer I have ever seen. Do not get me wrong, in an ideal world, van Persie would have an unblemished sense of fair play. But my point is, special players often play on the edge. van Persie fits this category.

As much as I adore van Persie as a footballer, I have often questioned his attitude and temperament. I feel he is still a player with a hell of a lot more to show us, injury appears to have robbed him of any kind of constistency. I think the departure of Henry will aid and abett his blossoming into a true star. I am not entirely convinced van Persie and Henry really ever hit it off as a partnership, they both liked to occupy the same spaces on the pitch and were a little too similar for my liking. I felt both players were better foiled by Emmanuel Adebayor, who creates the speace for these two special players to strut their stuff. I also feel that in terms of profile, van Persie was always going to be in Henry's shadow. Robin, like Thierry, has a sizeable on pitch ego, he is very sure of himself on a football pitch. Just as my earlier examples Rooney and Cantona are/ were. Having a player of this disposition on a football pitch is no bad thing, having that one trump card, the star turn if you will. However, having two is often just troublesome. For instance, when celebrating his stunner at the Valley, Henry correctly reminded van Persie not to celebrate too exubrently as he had already been booked. The fiery Dutchman responded with a strong expletive. With Henry now in Catalonia, van Persie emerges from the shadow as the ace up our sleeve, the lace in our nightgown.

I think van Persie's arrogance will see him undertake this mantle quite comfortably. In fact, I think it will benefit him tremendously, he is something of a show off on the pitch, having the heat of the spotlight focussed clearly on him will compliment his attention hungry feet. He has that star quality, our own boss likens him as a hybrid of Bergkamp and Henry. I used an analogy on the forum the other day that I will regurgitate here. If he were in a band, you've the impression he would immediately appoint himself lead singer, he has that Mick Jagger/ Ian Brown/ Liam Gallagher (delete as age deems appropriate) swagger about him, a presence that cannot be pinned down by futile words. It's just there. Often giving a player with temperament issues greater responsibility is the best thing you can do for them. Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Eric Cantona all fought the law, but grew into the extra responsibility bestowed upon them with applomb. I am positive that this will be the case with van Persie now, all eyes are on him, it's sink or swim. I don't think this guy will have any problems staying afloat. LD.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday July 26 2007

Time: 1:55PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Really good read LD. How long before you have RvPs name back on your shirt then? I think you have it right about him. He needs to be the star and if he is on form and producing the goods he can be the spark that ignites the others. In theory Henry from the left and RvP from the right should have been a dream pairing but this was never going to be a partnership of equals - I suspect neither would have been able to accept it.
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26/07/2007 14:09:00

LD what a well written piece of work; in depth and concise. I can do no more than bow in the presence of a master. I agree whole heartily with your comments, but wonder if perhaps we should have purchased Babel. I would appreciate your opinion.
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26/07/2007 14:12:00

you gotta love that Ian Brown swagger, thanks LD, great read
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26/07/2007 14:15:00

For football fans everywhere - funny stuff - keep sound on -
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26/07/2007 14:29:00

Babel is a player I've seen a fair bit of and I think he's an Arsenal type, young, with something to prove, got a bit of flair. But right now, I'd like someone a bit more experienced, personally, I think Pedersen fits the bill. Amos, I gave up buying shirts a while ago (only relenting to buy the redcurrant one because I realised I'd never had Bergkamp's name on a shirt before). The club get quite enough of my moeny and I'm not comfortable being a human sandwich board for fly emirates!
Little Dutch
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26/07/2007 14:32:00

I think Van's attitude is more about his football than Henry's was... one of the problems with Henry getting on with other ego's seemed to be not only the fact he was a better player but he had that cool as **** look about him that made the others look a bit like fools in this skysports/ playercam world we live in. Can't wait to see him this year, just hope he doesn't get injured. Having said that Dudu and Bendtner are my two hot tips to surprise a few people this year so I think we're covered.
kenny lunt
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26/07/2007 15:02:00

Great read LD, echoing many of our expectations. The the stage is set and I just hope you are right - that by giving our temperamental RVP this greater responsibility, he will step up to it. There are some similarities between where ManU were last season with Ronaldo, and where we are with RVP now: a season of some (but not altogether fulfilled) promise under the belt; a main striker departing; pressure (the World Cup debacle); gathering naysayers rubbishing title claims etc... Let's just hope then that RVP does a 'Ronaldo'. I would add this: our squad today needs more experience and more 'Winners' - there is a bit of a void there... RVP is the only person in the team currently who can fill it. If he does, we are in with a shout, failing that, expect a battle for 4th. I fully expect our season to be a mirror image of whatever RVP does next. If ever there was a moment for a man to step forward it's now.
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26/07/2007 15:08:00

That is absolutely hilarious Gilzean!! Babel would have been good but Robin is going to bang the goals in this season. If Rosicky can stay fit, then I can see us doing well as he, Robin and Edu seemed to be atuned to each others strengths in the friendly against Salzburg (that is until Tomas went off injured).
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26/07/2007 15:11:00

Thats why holidays are goos. Fresh from rest LD came back with a bang and scored a masterpiece of an article. Superb and how else can you express it. Good piece
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26/07/2007 15:24:00

Very well done mate. Superb piece. *bows*
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26/07/2007 16:20:00

Nice 1 Ld long time since i read one of ure articles very true cant wait 2 c him next season
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26/07/2007 16:40:00

if RVP can stay fit for the entire season, then he will win the golden boot by a country mile. he's got everything to be the best striker in the world. my only question mark against him is his fitness. he has been here for three years, and never has he had a injury free season. with the exception of last season, Henry gave us seven full seasons with any real injuries. if RVP, wants to reach at his status, he needs to sort out all his physical problems and take care of his body just how Henry and Bergkamp did for all these years..
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26/07/2007 17:27:00

and LD instead of Pederson, i still feel we should go for Anelka. ok we all know how he left the club, but if he is ready to sort himself out, then he is exactly what we need. he can play upfront and even on the wings. and after Henry's departure, we lack a bit of pace in our attack, and Anelka is the only one who comes close to Henry's pace and finishing ability. i've been saying it all summer, that we should get him, hope Le Boss is listening now and brings him back..
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26/07/2007 17:30:00

Luckys_10 what would his wage bill be and how much would he cost considering he is now 28 I just don't think we can spend that type of money on him. I would like to know what is going to happen to Reyes, he still belongs to us and if and a mighty if he did play for us he would fit straight in. What would the cost of Pederson be?
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26/07/2007 17:52:00

Sorry missed out Anelka costs. getting tired.
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26/07/2007 17:53:00

Great article, lets hope he can stay injury-free. I agree with Andy-bayor that we still need some 'proven' players. I have no doubt that this team will become a top challenger for honours at some stage. I just think if we could be bold and go out and add 2 world-class proven winners to the talent we already have, then we might accelerate how quickly we win trophies.
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26/07/2007 18:00:00

Nice piece LD. luckys, I saw today that WH is allegedly lining up a 12mil bid for Anelka, and SAF is also considering him if the Tevez deal falls flat...not sure how rumourtastic those reports are though.
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26/07/2007 18:13:00

Welcome back LD, with an excellent piece. I think a lot of people feel the way you do abt RVP (which has been expressed on this forum as well), but you do put it down well. His mental aspect to his game is a strength, and there is no doubt about his talent, but his fitness/physical is the only concern for me. He HAS to go through this season fully fit, and I see no reason why he cannot score 20 goals.
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26/07/2007 18:57:00

alwaysgunner, Anelka is yet to reach his peak, and his best is yet to come. and we need to add some experience to the squad, and it won't come cheap. and then again, we have offloaded Freddie and Titi, so the wage bill has come down considerably. and SUX2BU, i hope he rejects West Ham and United get Tevez, and is there anyway that i can get this message across to Arsene, "please sign Anelka"..
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26/07/2007 19:14:00

As I've said many times, I'd take Anelka in a second. But right now, a winger has to be the priority. Anelka and Pedersen would make our squad look irresistible. I think we've got rid of most of the deadwood, there's not a player left in the squad I would want to get rid of. But we are too thin in terms of numbers.
Little Dutch
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26/07/2007 20:32:00

van persie is the man!! he remind me of rivaldo in some ways..
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26/07/2007 20:35:00

That was gr8 to read thnx very mch!!! I am looking foward to coming down and seeing him on sat and sun!
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26/07/2007 21:21:00

Rvp is the best player in the world!!!! He will score 20+!!!
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26/07/2007 22:52:00

Anyone know any thing about this 20yr old Angel Di Maria that you've been linked with?
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27/07/2007 03:18:00

great article paul
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27/07/2007 04:35:00

they say wenger is really interested in bringign the bloke maria to arsenal.. i saw him at the under-20 world cup.. would be a nice buy.. the potential is there.. but dunno how true the rumours are.. abt rvp.. 20+ is not an unrealistic target.. taking into consideraton his talent.. his touch and close control are probably the best in the epl right now..
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27/07/2007 04:59:00

Sorry can not agree on Anelka. for the amount of money it would cost and the time he would have lelft with us I can not see us getting any returns on him; true we did make a killing when we sold him but that was then, now 28, 29 by the end of this season and we all know what happens when you reach 30. Would he hang around on a 1 year contract? Angel Di Maria see3ms to be in the frame, talk was he needs to decide what to do before the start of their season which is in two weeks time.
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27/07/2007 05:35:00

I've not seen this di Maria guy, but the fact that he's 19 makes me a little wary. I really think this squad needs more experience and that we should be looking at a similar age group to Sagna and Eduardo.
Little Dutch
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27/07/2007 06:20:00

Wasnt the di Maria link a hoax (like the Palacio link)? I read something on arsenal shorts to that effect.
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27/07/2007 07:30:00

Ah! prits, little Dutch thinks you need more experience. From my perspective I hope you don't get any more experienced quality players. Which means I'm either going to watch the Gooners trailing behind us, or I'm going to be very sheepish and get a good bit of slagging
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27/07/2007 08:11:00

prits you maybe right but that was reported 8 hours ago on this site. Would be obliged if you could check it out.
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27/07/2007 09:06:00

alwaysgunner, you will understand after Palacio and Di Maria, why I am sceptical of any further links in the media. It will be great if we could get him, but I would wait before we start considering him in our plans.
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27/07/2007 11:18:00

Topspur, I dont think it would make that much of a difference, to be honest. By 'that much', I mean not signing an experienced player will certainly not determine whether spurs finish above us or not :). It might make a difference in a few matches, no doubt about that, especially in the knock-out tournaments. But I'm satisfied with who we have in terms of experience. Like I said, it would have been better to hang onto Freddie/Henry, but signing someone experienced now may not make an immediate impact.
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27/07/2007 11:21:00

I will keep in touch prits to see if your optimism is founded or not
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27/07/2007 11:40:00

Just read Angel Di Maria is on his way to Benfica
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27/07/2007 11:43:00

Topspur1, where did you get your read from most of the media are reporting a move our way(and as prits says wait till we hear from a reliable source). But it would just like our boss to pull something like that off, lose Babel and gain Di Maria.
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27/07/2007 14:06:00

Found it yes it appears he is going to Benfica; bugger.
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27/07/2007 14:40:00

Good piece and we will see how it goes
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05/08/2007 09:26:00


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