On 15th August 2012, a silence fell around the Emirates as Arsenal announced they had sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United.
The PFA and PWA Player of the Year who had singled-handedly salvaged the season for the Gunners had made a dash for the exit and, even more cruelly, had arrived at one of their most despised Premier League rivals.
How could he? How could they? Arsenal fans were, despite their bravado, understandably devastated at the loss of another captain and another star player – their best player. The player that ‘scores when he wants’.
Denial turned to anger, anger to bargaining, bargaining to depression, and, finally, acceptance that, yes, he was going to pull on that shirt and, of course he was going to score – again and again and again. For them.
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had a cunning plan – he understood the impossibility of the task of replacing a player of that class, quality, and experience – there is no other player like him and very few who can score 37 goals in a season.
But, hold the phones, “Eureka!” the Economics Professor exclaimed, perhaps two players could score 18.5 goals each in a season?
Wenger brought in Lukas Podolski – a cultured, experienced German international proven on the world stage – and Olivier Giroud – a hard-working, modest player that had powered his way into becoming French top scorer through his industry and endeavour.
Neither of them possesses the technical quality of the departed Dutchman – they don’t even come close but combined they have, co-incidentally matched, his goal-tally in all competitions so far this season. Van Persie has scored 15 goals for United, as have the Arsenal duo.
How do you solve a problem like van Persie? Arsene Wenger’s response was to replace the goals, not the player. It remains to be seen whether Giroud and Podolski can keep the pace with the United striker but I wouldn’t bet against them.
Arsenal may have lost van Persie, but they appear to have adequately replaced him with ‘Girolski’ who cost them, funny enough, around £24 million.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald