What hurt about van Persie’s statements the most wasn’t that he had decided not to renew his contract, but rather the letter itself, the nature of it, the tone of it.
He said a few years ago that he wanted to win trophies, but win them with Arsenal. Winning them anywhere else wouldn’t satisfy him, because they wouldn’t feel like his trophies. He wanted to win with Arsenal, doing things our way.
So what happened? Only van Persie knows. All we know is that he’s as good as gone now, making his position at the club untenable. And that means Arsene Wenger has now lost another one of his captains.
Wenger makes them into stars, they leave, and Wenger is left to pick up the pieces, clean up the mess. His patience, his loyalty, his hard work, his perseverance, his resilience cannot be questioned. So many managers would have walked out to earn more, to win more, at Real Mad or Barca or even Chelsea. But he’s stayed.
Not that he’s stayed reluctantly, out of only loyalty. No, he enjoys it here at Arsenal. It’s his club, built in his image. But the fact that he stays shows that he cares about more than just money or empty ambition.
He wants to achieve something at Arsenal, but in a meaningful way. Win trophies, but do it the right way, do it while preserving our identity. While Chelsea and Man City won by buying all the best players using their unlimited resources, Arsenal would prove that you could win by coaching, producing your own players, while committing to attacking football. His dream was to create a team that grew up together at the club. And having been empowered by these ideals, went on to conquer Europe.
His biggest failing has been that he was not able to instill those values into his players. Unfortunately, the players couldn’t sacrifice a bit for the greater cause. Instead, as they “grew up,” realized that personal achievements were all that mattered to them. RvP would give up all of his Player of the Year trophies for the FA Cup? I find it hard to believe now.
Maybe Arsene Wenger took his idealism too far, but he had the right idea, and he did almost everything right. If only he was backed long enough by his players. If only Henry, Pires, Campbell had stayed. If only Flamini and Hleb had stayed. If only Cesc, and Nasri, and van Persie had stayed. There would be no limit to what they could have achieved under Arsene Wenger.
But his loyalty hasn’t been reciprocated by the players. He patiently works on them, overlooks their faults, gives them a chance at 16 years old, sticks by them through injuries, and then they say the club isn’t ambitious enough and leave (but of course they’ll “always be gunners”).
So the fans now have to make up for that. We have to stand behind our man no matter what. He is not perfect, but he understands what Arsenal is all about, and he has sacrificed personal glory to achieve something bigger, something more meaningful at Arsenal. He has been the only constant, the only one we can trust is a true gunner. The only one we can worship.