A few weeks ago I wrote a blog suggesting a line that I thought the Wenger/RVP contract talks might take. In short I suggested Wenger would ask Robin to extend based on the understanding that he would get him the best deal, strengthen the squad and complete for silverware in 2013. I also proposed that this deal would be on a gentlemen’s understanding that if we failed to win Robin would be sold next summer with no barriers. Some readers agreed but many thought me too positive and idealistic. That is usually my way, but today I intend to present the flip side and play devil’s advocate to some degree.
Decision time Robin
Don’t get me wrong I hope he stays, but I did ask for feedback on twitter and just about the majority are not keen on us letting him run his contract down and keeping him as skipper. Yes some hope if we do this and then win a trophy next season he will re-sign but history suggests that is hugely unlikely. Someone (@andysternAFC ) pointed out how Drogba has performed in the last year of a contract, but there is a significant difference between a 29 year old and a 34 year old, with less sell on value. The majority hope and pray he signs but if he will not accept the improved contract feel as I do that we should cash in and sell, although ONLY to a club outside of England.
Now of course this is all ‘What If’ but the next and obvious question is who would replace him because Podolski, a fine addition was signed to play alongside a main striker or to play as he does for Germany on the left? This is the other area of main feedback I received, mostly of the negative variety suggested that, based on recent experience Wenger would not replace Robin with a player of similar quality, so we would go backwards or at the very least stand still. Others insisted that as van Persie is amongst the best how could Arsenal possibly replace him short of signing Messi or Ronaldo?
It is on the last few points that I am keen to explore a few avenues many of which are for my money, or more crucially Arsenal’s money not as farfetched as you might think. If you won’t hear a word against our skipper or actually believe his is the third best striker in world football and is irreplaceable please don’t read on and leave your head firmly in the lovely sand.
So here are a few facts to begin with. Arsenal are unlikely to pay over £130k a week for a world star as we know that is what we have offered RVP and allegedly have offered Hazard! The Arsenal fans will not accept another summer of uncertainty and for a top star to be replaced with an inferior player, or perceived inferior player. We all believe in our young strikers Afobe, Ryo and particular Joel Campbell, but we would still need to replace one of the games top strikers with another such player. Many feel that for what we are willing to fork out in wages Wenger could not find such a player and would again look to a younger model to mould or a cut price deal. However we did offer a serious amount of money for Gotze last summer and if we are to believe the press would be prepared to do so now for Hazard, so a key change in policy is strongly suggested. So if this is the case and Arsenal are no willing compete on price, if not necessarily on wages and RVP does decline the clubs offer are there players out there at the same level and who make the same if not more impact in the final third than our skipper? Many hearts will say NO but fact and evidence says YES.
Below is a table of the 20 most effective and efficient attacking players in Europe in 2011/12, courtesy of imscouting.com. This looks at both a combination of goal and assists in relations not to the season as a whole, but to actual minutes on the pitch. In short, how many minutes between the player making a telling contribution by either scoring or making a goal. Now stats may not tell the whole story but if you are going to invest in a player to replace RVP you want to be sure you can count on a similar contribution or even better.
|Player||Team||Mins Played||Goals||Assists||Average per min|
|G Higuain||Real Madrid||1709||22||10||53.41|
|C Ronaldo||Real Madrid||3353||46||11||58.82|
|K Benzema||Real Madrid||2252||21||9||75.07|
|K J Huntelaar||Schalke 04||2804||29||8||75.78|
|R van Persie||Arsenal||3244||30||12||77.24|
|F Ribery||Bayern Mun||2385||12||18||79.50|
|S Aguero||Man City||2598||23||9||81.19|
|Mario Gomez||Bayern Mun||2480||26||3||85.52|
|Luuk de Jong||FC Twente||2915||25||9||85.74|
|Al Keita||Metz 11||1555||18||0||86.39|
|W Rooney||Man United||2838||27||5||88.69|
For me not only does this make fascinating reading but it highlights a few surprising facts and some exciting possibilities:
So no surprise that the most effective attacking player in Europe in league football is Lionel Messi, but a surprise that Ronaldo is not 1 or 2, and most of you I guess will be surprised, as I was that Robin van Persie does not even make the top 10. It is gratifying for me and other writers on this site such as @Frimponged, that between us this season we have suggested and written on Dost, Guidetti, Mertens and De Jong as possible for Arsenal. The key here is to understand not the totals but the totals in relation to the timeframe. In essence RVP has had an incredible season, and we all agree on that but he has had so much more time of the pitch than perhaps other players of equal or even greater ability in stronger squads.
Let me expand and focus in on a few players from this table. We all agree that we would not accept the sale of RVP unless we had a guarantee of a player of similar stature to step in. Most of you feel this is impossible but I would argue the clear evidence suggest the contrary. There appear to be several possible who have influence matches on a more regular basis than Robin this past season.
The second most effective and potent striker in Europe according to his goals and assists per minute ratio is Gonzalo Higuain who has been unable to command a regular starting place at real Madrid due to the preferred selection of Ronaldo and Benzema by Mourinho. His scoring ratio is better than a goal every other game both for club, 91 in 162 and for Argentina 13 in 25. He is only 24 and has his best years ahead of him and is most certainly at the same level as our skipper. Add to this is wages would be about at our level I suspect and he was born in France , as his father was playing for Brest and is fluent in the language, which is always a bonus coming to the Emirates traditionally. I am certain the arrival of Higuain would appease most Gooners should RVP decide to leave. The table illustrated that Higuian had either made or scored a goal every 53 minutes in La Liga this past season. Quite incredible! Time may be against us as the player has indicated he wants a move and Juventus and PSG, both of whom we should blow away are linked.
Second most potent threat in Europe
Equally his team mate at Real, Karim Benzema, has been long admired by Wenger and he also has proved more effective in the final third than even our own RVP. Benzema has also out performed our skipper given his lesser minutes on the field of play, scoring or assisting every 75 minutes compared to van Persie’s 77 minutes. It would be fair to say that most Gunners have wanted Arsenal to sign this particular individual for years and the thought of Benzema just off Podolski in a 4411 is mouth watering.
Back into No.10?
Of course none of us, and certainly none of the board at Arsenal would want to sell RVP, if that is the route chosen, to any English team and if as we believe Madrid want him a part exchange for either of these prolific stars should be entirely possible, with the other advantage of excluding Barcelona and anyone else unsavoury from the deal.
Also in the table we have the young Swede Guidetti, who is a Man city player that has ripped up the Eredivisie on loan. We can however exclude him for two reasons. Firstly he is still developing and if we are to trade RVP it must be for a player of equal talent now and secondly we will not do business with Citeh.
Also from Holland we have the tall phenomenon that is Bas Dost. On the move I am sure and perhaps to the EPL but he needs flying wingers and I am not sure it is our game. There is also Huntelaar who does have a buy-out clause, but is happy at Schalke but the one younger player I would consider is Luuk de Jong. Austin Ellinor (@Frimponged) watches this player every week and is convinced his is the heir apparent to RVP both for Holland and perhaps for Arsenal. You can read his piece on de Jong here: http://1nildown2oneup.net/luuk-de-jong-the-second-most-talented-dutch-striker/
Watch for Luuk of the bench at Euros and feel the force!
So there we have it. Do I want Robin van Persie, our leader, our talisman and and player we have developed so well to leave us? No I do not and I sincerely hope he signs the new deal the club have offered. However if he chooses not to extend his stay do I wish him to play out the last year and leave on a free? My answer to that is also NO. Is this a disaster? No it is not if we are prepared to more swiftly and do business. I do not know for certain that Real Madrid are a club that are interested in RVP nor do I know if he is interested in them. If I were a betting man however I would not hesitate in placing money on both being the case. You know where I am going and by now you will have formed an opinion, but for this observer if he does not sign and a cash neutral or even slightly in our favour deal that bought one of Benzema of Higuain would for my money (betting again!) improve us. Both are 5 years younger than our skipper and both would command significant sell on value down the road.
My point at the end of all this is, that there are strikers out there better or as good as Robin and others such as Luuk de Jong who look as if there could be in very short order, so keep your chins up guys. Now that we have demonstrated that potentially we ARE prepared to pay the big transfer for established stars whichever way it goes this summer we are in a strong bargaining position and if push come to shuff would you swap one of the world’s top strikers of 29 for another of the world’s best who was 24? I think we all would but maybe I am wrong as I often am!
ps For those wondering Olivier Giroud is outside the top 20 and has influenced Montpelier games with a goal/assist every 97 mins (Shabby!)
Until next time thanks for reading
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