Yesterday brought us the (mildly) surprising news that Robin van Persie won't extend his contract at Arsenal. The tone of the statement was a little strong and difficult to take for most Arsenal fans, which is not surprising; he is after all their captain and easily their best player sans Jack Wilshere.
What implications does his statement have for Arsenal, for van Persie and for clubs such as City who should and will be very interested in signing him?
After the jump we'll look at all the angles and answer the question: Is Robin van Persie a worthy target for Manchester City?
Who Is Robin Van Persie?
He is the 28 year old captain of Arsenal and turns 29 years old on the 6th of August.
Left footed superstar who was only one goal short of Alan Shearer's calender year record for goals in the EPL.
194 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 96 goals.
According to the always accurate Wikipedia van Persie is listed 6' 2'' (1.88m). I'm not so sure how accurate the 1.88m stat is, for context Andy Carroll is listed as 1.91m.
Scored 30 goals with nine assists in 37 starts in 2011/12. All three numbers are career high for RVP. His 2011/12 season was one of the best in memory for a striker in the EPL.
What He Said Yesterday
From van Persie's official site a couple of lines stand out:
Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all.
I don't want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.
I've thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract.
We have heard this tale before. So let's play it again. This is similar to the Samir Nasri situation of last summer, a player into the final year of his contract who publicly states his desire not to re-up.
Arsenal fans will state Nasri's decision was just about money, yet all footballers are interesting in getting paid, sometimes for personal greed, sometimes it's an ego driven decision about who is the most valuable, best paid player in the room. Nasri can hold up his EPL medal and say it was a decision based on ambition and trophies (and shed loads of money).
So does there exist any comparable's with van Persie's statement and players' reasons for leaving in years gone by?
Well, we remember Wayne Rooney questioning a clubs ambition, he quickly signed a new contract with a £70,000 per week increase.
Fabregas felt the pull of Barcelona and home and engineered his way out. Nasri left in bitter circumstances and I believe Van Persie may well leave with an equally bad taste in the mouth.
Arsenal's options are not varied nor many. Arsenal stated their desire to keep the player for the upcoming season and had this to say on their official site:
"We have to respect Robin's decision not to renew his contract. Robin has one year to run on his current contract and we are confident that he will fulfil his commitments to the Club.
"We are planning with ambition and confidence for next season with Arsenal's best interests in mind."
There are 3 options for the club to take:
* Sell Van Persie to the highest bidder and maximize the transfer fee in order to re-strengthen the squad
* Sign him to a new contract by hook or by crook
* Let him play out the final year of his deal
All 3 options have small issues. Firstly, will van Persie go to the highest bidder? Does he want to stay in the UK or will we see a protracted, damaging move to a Spanish or Italian club. Secondly, will he re-sign with Arsenal and risk the wrath of the fans? Thirdly, I just cannot see aan Persie staying for his final season, the questions and the distraction will be all too much and Wenger can not let an asset walk away without compensation.
An aside as far as I understand it van Persie can activate the Webster ruling and buy himself out of his contract from the 7th of July. He would be required to give 15 days notice and the price van Persie would pay seems to be a years wages and a small compensation fee.
These range from Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, to Man City and Chelsea. Rumours abound of Juventus' interest, The Milan clubs would be very interested too. In short a player of van Persie's caliber doesn't pitch up on the open market that often. Interest would be high. But not every club may be able to afford the package of transfer fee (even if he doesn't activate the Webster clause) and high wages.
van Persie, depending on his ambition and how much richer he wants to make himself, has the pick of Europe's top clubs.
By The Numbers
Van Persie was sensational by any measure we care to look at.
Goals 30 (1st)
Assists 9 (8th, 2nd by a striker)
Scoring % 36.5 (10th)
Shots on Target 82 (1st)
Minutes 3334, 92.3% (1st for strikers)
Goals/90 0.81 (5th)
Mins per goal 111 (5th)
Home/Away goals 17/13
Average time of goal 50.2 mins
Average point value of goal 2.5 points
van Persie scored 53.3 % of his goals whilst the game was tied. He also scored 40.5% of Arsenal's goals in the EPL.
He scored 94.1 % of his goals at the crucial +1/0/-1 game state, ie when the team was leading by 1 goal, drawing or behind by 1 goal. Those last two stats are by far and away league leading highs. RVP scored when the game state mattered, when points were on the line and he had virtually no padding of his goal totals when the game was already won or lost.
Why City will be interested
It's simple, really. He was the league's best striker for me. He scored the most goals, and assisted a decent number of his team-mates goals.. He also proved his durability by playing over 92% of the EPL minutes available to him.
van Persie would be an upgrade for City's forward line and coming into his prime years now at age 28. Only Aguero and Tevez could have genuine claims to be better players than the Dutchman, but still, he would be ahead of Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko in the depth chart.
He is a gamble worth taking, if he did sign it would be off of the back of a sensational, and fully-fit season and would afford Man City to boast the strongest forward line in England if not, arguably, Europe. The fee may be relatively little and the wages affordable for Man City if some of the higher earning reserves/unwanted's can be offloaded.
Has he finally turned the corner in regards to fitness? It looks that way although we shouldn't judge future performance on the back of one strong season, which leads me to....
Why Man City should not be interested
So, why City should stay clear. It's not as easy as it seems to think of reasons when one of the worlds better players may be within the teams grasp, but I'll give it a go.
van Persie scored 30 goals in the EPL last year, yet he played 3332 mins in the EPL, that is a high number of minutes and may have helped in his high goals totals. He was always on the pitch. Rooney scored 27 goals and played nearly five games less. Aguero scored 23 and played nearly eight games less in terms of minutes on the pitch. van Persie was worked to the bone in order to help his club.
Would van Persie get the same number of minutes at City? No way and nowhere near 3332 minutes for the season just gone. If he were not to play as much, the goal totals would naturally decrease (though his game isn't all about goals). Robin would be one of at least three experienced strikers who would be on a rotation at City. If he were to sign don't expect similar numbers, I would say 20 goals would be a target and a an excellent return if it were to be achieved.
The next issue is fitness. The player has only really had two full seasons of fitness in his career at Arsenal. Those seasons were 2010/11 and 2011/12. Coincidentally, these are his two outstanding seasons in terms of his contribution and numbers, if he stays healthy he excels. Were the previous two seasons a trend or anomalies? Who knows but one hopes for his sake that he has overcome the fitness issues.
Would it be wise, also, for City to pay say £50m in wages over a five year span to a player who will be 29 years old come the first day of the new EPL season, will it be wise to pay a player £200k a week when he may be be 34 years old in the last year of his contract? We know players performance deteriorates the older he gets.
In my opinion Robin van Persie is one of the best strikers currently playing in Europe. He scores important goals for his team and scores them often. He would be a welcome addition for most teams in Europe and he would improve any team he signs for. But, there are red flags around a potential signing of this player.