Hard to blame Van Persie as Arsenal search for winning formula
The last time Arsenal visited Manchester to face a former striker it ended in bitter, bitter acrimony.
Gunners fans must grind their teeth to bloody stubs at the very thought of Emmanuel Adebayor scoring for Manchester City before turning and running the length of the pitch to rub their noses in it.
Adebayor has no problem with being a hate figure, he probably quite enjoys it, but don’t expect any such behaviour from Robin van Persie when he proves a pivotal figure at Old Trafford today. And make no mistake, his contribution will prove pivotal.
Whether it be a goal, an assist or even a miss, it just has that air of inevitability about it. Just as certain is that the visiting fans will ignore a plea for clemency from Arsene Wenger and shower the Dutchman with vitriol for his summer defection.
Fans don’t jeer bad players, and van Persie’s outstanding form this season has only served to compound Arsenal’s loss.
Keeping him at the club was a stated top priority last term yet it is a stark reality for the Gunners that with both Manchester clubs and Juventus casting covetous glances, it was an ambition they were never going to fulfill.
Van Persie wants to win trophies. Arsenal haven’t won anything since 2005.
As thrilling as their 7-5 League Cup win at Reading was this week, you can’t help but feel that the inevitable talk of it showing character or galvanizing the team is simply papering over cracks. Yes, scoring seven goals away from home is an amazing feat. So is conceding five to Reading.
If Arsenal find themselves 4-0 down inside half an hour today, there will be no coming back.
There is no doubt that Wenger’s side is vastly-improved from the one that was so ruthlessly mauled in an 8-2 defeat in this fixture last season.
Santi Cazorla is a magician and his arrival is not just good for Arsenal but for the Premier League as a whole. The same can be said for the returning Jack Wilshere. Those two, along with the remarkably consistent Mikel Arteta combine to form a midfield to envy.
Either side of the engine room, however, there are still big question marks. The forward line looks shorn of bite without van Persie, while a miserly start to the season defensively seems to have evaporated of late.
Thomas Vermaelen may be proven, Per Mertesacker has found his feet, but you can be sure the calamitous figure of Andre Santos will have been highlighted as a weak link in United’s video analysis sessions this week.
Some will look at today’s game as a barometer for van Persie’s move and, despite their flaws, Arsenal’s chances cannot be dismissed entirely. But even if they do get something, van Persie won’t suddenly feel he has made a mistake.
He had the option of playing alongside Wayne Rooney every week or playing alongside Olivier Giroud.
The last time Arsenal won silverware was also the last time they finished above United – seven years ago. Since then they have finished an average of 14 points behind them each season. Last season it was 19.
Their recent AGM turned descended into angry scenes, while fans sung ‘sack the board’ in the first half at the Madejski on Tuesday.
It’s hard to blame van Persie. Arsenal, as they have been for seven years now, remain a work in progress.