Arsenal must add to sparkle of Van Persie
ARSENAL'S majestic collective response to imminent ignominy in the north London derby has rightly been extensively acclaimed.
So have the improved contributions of individuals such as Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky. Yet such players have been figures of frustration to Arsenal fans this season, rarely delivering frequently.
Unlike Robin van Persie. He is the serial saviour of Arsenal's fortunes, the man whose future must be tied fast to the club if the clouds are to lift fully over the Emirates.
Rarely can the club have invested £2.75m so wisely. Rarely has a player been so fundamentally important to the prosperity of Arsenal.
Even the magnificent Thierry Henry flourished most in an age of Invincible talent. Even Ian Wright enjoyed the service of a Dennis Bergkamp or Alan Smith. Liam Brady's glorious creativity arguably lacked a supporting cast of equal calibre.
Van Persie stands alone in terms of stellar quality stitched into those red shirts. Walcott perked up and shone in the 5-2 disembowelling of Spurs, and the way Van Persie spoke so tenderly of the 22-year-old highlighted the captain's respect. Rosicky demonstrated a more sustained appliance of his deft technique. At last.
The headlines spoke of others' feats but Van Persie's equaliser at 2-2 was key. He made the pivotal moment of the match, using his refined touch and sharp awareness to create the chance. That sublime left foot did the rest.
Van Persie remains head and shoulders above the dressing-room throng. For all the understandable euphoria swirling around the Emirates by the final whistle, the reality remains that Arsenal are heavily, almost dangerously, reliant on their captain.
A footballer who wins many matches, Van Persie certainly wins the numbers game. The stats do justice to a sumptuous talent. He has found the mark 29 times in 35 games this season (33 in 39 including Holland). Some are works of art. Many are priceless because of their significance.
Arsenal's No 10 has scored the goals that beat Bolton (home), Sunderland (home), Stoke (home), Chelsea (away, a hat-trick), Norwich (away), Borussia Dortmund (home), Everton (home), QPR (home) and Aston Villa (home).
Time after time, Van Persie decides the destiny of games.
This month alone, Van Persie has scored four and provided three assists in the League. He is a goal machine, a points machine and one shudders to think where the aristocrats of Arsenal would be in the league without him. Among the middle-classes.
Further inspection of the scoring charts collated on the Premier League website reveal the versatility of Van Persie. Of those goals, 16 have come with his left foot but an impressive 12 with his supposedly inferior right (plus one header).
Arsenal proudly released another strong set of financial figures yesterday, confirming how sensibly the club is run. Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke should be applauded for suffusing the Emirates with the spirit of Mr Micawber, particularly in an era when countries are going bust, let alone clubs. But Van Persie, whose contract expires in 2013, must be kept at all costs.
When the Dutchman and his advisers sit down with Wenger, Gazidis and (if he's smart) Kroenke in the summer, their meeting could be the most significant ever held at the club.
Van Persie owes Arsenal nothing. Nothing. He's on £80,000 a week, a princely sum in the estimation of the sane yet modest in the insane temple to Mammon that is modern football. He could click his fingers, and Barcelona or particularly Real Madrid would come running.
Why should Van Persie be associated with a prolonged struggle in the shadow of other clubs? He deserves to be basking in the limelight, relishing that feeling of a winner's medal placed around his neck.
When speculation intensifies before Van Persie's contract summit with Arsenal, when supposed offers of £150,000 a week are splashed across headlines, a debate will ensue about his motives. Of course, he's greedy.
He's a footballer, a professional. Yet anyone with any awareness of Van Persie's personality knows that he's not driven solely by pounds or euro.
The currency that glitters most for him is silverware. He wants trophies, glory, the chance to be remembered as fondly as compatriots like Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten or Bergkamp. And he wants the club he loves to reach for the stars.
If Wenger, Gazidis and Kroenke indicate that heavyweight reinforcements will arrive this summer, Arsenal have a chance of starting next season with Van Persie. The alternative is a return to the edge of the abyss. (© Daily Telegraph, London)