Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester City All Want Van Persie

Euro 2012 arch-rival Real Madrid wants Robin Van Persie. Look at my face: I am not happy right now. The prospect of Real Madrid acquiring Arsene Wenger and Robin van Persie would be a major coup for that club, to be sure, but I’m left to wonder whether or not Van Persie would view that as an ideal situation.

Rather than just writing one opinion piece, I typically try to gather as much information from around the World Wide Web and condense it with my own commentary added. This week we’ve got Real Madrid pursuing Van Persie, Mourinho gunning for Arsene’s job, Kieran Gibbs returns from a long layoff to strengthen the defense, and a hobbled Jack Wilshere all torn up about England’s national team losing its coach just months before the Euro 2012. Hold on to your hats, folks, because I’m going to be throwing some hot stuff in your direction, some of it hot off the presses and some hasn’t even hit the presses just yet.

I can’t prove it, but I was probably one of the first sports journalists to break the story that Real Madrid was making a bid for Arsene Wenger. I provided evidence that many Arsenal supporters would be eager to see Arsene depart, his tail between his legs, and I pointed out with some degree of irony that even the President of Rwanda was expressing his sincere belief that it was time for Arsene to be replaced. I expressed my personal belief that Arsene should stay, that with his long history he should be given the benefit of the doubt. Suddenly, talk of a deal between Real Madrid and Arsene just sort of evaporated, and I assumed negotiations were, at a bare minimum, on the backburner.

Now, it turns out that Real Madrid is pursuing our hero Robin Van Persie, my favorite player on the Arsenal and in all of the Barclay’s Premiere League. I’ve done nothing but speak highly of Van Persie, and to the best of my knowledge, I have consistently referred to him as my “Player of the Week”–even when he failed to score a goal. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best thing on Arsenal right now, and his departure would be a serious blow to the team’s dynamic. Nothing is set in stone or anything, but a Spanish newspaper is reporting that Real Madrid wants him pretty badly, and Van Persie is actually contemplating a departure from Arsenal if the team doesn’t clearly articulate its long-term plan for him. For the record, Van Persie’s contract is up in 2013. Aside from my first-born son, I say we give him whatever he wants in order to convince him to stay. We need him far more than Real Madrid, anyways.

I can’t imagine Van Persie will abandon Arsenal…But it’s possible. Real Madrid is going to pursue him, upon the advice of Mourinho, who has said the team should try to acquire Van Persie even if he’s no longer with the team. According to Mourinho, Van Persie would simply be a good fit for Real Madrid, a genuine asset to the team. Real Madrid is not the only team courting Van Persie to be their hot new belle of the ball. Barcelona and Manchester City are both also keen to acquire him.

Arsene’s job is hardly locked in at Arsenal. Arsenal has a historic reputation, and it is still a desirable destination for managers wanting to move up in the world. Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid is keeping Arsenal in his sights, and if Arsene can’t turn this season around dramatically, the mob may actually be clamoring for Mourinho.

Hard to believe it’s been just a few days since Arsenal publicly humiliated Blackburn. The game was so good, it’s just sort of made everything else in life pale in comparison. Unless I win the lottery this week, Arsenal’s victory will go down as the official high point of my week. I’m still riding the wave of pure joy, but I’m trying to become increasingly apprehensive as the weekend approaches. Sunderland just won a victory over Middlesborough, and supposedly, the general consensus amongst Sunderland fans is “Bring on Arsenal.” Both Arsenal and Sunderland will be experiencing above-average confidence, which may not prove to necessarily benefit either team, but the fact remains that Arsenal will be playing in the Stadium of Light in Sunderland City. It would be nice if we had a home field advantage at Emirates, but it will be even better if the Gunners can go out and earn two consecutive victories away.

For Arsenal, there’s certainly a lot on the line. No team wants to make the history books by virtue of an all-time losing record. Arsene Wenger has established high expectations for his team–not just this current incarnation but the Gunners every year during his reign as manager. Arsene has spoken confidently that Arsenal will finish in the Top Four, every year, and he speaks as if it is a foregone conclusion, as if the fans can bank on a strong record. Arsene doesn’t go so far as to promise or guarantee championship cups (no manager should, in my humble opinion), but a top four finish is assured. What happens up to that seems to be in the hands of fate or pure chance.

Unless Arsene is in possession of a magic lamp, he can’t know for certain how Arsenal’s season will end. So it is both expected and accepted that Arsene’s comments will be reserved. But he knows what we all know: The cat’s out of the bag. The member’s of Barclay’s Premiere League and the teams competing for the UEFA Champions League know that Arsenal’s greatness has not been lost, just temporarily misplaced.

Arsene should express faith in his players, and he should lead by example when it comes to maintaining focus and exhibiting mental toughness (what we in the Army refer to as “intestinal fortitude.”) If he wants the players to maintain a positive attitude, then he should show them what right looks like.

Unfortunately, Arsene cannot afford to pretend that Arsenal is an underdog. Arsenal fans may perceive the team as being an underdog, and we all like to cheer for the little guy in any struggle. Nevertheless, Arsenal’s decisive victory over Blackburn exposed the Gunners’ existing talent and potential for greatness that seems far removed from what was evidenced earlier in the year. No one is going to underestimate Arsenal. Arsenal is going to be approached as a force to be reckoned with, a team once in crisis now desperate to preserve its historic reputation for excellence.

22-year-old fullback Kieran Gibbs is finally back in the lineup. The poor guy has been trying to recover from a pair of hernia operations, which in my mind stands out as the most painful possible recovery one could have.  The last time Gibbs was on the pitch was way back in October, which seems like an eternity ago, but we can safely presume that he’s going to give Arsenal a boost where and when its needed. Hopefully, he’s healthy and 100% recovered, because from what I’ve heard, one doesn’t usually completely heal from a hernia operation for quite a long time.

Tomas Rosicky, captain of the Czech National Team, may find himself replaced by Ramsey at the attacking midfield position. Despite a strong recent performance and consistency that Arsenal so desperately needs, it appears Arsene may be leaning toward Ramsey, possibly relying on him for a strong showing on the road or else saving Rosicky for later on. I’m sure we could all speculate what Arsene is planning, but face it, most of us would go insane if we spent any time in Wenger’s head.

Naturally, Jack Wilshere is still out with his stress fracture(s). He’s resting up at home, trying to get himself all healthy before the Euro 2012. He’s personally expressed that he’s been “gutted” by the decision on the part of Fabio Capello to resign from his position as manager of England with the Euro 2012 just four short months away. For those that follow soccer, Capello’s departure from the Three Lions has been a devastating shock and the fuel for heated debate, but it appears quite obvious that Capello’s departure has much to do with John Terry’s being stripped of his captaincy due to his own alleged racial slur. Diego Maradona has expressed his own conspiracy theory that the powers-that-be have long been plotting to get rid of Capello since England’s poor showing at the World Cup. According to Maradona, who is very much an icon throughout the world, a living legend if there ever was one, the row over John Terry was just an excuse to be rid of Capello. I think there might be something to the theory, honestly. For his part, David Cameron (the Prime Minister of England) expressed his sincere sadness that Capello was departing the England team, but he also said that Capello should have kept his mouth shut and avoided wading into the controversy by objecting to the English Football Association’s move to strip Terry of his captaincy. The more I think about it, the more the whole situation is a mess, and I think most Arsenal fans will be watching events as they play out leading up to the Euro 2012.

The bottom line is, there is no more time to waste, no more margin for error. Arsenal must play every game now as if every game counts. Because they do. Bring on the next two victims, Sunderland, then AC Milan.

My prediction for this weekend: Arsenal 2, Sunderland 0. You can take that to the bank…If you want. It’s your money.

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