Arsenal must prepare for life after RVP

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Life will go on without Robin van Persie. Less than 12 months after Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal to rejoin his boyhood Barcelona, and Samir Nasri swapped the red side of north London for the blue side of Manchester, it's understandable why the prospect of losing another of the club's crown jewels would leave an unpleasant taste in the mouths of most Gunners fans.

But, with the 28-year-old Dutchman out of contract at the Emirates Stadium in just over a year's time, and his apparent reluctance to open negotiations over a new deal until the end of the current campaign, supporters may have to face up to the reality of losing yet another inspirational skipper.

Arsene Wenger has already intimated that the club will keep hold of Van Persie until the end of his agreement, regardless of whether or not he decides to accept Arsenal's offer of making him their highest ever paid player. However, doing so would be a foolish decision, both on a financial and footballing level.

Arsenal stand to make a whopping profit on the £2.75million paid to bring him from Feyenoord back in 2004 - money that could be used wisely to reinvest in the team.

There's no denying that what Van Persie brings to the team is irreplaceable - his goalscoring feats over the past year have been nothing short of remarkable - but when you consider the overall impact he has had during eight seasons with the Gunners, the Premier League's leading marksman has been a peripheral part of first-team proceedings.

Only twice has Van Persie made more than 26 league appearances for Arsenal in a season - Monday night's 2-1 victory over Newcastle United took this year's tally to 28 - so wretched is his history of injuries.

Add to that the fact his 25 Premier League goals so far this season is by far and away his best return in a single campaign - his previous best was 18, and 11 before that - there is justification to question whether or not Van Persie is proving just a flash in the pan?

The more pragmatic Arsenal fan will not undermine the credentials of their captain, but instead, when his inevitable exit finally occurs, take solace from the fact the club lost last season's two leading lights - Nasri and Fabregas - yet are still on course to qualify for the Champions League this year.

When Thierry Henry left the Emirates (the first time round) in 2007, he boasted a far superior goalscoring record than Van Persie. Questions were asked then how Wenger would replace Arsenal's inspirational frontman, and history could be about to repeat itself. But, it's not all doom and gloom.

Moving to another Premier League club would bring no guarantee of silverware for Van Persie, who boasts only a solitary FA Cup in his sparse collection of Arsenal medals.

Manchester City have been frequently mentioned as long-term admirers, but Wenger would do well to remind the Holland international that Arsenal actually progressed further in both the Champions League and the FA Cup this season, while both clubs could end 2011-12 on a par with only automatic European qualification places to boast.

Despite that, the potential loss of Van Persie, twinned with another trophyless campaign, will inevitably increase the mounting pressure and media scrutiny on Wenger as an individual, and Arsenal as a collective.

The reality is, that sooner or later, the club will be forced to find another striker to lead their forward line.

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Robin Van Persie
Premier League

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