An Unpleasant Goodbye

After that statement, we knew that this was coming. But with it comes a bitterness and anger that should be completely unnecessary, but is, in fact, very much warranted. Had the 29 year old kept quiet before his sale, not forcing the club to let him go – and in doing so showing the club and manager that made him a complete lack of respect – and not betrayed them by going to one of their greatest rivals, Arsenal fans would remember him fondly. He had been at the club for eight years and with 132 goals and 95 assists in 277 games, could have earned himself a place as a club legend. Though unfortunately, his actions in the lead up to this move have rendered that impossible.

 

In his spell at Arsenal he won, as has been much-noted, just one FA Cup, wherein he scored of one the penalties in the shootout. When his Arsenal career is recalled, the prevailing memories are his injuries. Only in his final season did he manage to play in more than 30 league games, and he rewarded the faith shown in him by Arsene Wenger in the process, producing 37 goals in 47 games in all competitions, dragging the team to a fifteenth consecutive top four finish, as well as providing 10 assists. He finally became the world class forward Arsenal fans always knew he could be. His record shows that this was far from being his ‘only good season’, but it was the one which opened the eyes of those outside Arsenal to his extraordinary talents. At the start of said season he was awarded the captaincy; he has since been widely regarded as the best man to wear the armband at the club since Patrick Vieira. Though it would seem that the added importance went to his head somewhat.

 

He was an outstanding leader, fitting all the English-made captaincy clichés brilliantly. He became an Adonis around the Emirates, adored by the fans on a similar level to Cesc Fàbregas in the 2009/10 season. He was not just loved, but desperately needed, at Arsenal. The extremely flawed, yet very telling, stat that has been sent the way of many Arsenal fans by opposition supporters who think they are funny and insightful is that without his goals, they would have 16th in the season. It is a greatly misleading and, forgive me, idiotic piece of information, but it does illustrate just how important he was to the team last season. There was a phenomenal amount of goodwill and affection, built up since his arrival – but expanded hugely in his final year – for him, which he managed to vapourise in just over 300 words.

 

The statement. What is most probable is that he told the club that he had no desire to sign a new contract, yet they replied that they would then simply hold him to the final year of his current deal. As a fan of both the player (formerly) and the Arsenal (still, of course), it was disappointing in the extreme. After witnessing the snide runt that is Samir Nasri and his – for want of a stronger word – acrimonious parting, followed by his fittingly scornful and classless remarks through the season, there was a perception that the former number 10 was different, having grown up as a follower of the club and someone who always appeared to respect and appreciate the traditions and philosophy of Arsenal. Alas, those of us who thought that were sadly mistaken.

 

There are so many aspects of the statement which inspire animosity and enmity that it is difficult to know where to begin. The actual publishing of it was clear in its cynicism, but operated under the patronising illusion that the club was in the wrong, rather than the writer himself. The title in itself was despicable: ‘Update for the Fans’ – it was no update for fans, but potential suitors, and it was timed and designed in such a way as to make his position untenable, forcing the North Londoners to sell and in doing so, reducing his price and damaging the club further. The fact that he went behind the club’s back to do it, giving them no prior warning, only adds to the sordid element of it all. The first part that stuck out was his claim that financial terms were “not his priority”. Although this did not stop him allegedly agreeing wages of £220,000 per week with his new club. The next paragraph was one which resonated self-regarding disrespect more than any other, as he claimed that in spite of his “huge respect” for Arsène Wenger, he disagreed “on the way Arsenal FC should move forward”. While this may be the case, his stating it so openly was extremely poor form on his part; with regard to the attempted demonisation of Arsène Wenger, attempting to polarise the fans against him, painting himself as the damaged party. The regular ‘I will always love this club’ lip-service followed, before a straight lie about Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis being on a two-week holiday in the United States. Disappointing and infuriating in just about every way possible.

 

Sensible Arsenal fans would not have begrudge his desire to move – or move abroad, anyway; he served the club well and after carrying the team in what was arguably the manager’s most important season, one could sympathise with a player of his talent’s wish to see his career render silverware, but to go about it like this leaves not so much a bitter taste in the mouth, but the taste of a strong coffee topped off with a nice, healthy kilogram of salt. The way he was going, he could have earned himself an immortalisation on the Emirates Stadium concourse, but now his chapter will be cast aside and forcibly forgotten by the majority of the support. The manner of the departure and the destination mean he will not be remembered with anything close to a smile. He chose not to leave with dignity, but in this fashion, to one of the club’s biggest historical enemies. He is no longer anything but ‘BLANK’, in my mind. Arsenal will be fine without him, but now the question arises as to whether he will be the same without Arsenal.

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