When Robin van Persie made his first return to Arsenal yesterday, it was always going to be a major talking point. The Dutch striker, his new manager at Manchester United and Arsene Wenger were all expecting a hostile reception from the home fans. It could have been a lot worse, I thought, but some were surprised at the booing.
It was certainly left in no doubt that the Gooners have not forgiven the former captain for forcing the move to out Premier League rivals. Many fans still blame Wenger for allowing the move, although I feel that the financial constraints he is forced to work under left him little option.
After the match, Wenger declared that he would not be doing it again, though. Arsenal have sharpened up their contract policy and seem to have learnt from their mistakes in the past. Of the players that Arsenal want to keep, only Bacary Sagna will enter the last year of his contract this summer. After his performance yesterday, though, that will not be too much of a concern to most fans. The future core of the team have all been signed up on longer term deals this season so, hopefully, that is one less thing for Arsenal to worry about.
When asked after the game what he thought United and Ferguson would do in the transfer market, Wenger replied, “I don’t know, but he won’t sign them from us!”
Wenger also revealed that van Persie was allowed into the home dressing room by his former team mates after the match after nearly going into it by mistake on arrival at the Emirates. It is different between professional footballers because they are in the same boat. Was the striker hurt by his reception? Maybe, but not as much as the Arsenal fans were hurt by his defection. After scoring his penalty and not celebrating, BBC commentator Robbie Savage (and well known wind-up merchant) thought we showed no class by booing him. That just shows that Savage does not understand football fans at all.