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Robin Van Persie Shuns Arsenal: What This Means for Arsene Wenger's Future

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 09:  Robin Van Persie and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after Arsenal win the Amsterdam Tournament match between Ajax and Inter Milan at the Amsterdam Arena on August 9, 2008 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2012

As he faces up to the prospect of yet another star player forcing his way through the exit door, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would be wise to consider the implications for his own future.

The Guardian's report that Robin van Persie will not sign a new contract, amidst philosophical differences about how Arsenal are progressing, challenges the entire ethos Wenger has exemplified.

That ethos has been built on a recruitment policy based on development rather than purchasing ready-made stars. It has promoted fiscal prudence over lavish spending, and its success has come from Wenger's ability to turn promising youngsters into top-level performers.

However, as the Manchester Clubs and Chelsea have spread more and more money around, Wenger has struggled to keep pace. His patient approach to constructing a squad cannot keep pace with those who will simply buy ready-made, established talent rather than nurture it.

Seeing another of his successful projects turn his back on the club has to be particularly painful. There is a danger that Wenger could begin to lose heart and question his faith in the belief that his ideals can still bring success.

Wenger has the right to feel aggrieved. He has given the likes of van Persie, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor everything. He has staunchly defended his players and continually expressed his belief in their potential.

Wenger has also worked hard to improve aspects of van Persie's game and turn him from a right winger who arrived from Feyenoord in 2004 with a bad reputation into a world-class central striker.

He worked similar magic with Adebayor, Aleksandr Hleb and Samir Nasri. Yet he has been met with little or no gratitude from players who couldn't wait to take advantage of reaching the top level.

It's easy to see how Wenger's motivation could be irreparably damaged by this continuing pattern. Van Persie's desire to leave could also threaten Wenger's realm of influence at Arsenal.

The Gunners boss is widely assumed to operate with a carte blanche when it comes to transfers and financial matters. Yet as Arsenal continue to lose their best players, the concern that they are being left too far behind the game's elite begins to look more like a grim reality.

That fear could prompt Stan Kroenke and other concerned shareholders to take decisions, like altering the club's wage structure, out of Wenger's hands. An Arsenal hierarchy desperate to keep pace could start to try and force Wenger's hand when it comes to buying big.

That would leave Wenger short of credibility, as his whole philosophy would be undermined from within. As van Persie nudges his way closer to a departure, Wenger is looking increasingly like a figure lost in the wilderness.

He is a man rallying against a greed and "ends justify the means" cynicism that has strangled world football at its top levels. For the sake of his sanity and legacy, Wenger might walk away.

However, for the good of the game, let's hope this staunch defender of long-term team building and attacking football continues to stick to his principles.

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