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Gunners fans should bury van Persie hatchet

TEAMtalk Editor Simon Wilkes believes it might be time for Arsenal fans to forgive Robin van Persie for leaving, even if they can't forget.

Last Updated: 27/04/13 at 11:47 Post Comment   

Arsene Wenger: Had a 'positive impact' on van Persie

Arsene Wenger: Had a 'positive impact' on van Persie

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed that his Arsenal players will form a guard of honour for Robin van Persie and Premier League champions Manchester United at The Emirates on Sunday - but it remains to be seen whether the club's fans are so respectful.

According to reports, this week has seen a social media campaign to 'do a Poznan' gather pace, with some Arsenal fans toying with the idea of turning their back on the congratulatory nod to United's 20th league crown.

But although I understand their bitterness at Van Persie's defection to the North-West, I'm hoping the majority of fans cheer their former captain, having got the jeers off their chest at Old Trafford earlier this season.

It appears that hope may be false if you listen to Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association chair Lois Langton, who said: "We have to give the guard of honour, as I don't want us to look as though we are being petty - but the reality is he will get a hot reception. He alienated himself from supporters."

Some fans will never forgive van Persie for joining United hot on the heels of the best season of his career - but I believe the fact the 29-year-old will return to the capital as a king of English football fully justifies his decision.

The Rotterdam-born Dutchman moved to London from Feyenoord for just £2.75million in 2004, and won the Community Shield and FA Cup in his first season under Wenger's tutelage.

The trophy cabinet has not been unlocked since, but van Persie should not bore the brunt of fans' frustration over the silverware drought, especially as he single-handedly dragged them into a third-placed finish in his final season with the club.

During an eight-year spell blessed with brilliance but also blighted by knee and ankle injuries, van Persie bagged 132 goals to become Arsenal's eighth all-time top-scorer.

He matched then overtook legend Dennis Bergkamp's haul, and after being promoted to captain following the sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, responded by netting 30 Premier League goals in the 2011-12 season.

I was at The Hawthorns on the last day of last season when he skippered the Gunners to a 3-2 win over West Brom to ensure they would dine at Europe's top table for another season - then waved goodbye to fans.

Although his choice of destination sent shockwaves around England, with a young family to consider, a switch abroad was never on the cards.

In my final defence of why fans should cheer, not jeer their former talisman, I'd like to state the case that Arsenal have not really suffered on the pitch since his exit - they have simply suffered the pain of strengthening one of their oldest enemies.

Last season, with van Persie blazing a trail, they finished third, 19 points behind United and champions Manchester City, having amassed 70 points from 21 wins and seven draws. They scored 74 goals in 38 games.

This season Wenger's men have accrued 63 points with four games remaining, facing United, QPR, Wigan and Newcastle in the final straight. They have won 19 games, drawn nine and scored 65 goals so far, so the chances are that they will better the class of 2011-12 in all departments.

Wenger has no axe to grind with his former protege, saying: "I think Arsenal had a positive impact on the life and career of Robin van Persie. You always miss a big player but now we are stabilised."

And having spent the £24million on Olivier Giroud (£13m) and Lukas Podolski (£11m), who have netted 31 goals between them and are likely to be more accustomed to England's top tier next season, I think it might be time for Arsenal fans to forgive van Persie, even if they can't forget.

Follow me on Twitter at @SimonJWilkes.

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