Here’s a stat: the last time Arsenal played a full season without Robin van Persie, they went undefeated in the league. 26 wins, 12 draws, 90 points, and a trophy.
Nice thought, that. “There’s hope yet,” it seems to say, “perhaps more hope than you ever imagined.” But as much as I’d like to be known as the pseudo-Nostradamus ITK, even I have to admit this is a facetious comparison. The Invincibles were a once-in-a-lifetime kind of team, and it would be hubristic to expect this current generation of Gunners to replicate that 2003/04 season, Van Persie or No Persie.
RvP’s only significance here is that with him leaves the last lynchpin of this post-Invincibles generation, the Johnny-come-latelies, the heirs who could never quite escape the long shadows of their deified predecessors. Disbanded, the team built around Cesc Fabregas. The team of frustrated talents and perennial disappointment. The team whose underachievements have been well-documented by all and sundry, and I don’t want to get into that here.
All I want to do is to pose a simple question: How will we remember them? When they write the history of Arsenal, one hundred years from now, will this silver generation be just another blip on the map? Will their names ring any bells? Will we tell the stories of the nearly-almost-theres?