By Graham McNorthbank
Well, here we are just three days away from the opening game of the season and once again Arsenal are in a position where our most important player - the skipper - is set to leave the club.
Following in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, Robin van Persie appears on the brink of a move to Manchester (be that the red or the blue side) on the eve of a new campaign, leaving us lowly fans in the dark as to what the plan for the impending campaign is.
I'm guessing that the club and Arsene Wenger have a solution, as the captain's programme notes must be on their way to the printers ahead of Saturday's match with Sunderland. The fact that there has been no announcement is almost certainly brinkmanship to try to edge RvP's selling price a tad higher.
Quite why this particular saga has taken so long is a little baffling. The player of the season and the league's top scorer last season should be walking into another club, but the fact that nobody seems to have been willing to meet Arsenal's valuation perhaps points to the Dutchman's poor injury record.
Nothing shocks me when it comes to the modern game and, more to the point, the mercenary nature of the modern player, but the majority of Gooners I have spoken to during the summer talk of a loss of respect for RvP and I can fully understand that. His statement on his website explaining his reasons for not signing a new deal may have been disturbingly honest, but the fact is that Arsenal Football Club's transactions throughout the summer have shown that that it does indeed have ambition and I've yet to hear anything from our estranged captain about those moves.
Sorry Robin, if you do move north then money is patently the reason. I'm not criticising that - it's your prerogative. The fact that you say you disagree on the way that Arsenal should move forward was a smokescreen and I fear the respect you amassed through your years at the club will evaporate just as quickly should you pull on another Premier League club's shirt.
But enough of all that. Should RvP depart, as seems likely, the most popular choice for the skipper's armband appears to be Thomas Vermaelen and given that he inked an extension to his deal last October means he won't be another one who can simply leave. He's loyal and we've all seen his ability to lead by example, so I can't think of a better candidate.
And I hope Arsenal bear that in mind when choosing future captains. It should become a club rule: if you get the captaincy, you get a pay rise to recognise the added responsibilities, but you also have to sign an extension to your contract. Had we leveraged that with RvP, we wouldn't be in this position yet again.