The flashpoint arose last November when Robin van Persie sustained ankle ligament damage under a hefty challenge from Giorgio Chiellini whilst representing the Netherlands. A year on, and arguably the flying Dutchman has remained firmly grounded and is still yet to regain the form that saw him notch seven goals in 11 games at the start of last season.
Holland’s match against Italy was not a World Cup qualifier and in many respects was scheduled merely to fill the slot in FIFA’s international calendar. Whilst there are justifiable arguments that the schedule allows managers to keep in contact with their squad and assess the players in between qualifiers, there is no doubting that it was essentially a meaningless friendly. To compound Arsene Wenger’s frustration, following the injury, the player remained under the care of the Dutch medical team and it was only when he returned to the club that the full extent of his injury was discovered. The delay in diagnosing the torn ankle ligaments was thought to have set his recovery back and caused significant tension between club and country.
After a period of relative calm, the row with the Dutch FA looks set to re-ignite with coach Bert van Marwijk signalling his intent to select van Persie for the forthcoming fixtures. Having spent so long nursing his star striker back to full fitness on two separate occasions, Wenger was understandably bemused by the decision to include van Persie in the Holland squad to face Turkey, with the friendly falling three days after a trip to face Everton and three days before a north London derby with Tottenham. When the possibility was first mooted, Wenger reacted angrily declaring it a “scandal” if he was selected and went on to state: “I
Seemingly having to accept defeat on this issue, and likewise in the row with another Dutch international coach, Dick Advocaat, after his decision to pick Andrey Arshavin for a friendly against Belgium; the Frenchman suggested the idea of an international window. Acknowledging the need for national coaches to work with their squads, Wenger suggested: “It would be better that you say ‘okay, for one month they are yours’.” Whether FIFA will heed his suggestion appears doubtful, but of more immediate concern is getting his side back on track after two consecutive defeats. With the manager rueing the side’s form at the Emirates: “Home form is a concern because against Birmingham and West Ham they were struggling wins,” Wednesday’s trip to Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers represents the perfect opportunity to arrest the decline and put pressure on Chelsea at the top.