James Lawton: Loss of Wenger's last great protégé opens way for Usmanov to cash in on fans' frustrations

For so much of last season the Dutchman seemed like one of Wenger's last links with the days when he could fashion players to compete in the very highest company

Robin van Persie's almost formal defection to Manchester City is only sinister and depressing if you still hold out any hope that there will ever again be something vaguely resembling a level playing field at the top of English football.

Or if you cling to the idea that Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations have more than a snowflake's chance in hell of producing any genuine bite once the corporate lawyers of City and Chelsea have done some of their best work.

Indeed, Van Persie's impending departure – behind the usual platitudes about his need to find a more competitive environment – is not only a fresh denuding of Arsenal; it has also made them still more vulnerable to a hostile takeover bid from Uzbek oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

Usmanov, having passed the Premier League's fit and proper persons regulation on the way to a 30 per cent holding of Arsenal shares, seemed more than anything set on improving the climate for such a move when he effectively trashed the current business model of American owner Stan Kroenke.

Usmanov agonises over the plight of manager Arsène Wenger, who polishes the diamonds, then sees them disappear – mostly into the swag bag of the new reigning champions City.

The near certainty of Van Persie following Samir Nasri, Kolo Touré and Gaël Clichy to east Manchester, is guaranteed to cause Wenger almost as much pain as the growing impact of his great protégé Cesc Fabregas for both Barcelona and Spain.

Wenger's torment simply deepens in intensity. For a little while, he refused to face the growing futility of his attempt to preside over a financially sane business plan while at the same time grooming a quality of player to retain Arsenal's foothold among the elite of English and European football.

Now he has to accept that the enterprise is pretty much on par with attempting to climb Mont Blanc in carpet slippers.

Usmanov scorns the idea that Arsenal can continue to behave responsibly at the bank and competitively on the field – and, with a publicity machine that in the past has worked prodigiously to enhance his reputation, he is no doubt planning a campaign guaranteed to exploit the growing exasperation of Arsenal fans.

The loss of Van Persie carries the same desperate implications that came with the departures of Fabregas and Nasri. Wenger swore that he could keep the players he saw as the future of the club, then found himself scrambling desperately to fill some of the empty spaces in the last days of the transfer window.

The Van Persie affair has the feeling of the end of something. For so much of last season the Dutchman seemed like one of Wenger's last links with the days when he could fashion players to compete in the very highest company, and the burden Van Persie carried so brilliantly at times was all the heavier with the injury to Jack Wilshere.

Now Van Persie's gift of renewal has been withdrawn. He is about to become the latest possession of City, the champions and buyers of almost everything they fancy.

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