Arsenal know all about Robin van Persie. After eight years at the club, the 29-year-old centre-forward left the Emirates to sign for Manchester United in the summer of 2012 and provided the missing piece of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last title-winning jigsaw at Old Trafford.

Having narrowly missed out on the Premier League trophy at the end of the 2011-12 season (on goal difference to Manchester City), United knew they had to make a big signing that summer to give themselves any hope of dethroning City. But Van Persie, who had finished as the Premier League’s top scorer with 30 goals, seemed an impossible target. He played for one of their biggest rivals and a team with title aspirations of their own.

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Despite the obstacles in their way, including City’s attempts to sign the Netherlands forward, United got a £24 million deal done, helped by the player moving into the last year of his contract. The rest is history. United won the league by 11 points in 2012-13, largely thanks to Van Persie topping the Premier League scoring charts again with 26 goals. Ferguson’s audacious summer move was rewarded with the club’s 20th — and to date, last — league title.

Eleven years on and the mere mention of Van Persie is like scraping at an open wound for anyone connected with Arsenal. But as the Gunners reflect on their failure to translate a winning position into title success this season, the story of United’s swoop for Van Persie is one worth remembering.

Arsenal now have to do what United did by delivering a statement of intent with a big signing that could make the difference for Mikel Arteta’s team next season.

With Pep Guardiola’s dominant Man City picking up their fifth title in six years, the Gunners may have already blown their best chance of winning the Premier League anytime soon. They were eight points clear of City on April 1 and, despite having played a game more, still had a commanding lead. Yes, City were brutally consistent to win 12 consecutive league games, but Arsenal had one hand on the trophy and allowed it to slip during a run of two wins in eight games.

So while the final standings may see Arsenal trail City by a double-digit points margin, the truth is that it has been much closer than that. Arsenal can challenge again next season, but their summer recruitment will be crucial.

Arteta has said recently that Arsenal must “absolutely nail” their transfer business, but while targets such as West Ham United‘s Declan Rice and Chelsea‘s Mason Mount will undoubtedly make the team better, neither would be the game-changer required. Neither would make the impact that Van Persie had on United.

One obvious target for the Gunners is Tottenham Hotspur‘s Harry Kane, but that is likely to be a nonstarter due to the intense rivalry between the two London clubs. Sol Campbell’s free transfer from Spurs to Arsenal in 2001 remains one of the most controversial in Premier League history, and the former England defender continues to be treated with intense hostility by Spurs supporters. It is impossible to imagine club legend Kane making the same move when his contract expires in 2024 and Man United interested, but with Champions League football and the promise of a title challenge on offer, Arsenal should at least be bold enough to try.

With all of their in-built advantages — Champions League football, a young team on the rise, the appeal of playing for London’s biggest club — Arsenal should also be in the hunt to sign 19-year-old Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. Sources have told ESPN that the England star is in talks with Man City and Real Madrid. But if West Ham are planning to hold out for a transfer fee in excess of £100 million from Arsenal for Rice, surely an extra £20m-£30m to land a generational talent like Bellingham would be better business?

Maybe Arsenal don’t believe they can compete for players of the calibre of Kane or Bellingham, so they are settling for second-tier targets. Maybe they are content with landing good players, but not the kind of box-office signings who could send morale and belief through the roof.

As a manager, Arteta is a big believer in making statements with unusual psychological ploys, such as using light bulbs as motivational tools, naming a training ground dog “Win,” making the players train to rivals’ anthems or telling them about the importance of the roots of trees. But those kind of tricks can only get you so far.

Big statements, such as beating rivals to major signings, are what will really make a difference to the belief of his squad and the club’s supporters. Arteta now needs to challenge his bosses to rise to the occasion.

When Newcastle United narrowly missed out on the title to Manchester United in 1996, they broke the world transfer record to sign Alan Shearer from Blackburn Rovers for £15m. That didn’t deliver the title to St James’ Park, but it at least showed Newcastle meant business.

That’s what Arsenal must do now. They have to use this season’s title challenge as a platform to reach the next level. They need to conjure up their own Van Persie signing and show their rivals that they are ready to go all the way next season.

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Bellingham? Kane? Arsenal must make a big transfer statement