Pep Talk, Title Aspirations & Balances Need To Be Struck
The Sun it seems have stung Barcelona into action. Having been told by an English tabloid that they have until the end of this month to make a bid for the services of Cesc Fábregas, Pep Guardiola has told the world that they will fight until August 31st to sign the Arsenal captain. And they have some money put aside from their paper round to buy him, even after paying for their city break to London.
But if that is not enough left, Pep is going to the Game to buy FIFA12 when it comes as then he can put Cesc into his team, so ner-ne-ner to you Mr Mean Wenger. And in any case it does not matter because he really does not want Cesc, he wants Alexis Sanchez instead. It is amazing how easily the Catalans have been riled by a small story in the English press. And how insecure they are corporately, unable to comprehend that a club is spurning their advances.
Away from that – and it is nice to get away from that – Johan Djourou has observed that he expects this season’s title race to be a dogfight,
You have to fight and that’s what makes the English league so good to watch because there is competition. We know there are favourites but there are outside teams who can make trouble.
There will be some surprise if the top four from last season changes this time around. Despite spending heavily, those outside of the Champions League places have a lot of ground to make up, too much for one season. That is not to say it cannot be done but the level of investment that has taken place at Liverpool, for example, is indicative of the low starting point.
Whether Arsenal can improve is an altogether different matter. Djourou declined to note the real reason for the decline post-February, instead chosing the positives to accentuate,
As players we have to be on our toes but I think Arsenal is still on top because even if I look at last season, the problem before was that we couldn’t beat the biggest teams but last season we didn’t have any problem with that. So I think we just need to get those little things right and it will be great for us.
Little things? Rather more than that but his statement is typical of the Arsenal squad in that they constantly seek the positives for public consumption. The problems are not glossed over, simply not spoken of outside of the club. Is that a good thing? Or just recognition that the players do not need to speak ill for journalists and fans are quite happy to do it for them?
Kyle Bartley meanwhile believes he can solve some of the problems.
If I’m honest, I don’t think I was anywhere near the level to play for Arsenal last season. But I’ve come back, I feel really strong and I feel that I am ready now.
Every time you step on the pitch, you are going out there to win so there is a lot of pressure on you. I think I can offer something else [because] I am a little bit different to the other centre backs. I like the physical side of the game and I see myself as a leader. If Arsène decides that he wants me in the first team then that will be fantastic.
The received wisdom is that Arsenal need a centre back, Bartley might have the attributes bar experience. One season on loan, cut short by injury, does not mean he is the solution for Arsenal now. Early in the summer there was talk of him going on loan once more and that is something that I would suggest is beneficial to the player. That will though depend on whether the club signs a new centre back. Bartley would learn more at somewhere like Rangers than he would sitting on the bench or playing in domestic cup competitions.
We shall see. This is the balance Wenger has to strike. Bartley is full of promise but that needs to be realised. Notionally, you would see him as fifth in the pecking order at the club right now. He and Squillaci may swap places but that is by no means certain. Being on the bench will not ‘kill’ this youth but is it right for the club and player in the longer term?