Key Week In Premier League & Transfer Tattle
This week’s fixtures have the potential to shape the finish of the season; Tottenham host Stoke and travel to Stamford Bridge whilst Chelsea prepare for that clash with a trip to Eastlands. Arsenal’s matches are not routine wins but two wins allied to favourable results elsewhere would see Chelsea five points adrift in fifth with Tottenham overhauled, trailing in fourth by two points. That I would suggest is just about the most realistic ‘best case’ scenario.
Of course, all three sides can drop points; there are permutations that could see Chelsea eight points away from fourth which at this stage of the season would be a chasm to make up. It is impossible to predict what will happen; this season has shown that all sides are capable of woeful performances without notice.
The summer transfer rumours leave you giddy on the long days without competitive football and they have started more than a little early. According to media reports, Arsenal will today announce the transfer of Lukas Podolski, despite rumoured interest from Lazio. Jan Vertonghen doesn’t seem to have much confidence in his agent so he is looking to sell himself. Actually that looks wrong written but he’s in Amsterdam so what the Hell. The Belgian international said,
Arsenal are a magnificent club. I have instructed my agent carefully. He knows which clubs I want to join and Arsenal are one of them.
Why bother instructing an agent all when your desires are that strong?
More interestingly is the question of Arsenal’s reported interest in Jack Butland of Birmingham City, currently on loan at Cheltenham and performing well according to my sources who watch League Two regularly.
Young goalkeepers seem ten-a-plenty at Arsenal yet at the senior level it could be quite a turbulent summer. Wojciech Szczesny has performed well since gaining the top spot. Like all young players he can improve – his kicking in particular – but he seems to have the basic technique and belief that world-class custodians have. Thankfully he is not reticent about leaving his goalline, trying to dominate his area.
Behind him is a veritable queue of talent yet that cupboard may be bare come the summer. The main contender is Lukasz Fabianski. The older of the two Poles is more experienced and arguably more technically capable at the moment. He had recovered his confidence before the injury last season that gave Szczesny his chance. In doing so, confidence in him was gradually being built. He still suffered the barbs, never able to shake the derogatory nickname slung in his direction thanks to the bile of the media.
Understandably he is not content to be at Arsenal and wait for his chance; he has been doing that for many years already. With international aspirations, he spoke recently of wanting a loan move at the very least and it is not beyond the realms of belief that he might find a permanent move away from London. He will of course, be coveted by his detractors in years to come when his form improves and something happens that leaves Arsenal needing a consistent performer in goal.
I am not convinced that Vito Mannone will fill that gap. He played well against Fulham but did not inspire confidence in spell in the first team. In fairness, the callowness of youth will leave and be replaced by experience that may make him a solid deputy. Will he be happy with that having had first team action on a regular basis with Hull?
Which means that Arsenal will probably be looking for an experienced back up for Szczesny. A goalkeeper of experience who can come in when needed but is happy to sit on the bench. Like any other position, lack of match action leads to rustiness with mistakes likely in the early stages; problematically goalkeepers have less tolerance from others when mistakes happen since it invariably ends in a goal. Curiously, Wenger has such a candidate already in Manuel Almunia but with his contract expiring this summer, it seems unlikely his services would retained. Or is it? Stranger things have happened in football…