Category Archives: Soccer

Arsenal Fall & Is Arsène Really Sahin Something?

Excellent stuff from Danny Boyle last night in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, an impishness the choreography with the NHS fading out into the red. I hope it was narrated well in whichever country you were watching; if not, the bit with the nurses and beds, frightening children was not a biting social commentary about childcare but a reflection of children’s literature. I am not a fan of opening ceremonies but this was a notch or twenty above the usual Uefa and Fifa fare. He chose a decent musical soundtrack, even if The Kinks were The Troggs, The Beatles The Who and Queen absolutely baffled Mrs YW. Mind you, she knew who The Jam and The Specials were which is a vast improvement on when we first met. Those hours of brainwashing have not been entirely wasted.

Which is probably a technique Arsène wishes he could employ on the local press in the Far East. Having been irked by reporters asking only about Robin van Persie in Beijing, according to tweets this morning from Hong Kong, the first two questions from a local reporter were about the Dutchman and when the club would enjoy a cash injection to enable it to catch up with the parvenues. The usual deflected answers were put to one side as his irritation showed through at press conferences in Beijing, is the tension getting to him? I doubt it, more likely his annoyance was from having watched his hotch-potch side give a good account of themselves and lose somewhat harshly by two goals to Manchester City.

In terms of the overall performance, it was quite good. The passing was decent and good chances were created. It was encouraging to see shots coming in from outside the area and with no recognised first choice strikers on the tour, that is not surprising. It is something which should be encouraged in the Premier League; there will be plenty of worse performances by first choice goalkeepers compared to yesterday’s good outing from Pantilimon.

Luck certainly eluded Arsenal; I doubt that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could repeat the feat of hitting both posts and having the ball spin to safety in another 500 attempts. The difference between the two sides was clinical finishing. City afforded Arsenal as much space as Jenkinson did in the build-up for both goals but when the chances fell to those in red, shots were blocked, blazed and skewed wide of the net. Positives can be gained from that.

Yes, there will be concerns about positioning for the goals conceded. Jenkinson was culpable of affording too much space but the problems started higher up the pitch, his rawness showing as he tried to rectify them. Context tempers concerns; in the intensity of a Premier League battle, the tackles fly in and the midfield would have been more hotly contested as the moves progressed. I am sure that Steve Bould will be working with the young full back to ensure he learns from this experience.

The manager is not overly concerned, publicly at least,

Overall what is important for us is to see everybody play and give everybody competition. We lasted 90 minutes at quite a good level.

That is probably right. Despite media attempts to make the situation out to be despairing, I am not sure many are worried at this stage. We know there is work to be done, last season showed that. But it also showed there is a strong base to work with and that is sometimes forgotten. It is illogical to believe Steve Bould could have an immediate impact when the squad has not been together for more than three weeks, a lot less in some cases. There is a similar amount of time before the visit of Sunderland to The Emirates on the opening day and the work needed will take place on the training pitches at London Colney.

City were one match further into their preparation and that I think is where I am uncomfortable with this summer’s build-up. Previous summers have seen the club play half-a-dozen friendlies; at the time of writing there are just four, and only the visit to Cologne for Giroud and Podolski to be managed into the team. That seems a touch light although there is time I suppose for a match to be arranged in the fortnight break between Sunday’s friendly and the German trip.

Away from the pitch, the hype surrounding transfers showed no sign of quelling with Nuri Sahin apparently signed on a year’s loan according to reports from Spain. It was the footballing equivalent of a hurricane warning as that deal was then downgraded to a loan deal with a Premier League club, the Turkish international was reportedly a makeweight in the transfer of Modric to Madrid making that club seem more likely to be Tottenham. Santi Who?

Arsène denied that any transfers were close, which is his code for something is actually happening, and cleverly chose his words – even in anger – over van Persie; nobody had contacted him about the Dutchman since the original bids except this morphed into him denying the bids ever happened in the subs room as the headlines were hastily drawn up.

That’s it for today, the dying embers of this fleeting summer are in the air. Enjoy.

’til Tomorrow.

One Of Speaks – Boarding The Tanker At Midnight

People are talking to me like I don’t know the rule. Yeah man, I know the rule; I just chose to ignore it this time. I’ll tell you why later.

So, the rule says that to avoid disappointment you shouldn’t buy into transfer talk until you see the player in an Arsenal shirt on the website. It’s a good rule, but I think we can be more flexible than that – you could take interest a little earlier and still avoid jumping the gun most times. There’s usually a piece on the BBC site before the club announces something.

A little less reliable are the broadsheets, which employ some respected journalists who tend not to engage in idle chatter, but can miss the mark all the same. These guys report or speculate on the early stages of a transfer. They’ll get their information from agents or sources within clubs, who’ll stand to gain an advantage by making the news public, or occasionally they’ll have a direct line to the player.

I’m bringing this up because I’ve been a bit obsessed this week. From the moment Santi Cazorla’s possible move was mooted I’ve paid shamefully little attention to any other Arsenal story. Barely noticed the imperious Laurent Koscielny signing a new deal, and the friendly against Malaysia might as well not have happened. So you can tell that something’s not quite right.

I respect the rule, but then I can’t think of many potential Arsenal deals that have involved a player I admire as much as this one. When I was in Spain he was brilliant – compact, nimble, ambidextrous, nippy and technical. The play flowed through him even though he was out wide. I plucked his name from the babbling stream of Hispanic vowels and consonants thanks to its constant repetition by the commentators. I didn’t know who he was before 2007, but after I saw him the first time I’d occasionally make space on my heavy football platter for the odd Villareal game.

He got injured in 2009, and missed the matches against Arsenal. When he returned he was a slightly different player. He’s hardly slow now, but was a bit quicker in 2007; maybe a little more dynamic in the way he moved. No matter – over time he’s developed a sophisticated passing range and drifts inside more often. His control and understanding of the game has improved.

I remember him in an unjust defeat to Barcelona a couple of years ago. He was out on the left and deep, but brushed off pressing Barça midfielders and, with inch-perfect through-passes, created enough chances for Giuseppe Rossi to win the game for the team. He forced two wonder-saves from Valdés with long-range pile-drivers

The danger of writing a blog 16 hours before it’s published is that the paragraphs above could be redundant and not just a little poignant by Friday morning. I have no inside information, just lots of enthusiasm. Call it a balm for the wounds inflicted by RvP.

It might even be dead as I type this, or he could be an Arsenal player by next week. I don’t have a clue. So, I’ll recount what I’ve gleaned from this story, so at least I’ll know that my week of fixation amounted to something. Most of this is paraphrased from real journalists.

Wenger has always liked him, but the word is that his interest was piqued when Fernando Hierro walked away from his Technical Director post at Málaga in May. The man’s a local hero and wouldn’t take such a decision lightly – there were claims of unpaid wages, overdue tax-bills, reneged-on promises and transfer fees outstanding.

Normally I picture Arsenal as a big cat on the savanna, impassively surveying the herd for signs of weakness or naivety. Giroud had an enticingly low buy-out clause. Podolski was a big player at a small club on its way down. Everton needed to get Arteta off their books. André Santos’ former employers were caught up in a match-fixing scandal.

But only last summer Málaga announced their arrival as one of Europe’s moneyed colossi. Apparently we spotted a chink in their armour when Hierro walked out. It only follows that their star players should start to get restless.

Since then they’ve done no transfer business. It looks to many like nobody has been at the wheel for months. The owners have been quiet, apart from Abdullah Al Thani, president of the club, who took to twitter in the middle of this month to bemoan the unfair distribution of television money in Spanish football.

While most people who don’t support Real Madrid or Barcelona would agree with him, it all begs the question – why would someone whose family is known to enjoy almost unlimited wealth be so passionate about television cash after throwing money around so readily just a few months ago?

Does he want the club to sustain itself now it’s on the cusp of Champions League qualification, facilitating the sale of a big name to make ends meet in the short-term?

At the first hint of his name around two weeks ago, it seemed to me as an uninformed observer like something might be possible. And Wenger’s responses to questions since the weekend have only fanned the flames. Initially he joked that he didn’t know who Cazorla was; later he said the club was working on a deal, and then on Wednesday joined Arteta in praise for the player – all very out of the ordinary.

The consensus is that the player is unhappy at his club. It’s clear Arsenal want him. Respected journalist Sid Lowe claimed that he’s even agreed terms with us. But we all know what they say about best-laid plans, mice and men.

We’ve been dealing with the equivalent of an oil tanker overseen by a disparate gaggle communicating via Chinese whispers. Now Mr Shatat is at the wheel, they might weigh anchor and chug away over the horizon with a newly flush Cazorla on board. Knowing the financial punch the Al-Thani family can pack, the union of Wenger and Cazorla could remain hypothetical forever more. And given the trouble some technical players have dealing with Premier League clatternaccio, maybe the transfer is best admired as tantalising but unrealised potential.

Whatever happens from here – it looks like we’re on the prowl for an attacking midfielder this summer.

Numbers, What Does Cazorla Add Up To & Ox Talk

The squad numbers for 2012/13 season were announced yesterday, a menu choice for those purchasing replica shirts. The Retail Department came up with an interesting ploy to rid themselves of their surplus stock of the letters, t, b and c, by persuading the Premier League to permit ‘TBC’ as a squad number, Lukas Podolski the first to take advantage of the new rule.

Whilst many are presuming that his choice is the No.10 shirt about to be vacated by Robin van Persie – or not as the case may be – but I  have a suspicion that he is hankering after the No. 9 shirt allocated to an unknown youngster by the name of Park; looking forward to his breakthrough season at the club. Or is he just lusting for 52 when Bendtner goes to Celta Vigo?

Transfer talk is dominating the airwaves at the moment. Peter Wimsey momentarily removed his left foot from his mouth to insert his right, with a naive statement about van Persie’s situation. It is a peculiarity that his media organ of choice is the Daily Star, although the ties between that paper and his father’s pet media outlet, the Daily Express, are extremely close. The suggestion is that he has a good working lunch relationship with well-known toff, Brian Woolnough.

With Arsène talking freely about signing players, it was no surprise to learn that Santi Cazorla and his agent met with Malaga yesterday to discuss the ongoing problems on the Costa del Sol. Mikel Arteta made sure that the welcome mat was rolled out even further, although he was careful not to become embroiled in a tapping up row with his countrymen,

I cannot talk about the actual situation but I can say that I know him as a player really well. And he’s a top, top player. He has got unbelievable quality and talent and that is all I can say.

It’s enough of a recommendation for me. Arsène saw the open goal and hammered home from close range,

I share the opinion of Mikel Arteta. Cazorla is a great player.

Let’s hope negotiations are more successful than with the last Spanish international midfielder we tried to sign; God help the board if it falls through over £200k again.

Whilst Cazorla can play across the midfield, the initial thought is that he would put pressure on Theo Walcott but I am not sure this is the case. Tomas Rosicky is once more recuperating from injury and my own view is that we have sufficient cover in the wide attacking midfield area. A triumverate of Song, Arteta and Cazorla would be a strong attacking line-up but would allow Song to concentrate more on marshalling the midfield in its defensive duties. This is before promising youngsters such as Coquelin are brought into the equation. I am not sure about Frimpong though. He had good initial games last season but I wonder how much impetus has been lost with his injury. Certainly another loan spell would seem the likeliest option for him whilst it is difficult to see where Henri Lansbury fits in at all, especially with the other younger players making decent outings in the pre-season games so far. As much as we want Steve Bould to organise the defence, the message needs to get through that the successful teams defend from the front when not in possession.

The real pressure on Walcott comes from Oxlade-Chamberlain. The youngster seems physically stronger than Walcott at a similar age and that physique has helped his progress. The thought must be crossing Walcott’s mind that having the same pressure in the England team is something of a message? Whatever the case is, Arsenal have strength in depth on the wings with Gervinho, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski to name but a few. Using Santos as a wide midfielder might be a tactic employed more often away from home, to offer Kieran Gibbs more protection although that team ethic was a quality noted in Podolski by the manager during the summer. It is a failing from last season which on the face of it has been addressed.

Oxlade-Chamberlain offered his somewhat beleaguered manager some support. At a time when players he has nutured are seemingly turning their back on him, Oxlade-Chamberlain sang his praises, offering an insight into how the manager thinks about football. I wonder if his apparent obsession with fitness is an extension of his early impact on the English game or more acutely influenced by injuries suffered in recent seasons? It is an interesting read, with an insight into what appears to be an impressive application of the lessons he has learned in his career.

’til Tomorrow.

Arsenal Win Kos Of Eis, Goals And Alex

The Far East tour got off to a winning start, completing a good day for Arsenal.

Barely had the print dried on the morning’s blogs when the club confirmed that Laurent Koscielny had secured his transfer to Barcelona next summer by signing a new four year deal with Arsenal. Crucially part of the negotiatons included a medical examination which confirmed his Catalan DNA, clearing the way for a move at the end of the coming campaign.

There can be no argument about securing Kos’ future, he was THE outstanding defender in a much-maligned back twelve, a consistent performer in what was a season best forgotten defensively at least. Should he show the same improvement this season, there is no doubt he will be confirmed as another Wenger ‘gem’, if he has not already merited such status.

The only black cloud came with the FA charging Emmanuel Frimpong over an apparent Twitter spat following abuse received from a Tottenham fan. Only Frimpong knows whether or not the comment he made was racially motivated but that seems unlikely; that is no excuse either but getting involved in the first place was questionable judgement. He must have seen the aggravation which fellow professionals rise above, begging the question as to why he reacted.

Player interaction is welcomed in an era when they are more distant from the ‘ordinary man’ than previously but it comes with a caveat; too many keyboard warriors exist and rarely waste the opportunity to entice a reactionary response. The incident exemplifies why O2 are withdrawing their support from football although quite what traditional values blood capsules, tawdry affairs and gouging in rugby uphold is yet to be fully explained.

So back to the tour match. It was a hotch-potch side fielded at kick-off, a mixture of youth and experience. In terms of the performance and result, they are insignificant. The match was the first of pre-season for many, certainly for the players who are reasonably expected to play in the majority of fixtures this season. As such, what should be expected? Not a lot and on a pitch which would be shamed by Hackney Marshes, avoiding injury certainly is a bonus.

The goal conceded contained lessons; yes, it was well-struck and a cracking shot at that. But why did Arsenal back off to allow Azmi Muslim to have a free shot at goal? It was a basic error and one I am sure that it will be something not lost on the coaching staff. However, to place too much emphasis on it is as much of a sin; getting the message home will not be hard given that a goal was conceded as a result of the backing off. That point was not lost on the manager who noted post-match that there was tactical work as well as physical conditioning to be completed,

We are far away physically and tactically we still have some work to do. Technically it was not bad considering because the pitch was not easy and the pace of Malaysia was quite good. 

Overall we still have some tactical work to do and some physical work but don’t forget that some players have only had two or three days training. Some others have only had a maximum of seven or eight so physically we are far from what we can produce.

If it is a mistake which is repeated in future tour matches, then yes, there are grounds for concern.

Both sides had ample opportunities to score more and perhaps should have. Aneke and Afobe were lively whilst Thomas Eisfeld’s run in creating the equaliser was another promising step. The experience of watching the ball constantly fly over his head at Euro2012 does not appear to have done Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain any harm. The left side was an interesting experiment with Gibbs and Santos; I know Wenger has used the Brazilian in a more advanced role before and it does seem to give a more sturdy look to that area of the pitch. If Santos had a right leg that was used for anything other than stopping him running round in an ever-decreasing circle, he might have grabbed a couple. Gervinho and Diaby put in useful shifts which given the former’s apparent loss of confidence post-ACN is good whilst anything from the latter that has not resulted in injury has to be considered a bonus.

As the squad moved to Bejing ahead of Friday’s meeting with Manchester City, Arsène has set a deadline of August 18th for any deal to be concluded with Robin van Pursestring‘s sale; whether the Powers That Be will agree to that is an altogether different matter. Santi Cazorla will be the subject of a bid of £16m plus the entire back catalogue of Earth Wind and Fire, all duly signed, as an inducement. The Spaniard apparently likes the idea of having his wages paid on time.

’til Tomorrow.

Chamakh Hopes As Arsenal Seek To Capitalise On Financial Folly

Can you feel the relief, the anticipation? A proper football match takes place this afternoon (or tonight depending on your timezone, might even be the morning for all I know) and no, I don’t care that it is a friendly since it signals that the season is upon us. Almost. The tour party mixed youth and experience so you would expect the starting – and finishing – XI to reflect that. Off the pitch, the reaction is almost a no-win situation for Arsenal. Handsome victory? Meh, expected against relatively poor opposition. Anything less will bring forth a microscopic and forensic analysis of the failings, fuelling more criticism of the lack of transfer activity this week.

One player missing is punk legend Jimmy van Pursey. He continues to teach the 1970s anthems to the kids, he’s down with them, drawing on his own working class struggle against The Man. Hoping to pull his family clear of the poverty stricken life that fate has dealt them is not proving to be easy, the Oil City Sheikhs are closing the wallet until some of the freeloaders at City are removed from the wage bill.

Fair play to Emmanuel Adebayor as he refuses to buckle; it lays bare the folly of a spendthrift squad-building policy with the real danger for the club that they will be left with a dozen cases of Winstone Bogarde, players who feel the wealth offered by their current contracts exceeds the lure of playing every week for a lesser salary.

One player hoping that current pacesetters Juventus will squeeze some more money from the boot of the rusting Fiat 125 in the car park is Marouane Chamakh,


Yes. If I am staying here with Arsenal, I will do my best for the team and give the maximum.

That’s my boy, the attitude is right. Although I am not too sure whether his hookah pipe has something a tad illicit in it as his reality perspective seemed to dip a little as the conversation went on,

Last season was difficult. We were playing with just one striker and that striker was the best player in Europe. There was not a lot I could do. I was upset because thought I could have played more but football is like that. Sometimes you do not have a chance. I hope this season I will play more than last. I have not spoken with the manager but I will soon.


In the first six months after signing I had lots of games but after that I only played a few. Now I hope this season will be good for me and the club.


Yes, I need more confidence. But to be confident I need to play more. I am determined to stay.

It is something of a chicken and egg situation. Arsène saw that Chamakh’s confidence had gone but in order to play, Chamakh needs to be ready and able to offer an alternative goalscoring solution. His solitary goal last season came at Blackburn, his first since his hat-trick against Orient in the FA Cup. Those are damning statistics.

With the additions of Podolski and Giroud, I would suggest that the chances of him playing are reducing further. Whilst the German is more used on the flanks, he has the ability to play centrally and I suspect he is likely to be ahead of Chamakh in that pecking order. It is far from certain whether the public statements reflect his private thoughts; I doubt that they do, his self-awareness seems to be more acute than that. In terms of maintaining squad harmony, the Moroccan has shown himself to more astute than former Arsenal captain, Robin Rotten – he’s moved from Sham 69 to the reformed Pistols for £20 and a signed Sid Vicious handwritten bass chord tab of No-one Is Innocent

Elsewhere, questions remain about Arsène’s involvement in the club’s transfer policy remain with a player he knows nothing about – Santi Carzola – once more heavily linked with a move to Arsenal. Curiously enough, it all ties in rather nicely with the ongoing financial woes of oil-rich Malaga who now have until July 31st to settle their debts with Villarreal or face a ban on all transfers. The monetary issues of the Spanish nation will not be solved by all Spanish clubs paying their tax bills but given the level of indebtedness reflected in Barcelona’s latest accounts, it might help along the way?

Jack Wilshere‘s close allies are optimistic – perhaps overly so – that he will be back sooner than Arsène’s observations earlier this week and to be honest, I wonder if JW has been at the JD to believe he might be back in August / September. He might be back in full training but surely the club will hesitate to bring him back into action that soon, erring on the side of caution with a stress fracture must be the right course of action. In any case, someone has to keep Tomas Rosicky company in the medical room.

’til Tomorrow.

Diaby’s Last Stand

You can’t imagine how happy I am firstly to have him in the squad, because he is an exceptional player.

Whoa, we signed Lionel Messi? Ronaldo? van Persie issued a mea culpa, begged forgiveness and has shown so much contrition that he has signed a new contract for £15 per week on the basis that if it was good enough for Joe Mercer, it’s good enough for him?

The player in question is Abou Diaby.

I am sure that the manager is delighted to have him back, we probably all are if you consider his ability on its own. But you can’t because his injury record is second to none in length and frequency of his absences. He will always come with a massive BUT.

Arsène is right to be cautious about the midfielder’s fitness and absolutely right to determine the player’s future based on this tour. One bad tackle and a career has been tortured out of the Frenchman, seasons begun and ended before their natural conclusion. Just when you feel the player has turned the corner, injury strikes once more. The Gods who govern such fates have turned with malevolence on Diaby.

It highlights the risks that waiting for him to be fit hold. The praise of club and country managers is welcomed but surely overly optimistic. With Jack Wilshere absent for at least the first six weeks of the season, is Arsène right to wait and see before venturing into the transfer market for the defensive or box-to-box midfielder?

It is not the number of midfielders which is the concern, it is that two are recovering from serious injury and there is no guarantee that they will not break down again. You could counter that by arguing that injury might strike at with someone who is currently fit and we would not buy just in case that happens. In the circumstances, caution is well-applied with signings.

As ever there is a But. In these circumstances, is Arsène taking too much of a risk? What happens if two of the remaining quartet named as being part of the “well stocked” midfield are injured? That leaves two plus Rosicky to play as a triumverate for an unspecified length of time. The greater danger is the temptation for the manager to rush a return from injury as a result of short-term necessity, over-playing a recently injured player on their return is as much of a problem as the over-playing which caused the injury in the first place. Or at least set the environment for the injury to occur.

The balancing act is delicate. In the days before named squads, such issues could be glossed over with a signing. Before the transfer window became a domestic hurdle, the end of March was the only time-barrier. Problems before then could be resolved with a loan or  permanent deal. Now the manager(s) have to take a punt, drop to their knees before the Injury Gods and pray.

Crucially, there is no necessity for Arsenal to buy right now. The tour will give them time to assess Diaby and his reaction to matches, even though the intensity of competitive games is not recreated. This is a secondary issue, hence the manager’s caution. If he breaks down now, action will be required quickly and decisively.

For Diaby, I wonder how this is impacting on him? It would be natural for him to be hesitant initially, to not throw himself fully into a game for fear of aggravating his condition(s). Yet he has to, to prove to himself that he is not going to crumble under pressure, to prove that he is going to resurrect his career. At 26, there is a danger of being cast adrift although playing in a less physical league might be a better option for his long-term career.

I hope it does not come to this. He is a talented player and I don’t think the manager would have kept faith in him under other circumstances. I hope that he comes through the tour and decides too much time has already been lost to the medical rooms and operating theatres, tearing through Premier and Champions League midfields is the answer, the best therapy. A fit Diaby has the potential to be as comparably influential to Arsenal as Yaya Toure was to Manchester City last season. At 26, we are still talking about unfulfilled potential. Hope, the eternal sustenance of a footballer for the coming season.

And yes, I am well aware that the manager may have been publicly closing the door on M’vila to turn down the flames of speculation to allow discreet talks to take place. I am sure of one thing; Plan B has already been identified in case of setbacks.

’til Tomorrow.

Ambitions – The Life And Death Of A Football Club

The tour party announced yesterday has enabled a welter of spin and speculation to reign supreme this morning, the absence of Robin van Persie took focus away from those who remain in England with him. Whilst Arsène told the world that he was not giving up on the relationship, the Dutchman’s representatives have been busy telling all and sundry what all and sundry have been offering as salaries. Ambitions are laid bare; £10.1m is the sum total of his ambitions.

By some strange quirk of fate, that is £30k per week less than Manchester City have reportedly offered but more than Manchester United will pay. Juventus managed to guess correctly that van Persie would want substantially less than Zlatan Ibrahimovic and must surely have won? That’s the ideal world but according to The Sunday Times, van Persie is an old romantic at heart and favours United whilst his agents are torn between their client’s wishes and the rich pickings that City will pay them in commission. Arsenal can brief just as well as the agents it seems, with the real divergence of views on the club’s future revealed for all to see.

No doubt that this is Arsène’s fault. If he had not wasted the money on Bendtner, Vela, Denilson, Squillaci and Chamakh, Arsenal could pay those wages. And he wants to try out an unknown French forward for more than £6m. Caen you dig it? Yes, they can. When will he learn, eh?

Football is at once divisive and uniting; a common aim but so many different ways in which to achieve it. So many different ways for hypocrisy to shine through. Casting out those deemed no longer fit for purpose has been an aim of this summer; a realignment of the squad to rationalise the salary structure. Yet when that has not happened by the end of June, knives are sharpened, criticism rains in.

But in trying to restructure the wages paid to the playing staff, Arsenal are now caught in a web of ambitions and greed. It is easy to pontificate about selling the above quintet but the reality is proving somewhat trickier. The manager for example, is finding himself stifled in the transfer market,

We are still looking to add one or two players but it depends also on how many go out because we have to respect the squad number. It’s important to respect that so before we get players in we have to get some players out. That has not happened yet, the market is very quiet.

I cannot tell you anything concrete about the situation [regarding those who might leave] because if they are not finding clubs they will stay here and be players of the squad. At the moment I cannot give you any concrete or clear indication.

He is as usual clever with his words. They can be “players of the squad” and yet not play. It is a test for those individuals and leaves a gap for interpretation. Are they actually holding transfers back or is it a case of we cannot sign anyone until they depart for financial reasons?

On a simplistic level, it is the latter. The number of players in the squad is largely irrelevant, you do not have to name every player as part of the 25 for the Premier and Champions Leagues. They can train and train but never play, other than the Capital One Cup-ties. That then brings their ambitions into focus. Squillaci I can understand, an older player who could quite happily take a paypacket home each week with little damage to his career in comparison to Bendtner and Chamakh. They are internationals and the Dane certainly has ambitions to play otherwise he would not go on loan.

But what of Chamakh? Hookah pipes aside, he seems content not to rock the boat by demanding a move. Fair enough he does not have to, he is contracted to Arsenal and is entitled to his wages. However, he is already facing challenges for his spot in the international squad so has his spell in England killed all of his footballing ambitions? Or is a tour of the Far East as good as he thinks life is going to get?

Arsenal of course can resolve the issue. Pay the players off, a lump sum and your registration, go to another club. That causes monetary loss but as a one-off, surely that is acceptable to the owner(s)? It solves a problem and strengthens their position in terms of moving forward. Those who have no future at the club are given control of their own destinies once more, given their sporting careers on a plate and left with no regrets about wasting two or three years seeing out contract.

This option might be considered ‘nuclear’; it is but there is so much antagonism hanging over the club that we need to move on from this. Refining the club over a period of time is the Arsenal Way; organic change rather than short, sharp shocks. Perhaps that is what we need. The club signals time and again that they are changing commercially, becoming more savvy about deals. For all of the loyalty being shown to the club by those deemed to be leaders on the pitch, why should the club bother with any of them. Footballers are the commodity now; players want power, money and riches? This is the fallout.

That is modern football for you. Pay or play. Where’s Jon Stark, Football Mercenary when you need him?

’til Tomorrow.


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