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World Cup Thoughts As Barcelona Players Get Shirty With Cesc

A day away packing up the house and what did I miss? Not a great deal actually.

So Spain deservedly won the World Cup for their performance in the Final. The nature of tournament football is such that you are only as good as the match you play and whilst they have not been the best team in South Africa, on the night they were better.

Will this sound the death knell for the functional football which has been in evidence in recent months? No. Internazionale proved you can win titles and trophies by being unadventurous, beating ‘footballing’ sides along the way. Indeed, had the Dutch taken their chances, the outcome might well have been different. However, it seems that going against the grain of their national team’s style through the years, attempting to shore up a defence which has been found wanting in previous tournaments, stifled them somewhat in the final.

That and an inability of his team-mates to utilise the strengths of Robin van Persie, cost them dearly. His spell out of the game last season appeared to be some hinderance but the tactics of the team did not help either, the movement he is used to at Arsenal was only sporadically evident for his country.

Cesc set up the winner and post-match immediately consoled Robin van Persie immediately afterwards. Nothing can be read into that aside from it showing the friendship between the two, the decent act of a well-brought up young man. Likewise, the media are making something of a prank by the Spanish team and one that Cesc found amusing but did not participate in, to the extent that he did not co-operate with the attempt to put a Barcelona shirt on his body. Some have got bent out of shape over it but let’s be honest, it was doesn’t even begin to register on Ince-scale.

I don’t think that anyone has doubted the affection he has for Arsenal – simply the desire to return home has never, understandably, been hidden whether that be now or in the future. He re-affirmed his appreciation of the club and supporters in his speech in Madrid last night:

All I can say is that this World Cup victory is for all the Arsenal players and fans — they are a world-class club.

I am an Arsenal player and proud to be.

It might have been a good weekend for Barcelona on the pitch with a large number of players contributing significantly but off it, matters were not so clear cut. Well, they were actually. Depending on which media outlet you believe, Cesc bought a property in England for a couple of million or a flat in Barcelona, which seems more of a crash pad for a weekend away than a commitment to the city. More pertinently, despite reports of a meeting, Wenger and Gazidis have both declined to meet Rosell and his entourage with the message clear that they are not going to sell. The ball is firmly in the player’s and Barcelona’s court. If he wants to go, he will probably have to ask for a transfer or (and?) Barcelona offer a sum of money that they have publicly stated is far too much.

The player asking for a move seems unlikely as that is a rarity in the modern game, prinicipally down to money forsaken in doing so, although I hasten to add that there is no evidence that this would the case for Cesc. Whether that is hurt pride over the manner of his departure to Arsenal or they are brassick, nobody knows for in the same way that you decide the clothes to wear each day, Barcelona has so many faces that it chooses which one each morning for the day ahead.

Back to the World Cup. Overall, it was a disappointment. There were some good games, teams from all continents gave us entertainment, some through good play, others through being so awful that unless you laugh, you will cry if you follow those countries.

The key thing is that the big stars failed to live up to their reputations. Few of the ‘media favourites’ brought any joy to the screen or stadia; it was left to lesser lights to brighten the sky. Fifa will proclaim this World Cup a success and for the hosts, in terms of organisation, the fears printed or broadcast beforehand never played out. There were other aspects which render this a failure, the stadia are beautiful but what happens to them now.

A forlorn hope is that Fifa learn lessons over ticketing. Never more should they bow to the corporate buyers who dismally failed to turn up for the latter stages to the unsaid huge embarrassment of the governing body. Pricing for tickets must be aimed at the local market because if they fail to turn up, empty seats will remain forever a problem.

A final wish is for football commentators and pundits to cease stooping to the lowest level. A commentator should describe the action adding authority to embellish the action. Those who were forced into English homes during the tournament would have had Peter Jones and Bryon Butler spinning in their graves. As for the pundits, the only hit was Roy Hodgson, a rare twinkle of sanity in the grey skies of banality. There have been lucid individuals who have a genuine analysis of the action before them. Too often the depth could be skimmed with a spatula such was the flimsy nature of their comments.

’til Tomorrow.

Will Arsène Take His Cue From Germany?

The transfer window has been officially open for one month and eleven days with little but speculation to show. There have been some transfers but nothing yet which has whetted the appetite for the new season, itself a little over a month away. Like a ferris wheel whose motor has just been started, the gossip is slowly cranking up about to reach a speed when it will be whirring and humming in the background.

A minor international tournament has made that the case. Tonight it reaches its climax with the new name of España or Netherlands gracing the roll of honour on the trophy’s base. The Spanish can become World as well as European champions. A minor record will be set if they win, Spain would be the first nation to win the World Cup having lost its opening match.

For the Dutch, the opportunity to live up to the weight of expectation, to put behind them the defeats in 1974 and 1978, a time when they should have ruled the world and would have been gleefully and perhaps greedily accepted as worthy champions. Pragmatism has encroached on the model of Total Football, the missing ingredient from their two previous finals. They can also match Brazil in 1970, winning all of their qualifying matches as well as those in the finals itself.

Three of the last four Final’s has seen an Arsenal player start – Gilberto would have made it four had he joined a month earlier – with Robin van Persie the more likely of the two to be on the pitch at kick-off. Cesc’s World Cup has been less successful personally and any playing time this evening could be considered a bonus. Like many of the superstars of the era, neither has enhanced their reputations; no damage inflicted either. Like the tournament as a whole, they have been rather ordinary.

Rarely does a final live up to its billing. Both sides have major plusses in their midfield and attack; their respective weaknesses are defensive. Neither goalkeeper has covered themselves in glory, spasmodic moments of brilliance have been overshadowed by their nervous opposites, much the same as every other goalkeeper this time around. van Persie has the speed to cause problems for the Spanish central pairing whilst Villa has been a rare striking success at this tournament.

Of the nations who participated in the 2010 World Cup, the one which provided the biggest surprise was Germany. They swept aside Australia, England and Argentina with a glorious mix of style and efficiency, as well as beating a good Ghanaian side. They succumbed to Spain but given that they were dismissed before the tournament began, the achievement of third place should not be underestimated. They are a work-in-progress, Spain are already the finished article.

Last night’s win over Uruguay was probably the most entertaining game of the tournament with both sides loosening the shackles. Arguments can be made either way as to whether or not there is any point in this fixture but it does prove occasionally to be a bright spot,  a moment of lighter relief with goalmouth entertainment along the way.

Arsène has been effusive in his praise and provided an insight into the impact that the Germans have had on him:

The Germans were the only ones to give you the impression they could score at any time. They have rehabilitated the dribble. It is a major lesson of this World Cup.

It was a strange position for most of us to be in. Germany has not had an entertaining side for a while. The mix of youth and experience is one that Arsène has sought to develop at Arsenal. The playing style of the Nationalmannschaft is a refinement of the 4-3-3 formation used at Arsenal, more suited to the Premier League than the tiki-taka Spanish play.

Transfer activity is defined as much by necessity as amending the team’s style for the coming campaign. There will be changes to style to avoid predictability, the roles of the players will evolve. Subtleties is this area can be as effective as massive changes.

I suspect Wenger will try to incorporate the defensive discipline of the Germans; the movement on the counter-attack is already utilised. Were Chamakh to play centrally, then perhaps the formation might reflect the Germans more fully. It is not that the Germans were tactically innovative; they were far from it. They were efficient in their application.

The biggest impact upon Arsenal will be in the players minds. They need to learn the defensive discipline, tracking back is not enough, numbers mean nothing if a tackle or interception is not made. At times last season, the defensive work was shoddy, players unable to pick out whom they were supposed to mark. Goals were conceded with a large number of Arsenal players in the penalty area.

Every team makes defensive mistakes. The optimum position is to minimise them, to stop repeating the same mistake time after time. Arsène likes his players to be intelligent on the pitch; this season is the chance to prove it.

’til Tomorrow.

Spain Through, RvP, Koscielny Signs And Other Gossip

Spain deservedly qualified for the World Cup Final on Sunday, a meeting against the Dutch which will be intriguing encounter and be the first time a European nation has won the trophy outside of the continent. For Arsenal, Cesc will no doubt have  a good view from the bench barring injury to others. This World Cup has not been good for the captain in terms of playing time.

Germany were unable to break through the Spanish defence and were well beaten. For the first time this tournament, Spain hit form consistently throughout the ninety minutes, the margin of victory should have been greater with opportunities not taken, Pedro failed to cap a good all-round display with a second goal for the Spanish.

Ahead of Sunday, Robin van Persie has spoken of his own desires and downplayed the long-standing rift between himself and Wesley Sneijder, instead emphasising the relatively unified nature of this Dutch squad. The opportunity to outshine the 1974 and 1978 squads is a key driver for van Persie to succeed, to have their name in lights. It is a tough result to call with neither of the finalists at their best although the Dutch seem to be in a higher gear than their opponents. Pragmatic in their victories, the confidence will be high with six victories behind them.

Onto Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny has finally completed his long-drawn out move from Lorient. Surprisingly he has not been a fan since childhood but has pledged to do his best for the club. Arsene highlighted the reasons for his signature:

We identified him as a very strong centre half, who has made big progress very quickly. He has shown he is mentally strong, he’s a fighter and a very strong competitor. Koscielny is a great addition to our squad.

There are doubts cast over the signing, principally because few of us have seen anything of him other than grainy YouTube clips as well as a career that is short and has been played out of the Champions League eye. That should not be a reason to dismiss him or his abilities. These questions will be answered in due course.

What is apparent is the requirement for another centre back. With Senderos, Silvestre and Gallas released, whilst Campbell possibly joining them, numbers are short and experience at the highest level evaporating, a wiser head might be needed to add to the mix of youthful exuberance in the centre.

Like Vermaelen, he is going to be fondly remembered by a colleague. van Persie and the Belgian had an altercation in the Amsterdam tournament whilst Koscielny was apparently sent off for a challenge on Chamakh in Ligue 1 last season.

Elsewhere, Gael Clichy is to be lured to Turin, the promise of the Europa League Third Qualifying Round surely too much for anyone to resist. A new name, for this close season anyway, has arrived in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips who wants out of Manchester City, an Asda carrier bag with £6m is apparently enough to make him move. Quite why Arsenal would be interested is beyond me with midfield well-stocked and a number of players who can fill the same role rather better than SWP would. But then who can fathom the reason for half of the transfer gossip that goes around?

Back on the subject of William Gallas, who vaguely turned up earlier in the post, he has had his say admitting that none of the French players including himself were good enough in the World Cup but if they were bad, Domenech was worse. Far worse, although the much-maligned coach did get one thing right:

I realised when I entered the changing room prior to the friendly with Costa Rica that the captain’s armband was placed beside Evra’s shirt. Domenech told me: ‘In any case, you would not be a good captain’

Having seen his stint as Arsenal captain disintegrate into a complete shambles, it is hard to argue with Domenech’s logic, a train of thought that might take a while to recover from.

Goonblog is reporting that Mark Schwarzer has passed a medical at Arsenal, his second after a knee problem was identified in the first. The signing would fit in with the theory that Wenger is waiting for one of the two Polish youngsters to come good. The assumption is that it is Szczesny but it may not be.

Elsewhere, there is a Kenyan interview with Wenger doing the rounds that has doubts cast about its veracity. Some of the comments are typcial Wengerisms but the issue seems to have arisen over the observations made about Almunia and his nerves, the point being that it is almost unheard of for the manager to identify one individual for criticism publicly. But then again, a few years ago, we were surprised when he commented on players at other clubs. The truth will no doubt come out.

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’til Tomorrow.

Dutch Courage, New Centre Backs & A New Definition Of Skint

The Netherlands progressed to the World Cup Final last night, the 3 – 2 scoreline suggesting a closer match than that which unfurled. The Dutch should have been comfortably clear of the Uruguyans before a late strike made for a nervy five minutes until the referee brought proceedings to a halt.

Thunderous strikes from Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Forlan retained parity at the interval but the Dutch moved up a gear in the second without ever getting to the level that they showed in qualifying or at Euro2008. That has been perhaps the disappointment of their World Cup thus far but the squad would argue that it has not been necessary since they are in the Final itself.

Some of their passing this time around has been laborious with the fluidity in counter-attack diminished as a result. Robin van Persie has worked hard for the team but is missing the speed of thought and movement which he has from his Arsenal team-mates. If Arsene is minded to change formation slightly to mirror the 4-2-3-1 which is favoured at this World Cup, van Persie might be better suited to being one of the three support strikers with Chamakh or Bendtner playing the lead role, for the Dutchman was reasonable as a ‘battering ram’ but it does not utilise his talents fully.

One question that is perplexing is what hold does Mark van Bommel have over the officials? In the knockout phase alone, he has done enough to warrant a red card in each game yet picks up a yellow for an apparent dissent? The inconsistency of officials is guaranteed to frustrate supporters as much as a wrong decision and it is a situation which Fifa must address.

Having concentrated on central defence before the World Cup, centre backs are queueing up like Routemasters to come to The Emirates. Laurent Koscielny‘s move to Arsenal is complete subject to international clearance which could take ‘hours or days to come‘ according to Lorient, Serdar Tasci‘s rumoured flirtation gathered a bit more substance yesterday with Arsenal reportedly in talks with the German club over a £10m move.

The media don’t know if Ozil is coming or going, the reports making it clear that everything surrounding the wunderkid is pure speculation. Not going anywhere today seems to be Cesc, a situation that is rapidly becoming so farcical that Fifa must be sitting in their offices absolutely wetting themselves with laughter at the sheer amateurism on display. Any charge of tapping up is doomed to fail as the whole charade could well have been scripted by Brian Rix.

At their media outlet, Sport, yesterday Sandro Rosell re-affirmed the position of the club; short-term liquidity is a severe problem but player sales and money from their TV deal by the middle of next month will solve the problem. The full extent of Laporta’s attempted Galactico policy has been laid bare for all to see.

Yet the paradox of football finance is there for all to see. Skint but they have a transfer budget of €89m and this after they have spent €35m on David Villa. The plaintive cries of Rosell that they will not pay £50m-£60m for Fabregas sends a very clear message; as much as this is about a world-class player, it is more about a world-class corporate ego.

Crucially, the pressure is cranking up on Fabregas himself. The point is now being reached where he has to either ask for a move or put the move to bed, until 2011 at least. Personally, I think he will come out and ask for a move once the World Cup is over; he will be in Catalunya or with his family on holiday, away from the storm when it breaks.

Bridges are being burned on his behalf but no apparent attempt is being made by Team Fabregas to repair them. Arsenal has been made to look a fool in the past with Reyes, denials issued in haste were later shown to be hollow, PR lessons learned. Fabregas though may yet have to come back to Arsenal. He will be respected, his skills admired but I sense a little less loved than before.

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’til Tomorrow.

Theo Got Barca Messi, England Youth Shambles & Transfer Gossip

Theo Walcott apparently scared the living bejasus out of Barcelona which led to Lionel Messi questioning the logic of Fabio Capello in omitting the player from his squad. Given the inclusion of Wright-Phillips and Lennon was an unmitigated disaster, neither doing anything to justify consideration at this level, let alone inclusion in the final squad, such praise from the player rated as the best in the world at the moment, highlights Capello’s folly:

I must say that at the time I thought it was a bad decision to leave Theo Walcott at home. And I think that has been proved right. I can only speak from experience but he was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against.

Barcelona players are not scared easily but I can tell you that when we played Arsenal last season he truly worried us…Theo came on and changed the game. He pretty much single-handedly salvaged a draw against Barcelona that night. Even in the return leg our manager Pep Guardiola was telling us he was the player to watch out for…The truth is that he really rattled us.

If he could do that against Barcelona, think what he could have done against Germany and Algeria.

For Arsenal, Walcott’s omission can be hugely beneficial. Theo has a point to prove to Capello, to prove that he is the best and should be the first choice on the right. Those who were cheerleading for Lennon very vocally ahead of South Africa have become noticeable by their absence following his failure to deliver.

The pre-season offers Walcott a full month ahead of the Premier League programme commencing and the chance to exorcise the demons of this time last year. A good start and his confidence will grow, allowing him to develop and realise the immense potential that he has.

Youth tournaments are in low regard in this country. Despite the debacle of the national team, Premier League clubs are refusing to allow their youngsters to participate in the European U-19 tournament this month. The rationale is hard to fathom, save for the fact that they do not have enough ‘home grown’ players to meet the EPL squad requirements. Blackburn seem to have good reason as Phil Jones is a genuine first team player but the rest?

Tottenham’s named quartet have barely registered on the Carling Cup scale, let along league commitments. Whilst you could understand the reluctance were the players key to the Premier League campaign, none are. It is this protectionist viewpoint that English football has to address.

Uefa need a kick as well. It would not have been hard to hold this tournament in May or at the same time as the World Cup. Few if any of the squads chosen for the Under-19s are in South Africa for reasons other than holidaying. It is symptomatic of the rivalries between fiefdoms that must be resolved.

Onto transfer news, well gossip since news implies some truth in the story, Eduardo‘s displays for the Portuguese national team have brought him to the attention of the English press and they have looked around, deciding that Arsenal is the place for him to be. I hope they have Fifa accreditation to act as an agent in this deal and will pay a slice of their fee to the Portuguese press who first broke the story.

Unsurprisingly the logic in the Daily Mail story is skewed with a Schwarzer deal already in place and Almunia needing to be sold for Eduardo to be signed. Two new goalkeepers? I have my doubts as to whether one will even be signed with central defence a more immediate and pressing concern for the manager. That is not to say goalkeeping is not an issue to be addressed, simply that until now none of the targets linked with the club present, to my mind, a tangible improvement on the current squad.

Finally, the real reason for Cesc’s desire to move to Barcelona was let slip by Gerard Pique this weekend:

Cesc is addicted to Fruit Salads and Blackjacks. We need to get him out of London to wean him off the evil of these sweets. It is so bad that he spends all of his wages on them and is reduced to wearing a replica Barcelona shirt around his heart instead of the latest designer gear. This cannot go on. We are all really worried for him.

So there you have it, the Catalans are really just very nice people who have Cesc’s best interests rather than a rampaging set of egos intent on behaving like spoiled 8 year old children who gave their unwanted toy to a jumble sale, realising soon afterwards that it was actually their favourite trinket after all.

’til Tomorrow.

Cesc Feels The Love, Campbell Feels The Way, Technology & Transfer Talk

Spain did not need Cesc last night to beat Portugal, David Villa providing the obligatory offside goal. Still, if he thinks Vincent del Bosque doesn’t love him, he knows that Arsenal fans do, the Spaniard winning the Player of the Season award by a comfortable margin, 27% ahead of Thomas Vermaelen.

To the disappointment of the Spanish media, Wenger was commentating on the match last night but the pair meeting up never happened with Arsene now officially a ‘hack’, using the tradesman’s entrance to get into the ground whilst beforehand, Cesc was 300m from the media, warming up. Arsene also refused to comment on the tedious activities of Barcelona.

Back to the Player of the Year award. The order was probably correct but the inclusion of Robin van Persie highlights the distinctly ordinary form of the rest of the squad towards the backend of the season. It would be interesting to see how much of the vote Sol Campbell received, possibly the best indicator of that.

Sepp Blatter has apologised as convincingly as Tony Hayward to FA and the Mexicans for poor officiating standards in the Round of 16 clashes over the weekend. Two good things might emerge. Firstly, England’s 2018 bid will no doubt garner some sympathy votes when push comes to shove but even Blatter has now admitted that technology is back on the agenda.

There is a place for goal-line technology in the game, the quickness of the decision over the ball’s position in relation to the goal is no hinderance to the flow of the match. However for offside and other decisions, the flow of the game is such that to implement technology is extremely difficult. An easier way to resolve that particular issue would be simplification of the Laws of the Game.

Poor positional sense by the official last night allowed David Villa’s goal to count when it should have been ruled out, something that can only be solved by improved standards. However, there is some light with regards to offside ‘goals’ as replays could be inspected whilst celebrations continue, the screens in most big stadia would allow the replay to be shown to quell anger which is of concern to Fifa.

Blatter has argued spuriously, that football at the top should be the same as amateur. That is never going to happen, especially with fourth and more officials on the agenda. There are enough problems finding referees for matches in Sunday leagues without the added pressure of finding three more to stand behind goals and manage the managers.

The role of the fourth official has long been open to different interpretations. Some countries allow him to meddle more than others; it is time for that to be standardised. Replay-watcher-in-Chief is a good starting point.

As England’s World Cup woes fade into the background, waiting for a quieter day, the transfer talk ups the pace with more stories and linkage to the fore. First up is Madjid Bougherra, the Algerian international who kept Wayne Rooney quiet in South Africa. Not that it took much as the United striker was determined to show just how badly a pub player would cope at the highest level.

Simon Kjaer has lots of admirers around Europe, Arsene reportedly among them. Not that he has done anything about it. As with the Cole saga, Spurs are in the driving seat having reportedly lodged a €35m bid with Palermo for Kjaer and Cavani although no-one has bothered to tell the Dane’s Mr20%, which strikes me as a fundamental flaw in the process.

Kjaer may yet become more prominent in Arsene’s attentions as Sol Campbell has reportedly been looking around Celtic’s facilities, seemingly serious intent on both parties to conclude a deal. Newcastle are reportedly waiting in the wings.

He may yet stay at Arsenal but will the prospect of  being a coach on the pitch appeal to him? It might as that was one of the selling points in his ill-fated spell at Notts County. One can only hope that Kjaer shakes the Danish debacle against Japan out of his system should he join.

Meanwhile, not joining Arsenal this summer is Mario Balotelli according his Mr20%. The player is currently studying for his exams having successfully passed his police entrance exam. Entrance to the local nick that is, following an incident where he fired a toy gun in a Milanese plaza at the weekend.

Equally convincing in the ‘missing the Arsenal boat’ this summer is Loic Remy whose club, Nice, rejected an approach from West Ham. The suitcase stuffed full of Euros was too light for the French club’s tastes, only €9.5m crammed in. However, should the West Ham laundry lady iron them nicely, it is believed that they will be able to cram in a few more. Still, that won’t be enough for Remy who only wants to play for Arsenal or Nice. Which is nice.

Actually, that is not so fanciful as Eduardo has apparently told his agent he wants to leave Arsenal with Aston Villa reportedly enquiring about his availability whilst Newcastle wanting Arsenal starlet, Sol Campbell, no wait, sorry, it’s Henri Lansbury on loan, as well. Oh, and Bolton want Jack Wilshire back but they’ve been saying that for months.

’til Tomorrow.

England’s Young Cubs, Koscielny On The 1st, Joe Wants Faith

The World Cup continues despite England’s exit, a shocking state of affairs I know, since this country is the centre of the football universe. Brazil set up a mouthwatering quarter-final with the Netherlands this weekend, thumping Chile 3-0, an inevitable result once the deadlock was broken. Both countries have found the right mix of flair and hard work and it is no surprise that they remain unbeaten, conceding few goals along the way. It may not be the goalfest that the media hope for but it promises to be no less absorbing.

Today sees the clash we have all been waiting for as Paraguay take on Japan, the winners take on Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal or Spain in the quarter finals. I kid you not when I observe that I hope the victorious team from today’s first match create a massive upset by getting to the semi-finals at the very least. It would perhaps stop the patronising claptrap about smaller nations from the various commentators and pundits for a short while at least, sending them into even bigger apoplexy about England.

The whole of the problem with England and the FA encapsulated in their snazzy title for anything to do with the national team? “Club England”. The name sums up the problems: a holiday club, great locations, hotels are fantastic but the organisers are absolutely useless.

Capello’s observation that Bobby Zamora is one for the future brought his own into question so The Sun decided to help him. Sir Trevor Brooking, long a lone voice of sanity at the FA, rightly questioned where the opportunities at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United lay for the young Englishmen ahead of Brazil 2014.

He then scuppered his own argument by including Arsenal in the equation. I would suggest he looks at the list produced and counts: two of them will be Arsenal regulars by then – Wilshere, Gibbs – whilst the third is already a first team choice – Walcott. This is before Arsene obeys the fantasy transfer window wishes and signs Richards, Hart and Rodwell.

Wilshere has a big season ahead of him. The loan spell at Bolton was preparation work for the 2010/11 campaign with Arsenal and I would expect Wenger to use Wilshere frequently this season, either from the bench or when rotation requires. There is an expectation that he would be the prime beneficiary if Fabregas left. I am not convinced that Wenger would put that weight on Wilshere’s shoulders, a new signing the preferred option if the captain leaving scenario comes to fruition.

It leaves Wenger with a season to prepare the youngster for the time of eventual departure be it in 12 months or two years time or whenever. At Bolton, Wilshere played mainly on the flanks and the left side would be the most obvious starting point for him. Wenger has options for the right in Walcott and Bendtner but no doubt there will be cries of ‘stifling youth’ if regular appearances are not made. Attacking options from midfield and attack at Arsenal are not in short supply and if – which is a very big if – fitness can be maintained the competition for places is certainly healthy.

Which is more than can be said of the defence. With Koscielny signing this week, there are still gaps to be plugged. Full back positions have cover on both sides with able deputies replacing the first choices. Centrally though, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Djourou are not sufficient for a season. Campbell is certainly an option but not for long spells, surely? Mention of other youngsters who have been on loan is all well and good but one more experienced centre back is required as well as the trio should Campbell not re-sign.

As for goalkeepers, I am unconvinced that anyone is incoming. Schwarzer does not inspire confidence, Green less so. Both are average at best and there are doubts that they would do anything other than put pressure on the current squad, starting places no certainty.

Were Wenger to invest, I would want someone who has proven themselves although there seems to be a drop in the number of world class goalkeepers over recent seasons, consistency eluding even the top players in this position. Whether ball design is influencing this – it is at the World Cup but that is an Adidas abomination and the Premier League us Nike balls – is unclear but mistakes seem to be plaguing all custodians. I guess the criteria applied would be who is likely to drop the least clangers over a season in those circumstances.

Onto real and imaginary transfer news, reports of Koscielny‘s impending arrival are confirmed by Lorient‘s website, the arrival date is 1st July 2010. Now that is what you call a Transfer Linked section.

Joe Cole, meanwhile, has told everyone that he is a huge George Michael fan, demaning Faith from any new manager. Whilst everyone gets excited, John Cross in the Mirror has steadfastly maintained that Cole is not going to Arsenal. Although he suggested Old Trafford first – no faith there – it’s been Tottenham for him for a while.

Delboy Redknapp has apparently been on the blower from his yellow Robin Reliant and observed, “Joe, me old mucker, I am your farver“, which is going to swing it for Joe as Arsenal won’t be able to match the £60k per week plus add-ons that the Tiny Tots are offering, unless they get shot of Rosicky and Eduardo first apparently.

‘Appy ‘Arry may have scuppered the deal by putting himself firmly forward as someone to replace Fabio Capello when the Italian is removed from his post in two weeks. The FA suits claim it was to consider their options and not make a knee-jerk decision. Heaven forbid that anyone suggest it is because the bigwigs do not want to interrupt their South African holiday. The end of the World Cup and the timescale in question were merely coincidental according to an FA insider as he slurped Pina Colada’s by the pool.

’til Tomorrow.

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