What About A Nasri-Berbatov Swap?

August 14, 2011

Well, I am not much of a transfer speculation/discussion guy but today’s game and a highly unrealistic transfer rumour about a Nasri-Tevez swap got me thinking.

First, let me just mention why I don’t see any sense in the swap deal with Tevez. The Argentinean is a world-class player but I don’t see him fitting into the Arsenal style. He is, and I say this without intending to be critical, too selfish a striker (a quality that works well in certain cases) and will affect everyone around him. More importantly, I don’t see how Arsenal can afford anywhere near the wages he is on unless all the transfer funds go into that. But the single biggest problem with the deal is that Tevez is unsettled and doesn’t want to be in England (If I haven’t misread his situation). What will prevent him from demanding a move in January or next summer?

If Arsenal want a big name there are better options around.

But once I got thinking about a swap deal, it struck me that Berbatov is in not too dissimilar a position at United. He has scored goals there and won titles but he doesn’t fit as well into their system. There is no doubt in my mind he’d be open to a move after the Champions League Final snub.

United want Nasri and he will improve their squad without a doubt.

Similarly, Berbatov can be an excellent No. 10 for Arsenal. He has the technique to fit into this team, the vision and creativity that will be desperately needed, and he is the kind of a player who would be just as happy giving assists as he would be while scoring goals. I can see him bringing something different and special to the dressing room.

There are some issues with his work rate, but if we are honest, Arsenal have learnt to carry some players. I can see him come into today’s starting line-up in place of Arshavin or just behind the striker.

He can also lead the line when, sorry if, RvP gets injured.

When Fabregas played, his contribution made others perform better. His vision and technique got a lot more out of Arshavin, Van Persie and the others. The Bulgarian can’t be an exact replacement but he will be better than most. He will definitely offer a lot more than someone like Tevez.

Even his wages will be a lot more affordable compared to Tevez or some other superstars.

Anyway, these are just thoughts I had but surprisingly I haven’t read this link before. Of course, this is more likely down to my conscious efforts to stay away from transfer stories than any other reason.

Then again most transfers are complicated affairs, especially this season, and there is no guarantee that a) Ferguson would sell such a player to Arsenal, b) Berbatov would want to come here, c) Wenger shares my views about the Bulgarian, or d) Nasri would agree to a move to United if City are offering a lot more money. And I am sure those are not the only issues that can derail such a move.

But it is worth a thought if nothing more. Don’t you think?


Thoughts On Denilson, Bartley, and Campbell

July 20, 2011

Denilson’s finally moved on. I believe all concerned will be happy with that. Those fans who supported the Brazilian will appreciate a fresh lease of life for him. Others who couldn’t stand him must be delighted he’s gone. For Arsenal this opens up a slot in midfield and saves on some wages. For Denilson it is a chance to get his confidence back and an opportunity to work his way into the Brazilian national side.

I believe, just like the Clichy transfer, this one is a win-win. The important issue here is whether he will be replaced by a new player or via a promotion from within. Clichy, based on Arsene’s statement, will be replaced by Gibbs with Traore providing competition and Vermaelen the back up. I think that will be an extremely risky approach even if we discount his inexperience because the English youngster has had some serious injury problems and might miss a big chunk of the season again.

I am not blaming Gibbs for his injuries. And I believe he has the talent to be a top class left back despite some worrying performances during the slump last season. But to start with him as the main man is like challenging fate to a duel. Your luck will never hold out.

Traore is an interesting player but is not consistent enough to be a top four player in a defensive position. If Vermaelen is viewed as a third choice left back then chances of a new defensive player arriving are also slim because any new signing won’t get enough games with Vermaelen and Koscielny likely to partner as first choice pairing.

By the same logic, if Denilson is replaced by Frimpong I expect to see the squad weakened. That is not to say that the youngster is a bad player. I want him to develop and can see the need for giving him some playing time. But Arsenal need at least one more defensive player who is not in the learning phase, and if both Clichy and Denilson are replaced internally the squad will lack balance.

That brings me to the case of Kyle Bartley who had a decent-ish loan spell at Rangers. I was surprised he wasn’t even on the Asia touring party. Does that mean Wenger rates him as fifth choice centre back or thinks he needs another loan? If that is the case the need for bringing in at least one more defensive minded player is all the more pressing.

Considering the fact that Arsene did bid high, given his standards, for Phil Jones, I am inclined to believe he is looking for such a player. But in this transfer window Wenger will have to be a lot more decisive than he has been in the past. I am not in panic mode though, there is a long time to go and these things can take time. Based on past evidence some fans will be sceptical but I don’t see any constructive value coming out of that attitude.

Finally, I want to express disappointment that the Joel Campbell deal is off. Once it was clear that other clubs were getting involved and offering better deals, or at least hinting at better deals (if they’d offered better deals the transfer might have been completed), it would have been a surprise if his father had agreed to the Arsenal offer. They are looking after their own interests and it’s hard to blame them for that. Arsenal too did their best and I’d not admonish the club for missing out on the opportunity. It’s a shame but its part of life in the football world.

Let’s see if the kid was a flash in the pan or has real talent that shines in the U20 World Cup. If he can perform the Campbells will be well rewarded.

Since it wasn’t a priority signing for Arsenal I am not too concerned. But it’s good to know the club are always on the lookout for talented players in all positions. We should not blame them for the realities of the modern day transfer market.

Now I’m going back to waiting and watching.


Another English Team Gets Between Arsenal And Campbell?

July 17, 2011

I have not been interested in most of the transfer rumours doing the rounds (quite literally!) this summer. But a recent story linking Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell to Arsenal, being run by Gunnerblog and Young Guns, got me excited.

Here was a young, pacy striker that I’d never heard of and Wenger was interested in him. He had to be good and I had to know more. Apart from quality articles on the aforementioned blogs and lazily copied reproductions in regular media, I didn’t find much except this piece on La Nacion, which appears to be a Costa Rican newspaper.

The headline I have used is the same that Google Translate provides for that link. It quotes the youngster’s dad saying,

We got another very good offer from one of the great English team, which is just as interesting in the sport to Arsenal, but more economically.

I will meet now with my wife and together we will make the decision whether to give Arsenal the other or wait for the other option or something else.

I am really not aware of how these things work and whether the source is credible or not. If anyone has a better understanding please share it.

A young, unproven striker is not on top of Arsenal’s requirements but I think such a player could fill a crucial hole this season and in the coming years. More than Gary Cahill, Chris Samba, and the likes, I’d want to see this deal go through.


Bored Beyond Belief!

June 24, 2011

There was a time when I spent a few hours every day browsing the Arsenalsphere. In the last 10 days or so I don’t think I have totaled an hour of surfing. There is so little going on.

First a random player is linked. Then the supposed transfer moves forward. One day, according to unsubstantiated reports, a player is close to signing as terms are settled. Then he miraculously vanishes from the news cycle for a few days. Another quote appears out of nowhere and the cycle repeats. I have lost count of the number of times Hazard was close to a move, Gervinho more recently, Samba, and so on.

Then there are the usual Cesc stories with some Nasri ones thrown in for additional flavour.

The part that surprised me was that right now the only feeling I have is boredom. No excitement, no anguish, no hope, no anxiety, nothing.

I don’t know the exact reason for this. In the past the Cesc stories used to leave me on edge. Now I am pretty certain where all parties stand on this issue. The Daily Noise doesn’t mean anything at all even if it includes a joke of a bid, and a mild rebuttal followed by senseless overanalyses.

I guess the other reason could be that having seen the transfer activity of various teams over the last few years and the results of those, I just don’t care much about most of these stories. As I’d mentioned earlier, Nasri leaving the club doesn’t bother me. In the same vein, the likes of Samba, Cahill, Gervinho, et al. signing for Arsenal will not be a big deal either. This isn’t likely to be a popular opinion but I don’t see any of them significantly improving the Gunners.

One thought, or a question, that has been ingrained in my mind for a while now is – Can Arsenal really afford the truly big signings?

Pastore, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, and similar players are being valued at astronomical sums despite the fact that they are yet to prove themselves at the highest level. The fact that clubs like City, Chelsea, and Real can pay a king’s ransom makes it hard for Arsenal to compete for any player with genuine class and real quality.

While few really know what’s going to happen, most of us can reasonably guess that teams will be busier in this transfer window as the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules come into effect. In the coming years we will know how meaningful these rules turn out to be and whether the administrators have the courage and sense to enforce them or not, but this window will certainly be a crazy one for buyers and sellers.

Those with precious goods might feel this is their last chance to sell for a big profit. Those in the market might want to pick up the loot before the stores close.

Arsenal seem to have three choices; to buy overpriced players from the Premier League, to scour the earth for undervalued talent, or to compete with the moneybags on their strengths.

Gary Cahill is an excellent example of the first option. I wonder why Mancini hasn’t signed him yet. Is he relying on Lescott to perform next season? Won’t Toure be missing a number of games at the start? The reported £17-20M range can’t be a deterrent for the well-oiled finances of City. Could it be that he has learnt his lesson after looking at the likes of Lescott and Milner? One could also wonder why Ferguson paid a similar fee for a younger player with limited experience?

We have seen the results of the second option. Arsene is by far the best at scouting and identifying unpolished gems but the approach is inherently risky and doesn’t always pay off. So someone like Ricky Alvarez might look like a talent on youtube, but it is hard to form an opinion before watching him perform while dealing with the rough and tumble of the English game.

I have maintained for a while that in order to win the big trophies Arsenal need at least one player capable of winning the Player of the Year award. I’d love the next Ronaldinho or Kaka to come to the Gunners but that would put us in the third bracket. Honestly, I cannot see us competing against City, Chelsea, or the likes. That’s all the more reason for Cesc and RvP to stay fit and deliver, but these things are beyond our powers sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not an attempt to say that there is no hope of  improving this team, or that Arsenal don’t need new players. In a way I am just trying to understand this unbearable ennui. Those who have been following the transfer saga for years might be better accustomed to it but I have only had access to the web and these news sources for the last few years. Initially, I used to get sucked into it and reacted to every article. Over the years different patterns have come to the fore. Now it feels like being in a locked room with nothingness personified and floating around all around me, hammering my brain with an empty hammer that seems to bear the weight of the world. Strangely enough, it no longer hurts but there are times when I find it hard to breathe. The only viable option, and one that I am about to revert to the moment I publish this piece, is to run away from it all and immerse myself in something else, anything but this.


Welcome Carl Jenkinson. Mixed Feelings About The Jones Transfer

June 9, 2011

The official website announced the arrival of young defender Carl Jenkinson. I would like to join other Gooners who have already expressed a warm welcome to the youngster. Wish you a great career in Red and White Carl.

According to the Charlton Chief Executive, the lad comes from an Arsenal supporting family. That ensures excellent DNA I suppose.

I haven’t seen much of the kid, in fact I’ve just seen one youtube video where he played at left-back, so don’t really know how advanced his development is. To be fair to him the jump from League One to the Premiership will not be easy so we should not start out with high expectations at the outset. It is interesting to note that even the official website has filed this under the ‘Reserves News’ category.

Pre-season should give us a good idea and I’d like to reserve judgment till then. After that we will know whether he can be relied on to be a valuable squad player next season or he will need some nurturing before any real responsibility is thrust upon his young shoulders.

Wouldn’t it be a delight if he turns out to be the ‘Finnished’ product with English grit, determination, the works! On a more realistic note I will be happy if he has the technique of a continental player and the physicality of an English brute.

In a separate story, you must have read by now that Arsenal made a substantial bid for Phil Jones but the Blackburn defender chose United. I had mixed feelings about that attempted transfer.

Firstly and most importantly, it shows that Wenger is ready to spend and is willing to pay over the odds for an English player. If this particular transfer didn’t work out we can realistically hope there will be other targets. I believe any Gooner, irrespective of their current attitude towards the club and the manager, will look at this as a highly positive development.

Secondly, he fit the bill of what is required, well almost. My guess is that Wenger was impressed by his versatility and that would have made him a very useful squad player who could have developed into a first team regular over the next couple of years. He would have been the kind of player that can be brought on, in defence or midfield, when a lead has to be defended. From the functionality point of view and considering the needs of the team, it would have been a very useful acquisition. Indeed, he was just the kind of signing I had been hoping for all of last season.

Having said that, I must also say that I did have some reservations about signing Jones. Those were not related to his talents. If Ferguson and Wenger want a player then he has to be top notch. I am just not sure he is ready to take a first team spot right now and I’m not convinced big money should be spent on anyone who isn’t going to nail down a starting birth. While I find it hard to accept the cost for a squad player, that thought makes Wenger’s willingness to invest that much more encouraging.

Liam Brady told talkSPORT Arsenal will be spending some money this summer,

There will be a lot of business done this year and I think we will be spending a bit more money than we have done in past seasons. I think Arsenal will spend this year.

But he also warned about the lack of quality players in the market,

Where are the players to go around everybody? It is not only the clubs in England, but also all the big European clubs are in the transfer market.

I believe if Arsene sustains his willingness to spend big on one or two players he will find the right quality. Le Boss likes the word ‘decisive’ a lot and it’s time for him to show he can be decisive as well. Whether that will be sufficient or not is a matter for another day.


Just How Many Defenders Do We Need?

July 5, 2010

I was waiting for the announcement of the Koscielny signing before writing this piece. But given our recent trend I’m not sure how long this is going to take so it’s better to discuss this topic with the assumption that we will be signing Koscielny.

Gallas, Campbell, Silvestre and Senderos are all on their way out. Campbell might stay but let’s ignore that possibility for the time being.

There is no way we are going to sign 4 defenders. If results don’t go our way next season, I’m sure many will point to these departures and say we didn’t replace the players who left. I’m trying to think just how many we need without the benefit of hindsight!

At the beginning of last season we had 6 Centre Backs, at least in theory. At the end, we ran out of central defenders. So can we justify having less than 6 this time around!?

I think it’s important to look at the details to arrive at an answer. Out of the six we had at the start of last season, Senderos just played two Carling Cup games. We can easily replace that by playing Bartley or Nordtveit. So in my book we don’t need to replace him.

Djourou was one of the six but he was injured for the whole season. This has double impact on this analysis. Firstly, his contribution last season was zilch, so you could say we only had 5 CB’s last season. Secondly, and as an extension, he is like a new player this season and certainly better than Silvestre!

That brings us down to Gallas and Campbell, two players who made a big contribution last season. Assuming Koscielny signs one of the two will be replaced (depending on whether the newcomer is a starter or first choice replacement). We are still one short.

From what I’ve read online most fans seem to agree that we need at least one more central defender. I’m not sure it will be that easy to get a top quality new guy who will be happy to be on the bench. It won’t be easy to rotate the players around either because Koscielny, Djourou and whoever else we sign will all need time to adapt. If we rotate them regularly we might end up without having a proper partnership and all might lose confidence. It does make Wenger’s job a little difficult.

Looking at our rivals, we can see that Chelsea have Terry, Carvalho, Alex, and Ivanovic as the recognized, top quality Centre Backs. United have Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, and Brown. They also have Neville, O’Shea, and others who can fill in and they’ve signed Smalling.

The important thing to note here is that both teams have three out and out central defenders and others who are competent in at least one other defensive position. I think this is where Arsenal suffer as we have plenty of quality in our Full Backs but none of them can really do a job in central defence. Silvestre was the best we had in that sense so I don’t really need to explain this point!

The new 25 player limit makes this even more important as we cannot have too many players who specialize in one role. If Gallas, Campbell and Silvestre leave we can still sign 6 players for the squad of 25. So we are not really stretched but it’s not a good idea to flirt around the borderline as we have some youngsters who will take up those spots next year and there is always a possibility we might need a signing or two in January (depending on injuries)

I think once we get a new keeper, one of the present ones will either leave or go out on loan thereby not affecting he squad quota. So I’ll leave that part out of the discussion. Similarly, if Cesc decides to go we will have to get a top quality replacement but in terms of squad quota it won’t make a difference.

Of course, Cesc and Campbell are two of our eight home grown players. If we get replacements that are not English, it will automatically force us into promoting a couple of U-21 home grown players into the squad of 25 just to fulfil the quota of eight. In effect, instead of having 7 open places we will have 3 places (two replacements + two promotions).

The permutations are quite complex with too many “ifs” involved. In case you’re not clear on the rules and the composition of our squad check out this article. Just add Chamakh to that list as I wrote that piece before we signed him.

In all, I think we can comfortably sign two new players. That will leave us with enough room for next year when the youngsters need a spot or two and for an emergency January signing, if needed.

Instead of signing another player who plays purely as a central defender I think we need someone who can deputize in defensive midfield and/or at left back. We already have Sagna, Eboue and Djourou for the right back spot so I don’t see sense in signing another one for that.

At left back we have Gibbs as an able deputy but I don’t count Traore as a good back up. As both these youngsters are U-21 we can have them both without really worrying about squad places. But from a football point of view it will certainly be good to have someone who can do a good job.

It’s true we have Vermaelen who can play left back as well but has been so good in central defence that it doesn’t make sense to move him for any reason. Also, he is the only central defender we have with some decent experience of playing in the big games.

This is the reason I’m not sure someone like Bougherra will be useful. I’d say the same goes for Subotic or Kjaer. All of them could have been candidates instead of Koscielny but not in addition to the French/Polish defender.

As has been mentioned before by a regular contributor Phil, Jan Vertonghen of Ajax seems like a good choice as he can play central defence, left back and defensive midfield positions. If not Vertonghen then a player with similar attributes, style and talent. Kjaer is two-footed, isn’t he? But does he play Left Back or DM?

I can’t see us signing a central defender and a defensive midfielder. Some will argue that it’s absolutely necessary that we do but I’m not sure Arsene will make so many changes to the starting eleven. Even with the present scenario an additional defender will mean we will have a 10 Mil player on the bench. I’m not saying it’s wrong but it would be much better to have someone who can take a starting role in defensive midfield alongside Song.

In conclusion, we can certainly sign another central defender and a DM. We have the money and squad spaces for that. I just feel we need one player with real quality who can do both jobs. We need another Song. If only finding one was as easy as saying it!


Arsenal Must Rise Above The Catalan Filth

May 18, 2010

The customary Cesc rumours have been gaining weight this week and reached a crescendo over the last 24 hours as a Guillem Balague article in the Spanish daily AS has been reported by all and sundry. Balague is supposedly one of the better journalists around but he hasn’t explicitly mentioned his sources. All other reports that I’ve read use him as the source or don’t mention the source at all.

I can understand Barcelona’s point of view behind these stories. They are desperate for Cesc and look like fools for having let him go as he is better than everyone in their squad bar Messi. Fabregas feels a connection with the Catalans and I can appreciate that as well. There is no denying the fact that Cesc can take them to dizzying heights and can also achieve significant personal glory in that team. So as long as we have Fabregas these rumors will surface in each and every transfer window, we just have to live with that.

Normally, I’d have completely ignored this as typical and nonsensical but El Capitan’s recent comments have left me a little concerned. I’m not mentioning the exact quotes as they have been rehashed all over the net and I’m sure you’d have read them by now. In the past Fabregas has been categorical in denying any transfer talk even though he has always maintained and stated his feelings for Barca. This time around Cesc spoke about resolving his future before the World Cup and that is highly uncharacteristic.

The reason I’m concerned is that Arsene is a man who doesn’t take hard decisions. That’s not the right statement but what I mean is that Wenger, by nature, likes to keep his players happy. He is not a hard task master and he is not someone who would force a player to stay if the player doesn’t want to. Do you know a single example of when Wenger has forced someone to stay against his wishes?

The other worry for me is that Wenger is a bit too principled while selling players, just like he is while buying them. If we were to sell Fabregas I’d expect nothing less than the kind of money Madrid spent on Kaka or a big swap deal like the one for Ibrahimovic. If Arsene does let him go, he might actually sell him for peanuts (£30-35 Million)! I don’t think Barca have the big bucks, especially if they also sign Villa, so they will push for some cheap swap deal and I really hope Wenger doesn’t accept it just because Cesc wants to leave.

Even if we get a big deal for Fabregas it would not be easy to rebuild the squad. Eventually, we will do it and the club will always be bigger than an individual but we will lose at least a year or two in this process. Who’s to say that by that time someone else won’t have changed their mind and the cycle would not repeat! In fact, it’s something close to what we have been seeing in the last few years as we’ve lost one or two key players every season. In the past we’ve not had big bucks to spend on replacements but this year might be different. Even then, why should we sell an unparalleled gem? We are not desperate for the money so the only reason would be that Cesc is adamant.

I’m not sure what Fabregas really wants because I don’t trust a word I read in the media and Cesc himself has been quite ambiguous. Although he did say he was in no hurry to leave Arsenal and if those words were genuine then there should be no real cause for concern. It would also be consistent with his new contract and backdated bonuses (if that’s true).

Arsene has been quite adamant that the only players free to leave are those at the end of their contracts. It’s time he throws his weight behind those words and ensures that Fabregas stays at Arsenal. We’ve worked hard with him to make him the player that he is and we should not be let our best player leave when we are so close to success. From the top of my mind these are the reasons for keeping Cesc,

  • Our best player by a country mile
  • Home grown!
  • Respected and loved by everyone at the club
  • Going to get better and has not yet peaked (exhilarating thought)
  • There is no replacement in the world at any price!!

Interestingly, I’ve not read any mention of a buyout clause in El Capitan’s contract. Do you know of one? Would be interesting to know if it exists or not and if it does, what is the amount that would trigger it? I hope our lawyers haven’t screwed up on this one!

I hope the club come out with a statement that Fabregas is not for sale and put a lid on this issue at least for this summer!

P.S. : Will anyone hold demonstrations in front of Fabregas’ house? Surely those who want big players to come in must want the best to stay just as much!