Wenger’s comments leave much to be debated, but little decided
The news of the day focuses mostly on interpreting Arsene Wenger’s predictably intricate comments. He spoke on a wide range of topics including transfers, the Champions League, fixture congestion and unfortunately Tomas Rosicky’s injury. Let’s start with the most straightforward and disappointing news.
As suspected, Tomas Rosicky has suffered a hamstring injury during training. We don’t know much about the injury other than that it will reportedly keep Rosicky on the sidelines for approximately six weeks. If that is actually the case, then it’s far from a disaster and probably to be expected. Unfortunately, estimates regarding the length of Rosicky’s injury absences aren’t the most reliable and a six week prognosis can just as easily extend to … well … the rest of his career. Here’s hoping that this is a garden variety hamstring injury and Rosicky is able to make his way back to first team action.
Arsene’s comments regarding Arsenal’s unresolved transfer activity were interesting if not particularly revelatory. The boss did reveal that negotiations over Phillipe Senderos are ongoing with Everton. Senderos would be allowed to leave, according Arsene, because he has only one year remaining on his contract. I suppose that means that neither the Club nor the player has any intention of extending the agreement and there’s no reason to let Senderos leave for free when we can get a fee for him this summer. However, Wenger did point out that an agreement had not yet been reached, so we’ll see how this progresses. Based on today’s comments, however, it would be hugely surprising if Senderos did not leave before the window closes.
The most anticipated and cryptic comments of the day involved our potential transfer activity. On this crucial topic, Arsene had the following to say,
“We can still make do with one or two players more. One could be in the defensive areas, and one in the attacking areas. We make a few enquires for players, but we are nowhere near to signing anybody at the moment. Usually the transfer market only speeds up from August 26 up to midnight on August 31 – and especially in the last two hours.”
Typical Arsene Wenger quote. Short on explanation, long on opportunities for interpretation. You have to believe based on these comments that we will be making at least one more addition, but then again, it sounds like we might be waiting a while. Arsene’s statement that we are “not close” at the moment suggests that our transfer activity could remain unresolved until the final hour. That could be a precarious position for the club.
It’s hard to get the bad taste of last summer’s transfer window out of my mouth. After waiting and waiting for that key signing, the deal never materialized. Arshavin could have come to the club earlier and prevented the poor start to the season that Wenger still blames for our failure to challenge for the title. But we weren’t able to make the 11th hour deal last summer that ultimately came to fruition in January. If Wenger is planning to play this dangerous game of brinkmanship again, we could be left without a new signing come September.
It’s also unclear from Wenger’s comments just what type of player he’s chasing. He says that one player would be in the attacking area and one would be in the defensive area, but that could mean anything. It could mean a striker, an attacking midfielder, a defensive midfielder or a defender. So essentially we know that we’re not in the running for a new ‘keeper. Thanks for the update Arsene. It does seem reasonable to assume that our attacking target is Marouane Chamakh. Some reports indicate that we have increased our offer and Arsene, in a rare move, has admitted that he is a target. But that’s certainly far from conclusive.
I tend not to be critical of Arsene Wenger’s obfuscation because I believe that it protects the club’s bargaining position in the transfer market. But there’s a lot of anxiety among the supporters right now and Wenger’s lack of transparency isn’t helping. As fans, we don’t have the right to know what players the club are considering as transfer targets. But considering Wenger’s history of parsimonious transfer dealings, it’s fair for supporters to be concerned. For me, the real insult to our intellgence ocurred when Arsene tried to suggest that we have five center-backs even if Senderos leaves.
“If he goes, and if there is an opportunity, then we will look. But we still have Silvestre, Gallas, Djourou, Vermaelen and Song. That’s five centre backs”
Forgive me, but I just threw up in my mouth. “That’s five centre backs.” Really? Because I count one former captain who nearly got thrown out of the club, one young Swiss center-back that has started fewer than a dozen games, one center-back that’s never played a match in England and is already injured, one defensive midfielder that’s been first-team caliber for about three months and one crusty french blow-up doll. With all due respect, if we plan to challenge for big trophies, then we do not have five center-backs. We might not even have two center backs. Djourou seems like he might be the answer. But what if he’s not? What if Vermaelen needs time to adjust to English football? What if Song is a midfielder, and not a defender? Then where are we? We’re right back where we were last season but without Toure. I rarely take issue with Arsene Wenger, but I take issue on this point. We need defensive reinforcements and there’s no denying it. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to be resolved in the next few days.
The one thing that does seem to be conlcuded, at least for the moment, is the flirtation with Patrick Viera. When asked if the Viera deal was a possibility Arsene simply responded, “not at the moment, no.” I get the sense that this transaction was never really considered but that Arsene said some generous things to assist Patrick in attracting another club and to prevent a former Arsenal icon from being embarassed for breaking the story. It was never the kind of move you’d expect from Arsene Wenger.
Arsene was also asked about his expectations for the Champions League draw which takes place in just a few short hours. Wenger acknowledged that there are some good teams in the draw. But rather than identifying teams that concern him, Arsene cleverly pointed out that none of the teams will want to face Arsenal. I thought it was a bold and confident statement ahead of a big challenge for the team. But Arsene went on to point out that Arsenal will have to deal with massive fixture congestion at the start of the season.
“What is tricky is we have an international friendly on the 12th, France plays an official game, Croatia plays an official game. Then we play on the 15th, the 19th, the 22nd, at Manchester United, then again on the 25th, the second leg of the Champions League. It is a very heavy schedule, and that is why I have to find the right balance in every game and to have no injuries is important.”
When I read that quote, I became more than a little concerned. It’s a lot of meaningful football right at the start of the season for a team coming off an injury blighted season. Watching Eduardo play for Croatia just a few days before the season starts is not my idea of a good time. The fact that England have a friendly match just before the season kicks off is laughable, unless of course your players come back broken. But with the World Cup less than a year away, it’s something that we’ll be contending with all season. Just be thankful that we have little at risk when Africa begins their bi-annual Cup of Nations.
So that’s it for now. In a few hours we’ll know what we face to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. If you know a good Timosoara dance, I suggest doing it now. I’ll update on twitter with thoughts about the draw and then do some haphazard analysis on the blog tomorrow.