Quick blog for today in advance of the big match on Sunday. I’m limbering up just in case Arsene calls on me to play in midfield. Is that the sound of you laughing at me? Well at least I’m willing to help. It’s not as if he has many better options?
The big story for today is transfers. But in this case, finally, I think there’s an actual story. Arsene might be sick of talking about potential signings, but it must be better than talking about Cesc and Nasri leaving the club. I’m sure he’d prefer to be talking about football in his pre-match press conferences, but given our current squad situation, I’m afraid he’s got five more days of being harassed about new arrivals.
Several interesting things came out of his press conference yesterday. First, Wenger acknowledged that a bid had been made for Gary Cahill. He didn’t exactly bring it up himself of course. But once he was asked about the supposed £6 million figure being quoted, he was quick to point out that was not the actual figure. One reporter asked, “was it lower?” After everyone had a good laugh over that, Arsene responded, “you know me well.”
All very funny for the manager and the press but Bolton had a hard time seeing the lighter side. Their manager and their chairman took turns berating our club and Arsene Wenger for the “derisory” offer. It seems that Manchester City’s behavior has lead other clubs to believe that their players are worth whatever they want for them regardless of contract status.
Bolton would do well to remember that after Wednesday, the proper figure for acquiring Gary Cahill is precisely zero pounds. Wenger is correct that a club has no reason to be insulted by the amount of an offer. If they don’t like it, they are free to reject it. But going public with your outrage is a fantastic way to kill a deal. Especially with Arsenal.
Arsene reiterated that we are short in midfield. Naturally, he wouldn’t name players he’s going after, but rumors surrounding Eden Hazard persist. There’s so much to like about the Belgian, but it sounds like we would need to nearly double our record transfer fee to acquire him. However, unlike other marquee signings, wages wouldn’t be a problem as we can offer him more than he’s currently paid. The strong words from Lille suggesting that we’d have to double Nasri’s price to get Hazard leave me understandably skeptical about his arrival at the Emirates. But he’s just the sort of talent we need.
What surprised me the most about Arsene’s press conference is that he acknowledged, for the first time I can remember, that we definitely need a striker. He pointed out that we will lose Chamakh and Gervinho to the ACN in January and claimed that Bendtner is still likely on his way out of the club. When asked about Joel Campbell he didn’t seem convinced that a work permit would be forthcoming.
It’s unlikely that Wenger would admit we are short at a position unless he genuinely believes that a new player is on the way. Even when we all knew he was trying to get a ‘keeper last summer, he never came out and said that it was a priority or a problem position. By acknowledging that we need a striker he opens himself up to major criticism if he doesn’t sign one. So the fact that he willingly identified striker as a position where we need to strengthen could mean that a deal is close.
Earlier in the summer Arsene rather cleverly observed that there are two types of clubs in the world today. There are clubs that travel on sweat and clubs that travel on petrol. But much like the marauders in the Mad Max movies, we’ve hoarded a little petrol of our own this summer. Now it’s time to use that petrol to get our vehicle moving. (If you’ll pardon the awful continuation of the analogy.)
With the transfer window set to close next week, the only way deals will get done is if most of the ground-work has been laid already. We can’t afford more near-misses like we experienced with Xavi Alonso and Arshavin in past summers. This time, the deals have to get done.
Arsene was asked if it felt like Arsenal’s season actually started now. Considering the anxiety that hung over the team about Champions League qualification and the distraction of the Cesc and Nasri transfer sagas, Arsenal could be forgiven for being less than fully focused for the first few weeks. The manager responded that in many ways, the season did feel like it was finally starting this weekend.
Personally, I’m not so sure. We still have too many injuries, suspensions and holes in the squad to expect much at Old Trafford. I’m prepared to write off one more Premier League fixture and see what happens before the window closes next week. Then, when the players return from the international break, we face Swansea at home. A big win there and a debut for a few new faces could signal the real start of Arsenal’s Premier League campaign.
In local news, it’s been reported that American television network Fox Soccer will air 17 hours of Sky Sports News on transfer deadline day. No longer will Americans be deprived of reporters standing beside Harry Redknapp’s car window all day. There goes the one good thing about being a football fan in America.
Until tomorrow fellow transfer speculators…