Thursday, July 26, 2007

The invincibles are dead. Let's move on.

So, after 9 years loyal service, Mr Frederik Ljungberg was finally shown the door this week. And shown the door he was. His bleatings of 'broken promises' and a 'lack of investment' are exactly the type of spiel you hear from players who've just been dumped. Essentially, 'well, I would have left anyway, because you're rubbish now'. No Freddie, if Arsene hadn't let you go, you would have stayed, quietly cashed your enormous wages, and rolled on the floor feigning injury for another two years.

And Arsene was absolutely right to sell him. £3million in the bank and £60k of the wage cap is no small chunk of change. Moreover, Freddie has been, on average, rubbish for the last two seasons.

Ok, we had the battling champions league performances as he marauded between the midfield and attack; ok, we had the wonderful goal against Bolton last season. And Ok, don't get me wrong Freddie is a complete legend. His goals against Liverpool away in 2001-2 and in the cup final against Chelsea are two of the most thrilling moments of my Arsenal watching career, instances which make fans believe that a team is on the cusp of greatness and silverware.

But, the simple facts don't lie. He didn't score in the league last season; he mustered less than 5 goals in the previous season. With Dennis gone, and his pace waning, Freddie was a spent force. A Giggs-esque revival was most definitely not on the cards. It was his time to go; the glue-factory awaited.

Much of the analysis regarding Freddie's transfer has,wrongly or rightly, focused on the end of The Invincibles. And whilst of that glorious 2004 side, only Kolo, Jens, Clichy and Gilberto remain, Arsene has been right to dismantle it.

Vieira and Henry had peaked at the club. They were either coasting or had already given their best years to us. Arsene was right to cash in.

Edu and Cole might have been kept if contracts had been better dealt with. However, this was not Arsene's fault, and, especially in Cole's case, he was presented with a near fait accompli regarding their departure.

Dennis retired; Bobby and Lauren were past it; Sol had mentally lost his way.

Arsene has been right to let these players leave. The invincibles of 2004 are dead. Let's move on.

Yet whilst Arsene can't be faulted for purging this collection of players from the club, he needs to strengthen the squad. At present, we have an exciting crop of talent. Yet more bodies are needed. One, if not two wingers need to come in. Players over the age of 23 need to bring their experience to the team. Our squad, as it stands, is one of the thinnest I can remember, positively anorexic in appearance. It's one or two injuries away from a crisis, especially given the propensity of some of our players to pick up niggles or worse.

So the departure of Freddie continues the destruction of the greatest Arsenal team ever constructed thusfar. Arsene has been correct to remove the deadweight; but he needs to add some new Invincibles. Fast.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

If a takeover occurs, it's going to be hostile.

Another week and another positive statement from the Arsenal hierarchy. Over a lengthy two-part interview, Keith Edelman covers a range of areas, from the match-day hospitality to Arsene's contract (again, stating that the board are confident he'll stay) to the intertwined issues of stadium financing and a potential takeover.

When asked about Kroenke, Edelman made a statement which not only sums up why I inherently oppose the takeover, but why I'm proud to support the club:

There isn’t much in this issue. Stan Kroenke is now a 12.2 per cent shareholder and we welcome him as a shareholder to Arsenal Football Club. But really that is the beginning and the end of the story at this juncture.

I think the current shareholders have committed themselves to the Club and believe in the Club. Again, I think it’s quite interesting to pick apart some of the press comments that are made on these issues because I think they are very wide of the mark. You see talk about Arsenal needing a billionaire owner to put more money into the Club but Arsène has always said, and the board also believe, that a football club can only really be run from the revenues that it generates itself over the long term. If you look at some of the other clubs with billionaire owners, their debts are mounting up. Anybody who invests in a club, particularly from overseas, who maybe doesn’t love the club the way our shareholders do - and they do buy in to Arsenal more out of the love than financial return - will be looking for financial returns in the short, medium or long term. And if someone is looking for financial returns they will in the long term take more money out of the club than they put in.

The only exception we have seen is Roman Abramovich at Chelsea who has invested significant funds in the club over a number of years. But even they are - if you read what the Chelsea executives and Abramovich are saying - looking to balance their books over the long term. Our current shareholders have been incredibly generous with the Club and haven’t taken a dividend for very many years. I just want to make sure that fans really do understand that if a billionaire buys any club in the country it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to have success or be able to invest further sums in the squads.

It's all there. We have shareholders and a board who run the club because they love it and they want it to be, not just for financial reasons, a success. They are not pocketing huge sums from doing this; their eyes aren't always on the bottom line for themselves.

Moreover, and it's a point I've continually made on here, takeovers do not mean more money for the squad. I very much imagine that the reason we haven't spent really big in the last few years is because of the vision Arsene has for the club and how he wants to run the team, not because funds aren't potentially available to him. As long as he's manager, we have to trust him on this one. It's worked well so far.

And as for this chump, well, Goonerboy is a family blogger so can't resort to the language Arseblogger used today, but I share his opinion.

Do we want some nearly dead playboy to come along because, to all intent and purposes, he's a bit bored and he wants to splash some cash? No thank you. It almost makes the Kroenke takeover look appealing.

It's looking more and more likely therefore that if a takeover attempt does occur this year, it's going to be hostile, which, again, just shows how little of the club's interests Kroenke has at heart. A hostile takeover is not Kroenke courageously forcing himself into the club for our benefit - it's him violently trying to appropriate our club for his financial gain. Remember that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ljungberg / Takeover / Palacio / Transfer policy for the rest of the summer.

Was Freddie on the plane to Austria? 'Oh no he wasn't' cries Myles; 'Oh wait, yes he was' cries, er, Myles. Lovely stuff.

Almost as much as this near propaganda piece published today. One paragraph I'd especially like to pick-up on was this:

"If Stan Kroenke bought Arsenal he wouldn't do it in the same way as the Glazers and he could borrow money at more favourable interest rates. There are many types of deal and many ways to finance a deal."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not a corporate financier are you Myles? You're not exactly structuring leveraged buy-outs for the likes of Morgan Stanley, are you? There are many types of deal and many ways to finance a deal, but I would be utterly astounded if Kroenke launched a bid for Arsenal which was not highly leveraged.

Whilst it's lovely that Stan likes reading, is super-fit and heals the sick with the merest touch of his moustache, the crux of the takeover, for me, is the financing. We're never going to see a deal as highly leveraged as that which the Glazers somehow pushed through oop north, but that doesn't mean Stan won't have to borrow heavily to buy, which, fundamentally and unnecessarily, puts the club in more debt, even if in the short-term we can buy lovely shiny trinkets.

It's lucky than I converse - albeit electronically - with other bloggers, as many were a lot wiser to the recent Palacio scam than the 'feral beast' that is the British media. Hence I avoided splashing a 'PALACIO SIGNS FOR ARSENAL: A GOONERBOY EXCLUSIVE' on Monday. It seems that to become a journalist at The Sun or The Daily Mail, you merely need to know how to copy and paste from internet blogs. I am quite surprised at this, if only because this attributes a higher level of intelligence to their journalists than I previously thought.

Someone has obviously just returned from holiday at, as the site has burst into life with almost staggering vigour, a cavalcade of stories spewing forth from the club in the last few days. This recent post is of particular note, where Arsene explains the signings of Eduardo and Sagna. Sagna is to provide cover and competition for the full-backs, especially during the ACoN, and Eduardo would not have been signed had Thierry stayed. As I said on here a few weeks ago, Arsene confirmed that it was Thierry, not Arsene, who was the major impetus behind his departure, and this has changed, if not upset, his plans for the coming year.

The article does not fully clear-up whether Arsene's chequebook is effectively closed or not. Are 'super-super' players still to come or has the budget been spent?

Personally, if we're to lose Reyes, as seems likely, we still need more options for the wings. Even if Freddie were to stay we need an out-and-out left sided midfielder, and possibly even one on the right as well. The prospect of having Rosicky and Freddie as our left-sided options, and Theo and Hleb as our right, seems a little thin to me.

The squad needs further strengthening; but will any occur? One's things for certain: we won't know about any signings until they appear on - not Boca Juniors Blogspot.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Peter Hill-Wood on Wenger: 'I'm confident he'll stay'.

Very interesting and admirably long interview with the chairman today on, in which P H-W talks about a pretty wide range of issues and paints a very positive picture of the club.

When asked about Arsene's contract situation, Hill-Wood said:

"We had a fairly lengthy conversation recently and that went very well. Hopefully, in the not too distant future we'll have something positive to say about it. I'm confident he'll stay."

Coupled with Arsene's comments after the game on Saturday, it's becoming clearer, dare I say it, that Arsene will renew. I should imagine a statement on his future could be made before the end of the autumn. As it stands, his un-renewed contract does not seem to be, contrary to media reports, destabilising the club. I should imagine that most of us want him to stay-on, but we may have to grant him a little patience (which sounds worryingly close to a Take That lyric).

Elsewhere, the chairman had this to say on the financial implications of the new stadium:

"The stadium has not held Arsenal back at all in terms of bringing in players. It's actually given us the opportunity to compete with the biggest clubs in the world. If we had stayed at Highbury that would have limited our resources and over the long term affected our ability to financially compete with the top sides. [...] It's going to generate a lot more money. Yes we have to pay the debt off, but don't forget the debt is a 25-year fixed-rate bond, so it's very manageable and that means the stadium can have nothing but a positive impact on developing the football team."

I think this point is worth remembering. We built the stadium as a means by which to become financially competitive. Yes, the debt incurred is rather large, but it's manageable. I'm pretty sure we haven't spent big (yet) because Arsene has chosen not to, rather than the option not being available to him. The Grove is the key to the club's long-term future - patience is required but the positive effects of the stadium should become increasingly apparent over the coming years.

I recommend you read the interview, because there's too much for me to fully go through here.

In other news, Julio Baptista's return to Madrid has been confirmed. The Beast then promptly scored 3 in 3 in the Copa America. Typical.

Jose Reyes will not be returning to the club. Arsene doesn't want an unhappy player to come back, and, regardless of his talent, that's the bottom line. Whether another left-winger will be purchased for the void created by his and Pires's departure remains to be seen.

A player who might be, unexpectedly, staying is Freddie, Arsene going as far as to say he's '90% sure' Freddie will be here next season. Now, most of us have a soft spot for Freddie, but if we were to receive a decent offer for him, I still maintain that now would be a good time for him to leave. He's a useful squad player, but he's clearly no longer the goal-getting force of old, and we need midfielders who can score.

Finally, Thierry Henry has left his wife. I very much doubt that this had anything to do with his decision to leave Arsenal, contrary to the reports in today's Sun. I would also suggest that this is a personal matter of Thierry's, so we should leave it to him and not start to cast dark aspersions on his personality. As Daft Punk might have it, he's 'Human after all'.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How long will Cesc stay for? Longer than Flamini?

Two central midfielders have announced they're staying at the club in the last few days: one who wanted to go and ended up staying; another who, it seems, came much closer than many of us thought to leaving, and then stayed.

The first is Matthieu Flamini, who hasn't featured in the team for some time now, although whether this has been due to injury or Arsene deliberately excluding him isn't clear. I've always had a soft sport for the Flamster, mainly borne from his whole-hearted efforts for the team and his role in the Champions League run.

Whether he can ever make it as a really top-class central midfielder remains doubtful. Coupled with Gilberto in the centre of midfiled, Flamini has looked solid, yet with Cesc next to him, the two can appear a little lightweight. Overall, however, I'm glad he's staying, especially if he's now willing to fill in around the pitch, and not just in his favoured central midfield berth. I do wonder, though, if his decision to stay is based upon a lack of alternatives, or a real desire to stay at the club.

And so on to the other midfielder who we'll have for at least one more season: Cesc. His comments have, over the last few weeks, not overly impressed me, whether it be his commitment to Arsene, not Arsenal, or his coquettish statements about playing in Spain.

Of course, he has no real obligation to stay at the club past this season; well, other than the fact he's become the player he is due to the opportunities the club has given him from an extremely early age, and the almost unconditional support from the manager and Arsenal fans. Just that.

Here's what he had to say about a potential move to Madrid:

"I'm very grateful to Real and it is an honour that such a great club is interested in me.

"But after the departure of Thierry Henry to Barcelona I couldn't leave Arsenal in the lurch."

"I have total confidence in Arsene Wenger that he will sign a new deal."

"I spoke to Real's president Ramon Calderon and sport director Predrag Mijatovic and they are spectacular people.

"It was very satisfying to listen to them as Real Madrid is a great club but I have decided to stay at Arsenal.

"I had a long talk with Wenger. He is someone I can talk to about anything."

So, he's already started flirting with Madrid, and he's not even 21. Great.

I never expected Cesc to stay for the entirety of his 8 year contract, and I don't begrudge him a move back to Spain at some point in the future. I'm glad that he's also recognising how much trouble the club would be in if he were to leave now.

But I just wish our players would not make statements to the effect of: 'well, I won't move now, but I do quite like your club so I haven't completely closed my mind to the offer'. It's a bit like saying 'well, I like my wife, but you're quite good looking, so, if you ask again, I might go out with you next year'.

A piece of advice to the Arsenal PR department, if one actually exists. Please cut and paste this statement for every player who could, but doesn't leave due to interest from other clubs:

'I am aware of club x's interest, but I am an Arsenal player, under contract, and remain fully committed to the club'.

You see? Easy. No ambiguity in that statement.

I thought Cesc would stay until his mid-twenties, but it now seems that every summer henceforth will be a struggle to make him stay, especially if we don't start to challenge for silverware soon. I really hope he stays for as long as possible, because he's a truly fantastic player. I just hope he learns from the Vieira and Henry debacles, and doesn't flirt too openly too soon. It also makes me wonder - will Flamini outlast Cesc at the club?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bakary Sagna: Arsene improves the defence.

First off, the customary pronunciation guide. Its Bacary (with a y, not an i) Sagna, so, using my rudimentary francophone skills, I imagine that would be pronounced back-a-ree san-ya. Not Sag-na, as he will inevitably be called.

So, where does old Bacary fit into to our motley collective down at the grove? Given that Arsene has paid a reported £7.5 million for him (around £6.1m upfront with £1.4 based on myriad performance objectives) I don't think he's the squad player that many fans and journalists are portraying him as, and I think he will, either immediately or very soon, become a first XI player. He's most comfortable, and played most of his football, at right-back, and whilst he has filled in at left-back and, I think, even occasionally at centre-half, I think right-back is where we going to see him.

He looks like a pretty big bloke; indeed, only someone with his build could pull off the frankly appalling hair-style he's currently modelling; one that makes him look slightly like The Predator, from the film of that name. I had conjectured, in fact, that the delay in the transfer might have been caused by Bacary cloaking himself, and then picking off Arsenal staff members, just like in the film. Only when Arnie was brought could Bacary be caged and the transfer complete.

But I digress.

I think he will be primarily deployed at right-back, and occasionally fill in on the left while Armand Traore continues his development. He may be used as more general defensive cover during the African Cup of Nations, when we lose both Kolo and Eboue.

What this means to the rest of our right-sided players is anyone's guess. Reading have already been linked with a £2.5 million bid for Justin Hoyte, but I'm unsure whether Arsene is ready to let him go in an ACN year.

Moreover, Sagna's signing could see Eboue deployed further up the field as an out and out winger. Arsene seems to have hinted at this in a few games this year already and Eboue is certainly stronger going forward than defensively. Football 365 have even hinted that the signing could be the beginning of the end for Alexander Hleb, with Eboue and Walcott vying for the right-wing bearth. I think that this suggestion is pretty wide of the mark, especially with Freddie's imminent departure.

One thing is, I think, certain: we've improved our defence. Sagna has already been called up to the senior French squad, and has been widely touted as the long-term replacement for the legendary Willy Sagnol. Comparisons have also been made to Sagna's own idol, Lilian Thuram. He was clearly a fan favourite at Auxerre, with this forum (thanks to Gunnerblog for the reference) voting him Auxerre's player of the season. Notice that a certain Kaboul, bought recently by a certain other club, polled but one vote. Heh.

Right back was a position I thought we needed to improve on last year, and I'm pleasantly surprised that Arsene has done so with this signing. Hopefully Bakary can add some defensive nous, but also some much needed steel, to a defence that was far too fragile last year.

Now all we need to do is ship out Freddie and buy a new winger. Could Reyes yet return and fulfil that role? Probably not, but we could do with a player of his ability, if not his temperament. And before anyone gets too upset, this long-term target (reportedly) isn't actually that good, as anyone who watched the recent under-21 championships will testify.

So; Arsene's 4th summer signing, two of which are players that can go straight into the side. Let's hope one or two are still to come, but a much stronger squad is starting to take place. Hopefully we'll see one or two of them in action on Saturday.

Summer signing no.4: Sagna signs on.

Finally, Bakari Sagna has completed his move to Arsenal. have just released this statement:

"Bacary Sagna completes move to Arsenal

French defender Bacary Sagna has signed for Arsenal from Auxerre on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee.

Sagna (24) who won the French Cup with Auxerre in 2005, was recently called up to the French national squad, where he was an unused substitute in his country’s Euro 2008 Qualifier victory over Georgia in June.

Bacary, who was born in France but has Senegalese parents, has been a regular for Auxerre over the past three seasons, making 87 appearances for the French side during that time. Featuring predominantly at right back, Sagna played a part in Auxerre’s UEFA Cup campaign last season."

He's going to wear the number 3 shirt. Remind me again who wore that last?

I'll provide a full review of this signing - one I'm extremely happy about - later this evening.

For now, let's hope his playing ability is better than his hair style...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Who is William Gallas? What is he to Arsenal?

No, this is isn't some philosophic, existential poser. William Gallas obviously does 'exist', and is a defender for the Arsenal and French teams.

No, it's more a poser in the light of these comments (partially my translation, I apologise):

With Thierry's departure, it's necessary that the club should explain itself to its players. I am not at Arsenal to play for third place; it is necessary to recruit well-known players, because, whilst the younger players have many qualities, a season is very, very long.

Will the departure of Henry influence your future at Arsenal?

That goes without saying. Today, I'm at Arsenal, but I don't know what could happen tomorrow. Everything happens so quickly in the world of football.... What is certain, is that several players are now asking questions about the future of the club. Around us, all the teams are recruiting; but what is planned to compensate for the departure of Titi Henry? The young players are thirsty for victories, but Arsenal has to get results and win titles to take hold in the long-term. Otherwise, we have to change our policy to that of other teams: recruiting with more means (ie, spending more on players).

He goes on to state that he recognises that the construction of the new stadium is limiting Arsenal financially at present, and that he will discuss the objectives of the club over the coming season, and what will be put in place to build a more competitive team, with Arsene Wenger and certain board members over the coming weeks.

This isn't the first time Gallas has mouthed off in public since joining the club. He's also a player who nearly came to blows with Jens in a match earlier this season.

So what is he to Arsenal?

On the one hand, he is probably the best all-round defender in the squad, with proven quality at international level and a title-winning pedigree. I maintain that the difficulties we had at the back last year were as much caused by Kolo having a poor season as Gallas, and that Willy has had to adjust from playing in a settled, experienced defence, to a largely youthful set-up. That's not as easy as many as his critics would have it.

There have been occasions when he has looked Arsenal through and through. He has celebrated with travelling fans after the game at Old Trafford, but also thanked supporters after a series of defeats - something not all our players have done. I particularly remember him clapping the fans after our defeat to West Ham, as the rest of our players skulked off the pitch. To say he doesn't care about the club, or that he is only here for the money and the easy ride, is simply not true. He does care about our club achieving success.

Moreover, there is perhaps a kernel of truth in what he is saying. Silence, as I've said on here recently, is the way Arsenal do business, but it is clearly a way that can frustrate not just fans but also players. Arsene has still not given a public interview since the departure of Thierry. Might one be an idea?

Yet there is also a hefty debit side to his presence at the club. He has rarely, to be frank, looked like the defender he has been in previous seasons, which cannot be entirely explained away by his unfamiliar and less experienced team-mates.

Moreover his rants, whether truthful or not, should not be aired so publicly. They feed into the current media portrayal of the club being 'in crisis'. The club, players and fans should be closing ranks at the moment; outbursts like this make this harder to achieve.

Ultimately Gallas has to decide soon whether he wants to stay at the club. If, like Thierry, he's no longer up for the challenge of babysitting a young team to potential success, so be it, but he should give the club the opportunity to recruit a replacement if he's not.

I hope he stays because he remains a terrific player who can do a lot for the team. However, if he does stay, he should perhaps start to think a little more before he opens his mouth.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Gilberto is the right choice for captain.

Realistically, it was a bit of a fait accompli. Whether it has been officially announced yet or not, Gilberto is clearly the only truly viable candidate for Captain. If Cesc was two or three years older, he would be in with a definite shout - he already has the complete drive to win and the abject disdain for the opposition necessary for the role, but he does not have the experience. Yet. I imagine he shall be captain in a few years time.

Kolo would be a popular choice among the fans, but would be a rather lightweight appointment. Jens has the experience and leadership qualities necessary, but does not have the required sanity - although that never really held back Roy Keane, did it? William Gallas is the only other elder statesman in the team with the gravitas that would let him captain the side; yet he's too new to the team, and remain a rather unpopular figure among large sections of the fanbase.

So, for me, and I imagine Arsene, Gilberto it is. If he's good enough to captain Brazil, he's good enough to captain Arsenal. In the games he wore the armband last season, he led by example, exemplified by his goals for the team at crucial moments. He's calm when he needs to be calm, and authoritative at the right moments. Gilberto plays at the heart of the team; he's not ploughing a sometimes lonely furrow up-front like Thierry.

Moreover, he's not going to be a matey captain in the Thierry mould. I cannot say how much it annoyed me last year seeing Thierry laugh and joke with the opposition in the tunnel. It is, I know, only a game. But, and for all his faults, look at the steely gaze on the face of John Terry as he waits to play; see the almost psychotic concentration of Keane. When you're captain, you back your players, right or wrong. Thierry didn't do that enough; hopefully Gilberto will.

Indeed, by his comments today, he already seems up for the challenge. I want players to lead the team who publicly back the club. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come. And if nothing else, it'll be nice to have a captain who doesn't threaten to bugger off every summer. Although as soon as he is named captain, expect Madrid to publicly declare their interest in him.

In other news today, Flamini may/may not be staying which may/may not lead to the Sagna deal being off/on. Who knows. What I will say, is that there is no truth to the Fabregas to Madrid rumours. So don't worry, if you were.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Carlos Tevez transfer saga stinks, again.

Don't get me wrong, Carlos Tevez, and for that matter Javier Mascherano, are world-class players. They would easily command positions in the Arsenal starting XI, especially as I rate Mascherano above Gilberto; they would improve our squad and help us win trophies. Tevez has shown not just bags of playing talent, but also considerable emotional strength in his time in England so far. Few players would have had the self-belief to keep slogging away every week for a relegation threatened team, just months after a world cup in which you had prominently starred; even fewer would have been done so when their very presence at the club could, and perhaps should, have led to a points deduction.

The reward for his efforts was 7 goals in his last ten matches; goals that complemented the superb all-round contribution he brought to West Ham last season; goals that kept West Ham in the Premier League.

But no matter how good he is, as long as Kia Joorabchian watches over him, I don't want Arsenal to get involved. Reading this article shows just how much West Ham have got away this year.

The question refuses to go away: is Tevez their player? Whilst he is registered as a West Ham player, do the club 'own' him? Because it would still appear that Joorabchian owns the players' economic rights - in other words, illegal, third-party control of the player.

Indeed, any potential transfer would be fraught with a rather simple difficulty: who do you pay? Any purchaser would have to pay West Ham for the Premier League to be satisfied, yet the club don't actually own the player! If West Ham were then to compensate Joorabchian, would this be tantamount to admitting their guilt?

What seems likely to happen is that Tevez will go on 'loan' to United for two seasons or more; a 'loan' which would involved United paying several million pounds to Joorabchian. At the end of this 'loan', all the interested parties would hope that the problems pertaining to the players registration would have been forgotten. Tevez can be swept under the Old Trafford carpet, as it were. This seems to be the case regarding Javier Mascherano. Everyone would be happy; well, aside from those clubs who'd been negatively affected by illegally registered players. Which would be most of the league.

This article is not meant as an affront to the fans of West Ham or United, but it is a disgrace that this matter has still not been resolved, even if it is still more of a disgrace that the relevant parties - the FA, the Premier League - allowed Tevez and Mascherano's original 'transfer' to take place.

It seems likely that Tevez will be running out as an Old Trafford player at the beginning of next season, as part of a formidable United attacking line-up. But it seems the key to obtaining Tevez as a player has been to break and bend the rules wherever and whenever possible. One hopes that Mascherano and Tevez will finally be fully owned by a club in the near future, and that transfers of this type, ones with heavy third-party ownership and influence, are not allowed to transpire again.

Taking the moral and legal high-ground is not always conducive to success. That's pretty obvious in most walks of life. Yet, whilst I'd love to see players of Tevez's calibre run out for our club, in this matter, I'd rather Arsenal kept their distance.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Silence is the way Arsenal do business.

I have to admit to feeling a little sheepish. It was on Sunday that I unleashed a, relatively, stringent attack on the way the club had conducted themselves since the Thierry Henry transfer. The silence, I ventured, was unbecoming of a club with hundred of thousands of members and millions of supporters. Where were the statements of intent, the reassurances? Where were the new players we so badly needed? The club was a shambles, I felt: arrogant to its support; unambitious in the transfer market.

The next day, completely out of the blue, Arsenal unveiled a major summer signing. With no warning, Eduardo's picture appeared on the website, and twenty-four hours later he was an Arsenal player (subject to work-permit). I almost feel like taking some credit for this signing: I'm sure that, in some way, the signing was almost like the cosmically club slapping me in the face, telling me to grow up and stop complaining. Possibly -to say this may seem a little egotistical, I know.

As Goodplaya stated shortly afterwards, Eduardo had not been linked with Arsenal whatsoever, in any mainstream or internet-based media, save for one or two blog-based, completely speculative comments. While we cheerfully made lists of Henry's replacements, the club quietly went about its business.

And this is the way, more often than not, Arsenal conduct themselves. Whilst Real Madrid and Barcelona openly and defiantly covet our players, and United have, essentially, an affair with old Owen Hargreaves, Wenger's signings are usually a surprise.

To take a few recent examples, who doesn't remember the signing of Jose Reyes coming almost completely out of nowhere? Or the signing of Fabianski, which came after months in which we were linked to a host of keepers across the land, with no mention whatsoever of our new Polish shot-stopper. And the signings of players we have been linked to, say Rosicky or Baptista, usually come months after our initial interest was allegedly registered.

Arsene keeps his targets close to his chest; but he has his targets. He is extremely mindful of keeping the players he wants to sign quiet, after several recent occasions in which rival clubs have attempted to gazump us after we've opened negotiations.

So, in those long-summer months sans football, I've made peace with the silence emanating from the club. Don't do what I did and unnecessarily fret, even if our rivals seem to be outspending us in the market. If Arsene is to be our manager we have to trust him. He'll get us the players we need, but he'll do it quietly. It's the Arsenal way. The polar opposite to the way this bunch conduct. (If any conversation did take place, I imagine it was a perfunctory two-word reply by Arsene to Madrid's offer).

Elsewhere, this has finally come out. Pardon me if I don't join the 'stampede' at the club shop. I heard it was shoulder to shoulder in the Armory today. I do quite like the new Premiership lettering though.

Only a few weeks til the first friendlies. Let's hope there's a few new faces by then.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The low-down on Eduardo da Silva: I'm excited.

First thing's first. For all you commentators out there, it's Eduardo, not da Silva. In the same way it's Gilberto, not Silva. In fact, he likes to be called - perhaps unfortunately - Dudu. Sorry if that's patronising, but it's worth stating from the off.

It's also worth stating that the fee is meant to be in the region of £8 million, not the €24 million that's been quoted in some circles (including the Dinamo chairman). Worth a punt at that price I'd say, and should be covered by any fee received for Reyes, let alone Henry.

The one thing Arsenal lacked last season was goals. Our build up play was superb: we stroked the ball around in beautiful triangles, dominating possession in a sometimes cavalier fashion. But what we didn't do enough, was turn that possession into a concrete advantage. And in doing so, we put ourselves under pressure time and time again. We allowed our opponents to poach a goal, even when our dominance produced almost farcically one-sided affairs. The Beast was meant to be the answer; it's safe to say he was not.

And so what has Wenger bought? An out-and-out goalscorer, something he has not done for some time. What has concerned me most about signings over previous summers - Hleb, Rosicky, Adebayor etc. - was their goalscoring record prior to joining the club. The same cannot be said about Eduardo, who's exploits in front of goal are, frankly, phenomenal thusfar. Last season he scored 34 goals in 32 games for Zagreb; his overall record is 71 goals in 100 games for the club. Moreover, and before claims are thrown about regarding the quality of the Croatian league, Eduardo has scored 7 goals in 12 games for Croatia, including a memorable looping header over a certain English goalkeeper. He's also scored against us in virtually his only Champions League game. In short, his signing is a gamble, but I understand why Arsene is willing to take it, given Eduardo's nose for goal and positional sense.

If you're uncertain about trusting my opinion, have a look at this article published on the Guardian's website a month ago, which features the extremely positive thoughts of Slavan Bilic. He's been recognised as a terrific talent for some time.

What we're getting is someone who lives for goalscoring on the pitch, and someone who can also play on the left-wing. In fact, after conversing with someone who's watched him far more than me, it was suggested that his best position may be on the left, upfront in a 4-3-3 attack. And with Cesc increasingly looking like the future lynchpin of our side in such a system, this could be ideal.

In short, have we finally found someone to help finish off all those attacks from last year? Despite what most of the media will say - that we've signed an essentially unknown Brazillo-Croat - I'm going to trust Arsene on this one. Whether he's the replacement for Henry remains to be seen; I certainly hope one or two more players are on their way in, in any case.

Finally, this article is also illuminating, especially for those who fear Eduardo may be another fairweather player in the mould of Senor Reyes. Eduardo arrived in Croatia from Rio at the age of 17. He struggled with the language and snow, but stayed focused and broke through into the first team. If he can survive the Croat snow, and even learn Croatian, he can survive the British rain, I'm sure.

I've had a few messages from readers who are aggrieved or concerned that we haven't signed an established name, a Tevez, an Anelka, an Eto'o, or someone of that ilk. I'm not going to pretend that I can definitively say that Eduardo will be a success, or that he is of comparable quality to those mentioned. Moreover, Wenger's transfer record is certainly not unblemished, as the signings of Franny Jeffers, Sylvain Wiltord, Christophe Wreh and even Louis Boa Morte will testify. But then again, who was Nicholas Anelka when he came in to replace Wright? Who was Cesc Fabregas? Even Thierry himself was hardly the player he became when we signed him from Juventus. And it's hardly as if the transfer window has shut: we still have a good £20 million to spend (provided we can get a reasonable deal for Reyes). Other names may be on the way.

So let's give Arsene and Eduardo some leeway. I'm excited by the signing, and you should be too.

Arsenal sign Eduardo da Silva from Dynamo Zagreb.

A week of nothing, and then out of the blue: this! Hurrah!

Croatia striker Eduardo da Silva set to join Arsenal

Arsenal Football Club can confirm that terms have been agreed with Dinamo Zagreb for the transfer of striker Eduardo Da Silva on a four year contract for an undisclosed fee, subject to a medical.

Da Silva (24), was born in Brazil but moved to Croatia at the age of 15 and took Croatian nationality in 2002. The striker scored the first competitive goal at Emirates Stadium when Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb 5-1 on aggregate in last season’s UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Round.

Eduardo has made 12 appearances for the Croatian national team scoring seven goals, including one of his country’s goals in their 2-0 Euro 2008 Qualifier victory over England in October 2006.

Further details will follow on

[ Monday, July 02, 2007]

More to follow later.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A shambolic week at The Arsenal.

I have it on good authority who our next signing will be. It will be (drum-roll) A. Tumbleweed. Because it's so quiet at the moment, I can actually picture tumbleweeds gently drifting about in the open, empty spaces outside the Grove. Maybe if one's French, and under the age of 16, Arsene might sign them up.

Ian Grant made a good point on ANR yesterday. The silence from Arsenal this week - save for some montages of Henry's greatest moments - has been shambolic, and unbecoming of a supposedly modern business. Arsenal are a private business, albeit one with shares infrequently traded on the OFEX +market, but the wall of silence emanating from the club this week has been unacceptable, almost an affront to its fans who pay hundreds, if not thousands of pounds a year to support Arsenal.

A paragraph from Wenger before he swans off on holiday? An interview with P H-W in which he states, to the effect of, 'we won't make any signings just to keep the fans happy', whilst Arsenal blogs fall over themselves to name, assess and often dismiss potential players to bring in, whether or not these suggestions have any basis in reality? Not good enough for me.

A press conference would have been nice; one in which the club appeared united and purposeful; one in which fears about Wenger's future at the club were addressed.

Because this, above all, seems the most important issue. If Arsene procrastinates until the last minute before deciding whether or not to sign a new contract, not many players are going to want to join the club, I can guarantee that. At a time when the club needs to appear firm and united, he needs to talk to the fans, and be honest about his future. He is the lynchpin which holds together the club at the moment, and we need to know what his long-term plans are.

In terms of players we've actually been linked with, the list is seemingly endless. Take your pick from Anelka, Tevez, Eto'o, Huntelaar, Babel, Obafemi Martins, Owen etc. Yet if I were to predict a signing we're almost guaranteed to make, look no further than Msr. Sagna at Auxerre. Not exactly thrilling, but very much in the Arsene mould.

There's still two whole months to go before the closing of the transfer window, and it has only been a week since Henry's departure. But I expected a little bit more purpose from the club in the wake of the departure of one of its greatest players. And what I don't want to see is hastily cobbled together, last minute deals of the type that saw us sign Baptista and Gallas last year. We need to integrate new players into our pre-season training to accustom them to the team and the club as soon as possible. It's no surprise that Baptista struggled for so long last year, when he was brought in, unfit and new to English football at the eleventh hour. Moreover, the longer we wait, the greater the chance that our targets will be snapped up by other, hungrier clubs.

As a personal preference, I think Tevez is the best of the available bunch. Anelka and Martins could also do solid jobs for us. Yet these players don't address our lack of width on the left hand side. Could Reyes return?

Ultimately, and the point of this post, is what we must not do is nothing. We have a talented bunch of players, but new players must be brought in this summer if we want to compete. And Arsene's signature is perhaps the most necessary of all this summer, if stability and focus is to be brought to the club.