Monday, June 29, 2009

Usmanov the Underwriter?

This is an interesting one.

In May, Usmanov proposed to underwrite a £100m rights issue to reduce the club's debts and give free up money for Arsene Wenger to spend. At the time, I thought it was just some bluster from Usmanov, but it turns out that the board have decided to have a serious think about his proposal. I suppose the shrinking demand for outrageously over-priced corporate boxes has convinced the Board that the global recession's going to hit the Arsenal quite badly.

If we do this, Usmanov and Kroenke will each have to stump up £25 million to maintain their 25% stakes. They have the finances and the appetite to do so. The other major shareholders, Fiszman and Bracewell-Smith, have the finances to match them but probably not the appetite. That would leave the AST and minor shareholders, none of whom would probably have the ability or desire to maintain their percentage.

And if I'm not mistaken, if Usmanov underwrites the scheme, he gets to mop up any shares that don't get taken up. He'll be able to grow the pie higher, so to speak, and increase his stake. He'll get more influence at the club, and might even win enough respect that he'll get a seat on the board.

Or maybe not.

On one hand, I'm wary whenever Usmanov starts rumbling about the club. He's been on the scene for two years now, and he hasn't grown on me. You know a takeover's on the cards at some stage, and this could be the beginning of the end. And all things being the same, I'd rather not see the Arsenal as Usmanov's personal possession. It just doesn't sit right.

On the other hand, £100 million would be quite tempting. The club keeps saying we're as richer than Rockefeller, but you now they're just lying. The till's fairly empty, and we could really use that money for players. At the moment, the transfer season's just waiting to get off, and it'll be really nice to have a big wad of cash when the likes of Benzema and Melo step onto the stage.

So what to do? We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're after Benzema!

"What do you mean Ibrahimovic is worth £80 million? That's crazy! Who do you think we are?"

- Florentino Perez, astounded at the inflation of footballers this summer

I kid, I kid. Florentino Perez, on hearing that Ibrahimovic is worth £80 million, would probably tell Inter to make it a round £100 million because it's too much trouble to break a £100 million note. Then, he'll light his cigar with a £100 note and laugh the crazy laugh of a man who somehow conned an Catalan bank to fund the biggest, craziest spending spree of all time.

In the crazy world of Perezian economics, the more expensive a player is, the cheaper he'll turn out to be.

But seriously, there's this interesting snippet from The Times - Arsenal are in for Karim Benzema. It sounds too good to be true. But it has to be true. The Times never lie, surely? The Times are above pointless transfer speculation and petty headline grabbing. The Times are a beacon of journalistic integrity, and wouldn't dream of toying with the dreams of millions of gooners, just to sell a few newspapers. Right?

I would dearly love to see this transfer go through. I wouldn't mind selling Adebayor to get it done. I don't care if it'll kill Nicky Bendtner. I don't care if it'll bloat our trim financial figures, or shatter our delicate age structure. I just want to see Karim Benzema in a red shirt with white sleeves. He is a very, very, very talented player. And he's French. He'll bang goals in for fun and he'll act snooty to the English. What more could you ask for in a striker?

I'm loving the fact that Benzema to Arsenal has officially gone from being a physical impossibility to just being a ludicrous improbability. It's something I never would've imagine a year ago, but now, anything's possible (albeit extremely improbable). For this stunning turnaround in transfer policy, we've got one man to thank - Ivan Gazidis.

Take a bow, Tiger Man!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dennis Lachter's Available

"I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game *featuring you*, while singing your own song in a new commercial, *starring you*, broadcast during the Superbowl, in a game that you are winning, and I will not *sleep* until that happens. I'll give you fifteen minutes to call me back."

- Jerry Maguire, who's got nothing on Dennis Lachter

Andrei Arshavin has split from his manager, Dennis Lachter, after deciding that the business partnership was no longer working. Arshavin needed someone to help him in London, whereas Lachter was in Israel with a new-born son.

It's stunning news, and a great loss to the Owl. Dennis Lachter is possibly the greatest agent in the history of the world. He's better than Don King. He'll do anything to earn his client that extra 5%. He'll lie, he'll cheat, he'll flog his client to five different clubs in five different countries, start three international wars and launch a fashion label, in order to get the best deal possible.

Still, one man's loss is another man's gain. This could be advantageous for the Arsenal, but only if we act quickly and hire him. An agent of Dennis Lachter's quality is only available for a short term. There are a lot of avaricious players out there who would do anything to get an agent of Dennis Lachter's calibre. Can you imagine what Cristano Ronaldo would do if paired with an agent like Lachter? The mind boggles.

So what's the chances of Arsenal hiring Lachter? I'm not sure. I imagine a guy like Lachter works alone, like Rambo or Dirty Harry. Being tied to a large organisaion like the Arsenal would only hold him back. Things like protocols and common decency are over-rated in show business.

One can always dream, though.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Are We So Angry?

People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek

- Where Is The Love?, Black Eyed Peas

Arsenal's an angry place at the moment.

Theo Walcott is angry for being dropped in a U-21s match. Theo made Wenger angry by agreeing to play in the U-21s this summer, and he expected more support from his U-21s manager. After starting as a sub against Spain, he got angry. And now that England are up against Sweden in the semi-finals, he's going to get angrier still. As he said himself,

"You've got to be angry coming on the pitch. You don't want to be too angry and get sent off but hopefully I'll be at it on Friday."

We should probably get used to Angry Theo, because it's his new game face. Gone is the sweet, lovable nice boy we've all adored. Instead, we've a snarling, hissing, growling whelp of a winger to look forward to next season. I bet he's going to come home with a "Mom" tattoo on his forearm.

Cesc Fabregas is angry because Arsenal are "impotencia", or powerless to win a football trophy. Cesc is also angry that English media are twisting his words around. In fact, he's so angry that he made this statement.

"It appears that every time I have spoken to the Spanish media recently, my words have bounced back to England, leaving question marks about my future. So, for anyone who is unclear or may have misunderstood what my position is, let me make myself absolutely crystal clear. I am wholeheartedly committed to Arsenal and my future lies with this great Club."

Cesc Fabregas is clearly an angry young man. And I'm afraid that he's setting a bad example to the general footballing populace. A survey by the Daily Mail shows that fans are getting confused as to whom they're supposed to hate most. Tottenham hates us, we hate Chelsea, Chelsea hates Man Utd and Liverpool, West Ham hates Tottenham... it's all a bit confusing, really. The world's in a maelstrom of hate and anger.

Why can't we all just get along?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eye of the Tiger

"We are starting to notice the differences he is making at the club. Everyone with a big responsibility like that has a different personality which they bring to the job, and he is making a few changes."

- Arsene Wenger, on Ivan "Tiger" Gazidis

It turns out that I was right. Ivan Gazidis is a relentless tiger who stalks the jungles and brings down the tasty big game upon which we feast. He's like one of those tigers in the wildlife documentaries, the psychotic ones who dive out of trees and swim across raging rivers in order to bag a nice juicy baboon. Only, he wears a suit and speaks in an American accent as well. For those of us who've been subsisting on roots and berries for five years, it's great to sink our teeth into fresh, bloody, gristly meat.

Right now, Gazidis is in the urban jungles of Johannesburg, sharpening his claws and licking his whiskers, waiting for the moment to pounce. The Confederations Cup has one of the biggest concentrations of talent in world football, and he's liking his chances for a fresh kill. He bagged us Arshavin, he bagged us Vermaelen, and he's about to bag us another ridiculously talented, superhuman-esque player to join our band of merry men and pubescent boys.

This year, there's been a definite change in the way we've approached our transfer targets. Gone is the wishy-washy prevarication of yesteryear. Remember how we missed out on Alonso because of £2 million? That will never happen while Tiger Gazidis is in charge. Consider instead the dogged pursuit of Arshavin, the surgical strike at Vermaelen... this is the way it's going to be from now on. We've got a transfer department that works now!

You've got to hand it to Gazidis. He is masterful. In the first six months of a new job, most people would try not to rock the boat. The most startling change they'd hope to effect would be to bring in a new coffee mug. Gazidis, on the other hand, has bought in Arshavin, Vermaelen, and a change in the way we do business.

Well done, Ivan "Tiger" Gazidis.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yes to Signings

"The era of "yes" has begun."

- Jim Carey, Yes Man

I watched "Yes Man" the other day. It's a film about Jim Carey having to say yes to anything and everything that comes his way. Really life-affirmative stuff.

So I'm thinking what would happen if it happened to Arsene Wenger? How would it translate in a football transfer season sense, if we had to buy every player that gets linked to us, and we had to sell every player who's linked to another club?

First off, our backline would consist of:

Vermaelen - Zapata - Sahko - Maicon

Clichy would be a Real Madrid player. Gallas would be with Juve or Milan. Toure would be a Man City player. And Sagna? I'm not sure if he's been linked with anyone, but I'd rather Maicon to be honest. He's shiny and new, and Sagna not that new anymore.

Our midfield would be:

Schneider - Melo - Matuidi - Arshavin

I'm sure we've been linked with more players, but I can't remember. Cesc would be gone to Barca. Melo, Matuidi, Mbia, and that Turkish guy from Stuttgart are all available in the CM spots, though. Schneider categorically stated that he doesn't want to play for us, but those are the rules of the game, buddy.

And our strikeforce:

Villa, Dzeko

van Persie would be a Man Utd player. Adebayor would be AC Milan or Chelsea. Theo was still be around, and Bendtner, too. But I doubt they'd get much of a look-in with Villa and Dzeko on the pitch.

All in all, it's not a bad team, is it? Maybe there's something to be said about saying "yes" to new opportunities...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Song For Vermaelen

I've been thinking it over, and it's very difficult to find words that rhyme with "Vermaelen". So far, I've got Stalin and marlin. I refuse to consider colloquialisms that drop the "g", such as darlin', penny-farthin', or super-stylin'. That's just sloppy. After all, if we can't be syntactically correct with football songs, then what's the point of proper English?

Then again, the great songs often don't use the player's name in rhyme. Think of the Vieira song, or the Bergkamp one. In both cases, gooners just tacked a great player's name onto a nice sounding melody. Simple, not particularly witty, but very charming and very, very effective.

Maybe it's the player that makes the song memorable. The Bergkamp song's been around for years, but the reason we're still singing about a Bergkamp wonderland is because he really did make Highbury a wonderland. Vieira's song encapsulated the whole French-African-Arsenal connection to a tee; to think that Patrick Vieira grew up in Senegal and ended up wearing shorts in winter and freezing his nuts off in north London is something that sends chills down your spine.

Maybe this is a bit premature. Maybe Vermaelen has to create his own slice of Arsenal history before he can get a song. You know, we don't really know what he's going to do yet. We don't know what kind of future he'll have. Will it be pretty? Will it be rich?

We'll have to wait and see.

You know, this is the fifth straight post about Thomas Vermaelen. I'm getting pretty sick of the guy, but there's nothing else to blog about. C'mon Arsene, sign another player. I'm bored.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let's Keep Toure

"I personally feel that Kolo and Arsenal have reached a point now where sadly they must go separate ways, as his relationship with Gallas seems beyond repair."

- Billy Pearson, FootballFanCast columnist

With the arrival of Thomas Vermaelen, speculation rises about the futures of our current centre-backs. Wenger didn't buy him just to be a squad player, so obviously one of Willam Gallas or Kolo Toure are leaving the club. And in truth, the future of both are up in the air.

William Gallas was stripped of the captaincy mid-season, and seems to be headed to Juve or Milan. Kolo Toure put in a transfer request mid-season, and is wanted by Man City. Neither of them can stand each other, and it seems like a matter of WHO rather than IF one of them is leaving.

A lot of people are advocating selling Toure and keeping Gallas. Now, I realise that's an idea with merit - Gallas is the better defender, has more experience, and is French. Once he was stripped of the captaincy, he played pretty well. Kolo Toure, on the other hand, seems to be on the decline.

However, it'll be a mistake to sell Kolo Toure.

Toure IS Arsenal. He's the last member of the Invincibles. He's played a hell of a lot of games for us, and he'll play a hell of a lot more. Yes, he might run around like a headless chook, but he runs around like OUR headless chook. Gallas may be the better player, but he'll never encapsulate Arsenal the way Toure does.

Toure deserves pride of place in our team. It doesn't matter if he's not as good as Gallas. Inasmuch as Raul gets a spot in Real Madrid despite playing poorly of late, or how Shearer became manager of Newcastle despite knowing jack-all about managing, Toure deserves a place in the starting line-up.

Toure is an ornament to the club. When he retires, he's going to go down as a club legend. We'll pay him a retainer and trot him out at club functions, and he'll tell stories about how great the Wenger years were. He'll watch games at the Emirates until he's old and grey, and he'll present first-team shirts to Cesc Fabregas Jnr and Theo Walcott the Third. And when he's too old and decrepit to be of use to us any further, we'll euthanize him, gut and stuff him, and place him next to the bust of Arsene Wenger - that's the Arsenal way.

And that's the real reason I think Toure should stay instead of Gallas. I just can't see William Gallas volunteering to be a stuffed footballing icon in the club museum - he's just not Arsenal enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vermaelen signs

"Thomas Vermaelen will be a huge asset to Arsenal.”

- Arsene Wenger, chuffed to bits.

Thomas Vermaelen signed yesterday on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee. He's a left-footed centre back who can also play left back. He's 23 years old, a Belgium international, was captain of Ajax, and should slot into the Arsenal first team from the very first game.

It's always nice to get your first signing quickly. It shows that you know what you're doing, you know who you want, and you've got the funds to go after them. Wenger has admitted in the past that our biggest problems are in the defensive third, and the acquisition of Vermaelen should go a long way in solving those problems.

It's a welcome departure from our transfer policy of the past few years, which was to buy players at the closing stages of the transfer season in order to save a bit a money. Buying the first signing so early means that we can spend the rest of the transfer season looking for that defensive midfielder we need, and that striker that we'll need when Adebayor leaves.

Whatever happens, Vermaelen's PR skills are impeccable. This is what he had to say about signing with us:

“I’m just so happy to be joining Arsenal. This is a great Club with a world class manager, high quality players and a fantastic stadium. Everything is set up for Arsenal to be very successful for years to come and I joined this Club because I know Arsenal will be challenging for trophies.

“I have had a good taste of the Champions League during my time with Ajax and this is something I am looking forward to experiencing again with Arsenal. I’m also looking forward to playing in the English Premier League, which for me, is the best league in the world. Also, I just want to assure the Arsenal fans that I will give everything for this Club and I hope we can enjoy winning some trophies together next season.”

Now all we have to do is figure out some words that rhyme with Vermaelen...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vermaelen's got a medical

"Next season I will come up against the best strikers in the world. I am not scared by that, I will give all my body can give."

- Tom Vermaelen, spare-parts man

Tom Vermaelen's got a medical today. And in a few hours time, he's probably to become Arsenal's first signing of the season. It's exciting stuff, even if it's tempered by the fact that Vermaelen's not the defensive behemoth we all desperately wanted.

However, Vermaelen's quote, that he's willing to "give all my (his) body can give", raises some interesting possibilities. Has he volunteered to his body to Arsenal FC? Can we now operate on him to extract whatever organs we require? Can we use him in a series of hellish Frankenstein's monster experiments to augment our existing footballers?

If so, that's £12 million(?) well spent.

I'm sure, somewhere along the lines, we'll need to give van Persie and Rosicky a few knee transplants. And Gallas will get a few muscle tears during the season, so he'll get first dibs on Vermaelen's hamstrings. Eboue could do with a brain transplant. Eduardo might as well get a new ankle. And Cesc will need a heart transplant soon, as he keeps looking over to Barcelona to see what his old club is doing.

Who knows? At the end of the season, Vermaelen could be nothing more than a dessicated, dissected corpse lying in the medical rooms, and the Arsenal could be boasting a team of super-fit players, each with a bit of Vermaelen inside them.

That's one way of knitting a squad together.

If this transfer proves successful, think of all those other young, promising players we could buy and then cannibalize for spare parts. We could buy Cannavaro for his tactical brain, and stick it in Toure's head. We could get Loik Cana's homocidal brain and whack it in Denilson. We could take Beckham's right foot (it's all we can afford) and stitch it on Theo's right leg.

Those are just options, of course. I'm sure Wenger's got his own list of players we can hunt down for body parts. Vermaelen's just the start.

You know, for the first time in a long while, I'm excited about the transfer season.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arjen Robben's Dad's not a Spud

"Absolute nonsense. We don't talk with Tottenham. At the moment we don't talk with any club. Of course, things can change overnight, but one thing is sure: Arjen will certainly not join Tottenham."

- Arjen Robben's dad, evidently not an Spud

Well, that's emphatic. Arjen Robben's dad couldn't have been more emphatic that he'd ripped off his shirt to reveal an Arsenal tattoo with the motto "Death to Tottenham" written in blood-red ink. I think it's an indication of the regard in which Tottenham is held in the Robben family.

I suppose this means Tottenham's list of potential pacy, injury-prone wingers shortens by one. Which isn't a bad thing. They've already got Lennon, and Modric, and Bentley and Gio dos Santos out on the wings. Although Arjen Robben's better than the lot of them, that's a grouping that'll do. A prudent man would look at Tottenham's list and say that other areas require strengthening.

Then again, I think pacy, injury-prone attacking midfielders are the footballing equivalent to a plate of Tim Tams on a coffee table - it's psychologically impossible not to take at least one. Very possibly, that's the reason Arsenal seem to be so laden with effete, creative types who like to play in the "hole".

Many's the day that Wenger went to the Transfer Market looking for a sturdy defender, but came back with a Nasri or a Rosicky. He'd drive up to London Colney with a sheepish look on his face, and when confronted by Ken Friar or Ivan Gazidis, he'd give a nervous titter and say:

"But look at (Nasri/Rosicky/Hleb/Diaby)! He's got so much potential! And so cheap!"

And Ken or Ivan would just give Wenger an indulgent smile, ruffle his hair and send him off to play with his toy football team.

Then again, Robben IS a very good player. And truthfully, a team with Robben, Arshavin, Cesc, Nasri and Song would be very frightening. He wouldn't cost more than £12 million. So maybe, just maybe, we should buy him?

The thing about pacy, injury-prone wingers is that you can't help but make a bid for them....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Goodbye Eboue?

"It would be hard. But I think it would be harder to experience another season like this one, too far off the pitch... But if I leave Arsenal it would be for another league because it is out of the question that I develop elsewhere in England."

- Emannuel Eboue, wanting to leave

I wouldn't mind this, to be honest. Eboue's a good right back, but Sagna's better. Eboue's a decent right winger, but Walcott's got more potential. The most Eboue can hope for (hopefully) is a spot as a squad player, and that's not enough for a guy approaching his peak as a footballer.

Selling Eboue would add a bit to the kitty. Maybe we can get some players. You never know. The transfer window hasn't even opened yet, so anything's possible.

There's really nothing else on the Arsenal front.

Man Utd have something interesting, though. They've offically announced that they're a selling club. Apparently, they're only going to buy players 26 years old or under because anyone older has a signifcantly lower re-sale value. I'm not sure they're genuine about it, or whether they just couldn't afford buying a Ribery, a Kaka, or a Villa to replace Ronaldo, but it's significant.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spend like Perez

Quimby: I guess we're not going to find anything.
Otto: Um, how are we going to get out of here?
Homer: We'll dig our way out!
Wiggum: No, dig _up_, stupid.

- Homer the Vigilante, The Simpsons

People are scratching their heads and wondering what the f**k has gotten into Florentino Perez. Kaka for €67.5 million. Ronaldo for €93 million. David Villa on his way. And Perez says that that's not all. Real Madrid have a €300m kitty to spend, and they're only about halfway through that.

Perez has a mission: save the world.

The thing about Perezian economics is that when you're in a slump, you're got to spend your way out. Real Madrid have debts of maybe €500 million. If they were an investment bank, they'd be bailed out by the government by now, but since they're just a humble football club, they're going to have to do it under their own steam. Spend silly amounts on money on players to attract merchandising deals, sponsorship deals, kit sales.... and it'll all work out, somehow.

Kaka and Ronaldo are important because they're young, photogenic and able to sell a lot of merchandise. The fact that they are fabulously talented is an additional bonus, but not that important (e.g. look at David Beckham). Real Madrid earn 40% of their revenue through merchandise, and it's important to have attractive names on the backs of those shirts.

It's kind of troubling when you realise that Real Madrid are still laden with debt.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jay Emmanuel Thomas

"We are with each other in and out of football and it's great to have that team bonding. Everyone is strong together and we look after each other on and off the pitch. I have known some of them for 11 years, some for nine and some for eight years. We are all one team and we are all together."

- Jay Emmanuel Thomas, captain of the Under 18s

I've been googling a bit, and there have been a lot of famous Jays around. The most famous Jay of all time is Homer Jay Simpson. The second most famous Jay is Jay Leno. The third most famous Jay are the Toronto Blue Jays of the MLB. Collectively, they are known as the Three Jays, and they fight injustice and Flanders while at the same time dispensing razor-sharp obversations about life and hitting home runs.

The Three Jays are so famous that they even have a film about their exploits.

The exciting thing is that in a few years' time, Jay Emmanuel Thomas could be right up there. He could turn the Three Jays into the Four Jays. He could become the D'Artangan to the Three Jays, fighting for truth, justice and purple-flavoured donuts. And when the Four Jays' glorious careers wind to a close, they could do worse then open up a consultancy firm.

Jay Emmanuel Thomas is the under 18s captain, and a player with a lot of potential. Next year, he's in the reserves. The year after, he could be in the seniors. And the exciting thing is that he might not be alone.

There's a lot of talent in the under 18s.

The under 18s have won the kiddy League and the kiddy Cup double, and it's exciting to imagine how well they'll cope in the Carling Cup next year. I'm loving the idea of Coquelin and Wilshere and co. bossing Championship fodder like Newcastle United. If we thought this year's Carling Cup side was special, we're in for a treat next season. This will be the first Arsenal Academy side that has grown up together, played together, fought together, drew blood and killed enemy soldiers in an Apocalyptic nightmare together.

It'll be interesting, is all I'm saying. These kids have the leadership, the team spirit, the hunger and the talent that's missing from the first-team players at the moment. What's the chances of Wenger, in about three years' time, tossing out the whole Arsenal side and just playing these Academy kids?

Probably the same as the chances of Jay Emmanuel Thomas tossing it all up to pursue a career in funk/disco/soul.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Players To Sign

We've made signings!

From Bayern Munich, we've managed to recruit Franck Ribery for £45 million. He's an ugly bastard, but he's fast, skilfull and the kind of creative outlet we need. I imagine next year's lineup to feature an attacking trio of Arshavin, Nasri and Ribery. Won't that be fun?

From Barcelona, we've bought Yaya Toure for £20 million. Apparently he really wanted to play with his brother, and was willing to forgo the pleasure of lining up with the Greatest Side Of All Time In The History Of The World Since The Dinosaurs. He's going to be a perfect complement to Cesc Fabregas, who's delighted to be partnering someone who can do the job.

From Roma, we've signed Philippe Mexes for £15 million. He's a classy guy, and Roma were having financial difficulties. He'll be the tall defender we need beside Kolo Toure, and he'll tops up our dwindling French contignent. I mean, we could've bought Zapata, but that'll make our team too international. Time to get back to our Gallic roots.

We're still in the middle of negiotations with Valencia over David Villa. Apparently, Valencia hate Real Madrid with a passion, and are willing to give us Villa on the cheap as long as we gloating about it in the Spanish press and call Real Madrid a bunch of ill-principled, money-grubbing putas.

Well done, Ivan "Eye of the Tiger" Gazidis! We're halfway to getting a squad that can challenge for the Premier League. Who said Arsenal are skint, ambitionless and lack the cojones to buy big, big players?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ashley Cole's taking the piss

"According to the Sunday Mirror Chelsea star Ashley Cole could be heading for a showdown with the club following his wage demands, in a similar situation that led to the player’s acrimonious departure from Arsenal."

- Andrew Allen,

Ashley Cole wants a pay-rise. He's asking for an extra £60,000 a week so that he can match the wages of his mate John Terry, who is on £150,000 a week. In addition, he wants fame, respect and affection from the Chavs.

And after that, he wants a pony.

Turns out that Chelsea aren't willling to break their "wage structure" to accomodate Cole. That's pretty scary stuff. If Chelsea aren't willing to pay crazy money for Cole's services, who is? Chelsea are the craziest of crazies when in comes to hyper-inflated wages.

I'm going to go out on a lim and predict the next few weeks; Ashley Cole crashing his Bentley and screaming "you're taking the piss, Jonathen!" when he hears that his £150,000 a week proposal has been turned down; Ashley Cole meeting up with Man City to learn that he's being underpaid at £90,000 a week; Ashley Cole weighing up the prospects of playing out the rest of his career at a top club like Chelsea, or three or four more years playing for silly money at a silly club like Man City; Ashley Cole lining up next season in light blue and greenbacks.

Then again, you can't really expect too much from Ashley Cole. But I am disappointed with Kaka's move to Real Madrid. It's okay to switch clubs for fabulous amounts of money. And it's okay to play for Real Madrid; when you get down to it, it's probably more immoral to play for Milan since it's used to enable a corrupt president to remain in power and avoid impeachment. It's just that he's spent most of this year saying how much he loves Milan and wants to stay there forever. It's just not right to talk out of your arse. It's dishonest, if nothing else.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vermaelen to the Arsenal?

"Moving to Arsenal is the right path for me. It is a great sporting challenge and I will also be financially better off. I think everything is going to be okay."

Thomas Vermaelen, maybe the first Arsenal signing of the year?

So it looks like Thomas Vermaelen is moving to the Arsenal. He's 23, the Ajax captain, and he plays both left back and centre back. He's going to cost about £11 million, and as usual, we're all slightly perplexed as to why we're going so hard after a guy with a glaringly obvious fault - he's a short bloke, our Tom Vermaelen.

With the monies in our hands, the general consensus seems to be that we can buy someone suitably awesome. Some people are whispering Zapata like he's the alliterative successor to a Persian sky god. Some others are saying Hagaaland (sic) is the go. Whoever or whatever we're wanting to fill our central defensive space, no one would've thought of Vermaelen.

But think back over the last few memorable transfers:

Arshavin - why did we buy a creative midfielder when we were crying out for a defensive one?

Nasri - why are we buying ANOTHER promising young creative midfielder, only to bung him on the wing?

Silvestre - why did we swap one inconsistent defender (Senderos) with a crap, over-the-hill, slow, crap, ex-Man Utd, crap defender who can play two positions poorly? And did I mention that he's mostly crap?

Sagna - why did we buy a right back when we've one in Eboue?

Now, some of these were good choices. Some were horrible. It's been a bit of a mixed bag by Le Boss, to the truthful. But whatever the case, we should be used to the idea that he doesn't do things the way we expect. He doesn't do things the conventional way.

But then again, no one knows like Arsene Knows.

Other news,
this quote from Ivan Gazidis makes me angry:

"I think perspective is very important. You need to take a distance when you assess the season. This club has over 120 years of history and if you're looking at where we are and how we're doing at this period of our development you have to say it is one of the special times, one of the golden times. I hope we don't forget to appreciate that."

If you're taking the really long view, we should get on our knees and count our blessings. 120 years ago, transportation was limited to horses, paddle-steamers and steam trains. The telegraph was the cutting edge communication device. Penicillin hadn't been invented yet. The world hadn't thrown off the yoke of English imperialism.

So yes, there's a lot to be grateful for over the past 120 years. A lot of advances have been made, and we tend to take it all for granted. But that doesn't mean we should be grateful that a big club like the Arsenal manages to crawl into 4th place, after showing such absymal form in the middle of the year. We're better than that. We're the Arsenal.

What happened to Ivan "The Tiger" Gazidis, out to battle the ocean of sharks for our transfer prospects? Don't give up, Ivan. Fight for us. Use your claws. Use your teeth. Use your jungle camoflage in the murky ocean depths. You can do it, Ivan!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Theo's NOT a nice boy

"They used to call me "Sweet Little Boy". That's why I grew the beard and 'tache. They can't use that anymore."

- Theo Walcott, a bad arse

He's such a Sweet Little Boy. 

Even when he's trying to act tough, he comes across so adorably kiddish. This is the strangest article I've read in a long time. It's about Theo talking tough and acting tough and showing the world that he IS tough. It's not working, though. He comes off like a white kid in baggy pants, an inverted baseball cap and a penchant for saying "word" a lot. 

Take this:

"It's not like me, but there was this boy who took our ball and had me in a headlock. So I punched me and made his nose bleed. I had to stand by the wall for ten minutes."

Frankly, I'm surprised that making a kid bleed out of his nose leads to 10 minutes against the wall; I thought you'd get detention at least. Still, he was a tough kid, our Theo. Baddest mofo on his block, I bet. But I'm curious what the equivalent Roy Keane anecdote would've been. I'm imagining something involving ice-picks and kidneys.

That's what I'd call tough. 

Anyway, I hope Theo thinks carefully about what he wants. He's such a nice boy at the moment, and I don't want to see him lose his decency. Because, if he wants to become a bad-ass footballer, he might gain the respect of the dressing room, but he'd be at risk of something horrifying. 

He might end up like Ashley Cole.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Transfer News

There's been a lot of transfer news flying around lately, and most of it is coming from Real Madrid. Florentino Perex isn't even club president yet, and he's already making bids for Kaka, Alonso, Ribery, Ronaldo, Silva, Villa... actually, I made the last four or five up, but I'm sure Perez has done contacted them anyway. He's a man with many sticky, honey-coated fingers, is Florentino Perez. 

The only thing we've got going is (maybe) Blaise Matuidi to the Arse

But the really surprising news is that Gareth Barry's joined Man City for £12 million. It's a shame because Aston Villa for holding out for £18 million or so last year, Liverpool were willing to pay £15 million or so, and Gareth Barry wanted to join a club with Champions League prospects. And now, Liverpool didn't have the cash to pay for him, Aston Villa lost out £5 million or so, and Gareth Barry's joined a club with no Champions League prospects and which exudes an odour with will drive off many of the truly talented players in the world. 

It makes you wonder why people do certain things. I don't know, but I like to speculate. Barry is that he wanted to leave Villa last season because he wanted to join a more ambitious club. He stayed with Villa last year, spent 3/4 of a season with a team on the brink of a Champions League berth, but then ran out of legs at the end. That would've been gutting, but it's not the end of the world. Barry's an experienced player, and he knows there's always next season to make amends. 

So what happened?

Maybe, sitting in the dressing room after the last match, he realised he was done. He's spent his entire career at Villa, and maybe he wanted some fresh air. Maybe he regretted not joining Liverpool when he had his chance. Maybe he made an emotional decision, and just wanted out - to any club that'll take him. And maybe Man City, with their fabulous, fabulous wealth, gave him a way out. 

It happened to Robinho as well, remember.

But I'm left wondering what Barry would've done if the Arsenal (or Liverpool) had turned up with a £80,000 a week contract and the promise of Champions League football. Would he have chosen us over Man City? Or would he still have gone for the money?

I bet Barry thinks about it on occasion as well. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Season's end

Lisa: Maybe there is no moral, Mom?

Homer: Exactly. Its just a bunch of stuff that happens. 

Marge: But it certainly was a memorably few days.

Homer: Amen to that. 

- The Simpsons, Blood Feud

Season reviews are all the rage at the end of a season. There's something about the prospect of weeks and weeks of no club football that makes people want to sit back and reflect. I'm not sure why people try to divine meaning from the madness. Most of the time, it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. 

Still, I might as well join the fun. 

I think the story of the season begins and ends with the midfield, and the players we didn't buy. We replaced two experienced players in Hleb and Flamini with three inexperienced players in Nasri, Denilson and Song. Wenger gambled on the idea that Denilson and Song could replace Flamini work-rate. 

We slid from 3rd to 4th as a result. 

In retrospect, that ain't bad. The way the 07-08 Arsenal played was based on the understanding between Cesc, Hleb and Flamini. Breaking up that midfield and expecting the team to be stronger for it was always an impossibility. Even if we bought an experience DM to replace Flamini, he wouldn't have been a like-for-like replacement who could replicate Flamini's work-rate and pressing. And there's no way that the replacement would've forged the kind of understanding that Cesc and Flamini enjoyed. Of course, it would've been nice if we got ourselves someone like Alonso, but would Alonso have been the difference between 1st and 4th? 

There have been encouraging signs. Song's turned himself into a footballer who runs instead of jogs. He's played fairly well in the closing stages of the season, and if he can kick on next season, he's got a good chance of cementing that DM spot in the Arsenal midfield. And Denilson's turned himself into (statistically) the 16th best footballer in the Premier League. Which is (statistically) fantastic for Arsenal. If you treat this season as a transition year, you've got to say that it's been brilliant in terms of developing Song's game and Denilson's statistics. Next year, it's even possible that they'll be good players for the Arsenal. 

One player who will certainly shine like an incandescent ball of red-shoed brilliance next year is Arshavin. It took us the entire month to haggle over his transfer, but hasn't the Owl been amazing? The professionalism of the guy is a breath of fresh air. I admit I was one of the ones who questioned the wisdom of buying another tiny creative winger/attacking midfielder, but I'm glad I was wrong. Next season, we'll see a 4-2-3-1 with the Owl in the hole, Cesc and Song in midfield, and won't that be fun?

It's not going to take us to 1st next year, but at least we'll be back playing attractive football. Even without reinforcements, I think 4th is secure for next year. Villa and Everton will improve, but they don't have the capital to maintain a large enough squad to sustain a push for 4th. Man City have the capital, but in the short term they don't seem to be attracting the calibre of players needed. It's sad that the gap between 4th and 5th is so very large, but if it helps the Arsenal, it's for the greater good. 

There are other problems with the team, of course. Senior players (Adebayor and Gallas) are on their way out, and they won't be replaced with quality players. We're either unwilling or unable to pay the money to attract super players. We still can't defend a lead or defend set-pieces or defend against quality opposition. But these are issues that have been with the Arsenal for years, and they haven't been addressed previously. 

If we're being pragmatic, these are only issues if we were building a squad to win the Premier League next season. If we're being cynical, if we're still a club that's employing a "youth program", it's not going to matter. We can potter along the same track and still give the young players experience and play pretty passing football and still rake in gate receipts and Champions League money and finish 4th for the foreseeable future... 


Then again, Rafa Nadal just lost a match in the French Open. So you know, anything's possible.