Posts Tagged ‘Transfer Speculation

06
Apr
09

Villareal v. Arsenal; a Preview Full of Question Marks

Injuries

Arsenal will release more information this afternoon on injured trio Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, and Samir Nasri but Wenger spoke very hopefully about all three yesterday. Wenger said that van Persie was 50:50 to pass fitness, that Samir Nasri’s tests looked good, and that “Theo Walcott should be all right.”

I look forward to this afternoon’s press release and I will update this section when that’s made public. No news will be forthcoming on Diaby, Eduardo and Rosicky as they are all 100% ruled out for the trip to the Spanish coast.

Update: Nasri and Walcott are in, van Persie out.

On the other side, Marcos Senna is being included in the team but is a question mark to make the game. I’m going to say that he’ll be fit and that Villareal’s manager is just trying to keep Arsenal guessing.

As I said yesterday, Cazorla is out for the season, suffering a broken leg in Villareal’s complete loss to Almeria. How complete a loss? They finished the last 30 minutes with 9 men after Cazorla was injured and Pires was sent off. Fingers crossed that they have heavy legs tomorrow!

Contracts

There’s a lot of column inches being devoted to the two or three supposed  contract/transfer stories swirling around the club. Is Cesc leaving? Adebayor? Robin van Persie? Will there be a wholesale clear out?

I don’t know.

No one knows. What we do know is that if Arsenal lose this match and the one against Chelsea on Saturday then our hopes for any kind of trophy this season will be severely diminished. So it’s best to stay focused on these two matches rather than a bunch of shit stirring.

I also know that this “five years without a trophy” story is seriously getting on my nerves. If van Persie leaves because he wants to win a trophy, good luck to him. I don’t know where he thinks he’ll go where he will be guaranteed to win something: as far as I can tell Man U don’t need another perpetually injured striker. But irregardless, have fun in Italy or Spain or wherever will have you, Robin, oh and you’re welcome for the years that Arsenal stood by you while you spent months upon months in the infirmary. Honestly, if Robin leaves it will particularly chap my ass, but if he leaves then f*ck him.

I also know that, like Wenger, all this speculation and chitter chatter about stuff we have no control over just serves to get people amped up over nothing. Moreover, talking about contracts and Cesc leaving, despite the fact that he has been unequivocal about his future every year (including this one) that he has been at the club, distracts the players from what’s important: Tuesday’s Champions League match against Villareal and Saturday’s FA Cup Semi-Final against Chelsea.

So, that’s my final word on this speculation. I’m not devoting any more column inches to bullshit rumors and shit stirring by cunts like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter, etc. etc. No one is leaving the club this week so speculating about what might happen this summer is pointless.

Good bye yellow brick Pires

Robert Pires has admitted that this Champions League match up is very emotional for him, and that especially the return leg to the Emirates will be like the testimonial he never had.

I agree, and I will be very sad to see Pires, at 63 years old, limp around the pitch and get dumped out of the competition by a very hungry, young, and fit Arsenal. I will be sad for a moment… then I will be happy!

The first leg kicks off at 11:45am (PST) and unless you’re going to watch the match alone at home on ESPN Deportes I’m inviting all locals to join us for Setanta’s broadcast at Doyle’s Public House. I can’t have a pint because I will be caring for my lovely daughter after the match but I will have one of their state of the art sarnies. They are delicious.

See you there and remember: UP THE ARSE!

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29
Dec
08

Best/Worst of 2008 #5; Hleb out, Nasri in

The transfer window opens on Thursday and we all know what this week holds; a week of speculation about Arsenal’s transfer targets. I’ll put that information at the end of the post for those of you who are interested but really it’s just speculation and please take it with a huge grain of salt.

Instead of just talking about transfer targets or how Steven Gerrard should be banned for life for his part in a bar fight (that’s a joke, kids) for the rest of this week I want to do a top five best/worst Arsenal year in review. One a day, like vitamins for your football mind, starting with the #5 best/worst story of 2008 and culminating in the #1 best/worst story. One more thing, the reason that the stories are both best and worst is because as I was thinking through each of these, with only one exception, even the best stories had a negative component. So, they are best/worst — you’ll see what I mean.

#5 Hleb out, Nasri in

I don’t know about you, but by the time that Alex Hleb raised a hand to Graeme Murty and got sent off — the last act of futility in a career at Arsenal that defined the word — I was well and truly done with Alex Hleb.

Now, before you get all nostalgic and claim that Arsenal could use Hleb this year, “Arsenal need some width!” you might claim. Let me remind you just how bad Hleb was: this was a guy who had 25 shots, SHOTS not shots on goal but SHOTS, in all competitions in his last year at Arsenal. Of course it’s nice to have a guy on the team who passes the ball but Hleb took passing the ball to a whole different level: he routinely passed up wide open shots in order to pass the ball to a teammate.

To his credit Hleb did have a career high 11 assists last year, but it took him two years of utter futility to reach that apex.

Arsene sold him, to his dream team (where he rots on the bench), and used the money to bring in a guy who has almost all of the same qualities that Hleb had. Arsene bought Samir Nasri.

The difference between Hleb and Nasri is glaring: Nasri already has 32 shots, 4 goals, and 2 assists in just 17 games, Nasri took all the corner kicks and set plays on Sunday (and he was able to clear the first defender which we haven’t seen in a long time), and Nasri’s most important quality is that he plays on the left and actually provides width to this Arsenal team. If you remember, Hleb always, always, always dribbled the ball into the middle of the park — I can only guess he did that because he’s was not capable of playing in a cross.

But the best part about Samir Nasri? He scores game winning goals in big matches. I mean, his second goal against Man U was, well… Hleb could never do that.

So, in his first year Samir Nasri has already shown himself to be a better player than Alex Hleb, a great addition to this team, another coup by the Professor, and the #5 best/worst Arsenal story of 2008.

Transfer Targets

HA HA

I saw a story that said Arsenal are going to buy three Newcastle players: Shay Given, Charles N’Zogbia, and Steven Taylor. I’ll admit that I’m no fan of Almunia but Shay Given? Hmmm… I’m not a very good judge of keepers so I’m inviting you all to comment on this rumor. Given or Almunia, who would you pick and why?

N’Zogbia has been linked to the club before and nothing has ever come from it. He’s a pacy little winger and I think he would be a good addition to the squad even if he is really struggling this year. After all, a guy can’t get any assists if he doesn’t have any targets! Of course, this could also be the press doing the age old “link every French player to Arsenal” trick, so grain, salt, etc.

Honestly, I don’t know anything about Steven Taylor except that he’s tall, he’s a defender, and he plays for a team that has allowed 32 goals.

Does this make any sense to anyone? That Arsenal are struggling defensively and they are going to bring in the keeper and defender from one of the worst defensive teams in the EPL?

The other target that I hear is the every day transfer speculation that Arsenal are going to sign Andrei Arshavin from his racist ass club. Zenit wants at least £20m for Arshavin which is an insane fee for any player, much less a player who’s only acheivement this year is one good game in Euro 2008. One little problem with this rumor is that Arsene told Canal + that thinks Arsenal don’t have the money.  Make what you will of that, I haven’t had enough coffee to figure out how a team that made £20m or so in profits last year, keeps saying that the club and the Highbury redevelopment are separated, and who’s board members insist that the boss has all the money he could ever need, suddenly doesn’t have any money.

Right, that’s it for today, tune in for the #4 top story of 2008!

19
Dec
08

Lady Nina Strikes Back

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Following on the heels of Peter Hill-Wood’s vanilla announcement about “board restructuring” yesterday, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith has made a little statement of her own:

I’m in total shock and very upset about the appalling way I have been treated. The board have no manners whatsoever and my views were ignored on many occassions. I can’t understand why I have been removed in such a ruthless fashion. I have had no proper explanation as to why they wanted me out so much. It is very difficult to accept especially after what my family has done for Arsenal for so many years.

The board removed her and she doesn’t know why? I hardly believe that. What did they do, wait for her to go to the restroom and vote her off the board?

Quick Pete, Lady Nina’s in the loo, let’s vote her off the island!

No, this sounds more like someone posing as the injured party so that when she sells her shares she can make a statement about her heavy heart and how she disagrees with the way the company is being run and wants to spend more time with her family, etc. I could be wrong about this, she did say that she has no intention of selling, but it is a mysterious statement.

Whatever the motivation, the facts are that more shares now exist outside the board than inside with Usmanov and Lady Nina holding more of Arsenal than Stan Kroenke and Danny Fiszman.

Frankly, this makes the board look increasingly hostile and insular. They fired two board members in two years and took an awfully long time to appoint Gazidis as the replacement for David Dein, the first casualty in this boardroom battle. An insular, disconnected, and hostile board is very concerning. No one knows what they are really fighting over with speculation ranging from  selling shares to the appointment of  Gazidis but whatever the issue(s) lets hope they settle them quickly. The last thing this team needs is disarray off the pitch — they suffer enough on the pitch.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the board were fighting over new signings? Honestly, given the vociferous debate here, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Champions League Draw

UEFA held their Champions League draw and Arsenal got paired with Roma. You’re going to have to forget about what happened last time Arsenal met Roma (4-2 on aggregate) because this Roma team is in top form. Roma have won 8 of their last 9 matches in all competitions, dispatching Chelsea 3-1 and Bordeaux 2-0 in the Champions League along the way.

This will be a hell of a clash and Arsenal will need to be in top form to move forward in this competition. But we knew that. This is the part of the tournament where every team is pretty damn good and some are downright frightening.

Transfers

Until the transfer window closes on February 2nd I will be keeping with my summer policy of not speculating or reporting on speculation. 99% of it is stupidity anyway, just look at what Valencia is asking for David Villa: £120m. Arsenal will never, ever, ever pay that much for any player, much less an overrated player like David Villa.

On a related note, this means I’m not going to be talking about whether Arsene should or shouldn’t “strengthen the squad” or any other Football Manager type of stuff. Frankly, it’s tiresome to hear the same things over and over and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing me say the same things in response. I think we’ll all be happier if we stop arguing over who Wenger should buy, if he should buy, when the sky will fall, and all that pap until we see what actually happens this season.

I’m going to save it for the summer, when there isn’t any actual football to watch. You all feel free to argue away in the forums, I’m not participating.

Tomorrow there will be a preview of the Liverpool match. See you then.

23
May
08

2 down 1 to go

Arsenal have revealed that they now have not one, but TWO! summer signings to report.

First, Carlos Vela was given a work permit and will be getting some first team action. The boss had the following to say about the kid

Vela will be involved with the first-team next season. He has played the whole season at Osasuna on the left wing and he had to work hard there. But for me it is not his position, he is a central striker, an Eduardo type. He is a great young player.

Which I take to mean that he will try to fill Eduardo’s shoes while Dudu is out rehabbing the leg that became broken (how’s that for passive voice?). I’m treating this as one of the “two to three” signings that Arsene promised. Wooo hoo! One down, two to go!

Arsenal’s second signing is none other than Vassiriki Diaby! No, he’s not Diaby’s brother (bet you didn’t know that Diaby’s real first name is Vassiriki) it’s Diaby, the player formerly known as Abou Diaby and Stewart Robson figures he will fill Flamini’s shoes.

Some worry that he takes too much time on the ball and can get caught, but I remember him from last year in that role and I thought he was ideal. He breaks up attacks with his ability to get across the field and get tackles in, but he has also got good ability on the ball. His ball manipulation allows him to change the point of attack

Other people question Diaby’s toughness but I think he’s tough enough; he got a straight red card against some dude with 8 vowels in his name and it was a Vieira type tackle. I know the comparison to Vieira is old hat to some of you and some of you are probably sick to death of hearing it. Even more of you are doubtful he can do the job. My argument goes like this: Diaby has the size and range to do the job that Vieira did roaming the midfield, but he also has the ball skills of Diarra, the speed of Adebayor, and the scoring nose of Pires. What he clearly lacks is that “defensive spidey sense” that a great holding midfielder has, the engine that someone like Gattuso has, and his tackling can be very sloppy at times. And so at times he seems lazy, slow to react and rash in the challenge. Can Wenger teach him those skills? We’ll see.

So, welcome Arsenal’s second signing, Vassiriki Abou Diaby.

In the “Transfer out” section, Hleb’s agent has been talking to every team under the sun. Hleb’s agent has now revealed that he’s had talks with Real Madrid, Milan, and anyone else who will listen. Good for him. When will these teams contact ARSENAL? After all, Arsenal are the ones who hold his contract and the decision as to where the player will play next season is entirely up to them. Pick up the phone Real. Call Arsenal.

Oh wait… Maybe they have been calling but can’t get through. I guess the phones are down. Well, then SEND A COURIER!

Finally, Marco van Basten may bend the rules this summer and play Robin van Persie. I guess they have a rule against playing “injury prone” players but Van Persie is so special that he’s willing to make an exception. Ugh. Robin was able to start just 7 Premier League games and is still struggling with a thigh problem. Please don’t play him. Please?

Oh yeah, if you want a good laugh, check this out. Turns out Terry had to take that penalty because Le Sulk refused to do it. He didn’t feel like he’d been part of the game yet. Of course two shots later, he felt part enough to take the penalty… and it was a poor attempt at that. I doubt Anelka will be at Chelsea next year. Especially now that they’ve discovered his yellow streak and that he’s complaining about his role.

Why can’t footballers just play football? Christ.

21
May
08

Ole Big Ears

Today’s the big day: the first ever “all English” Champions League final, the Debtor’s Bowl, the Toilet Bowl. Whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that the Champions League final is a big day. Because, for one lucky team it’s an £85m payday and the right to have their names permanently marked in the book of greatness. For the other team, it’s a paltry £20m payout and the ignominy of the label “runner’s up.” So, for me, it’s not “who do you think will win?” but “who cares who wins? I’ll just be happy that one of these two teams will lose!”

If Man U lose, they’ll have to be seen as one of the greatest failures ever. To walk away with a runner’s up medal with all that debt, with the weight of having had the double in their grasp, and a summer of Real Madrid speculation about their beloved Boy would have to be heart breaking for the world’s most arrogant fans. And what if their Boy Ronaldo fails to deliver on the biggest stage? The bag on him is that he always falls short against the best competition — Arsenal (not even the best competition) routinely shut him down. If he doesn’t deliver he’ll always be remembered as the player that “should have done better.” If he outright stumbles? Oh lord.

If Chelsea lose, it could finally tear the club apart. All season they’ve papered over the cracks and it’s finally looking like the mâché is starting to wilt. After the very public breakup with Jose Mourinho you have to say that Avram Grant’s done about as well as anyone could with the collection of super egos and filthy cheaters that he was handed. Now, inexplicably, Grant’s job security in uncertain, Drogba and Lampard are rumored to be leaving, and some people are saying that Abramovich is looking for a new challenge. As happens so often when the new kid on the block is trying to make a name for themselves, a loss on the highest stage could split this team apart.

I don’t think we have to pick a winner because no matter which team loses, English Football wins. Besides, Wenger already picked the winner: the refs.

In Arsenal news:

Flamini left Arsenal for the UEFA Cup football. Well, not exactly. He says Milan playing in the UEFA cup is a one-off and that their history as the greatest club in all of Europe lured him to them but not the huge contract they gave him. Not that.

The “Aquilani to Arsenal” story is turning out to be a 100% plant by the agent to increase his client’s re-sign value. Moribito, you cad.

Arsenal are set to sign Nasri. They’ve been set to sign him for, what, a month now. Maybe it’s like that moment in a sprint where you get set and the anticipation of the starters gun has your mind racing and it feels like you’ve been in the set position for half an hour and finally the gun goes off, and you run really hard and finish 4th… In other words, I’m waiting for the pictures of Arsene with Nasri before I believe it. Maybe I’m not optimistic about his signing because the last thing Arsenal need is another continental wide player who’s first inclination is the dribble in to the center of the pitch (HLEB).

Robin van Persie is vowing to be ready! For Euro 2008, which means that he’ll be injured for Arsenal. Yay. Another 30 goal season for Adebayor, please, thanks, ok, bye.

And that’s it for today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go down to the pub and root for one of these two teams to lose.

19
May
08

Vincenzo Morabito, super agent

“Trevor here has generated a lot of interest from Arsenal.”

Lately it seems like every time I turn around I see the name Vincenzo Morabito. Alex Hleb? His agent is a friend of Vincenzo. Adebayor? Vincenzo is his agent. And just today Arsenal were linked with Alberto Aquilani. His agent? Vincenzo…

Someone please muzzle this guy? He’s running rampant in the British press, linking everyone in and out of Arsenal in some lame attempt to raise their contract prices.

Since then, Morabito told Roma that his client expects an improved contract if they want to retain the player’s services at the Stadio Olimpico. “Aquilani is speaking to Arsenal,” Morabito confirmed. “We will have to see if Roma will be able to match his demands.”

Dude, if you’re going to be so obvious about lying to the press about interest from other clubs you’re only going to hurt your client’s chances. I have to wonder if Vincenzo represents Nasri?

The only good part of his transparent attempt to inflate their contract value is that maybe the Adebayor story will finally die. What am I saying? That will never happen. The press have nothing else to report about Arsenal so EVERY FRIGGIN story says “since Adebayor/Hleb is leaving, Arsene is signing (fill in player’s name here).”

This is really nuts.

Today’s replacement for Adebayor is Rocky Saint Cross. I dig the Arsenal supporter’s comments on that story, they’re more accurate that the story itself.

Anyway, that’s pretty much it for transfer speculation today. Slow day, Vincenzo must have taken the morning off.

Over at the dot com, they are having “season review week” and so far my favorite article is the comparison of this season’s stats with the other title winners. Arsenal supporters should memorize some of those stats so that when we hear our local pub pundit trot out the tired warhorses “Arsenal needed to score more” or “Arsenal need to spend $$$ to win the title” we can reply with:

Really? Because Arsenal earned money in the transfer market and they improved their team a whopping 15 points over last season. And despite the common misconception that Arsenal need to score more, they scored more on the road than last season and garnered 11 more goals in all than the previous seasons. In fact, if you compare this season to the Invincibles they rate very highly: scoring more goals and keeping the home court advantage equally as well.

And finally I will leave you with a little piece about Senderos. He claims the boss loves him and that despite what the haters might say, he’s staying at Arsenal until his contract is up. Suck it, haters.

11
May
08

Theo’s goal, Wenger’s transfers, Flamini’s pain.

Another one-nil Arsenal win, a draw by Chelsea, and Man U’s 2-0 win means that Arsenal finish 2008 in third place; 2 points behind Chelsea and 4 points behind winners Manchester United.

Interestingly, Man U finished the season with a mere 87 points which means that Wenger’s New Year’s prediction that Arsenal needed 90 points to win the title was pretty damn close. At the time, he compared this season’s team to the Invincibles saying that “We had 44 points before Everton, which is one point less than in the unbeaten season when we had 45. So that tells you a lot about the quality of the team.” Upon reflection, he’s been banging this “this team is as good as the invincibles” drum all season and I never really noticed it. You almost have to wonder if that’s how he kept the team’s spirits high all season.

Speaking about his transfer targets he beat that Invincibles drum again:

It doesn’t look like we have no team and we have to build a team. We were unbeaten at home and that is only the second time in the history of the club. We have done that with young players who will be better next season.

What’s fascinating about this whole dialog for me is that if you were to repeat those lines with your casual EPL fan (especially here in America) you’d get derisive laughter. But that’s how close Arsenal were this season and how misinformed your average EPL fan (especially here in America) really is. I had a “Wolves Supporter” tell me today that next year Arsenal need a 20 point lead in order to win the title. Yes, and Arsenal should go out and pick up Henri Camara to do it, right?

Regardless, the season was, in fact, very close. Had the club rescued just a few points that they dropped against lesser quality teams (yes, Birmingham are lesser quality, you saw they made the drop today, right?) Arsenal would have finished exactly where Wenger predicted, 90 points and champions.

But they didn’t rescue those points and they didn’t win the title. They did play beautifully, and they do have a great team in the offing, so now it is time to look forward to next season and what Professor Wenger has in store for the supporters.

Today’s match was a preview of next season of sorts, wasn’t it? Too bad I couldn’t watch it but the match reports said that Theo started and scored the only goal. Good for him, I expect to see him a regular starter next year. Meanwhile, budding French winger Traore and young English winger Mark Randall came on in the second half. Evidently, Randall had a goal disallowed. Not bad for his (Randall) first ever EPL appearance! I can’t wait to see what he does next year in the League Cup.

As for signings, you have no doubt seen by now that Wenger has a “couple” of players targeted: most likely, a tough central defender and a replacement for Flamini in midfield. He’s also saying that he’s willing to pony up the cash for someone with experience in the Premiership. I don’t know how important that will be: Sagna didn’t have any Premiership experience and was voted best Right Back in the league. I do know that buying a Premiership player is a good political move; I hear a lot of fans calling for Micah Richards and signing him would make a lot of people happy. I don’t want to get into speculation about specific players but if I were (ha!) I would suggest that fans not set their hopes on Richards because with his size and ability he plays more like Gallas than like a Ferdinand (which is what Arsenal really need).

If I were to speculate? I’d say Xavi Alonso is coming to Arsenal; he’s Spanish (Wenger likes pairs and Cesc is the lone Spaniard), he’s a tremendously dependable passer, and he’s fallen out of favor at Liverpool. But see, that’s just me speculating, I don’t claim an “inside source” who can tell me, literally moments before the rest of the press, that Arsenal have signed XYZ. I’m just a blogger, like all the other bloggers, no matter how much they claim special access and still get 98% of their predictions wrong. So, why don’t we wait for the dot com to release the news instead of claiming special knowledge, and making crazy predictions like “XAVI TO ARSENAL!!!” eh?

And that leads me to my final blurb: Flamini has spoken out about the “pain” he felt because Arsenal failed to secure the title and how that influenced his decision not to stay. So, he went to AC Milan, who are clearly overflowing with trophies this season. In fact, van Persie, Arsene Wenger, and I all rate Arsenal’s chance at winning silverware higher than Milan’s: van Persie thinks it’ll be 100%. Way to end the season on a high note Robin, now stay healthy and maybe you can be a significant part of that 100%.

So, the season ends and like the fans, some of the players are bitter, some are hurt, and some of us are hopeful.

Where are you?




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