Transfer Targets at the start of the Window
- Sign a Left Winger/Wide Striker who can be an integral part of Plan B – Check!
- Sign a Central Defensive Midfielder, who could deputize on Song’s absence during the African Cup of Nations ’12 – Not Done!
- Sign a Center-Back as a defensive Cover for Vermaelen and Djourou – Not Done!
- Sign a Full-Back if required in case of departure of “Experienced” heads – Not Done!
- Sort out the contract situation of Samir Nasri, either extend his contract or sell him – Not Done!
- Sort out the transfer situation of Cesc. Keep the captain – Partially Done!
- Offload “Dead Wood” from the team – Denilson, Eboue, Almunia, Bendtner (not really “dead wood”) – Not Done!
This Window – ‘To Notch in the Forehead’
A tormenting summer of gossips, predictions, wishful thinking, inventiveness and Xavi surrounded Arsenal’s transfer window. Newspaper columns, Gossip Magazines, Twitter-Mouths, Football-Websites, outdoing each other in #epic levels of #fail gossips as far as player movements are concerned, were all a part of this interminable disturbing ride for the Gooners. Tweets suggesting ‘Mr.X has just reached London Colney for his medical’ has been the perpetual norm of the season – The ‘Twitter Flavor’ certainly overriding all other media outlets. But, above all, and most significantly, one thing remains a constant – Arsene Wenger stays as obdurate as ever!
The so-called ‘big’ signing of the season happened with the arrival of the man with the biggest forehead in the history of football – we saw the 24 year old Gervinho Yao Kouassi, who had been plying his trade at Lille all these days, officially setting foot in London a few weeks back. With a very decent double-season in the French Ligue, the Ivory Coast International is an excellent signing for Arsenal. He brings into the team a much-needed ‘final burst’ that was lacking in the preceding few seasons at the club. He can be used in a very versatile role, thrown in as Arshavin’s deputy during later stages of a crunch game or even used as a wide-striker in a traditional 4-4-2 with van Persie smelling him in a deadly strike partnership. Gervinho, even went on to score a decent brace in the recently concluded pre-season game, showing one and all, that he is ready to don the famous Arsenal red and white.
Who can Sing a Better Song?
Even the holy governing body of FIFA has changed – they banned the extremely dangerous snoods which one Marouane Chamakh was using for ultra-high-impact headers, but, Arsene Wenger’s persistence of never keeping a backup for Alex Song hasn’t changed. He never bought a quality deputy for Song in the fear of choking the development of the ‘fashionable’ Cameroonian. Though, Alex Song has grown into a fantastic central defensive midfielder, he still lacks competition in the team which could have induced superior performances from him.
From what has been showcased in pre-season, Emmanuel Frimpong looks like a very capable and justifiable backup for Song. The only cause of concern, though, would be, the young man’s ability to handle high pressure scenarios like one presented during a Carling Cup Final. Since, Abou Diaby will be vacationing in the Medical meadows of Arsenal for most of the next season, as always, Arsenal are truly left with two options in the CDM department – Alex Song (not available during African Cup of Nations – Jan/Feb) and Emmanuel Frimpong.
The Achilles Heel – Very Easy to Fix, it seems!
Arsenal’s ineptitude in defending set-pieces is known to Homo sapiens since the days of Copernicus trying to prove his heliocentric hypothesis. Teams coming down to The Emirates incorporate one and only one plan – sit back and defend, and hit them on counter-attacks. The ploy had been a major success last season and it doesn’t look like teams are going to change that particular tactic in the very near future. So, who has to change? Arsenal, of course! The team needs to work really hard on set-pieces in the course of this ongoing pre-season training and identify “men” outside their squad who can mend this particular problem.
Christopher Samba and Gary Cahill have been linked to Arsenal all summer, but certain impediments on both deals means Arsenal are back to square one. While the former signed an inane (because he wants to leave now!) deal of four years with Blackburn this January, the latter is exorbitantly priced according to Arsene Wenger. The manager, though, has claimed that it is very easy to crack the set-piece concern at the club, one would obviously wonder, what stopped him from solving it all this long! Talking about Achilles Heel, Arsenal have got back the services of Thomas Vermaelen, who is like a new signing for Arsenal according to the manager – One of the most irksome clichés of 21st Century Arsenal.
With Djourou, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Sylvester’s step-brother, Squillaci, Arsenal have three first choice center-backs and a Frenchman. As far as reinforcements are concerned, Arsene Wenger had earlier spoken about tall defenders capable of doing the trick –
“We conceded very few on open play but most of them on set-pieces. It’s something that is easy to correct and I feel we need to improve a little bit on the size of our squad in some games, we focus on that as well.[Getting tall players in the summer?] Maybe a bigger variety in the height of our players that in some games you can use more some players than others!”
All words, no action so far there! By the end of this transfer window, it would be ideal for Arsenal to sign one very proficient center back, who is especially trained in defending set-pieces. Whether that player is Phil Jagielka or an artificially-created 6’ 6” dead-ball-specialist-giant, only time will tell!
A Matter of Gibbs and Take!
The departure of Gael Clichy meant immediate rumor-bells ringing with names like Jose Enrique and Leighton Baines popping in every sports column. But, as of now, the buzz has died down, and it looks like Arsene is ready to give Gibbs a chance of his life-time, to emulate what Cole and Clichy achieved at Arsenal. Gibbs, who incidentally has an average of three injuries in every two matches he plays, is still very inexperienced but possesses a better “delivery” in him than Clichy from the left wing. His defending still needs a lot of polishing, which hopefully will see implementation as he gathers experience with every game he plays. With Armand Traore as an incredible back-up, Gibbs will have to stay motivated all the time to perform for the team.
If only all Footballers of Algerian Descent Played like Zidane!
With so much money in the game nowadays, young footballers need to concentrate on too many things apart from football. Samir ‘half-season wonder’ Nasri is no exception to that rule; a good footballer who completed three years with the club but was visible for just half of one season. With just one year left in his contract, Samir wants a new contract with almost a 100% hike – to be at par with captain and club emblem – Cesc Fabregas. In this economically depressed market and with the money-vending machine of Manchester City sniffing around all the time, Arsene Wenger has made it quite clear that he won’t be making Samir that rich a kid at the club. You don’t get a new contract because you want it; you get it because you have earned it!
With both clubs from Manchester interested in paying around 20 Million Pounds for the Frenchman who is in his last year of contract, it is going to be a big gamble if Arsene still keeps Nasri at the club. Recently, Arsene has even claimed that he is ready to let Nasri go for free next summer – Unless Monsieur Wenger has a hidden gold-filled chamber below his house in London, it is quite outrageous to settle for such an arrangement. If latest reports are to be believed, Juan Mata from Valencia is knocking on the doors of Arsenal; unfortunately the ‘Door-Keeper’ is on a long leave, so understandably that signing will have to wait!
Juan Signing for Arsenal – Just a Mata of time! – Really? R.I.P. Creativity
One Imperative Strand of DNA from La Masia
From the Prime-Minister of England to the fishermen in Spain – nobody has been spared the discussion of a certain Cesc Fabregas transfer saga. This season, to start with, FC Xavi alerted Bolton and Stoke City first, that even these clubs are capable of buying Cesc Fabregas, with a paltry and an utterly insulting bid of 26 Million Pounds. Arsene made it quite clear to Rossell and co. that the player is for sale at an optimum price of around 40 Million Pounds – Come get “your” man was the message! FC Xavi, with some help from footballers of the Spanish Champions started their habitual outcry to lure Cesc to Camp Nou. Through newspapers, twitter, websites, press-interviews, radio channels and pigeons, a picture of “Cesc suffering at the club after being kept without food and trophies” was painted.
The whole idea of mind-games and teasing with the “price tag” hasn’t really worked so far in FC Xavi’s favor. Peter Hill-Wood and his arsenal have kept the initial words intact – ‘Ball is in your court, pay the right price and take your man, before we seal the doors forever’.
“The ball is in their court. They have made one bid of around £26m and another rather tentative one. If they want to buy the player they are going to have to pay the right price – and when you look at what is being paid elsewhere I don’t think what we are asking is at all unreasonable.”
Thanks for all the fish!
The need to offload ‘dead wood’ from the team was top priority when this transfer window started. As things are going on, it looks quite positive on that front. Denilson, who had become some kind of a ‘figure of unremitting hatred’, was the first to be send across the Atlantic, to Sao Paolo, on loan. The chances of his coming back to England are the same as Robbie Savage’ possibility of getting a Nobel Peace Prize! Manuel Almunia, Nicolas Bendtner and Emmanuel ‘Cult Hero’ Eboue were ‘kept home’ during the Pre-Season Asia tour, apparently for deciding on their career away from Arsenal. While, suitors for Almunia have only been Siberians who have come with rotten tiger skins as transfer price, Bendtner and Eboue have been targeted by ‘actual’ clubs. Portuguese club Sporting wants to seal the deal with the Dane while Turkish Giants Galatasaray is ready to pay for Eboue’s honorary services.
With still a week left for the season to start and just over a month left for the transfer window to close, this Arsenal story is far from over. Watch out for this space for more on the same.