Friday, 28 May 2010

Latest on Fabregas - Barcelona still hypocrites

According to the Daily Mirror, Barcelona have finally contacted Arsenal to enquire about the availability of Cesc Fabregas and were immediately told he is not for sale at any price. As yet, they have still not lodged an official bid despite continually tapping him up via the media.

The Daily Mail claim that Barcelona believe the intense media speculation surrounding the proposed switch has hampered proceedings. Err, that would be the 'intense media speculation' that Barcelona themselves have created to unsettle Fabregas would it? Unbelievable!

The latest comes from Barcelona presidential candidate Marc Ingla who is quoted in the Sun as saying: 'Cesc will be a Barcelona player, yes, yes. The money is not as important as his dream because he wants to return to Barcelona and it's a dream for our fans. Of course Barcelona wants to complete a quick deal. I believe that Cesc's time at Arsenal has finished, they have benefited from him and now we hope to reach agreement.'

The money is not important? You what?! Barcelona want to complete the deal quickly? Well, maybe they could start by making an official bid for the player rather than just talking about it. My belief is that Barca simply don't have the money at the moment and they are stalling in the hope that either the player will hand in a transfer written request, forcing Arsenal's hand and potentially lowering the fee, or that they can somehow find the wonga down the back of the settee.

Meanwhile, according to the Mirror Cesc's father has now confirmed that he wants to leave the club to join Barcelona but claims that he does not know which way things will go:
"I tend to think that he has decided. It appears more clearly that he will do it. He has had his time there and given everything. He has been there since he was very young."
 However, more positively, he did also say that:
"I am talking about this but he could still be there next season. Whatever happens, he has great respect for Arsenal."
We know that these days the players hold all the power and that Fabregas having five years left on his contract means little other than allowing Arsenal to hold out for a higher fee. However, if Fabregas doesn't get his wish to move to Barca, I don't expect him to have a strop. Despite Barcelona's overtures, he has refused to burn his bridges with Arsenal by being drawn into handing in a transfer request, perhaps realising that there is a good possibility that the two clubs will not be able to reach an agreement. According to several sources, he said:
"I had a long conversation with Arsene and it was probably the greatest conversation I had with someone in my life. I respect him so much. He told me to concentrate on my football, he told me to concentrate on the World Cup, he told me to leave it in his hands and he will deal with whatever happens in my future. It's not up to me anymore. It's just now about Arsenal and whoever it has to be, and that's it. I don't want to say anything else. I have great respect for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club and for the Arsenal fans."
If the clubs can't come to an agreement I think Fabregas will stay for one more year. And who knows, if we win something he may be persuaded to stay beyond that (or quite possibly not!).

At the moment I'd rate the transfer as 50:50. At least if he does leave, Peter Hill-Wood has confirmed that Arsene Wenger will be given all the money from the transfer to spend on players. (Though of course we know that is no guarantee that he will choose to spend it.)

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Let's Talk About Cesc, Baby - Fabregas is off to Barcelona. (Again.)

Cesc Fabregas (Picture courtesy RobTM)
So Cesc Fabregas is off to Barcelona. (Again.) It may be true, it may a load of cobblers. Who knows? At the moment things look in the balance.

For the time being the story seems to have little more credibility than any of the previous ones. I'm not saying that Fabregas won't leave Arsenal this summer but for the time being I'm going to withhold judgement.

As so often in the past, the story is based on a rumour started by Guillem Balague in Spanish newspaper AS(S). According to Balague's official website, he wrote an 'exclusive' article in AS(S) stating that:
Cesc Fabregas has told Arsene Wenger today that he wishes to leave Arsenal this summer in order to return to FC Barcelona. The Spanish midfielder flew into London for talks with the Arsenal coach today for a meeting that will prove decisive in determining his future. Fabregas recently made clear his desire to play for Barcelona, should he ever leave Arsenal, and emphasised that he would like his future sorted before the World Cup finals in June.
Fabregas has now informed Wenger of his desire to play for Barcelona next season and the Spanish club understands that the Premier League club will demand a fee in the region of £30 - £35 million. If Arsenal were to insist on a fee in excess of that figure, it may prove too high for Barcelona who feel that while a deal could still be done, it would be difficult.

Cesc Fabregas left Barcelona in 2003 to sign for Arsenal when he was 16 years old in a move that angered the Spanish club who felt that the Premier League side had exploited a Spanish employment law that prevented Barcelona from tying him to a professional contract. Consequently, Barcelona feel that Arsenal should be willing to negotiate as they would have little grounds for complaint if Barcelona were to aggresively [sic] bid for the player. 
Sky Sports, as they tend to do, are milking the story for all it's worth and it has been repeated in just about every other news outlet, but so far it is just unsubstantiated rumour and lots of questions currently remain unanswered.

For instance, how does Guillem Balague know the intimate details of a private conversation that allegedly took place between Cesc Fabregas and Arsene Wenger? How can the alleged meeting have taken place at all if Arsene Wenger is apparently currently out of the country on holiday? And how serious are Barca about signing Fabregas given that they have just spent £35 million on David Villa, seem to have several other high-profile targets on their radar and already have Xavi and Iniesta who play in Fabregas' position?

The only quotes we have so far from anyone come from Barcelona Sporting director Txiki Begiristain who, when told that Fabregas had reportedly asked for a transfer, said:
It's great news that he wants to come here and I think that one day Cesc will have to come to Barca. But what matters is Arsenal and what their decision is. They think he is a very important player for them. We have to respect that.

I wish it was as soon as possible. But we have to respect Arsenal's wishes and the contract he has. At times the wishes of players do not come true because they are under contract.
 I guess that pretty much sums up the situation at the moment.

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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Theo In, Campbell Out

Theo Walcott (picture ourtesy RobTM)

As you have probably heard by now, Theo Walcott has been named in Fabio Capello's initial 30-man England squad for the World Cup but Sol Campbell has been left out.

I think Sol must have got the fairly obvious message that Capello doesn't fancy him too much. He hasn't been included in the squad of 30 which included six centre backs: Jamie Carragher, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Ledley King, John Terry and Matthew Upson.

Of those, John Terry is obvious a shoe-in, but Carragher was asked to come out of retirement, Dawson is uncapped, there are doubts about Ferdinand's fitness, Ledley King is a permenant crock and Upson has never really impressed. So if he can't get in before those lot, he's got no chance. Phil Jagjelka or Joleon Lescott would probably be next in line.

Personally, I would have liked to see Sol at the World Cup but Mr Capello is England manager and he probably knows what's best for the team.

I'm not sure whether Sol is technically still an Arsenal player but I hope that he will sign on for another season. According to Arsenal Mania, the player himself is keen to stay.

England's 30-man provisional squad in full

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney.

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Monday, 3 May 2010

'Ins' and 'Outs' This Summer at Arsenal

With Arsenal's season pretty much over, I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk about who might be leaving and arriving this summer.

GK - current players: Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny

First, the goalkeepers. I think everyone (including, hopefully, Arsene Wenger) is now agreed that we need a new keeper. Manuael Almunia is good enough as back-up but shouldn't be starting every week. Meanwhile, Lukasz Fabianski has come in for a lot of stick this season due to some high-profile errors, but I'm still convinced he can become a top-class keeper given two or three more seasons. Unfortunately, we've now gone seasons without winning a major trophy and I no longer believe we can wait for him to mature. Vito Mannone has never really convinced me despite several very good performances this season but, again, could provide good back-up in future. Finally, Wojciech Szczesny looks the mutts nuts and will, according to Arsene Wenger, become Arsenal's numero uno one day. But he's not ready for the first team yet.

So who should we sign? Well, it's not easy to sign a top-class keeper. Many names have been mentioned who, to my mind, would not really be any improvement on what we have. Robert Green, for example. For me, Joe Hart looks quality and we should do anything we can to sign him. Unfortunately, it looks like it may be difficult to prise him away from Man Citeh, but we can always hope that he decides to submit a transfer request. Jussi Jaaskelainen could also fit the bill and might come a bit cheaper. I would be happy with either of those two. I wouldn't be surprised though if it's not someone relatively unknown like Jens Lehmann was (if Arsene Wenger decides to sign a keeper at all).

Defence - current players: Sagna, Eboue, Clichy, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Gallas, Campbell, Djourou, Silvestre, Senderos

Despite what has been said in the media, I think we currently have what we need in defence. Our full-backs Sagna, Clichy, Eboue and Gibbs all look pretty solid and I think we are pretty soild in that area. At centre-back we have the incredible Tomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, Sol Campbell, Johan Djourou, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos. Of those though, Gallas, Campbell, Silvestre and Senderos are all out of contract in the summer.

I, for one, won't be too disappointed to see Senderos leave and the least said about Silvestre the better, but it looks increasingly like Gallas will leave when his contract runs out and there are doubts about whether Sol Campbell will sign a new deal. I hope he does but, if not, I hope we sign a promising young player who will be happy to sit on the bench but also capable of coming in without too much disruption should either of the first-choice centre-backs be injured. Chris Smalling would have been ideal because he can also play full-back or defensive midfield, but sadly he decided to go to ManUre. If Gallas leaves, we need to sign a top-class player a la Vermaelen who can come straight into the team. Unfortunately, such players are hard to find. Brede Hangerland would fit the bill, but I doubt we will be able to persuade Fulham to part with him. I haven't seen Neven Subotic play but he comes with rave reviews. Whether we will be able to afford him though is another matter. Hopefully, Arsene Wenger already has someone up his sleeve (not literally of course, otherwise he would be too small for a centre-back).

Midfield - current players: Fabregas, Song, Diaby, Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky, Denilson, Eastmond, Wilshere, Ramsey, Merida

Midfield is perhaps the most contentious area. I think we're currently well covered in this position with one possible exception. I believe Cesc Fabregas will still be with us next year despite the continued rumours of him moving to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Timbuktu, and Alex Song cannot be improved upon in my opinion.
Abu Diaby still continues to get stick from some fans but, although he is still a little inconsistent, he has improved greatly and I think he's worth perserving with.

Andrei Arshavin has had a poor season after a promising start and has also taken a bit of stick in the blogging community, but I think we have to remember that: (a) he has been carrying an injury for most of the season, and (b) he is often misquoted. We have all learned to live with the constant 'Fabregas to Barca' stories and take them with the huge lump of sodium chloride they deserve. The constant stories about what Arshavin has supposedly said fall into the same bracket in my opinion. Most of the stories seem to originate at the same tabloid-esque website, which I refuse to give publicity to. Samir Nasri is not the finished article, but he has his moments and he will only get better in my opinion. Tomas Rosicky has had a poor season, but he never lets anyone down when called upon (as they say), and as long as he's happy to sit on the bench, I think he's another to keeper.

It's with back-up for Alex Song that I think we have potential problems.Denilson is not good enough in this position and Craig Eastmond looks promising but not yet ready to play more than a few games a season. The problem is, whoever we sign is unlikely to get into the team ahead of Song and will have to be content to sit on the bench. If Sol Campbell leaves, I hope that we sign a promising young player like Smalling (but not him, obviously) who can play centre-back and also defensive midfield; otherwise, I think we will continue to be weak in this area. Personally, I'm hoping that I'm wrong about Eastmond and that he can develop faster than expected. So far, he's looked good in most matches, but he was a bit disappointing against Wigan last week when with someone with more experience in that position I think we could have gone on to win.

Jack Wilshere will also probably get more matches next season as well unless he goes out on loan again, and I think we may also see Jay Emmuanuel-Thomas getting a few games.

Finally for the midfielders, Aaron Ramsey we all know about, sadly, and Fran Merida will probably be leaving at the end of the season. I will be a bit sorry to see him go because I think he has a lot of potential, but sometimes young players get impatient.

Forwards - current players: van Persie, Bendtner, Eduardo, Walcott, Vela

Van Persie is our best forward and obviously must stay, and Nicklas Bendtner is also good enough in my opinion as long as he's not first-choice.

It looks very much as if Marouane Chamakh will be our first signing and I would very welcome that. That would probably leave us with too many forwards and I think Eduardo might be the one to make way. He's had very little playing time this season and just doesn't seem to have recovered properly from his injury, either mentally or physically. He seems to have lost a bit of pace and, sadly, it might be time to say goodbye. That said, Arsene Wenger sees him in training every day and he will know whether he just needs more time or if the damage is permenant.

I've included Theo Walcott as a forward partly because that's where he's listed on the official Arsenal website and partly because I'm not sure whether we will play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 next season. Theo is another one who has come in for some criticism this season both from the media and from some fans, but I think we have to remember that he is still young and has been injured for long periods this season. When he comes back from the World Cup having been one of the key players for England, we will all love him a bit more. If we do switch to 4-4-2 next season or just use it in some matches, I think we will finally see the best of Theo Walcott.

Finally, Carlos Vela is another one who has not been seen much this season and I'm wondering whether Arsene Wenger has any confidence in him. For me, he is still a very promising young player and it would be a shame to see him go, but Wenger sees him in training every day and only he will really know if he can ever develop from being a talented youngster to being a world-class player.

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