So the first press conference of the new season took place yesterday and it was a chance for the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate to get some clarity on a number of issues. Top of the agenda though was the future of Cesc Fabregas.
If there was any doubt up until now then it’s been well and truly put to bed. Arsene said of Arsenal’s unwillingness to deal with Barcelona:
We do not negotiate. If I want to buy your house and you don’t want to sell, you don’t negotiate with me, that’s completely normal.
Even Barcelona seem to be getting the message, another sporting vice-president of sporting sport, said:
We talked to the club and they told us that Fabregas was non-transferable. And there are no imminent negotiations in place because they do not want to sell. We would like very much that the relationship between Fabregas and his manager, Arsene Wenger, return to normal. And we respect Arsenal’s decision not to sell.
I always said Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him. Despite all the speculation last season and the whole summer, nothing has changed.
And that is about as crystal clear as we can make it. Hopefully it’ll put an end to the absolute nonsense being peddled in the Spanish press who claimed a ‘secret deal’ was in place and that Cesc would be a Barcelona player … erm … when was that? … oh yeah … yesterday. Ooops, quite the epic fail there and entirely illustrative of the pure fiction they create on a daily basis, aided and abetted by the sports pages here who still, somehow, attribute some measure of credibility to them.
And it’s fantastic news for us. There are the usual tosspots who are all mouth and no trousers who want ‘cesc shud fuk off!!’, but anyone who thinks we’d be better off with a wad of cash and not one of the finest midfield players any of us is ever likely to see in red and white is quite mad indeed.
Regardless of his wishes Cesc is a consumate professional who has never given anything less than 100% every time he’s pulled on our shirt. I don’t see any reason why that would change. He was always aware that any potential deal depended entirely on Arsenal. If Arsenal didn’t want to sell then that was it. There was no agitating, no trouble making from him, and despite the efforts of others to taint his relationship with the club, the fans and the manager, he remains our captain and will lead the team this season.
It’s a measure of our class that the manager played down criticisms of Barcelona, for their constant talking, for the shirt ‘prank’ and everything else. He knows there’s little to be had from public point scoring but if I were in his position I’d have been tempted to have a good sneer.
What I would say though is that there’s an onus on Arsene to give him a team that is capable of winning something this season. I see the stories this morning about him believing we can win it with the players we have right now. I really think that’s just his usual way of being positive and trying to transmit that to the players.
If Cesc was uneasy about his Arsenal future it was because he looked around the dressing room and saw players who were happy to go through the motions. The arrival of Sol Campbell in January put into sharp contrast some of the non-performers in terms of quality and attitude. This is a squad that needs strengthening and despite the usual non-commital quote about how ‘we’re not close’ to signing anyone, I don’t think our purchasing is done for the summer.
He’s acknowledged we’re after ‘at least one’ centre-half and I think we know there’s a keeper somewhere on the shopping list. There are also rumours of players moving on to make room for other arrivals further up the pitch but whether anything comes of them or not, I don’t know.
So we’ve won the battle to keep Cesc but a player of his drive, ambition and quality deserves to play in a team that can challenge for titles. It’s down to the manager to improve the players he currently has and augment the squad with some real quality so we don’t finish our season in the same pathetic way we did last time. Regardless of how long we stayed in the chase that’s what people remember about our last campaign and why fans are so uneasy right now.
Speaking of squads, Arsene hit out at the new rules about a 25 man squad, calling them ‘disastrous‘ for football and he does make a lot of sense. I suppose the idea was to encourage clubs to produce more of their own players but how, if you do that, can you move on players to other clubs who have no room in their squads. I predict this could get quite messy.
He also said Sol Campbell’s move to Newcastle was not a surprise, so you can only imagine we’ve been planning for his departure.
Ahead of the Emirates Cup we’ve got some injury issues, as you’d imagine. Denilson, Song, Diaby and Bendtner all miss out. The latter could be out for a few weeks yet, the others should be fit for next weekend’s game in Poland. Of course there’s no Cesc or Robin van Persie who return for training during the week.
Still, it should be interesting to see who takes their chance this weekend. Our game against Milan kicks off this afternoon at 4.20, preceding that there’s Celtic v Lyon.
And seeing as it’s a nice warm summer Saturday, football is back and the evil that is Barcelona has been defeated, for now, how about a competition.
My old pals at Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts on Twitter) have given me this genuine, match issue shirt worn by one of Arsenal’s most legendary Norwegians called Pal. Click the image to have a closer look.
To be in with a chance to win this shirt – or, if you’d prefer £150 worth of credit on their website – simply answer the following question:
Name three players that have played for Arsenal and Celtic. Simples.
Send your answers to email@example.com and I’ll give you winner early next week.
Right, that’ll be about that. There’s things, such as bacon and more coffee to attend to, and football this afternoon. Splendid.