Organs of your club

Tim Stillman column - Arseblog

I believe it was Martha Reeves that once warbled, “Summer’s here and the time is right, for sitting on your hole and waiting for the fixture list to be published.” Whilst on the surface, the hills aren’t exactly alive with the sound of music on the Arsenal front, there froths a bubbling undercurrent. This is most obviously manifested with the Samir Nasri contract situation.

I’m in comprehensive agreement with Blogs’ musings on the subject. Maybe it’s because I’ve emotionally adapted to the rigours of the modern game, or maybe it’s because I’m a naturally hardened, cynical bastard, but I fail to get excited about this sort of furore. If I were to complete a list of my least favourite things in the world, football agents and newspapers would feature prominently, (possibly just below ticket touts and anything that doesn’t make John Terry eternally miserable).

And newspapers and football agents are the exact conductors of this sort of wailing symphony. As such, I just struggle to give a monkey’s ball bag about any of it, even if I think I probably should. I’ve learned not to get attached to footballers as personalities and I think many could do with demisting that line between appreciating a good footballer and superimposing that admiration onto them as personalities. This would also explain my unrelenting confusion as to why so many people remain so utterly fascinated with who footballers have been putting their winkles into. Life becomes more pleasant when you simply view them as organs (heh) of your club.

Samir NasriI find it hard to believe Nasri hasn’t been offered contract extensions before now and that he hasn’t been advised to string this out for his own ends. The public flirting with Manchester United also likely represents a Machiavellian ploy to waft the wind of doubt into the negotiation room. I can understand the moral indignation from Arsenal supporters over this; but we have to confront some truths about ourselves too.

Patrick Vieira adopted the exact same tactic in the summer of 2001 when he lifted his skirt towards Salford (it’s even rumoured his agent Marc Roger met with United officials that summer). In fact, half way through the 2001-02 season, when the manager gave the players three days off following an away draw with Leeds, Vieira boarded a flight to Madrid.

But the fact is, that May Vieira was holding something shiny above his head and our moral compasses were tossed away with the wind. They were tossed so hard and so far that we would have needed a compass to find them again. Or something.

That’s what it all comes down to. Trophies. About 90% of the average football supporter’s supposed liberal conscience disappears if so much as a Carling Cup is hoisted in their direction. A bit like when the light catches my watch face and I can make my cat chase the reflection around the room for hours, a football fan’s brain goes all suggestible and fuzzy once any sort of cup is secured. A lot of the disquiet around the football club would not be there now had we so much as secured that one pot.

To use a completely hypothetical example, if our captain were to get totally sozzled on lager, get into a car and crash it through an old lady’s wall, resulting in spending some time in chokey, we wouldn’t tut tut so long as he was holding a trophy aloft come May. So perhaps we shouldn’t pretend to be such bastions of ethics ourselves.

There have been some international games played over the last week and whilst I continue to find international football about as exciting as a particularly troublesome Sunday morning beeriod, it was interesting to see Capello point to fatigue as a factor for a listless England performance. I say it’s interesting in the respect that, of the eleven players he selected, only Ashley Cole had played more games than Jack Wilshere this season (Cole has 54 appearances to Jack’s 53) and yet he didn’t seem to have any compunction about sending Jack to the U-21 Makita Cup or whatever the hell it is. Thank goodness common sense (eventually) prevailed there. But the remark elucidated the fact that the national side did not have Jack’s best interest in mind at any point.

Save for that, there’s not an awful lot being played in the public domain at the club just now. The much vaunted Arsenal Player is also supposed to be launched for members’ today – though I’ve yet to see any further commercial literature surrounding that. The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust conduct their annual review meeting with Ivan Gazidis this coming Monday night and I’m sure that promises to be a rumbustuous one as the Chief Exec faces the heat for a season of underachievement.

But the word on the street is that we’re experiencing the calm before the storm when it comes to player movement. There are several issues to be resolved with regards to the personnel we already have; the futures of Cesc and Nasri will likely have ramifications on others for instance. If we lose one or both; then a knock on effect will probably be felt for Rosicky’s future. We’d be unlikely to let him go should one of our other passing midfielders leave. Meanwhile, there’s an orderly queue forming for the exit door with Bendtner, Denilson and Almunia heading it. Once the broom has been swept through and the cobwebs have been cleared, we’ll likely start getting some new furniture in.

It will certainly be interesting to see the type of player Arsene recruits. There have been plenty of calls for him to revert to 4-4-2 and that’s a system he adopted on the final day of the season at Craven Cottage- which suggests he’s pondering it at the very least. With that in mind, you’d think we’d need a slightly more physical aspect to the team. But there again, Arsenal suffer a massive creative shortfall when Fabregas isn’t in the team, so we need to augment in that area too. Whether that means extra creativity coming from the wings to supply for someone like Chamakh will be a question the manager will be ruminating over as we speak.

But a change to a two striker system would raise questions upfront. In Robin van Persie, I reiterate my belief that we have the best central striker in the world. However, it’s notable that he’s never been able to forge a mutually effective strike partnership in his time at the club. Reyes, Henry, Adebayor, Eduardo, Bendtner. All have been tried but none have found chemistry with RvP.

Van Persie is an incredibly efficient penalty box striker. He tends only to need half a yard and half a second in the area to conjure a goal. If he is to play with a deputy next season, would that necessitate him dropping into a more withdrawn role, so we can allow him to play off a physical striker like Chamakh, or a ‘fox in the box; figure such as Eduardo was? Or would van Persie be the foil for a Bergkamp type to play tucked behind him?

All questions I am certain our array of armchair managers have mulled over in full when composing their transfer wish lists. Until next week chums, up the Arse. LD.

Follow me on Twitter – @LittleDutchVA

A signing, a bid and some talks

Apologies for the slight lateness of the post this morning but once again I am vexed by hard drive issues. My main computer won’t even start up, which is something of a frustration. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that both hard drives (main and back-up) are manufactured by Samsung, the filthy Chelsea twats. I’ll get you for this, John Terry.

Anyway, on to matters Arsenal and there was a fair bit going on yesterday. Firstly, we signed a young Charlton defender called Carl Jenkinson. This should not have been a surprise to anyone seeing as the deal was all but announced officially months ago. When the club did announce it, it coincided almost directly with Man United spending £16m on Blackburn’s Phil Jones.

This led many to wonder where our ambition was and why we were clucking around League One players when the champions were being decisive and spending big on a young man who has obvious potential. There was certainly a a mixed reaction to the announcement which I understand on one hand but in reality I find a bit baffling. Fans want signings then complain when we make a signing?

Ok, if this were the only signing of the summer, and the height of our ambition, blow a gasket, flip the lid, go mental, then let me know where and when and I’ll join you. I might even lose the plot. It is only June 9th. And this is a young guy who will most likely understudy Bacary Sagna which could mean less Eboue which means less penalties given away in the third hour of injury time. To me this is no bad thing.

As well as that – as good as Jones is – I do wonder what the reaction would have been like if we’d signed him. Surely the last thing we need right now is a 19 year old, inexperienced centre-half. Isn’t the point of this summer to move away from that kind of signing to bring in players of greater experience? While many would have been delighted I’m sure others would have bemoaned the manager signing another ‘kid’, which is what he is. Personally, I don’t think he’s the right player for us at this moment in time.

Then the news emerged that we did bid for him, we offered him more than United did, but he chose to go there. Which I understand completely. Location, they’re the champions and he can go there and learn from players like Vidic and Ferdinand which must have played a part in his decision. Still, we can look at it as a positive that Arsene Wenger was prepared to break his own transfer record and hope that this signals a change in his approach this summer. Hints of that came earlier from Liam Brady.

Now, The Mirror this morning claims that Wenger pulled out of the Jones deal as he was unprepared to meet Blackburn’s valuation, and says that we are ‘in talks’ with both Christopher Samba and Bolton’s Gary Cahill. With regard to the first I’d be surprised if Blackburn were willing to sell, having just sold Jones, and as for Cahill, the valuation/deal will be all important.

There’s simply no way the manager will pay £17m for a player in the final year of his contract but the Mirror suggests cash + players might well be on offer. You can take your pick from a number of Arsenal players who could be used as makeweights and we’ll have to wait and see how this develops.

So, it looks like things are happening. It doesn’t make the reaction to the Jenkinson news any less unseemly though. I want signings as much as anyone, I want to see the team improved, the issues we all know we have corrected, but we’re at the very start of the transfer window and I don’t understand how actually signing someone is cause for complaint.

I suppose it’s a measure of the frustration out there but really, what United do, what City do, what Chelsea do, none of it is relevant to us. If we judge every signing we make based on how much money they spend then it’s going be a ridiculously maddening summer. Judge our signings on their merits and, most importantly, how they perform on the pitch. Not on their price tag or who else wanted to sign them.

As an aside, the price tags on young English players are just insane. I know they have sell on value which certainly has an impact, but it is very difficult to justify £20m on Jordan Henderson or even £16m on Jones. As in any transfer there’s a gamble on the potential of player but when you look at how inexperienced both of them are, relatively speaking, it’s hard to get your head around those figures. And it also has an impact on smaller clubs who will feel their English/British players should be sold at prices relative to the big deals. I do wonder if that’s having an impact at all.

Meanwhile, in Spain this morning’s various press stories sum up exactly the disinformation regarding the Cesc situation. El Mundo says Arsene has given Cesc his ok to leave but only to a Spanish club – Real or Barcelona – not another Premier League club. We all know there’s only one destination on the cards. Meanwhile, Sport say Cesc will take a wage cut to go to Barcelona and also say Arsenal have offered him another €2m per year to stay. So Arsene tells Cesc he can go then offers him €2m more per year? Quite.

I’m sure Marca will pop up with a story to say Cesc can go to Barcelona, but only a Tuesday at precisely 12.34 in the afternoon and he must wear a pair of lemon shorts and a t-shirt with a picture of a pig urinating on a beanstalk. At the airport he must meet a man wearing a pink rose in his lapel and utter the password ‘Heisenberg’ and then, and only then, will Arsenal listen to Barcelona’s bid. Transfers really are so complicated.

There’s not much more in terms of possible arrivals. Agent noises from Falcao and the ongoing Gervinho story (one minute he’s staying in France, the next he’s definitely leaving) are about the only ones vaguely relating to us. Again all we can do is sit tight and hope that the manager is as willing to push the boat out in other positions as he seems to be with regard to the defence.

Right, that’ll be that – back tomorrow with more outrage and hysteria!