Thoughts on fixtures + Saturday round-up

A quick Saturday round-up for you.

Starting with the fixture list which was released yesterday. It’s certainly an interesting start to the season and this August is going to be a hugely important one, not just for the team, but because it could very well set the tone for the rest of the campaign.

There’s a pre-season international game, we open against Newcastle away (hoping not to repeat the reverse heroics of last season), then there’s the first leg of the Champions League qualifier, a home game against Liverpool, the second leg of the qualifier then a trip to Old Trafford. I suspect Arsene Wenger is ruing his luck a bit this morning.

Two traditionally massive games either side of a Champions League qualifier we really shouldn’t be playing … the pressure is well and truly on. Should things not go well all the early season promise and optimism (which will, like it or not, be clouded with frustration from last season) could disappear very quickly indeed. However, that’s worst case scenario stuff. Good results could very well give us a nice boost to kick things off.

Ultimately it’s down to the players, whichever players we have at that stage, and the manager to ensure that what could be a very tricky opening to the season becomes a positive. And until we know the shape and make-up of the squad there’s little point in worrying about those games. Hopefully we’re going into them with our squad boosted and envigorated, freshened and with extra delicious quality and experience.

With just about three weeks until the players begin pre-season training, however, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Leeroy Jenkinson remains the only signing of the summer thus far and we’re still none the wiser about the futures of a couple, including Samir Nasri.

Speaking to the Arsenal Magazine this month he said fans should not listen to rumour about his future and confirmed that he’d be talking to the boss in the summer about his situation. However, he made no assurances about a new deal and while he might well want to stay so far he’s turned down all the offers made to him. I also wonder if he might be a bit mad, seeing as he seemed to believe we were the best team last season.

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall …”

Anyway, that situation has to be sorted in order for the club to properly do its business this summer. I know the club have put a deadline on things but we have far more important work to do than spend so much time trying to convince a decent, but inconsistent, player to stay. I grow crotchety at the whole thing now. Brinksmanship and negotiation is one thing but when it impinges on the rest of our work this summer then it becomes selfishness and therefore needs a good slap about the face.

Also uncertain is the future of Gael Clichy who, in fairness to him, is remaining silent and not making a massive hoo-ha out of his situation. Liverpool are interested and the Express today links him with Roma. Arsenal are looking for £8m, which seems quite a lot for a player in the final year of his contract, but maybe that’s just the price they want from an English club. Selling him abroad could well see a deal done for less.

Should he go then there’s no question Arsenal will need to sign a left-back. Kieran Gibbs constant injuries and basic lack of readiness dictate that. There’s some talk of Newcastle’s Jose Enrique but again we can do nothing but wait and see.

The latest from Spain is that El Mundo report Barcelona are due to travel to London next week to open negotiations with us over the transfer of Cesc. Arsene Wenger will not be on holidays with his wife at this point and will be present, apparently. They are confident they can do the deal for less than €40m, in which case they should get back onto the Easy Jet website and see if they can get some money back on their plane tickets, the scabby fuckers.

Bolton are seemingly ready to lose Gary Cahill but ‘it would take a lot of money’, according to Owen Coyle. Independently of each other I received two emails this week from people who claimed to know that Ivan Gazidis was in talks with Bolton’s midget-headed chairman about Cahill, but with all due respect to both of those people I can neither confirm nor deny such talks. I haven’t heard anything from anywhere else about it.

For me it boils down to the fact that only one club (maybe two) can feasibly afford to pay ‘a lot of money’ for a player who is out of contract next summer. His Englishness means the price is higher now but he could be double-English and married to the Queen in 12 months for all the difference it would make. He’d be free to go where he wants for no fee at all. And that has to be a consideration for any club that isn’t playing with Monoilpoly money.

From the Spanish rumour-mill, AS say we’ll make a move for Schalke’s Jose Manuel Jurado if we sell Cesc. He’s a former Real Madrid youth player who went on to play for Atletico.

And that’s about the size of it really. Have yourselves a good Saturday, more tomorrow.