it’s exactly one week until the start of the new season and it’d be hard to say we go into our final pre-season game in tip-top shape. There are injuries, absences and a distinct lack of new arrivals. The preparation has been, and continues to be, dominated by the Cesc/Nasri transfer sagas, and at this point we really ought to have been in much better shape.
We don’t know what our best XI is because we don’t know who’s going to be here this time next week. but perhaps it’s telling that tonight’s game will see Arsenal line-up without either Cesc or Samir Nasri. Something we may have to get used to. Nasri, apparently, has a ‘muscular’ problem, while Arsene Wenger insists Cesc is not fit enough to play tonight. This is despite the fact he was all set to travel to Portugal until yesterday. The manager said:
Everybody is free to think what they want. We cannot stop people raising questions. He is just coming back from injury and is not ready to play in a game. But he is not injured.
Well, what I think is that it’s hard to take that seriously. If he’s lacking fitness why prevent him from doing something which would build his fitness? Even if he played half an hour. He looked pretty fit on members day, and clearly trained with the team yesterday, so my gut feeling on this is that it’s coming to a head now and that a deal is close to completion. Not playing him tonight means there’s no risk of injury scuppering a deal but Arsene refused to be drawn, saying:
I do not want to speak about the transfer of Fabregas because I have done that three years now in every press conference so I don’t think there is any more need to add something. I love Fabregas and I want him to stay, that is basically it.
Is that a final public plea to Cesc or just an honest statement of his position? Either way it’s all gone on too long now. It had all gone on too long weeks and weeks ago and instead of focusing on our preparations and tonight’s game we’re still dealing with this.
As for Nasri there are reports of a bust-up between him and Wenger on the flight back from the Asian Tour but how much truth there is in that I just don’t know. And if I had to guess, I’d say the ‘muscular’ injury he has probably wouldn’t keep him out of Man City’s game next weekend if we agreed to sell him there.
I had genuinely thought both these issues would have been sorted out this week, ‘a big week’ for Arsene and Ivan etc, but so far nothing has been resolved and there have been no new arrivals. I think what worries people most is that it’s easy to see the departures but there’s not much faith that those players will be adequately replaced. A record cash surplus won’t win us games and Arsene was as frustrating as ever when talking about signings.
He talked about the difficulties of the process of signing new players, which I get, but other clubs seem to manage it well enough. I know it’s not as simple as supermarket shopping but you can’t help thinking we make it much more difficult for ourselves than it should be. He said he understood the impatience of fans but then hit us with this old classic:
I am positive because we have good quality and a style of play that is known by the players. So we want to add not quality but super quality.
I don’t know how many variations of this we’ve heard down the last few years. The old “I will only buy players who are better than the ones we have” line. The thing is, in some cases that really wouldn’t be too difficult. I’d love for us to sign ‘Super Quality”, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to listen to Arsene talk about those kind of signings after he’s spent real, actual money on players like Sylvester. Maybe he means Squality players like the fella he bought last summer. And as to when this might happen?
We hope to give you some good news soon. Next week, something might happen.
Something might happen. If that doesn’t encapsulate the summer thus far I don’t know what does. We’re not close to making any signings yet, the season is a week away, our best player is most likely on his way out, Nasri wants to go to, and something might happen next week. The indecisiveness and apparent lack of direction is concerning and it’s very difficult to be anything other than worried right now. I think it’s almost time for the hand-waving and the shrieking, I’m working on a venue. You bring the orange squash, I’ll get some biscuits. We’ll need to keep our strength up.
Update: Having watched Arsene’s interview on Arsenal Player what he says, and how he says it, makes it less frustrating. Not not frustrating, just less so.
Also worrying, the news re: Jack Wilshere’s injury doesn’t seem to be very good. Arsene said of the players who were missing with actual injuries:
Koscielny and Nasri might be back for the start of the season. Walcott might be back and, as for Wilshere, it is very difficult to say.
I believe Wilshere’s injury is more Achilles than ankle, so it could the club being ultra-cautious after what happened with Thomas Vermaelen, but it’s certainly a step away from the ‘few days’ that were mentioned earlier in the week. Let’s keep fingers crossed over that.
And before we all descend into total misery on a Saturday morning, check out squad list for tonight’s game on Arsenal.com which is, apparently, in alphabetical order. Spotter’s badge to Ollie.
Champions League draw took place yesterday, it’s Udinese with the second leg away from home. It could have been better, it could certainly have been worse, but it remains a tricky enough obstacle to the Champions League proper. Especially when you consider the players who are definitely missing from the first leg, and the ones who might potentially miss the game.
And that’s about that. Just remains to let you know there’ll be live blog coverage of tonight’s game, a chance to test out some stuff before the season begins (as long and drawn out as the summer has been I can’t believe that real football is almost upon us again!), and there have been some changes. I’ll explain more in a post later on with links to the live blog.