So the team traveled to Germany yesterday for a training camp, which will culminate in a game against FC Koln on Sunday, and there were, reportedly, some interesting voyagers.
Both the BBC and the Mirror report that Santi Cazorla has made the trip which tells you the deal is done and dusted, even if it hasn’t been announced yet. I know we’ve been waiting patiently since last week for it to be made officially official but there’s just no way he’d be going on a training camp abroad if he wasn’t an Arsenal player. A little more patience and all will be revealed, I’m sure.
Meanwhile, the presence of Robin van Persie in Germany suggests that there’s nothing close to happening regarding his future. If we were close to a deal to sell him to Juventus, or anywhere else, I think he might well have been left behind. We can draw some vague conclusions from the fact he’s travelled, the possibility of a stay increases, I suppose, but obviously that brings about its own challenges.
For example, it looks obvious that Lukas Podolski is hanging on for the number 10 shirt, but as long as the ‘captain’ remains that’s not a possibility. That is, probably, the least of the worries we have but it’d be nice if our highest profile summer signing had a number at this stage. Also on the plane was Andrei Arshavin, again suggesting there’s nothing in the pipeline regarding his future. Reported bids from QPR and Galatasaray seem par for the course but then if anything does progress his situation, or van Persie’s, they’re not exactly on the far side of the world either.
As far as we know the only one to stay behind is Nicklas Bendtner and there are some whispers that something could be happening with him this week. Either that or he hasn’t changed out of his lucky underpants since the summer and is too stinking to bring on the trip. No doubt we’ll get more news from the training camp as the week goes on.
Meanwhile, just as things are looking up again somewhat, the second largest shareholder in the club has gone on the offensive again. Alisher Usmanov spoke to Forbes magazine to state, yet again, that he doesn’t agree with the way the club is being run. He says:
Our point of view on which direction the club is going today, and our disagreement with this direction, have been laid out in our open letter to the board.
We do not consider just qualifying for the Champions League to be the chief ambition of the club, and with all our hearts we support the team and wish them well for the new season.
Firstly, I’d have to question Usmanov’s timing. As a PR move he timed his comments after van Persie’s statement in early July very well (almost too well, as if he had some inside info, perish the thought). The Dutchman’s comments picked at old wounds and it was easy for Usmanov to say things which would resonate with fans who were upset at the development of another transfer saga featuring one of our best players.
This time, however, it seems as if he’s reacting to the fact that after the signings of Podolski and Giroud, and the imminent arrival of Cazorla, there’s some renewed optimism amongst fans. The club are spending money on the team and people are encouraged by that. So why the need for him to essentially repeat what he said last time around, other than to try and cause mischief again? Isn’t investment in the team what he’s been banging on about all the time? Talking about loving the club on one hand then throwing a stick in the spokes doesn’t really add up.
Secondly, I have never, ever heard anyone at the club say the chief ambition is to just qualify for the Champions League. It might be a conventional wisdom but that doesn’t make it true. It’s a straw-man to try and boost his argument and it’s utterly transparent. While I agree the words ‘top four’ , like’, ‘a’, and ‘trophy’ should never be used together, it’s wrong to say that simply qualifying the Champions League is all we’re about. It’s the minimum target we set ourselves in a season but hardly the only one. I’m not going to argue against those who say we could have done more to achieve those other targets but that’s not the point he’s making.
Thirdly, and if you follow the link to the ITV site, I found the comments regarding Danny Fiszman totally unnecessary. Whatever about Usmanov’s issues with Stan Kroenke or the rest of the board, at least they have the right of reply and can defend themselves if they see fit. Danny Fiszman, as we sadly know, cannot, and to go there is classless in the extreme.
Whether this summer’s spending has been brought about by pressure from Usmanov or simply because the club want to improve the team and learn from the mistakes of last summer doesn’t really matter. We are spending well to increase our chances of winning games and winning silverware. If we were once again in a state of stasis, with no business being done and no visible sign of ambition from the board, then Usmanov’s latest comments might carry more weight. As it is, they look like the declarations of a man somewhat panicked by the way the club are going about things. It doesn’t suit him if we do well.
Having won some favour with his last statement it strikes me he’s opened his mouth at exactly the wrong time now. You can’t call for the club to invest in the team then dish out the same old crap when they do exactly that. The signing of Cazorla will bring our summer outlay to around £36m and that is as big a change as you could ever expect from a manager/club which is usually far more parsimonious.
Anyway, he says he’s a fan, he says he loves the club, and although he’s not going to go away anytime soon, the enmity that exists between him and the board means working together is not an option. From our point of view the best we can hope for is that a successful Arsenal team means Mr Usmanov has got little to complain about. And I’m sure once the team are winning that’d be good enough him, right?
Ok, not much else going on. Let’s hope that announcement is forthcoming today and we can bask in the warm, chorizo glow of a new signing.
Finally, the winners of the book competition, with thanks to GCR Books, are: Damien Waugh, Joseph Akano and Sean Kirby. Well done to you, I’ll be in touch to get details etc.