Monday machinations

Good morning and welcome to what is shaping up to be a busy week, even at this early stage. We’ve got transfers, transfers, transfers and, above all else, two actual games of that association soccerball frenzy we all love.

On the transfer front we’ll start with players going out. The Telegraph reports that Nicklas Bendtner could be heading to either Sporting Lisbon or Borussia Dortmund in a £9m deal. Talks are at an ‘advanced stage’. Those of you who read Arseblog News will have known of this interest weeks ago, although both clubs have since denied wanting the big Dane. As I said yesterday I would be surprised if there weren’t some English clubs in for Bendtner. Whatever you think of him he’s got a pretty good goals to games ratio and, when given enough games in his proper position, will rack them up for whoever he plays for.

The Guardian also runs with the Bendtner story and also says that Manuel Almunia is interesting Atlético Madrid, Malaga and Fenerbahce. The world’s most haunted goalkeeper looks to be on his way and as time goes by I suspect we’ll look back at his reign as the number 1 at the club, shake our heads wistfully and say ‘Really?’ in a soft voice. Those that aren’t like cartoon characters screaming *$^£%[email protected]@!!$£^**!! instead.

I do wonder if we’ll add a keeper to the ranks this summer. Potentially a Poom-esque signing to offer some experience and back-up. Fabianski is, generally speaking, quite prone to both injury and error, and I’m pretty sure Mannone will want to leave. After playing regularly last season and realising that the number 1 spot at Arsenal is beyond him with the emergence of SZCZ he won’t want to hang around. I don’t think it’d do the younger of the Poles any harm to have some competition in the squad either.

P-Diddy to the HW has caused huge relief by telling the Star that he’s not aware of any bid for Stewart Downing. Aston Villa have also confirmed that they’ve had no bid, as well as saying Downing is not for sale and slapping a £20m price tag on him. Let’s face it, paying £20m for Downing would be like spending £250,000 on a new Lada just because it had go-faster stripes. The go-faster stripes in Downing’s case = his left foot.

Meanwhile, a picture emerged yesterday of Samir Nasri smiling on the team bus, along with some of his teammates. I suppose, in as much as a picture of a scowling Nasri would have sparked stories of ‘Nasri looks grumpy as forced to go on tour with club he hates’, a happy Nasri suggested to many people he would be inclined to stay at the club.

Personally, I think he was just smiling for a photograph with some of his teammates and friends and there’s nothing more to be read into it than that. Yes, I suppose it’s a good thing he wasn’t wearing an ‘I ♥ Manchester’ hat and a ‘Fuck off Arsene’ t-shirt but I really don’t think we can take any real insight into his situation from one photograph. Unless it was a photo of him setting an Arsenal shirt on fire whilst wanking over a picture of Joleon Lescott. I think we could read quite a bit into that.

Thomas Vermaelen missed most of last season through injury and as much as we missed him as a defender, I think we missed his character too. When the going got tough we were found wanting and while I still think he can improve as a defender and wouldn’t solve all our problems, there’s no doubting he’s got some fight about him. Think back to one of his first Arsenal games against Celtic. He chased back most of the pitch to make a last ditch tackle in the box (something to tackle another day: why do 99% of YouTube football clips get ruined by shitty editing and godawful music?).

And he was also a player who made things happen up the other end of the pitch. When we were going sideways, he’d step up from defence and drive us forward, often to great effect. So it’s good to hear him talk about the upcoming campaign. He says:

Personally yes, of course I am more determined, I played a lot of games in my first year and I hoped to do well in my second year but unfortunately I had a big injury and I couldn’t play a lot so I couldn’t show the people a lot. I’m determined to go on the pitch this year and fight for it.

He goes on to talk about the team in general, but his attitude is refreshing. And it goes some way to remind us that whatever the manager does in the transfer window this summer he has to find players with the right balance of quality and character.

We’ve got technically adept footballers coming out our ears, what we’re lacking are the kind of players who won’t be found wanting when the pressure’s on. As much as anything else sheer will to win, or sheer hatred of losing, goes such a long way in a football team, and we don’t have enough players who feel that strongly about it. Not strongly enough to avoid Le Collapse each season anyway.

Whatever grumbles we have with the manager, and there are plenty, he’s got the team to within touching distance of league titles and other trophies in the last four or five seasons. That we haven’t taken advantage reflects on him, of course, but also the playing squad. So it is crucial, in my opinion, that new signings marry quality and character, and perhaps those players aren’t as easy to find as we might like.

Anyway, as we speak Arsene is at a press conference in Malaysia, flanked by van Persie and Sagna he’s told those assembled that Cesc will stay, so will Nasri and that Gervinho has signed. For more follow the Twitter timeline of this Kuala Lumpur based Arsenal fan, and when more becomes available we’ll get it up on the news site as soon as possible.

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So, a busy start to the week, let’s hope it keeps up. Till tomorrow.

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