Vacuum biles and alternative angles

Tim Stillman column - Arseblog

In the seven days since last we spoke there have been some comings, some goings, some to-ings and some fro-ings. The gentle waft of the arriving football season is just beginning to tantalise the nostrils – like the scent of a neighbour’s barbecue on a balmy summer’s evening.  The first pre season friendlies are taking place; Harry Redknapp is getting RSI from winding down his windows for reporters and by now Xavi has doubtless done himself a similar mischief from acts of self abuse over his Cesc Fabregas photo album.

The club have now finished their pre season mini tour of the Far East with a couple of money spinning friendlies played. I shan’t go into the minutiae of those games because frankly, matches at this stage of pre season are just half a notch up from running around cones at London Colney. Commercially, the tour is expected to make Arsenal in the region of £4m upfront, but the plan is obviously to plant some seeds for longer term revenue. With the club in 5th place in the league in terms of commercial revenues, it’s clear that we’re going to have to raise level of our focus with such income sources.

From the outside at least, the tour appears to have been a success. I do think the change in surroundings could prove to be important. Firstly, as succinctly put forward in this piece, it took the players to a place where the supporters were delighted to see them. The air has been rather stuffy around the club with the naval gazing and vein busting invective from more localised sections of our support. But I also hope that the tour refreshed the manager too and showed him that, just sometimes, a change really is as good as a holiday. I know he took some convincing to sanction the trip. I hope it’s helped refresh his outlook just a tad.

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For my part, I’ve had my first taste of pre season football for the summer, having spent my Friday evening watching the Arsenal XI in Woking. Rock ‘n’ roll I know. Amidst the smoke and mirrors, we do have a confirmed outgoing with the news that Denilson will join Sao Paulo on a one year loan deal. The fact that all parties have settled on a loan rather reveals the difficulty we’ve had shifting some of our squad players.

Denilson’s departure hasn’t caused too many tears to be shed, but I for one wish him well. Supporters have this immature need for a hate figure, a scapegoat to bear all of the ills of the team and Denilson unfortunately found himself shoehorned into that little pigeon hole. Denilson isn’t close to being as bad as some of the hysterical, teeth gnashing remarks would have you believe. I know all the jokes about him passing sideways all the time, blah, blah, blah etc. But he’s a defensive midfielder, it’s not his job to split defences open. Perhaps those that seriously peddle that particular criticism might like to remind me of the raking sixty yard passes Gilberto, Makelele and Didier Deschamps were obviously hitting for their entire careers.

In 2008-09, when appearing regularly, Denilson enjoyed a terrific season. But since then, Ramsey and Wilshere have emerged and he’s not been able to develop sufficiently to displace them. His only crime has been not to quite become the player we all wanted him to be. That’s really no reason for the quite pathetic levels of vitriol the guy seems to receive. I think we as supporters under estimate how difficult it can be for a player to find their level when they are in and out of the side. Players seldom play to their true level in those circumstances. For those reasons, it was right for everyone that he moved on.

With Denilson gone and Bendtner and Almunia fumbling their way to the exit door, I’ve the distinct feeling Sebastien Squillaci will be coming in for increased criticism. For no other reason than supporters are going to need to focus that vacuum of bile onto another whipping boy. Again, I feel the opprobrium sent his way is misguided. For defensive players, understanding is such a huge component of your play and, as with Denilson, Squillaci suffered last year due to infrequency of games.

The centre back quartet is headed by Koscielny and Vermaelen as first choice. Vermaelen is the attacking, front footed player of the pairing. Koscielny is what is commonly referred to as the “mopping” player that sits in behind whilst Vermaelen contests the duels. Due to their qualities, Djourou is the intended back up for Vermaelen as a front footed, ball attacking defender. Squillaci, like Koscielny, is a “mopper” that reads the game and makes the interceptions. Due to Vermaelen’s injury last year, Squillaci was more often than not left to partner Koscielny – a player that mirrors his own attributes. Owing to his greater experience, it was Squillaci who was asked to adapt his game alongside Koscielny as the more aggressive centre half.

So in summary, Squillaci was asked to play a game that wasn’t natural to him, alongside a centre half he had never played with in a league he had never played in, for the odd game here and there. It was hardly a conducive environment for him to thrive in. It’s also probably no coincidence that he played two absolute stormers in November in the consecutive away matches at Wolves and Everton. They were games in which he played alongside Djourou.

In terms of players coming in, the signing of Gervinho has been rather snuck past us under the radar. Don’t you love the way Arsenal do that? Who knew about this one? Crazy. Meanwhile, it’s apparent we’ve decided not to buy Joel Campbell after all on account of the fact that he’s a rude, arrogant little cunt. I won’t talk too much about the ongoing Cesc saga, largely because I think it’s all bored us all to horrible, horrible tears but also because the situation has not altered one iota since May. It’s pay up or fuck off.

Of course, through their sniveling little Herman Munster-a-like mouthpiece Xavi, Barcelona keep talking the talk, but when it comes to sexy time, they complain of a headache and turn the lights out. Basically, they’re all mouth and no trousers. Mind you, I should probably be careful with my phraseology there, where Xavi’s concerned, the contents of one’s trousers are probably best not discussed with regards to Cesc. You’ve seen the film Fatal Attraction, right?

One player the club’s resolve seems to be a little stronger on is Samir Nasri, whose services the club have repeatedly pledged to retain even in the event that he doesn’t sign a contract. I have my doubts over this one, but there are possibly a few points we’ve neglected which may be factored into the club’s decision. Whilst I’d prefer for him to be sold and replaced with the proceeds, you could say that if there was a player out there of equivalent quality available at a similar price that City and United would be in for them and not Nasri.

Secondly, even if we were to lose him on a free next summer, the chances of him leaving for a direct rival would be reduced. Next summer, UEFA are demanding clubs cut their cloth more accordingly to meet the Financial Fair Play regulations. This means City won’t be able to make Nasri as attractive a financial offer as they can this summer. In another year, you’d have thought United’s interest would have moved on and they’d have already purchased a player for that position. By the end of his contract, Nasri’s original £11.5m fee will have been completely written off the books anyway. If we could be guaranteed to sell Nasri to a club on the continent, I think we’d be very willing to do a deal.

Before I leave you for another week, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that Arsenal Ladies resume their Women’s Superleague campaign this Sunday.  The Ladies play most of their home games at Borehamwood F.C. I do hope the quite enthralling Women’s World Cup Final between USA and Japan this week helps contribute to the profile of the women’s game. Go along and support them if you can. Until next week, Up the Arse. LD.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

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