members day takes place today. The fans get to watch the team train, there’s a bit of a game, maybe some half-hearted crossbar challenge like last season and it’s a nice PR exercise. At least it should be but this year’s is dominated by two transfer sagas and a general feeling of malaise and frustration amongst fans.
Arsenal have apparently denied reports that two photos would taken, one with Cesc, one without. That this report emanated from Spain and not the English press was probably proof enough that it was a bit of mischief making. Was it Balague who reported it first? It probably was. Yet still the whole thing rumbles on.
I have been critical of the club’s handling of the situation. Whatever Cesc’s desire to return home, he’s also an intelligent man who knows that the club is far more important than any one individual. Had Arsene and Arsenal sat him down and told him, “We’ll let you go if the price is right and the offer comes before X date. We can’t be in a situation where, just 8 days before the start of the new season, we still don’t know if our captain and best player is going to be at the club”.
I think Cesc would probably have accepted that as reasonable, because it is reasonable. However, while I feel we’ve been indecisive and a bit weak about the whole thing, I do not have the words to express how unseemly Barcelona’s behaviour has been. For a club that sees itself as ‘more than a club’ they really are a classless bunch.
Even yesterday Zubizarreta said:
We need to be respectful of the team Cesc belongs to. We won’t comment on the Fabregas negotiations. There will be time for that in the future.
This, after a summer of non-stop commenting on it. Everyone’s been at it, the players, staff, the manager, the president, everyone. And if you take a look at the front page of the Sport website this morning there are no less five stories about Cesc, including quotes from Xavi and Iniesta about how great it would be if Cesc signed? Respect indeed.
And all the while Barcelona’s drip-drip approach is designed to make Cesc’s position at our club more and more untenable. They make low offers, talk down his worth, haggle over stupid stuff that is so stupid it’s clearly nothing but a delaying tactic, and leave the player himself in limbo while all this is going on. They spent €30m on Alexis Sanchez knowing their transfer budget was limited. A big two fingers to Arsenal who, I’m sure, have told them how much Cesc will cost.
What they’re doing is poisonous, basically. They have had a major and quite negative impact on our summer and our pre-season preparations. They’ve certainly damaged Cesc and his relationship with some fans who are now just tired of the whole thing and want to move on. And to me that’s both sad and frustrating. Rosell can send all the smarmy text messages he likes to our captain but to get what he wants he doesn’t care if Cesc has to be painted as the bad guy.
They know the ‘hamstring’ thing was Arsenal protecting its player, the way it should do, but Arsenal returned for pre-season training on almost a month ago. Do you really believe that a club of Barcelona’s stature couldn’t do a deal with Arsenal for Cesc if they really wanted to? The thing is, they don’t really want to. Not yet. They want to cause more problems, continue to undermine every aspect of the club, from captain, to manager, to pre-season, to our basic preparations for the new campaign, just so they can pay a bit less.
And while you can certainly criticise us for letting them have such an impact, you can’t overlook the fact that Barcelona’s behaviour throughout the summer has been little short of appalling. It might be just ‘business’ and the way of the world when you’re dealing in tens of millions of pounds but that doesn’t mean it’s not disgusting. And the worst part of it all is that it’s probably going to work.
Despite the fact I think we should have told them COuCO a long time ago I have a feeling the only outcome now is a sale at a price which will feel like a kick in the teeth. There’s a suggestion Cesc could play this weekend in Benfica and I think if he’s still here then it’s right that he should. I have no doubt that there have been promises made to him from Catalunya about getting the deal done, which would explain, but not excuse, why he hasn’t been involved this pre-season, but Barcelona have failed, singularly failed, to put their money where their mouth is.
August 31st is no deadline. It should not be acceptable to Arsenal Football Club, it should not be acceptable to Arsene Wenger or the board, and we ought to be telling Barcelona, Cesc and all the scuttery agents involved, that it is now or never. Or now or ‘next summer’, at least. If last week we were ‘close’ to calling the whole thing off, surely we’re on the very edge by now.
Really, nobody is coming out of this whole thing smelling of roses, but above all else, Barcelona come out of it smelling like a piss-strained tramp who’s spent the night sleeping on a mattress covered in gnu spunk and Exorcist vomit before dabbing itself with Eau de 15 year old Basset Fart and showering in Trainspotting toilet water.
Maybe we’re just too nice, I don’t know, but with August such a crucial month and the CL qualifying draw taking place tomorrow morning, we have to turn the focus back on to what’s best for Arsenal and nothing else.
In other news, Kyle Bartley has signed a new deal which is good news considering he had just a year to go on his old contract. Whether he makes the first team squad this season remains to be seen. I suspect a loan spell initially, maybe short-term, maybe until Christmas, and if he progresses well enough he could play a part in the second half of the season.
There are also renewed whispers regarding Eboue and Galatasaray but we’ll wait and see if it comes to fruition this time before making any further comment.
Bonus reading (if you haven’t already): Tim Stillman’s new column.
No doubt there’ll be stories a-plenty from members day today, catch up with them throughout the day on Arseblog News and here on tomorrow’s blog. Until then.