Wednesday, September 27, 2023

It’s a centre-half themed blog

Morning to you, and welcome to midweek.

Yesterday we were treated to the first pictures of pre-season training and, leaving aside the the fact that the training kit looks like it was designed by Prince and Helen Keller, everything seemed pretty rosy. Andre Santos was there, looking like he’d spent most of the summer eating delicious pies of all kinds. Like a Samba Mickey Quinn. Still, I love that extra cuddly maverick.

Abou Diaby was lifting some weights, Mikel Arteta didn’t have a single Lego hair out of place, Thomas Vermaelen led the jogging (one – left hand, two – right hand, three – up for a header, four – back man to the front, five – front man to the back : that’s how they still do it, right?), and all the while Steve Bould looked on with a smile on his face which said a) I’m delighted to be here and b) I’m gonna work you lot like you won’t believe.

With all of the Euro contingent still on holidays there was still a good group, bumped up by some of the reserve and fringe players, and no doubt there’ll be more of the same today. And it’s those players around whom there’s most of the news this morning. Starting with Sebastian Squillaci who looked like he might be heading for a move to newly promoted Bastia. However, their president says the disparity between wages in England and France mean it’s pretty much impossible:

He is one of the players who are out of reach for us and for many clubs in France. It will be increasingly difficult for the French players playing abroad to return to France. There is too much difference today between a wage in France and the English salaries

Which isn’t to suggest Arsenal are paying him too much. Perhaps we are. I mean, that seems the easy conclusion to jump to. If it’s a player people aren’t fond of it becomes an accepted fact that we’d be wasting money giving him £9.99 a week and those who people are down with don’t get paid nearly enough. While I do think the we can improve the way we spend our salary budget, I also grow incredibly weary talking about it as if we’re the only one paying these kinds of wages.

And anyway, I’d say Squillaci’s on a deal which represents market value at the time he signed. He’s not a big roller by any means but the issue is that the difference between what a top-tier English club has to pay – and let’s not forget that is skewed by the way the oily bastards throw money around – and what clubs in ‘lesser’ leagues can pay is absolutely enormous. Even if we did let him go on a free and pay a ‘leaving fee’ of some kind, it might not even come close to making up the difference.

And while we’d hope that the desire to play is the overriding factor for most players, how many of us would leave a company for much lesser salary when we were under no obligation to do so? If van Persie’s antics can be justified by many who say it’s his last chance at a big move (the financial benefit implicit in that), why can’t the same apply to a bloke who has a contract and might want to see it out?

Now, I’m not suggesting for one second that Squillaci is doing a Winston Bogarde, or anything like it. Despite the fact his Arsenal career hasn’t worked out he’s kept his counsel, hasn’t made a fuss in the press or anything like that, and I suspect he’d be quite happy to move this summer. It’s a matter of finding the right club and with the market the way it is, it’s not going to be as easy as you might think. And that’s going to apply to many of our ‘fringe’ players.

Quick terrible joke insert: Can Sebastian Squillaci play for Bastia? Corsican!

Another centre-half linked with a move away this summer was Johan Djourou but he’s told the Swiss press that the agent spouting this stuff doesn’t represent him and he’ll be staying at the club. An interview snippet:

Arsenal have chosen to extend my contract because they’re counting on me. I did have a bad spell. However, I’m convinced that I will get another chance and that I will grab that chance.

Personally I’ve got no issue with Djourou staying and at the moment he’s the fourth choice centre-half at the club. Some of his performances last season we’re not up to scratch – as he admits himself – but it does seem to be overlooked that most of them were when he was being asked to play at right back. And he’s not a right back.  He’s definitely got work to do to convince people he’s got what it takes, but when you go down the centre-half pecking order at any club you’ll probably find that having an experienced international player who still hasn’t reached the peak years of his career is probably a decent option to have.

I know some will suggest giving a chance to Kyle Bartley or Ignasi Miquel but I’m not sure either are realistic options. Bartley because I don’t believe he’s got the quality – he was unconvincing during his loan spells at Rangers and if he’s not doing it in the SPL the Premier League is too big a step. I could be wrong, mind you, but he wouldn’t fill me with any confidence. Miquel is a bit different, I think we saw enough last season to suggest there’s a good player in there, but for me he needs a season out on loan, playing regularly, before we can say for sure one way or the other.

Anyway, you have to ask yourself if the best way to deal with our transfer budget is to spend in positions we’re not really crying out for replacements in. I’d much rather we looked at other areas of the team to strengthen before centre-half. I’m sure we’ll touch on them as the summer progresses.

Right, have yourselves a good Wednesday, back tomorrow.

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