Breaking (bad) even + Arsecast 245

Good morning, welcome to Friday and as such the newsiest day of the week as we start to focus on Sunday’s game against Stoke.

Starting with some early team news and it looks like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in contention, for a place on the bench at least, while Laurent Koscielny hasn’t yet recovered sufficiently from his calf problem to be considered. I do like Koscielny but I have to say I think this is one of those games where height can prove very useful indeed. The Frenchman is good in the air, no question, but the extra 7 inches of Mertesacker might be just the thing against a team who are, shall we say, direct.

Other than that there don’t seem to be any issues with anyone else, bar the likes of Wilshere, Rosicky and Sagna it seems we have a fully fit squad. And a squad to whom Arsene Wenger is considering adding more players before the transfer window closes. In typically Wengeresque fashion he says there might well be movement before the deadline next Friday, but also talks about focusing on the players he has and getting them back. In other words, a classic Arsene double fudge sundae ‘Ooooh, look over there a squirrel!’, before slipping out the back door. Interestingly, he says:

Some things can still happen. I don’t want make a promise that I cannot keep. It does not only depend on me. But there still could be some action on the transfer market – ins and outs.

We are working, we’ll see what we can do.

I do wonder what the ‘it does not only depend on me’ thing is about. Is he talking about the board and getting the backing he needs to make things happen, or is he suggesting that any deals done involve two parties and as such are subject to change because of that? For example, he obviously wants to sell Squillaci and Bendtner and others, but unless someone wants to buy them there’s very little he can do other than put them in a sack and leave them outside a charity shop overnight. And charity shops hate it when people do that.

The same applies when he wants to bring a player in. The selling club has to be convinced that letting a player go is a good idea. They are convinced by one thing and one thing only and that is money. The same with potential arrivees. In which case perhaps there is a hint to those above to provide him with the backing he needs to strengthen the squad but I do think he’s just talking about the vagaries of the transfer system in general.

This morning sees the news that Nuri Sahin is now most likely to sign for Liverpool after we apparently withdrew from the chase. There are suggestions it was about money, there are suggestions the purchase clause at the end of the loan deal put Arsenal off, but unless Arsene gets very specific this is one of those about which we might never know the full truth. Let’s look at the way this has been reported on over the last few weeks. It was ‘done’ to Arsenal, then ‘done’ to Liverpool, then he’d ‘snubbed’ Liverpool and ‘decided’ on Arsenal before Arsenal ‘lost out’ and he ended up going to Anfield (still not confirmed).

One paper said one thing, another said something entirely different, and there’s just been so much misinformation, speculation and, let’s be brutally honest about this, fiction, that it’s just really hard to give a shit where he ends up now. The BBC says the money was the sticking point, he’s on £120,000 a week at Real Madrid, Liverpool’s desire or ability to pay a larger percentage of those wages swung it for them. Apparently. Although it could just have easily been Mourinho’s influence or something else entirely. Like the colour of our away shirt. Who the hell knows?

And if Sahin ends up a Liverpool player, good luck to him with the no Champions League football and all that entails. Arsenal might well have decided that the money could be better spent. If we paid 3/4s of his wages (£90,000 pw) that’s an outlay of nearly £5m, plus a reported £2m loan fee to Madrid, that’s £7m that perhaps we could spend on a player who, you know, we own. It looks as if it was our decision to withdraw from the deal. Maybe because of Real being difficult but maybe because we have something else in the pipeline.

Sahin wouldn’t have played this weekend against Stoke anyway. Even if we’d done the deal today he’d have been lucky to make the bench, so our hand has already been played in that regard. After Sunday we have a full working week to make things happen. Yet, there’s a worry that a first team player has been moved on without us sorting out a replacement beforehand. If we give credit for the signings of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla before the sales of van Persie, it’s a little worrying that the strengthening the midfield needs wasn’t completed before we let Song go, but the circumstances were different I know.

The other thing that we gave credit for this summer was the fact that we appeared to be actually investing in the team, putting our money where our mouth was. Nearly £40m spent on three players, great! Except when you add the sale of Carlos Vela to that of van Persie and Song, we’re in profit again during a transfer window and while I can see the reason for the sales, it’s another break even summer at this point. I know we have to manage our resources better and more cleverly than other clubs, but even so it’d be nice to see actual investment rather than adding a ‘re’ to that word.

That said, before my glass is accused of being half-empty, I do expect us to do business before the transfer window closes and even if we end up in profit, or with a Wengerifficly low net spend, I won’t mind as long as we strengthen our squad sufficiently and give ourselves a real fighting chance in the league this season. We need a strong squad, we are injury prone, and I think there are a couple of areas in the team we can improve on. So next week could very well be hectic, right now though we have to focus on Sunday’s game against Stoke, a game which will go some way to setting the mood for next week’s endeavours.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss the week’s events is John Cross from the Mirror. On the agenda, the opening day draw against Sunderland, Alex Song’s departure and the latest regarding Theo Walcott’s contract. John is much more relaxed about this particular issue than I am, I have to say. There’s also a chance to win books from my friends at GCR Books, so tune in and drop one off, or something.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (24mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode245.mp3]

And there you have it. Updates throughout the day can be found on Arseblog News, back with a Saturday round-up here tomorrow.

Have a good one.

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