Despite speculation about all kinds of Arsenal players packing their bags and heading for the exit door this summer, the departure lounge is still quite full.
A couple of loan moves have been sorted out but the futures of those who matter a bit more are still up in the air. Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott have contract issues. Sebastian Squillaci, Ju Young Park, and Marouane Chamakh were about as useful to us last season as an ashtray on a motorbike, while Alex Song has come sauntering in during the last few days in his diamond encrusted Converse.
It now looks as if there’ll be some outs before any more ins with both van Persie and Song closest to the exit door. El Mundo’s main headline this morning says ‘Barcelona back in London with the signing of Alex Song on track’. They, along with most of the English press, report that Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barcelona’s assistant sporting director, is in London negotiating with us over the sale of Song.
If he is in London then clearly he’s there with our full knowledge. Officials don’t just turn up at another club on the off chance that their counterparts might be available to discuss a multi-million pound transfer. It seems he’s offering €15m, Arsenal are looking for around €24m, and somewhere in-between is a point where they’d be happy and we’d happy and a deal can be done. That’s not to say it’s done and dusted, we know from past experience how things can change very quickly, but it does seem as if we’re open to the idea of selling Song. If the manager really wanted to keep him he could point to the fact he has three years left on his contract and refuse to negotiate. Simple as that.
I get that many people will question the wisdom of selling Song and, as I discussed with Arse2Mouse on Twitter last night, a price of around £15m seems low to many, especially when players like Joe Allen go for a similar fee. The key difference, of course, is that British players are generally more expensive and rarely does a transfer fee reflect their ability or quality. The market for these players is skewed, like it or not. Henderson, Downing, Carroll, Rodwell and countless others have gone for fees way beyond their continental counterparts. It’s a market in which Wolves are rejecting £13m for Steven Fletcher, and a market in which Aston Villa paid more for Darren Bent than we did for Podolski and Cazorla combined.
So we can’t really compare the fees if and when this does happen. Personally speaking, I think something in region of £15m+ add-ons/clauses, happens to be a decent amount of money for a player we bought for £400,000. And while it’d be better from our point of view if we had a replacement lined up (already there’s talk of Yann M’Vila) the reality of the transfer market is that it gets busier as the window moves towards its close.
If the manager is willing to sell Alex Song, knowing he’s our most defensive and physical midfielder, I can only assume he’s got something lined up in terms of a replacement. It has always struck me that talk of Nuri Sahin’s arrival was dependent on somebody leaving and perhaps this is it. Sahin for Song is nowhere near like for like though, those crying out for a full on DM won’t be appeased by it, but maybe we’ve got somebody else lined up or the boss is thinking of changing the way our midfield operates.
Also, while I think Song is a much improved player I also think he’s a player we can improve on. And it seems to me as if Arsene’s willingness to sell, after putting so much time and effort into developing him from the clumsy, inexperienced chap who first bumbled around in an Arsenal shirt, says a lot. Still, nothing’s done yet but those who dismissed this story as just newspaper talk and Barcelona shit-stirring should now be able to see there’s very rarely that much smoke without fire.
Meanwhile, Robin van Persie to Manchester United is done. Or almost done. Or not quite done. Or some way from being done, depending on which paper you read this morning. The general consensus is that if United stick £20m down then we’ll sell. We’re holding out for that kind of money and rightly so. And although van Persie would become far less the legend and much more the traitor if he went there, I wonder if this is how he and his half-wit agent envisaged things turning out when he released that statement.
On the back of a sensational 18 months did they expect a multitude of offers to pore over and consider? I expect they did. Maybe there was some brinksmanship too. The deal he was offered at Juventus was incredible but left the Italians without enough to tempt Arsenal to sell. The statement was designed to make his position at the club untenable, perhaps forcing us into accepting an offer lower than we’d like. Fast forward a few weeks and their coach is suspended for 10 months, Juve is no longer an option. Man City are chock-a-block with strikers and the only option he has left is Manchester United. Did he really, really want to go there, knowing how much it would taint his Arsenal career, turn fans who loved him against him, just so he could cash in during the final years of his career?
It strikes me he’s backed himself well and truly into a corner the only choices he has are a) go to United or b) face a humiliating climb-down by renouncing his statement and staying at Arsenal. The ego of the footballer precludes b) so here we are. There was nothing from Barcelona, nothing from Real Madrid, cash rich AC Milan have ignored him, as have Inter, PSG don’t need him, and all he’s got left is United. Not quite Hobson’s choice, I grant you, but surely not what he and Mr 10% had planned.
At this moment in time I’m past giving a shit about him and what he does. Yesterday, I likened him to a duck, on the surface he looks cool and calm but beneath the water he is paddling furiously towards the exit. I’d have liked to see Robin van Persie at Arsenal next season, I believe we’d have been a better side with him in it, we’d have more chance of winning things, but let’s not forget he’s the one that started all this, he’s the one that wants to leave and he’s the one causing disruption to our preparations for the season which starts in four days time.
I am only interested in players who want to play for Arsenal. If Theo Walcott doesn’t want to sign a new deal, good luck to him and cheerio. If he wants to sign a new deal, get it done already. Vermaelen and Koscielny show it can be done with minimum fuss. If Alex Song wants to go to Barcelona, cheerio to him too, and let’s focus on those are committed to what we’re trying to do which is win something this season. Obviously there were going to be outs before more ins, and while I do expect us to sign more players this summer, I think they will only come in the wake of some exits.
Quickly rounding up some of the other news. Lukasz Fabianski says he’s going to push Wojciech Szczesny all the way this season and has played down talk of leaving the club. Wales boss Chris Coleman has ensured that our trip to Stoke will be even more juicy than normal by dredging up the Ramsey/Shawcross thing in the most ham-fisted piece of football management I’ve seen in years.
And finally, as the new season dawns we’ve got a new feature here on Arseblog, The Tactics Column by Arsenal Column. In the very first one he looks at our pre-season preparations and what we can glean from them.
Right, that’s yer lot, have a good Wednesday. More tomorrow.