So the transfer window is open and everyone is anxiously awaiting the first new arrival. This is the point where I say I’m not going to hold my breath because, well, if experience has taught us anything it’s that trying to hold your breath for 28 days is a task that not even David Blane should attempt (although I do think he should attempt it, the annoying twat).
One of the players we’ve been linked with, Demba Ba, is on his way to Chelsea after they triggered his £7.5m release clause. Sounds cheap. Well, that’s until you find out that Ba has 5 agents who all want £1m each, plus an £80,000 a week contract over 4 years and his knee is made from dust. At which point you begin to realise that Arsenal, even if they wanted the player (and I’m not sure we do), would run screaming from such a situation. Dealing with one agent is tough enough for Dick Law and Order, five in one go would turn him into a gibbering wreck (please note: I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing).
From what I gather there has been some contact regarding a Spanish based striker (see recent blog titles for a hint there), but I’m not sure I buy the stories linking us with Adrian Lopez, mostly because it seems to have originated on goal.com, the slave labour Pinocchios of football information. If we do have targets, and I hope we do, I think they’re being kept as close to our chest as possible, the same way we always do. It doesn’t mean information won’t leak at some point. With clubs and agents all looking out for their best interests – by which I mean as much money as possible – it’s sometimes inevitable that they try and build profile for a player/potential sale by linking said player with a big club, but so far there’s been little concrete.
So it’s to players on the way out we should look and the first of them appears to be Johan Djourou. I fully accept he had a rotten time last season, playing right back didn’t suit him or us in any way, and the perception of him as a player seems to be based on that almost entirely. He had a bad spell of form playing out of position and, sadly, it seems to have finished his Arsenal career. It wasn’t so long ago that he was lauded for his presence in the team, our record with him playing was very good, and I remember distinctly how unhappy people were when he picked up an injury (possibly in the 4-4 at Newcastle).
Now he’s probably on his way to Hanover, although I’m sure there’ll be other clubs interested in him, and despite earlier reports which said it could be a loan deal, it looks as if he’ll leave the club permanently. Good luck to him if he goes. He’s never been anything but an Arsenal lad since he joined the club and became ‘He who must not be named’ as Arsene looked to protect his potential. He’s our longest serving player, and although it hasn’t worked out I wish him all the best.
On the face of it, his departure weakens us in the central defensive area. Ignasi Miquel could be bumped up the list, but the likelihood is that if Djourou goes then Sebastian Squillaci is the one who will move closer to the first team despite admitting he could be off in January. It seems more obvious that he’ll see out his contract with us and go in the summer, and he names a number of French clubs to whom he’s talking. From a financial point of view, it’d make more sense for them to sign him in the summer, so we could have a situation where people are thankful Djourou has gone but to me it’d be a move that weakens us.
Squillaci has become something of a poster boy for the failed signings of recent seasons, and on paper it’s one that should have been much more successful. He was a French international, he was playing for a Sevilla side that won a European trophy and was in and around the top four in Spain every season, and he was at an age where his experience at centre-half should have proved useful. Instead, his performances weren’t great, his confidence waned and reached a point where he’s simply not played professional football for almost two years. It’s astonishing really.
Just 6 appearances last season, playing only 10 minutes of Premier League football during which time a dodgy header against Fulham cost us a late goal after a Djourou red card, and this season he’s played just once, in the Champions League as we lost to Olympiacos. So if Djourou goes, a Mertesacker ankle twist and a Vermaelen suspension means we’re faced with a choice between him and the young Spaniard, who I feel needs a loan spell (and I think he’s injured at the moment anyway).
Now, I’ve got no objections to him leaving, and in all honesty, given the circumstances and how little he’s played over the last couple of seasons, it’d absolutely mad for us to put ourselves in a position where we need him, but the clubs that might take him can’t match his Arsenal wages. With only 6 months to go perhaps a compromise can be reached, perhaps a ‘Thanks for everything, here’s a few quid’ scenario isn’t out of the question, but it still leaves us a bit short in the centre of defence.
The same might well apply to Andrei Arshavin. He too has just 6 months to go, Arsene Wenger simply won’t use him anymore and was so desperate to move him on this summer that he was offered on a free to a number of Russian clubs. There was interest but Arshavin didn’t want to leave London. I don’t know if there’s any interest in him, maybe someone will take a punt, but at the moment he’s just a guy in whom the manager has no faith and is simply taking up space in the squad.
The same goes with regard to Marouane Chamakh. He can’t make his national squad for the African Cup of Nations, and if his stock has fallen as a footballer his rise towards the top of Arsene’s list of dodgy signings is almost meteoric. But who will take him? Who would take him? West Ham are supposedly interested, I’d be hugely surprised. What are his selling points? He’s on a comfortable contract, he seems content to see it out knowing he’s not going to earn as much elsewhere. Not even Huey Lewis would be happy to be this kind of stuck. But if there’s a way of moving him on we should do it. It’s pointless hoping he’ll come good again despite the early promise he showed. Cut and run. If only it were that simple.
So, at this moment in time, despite our obvious need to strengthen, it seems more likely that some players will leave. However you regard these players, it does leave us weaker in terms of numbers and, in the case of the Djourou/Squillaci situation, weaker as a squad. There’s plenty of work to be done this month, I just hope they’re doing it and not sitting, waiting, waiting and then oh, it’s February.
Right, that’s that for now, back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all that, so take it easy until then.