Morning all, a quick Saturday round-up for you.
The big news this morning is that Arsenal and Barcelona have agreed a fee for Thomas Vermaelen. Believed to be around £15m (including add-ons), it put paid to Man United’s chances of signing the captain. It does look as if we were willing to let him go there, but only if they gave us a player in return. However, they weren’t prepared to do that, so Chris Smalling will stay in Manchester and Vermaelen will go to Spain.
He’ll travel to Barcelona today to undergo a medical where, hopefully, everything will be all right. His injury record hasn’t gone unnoticed by Sport who run this story today underneath all the ones that boast proudly about the deal:
‘The Belgian has missed 456 days through injury in the last four years’. Which is quite a lot really but much of that is down to the extended period he was out with the weird Achilles injury that nobody could figure out and then they discovered that he was of only about three people with a tentacle in his ankle or something.
Anyway, I’m glad he’s going to Barcelona. Even though he fell out of favour, and ultimately wasn’t as good a defender as we’d have liked him to be, he maintained a professionalism and dignity which other players simply wouldn’t have. To be captain of a club and watch from the bench must be hard. To have to do your programme notes each week knowing the only way you’re going to play is if somebody else gets injured or suspended must be really difficult – but he never once complained.
Even the joy of lifting the FA Cup must have been bitter-sweet, having not played in the final, and it’s no surprise that we’ve allowed him to move on. Barcelona is a massive club, as we know, a great place to live (as I know … sweet, sweet mojitos), and given the way they play, it could really suit him.
He’s quick, aggressive, likes to drive forward, and as a very attack minded player in an attack minded team I hope he does well there (unless we face them in the Champions League at some stage at which point I hope he, and all of his teammates, suffer Sp*rs-esque explosive diarrhea in the build up to the game and they end up scooching across the pitch like a dog with an itchy bum).
The other good thing, of course, is that he doesn’t go to United and that has probably upset Thumby van Gaal and possibly the Dutch Skunk, so that’s all right with me. Fingers crossed there are no complications to his Barcelona medical, and if not the deal should be completed over the weekend.
In terms of what we do now, I think the fact we were trying to get Smalling indicates that the manager is well aware of the gap Vermaelen’s departure leaves. He was trying to do a deal which moved a centre-half on and brought one in at the same time, so I can only hope that we’ve got other players on our list and one of those will be targetted – hopefully this week, as we’re just 7 days away from the start of the new Premier League season.
Meanwhile, the draw for the qualifying round of the Champions League took place yesterday and we got Turkish side Besiktas. We’re away in the first leg on August 19th, ahead of an away trip to Everton (although it’s a 17.30 kick off there, so it could have been worse). The home leg is the following week on August 27th.
While the main concern is our readiness for this particular game, due to the varying levels of fitness in the squad, I think it’s a pretty kind draw overall. I’m certainly glad we avoided Athletic Bilbao, and over the course of the two legs you really have to fancy us to go through to the Champions League proper.
Elsewhere, this interview with Liam Brady in the Irish Examiner is a must-read. Some of the comments about young players, social media and how ‘they won’t be told’, will ring true for a number of characters that promised much and delivered nothing in the end. Very interesting stuff altogether though, and how the job has changed down the years.
Beyond that not much happening, so finally, kudos to NBC for this, most amusing. “Cock on a ball” … haha, it’s almost as if an Arsenal fan or two has had some input into it.