Trying to understand Sagna’s motives

I had wanted to take today’s blog and have a look across our whole defensive line today, so perhaps it was fitting that the contract news about Bacary Sagna securing himself a bumper payday by agreeing a £120,000-a-week deal with Moneychester City seems to have broken across multiple media areas.

I had a brief chat on Twitter with Tim Stillman (well, when you’ve only got 140 characters every chat – no matter how many exchanges – will always be brief) about the extremes of how much more money impacts a situation like this one that we find ourselves in. I find it hard to imagine how, when you’re earning a certain amount i.e. Millions and millions, that money really has too much of an impact on your life. There’s only so many fast cars, houses and holidays one can have before one starts becoming wasteful (you can only drive one car at a time, after all!) and so to somebody earning £14million over a four year period, does it make a massive impact on their life if they’re earning £28million. I’m still not sure. Tim’s valid point was that it’s about perspectives i.e. A £10k pay rise to a person earning £30k a year will seem an unnecessary increase to somebody earning considerably less. I get that. The person earning that much more can look at doing more things with their lives, perhaps going on a more expensive holiday than they would, but to the person not going on holiday it seems an extravagance even going on one.

I still, however, am not sure why money remains an issue to multi millionaires. Particularly in this case. More than anything else, my surprise comes when I look at where Sagna is going to, rather than the fact that he’ll get a bumper pay rise. We can all talk about greed, about the haves and have nots, but Sagna has never struck me as anybody who wants to do anything except make the most of his time on the pitch. So why City? Surely he could walk into PSGs team and play week-in, week-out? Why join a team who already have a world-class right back with whom, whilst he’ll play, he won’t play regularly.

Sagna will probably only get between 15 to 20 games next season, which to a player who is now reaching the autumn of his playing career, that seems a bit surprising. He’s good enough to walk into most teams in Europe and play regularly, so why choose the blue half of Manchester? I’ve heard some say that his family might want to remain in the UK (although why Manchester is beyond me. It has more rainfall than the tropics every time I go there) which I can understand. But He would most certainly get himself into the red half of Manchester and, as much as we’ve all found it hilarious to see United’s fall from grace this past season, I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine they will be as poor as they’ve been with Van Gaal taking charge with a supposed bulging wallet to improve the team.

You might think this is the bitter war-cry of the disappointed Gooner, perhaps that is a little bit true, but more than anything else I’m just trying to understand the motives. After all, if you take a ‘generic everyman’ example of the £30k guy being told they can get an extra £10k per annum, if they could earn that across a number of different companies and therefore could take their pick, would they opt for the company that has the biggest brand where they might not feel as valued through their time, over a smaller company where they will feel valuable at work every day in which they go in to it?

Or, perhaps we should throw in a conspiracy theory, as Gareth Stringer suggested in the same conversation string I had yesterday. What if, after two broken legs and a long season this year in which he played around 50 games, Sagna realised that his body probably couldn’t cope with another full season of top flight football, hence why he’s going to a place in which he can earn more, yet his body is not worked as hard. A sort of ‘winding down’ period before he retires. It’s one heck of a conspiracy theory, I’ll say that much, but if there was some semblance of truth behind it then you’d have to say that Moneychester City is the perfect fit for him and he’s a clever lad for timing it perfectly. I’d raise a glass to his planning if that were the case.

Anyway, I’ll probably have to finish off a review of the rest of the defence tomorrow, because you don’t want another thousand words bolted on to this online monologue on a Friday.

See thee in the morrow.

Financial Farce Play

Howdy y’all.

Welcome to Saturday, a day in which there’s yet again no Arsenal of which to speak of, but there was a press conference for the manager yesterday. He spoke of a few issues, including who’s fit for tomorrow, the impact of too many managers changing their jobs and of course, Financial Fair Play (FFP). You’ll have to forgive me for today’s blog, because i’m going to go a little bit ranty because it’s that final topic that I want to focus on.

It should be renamed to Financial Farce Play. But I suspect we all knew that anyway. This week UEFA engaged with nine clubs that they have stated have effectively broken FFP and have put the sanctions to these clubs before publicly making announcements next week.

So next week we will essentially find out how effective FFP is to control the excessive overspending of money that football teams do not generate themselves. That this list of nine clubs has been whittled down from the original 76 UEFA had previously announced should raise some eyebrows. I for one would be very interested to find out what the criteria is for the 67 clubs that were originally being investigated to be dropped, but transparency in football governing bodies is like asking for the cats around where I live to stop dropping their fecal matter on my black and white graveled front garden. You can shout all you like, they either don’t understand you, or won’t listen to you anyway.

The likelihood is that we’ll never really know what type of investigation was conducted.

The second issue that must have the football world scratching their head is why UEFA have deciding to negotiate with these clubs as part of this process. Supposedly, UEFA have spent this week talking to the clubs in question asking them to accept their punishment, or appeal. I can understand this. It’s a little like the plea before the trial – guilty or not guilty – will need to be the response of the clubs and UEFA will know whether or not it will need to get together the evidence for a trial or whether the admission of guilt from the clubs will allow UEFA to dish out it’s ‘sanctions’ without fear of a long and drawn out contesting period. I understand the process and it seems logical, but why the secretive nature of the discussions? If UEFA have identified the clubs, engaged with these clubs to find out their ‘plea’ this week, do the clubs deserve anonymity?

Is it UEFA covering their own arses in case they’ve got a Club Financial Control Body that have trouble counting? I know i’m being slightly facetious here, but if a club is about to be charged with breaking the rules in some way, why do UEFA have to negotiate with them first? Surely the most transparent way of conducting this exercise is to announce who the clubs are, give them an opportunity to respond to state if they are innocent and present the evidence. By keeping it so secretive it merely adds fuel to the cynicism of the footballing world in my opinion.

This is where the cynic in me also comes to the fore, winning over any other part of my cerebrum and immediately telling me there’s something fishy going on. I suspect the only ‘negotiation’ is to decide how much money it is going to take to get these Sugar Daddy reliant clubs to Carry On Camping, so to speak. UEFA are as corrupt as FIFA and if their only intention of FFP is to impose fines on clubs where money is no object, they make a mockery of the entire system. You might as well tax a Saharan Desert Nomad by taking some of his sand from him.

Arsene was asked his stance on this yesterday and whilst I can be as brazen as possible in my opinions, he must be more measured in his approach. His response was to say that if FFP is not regulated effectively then the club would feel let down. He also intimated that there were a number of other clubs and a kind of ‘union’ of the big clubs that have come together – naming Bayern Chief Exec Karl Heinz Rummenige as somebody also involved – to support the concept of FFP that would also feel let down. It was an interesting comment from Le Boss and it was a subtle message to the public that, should FFP be seen as a bit of a sham, there will be some powerful clubs that might have something to say about it.

What some of these clubs can do is very difficult to work out. After all, they can hardly break away and form their own tournament can they? What would Arsenal do, for example, play the Emirates Cup during the season? We seemed to have hung our hat on FFP when it was first announced a few years ago, with Ivan Gazidis telling the world that we were supportive on it and that other clubs would need to fall in to line or fall out of European competition (as was being suggested at the time). However, the clubs position appears to have shifted to that of skepticism in recent past, as was pointed out to me in a quick Twitter exchange yesterday with Tim Stillman. So have the club always been of this mind, or did they ever really believe that FFP would be effectively implemented. That’s a question to which none of us will ever really know, but what we do know is that there seems to be very little anyone can really do should FFP be shown up as the farce that many suspect it will be.

What can the clubs do? Protest? Get a few bedsheets and stand outside the UEFA HQ in Nyon saying ‘Platini Out’? Start a new league? Publicly chastise UEFA? That would simply give them another opportunity to syphon money out of the clubs through fines. Non of the above is even remotely feasible. Which is why it gets people like me in such a vexatious mood, because I start to suspect that the net effect of the implementation of FFP will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the way in which finances in football are regulated. If a billionaire wants to take over a club as his or her plaything, and they know that at worst they will face some fines, all they’ll need to do is give the club a pot of cash labelled ‘for fines, sanctions or any other taxes from UEFA’ and carry on with the spunking of their cash on their new toy.

If all that becomes of FFP when announcements are made next week is that we see clubs with sugar daddies racking up some fines, then it will all become too clear exactly what FFP is: a tax on the rich clubs. It would be like the UK Government’s handy little trick of putting on a speeding camera on a road where there has been no real safety issues, so in effect it becomes a great way to generate a bit of cash from people without having to whack their income tax or any other tax up. FFP could end up nothing more than a stealth tax on clubs that can afford it.

But worse than that, it will be the most obvious indication that UEFA are a club that just fancies a little bit more cash for it’s coffers. They are corrupt already, they might as well profit from it.

Arsenal – and many clubs like ours – operate the correct way to run clubs to ensure their long-term sustainability. But unfortunately that means the square root of naff all when money is involved. Hoping that UEFA would put the kibosh on a worrying trend in football for unrestrained financial excess was always a bit of a long shot for most fans eyes, but it appears that we’re finally having the veil lifted from our peepers to see it for what it is.

That’ll do from me for one day. Back tomorrow with a match preview guys.

Have a good ‘un.

Mourhino’s media infallibility, Puma is cool and Southampton will be tough

Blimey, there’s so much to talk about this morning, that I’m not sure my 45 minute Met Line journey into the Big Smoke will allow me enough time to digest. Usually, on the day of a game, all of my prose is reserved for reviewing our opponents, our injuries and how we approach the game. But yesterday we had a smorgasbord of news.

Firstly, we had Arsene’s presser, in which Le Boss did come across as a little spiky with the journos asking him questions. I thought I caught a glimpse of an Arsene Wenger with a ‘little bit cold and flu symptoms’, which may have explained why the usual jovial Wenger – certainly this season with our league form – seemed a little off colour. Literally.

He was also pressed about Mourhino’s comments about Arsenal having more rest time and therefore being favoured by the authorities, which I’m sure an Arsene in usual chipper and playful mood would have retorted with a simple wry smile and a ‘move along’ style response. Instead, he sounded off on a scarily similar Rafa Benitez-style commentary about ‘facts’, to which the media of course latched on to straight away. Almost instantly we had TalkShite talking about how Arsene has already lost the ‘mind games’. Eh??? What mind games? And how has he lost? It seems to be the accepted narrative that Mourhino moaning is seen as ‘mind games’, but from any other manager in the league it is a sign of weakness. If the British media could just for a second retrieve their craniums from the Portuguese’s rectal passage, I’m sure they’d probably see what the rest of the world sees. You only have to look at his return to the Premier League and the fawning that happened, to see what the press want to see, because they were one-stop short of bringing him into his first presser in August on the back of an elephant surrounded by velvet cushions.

Anyway, enough of that, as it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth that no amount of burning Listerine can wash away. The club yesterday announced the biggest deal in our history with Puma, who after months of us all basically knowing the details already, have now been brought in on the worst kept secret at the club. It’s a great deal and further cements our global pulling power. It will also help to give more stability to the club and hopefully will be used – at least in part – to reinvest in the playing staff. Ivan said nice things, the Puma CEO said nice things, everyone smiled and you can read the comments on the official site.

I like Puma. It’s quite a cool brand.

So, how about tonight’s game then? It’s an interesting one and a few weeks back when I said the run up to the Liverpool game had key fixtures that had to be won, the fixture that I looked upon with most trepidation was Southampton away. They have a good core of players, they have a strong ethos of pressing high up the pitch and they will be a threat tonight on their home turf, make no mistake.

I’m normally quite good at remembering games and reliving them in my mind. But where a game has been pretty dire, I tend to compress the memory of the game (to save file size in my brain), then archive it in a corner somewhere where I’ll only have to access it perhaps once or twice, ever. That’s what happened with last years game. It was such a turgid affair that I’ve only stored the fact it was 1-1, we played poorly and it was on New Year’s Day. Everything else is a blank. Even the scorers. And I like it that way. Suffice to say we need more from the team tonight than we got last year.

There may be question marks over the Southampton team – having stuttered somewhat over the Christmas period and into the New Year – but on their own soil they won’t want a repeat of the Chelski drubbing they took and so I expect Porchettino’s men to be up for this big game under the floodlights. I think they will press us high, look to catch us cold in defence and if they get a lead, sit on it. The danger of that is that they sit too deep and invite pressure, but rather than be in that situation I’d much prefer us to get a goal or two ahead and concern ourselves with hitting them on the counter when they push bodies forward.

I know they’ll be missing Danny Osvaldo due to a club-imposed suspension and I believe they will also be missing Loevren as well. He’s been a good player for them defensively this season and it will be a blow, but they will still have enough defensively with their two holding midfielders, plus the threat of Lallana, Lambert and Rodriguez to give our back four food for thought.

Our news is positive, with the return to the first team of Arteta and Ramsey bolstering our numbers at the perfect time. I don’t think either will play, but I do think at least one will be involved from the substitutes bench at least. Our back five should remain the same as our last game, with the only query surrounding a. Nacho/Kieran inclusion. After some fine performances from the Spaniard recently, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were given the nod, with the view that we will need a more offensive-minded Gibbs against Crystal Palace at the weekend.

Wilshere is a doubt for tonight and it’s for that reason that I think Arsene won’t risk him. He doesn’t have to; we have enough quality in the middle of the park to ensure that we make up for the drive that he has. So I think we’ll see Flamini and perhaps Rosicky sitting as the ‘double pivot’, with Cazorla, Özil and Gnabry in front of them and Giroud up top. It will be a little harsh on a Podolski that performed well against Coventry, but with questions still arising over his fitness, I’d be surprised if he was used from the start having started against Coventry.

Tonight is yet another one of those games that, if you want to win the league, you have to be going to win. We have had a lot of these obstacles that we’ve overcome so far this season, i.e. Tricky away games that always offer a banana skin or two, but we’ve managed to navigate them for most of the season so I hope we do the same tonight. I don’t think Liverpool, Chelski or Moneychester City will drop points tonight or tomorrow, so the onus really is on us to try and keep them at arms length at the top of the league.

Keep those fingers crossed Gooners, because I think this is going to be tough tonight.

Building a legacy takes time – a Gooner Guest blog

Good morrow to thee dear reader. I hope today finds you well and in good spirits. For today’s serving of your daily dosage of Suburban Gooner chow I thought I’d bring unto thee a fellow Gooner, drinking buddy and all round nice chap, Kevin Green to regale us with some musings from all things in his Arsenal world. But I’ve been wanting him to come on here and give me something different, so as a person in a senior position and experience of management at C-Level and running a business, I wanted him to come along and give us some of his thoughts from a business owners point of view. You know me, I’m not one for that sort of stuff, so having Kevin along provides a nice change to my incessant ramblings. Anyway, I’ll hand the mic over to the man himself, so he can tell you a little bit more.

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I’ve been asked by Suburban Gooner to contribute a guest blog occasionally, to provide a holistic, strategic and perhaps a longer term view of what’s going on with the mighty gunners. He’s fantastic at providing a daily cocktail of insight and if we’re honest frustration and angst of a true fan. These blogs will try to be objective, balanced and thought provoking in a world where its speed of the news rather than thought which is pandered to. This is the slow lane to his fast lane.

Firstly my credentials a Gooner: since I was small, Arsenal have been in my family; my father started going to Highbury in the late 40s, my first game was in the early 70s with Bobby Gould playing up front as one of my earliest abiding memories. However, the goal that sparked my real interest was Charlie George’s epic cup final goal of 1971, then losing to Leeds the following year. So I am a child of the Bertie Mee and Don Howe era, if those names mean anything to you at all.

A regular attendee throughout the late 70s and most of the 80s, triumph and disaster alike (who can recall our record signing Peter Marinello! Our George Best; more like his cleaning lady!) greeted my early Arsenal life. I must confess I lost my way for a while, but then returned for the odd game under George Graham, then more often once Mr Wenger arrived. He came with a totally new approach to the game and we were transformed from the defensive 1-0 winners into team of passers with exceptionally talented players including Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp and Pires; we were all of a sudden truly world class.

My son was born in 95 and so his early visits to the Gooners were to see the 2002 league winning team followed very quickly by the 2004 Invincibles! He thought life was always like this and in the last few tougher years he can’t quite accept why we haven’t been challenging for Trophies. On some occasions all three generations of Green gooners have come together at home games, and when I see Steve and Chris in the pub all three of us are quick to tell my boy not to panic, although sometimes I think Chris gets close to doing so himself!

These days for me are what footy is all about; a shared experience win, draw or lose – its about doing it together with others that care.

In 2008/9 my son and I became season ticket holders.

Now, as someone who has run businesses I think I have a different view from my son and most Arsenal fans. I love so many things about our great club I love the tradition, the Marble halls, the history and the true class we have. And we do have class. Class is built by doing things the right way. One of our great differentiators is that we have always built for the long term, we don’t want to be a ‘flash in pan’ club with great success for a couple of years followed by decades of under acheviement.

In the last few seasons the fans have understandably been restless, having not won anything for eight years which, believe it or not, isn’t a new thing for The Arsenal. I’ve been through this many times before and I can see what the board, Wenger in particular, are doing. They are innovators who have transformed us once already from a team of mid table grinders to a team with aspirations to compete not just in England but in Europe.

The business strategy of building a new stadium and paying off the debt quickly from the new revenue generated is not only good business but the right way to run an organisation which wants long term success. Sometimes I must admit
That I think the legacy being established is just not appreciated: a new stadium (no one else has done this), a world class training facility and a highly effective commercial strategy that will deliver results long term. The Arsenal board are planning for us to compete for honours over the next 20 or 30 years, not just the next two or three seasons, so they were right – we had to invest – and not just in the playing staff. That’s short term-ism to look there alone. As we now remerge from this investment phase we are able to compete not just with the nouveau riché of Chelsea and Manchester City, but with the Real Madrid’s, Bayern’s and Barcelona’s. We have a sensible and well run club which now has the ability to bring in top notch talent which the signing of  Özil clearly demonstrates. We must recognise what’s being done for the fans benefit. The leadership of the club will be proved right over the next few years and the fans should accept that sometimes you have to stand still while you regroup before the next phase of growth or development. The fans request for instant gratification had to be ignored for long term success to be built. Building anything of substance takes time, dedication and leadership. I am delighted to say we have this in abundance and at which other club could you honestly say they have a sustainable long term strategy ??

So Arsenal fans, my overriding message to you; take the time to think about Mr Wenger – he chose to stay when he knew that for a few years we would not be able to compete financially. He must have been offered the chance to jump ship and buy instance success at PSG or Real Mardrid. But he chose to stay, I believe because he recognised that Arsenal are different, so he accepted the challenge by trying to grow a team of young talent only to be let down by the greed of the players.

So in the next couple of years as we start to win again, I am hoping the fans appreciate that we are different, we are class. The best things in life are never the easiest to achieve, they taste so much better when you have had to overcome adversity to succeed, and I hope that those in the media who say we have been going backwards will eat humble pie when they see what the mighty Arsenal have built a great future for themselves.

Have faith in the boss he will be proved right in the long term, the futures bright it’s red and white.

AGM comes at perfect time, with Arsene speaking from the heart

Happy Friday you Goontastic, Goonerific and downright goonerly people you. How are you feeling? Dandy? Super Dandy? ‘Super quality Top Top’ Dandy? Yeah ya are…

It’s a good place in the Arsenal world. A happy place. A non-international football inspired place. I feel refreshed and reinvigorated and excited to watch The Arsenal. This weekend we play Norwich whilst starting the weekend at the top of the pile. And yesterday we had the clubs AGM. Boy, aren’t the board and Cowboy Stan happy it came slap bang in the middle of a feel-good love-in amongst fans off the back of some great form we’re in? Of course, the realities of an event like yesterday are purely symbolic in terms of content, which includes reappointing a majority shareholder back on to the board. But still, the niceties must be observed, I guess. I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert, so any efforts to read on about the composition and make up of the board room and governance of Arsenal Football Club PLC into any kind of analysis of how Arsenal are run, isn’t really my fortay and I’d suggest you take a gander at some other sites that will be far much more eloquent than I could ever attempt to be on such matters.

What I can do is give you my opinion on what was said at the AGM from a footballing side. Which means that I’ve pretty much looked at Arsene’s speech in isolation, because I take every single utterance from The Silent One with a huge slice of sodium. I just don’t really care what he has to say if I’m honest. I probably should look for ominous signs, signs that he’ll sell up and drop us in the proverbial, but I know that what he says will have been poured over with a fine tooth comb and reviewed by an army of slick PR execs to ensure that no oral stone be left unturned in the pursuit of the blandest speech that could possibly exist. No doubt similar PR execs will have looked at Arsene’s words, but the man is so all-powerful at the club, that you can be pretty sure it’s 99.9% what he wants to say, so at least there’s a modicum of honesty in his comments. And having read them again twice you can also tell that, despite the issues some of us have had with him over the last few years, he does love the club quite dearly.

If you were at the AGM and were playing Arsene bingo, you wouldn’t have had to wait for your first box to be crossed, as he got underway within the first three paragraphs. Arsene spoke of the ‘mental strength’ of the team and, whilst that phrase uttered in the past has led to groaning in Arsenal fandom, it’s hard not to agree with Le Boss based on what we’ve seen in 2013. On the brink of losing that what we have come to expect (Champions League football) under the Frenchman’s tenure, the team has shown great character to come back and with a settled nucleus of players – something else Arsene touched on yesterday when describing life after the departure of That Dutch Bloke – we have seen the benefit and reaped the rewards of consistency. It is a foundation that has built and paved the way to our great start to the season and is the bedrock of our smiling outlook on life as Gooners. Stability is about getting the right blend of the attitude, hard work and talent of the group, something that we’ve all commented on in the pubs over the last nine months or so. None of us believe that this squad has the same quality as The Invincibles, but when it comes to winning trophies, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Just look at Ferguson, who managed a dominant league title with an ailing team that Moyes is now picking up the pieces of.

Tied into the AGM comments was the discussion about our three-fold strategy, which is to educate internally in ‘The Arsenal Way’, to buy players and make them stars (Giroud and Koscienly used as examples) and to get the megastars like Özil. This I find interesting. If this is what Arsene sees as the blueprint to success, he’s only really had two of the three in this checklist until recently, if you believe his intimations. We have emerged from a self-imposed financial jail cell and are now ready to smell the sweet air of freedom through our commercial deals and signing of players the likes of which we all go a bit goggly-eyed over (every pub completely intended). It’s all stuff we have sort of known ourselves for some time, but for the club to speak so openly of such matters- I.e “we ain’t ‘ad no money until now folks”, does leave a slightly uneasy feeling within me. After all, if they can attempt to pull the wool over our eyes for so long, what is to stop that happening in the future? Or is it already happening? Dunno, perhaps I’m reading too much into words which mean little…

What isn’t little is the competition that we now have in all major competitions, and Arsene was spot on with his assessments not only about domestic competition, but Champions League as well. The football landscape has evolved, competition amongst elite spenders is at it’s peak, and we are fighting to keep up. But the message from Le Boss was positive and was one that suggested that perhaps he has his sparkle back. If he has, and he’s rolling back the years to Arsene pre 2005, then I’m all for it and we should give him a few more years.

We’ll find out soon enough.

We should get some team news a little later today and I’m hoping that there’s a dose of excitement and a twinkle in the eye when Arsene speaks, because that might mean Santi is ready, willing and able to play. Then we can start to get excited.

Peace out y’all.

Bac’s form to see another saga develop? Plus other stuff…

Morning to you. I think I have a spin off of man flu: man fever. Hot, sweaty and uncomfortable man fever. Which makes an hour journey on the Met line this morning feel like some almighty punishment I’ve been dealt. Still, things could be worse. I could be a Stoke fan and unable to articulate myself without making some sort of gawd-awful wailing noise. I saw a few Stoke forums that fellow Gooners had posted links to yesterday and the Stoke fans present on those sites weren’t exactly the happiest of people. All good fun to see in all honesty.

But I have already wasted enough of today’s blog on the orcliness of that tribe, so will move on to what is happening in The Arsenal world. Bacary Sagna spoke to the official site and declared his goal against Stoke as a gift to his teammates. He spoke of how his fellow players had helped him throughout his difficult spell out injured and this was a way of repaying their support. It’s yet another example of how the camaraderie of the team seems to be growing week-by-week. Nothing is more obvious of the confidence of the side as Bac’s form right now. He endured a difficult time last year with fitness at the start and the middle, coupled with form, which led many to question whether or not he’d be moved on this summer just gone. But he stayed and has been a vital asset for us throughout this season.

With a year left on his current deal, many were looking at his potential exit next summer as the right thing to give Jenkinson the freedom to make that slot his own. We all know The Corporal is not ready to be the number one number two just yet, but a lot of people (yours truly included) have spoken about how last season and this season could see a natural progression that leads to Sagna’s departure. However, with his conversion to make-shift centre-half having been a decent enough experiment to date, Sagna’s role in the team has become even more important.

At the start of the summer there would probably have been a few mild ‘C’est la vie‘ shrugs of the shoulder from Arsenal fans if Bacary was moved on. But as it stands now, the idea of losing him next summer on a free leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sure, he’s 31 and not getting younger, but he strikes me as a player that could perform at the top level for a minimum of two years. So I’m hoping that the club does the right thing and gets his contract sorted. Soon. We could do without another contract saga.

Our latest set of financial reports were released yesterday, with the club making profits of £6.7million, down from 30 something last time the results were published. As you may already be aware, I’m not really one for the detail when it comes to this information, preferring to read blogs of people with far more experience and wherewithal in that regard. If the club is making money then that’s great, but I don’t watch Arsenal because of their bank balance (I leave that to Silent Stan), I watch because I love my FOOTBALL club. As long as we are able to continue the (hopefully) new trend of bringing world class players to the club without the need of a sugar daddy who could pull the plug at any minute, then I’m happy. We all know the club has built huge reserves and as it continues to generate profits then it secures the long-term future and that can only be a good thing.

Football is the name of the game and The Arsenal is why I blog. Anyway, back to the actual football side, and Kieran Gibbs has been speaking about how the team is gelling together, how they are all excited about the prospect of playing more with Özil, plus the good run they’ve been on since last season. If you think about it, 2013 has been a much better year than 2012 was for us. The form for 2/3 of the games we’ve played in 2013 have been excellent and when you couple last season with this season, it really does give you hope that actually those that had a little more patience in the team were right, and the side just needed more time together to understand one another.

As each game goes by, I’m beginning to realise just how important continuity is, which is something that Arsenal hadn’t had before this summer for a number of years. But we are beginning to see what it does for a team when you can keep a core of players together. Let’s hope that this continuity can take us a long way this season. We’ll find out at the beginning of November I guess.

Anyway, that’s enough from me for today, as I need to mop my brow and prep for a day in the smog. Catch y’all tomorrow.

Fan reaction from @The_Beck_ : Man with a plan?

Hi all. hope you’re well…

I have a treat in-store for you today. Personally, I’ve wanted to get this man on the blog for as long as I can remember. In my previous blogs I’ve mentioned people I respect, and their views I’m completely on board with. I tend not to mention their names, well, the hats out of the bag today. Alex is one….He’s a very intelligent and talented writer, yes there’s more. He’s an all round decent chap, a must have on your Twitter Timeline..

There is a link at the bottom to Follow Alex on Twitter. If there is only one thing you do today..make sure you click that link. You can thank me later. Enjoy. Over to you Alex….

What an amazing 48 hours it was for the club, beating Tottenham at home before signing Mesut Özil for a club record fee, signalling our ambition and Arsene showing yet again how vital he is to future stars joining this club.
“Wenger never spends big, we will never buy world class players”
They told me you’d never spend big Arsene and I never listened to them.
We did it our way, I was very emotional for most of last night, me along with thousands, maybe millions of Gooners are perhaps incredibly proud at how the club handled the purchase of Mesut Özil, especially at a time where we can be outbid by a host of clubs at any time (and we were with PSG).
Marketing value, club brand, global value, player reaction and P.R. value, all on the rise.
We have come out of this window looking very good because of what Ozil will offer the club and the team even though it is evident that we didn’t get the back-up striker we appeared to need desperately.
Bendtner didn’t get his dream move to Crystal Palace, Chamakh was gutted, so it appears he might play for us from now until January, we also have Sanogo, Podolski and Theo as well as Akpom as back up’s to the ever improving Giroud.
I rate Bendtner, I just don’t like him, don’t think many do because of all that’s gone on between him and the club. I think us signalling our ambition with Ozil, along with chasing world class strikers all summer.
We chased Rooney, Suarez very publicly and most recently Demba Ba.
I understand why some were saying that we wanted to buy Rooney before buying Ozil or Cesc or any top class midfielder, United clearly did not want to do business with us or Chelsea because we are direct rivals to them, both in top four and in the title chase.
Liverpool thought we were rivals before we bought Ozil, I wonder what they’re thinking now.
Demba Ba needs games, with Eto’o’s arrival it seems that his game time is limited, even with Lukaku going on loan to Everton (who’ve done very well this window). It seems Jose Mourinho blocked the move in the last minute and was only toying with us the whole time, typical Jose might I add (citing that they didn’t want to loan to a rival and Ba didn’t want to play for a non CL club).
With all three of the strikers mentioned, I feel that Demba Ba is not top class, he’s very decent and does a good job, Rooney is top class and we are yet to see how he responds to staying at United. Suarez is top class, but with all the problems on the field you do not want.
It is not unimaginable that we will strike for these strikers in January, or get someone just as good but in a different league. Top clubs not willing to sell to us tell us all we need to know about how our rivals view us and how scared they are of Wenger with money (even though our own fans might not see it that way).
I also find that I need to point out that neither Suarez or Rooney submit a transfer request, I was sure that after that infamous Suarez interview that we’d be seeing him in an Arsenal shirt this season. Did they care more about their loyalty bonuses than leaving? Did they know their club wouldn’t sell at all costs or at any price? It could appear like that.
And now that Ozil is signed. ​I wanted to talk a little bit about the plan for this window.
All summer I’ve had whispers from different people telling me what the club might do and a few weeks later we’d be linked with them and I didn’t know what was happening, I didn’t know whether it was true and who to trust, I trusted those close to me and those I considered friends.
I’ve heard a lot of talk all summer about how we don’t have a plan and I want to say that I don’t think it is true at all. I think we had a plan and many players were targeted, but ultimately reality sets in, the reality might be that some clubs just do not want to sell or the price is absolutely not reasonable, nor is it reasonable to panic buy.
It’s easy for a fan to say, spend some money, offer ten million extra, but once you’re there, once you’re the manager and you look at what you have and what you can spend and the team you have, you want to buy the best you can for the least you can.
The Ozil deal highlights that Arsene is not afraid to spend big, to break our wage structure a little for a marquee signing.
Should we have offered 50-60m for Suarez, probably, but we are assuming we haven’t done so already, or that Liverpool just didn’t care and didn’t want to sell and probably couldn’t get a replacement in time that was adequate.
If they wanted more, and you know you can get him for almost half the 60m in January or next summer, it doesn’t take someone frugal to think “I can wait, the club can wait.”
We’ve been buying strikers for around 10-12m and turned them into world class before, no reason why we shouldn’t or couldn’t do it again, especially under Arsene.
This window has been full of assumptions, even by me, but I think there were several plans in place and it seemed obvious to many that the Ozil deal depended on Bale departing from the little club in North London.
When I say dependent, I mean that the Bale arrival caused Di Maria to be the guy who was extra in Madrid, but it appeared Ozil made it clear he wanted to play a certain position and Ancelotti would rather have someone like Di Maria stay, someone that stressed he wanted to stay at all, despite being flattered by our interest.
@Gooner_In_BCN writes about this clearly in Arsenal Vision today. http://www.arsenalvision.co.uk/articles/4370-how-arsenal-landed-oezil.html
Not all the plans worked out, but we’ve spent around £35 to 42 million pounds on a world class footballer that we generated ourselves, no hand out from a billionaire and this is just the beginning.
In a window where United ended up paying more money for Fellaini than he was worth a month ago, in a window where they couldn’t even file the paperwork for Coentrao in time, in a window where 3 men (impostors) reportedly attempted to negotiate a deal for Ander Herrera (I’m still laughing), I consider us lucky to have pulled off something so beautiful.
Also we need to take some time to laugh at the Spurs – Real partnership; they took Modric and Bale from them and got nothing in return other than a van der Vaart who already left for Hamburg last year. Coentrao, Di Maria, Ozil, none wanted to go to Tottenham, do you blame them? I don’t.
We are an impatient bunch at times, but all summer I was stressing that I would rather wait to the last minute to get a quality player than a lesser player on the first day.
Ivan Gazidis said the club would do something to get us excited this summer and he delivered, along with Dick Law and Arsene, we should not forget this as we aim to build a quality squad that won’t have big dented destructive departures every year.
Santi and Ozil in the same team just is indescribable.
Niall Quinn on Sky Sports News last night, saying Arsenal are on their way back.

Damn right we are :).
Have an amazing day.
UTA.
@The_Beck_

Arsene needs to turn the Auto Trader page

Happy Friday to y’all. Well, sort of happy Friday, because most of you, like me, are getting nervous about the whole ‘we’re not close to signing anybody’ stuff that we’ve heard for the last few transfer windows, but more specifically over the last few days and weeks.

The buzz word from many people this summer seems to be ‘patience’, but I have to admit that my belief of reinforcements, coupled with rhetoric from the club and also the bids that have already been made, yet with little to show for the efforts, means that my patience is evaporating quicker than the ice in my Sailor Jerry and Coke. I like to think I’m a reasonable man; I don’t wage war on social media against the club or manager. I support them as much as I can. After all, we’re still in July and there are another eleven days of that to go, so there is still plenty of time, were it not for our previous experiences of last minute supermarket dashes to pick up players that some way down the line, turn out to be duds.

Which leads me to Andre Santos. He’s supposedly on the verge of announcing a permanent deal with Flamengo after Arsenal cancelled his contract. It will be the latest in the long line of what has now infamously been labelled the deadwood, departing Arsenal shores. Like Park, like Squillaci, his arrival was a classic example of last minute deals that in hindsight just seem to be there to make up the numbers. All the smiling and cuddliness in the world won’t keep you in the team if you turn out to be a liability. Santos was such a liability that Arsenal cancelled his contract, in doing so losing out on any transfer fee, so you can tell how far he had fallen from grace in such a small space of time. When he first started at the club he looked like a useful addition, but two years down the line, £6.2million is a hefty amount to spunk on a ‘punt’ by Le Boss. He’ll now supposedly earn 50% of his rights. Let’s hope that Flamengo bought the 50% that doesn’t include his belly, or the half of his brain that gets caught speeding and fined.

Supposedly, we’re up to just under £20million per year saved on wages. But the only down side is that there seem to be so many spaces that need to be filled by players, that I feel like I should be dusting off my Predators and hanging around the gates of London Colney to see if I can pick myself up a contract. I’m a ball-playing centre-half that played for my Uni, I’d be a free transfer and be happy with £1,000 a week. I’m not greedy. I’d provide experienced cover for the main central defenders and I’d show them all the best places to eat in the West London area. And the good news is that we don’t have any chubski’s to worry about over-eating, so my experience of central London would be beneficial to the club. Plus, I’d totally keep blogging and tell you all the goings on from the inside of the club.

Ok, back into reality now and I will say this: despite me clamouring for some reinforcements in the squad, there is part of me that agrees with the whole Higuain situation, and the clubs position on it. With everything supposedly agreed, Madrid decided to whack another €10million on to the price – just because they felt they could – and Arsenal backed away. I’m sorry, but that’s just unacceptable behaviour from the Spaniards in my eyes. Arsenal try to drive hard bargains as would any club, I get that, but to flip-flop so instantly on a fee when you’ve already put it out there that you’d accept ‘x’, is something only the arrogance of a team like Madrid could have. Imagine going to someone’s house to buy a used car, advertised at £3,000, take a look at it and show interest, to then make an offer for which the owner suddenly tells you it’s actually now £4,000. You’d about face and walk away. I haven’t got a problem with Arsenal doing that (for Higuain. If Arsenal ARE haggling for cars however, we know why there hasn’t seemed to have been much transfer movement). The only thing I have a problem with is what happens next. Taking the car analogy for example, the next thing you do is get yourself on Auto Trader and have a look for a similar model at a similar price. You then phone up and arrange to see it. That is where I think Arsene and Arsenal are not performing. They may have bought the latest edition of the catalogue, but they don’t seem to be arsed to look beyond the first page, so what we get is stories of interest in Rooney, Suarez and Higuain (all page 1), but nothing else. Then we hear noises about there not being any other options in the market. Turn the page Arsene!!! I’m not paid to scout, but if I was I’m sure that I could come up with more options for the club. The club needs to be looking everywhere for that top signing, not just those three players named and nothing else. And if they don’t want to do that, then they need to look at Rooney or Suarez and come back with a bid closer to the £35 – £40million mark or a fee that meets both clubs valuation. I don’t think it likely that United and Liverpool will ‘do a Madrid’ on us, so we should find out the valuation of the players from both clubs and stick some money on the table.

Just finally from me, before I clock off for the day, I wanted to talk about Bacary Sagna. It’s interesting how his tune seems to have changed from a year ago. With one year left on his deal, he’s gone all happy on us and said how much he loves playing for the club and will give it his all this season. Quite the step change from the ‘I might have to look elsewhere soon’ type comments he gave from last year pre-start of the campaign. To be fair to the lad, he wasn’t as brazen as that and just questioned why we are losing our best players (something preached by the fans, I know), but it’s interesting how his tactic has changed slightly. I don’t know whether that’s because he’s on the verge of signing a new deal, or knows that he’s got interest from clubs at the end of his current deal, but either way it’s good to know that he’s committed to the club for the season ahead and hopefully we can see him return to the form of a couple of years ago. Genuine competition for places with Jenko will hopefully spur the young Gooner on to improve even more, and if that happens, we’ve only got to thank our blond braided Frenchmen for the role he played in doing it.

Right, off into the Big Smoke to sit in an air conditioned office for nine hours, completely missing the sunshine for the best part of the day. I’m so rock-and-roll.

The apocalypse will only have a marginal effect on us

Quickly, ensure all the women and children are catered for, batten down the hatches, and hold on to any loved ones you have. Hold real tight people, because one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse is returning to the Premier League. I guess it was always going to happen. It’s the law of karma you see, ‘Arry and Pulis exit the Premier League, Mourhino and Hughes join it. ‘Ying’ and ‘Yang’ and all that.

There seems to be a little bit too much attention paid to this particular return for my liking. I got a call from a Chelski fan who told me, and I quote, that “The whole of the Premier League needs to be very scared”. Scared indeed. Because the thought of that obnoxious Portuguese allied to some of the most irritating fans in the world is enough to send any football fan into a spiral of depression. But hey, here’s the good thing: he can’t go around spunking money all the way to the Premier League trophy this time. If Financial Fair Play means anything, it will stop him from doing it the way he did last time. He’ll have to work within the parameters he has been set by the previous incumbents of the role. Which means no £100million shopping sprees. He’ll have to do it with most of the players he already has. And there are a few ageing ones in there, we all know that.

Anyway, we should be worrying less about that guy and more about ourselves, as we have a big summer ahead. You never know, all the media fawning over Jose might actually mean the media Eye of Sauron has a fixed gazed elsewhere, and Arsene can get a couple of deals done before the dust settles. That’s the hope anyway.

“Quick Arsene, fly (to Florence) you fool”

One deal I remain extremely sceptical of is this Wayne Rooney mumbo-jumbo. Asked at the weekend by Al Jazeera TV whether he’s interested in Rooney, Arsene merely conceded that Rooney would be of interest to any club. Quite why the media have then put two and two together to state that we’re on the verge of some kind of bid is beyond me. There’s been some serious ‘cut and shut’ journalism going on here methinks. If Arsene was asked about Messi or Ronaldo, he would probably have said the same thing, so in my mind this Rooney stuff is a non-starter. How do we even know that he isn’t just positioning himself before the arrival of a new manager so that he can either get another new deal (like last time) or even put the new manager of United under more pressure to play him from the start? Nope, for me this is not even something we should be talking about, so let’s just stop kidding ourselves that this would ever happen and start to look at more realistic options for The Arsenal next season.

Michu isn’t one of them. He’s been linked with us but I just don’t see it. He signed a long-term deal with Swansea, he’s only had one season in the Premier League, and at 27 would probably cost around £25million if Swansea had their way. Not worth it in my opinion.

Who is worth it though? Who would actually get us all excited? Jovetic? Higuain? Dzeko? The one that stands out to me as the most ‘Wenger-like’ signing is Jovetic. He’s joining from a smaller club, he’s 23, his wages aren’t already sky-high (so I’ve read/heard) and he’s already been making eyes towards the Premier League. I’ve never professed to be any kind of expert on the player, but by all accounts he looks like it would be a good signing that would fit in with the culture of the club, so let’s hope it’s done soon.

Wenger was also asked about Bale and how he regrets not signing him, but we already had Cole and Clichy and so the move was never on the cards. I have to say this surprises me a little bit. Arsene has a proven track record of seeing potential in players in positions that they perhaps did not play in before signing for Le Boss, so I’m surprised he did not see the potential for Bale to play further up the pitch. But hey, he’s only human and if we’re honest, he must look at hundreds of players each year.

And just before I wrap up for the day, how about the utterly shocking news that Denilson is about to have his contract terminated by mutual consent. You might remember Denilson from such games as Hull at home – jogging back as they scored one of their goals on the road to a home defeat. Or perhaps you remember the crab-like play of always passing sideways. Denilson is a player that proves that passing accuracy means absolutely diddly squat if you aren’t impacting a game positively and as you can tell I’m pleased that the first of the summer clear outs has actually happened. This ruthless streak in the club is exactly what we need. No more loan moves for two years, you’re out and you’re off the wage bill if you aren’t contributing to the first team. Good stuff.

Until tomorrow people.

pshhh to FFP, plus nerves from players to give them the edge?

Please forgive your humble narrator, but I’m in a bit of a rant mode right now…

Last night there was a cup competition that was won by a certain London team that was not Arsenal. It was won in the harshest of fashions against Benfica in the last twenty seconds. We all know who that team was that won it. But what I want to know is:

Where are all of the footballing gods? What ever happened to karma?

Somebody needs to explain to me how a team that makes a mockery of financial fair play, has a captain that if he wasn’t a professional footballer would be doing time, a left-back mercenary that will swerve off the road at the thought of a £55,000-a-week deal, as well as fans that boo their own (interim) manager, win yet another European trophy. How is this possible? What sort of monkeys paw do they possess that every other team does not?

Last season we had them being outplayed in no-less than three Champions League competitions and still emerge with the trophy on penalties. And now this? Why? When Roberto Di Matteo sold his soul for the luck of a thousand leprechauns last year, was there enough left over for this season as well?

I genuinely despair sometimes. All victories last night tell me are that if you throw enough money at a situation you’re going to win football competitions. And that saddens me. I am not naive. I know that football is now just as much a business as it is a recreation for some of us (although I can’t say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it very much – too many nerves, especially of late!), but I wake up this morning and feel sad that the only way to compete in this football world of ours is to have your very own billionaire bankrolling the club.

I love the way Arsenal are trying to achieve success. It’s the last bastion of hope I have that we can. It’s the final thing that we can hold over Chelski fans i.e. one man bought you success, the collective entity that is The Arsenal (fans, players, board, etc) achieved ours. But on mornings like today all I feel is bitterness. Bitterness and a worry that FFP will be as useful as a fork with soup. I don’t want us to go the same route as Chelski and have Usmanov use us as his plaything. No, what I want is to see football succeed more over financial doping, a la Wigan triumphing in the FA Cup over Moneychester City.

I think it’s probably also made worse by the fact that I live and work in London and I’m surrounded by ‘johnny-come-lately’ Chelski fans. Yep, you guessed it, the type that wave the flags placed on their seats by their club to create an atmosphere.

Anyway, I’ve calmed down now and am happy to just focus on Arsenal because, let’s face it we’ve got a very big game on Sunday afternoon. A season defining game. Because the game is away, I’m not sure if Arsene will do his presser today or tomorrow, but I’m sure we’ll know soon enough.

The most pressing concern will be whether or not Mikel Arteta is fit to play. Last season I wrote a blog stating how I’d completely underestimated how important the Spaniard is to our team, and if he is out for this weekend, it will most definitely be a hole in the midfield that we will find difficult to replace. Yes, we have very talented players that can come in like Wilshire, but he is not a like-for-like replacement for Arteta, and there are also question-marks over his fitness. Mikel is a player that keeps us ticking over. Always available for the back four to release to the ball to, his accuracy of passing this season has be phenomenal, he really is ‘Mr Dependable’. He supports the build up play for us expertly and his energy and drive is something that has been vital to our success this season. If he is injured for the game, I suspect Le Boss will opt for Jack, but the midfield will have to shuffle around a bit more. We’ll probably see Ramsey anchored as the deepest lying midfielder and Jack will probably need to curb his natural enthusiasm for getting forward, because Rosicky will no doubt occupy that position and Jack will no doubt suffer for his ability to be a bit more versatile than the Czech. Jack and Tomas are very similar in what they bring to the team, so one of the two might need to be a slightly squarish peg for the midfield round hole we’ll need filling. We shall wait and see I guess.

Since the Wigan victory we’ve also seen Arsene speak about the nerves of the players before games. Not exactly what you want to hear as a fan before the season finale, but he does temper that response by saying that there has been that in place for a while now and we have still managed to win games. The only worry from this here writers perspective is that it doesn’t become so nervous on that pitch that it inhibits the players natural abilities and desire for success. Whilst we’d obviously much rather be in the position that we are in rather than the Spuds, the fact that they know it’s out of their hands will probably allow them to play with more freedom than our players. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Tottenham have won by three or four goals come 6pm on Sunday. As for us, well, you and I both know that it won’t be that easy. There is no way in a million years that we’ll see the same Newcastle side that gave Liverpool the freedom of St.James’ Park to roam a few weeks ago. Nope, we’ll have to do it the hard way.

The nerves and that adrenaline Arsene speaks of has to be used as an advantage. It has to be used as the steam that powers the engine forward and on to victory. If you’re a professional footballer that plays for one of the bigger clubs, the only way you can succeed is through a combination of skill, hard-work, determination and the ability to handle pressure. I’ll put my faith in whoever goes out there on Sunday and hope they have all of the above.

Anyway, not a lot else going on that I can see at the moment, so I’ll leave you to the rest of your day.

Adieu.