Fanciful transfer stuff from presser

Happy Saturday to you and your kin. My weekend started early due to some annual leave I’ve been soaking in for the last few days, but at least there’s been some football – albeit some pretty semi-shocking football on Wednesday – to keep me busy. I’ve been through my thoughts on the midweek action and I’m glad we’ve got another game coming up quickly, because the bad taste bought about by three games without scoring at home need to be readdressed, because it’s not exactly condusive to a positive preparation for an FA Cup final if we fizzle out at the end of the season.

Arsène spoke to the press and as we’d all probably expect with the season drawing to a close and our game tomorrow almost a dead rubber, the focus was on all of the millions of billions of players we’re going to sign, but having watched the presser on Arsenal.com it seemed like Arsène was in relatively good form. To be fair to him, he’s probably happy he gets a summer off from press conferences in which stupid questions are asked by the same people each week.

He can spend the summer answering stupid questions from people in other continents when the squad go on tour instead.

The focus was around Sterling and Cech and unsurprisingly Arsène was non-committal in what he was saying. I was actually more interested in his assertion that Tomas Rosicky would be staying at the club and not only that, but he’d be extending his current deal. That seems a bit of a surprise to me because like Flamini, he’s become a bit of a forgotten man since all of the squad has managed to maintain their fitness since the start of the year. It’s a shame because each time he’s got on I’ve seen a good performance by him, so I’d have thought he’d have been given a bit more game time. But competition is so intense at the moment in the middle of  the park, that Arsène is leaving out very good players on match days alone, so it gives us an indication of how hard it is for Rozza to break through.

I’d be surprised if he’s still at the club by the time a ball is kicked in the new season. I suspect Arsène is simply saying those expectations of him staying because he wants to keep everyone happy, but the one man who won’t be happy is Tomas himself.

As for his impact on signing Cech for us, somehow I don’t think that will impact the ‘keepers decision on where he goes, or whether Arsène wants to sign him anyway. I like that Arsène isn’t dismissing the signing of that of Sterling, but I doubt we’ll be signing either this summer. Sterling will want the mega bucks and so Moneychester City will probably throw a big wad of cash at it, so I can’t see that happening, if I’m honest.

As for Cech, I suspect Chelski are simply publicly playing the PR card, because I can’t see why they’d sell to either Arsenal or Man United. Jose is a man who couldn’t countenance selling/loaning us Demba Ba, so why on earth he would change his tune now is beyond me. It also remains to be seen as to whether Arsène even wants another ‘keeper. It’s all very well you and I talking about it, but we thought we needed a striker a year and a half ago, then another defender in the summer, but Arsène didn’t see it that way. So we do have a precedent.

The team news looks fairly samey from Wednesday night, with Arsène needing to decide how he’s going to rotate based on tired legs. It’s the last chance to impress before the cup final so I think we’ll see a few rotated, but whether Arsène goes the whole hog and swaps his entire team around I suspect is unlikely. More on that particular guessing game tomorrow. For now, I think I will enjoy my Saturday and hope that Middlesbrough make it to the Premier League, because I want to see three Notth East teams and three chances of heading up there next season.

Reading, Milner and Walcott

It’s the waiting that kills ya, I’ll tell ya that much, because this working week has already dragged and it’s only Wednesday.

With no Arsenal on during midweek, the footballing options were limited to listening in on how the Championship is going, versus enduring the Champions League. With no Arsenal representation there, there’s no way I’d want to watch Juve/Monaco, so I opted for a programme about calorie counting. See what no football midweek does to me???

The Reading game was interesting yesterday though. With not a lot to play for in the league, up against what looks like Champions Elect Bournemouth, I was expecting Steve Clarke to field a weakened Reading team yesterday. Instead he appears – although I couldn’t name the usual Reading first XI so perhaps I’m not the best point of reference for this particular set of assumptions – to have opted for a full strength team bar Pavel Pogrebniak. Reading have played plenty of games already this season (given the nature of the Championship) so to see their team playing whilst our boys would have been rested up ahead of this Saturday’s game, is certainly a plus point for me. Hopefully we benefit from a bit of fatigue from the Royals on Saturday. I know that even with a fully fit and rested squad we should still beat a Reading side who aren’t exactly pulling up trees form-wise, but as I’ve explained on this here blog before, I like to take comfort in any small advantage our team is afforded. Psychological or not.

As for what else is going on in the world, it all appears to be very transfer-heavy at the moment. I guess we’d all kind of expect it really. We’re in mid April, the season is winding down for some teams and as the number of games reduces for most of the top-flight teams, the papers need to fill their column inches. So stories of Milner to Arsenal and Walcott new deals to fend off Liverpool begin to take a more central stage. The Milner deal is a strange one. He’s a good player and has operated across a number of positions in Moneychester City’s team, but I’m not sure if he’s the type of midfielder we’re looking for, is he? After all, he has operated in a more forward-lying midfielder role every time I have seen him – where we are plenty stocked – where as what we are surely looking for is a longer term successor for Arteta and Flamini, to compete with Coquelin at the base of the midfield. I’m happy to be corrected, but I didn’t think that was a position that Milner occupied for City, especially given the signings of Fernando and Fernandinho. Perhaps Arsène will look to shift Milner’s recognised position to that like he did Arteta? Stranger things have happened and Milner does have that combative and snappy nature, so it’s not something that would be unheard of.

As for Theo, well your guess is as good as mine, because talk of new deals are almost irrelevant from a fans perspective if he doesn’t get on the pitch. With each passing game it feels more and more like Theo’s Arsenal career is a dwindling flame, a candle with very little wick left and unless something drastic happens and Arsène starts playing him more often after Walcott changes his game to become more of an all-round influence in matches, he’s not going to be part of the club’s long-term future. If he were to sign a new deal now, it really would be to ensure he’s still got plenty of spare change in his pockets, because it certainly won’t be for the position on the bench he’s occupying!

I hope it does get sorted out and I hope Theo does sign a deal. He may not command the regular starting spot he would have done 18 months ago, but when you have a player with the pace and ability to finish as he does, it is always an asset. The squad is looking strong all over the pitch at the moment and with the summer looking like the least disruptive to squad harmony in over a decade, this contract saga just feels like a bit of a blot on what should otherwise be a good period in Arsenal’s history.

The balancing act – squad depth, signings and harmony

Eurgh, midweek drinking (combinations of ale, red wine, Sailor Jerry and Port are not to be trifled with, fyi) accompanied by an early get up and train journey into the city for work, don’t exactly make for the happiest Chris on this here earth, I can assure you. I’ve got that ‘punched in the face’ feeling and my working day hasn’t even entered its infancy. Plus it’s that time of the year when it’s cold in the morning, but warm in the evening, so as I type today’s nonsensical waffle I am also conscious that by home time I’ll be sweatier than a fat man on a treadmill in a sauna. 

But in the world of football, life is grand for you and I, isn’t it? After all, we are the loving supporters of the in-form team of 2015, which whilst it will most likely not bring any kind of reward in itself come May, will possibly lead to success in the FA Cup, all being willing. If, as we hope, we can overcome Reading, I suspect that Liverpool will be waiting at the final, but having recently been victorious against an admittedly under strength side it would be a more difficult final for sure. But that is all hearsay and conjecture at this point, so let us park it and look ahead towards the immediate future of Burnley away on Saturday.

The early team news appears to be somewhat unfortunate, in the Laurent Koscienly is rumoured to be a bit short for this Saturday’s Lancastrian journey. If true – we’ll find out from Le Boss tomorrow no doubt – then it will be a blow to the side because he’s been good of late. Kos has been the ever-present in this rich vein of form we’re in, so to lose him for any amount of time is a shame, but the great news is that we appear to have the kind of squad depth that we were lacking all season long with the arrival of Gabriel. 

I do like Gabriel you know. He has slotted in well when he’s played and unlike when Squillaci joined us and looked okayish for the first couple of matches before declining rapidly, Gabriel has put in some decent shifts in a calm and ‘no nonsense’ fashion that has me less concerned about Kos’ absence for the trip to Turf Moor. It’s always good to see a defender get stuck in and I remember the Middlesbrough game was a particularly impressive performance on many levels. He even took a yellow card in the ‘right way’, bringing down an attacking player in a position which allowed the defence to readjust and eventually see the ball out from danger. That’s the kind of intelligence that gets you far in football. 

Away from the defence, Rambo has also picked up a knock, but all of the sounds from random people on Twitter not officially associated with the club in any way, shape or form, are that its not too serious. That’s good news because it means that should Arsène choose too, he could name a similar starting XI to the one that played on Saturday lunchtime.

Something else I’ve been thinking of recently, which has been born from the overwhelming success of Coquelin, is at what point do we as Arsenal fans say that he is the defensive midfielder we all need and that any additional signing that is made in the summer should be as understudy to him?

The reason I’m pondering that is because even now, when I speak to most Arsenal fans both on and offline, many still talk of boosting the squad with a player like Schneiderlin into the ranks. I’m all for competition and it is the ability to rotate this team that I think is one of a number of factors behind our current form, but I still hear and read from people that we need a £25million defensive midfield replacement. There’s a few obvious issues in that as I see it. Firstly, if the media can go to town on Özil because he’s £42million worth of footballer and has a barren spell, what would they do about a £25million player that on current form, wouldn’t get in to the Arsenal team. And yes, I am not just talking about Schneiderlin, but any deep-lying midfielder. You only have to look at Le Coq’s statistics in breaking up possession and winning tackles to see that he’s the best in the league at the moment. If form is maintained for the rest of the season – and he’s strung enough games together by now to suggest that barring any injury he will – there’s no way that we can seriously justify such an outlay on a squad player. Is there?

So what do you do if you’re Arsène? Because if he goes out and buys an £8million decent squad player, he’ll probably get lambasted for not having enough ambition, but if he spunks £30million on Kondogbia and doesn’t play him he’ll be told he’s signed a white elephant. The delicate balance needed in a really top draw squad – especially one like ours in which injuries seem to come to us as sure as day follows night – is really important in building successful teams. It’s dilemmas like that one in the base of the midfield that has one appreciating the complexities of managing a football club, where people management is as important as the data and the numbers. 

So even if we finish the season second, even if we win the FA Cup, even if the squad looks like the strongest it’s been ever and even if we as fans are left happy with how the team has progressed, Arsène will still have a really difficult summer on his hands. What will he do about Szczesny? What’s going to happen in defensive midfield? Where does he fit Jack into the team? What decision will be made on Walcott?

All of this needs to be thought of, to ensure the squad is balanced and deep enough to mount a title challenge. And we thought previous summers were make or break!

Anyway, that’s probably enough jibber-jabber from me for one day, because all of this hypothesising is hurting my brain.

Catch you tomorrow.

fanciful Walcott hypothesising

With one more pointless set of internationals to play, we’re still knee-deep in the thick of it, footballistically speaking. 

We had the worry of Welbeck’s injury that still looms on the horizon but, with Arsène probably not going to speak to the press until Thursday at the earliest, there’s still plenty of time for us to lose men to rogue challenges or loose tackles. 

I haven’t really been paying much attention to the games themselves, so I’ve no idea whether Alexis or Gabriel played or even starred at The Emirates, nor can I tell whether Giroud’s performance and goal was a great one. But given that there are no major stories about players breaking down, I am hopeful that we will have a relatively full compliment to choose from, come Saturday lunchtime.

Most of the chatter I’ve been seeing online has seemingly revolved around Theo Walcott’s current contractual wranglings, which appear to be mirrored to those of Raheem Sterling, also currently deadlocked it appears. But much like the last time we had to deal with Theo and his advisers demands, it appears the scousers are having trouble convincing the 20 year old that a £100k+ per week deal is acceptable, the poor diddums. 

As we will be all too painfully aware, the situation at a club can influence these types of negotiations quite a lot and with Gerrard offski, Suarez departed and Torres before him, Sterling and his ‘people’ have probably seen how strong their hand is and are poker-facing it all the way to the last.

So naturally the speculation from an Arsenal perspective is whether or not we should be giving a ‘heads up’ to Camp Sterling to say we’re interested, as well as Liverpool to talk all things exchange between their contract rebel and ours, perhaps with a bit of cash going the scousers way in addition. 

Now I’m no expert on transfer negotiations, or deals, but this appears to me to be some fanciful stuff from Arsenal fans talking about the possibilities of it happening. Firstly, it would appear to be too good to be true, because Sterling is younger, with more potential and Liverpool will be desperate to avoid any kind of action that strengthens a rival. Whether or not it does actually do that to such an extreme extent also appears to be very dubious to me. Not least because those advocating a move seem to have forgotten the impact that Walcott has made when fit over the last two seasons. Sure, he’s been a peripheral player since the turn of the year (and most of this season), but remember how long – and how many games – it took Ramsey to get to before his form exploded last season? Players need game time to be at their best and right now Theo just isn’t being given a chance.

But that doesn’t mean we should all mentally ship him out and look to the North West for a solution. It also doesn’t mean it will happen. In fact, when was the last time you saw a player exchange between two high-profile players take place? It’s early in the morning for me writing this so I can’t exactly reel off any recent ones (unless there aren’t any?), but the last one I remember was Gallas/Cole. Before that I remember Anelka/Suker. But I’m running out of any other ideas after that. 

We should probably also take note that Sterling appears to want megabucks. We’ve shown that we’re not averse to going down that route, but with a club as fiscally conscious as we are, would we really break the bank for a player that has shown brilliant patches but like Theo, also had his inconsistencies? 

And with players wanting megabucks, there’s usually an oil-whoring club sniffing around too, so we should probably recognise that any move would probably be scuppered by one of the oligarch-funded teams.

So often in football transfer negotiations are complex and fraught with difficulties, which is why player swap deals are so rare, so that leaves me to question: would a deal between those two players ever actually be possible? Highly unlikely. Both players’ representatives find it challenging to negotiate with their existing clubs, so how would a deal be done that included them both?

We should probably also not discount the fact that Liverpool will have been pretty cheesed off after the Suarez incident and, if we’re honest, Arsenal were probably equally cheesed off when Liverpool made it public.

So all of this hypothesising is probably worthless. But I guess it keeps us all busy until the football starts. 

Which is why I’ve just spent most of the blog doing the same. Oh well, back to normality soon, so hang in there kids.

Catch you tomorrow.

Transfer-schmansfer, our squad options get me excited

Do you know, in all the commotion and emotions of winning yet another football game and keeping yet another clean sheet, I completely forgot that yesterday was Transfer Deadline Day?

How remiss of me. How terrible that I did not feed the behemoth that is the last day of the January silly season, by counting down the hours like the ludicrously yellow-clad morons at Sky Sports HQ. How evil that I did not give the numerous websites my clicks and hits as they tried frantically to gobble up the last of the heavy traffic before actual football starts to get in the way again for them. I should hang my head in shame.

Or not. Perhaps I should avoid lacing this blog with any more sarcasm, before I create a ‘lowest form of wit’ vacuum, or something. Anyway, I don’t buy that statement – never had – because sarcasm can be quite amusing, I must say.

So yesterday passed with a whimper rather than a bang at The Emirates, the lone Sky Sports reporter inside the Arsenal ground cutting a solitary figure, as he kicked his heels knowing that nothing would be forthcoming this evening. Poor diddums.

Apparently, having got up and seen the papers this morning, the whole day seemed a bit of a blow-out as far as the top teams are concerned. We’d done our business already, Liverpool and United were quiet and the Spuds decided that Aaron Lennon wasn’t worth keeping on the books. Chelski signed that guy who’s hair looks like it is interchangeable with the Incredible Hulk’s (Lou Ferigno version), but that’s about it. Good. I hope nobody got the ratings they were hoping because the bigger clubs stayed away from the party.

Arsène decided to have his a week earlier, which suits me down to the ground. We picked up the necessary depth, so it’s clear now what we have and where we need to get to before the end of the season. We have an emerging Coquelin in the only position with which we’ve struggled all season, plus at least Arsène isn’t freezing out Flamini by never playing him. We might all think he’s not at the level we need at the club, but he’s a decent squad player and so by keeping him ticking over with game time, Arsène is doing the right thing in my opinion, because an injury or suspension to Coquelin means that the Flamster will be called upon again.

As would be expected after a number of positive results in January, the mood on the official website is buoyant, with Giroud, Walcott and Bellerin all getting a mention, as well as big Per explaining about how the Southampton loss was a ‘wake up call’ for the players. There’s no doubt we’ve seen a marked improvement since that lacklustre display, but whilst many will question why it took us until the first game of 2015 to get that kick in the knickers needed, I’m just pleased that we have seen a reaction. We’ve looked very controlled and composed as a team unit since that display and whilst Debuchy has been robbed of regular football, the rest of the first choice back four have been so much better than that day. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact we’ve been able to rest Koscienly’s aching limbs, playing only once a week, but the form of Nacho and Hector over the last couple of games suggests to me that it’s more to do with a settled back four rather than anything else. Quite what that means when the cup competitions and league games all collide at the same time is probably a pondering for another day. But you’d hope that the confidence in the team will help to give the rotated players a bit more of an edge. I supposed the trick for Arsène will be to rotate, but not too heavily, from a game-by-game perspective. Wholesale team changes could disrupt the sturdiness that has been built in the team from the back. But I’m sure he’ll be aware of when certain players need to be rested. One thing I think he believes he has right now, is confidence that the squad players can perform. I’ve been wondering a lot lately if he’s historically not rotated players because he doesn’t really have 100% confidence in them. Yet when you look at the quality of the squad at the moment, it’s hard to see what the best team is, which is a good thing in my mind. If Arsène has faith in 20 players as opposed to 12, he’ll rotate more and they’ll be fresher, which means we get the best out of the team over a longer period. I think he finally has that faith.

It will be interesting to see what he does against the Spuds next weekend. Does he play Özil and Santi? Does Welbeck come back into the team because he will track back more? Or is the raw pace enough to frighten the Spuds to play deep and give our midfielders licence to roam? There are so many permutations, I think I could probably spend all week guessing and counter-guessing myself. But that’s exactly what we want as fans, because that means that the players are in form, they are playing well and there are at least 16 that deserve to play. Just look at Rosicky. How does Arsène get him into the team on Saturday lunchtime?

I’m starting to get excited about what this season may bring. It may have taken over five months, but I’m starting to get really excited.

Catch you tomorrow.

It’s finally happened (in more ways than one)

It’s finally happened. After waiting for so long, Arsenal announced the signing of Gabriel from Villareal for the now standard princely sum of “undisclosed fee”.

When I say ‘finally happened’, it has a few meanings of course. Firstly, given our general knowledge about the transfer for about a week now, it was finally announced after Villareal had confirmed it, Joel Campbell had made his switch and Gabriel himself had said goodbye to the Villareal fans. He seems to have had quite a bit of affection given to him, especially as he’s only been at the club for 18 months, so hopefully this bodes well for him from an Arsenal fan perspective. It does make you chuckle that Arsenal left it until yesterday to announce, eeking out this to get maximum excitement tinged with frustration. Then a little bit more teasing with the ‘check out Instagram account for Gabriel’s number’. Crafty PR Devils. I’ll not begrudge them that though, especially as a marketer myself, and especially because we know how much stick the club gets when bad news is dealt. So let’s just smile and be happy that we have our man.

‘Finally happened’ also relates to the fact that after searching for a centre half since Thomas Vermaelen departed the Arsenal shores for sunnier climes, we got that additional centre half we’ve all been craving. We now have somebody who can (we hope) come in when Koscienly starts to creek and, by the sounds of it, has similar attributes to our established Frenchman. Let’s all bear in mind, however, that Koscienly needed a year to ‘bed in’ to the team too before he started to become the player we all know and love today. So we need to appreciate that as Gabriel adapts to the league, he’ll make one or two mistakes. The hope is that his character shines through and he doesn’t wilt as his Arsenal career progresses.

So we have our man. We have a centre half and in Calum Chambers, a perfect young up-and-comer, who can deputise for both Per and/or Kos as well as partner Gabriel if we did suffer a crisis in central defence. It’s interesting that Arsène has fixed this glaring hole in our squad, but did not do so last January with a striker signing, but perhaps that was because he had big plans in the summer? A £12million outlay (guessing figures here as I’ve seen no specific definitive one from all sources) on Gabriel would suggest that he’ll probably not venture in to the market for a centre half in the summer, so perhaps in hindsight you could say that whilst we were damaged by not signing a Giroud squad replacement last January, perhaps it was for the ‘long-term’ best? We did sign Alexis after all.

So here we are then. An issue resolved. Who’d a thunk it? Not only that though, but I’m looking at our squad on paper (dangerous at the best of times I know) and I’m thinking that we’re almost there. The most obvious position that you’d say we need another body is in that holding midfield role, but in terms of January, there’s probably few out here who would sell for anything less than double time. There will be those that will advocate the ‘pay anything for a Schneiderlin now’ approach, but with Coquelin improving every game, where’s the logic there when you can more easily prize someone like that away in June if Southampton don’t make the Champions League?

Nope, I think we’re done with our business this January and all-in-all, I’m quite pleased with the fact we’ve acted. Sure, Gabriel could be a Squillaci-in-waiting, but let’s not forget that Squillaci was a relatively cheap signing. In general, when you pay over £10-12million for a player, they do tend to be half decent. So let’s have more faith than trepidation with this one.

Whether he’ll make it in to the match day squad on Sunday is something the manager will have to ponder. It’s getting to the stage where our squad is so stocked with good players, that there are very good ones that aren’t even making the bench, so perhaps he’ll sit out for now. I guess it depends if Chambers o Bellerin start on the right at the weekend. But that’s for another days blogging I think.

A quick word on Joel Campbell, whose contract extension and loan signing was quietly slipped in to the press release about Gabriel. Clearly Wenger has seen something in Joel and told him to go out to Spain, play more football and push himself back in to the first team next season. It’s a shrewd moe from Arsène that makes Arsenal’s hand very strong. Perhaps too, it has been further influenced by Walcott and the contract situation. With Walcott’s expiring in summer 2016 like Campbell’s was, we could potentially be losing him if he plays silly-buggers with the club, so by signing a long term deal with Arsenal, Theo will know that Arsène and Arsenal have another option to call on, which makes his hand weaker in trying to maximise his wage demand options. I’d be interested to see how Walcott reacts to that for the remainder of the season.

Tis a happy day. We seem to be building a bit of momentum, players have returned to the squad, new players have been added to improve the quality. We might even see one or two happy people on Twitter. Heck I’m going to go all out: EVERYONE ON TWITTER WILL BE HAPPY!!!

Let’s see how log it lasts. :-)

Cheerio for now.

Entertaining Boro, chuckling at Nayim

Yesterday we learnt our fate in the FA Cup and after a brief sojourn down to the south coast, it’s more home comforts, after a home draw against Middlesborough was announced.

Given all of the teams that still remain in the competition, it could have been easier, especially as Boro are playing well and look like they could be fighting for promotion to the Premier League this season. But equally we could have seen an away tie to Manchester United or Liverpool, so I’m not going to be too disappointed. Ultimately, with the quality that we have in our side, we should be able to progress to the sixth round.

When you look at the team’s in the pot for the fifth round there are few that should really have us quaking. United and Stoke (away) would probably be the exception, but that’s only because of our own terrible records against those teams, rather than any real measure of their actual quality. One just hopes that we can navigate our way past Boro with more ease than Moneyschester City did. So there’s definitely a worry there for us.

I just hope we don’t get shafted with another shabby kick off time. I’d love to see a good, old-fashioned, 3pm FA Cup tie this season, but after so many of the ‘big’ teams were knocked out, it feels almost inevitable that we’ll get one of the Friday, two Sunday’s or Monday night kick off. The TV companies can wax lyrical about the ‘magic of the FA Cup, but I’m pretty sure they’ll look at what ratings they can get, rather than showing a ‘romantic’ tie like Derby County versus Reading. But maybe I’ll be surprised. Maybe.

That’s the main talking point from yesterday, as the Gabriel Paulista deal still appears to be working through the motions before it’s all officially announced, with a couple of ex-pros like Nayim coming out and saying they’re not quite sure whether he is of sufficient quality for The Arsenal. I have to say that did make me chuckle when I read that headline on Sky Sports. Nayim. That ex-Spurs player. Passing judgement on why a Villareal player won’t work in Arsenal’s style. Maybe he watches Arsenal a lot, eh? Or maybe, just maybe, Sky needed somebody for a soundbite that will stir up debate. I think it’s called ‘Talkshiting tactics’ or something like that.

Well, whatever it is, I’ll pay it no more mind. Let’s just say that it’s always difficult to work out whether a player is going to be brilliant or turgid based when they’ve come from overseas. Koscienly was a nobody from the lower leagues that many thought would struggle after his first season. Look at him now. Equally, Mario Balotelli was a proven quality player in the Premier League and Serie A, yet he’s still waiting patiently for his first Premier League goal. We’ll just see if Gabriel can show us a few glimpses of his quality this season, then assess his effectiveness this time next year, eh?

The other rumour knocking around yesterday (and Sunday too I think) was that of Asier Illarramendi, who I think Ben quite fancies a bit of. The rumours are a of a summer move, which would probably make sense given the contract situation of two of our holding midfielders, but not knowing enough about the guy I can’t really tell you if he’s a significant improvement on Schneiderlin, so I can’t even tell you which I’d prefer. However, I am aware of his reputation and if he hasn’t been getting in to the Real Madrid team this season, then a deal could probably be brokered a lot easier than a hostile response from Southampton, which we’d inevitably get if we went hard for Schneiderlin. We wait with bated breath until the summer i suspect.

Catch you later, baked potayter.