Should we be pleased with the fixture tampering by TV companies?

It’s bloody typical that the start of the season for me is choca-block with things I can’t get out of, like stag dos, weddings and other such family occasions. But, what is more bloody typical is that having already made my plans to unfortunately offload my tickets to a couple of games, I find myself now frantically trying to undo my own efficiency because Sky and BT Sport have had their wicked way with the fixture list.

Sunday lunchtime football against West Ham and Monday night against Liverpool means that in theory I could still make both games. I suspect I’ll possibly have to miss out and there’s consolation in the fact that Arsenal are on TV every week for the first month of the season, but given that I’ll be starved of live football by the time I get to rock up at The Emirates (for me there is nothing quite like the whole experience, pre match chin wagging, smells, sights, etc, of going to the games) I’ll have come back from my second sojourn to Pottugal in September.

Despite the fact that this fixture tampering will mean I can still watch all the games with consummate ease wherever I am, I still long for the halcyon days of 3pm kick offs every week. I know I should just get on with my life and know that they’re never coming back, but it still doesn’t stop me from pining for it, you know? Michael Jackson has long departed from this earth, but I still wish I could watch him sing live and in the flesh.

Perhaps we should all take it as a positive sign. Sky and BT clearly think there’s enough about this Arsenal team this seaso. To challenge for this title, which is why they are snaffling up every game until September in which to show Arsenal. With our existing squad and the additional of a top-notch ‘keeper, the bookies may be thinking us challengers. That’s nice, isn’t it? I do prefer when you’re completely ruled out and you challenge from a position nobody thought you could, but there’s a reason bookmakers are all in business and it’s not because they take punts on things. They’re usually right for a reason and whose Chelski will be odds on again in 2015/16, I’d be interested to see where they place us.

The only two rumours worth a look today appear to be the Rosicky stuff to Sparta Prague and the Pedro stuff to Arsenal. On both accounts we have players who have only recently just had extensions to their contracts agreed which is weird, because on both accounts you have players who have been shunted further down the pecking order last season, so whilst both had extensions sorted, you have to wonder if it was to protect their values as assets rather than because the club has plans to push them back in to the first XI. Whilst I can see the logic in doing that with a 27-year-old Pedro, I don’t think there would be much cash you could glean from a Rosicky transfer, so I’d guess that the only way that transfer is going to happen is if Tomas himself says he’d like to head home. Arsène is the type of guy that wouldn’t stand in the ‘Little Mozart’s way if he did decide he wanted more game time, so if a bid came in from the Czech club it would be a decision for the player that could see us lose somebody in a similar fashion to the way in which we acquired Cech. But hey, whilst we love Rosicky, we all know that he’ll be a peripheral player next season. So perhaps there’s more than a bit of general speculation to that one.

Anyway, that’s yer lot from me today. I’ll catch you tomorrow.

Poldi’s end is nigh, Campbell’s career may not be dead and I must finish my flux capacitor

London black cabs everywhere will be a little less cheery in their disposition this morning, after Lukas Podolski’s agent confirmed that he’ll be making the switch to Turkish football to play for Galatasaray this summer. I think we all knew it was coming, but the fact that Poldi’s agent said that they had a long and good chat with Arsène Wenger about his future – in which Le Boss apparently tried to convince Lukas to stay – shows a little bit about why players love Arsène. He does tend to treat them all with respect and in a week in which much back-slapping has been happening at Chelski for letting Cech go to Arsenal, it should perhaps not be forgotten that Arsène has a history of looking after players. “Make love, not war” is clearly a motto that the Frenchman seems to adopt. Certainly more than his odious Portguese counterpart.

It’s a good move for all, in truth, because it generates a bit of cash, gets a hefty earned off the wage bill, plus means that there’s one less quandary for Arsène to ponder over when it comes to the 25-man squad rule. By-and-large you’d have to say he’s hardly been a success, particularly as his value seems to have dropped from £11million three years ago to £3million now, but at least the German international has left us with plenty of positive memories of his thunderous left foot. Let’s just choose to remember the good things. It will make everyone’s outlook on life so much more sunny.

The other question mark at the top end of the pitch would be How do you solve a problem like Joel Campbell? Not quite a year to the day, but certainly come the beginning of August, there was a clamour to see the player start more regularly for Arsenal last season. But after half a season hardly ripping up trees at Villareal, having signed a new deal, one does wonder if we should have cashed in whilst young Joel’s stock was so high last summer.

After all, World Cup’s are not just festivals of football, but opportunities to put a player in a shop window and usually if a player plays well you see a selling club often command top dollar. It’s easy to say in hindsight (especially as I was one of those people who thought Mr Campbell should have been given more time. Perhaps it was due to the surname with which I still have multiple affections of given Arsenal’s past) that we should have cashed in because his value probably wouldn’t have increased, but after what we’ve seen with Coquelin and the transformation he’s had, I’m inclined to wonder who else could prove everyone wrong when all of their chips appear to be down.

The Coquelin situation has kind of thrown the whole deck of cards up in the air when it comes to young players, hasn’t it? I mean, what you thought you knew about a player of a certain age has suddenly seen you think twice, no? I know it has for me. Sure, defensive midfield is probably a position where you’re afforded a bit more leeway than up top, but even that Arsenal fan Harry Kane has proved that you can’t always predict how a player will evolve.

I am still of a mind to believe that Campbell will slowly disappear further and further away from the first team, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Arsène has a very good look at him in pre season before shipping him out on another loan or permanent deal.

Cue a hat-trick at The Emirates Cup and the hyperbole brigade out in force to implore the manager to give him a shout. That is, assuming we have injuries I suppose. After all, we’re now at the stage where we’re no longer blooding youngsters in the first team, unless they are exceptional talents like Bellerin. So whether or not there is a clamour to see a player like Campbell get game time compared to a year ago remains to be seen.

I know we might all be getting to the stage where we’ve had so much Cech news that we’ll soon be guilty of Cech over exposure, but he’s had a little bit more to say on the official site about how long he can see himself playing for. He’s said he doesn’t think about retiring and wants to play for another seven years. That would take him up to 40 and about the same age as van Der Saar and Seaman before they hung up their gloves. I can certainly see him going on that long and if we have him as our first choice for that period of time then the £11million outlay would be worth it, but in a way I hope it doesn’t get to that, because I’d like to see Szczesny step up over the next 18 months. If Cech is number one for seven years then there’s no doubt the Pole won’t be at the club but perhaps on a slightly more morose note, it would mean that his career which showed so much early promise, did indeed stagnate and move backwards. For a guy that has been with the club for so long and broken in to the first team from the academy, I’m sure no Arsenal fan would want to see that, regardless of what anybody might think about his attitude. So whilst I’m hopeful we’ll feel like we’ve got our money’s worth out of the Cech deal, I’m also equally hopeful that we’ll see a gradual changing of the guard over the next three years, with Wojciech emerging as the world class ‘keeper we all want him to be. Again, the benefit of hindsight now would be useful, as we can all know what happens and if required not stake so much emotional investment in Woj. 

I must get back to finishing that flux capacitor. 

An Arsenal career gone but not forgotten and one still on and should not be forgotten

It may have been news that we were already aware of, but yesterday came the confirmation that Abou Diaby was finally being released from his contract at Arsenal, and is now in the process of finding a new club. Rumours are abound that he’s on the verge of signing for FC Dallas in the MLS and perhaps this is exactly the type of move that could be good for him. New scenery, nicer climate that may treat his fragile body better, as well as an opportunity to become an absolute beast in a weaker league. I think most people will wish him well.

His time at Arsenal will, unfortunately, forever be defined by the closing stages of an away game to Sunderland in 2006 in which he was scythed down in a malicious challenge by a guy who shouldn’t have remained on the pitch and now doesn’t even grace Premier League pitches. Nobody would know it at the time, but the actions of Dan Smith have cost a very good player a regular career in the top flight.

Diaby was good. It’s impossible to know how good because of the circumstances that befell him, but I saw in sporadic matches, the type of player who could drift past players effortlessly with the ball, whose body belied his overall ability and somebody who, if he could only have maintained fitness for a prolonged period of time, could have potentially have been as good as Vieira. He was a different type of player and earlier in his career the comparisons led him to publicly state so, but I’m talking about the impact he could have had at Arsenal.

It’s a shame that it has to end the way it has, but it’s the best for all parties concerned, and Arsenal have certainly done more than enough to support Abou. After all, it’s not like he goes off to America short of a non or two, eh?!?

The rest of the news out there still seems to be focused around Petr Cech. On the website our new signing has spoken of the reaction of the Arsenal fans, as well as the possibilities at the club. Away from the official site and stepping in to deepest, darkest realms of evil, Jose has finally spoken about the transfer. His words probably came as no surprise, as he publicly supported the ‘keeper and wishes him well, but with Jose there always has to be something reflected back at him or his club, so in the statement it was about how amazing Chelski are to put the wishes of the player before anything else. It was an attempt to turn his back on the fact that Arsenal have improved and since the deal was announced he has probably gnashed his teeth down to stubby stumps, so I’m not surprised that he’s tried to spin a story his way. Whatever. The important thing is that we’re on cloud nine at them moment and with the Community Shield exactly one month from today, we’ve already got some football on the horizon to look forward to. Goody.

Carl Jenkinson looks to have his suitors upped by one this morning, as West Ham have expressed interest in his signature for another season and I hope the club do tie him down to another deal before he goes, because I still believe he can have a role to play. Bellerin may have stepped forward in the queue (typical Spanish!) for regular right-back football at Arsenal, but with Debuchy turning 31 by the time next season comes around, one more years experience of regular football for The Corporal will do him good. I’ve always said I thought him a good player and with more games under his belt he can get better, so in my mind it would be mad to sell him off to a club like West Ham just yet. Let him get his experience away from Arsenal and then, much as I hate to reference a Spud scenario, like Ryan Mason who didn’t break through in to the Spud first team until he had gone through a number of loan deals – or even Le Coq’s experiences on loan before breaking through – let those be an example that he can still have the belief that he can make it at Arsenal.

That’s pretty much all I gots for today for ya. Podolski may look like he’s on the brink of a move to Turkey, but there’s no point in writing his Arsenal career obituary until it’s actually happened, so I’ll say ‘toodle-ooo’ to you.

No surprises any more, but it’s still good we’re making statements like Cech

So yesterday, after all of the speculation, endless retelling of his impending arrival and all-round media bluster, Arsenal confirmed that Petr Cech was officially an Arsenal player.

I, like you, am very pleased. I’ll talk a little bit about the signing in a sec, but as I chewed the fat with a fellow Gooner in the office yesterday, I could not help but pine for the ‘old days’, when a transfer came out of the blue. Thanks to social media and the ever-instant access to information that we all now have, the Cech deal got to a stage where we all knew it was happening, it was just a matter of time. There was no “bloody hell, we’ve signed Bergkamp!” about the announcement yesterday, nor a legendary surprise like the one Arsène gave the media when introducing Sol Campbell to the assembled hacks, who thought we’d be announcing Richard Wright instead.

Perhaps I’m just guilty of being a little too nostalgic, but I preferred ignorance, because the positive surprise and excitement I got when any big name player signed for The Arsenal ten to 15 years ago was much greater than these days. Or perhaps I’m just getting a little older and longer in the tooth.

Whatever. The important thing is that we’ve gone big on bringing in an established and ‘world class’ goalie who can only improve our team. It is a position that many of us thought Arsène had sorted three or four years ago, but after an indifferent season for Szczesny and well documented off-pitch antics, the Pole’s position as number one has been usurped indefinitely for now it seems.

His response – I have to say – was the right one. He praised the signing and publicly, at least, said he’d be pleased to learn from such a player. That is what most Arsenal fans had assumed would be the position that Wenger would take, so it appears as though Szczesny seems to have accepted the challenge, whether or not he feels it’s still the case if he hasn’t been playing much come December, we’ll have to see. When you’re number one for as long as he was, do you want to slot comfortably back into a number two’s shoes? I’m not sure you do and with the Euro’s coming up next summer, it is quite strange to think of the turnaround between Fabianski and Szczesny as to who will most likely play in between the sticks for Poland.

If Szczesny seems to have accepted his role of deputy, what now of Ospina then? Clearly three goalkeepers with aspirations of football doesn’t fit, as we have recent examples of which when Viviano rolled in to town in what most Gooners now call his ‘gap year’. Something tells me Ospina won’t fancy a gap year and so it’s only a matter of time before he asks the boss for an exit. It is a shame because I don’t really think he’s done anything wrong, he just hasn’t really smashed Szczesny’s chances of winning his place back in to touch. It’s strange because it just feels like he’s a player who’s name wasn’t quite top billing enough to excite the fans and an increasingly ‘big name’ hungry modern fanbase who want to see stars or ‘Galacticos’ of varying degrees at the club they support.

But Cech is not just a big name, he’s a big game player too, and this new ruthless Arsène would have thought long and hard about this signing I’m sure. But ultimately, Le Boss will have come to the conclusion that sentiment is no longer soup de jour at Arsenal. He’s always said through countless interviews that if we could find a player in a position that will improve the team, then he would look at bringing them in. That’s what happened with Özil. Most of us thought we needed a striker that pre-season, but there wasn’t one Wenger deemed to be quality enough out there that he could get, but there was a Mesut Özil available and we got him. And aren’t we all glad he did!

The same happened last summer. There were plenty of people who thought Podolski was good enough as a wide left option. Sure, he didn’t do much else other than end product, but when you have somebody who is that good at finishing, do you need an upgrade? You do when that upgrade is world class. So Alexis came in and has been a revalation. 

Now we have Petr Cech. He will bring experience and quality to a defence and perhaps – although not the same mega money as the last two summer signings – he can have the same positive impact on the team as Özil and Alexis have had. We may well go out and buy another big name player who costs £40million, but it may be the Czech stopped who is the most significant acquisition this summer.

From a personality point of view he comes across very well indeed. Humble to the support of the Chelski fans (many of whom don’t really deserve it given the response I saw from some), whose at the same time talking up his new club, he looks very much a calming influence. And he’ll not need any time to settle in, either, because he’s already based in London and he’s even got one of his bezzie mates in the squad in the shape of Super Tom. I particularly liked the part of the Cech interview yesterday when he said that Rosicky’s influence helped to convince him to talk to Arsenal. 

Super Agent Rosicky. 

What it does show you is the influence that other players have on their fellow pros. Sure, it isn’t the main factor behind any deal, but these things can have an impact. It does make me find something positive in the international breaks though, that’s for sure!

Anyway, I’ve spent the last week and a half talking about Cech, so it’s time to start talking about something else tomorrow. Maybe we can speculate over a possible Theo Walcott contract signing, eh?

What Arsène wants is balance and harmony

So for yours truly here after 10 days of sunshine, Sagres and late morning get-ups, it’s back to work in Blighty and back to writing my daily musings at an hour in which I’d really rather be in bed. 

Oh well. At least I left with very little happening and will arrive today with the Cech deal surely to be announced, barring any issues with the Arsenal FC official photographers camera or roll of film and yes, I’m aware it’s all digital these days but that won’t stop me pining for the past.

The other news swimming about – and it has been for the past few days to be honest so I’m a little late to the party here – is the noise surrounding the possible Arturo Vidal deal to Arsenal for just over £20million. I don’t know how much of it is Chinese Whispers because every report I read over the weekend seemed to abstain itself of any legitimacy by simply referencing another media publication, who in turn reference another publication, but it sounds like a most unlikely transfer to me. Mainly because if there’s one position that I’d say we’re pretty well stocked, it’d be box-to-box midfielders, where Vidal has plied his trade for The Old Lady for the last couple of seasons. He started out as a tough tackling defensive midfielder, so perhaps you can see where he could fit in as competition for Le Coq, but it is not where he has been playing recently and if you’re going to spend upwards of £20million or more, surely you want a) to play the player in their best position, or b) to play the player regularly and not as a squad player.

Are we saying that Vidal is miles better than Coquelin at breaking up the play in defensive midfield? I must admit I don’t know enough about him other than the odd Chile game and occasionally seeing Juventus, but the evolution of Francis Coquelin has been quick, so who knows how much further our young Frenchman can go. 

At 28 Vidal also represents a player at the peak of his powers and also someone with no resale value. I’m not sure Arsène would countenance the idea of fluffing a load of cash like that on a player with whom we might see decline in a few years time. But then again, I saw somebody ask online whether Vidal would be Wenger’s equivalent of Ferguson rolling his last dice with The Dutch Bloke before winning the league and bowing out at Old Trafford. Perhaps Arsène is doing the same knowing that this upcoming season and the one after that will be his last.

All we really know is that there is a little more noise about this rumour than usual. Usually you get a paper having a bit of a punt and then the story disappearing. This one might be a little frivolous, but it has managed to stick around in the media over the whole weekend, so who knows.

What I know – and you do too – is that Arsène is all about the harmony and balance in his squad and if he believes he’s got a little gem in Coquelin, he ain’t going out and sqwarking over £20million on a back up. I could see anything up to £8 – £10million like Nacho who was bought to rival Gibbs, but I couldn’t see big bucks spent on a player lik Vidal, or Schneiderlin for that matter. If the guy commands a £25million fee and a £150k per week salary then good luck to him, but I can see why Le Boss said ‘non’ to his fellow Frenchman. Schneiderlin may well turn out to be the real deal at United, but it’s difficult to see how he could be a top earner at Arsenal at the moment. Think about Falcao. Top earner along with Rooney, yet had about as much impact on the United team as up-and-coming youngster Tyler Blackett, so if United want to take a punt because they need a body in that position then it makes sense. We already have one. And he’s proven he’s a good one too.

Anyway, that’s me for today. I’ll be checking the site later for special discounts off headgear. There might even be a new signing attached to one.

Nothing against Poldi, but we’ve been upgrading since he arrived

With all the talk of new signings and the like so far this summer, I seem to have completely forgotten about some of the existing players whose future is in the air for the opposite reasons, i.e. they’ll most likely be shipped out of the club.

So with Lukas Podolski admitting that his Italian adventure hadn’t really gone as planned and that he intends to return to The Arsenal again this summer, it feels like I’ve regained a bit of focus about the pressing need Arsene has to balance his squad. As is fairly obvious enough to everyone the world over, life is not linear and unlike a computer game in which you can offload players at a whim when you’re looking to reshape your squad, the reality is often very different.

I feel a bit for Podolski. I don’t actually think he’s had such a bad career at Arsenal to date. He arrived for a relatively decent price with a good reputation, quickly established himself as an ‘end product only’ player and has scored some important and great goals. But he fell victim to our circumstances. Arsenal have been a steadily improving – squad wise I mean – club since his arrival and our financial fire power have seen us look to replace players in the same position each year. Podolski was a decent option for us. Alright, his overall game was limited and many people started to see what he was about after about a year and a half, but when you compare him to previous players like Arshavin or Bendtner, who have both operated in that wide left position, he wasn’t a player that we were all scratching our heads about when he was in the starting line up.

We simply upgraded, that’s all, and unfortunately for Poldi we upgraded from the equivalent of an iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 6 in the shape of Alexis. Suddenly everything worked better, was faster and the result was a heck of a lot of goals and a player who has shown us that you can be skilful, score lots of goals and still contribute to a high press and tracking back if you have the application.

It’s the same in the goalkeeping stakes. I don’t think Ospina has really done that bad this season and, if I’m honest, if Cech wasn’t about to essentially land on Wenger’s lap (because he wants to leave Chelski and stay in London and even the Spuds – for now – have a ‘keeper so they aren’t looking) I don’t think he’d be looking too much in that position. Arsene has said on multiple occasions that he would only buy when he finds that type of exceptional world class player, and whilst there was a time where you and I would look up to the heavens and roll our eyes as Arsene bought in the Chamakh’s of this world, where we are at the moment is that you can see why and when he’s upgrading players. When we bring in an Alexis to replace Poldi, that’s a world class upgrade. If Cech comes in for Ospina, that’s a world class upgrade. It’s football Darwinism, man.

Perhaps that is what is about to happen to Sanogo too. He’s apparently wanted on loan by Lille and if Arsene does go out and buy another striker – I’m not sure he will because we’ve got Alexis, Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott who could all profess to be very good players in that position – then you really can’t see any future for Sanogo. He joined the club at a time in which it seemed a relatively low-risk (in terms of cost of signing and reputation of the player) and we were counting our pennies more than we have. He was a bit of a gamble and another loan spell next season surely means his days as a potential first-teamer are numbered. Wenger like’s a project and for a while it seemed like he might be given more time, again we’ve simply upgraded our team and he has become one of the natural victims of our increased quality.

That’s what you have to do if you want a squad capable of winning the league. You have to be ruthless and there might be players that us fans see as decent enough to play for the club, but when a better one comes along, you need to trade in your own phone for an improved design with better modifications. That’s what Moneychester City and Chelski do. They have good players and they get better players in to move those good players further down the pecking order. Schurrle, for example, was a very good player, but he wasn’t the elite player that Mourinho was after. Dzeko is widely recognised as a great forward, but when you’ve got Sergio Aguero in your team then you have one of the world’s best.

So when the time comes for Ospina, Podolski and Sanogo to move on, other than back in the ‘deadwood’ days where we’d be glad to be shot of players like Denilson, I will hope they do well at other clubs and thank them for their relatively short times at the club.

The saga continues to rumble, but we have a Dragon(mir)!!

We’re now at Day 972 (or what feels like) of the Petr Cech t Arsenal and I must say Sky Sports have played this out to the best of their ability. Maybe they’re right, maybe their wrong, but their sources have run through the entire gambit of different stages of a transfer. Each time a new bit of information is added and as a result a new day brings about yet more transfer salivating fans like you and I who are really quite bored with the whole ‘no football in summer’ thing.

I tell you, It’s that desperate that I’d welcome a European Championships or World Cup. I have avoid the Copa America though – it’s on too late for my liking.

Anyway, Sky Sports and their ‘Transfer dragging storytelling 101′ have truly played it remarkably, with us now into the final stages of the saga:

  • Club express interest
  • Player and people close express interest in transfer
  • Clubs discuss possibility of transfer to work out if it can happen
  • Player agrees terms
  • Club agrees fees
  • Player signed

Then as an Arsenal fan, you’ll be aware of the next two stages:

  • Photographs taken of player
  • Wee bit of teasing from the club before official announcement on the Arsenal website

So we’ve still got a smidge of time to go through before we get the confirmation. It’s all very frustrating and whilst I am guilty of eeking this out because of the lack of other news available and on my doorstep that I can blog about, I like to be on the cynical “yeah, but all of the football websites are doing it for clicks” side of the fence, because I make the square root of naff all on this website. So In my strange and illogical mind, that makes my hands a little bit cleaner when it comes to getting you to read my waffle.

Anyway, I have been thinking about avoiding any more talk of the Cech transfer until it happens. Might mean my thoughts start to veer into the non-footballing world, so prepare yourself for it, that’s all I’m saying.

Oh, wait, no, I’ve just come across a signing! Under 16 Romanian Captain Vlad Dragonmir! What a name. Please let the guy turn out to be brilliant. Imagine having a name like that in your line up. It sounds like something from Thor and would strike terror into opponents. I wonder if Vlad carries a spear and a shield on to the pitch before battle. I wonder if he dreams of a glorious death and ride on the Valkyries into Asgaard?

One things for sure, with a name like that, he’s going to get a heck of a lot of stick so let’s hope he lives up to the billing of his name. And when I say ‘lives up to’, I mean that I don’t want to see him coming on as a sub unless he has a huge helmet with wings on and is carried on to the field by a chariot, before slaying the opposition and declaring the Emirates Stadium as Vlad Country. Vince McMahon will appear to add a bit of drama at halftime, but he’ll receive a chair to the back of the head by the Undertaker, who will then call Vlad out for a ‘winner takes all’ cage match to determine the future of the Premier League trophy in a fight to the death. Or at least until somebody taps out.

On the bench, an astounded Petr Cech watches on, having second thoughts about whether he should sign for Arsenal, having spent the previous four years ‘locked in negotiations.

Sky have the whole story covered in a series of articles on their website dating back years.

Krystian Bielik wonders what he could have become, had he had a name with which fantastical stories can be written about for him.