There is a massive match today, and at the risk of sounding uncannily like manager Arsene Wenger, I’d like to talk solely about that. However, with the window creaking towards closing, inevitably there is transfer news on the agenda.
It appears that Arsenal are about to sign South Korea striker Park Chu-Young. After Monaco were relegated last season, Park, who is captain of his country, has spent the summer searching for a move. It seemed he’d found it when French champions Lille agreed a fee of €3m + €2m add-ons. He underwent a medical, and this morning Lille president Michel Seydoux sought out Park at his hotel to finalise the contract.
Only, Park wasn’t there.
A series of furious phone calls to Monaco and the player’s representatives confirmed Seydoux’s fears: Park had travelled to England, to meet with Arsenal.
Park was as surprised as anyone; the deal has come from nowhere. On Friday, Arsene confirmed Arsenal’s desire to sign a striker – a decision motivated by the impending departure of Nicklas Bendtner and the fact Joel Campbell has been denied a work permit. That evening, Arsenal informed Monaco of their interest. By Saturday morning, a formal bid had arrived, and Arsene Wenger had spoken to Park on the telephone. As soon as he received the call, the player departed for London.
It’s an intriguing signing, and in my eyes a positive one. A couple of days ago I didn’t think Arsene was going to buy a striker, so I’ll be delighted if we do secure one. Some fans seem disappointed by he player’s relatively low profile and price-tag, but I think they’re odd criteria by which to judge a signing.
Even so, I expect bigger names to arrive in the areas which require more significant strengthening: defence and midfield. Speaking of which, Owen Coyle’s criticism of Gary Cahill’s performance at Anfield, suggesting the player has had his “head turned”, seem to me to be further evidence of a club preparing for the player’s departure.
Anyway. More of Park, Cahill and others in the coming days of frenzied activity. For now, for today, it’s Manchester United at Old Trafford.
First: team news. As you all know, the Arsenal squad is currently decimated by injuries and suspensions. From the game against Udinese we lose Song, Gervinho and Frimpong (all suspended), who join the likes of Gibbs, Squillaci, Wilshere, Diaby and Bendtner on the sidelines.
Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal. Thomas Vermaelen will form the bedrock of our defence, with his first-choice partner Laurent Koscielny hopefully able to be picked alongside him. There were some rumours yesterday that Bacary Sagna was suffering from a stomach bug – assuming he recovers, he’s likely to continue at left-back with Carl Jenkinson on the other flank.
The central midfield trio will be comprised of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and another. The likes of Oguzhan Özyakup and Francis Coquelin have reportedly been called up to the first team squad, but I suspect Arsene will go with Johan Djourou in a holding role. The Swiss defender began his career as a midfielder and should be comfortable enough in that position.
The attack picks itself: captain Robin van Persie will be flanked by the in-form Theo Walcott and out-of-sorts Andrey Arshavin.
United have started the season in fine fettle, with plenty of new blood to supplement the established set. They’re champions and favourites for this year’s title. Arsenal, meanwhile, have spent the first part of the season lurching from one disaster to the next, until the reprieve granted by defeating Udinese in the Champions League qualifier. All of that means that we start this game as massive underdogs – a position which ought to suit us.
Considering this is always a huge fixture, we go in to it under remarkably little pressure. Hopefully that will liberate some of the younger players in our side, and allow us to at least make a decent fist of it. The squad strengthening that will happen between now and Wednesday could dramatically alter our season – but, arguably, a positive result today could be more.
We’re due a win at Old Trafford. And we’re due some luck. A victory, or even a convincing performance, could rarely be more timely.
Come On You Gunners.