Considering the transfer window is firmly shut, it’s unsurprising that my thoughts have been entirely on the on-field action. However, away, from the pitch, Arsenal have also been making plenty of headlines. With some brief respite in our fixture list, here’s a quick look at some of the major contractual shenanigans of the last fortnight:
Tomas Rosicky’s new deal
The timing of the announcement of this deal is significant. Contract negotiations are a long, drawn-out process: Rosicky and the club will have been in talks over the past few months. Had a deal been concluded and made public eight weeks or so ago, the fan reaction would have been very different. At that stage Rosicky looked a shadow of the player Arsenal signed from Dortmund in 2006.
His recent form, however, has been startling, and I for one am delighted to see him staying. I don’t buy the argument that he’s been “playing for a new contract” – as I’ve already stated, Arsenal will have decided to try and extend his deal some time ago. It’s possible he’s been boosted by the manager’s show of faith. What’s far more likely is that he’s benefitting from his first run of starts in years. His combination of game-accelerating turns and passing and quite immaculate slide-tackles have been a vital component in our recent good run.
Handing Rosicky a two-year deal also represents a change of policy for Arsene Wenger, who had previously only offered players over thirty one year extensions. There will have been various factors involved in that gear-shift, many of them economic, but he has also doubtless been influenced by seeing the value of experienced squad members at other clubs, like Manchester United. The influence of Thierry Henry during his brief return to the club doubtless also gave Arsene food for thought.
The possible arrival of Lukas Podolski
The latest on this is that Dave Woods of the Daily Star reports that Podolski has now undertaken and passed a medical for Arsenal. This would not surprise me, and it’s worth noting that the Star are very close to certain influential members of the Arsenal hierarchy. It seems that whilst there are a few details of the transfer to iron out, Koln, Arsenal and Podolski all seem to have a determination for the deal to be done.
It’s hard to argue that this is anything but a good signing. A fee of little over £10m for a player with almost 100 caps for Germany is extraordinary business. Anyone who has seen Podolski play for Germany will have admired his pace, finishing, and ability to break quickly from the left-flank. This season, he’s been in great goalscoring form, and after an ill-fated spell at Bayern Munich a few years back will be determined to make his mark at a big European club.
At 26, he is another example of the shifting age profile of Arsene’s signings. Should the deal be completed he’ll add another finisher to the squad – something that the likes of Marouane Chamakh and Ju-Young Park have been unable to provide.
The future of Robin van Persie
Some have speculated that Podolski could be arriving as a replacement for Robin van Persie. That is certainly not Arsene’s plan. The club will make every effort to keep Van Persie, and hope to be able to deploy him alongside the German in our front three.
I can’t pretend to know what Robin will decide to do, but my gut tells me that if he feels Arsenal can challenge credibly for trophies in the next three years, he will stay. He loves the club, he loves the role of captain, and he wants to make it work. His decision will be influenced more by ambition than by money: Arsenal will be happy to make him the highest-paid player in their history.
The Times are reporting that Spurs are about to beat Arsenal to the signing of this Belgian defender. Good luck to them: my information is that Arsenal are not interested in signing a centre-half this summer. Whilst I don’t doubt we have kept a watchful eye on a talent like Vertonghen, Arsene currently believes the quartet of Koscielny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Djourou, with Miquel and Song available as back-up, is strong enough. And I’d be inclined to agree.
Right, that’s yer lot. Now back to the football.