Tough to turn down £20m+ for Nasri

Reports emerged last night that two weeks ago, Manchester United submitted a formal bid of £20m for Samir Nasri.  Today, Nasri is due back at London Colney, where he is widely expected to tell Arsene Wenger he wishes to leave Arsenal.  With just twelve months to go on his contract, and the risk of losing him for free in twelve months, that £20m looks very tempting indeed.

I don’t want to lose Nasri.  His form last season was outstanding.  In an idea world, he would sign the £90,000 p/week contract on offer and stay.  The reality, however, is that he can probably earn double that elsewhere.  And, in his estimation, stand a better chance of winning trophies.

I don’t think there’s any point in keeping the player if he says he won’t sign a new deal.  We’ll be left with a guy whose heart simply isn’t in it anymore, and furthermore we won’t make a penny pack on the £13m we shelled out for him in 2008.

He’s a good player but he’s far from irreplaceable, and with £20m+ in the bank we ought to be able to find someone of similar ability – the links to Valencia’s Juan Mata are strengthening daily.  The prospect of him joining United will sicken both Arsene and the fans, so a move to Manchester City or indeed abroad would be preferable.  However, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that I’d rather see £20m reinvested in a player who actually wants to be at Arsenal than make a point of principle by keeping Nasri against his will.

One player who won’t be replacing him is Ricky Alvarez.  The Argentinian midfielder was close to agreeing a move to Arsenal, until Inter Milan swooped in with a late bid.  Their Argentine contingent, plus the fact that Alvarez’ Italian grandfather was an Inter fan, swung the balance in favour of the Italians.  From what I’ve read and seen the signing of Alvarez would’ve represented a big gamble at a time when we need established quality, so we shouldn’t shed too many tears.

According to just about every media outlet in Britain and France, Gervinho was over here for a medical yesterday and to discuss personal terms.  An announcement on that deal should be imminent if he’s going to be on the plane to the Far East on Sunday.

Our only summer signing thus far, full-back Carl Jenkinson, has begun pre-season training, and will wear the number 25 shirt next season.  Pictures of him and the rest of the squad in action are available here.

Look at that: a whole blog post and I haven’t mentioned Cesc Fabregas/Barcelona once.

Exodus; Chapter 1: Goodbye Gael

It has begun.

For the past few days Arsenal fans have been reading stories linking a number of first-team players with moves away from the club.  Yesterday, Gael Clichy became the first card to fall when he joined Manchester City in a deal valued at around £7m.

It’s a funny one really.  Clichy is one of those players I’ve never really imagined leaving the club.  I guess it’s because he broke in to the first-team squad so young, and is in some respect synonymous with Arsene’s reign, straddling both the Invincibles era and the current crop.  It’s a bit like when Kolo Toure left – they’re players I imagined growing old at Arsenal, instead moved on to pastures new.  And both have ended up at Manchester City.  Coincidence?  Probably not – they’re good friends, and a few quid doesn’t half soften the blow of leaving the club you love.

I remember when I first saw Clichy play as a seventeen year old triallist at Barnet.  I couldn’t believe his speed and the similarities with our first-team left-back with the time: Ashley Cole.  After some injury plagued early years, Arsene Wenger eventually saw fit to choose Clichy as Cole’s successor, with mixed results.  Whilst Clichy undoubtedly gave everything and was occasionally a driving force from left-back, he was also prone to high profile lapses of concentration – never more so than last season.

With his contract a year from expiry and the player seemingly seeking a new challenge, we had little choice but to sell.  There are, it seems, no hard feelings on Arsene’s part:

“We would like to thank Gael for eight years of terrific service to Arsenal, during which time he gave absolutely everything for the Club. He has grown and developed so much since joining us in 2003, and has been a crucial part of the team over recent seasons. Gael leaves with our respect and best wishes. We wish him the very best for his future career.”

Whilst Gael said:

“I have had eight fantastic years at Arsenal and made many friends. I have so many great memories from my time at Highbury and Emirates Stadium. I would like to say thank you to everyone at Arsenal for all of their support and friendship. I also want to send a big thank you to all the Arsenal supporters, who have always been so good to me.”

Arsene now has to decide whether to buy in an experienced replacement, or instead try to repeat the succession trick he pulled with Cole/Clichy with Kieran Gibbs.  It’ll certainly appeal to the economist in him, and he might come out with a few quotes about how buying a left-back could “kill” Gibbs’ career.  The problem is that Gibbs is so injury prone that he’s as likely to “kill” himself in a freak shaving incident.

Armand Traore is seeking a move, so we can’t possibly go in to next season with just one specialist left-back.  Some have suggested moving Thomas Vermaelen across, but there seems to me little logic in displacing your best centre-back.

I think he has to buy.  Both Leighton Baines and Jose Enrique have been mentioned, and both seem like sensible purchases: good going forwards and backwards, with Premier League experience.  Wait and see, I suppose.

Any kind of signing strategy will be dependent on what happens to Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.  Reading the papers today, the press discuss their departure as an inevitability.  I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that, but there is a common thread between Clichy, Nasri and Cesc that worries me: Darren Dein.  The son of former Arsenal vice-chairman David, Darren is working as a representative for all the mentioned players in their negotiations with our club and others.  Worryingly, he’s also recently begun acting on behalf Robin van Persie.  He’s the man who took Thierry Henry to Barcelona, and if he can repeat the trick with Cesc this summer he’ll pocket himself more than a few bob.

For so many stars at a club of our stature to want away speaks volumes.  As the back end of last season showed, something is deeply wrong.  Even those outside the club can see it.

Some reports say that the captain will meet Arsene Wenger today, and restate his desire to leave.  Nasri is expected do the same when he returns to Colney on Thursday.

For now, we wait.  Wait to see if Cesc and Nasri get the moves they want, and if Arsene responds accordingly.  If they do go, this exodus will come to represent two things: the failure of an idealistic but ultimately flawed project, and the potential start of a new era for the club.  One in which results takes precedence over prettiness and penny-pinching.

For now, though, we just wait.

July 1st is here. Let the mayhem commence.

Today is July 1st.  It is, for all intents and purposes, a day like any other.

Except, that is, for the Arsenal-supporting inhabitants of Twitter, who seem to have spent the last fortnight or so convincing themselves that the lack of transfer activity is due entirely to the fact that the transfer window ‘officially’ opens on this arbitrary dates.  Never mind the fact that other clubs (notably Manchester United) have set about doing their business already, or that Arsenal have actually already signed someone (the Anglo-Finn defender Carl Jenkinson).  A certain section of our supporters expect today to be a parade of press conferences, in which Gervinho, Ricky Alvarez, Gary Cahill and the still-living Elvis Presley are unveiled as the latest additions to the Arsenal squad.

It’s not entirely their fault.  The press have contributed to this myth too, with the Dailly Mirror suggesting a week or so ago that a trio of signings would be unveiled.  I have to say, I consider it extremely unlikely that any player will be joining the club today – even if some of those moves are imminent.  If anything does get tied up today, I doubt it has anything to do with the mystical ‘July 1st’.

It’s not a date that passes entirely without significance, though.  Within the club, July 1st has been spoken about since the Spring as the deadline for Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri to put pen to paper on new deals.  As you all know, neither has done, and Clichy’s departure now seems imminent, with reliable sources indicating that a fee of £7m has been agreed with Manchester City.

If the move goes through, I wish Gael all the best.  He’s served the club well for eight years and given his all – although some would suggest his all has not been quite good enough to bring the club the success it craves. £7m for a left-back with a year left on his contract is a good deal, and hopefully enough to give the club the chance to identify a worthy successor. Kieran Gibbs’ susceptibility to injury makes it impossible to rely on him across the course of an entire season.

With Arsenal and City locked in discussions over Clichy, it was probably inevitable that someone would link the super-rich Mancs with Samir Nasri. Nasri continues to stall on discussions over a new deal, and City could offer him wages that Arsenal simply aren’t prepared to pay. However, whilst Nasri is doubtless on City’s radar, there has been (contrary to reports) no concrete bid. The longer this drags on, and the closer to his contract’s expiry date we go, the more power Nasri holds, so I suspect he’ll be happy to sit back and let this one play out. If City’s interest firms up, it could enable us to cash in on a player who we risk losing for free in twelve months time.

With Barca having reportedly submitted a second bid for Cesc Fabregas of around £35m, we face a very uncertain week or two at the club, which could see three first-team players heading to the exit door.  We thought we’d be losing the dead wood – the Denilsons, Rosickys and Bendtners – and instead we could be losing the last Invincible and a couple of real stars.  It is, thus far, a very Arsenal summer.

Finally today, it amused me to read that Hector Bellerin, the latest youth we’ve poached from Barca, has already said he hopes to return to Barca one day. Talk about Groundhog day.

Transfer update: Cesc, Alvarez, Diaby & Gordon

Hello all.  Quite wanted to write this blog yesterday but, frankly, London was too hot.  It was muggier than the room containing the world’s largest collection of mugs, and I was sweating like I had hyperhidrosis.

Today, however, things have returned to normal somewhat with the promise of thunder, lightning, and lots and lots of rain.  And, of course, with a story about Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona all over our back pages.  Yesterday the BBC published an article quoting a ‘senior Arsenal official’ as saying:

“The offer was made formally in writing to our chief executive (Ivan Gazidis), and we said no straight away.”

Asked if the club expected another bid, the source said:

“Possibly. If it’s enough I expect we’ll have to sell.”

Which is as close to an admission of availability as you’re going to get, and rather different in tone from the bullishness of twelve months ago.

It looks to me as if we’re trying to smoke out Barca’s interest early in the summer.  If their second offer is in the region of £40m, a deal will be done.  If it’s not, they can forget about it for another twelve months.  Cesc is privately insisting he has no interest in agitating for a move, so the ball is firmly in Barca’s court.  With their bid for Alexis Sanchez seemingly stalling, perhaps there’ll be some movement on this one within the next seven days.

The latest on Ricky Alvarez is that our interest is definitely concrete.  There has been contact between the player’s agent and Arsenal executives, and negotiations with his club, Velez Sarsfield, have begun.  It still seems an odd signing, but at this stage it’s impossible to guess how many could leave the club this summer.

One who looks like staying is Abou Diaby, after sources close to the player told me Arsenal had rebuffed a £10m offer from a Turkish club for his services.  I’m sure that’ll drive some of you potty – it seems like a good deal to me, too – but perhaps with the possibility of both Denilson and Fabregas leaving this summer Arsene feels the need to hold on to the remaining central midfielders.

Finally, a few people on Twitter have been linking us with Sunderland’s Scottish goalkeeper Craig Gordon.  It’s nonsense.  I’d be surprised if we bought a goalkeeper at all this summer.

For now, I don’t know anything more about Gary Cahill, Gervinho, or others.  It might be of interest to you that Arsenal.com have launched our 125th anniversary away kit, which instead appears to be a 124th anniversary Wycombe home kit.

Tata for now.

Ricardo Alvarez agrees contract with mystery club

Supposed Arsenal target Ricardo Alvarez has agreed a deal with an unnamed club.

Sources close to the player have told Gunnerblog that any club entering negotiations at this point is wasting their time – Alvarez has an “agreed commitment” to a mystery club.

Intriguingly, an hour or so after I posted this news to Twitter, journalist James Horncastle quoted Palermo chief Zamparini as saying he has missed out on Alvarez as he “has already signed for Arsenal”.  The full story, in Italian, is here.

Whether or not this turns out to be true remains to be seen.  Zamparini is not the most reliable of sources, and the newly wealthy Malaga are also rumoured to be on the case.

Alvarez holds an Italian passport, so would not require a work permit for any move.

I’d be lying if I said if I knew he was any good, but nonetheless, here’s some video clips so you can get unduly excited about the possibility of his arrival: