The All-singing, All-dancing Arshavin Show continues…

I confess.  I have lied to you.

There will be no dancing.

And if you thought that was good, how about this for showboating:

Pull that off at Old Trafford, and I’ll be impressed.

I know it sounds strange considering the life-changing importance of those videos, but there isn’t much actual news about, and anything you do find floating around is just Arshavin-related guff: “Ten things you didn’t know about Andrey Arshavin’s mum”, “Exclusive video of Arshavin skinning a seal”, “Arshavin: What it was like growing up in Russia as an owl” etc.

There are a couple of stories floating around suggesting Aston Villa are to launch a complaint about Arshavin’s transfer being completed 24 hours after the deadline has passed.  I can’t help but feel the press are trying to create a story out of nothing – Villa themselves are absolutely silent on the matter.  The FA and the Premier League have both signed off on the deal, and he is now our player.  There is nothing that anyone can do about it.  Worth noting also that Stephen Kelly’s move to Stoke, completed a full 48 hours after the deadline, has passed without comment.

Arsene Wenger will speak to ArsenalTV today in an interview that subscribers will be able to see on Friday morning.  It’ll be the first time he speaks publically about the Arshavin transfer and his plans for the player, but what is arguably a more pressing matter is the team news for Sunday’s game at White Hart Lane.

As far as I understand, Abou Diaby will miss out with suspension (and may be injured on top of that), whilst Emmanuel Eboue is a doubt.  That could leave us with a midfield of Nasri, Ramsey, Song, and Denilson, which is a long way from ideal.  Some time between now and the game I’ll be speaking to my mate Adam to see just what the Spurs fans make of their bizarre, time-machine-esque transfer policy.

Don’t forget out yesterday’s competition to win an Arshavin t-shirt.  The deadline is midnight tonight (London-time), and winners will be announced tomorrow.  Till then.

More Arshavin Reaction + Competition

So, Andrey (as the club have officially registered him) Arshavin is finally an Arsenal player.  More than a month after our opening bid, and a full 24 hours after the transfer deadline had passed, his deal was rubber-stamped and the transfer went through.  A little bit of joy and a lottle bit of relief ensued, and now, with our transfer-thirst quenched, attention can turn to the serious stuff: the football that remains in this challenging season.

As soon as the deal was announced, Arshavin emerged from the Emirates Stadium to greet the fans who had assembled to celebrate his arrival.  He also gave his first interview as an Arsenal player, and you can watch that here.  He comes across very well, and his English is pretty good.  There’s one particularly amusing comment about International colleague and Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko: “He is not a friend of mine”.

Of course, many are wondering if the two Russians will face off at the weekend, but I reckon that’s unlikely.  Arshavin will now return to St. Petersburg to collect his toothbrush and obtain the neccessary documentation to secure his work permit.  Considering the fact that he will have barely trained with us, let alone played at anything approaching a competetive level since November, it may be a couple of weeks before he’s even considered for selection.

Arsene Wenger said he was “delighted” to sign Arshavin, and added:

“He is a player I have admired for a long time. He is a versatile player with great experience, who will add real quality to our squad. Andrey is an exciting impact player with a huge amount of ability and has been an influential force with both Zenit St Petersburg and the Russian national team in recent seasons.”

Whilst new CEO Ivan Gazidis commented:

“Andrey was identified by Arsène as a quality creative player that would add something special to this youthful but talented squad. The Board has always backed the manager with his transfer targets and we are delighted to welcome Andrey to the Club where he will help us to challenge for honours this season.”

Although Ken Friar did most of the negotiating on this deal, it’s good for Gazidis to have the first signing of his time at the club under his belt.  Having been at the club for just over a month now, he has given his first major interview to The Times – and giving it a read over, it seems the club’s ethos has already got under his skin.  Dealing with Zenit has obviously made some impression on him though, as he compares life in the Premier League to the Wild West – understandable, when it was clearly such a complicated and difficult deal.

Amidst the Arshavin hullabaloo there was one deal I think I neglected to mention, which was that Portugese striker Rui Fonte joined Crystal Palace on loan.  He’s a slight lad but very talented, and I hope he does well there.

West Brom went out of the FA Cup to Burnley last night, which means we know now who we’ll face in the fifth round.  Bizzarely, due to our game against Cardiff being rescheduled for the 16th, we may well know our route to the semi-finals before we’ve even played our fourth round tie.

After that brief, distinctly un-Owly interlude: a competition.  Our friends over at arseshirts have given me one of these rather cracking Arshavin t-shirts (pictured right) to give away, made from the purest owl-skin.

To win, simply email your name and address to arshavincomp@gunnerblog.com, and answer me this question:

Who is better: Andrei Arshavin or Emmanuel Eboue?

The correct entries will be entered into a lottery, and the winner announced on Friday.  No cheating, now – if I find out any of you have been using wikipedia or something I will be severely hacked off.

I’ll be giving away a different, yet equally handsome Arshavin t-shirt to one of my twitter followers.  Keep an eye on my tweets today for details of that competition and how you can win.

And with that, we close the chapter on the transfer window and a real soap opera in Gunnerblog’s brief history (at least, I hope it’s the end – there better be no truth in any stories of legal wranglings).  I’m sorry for any misinformation I brought you, but I really was going hell for leather to try and get to the bottom of this deal.  Over the past few weeks I’ve pestered the FA, the Premier League, the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, and various agents to try and uncover the latest on one of the most complicated transfer deals I can remember.  And not because I want to rack up hits, but because I have a nigh-childlike level of excitement about transfers.  I steadfastly refuse to be cynical about it – there is something undeniably thrilling about your club capturing a player you’ve long admired, and when it comes to Arshavin that is undoubtedly the case.  Thankfully, we’ve pulled this one off, and now attention can refocus on what is a massive game with Spurs at the weekend.

If we were to win, the morale of the fans would be higher than it’s been in a long while.  Let’s make it happen.

Ourshavin

Finally.

At last, Arshavin signs...

Many fans said they wouldn’t believe it until they saw him pictured in the kit.  Well folks, it’s done.  Andrei Arshavin has signed for Arsenal on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee.

Throughout yesterday’s nightmarish negotiations, I was in contact with the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, who were always confident that a deal would be completed.  AST Board member Tim Payton tonight told me:

“Arsenal deserve credit for keeping their nerve and not having paid over the odds for Arshavin. We must remember that Zenit wanted £30m last summer and £20m at Christmas. They have ended up with less than £15m. It amazes me that some supporters have suggested that we should have given up another £5million just to get it over with.

Arsenal’s money is actually the supporter’s money. Pay over the odds now and there is less for the new contract for Robin Van Persie or a need to raise ticket prices. At the AST we believe the Board have to look after the finances as custodians. That means carefully spending only what we can afford.

Arsenal’s approach is very consistent. They never comment on transfer specualtion. It might be frustrating for some but it is right. If the dignify the made up stories by commenting it only inflates them, if they comment on genuine targets it makes the chances of landing the transfer harder to achieve.

Part of the problem is that the on-line media and blog sites give agents the platform to try and manipulate transfers. And the media have a herd like mentality. So when Sky Sports News got it wrong yesterday, they all followed. Except for the AST who stuck by our understanding that the transfer was in its final stages,
and would be completed.

It is an encouraging start for Ivan Gazidis. One target from Arsene, one player secured. Let us hope it is the first of a successful track record.”

What they say about driving the price down is absolutely right – I’m hearing from some channels that, in spite of what Zenit claim, the “undisclosed” fee is no more £10m plus £2m in add-ons.  If that is indeed all that we paid, it has to be looked upon as a very good price indeed.

More on this tomorrow, including quotes from his first interview as an Arsenal player.  For now, I think we all need a break from this.

Not for the first time, I was wrong

The FA’s Director of Communications, Adrian Bevington, has spoken to the Russian media about the Andrei Arshavin deal:

“Yes, it’s true, the transfer is in doubt. There is a chance it will take us 2-3 days. The odds are 50/50. If the transfer is declared invalid, Arshavin will be returned to Zenit. We can’t rule this out. I don’t think that would be a severe ruling: both clubs had a lot of time to complete it during the window.”

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

The worst thing about this, almost worse than the potential cancellation of the deal, is the prolonged agony of waiting.

Doubtless this line will soon hit the English press. Should be a whole lot of fun.

Sorry folks.  I unwittingly led you up the garden path.  The FA have just confirmed to me that these quotes were entirely made up.  So we can probably afford to calm down a bit.

The official line from the Premier League, meanwhile, is that there are still several transfers pending approval – of which Arshavin is one.

Sorry for the scare.

UPDATE: Looks good guys.  Looks very good.

Deadline Day Round-up: Arshav-In or not?

Yesterday’s Transfer Deadline Day was a truly gruelling epic, with more u-turns than the Rainbow Road track on Mario Kart.  And even as I type this – some eight hours after the deadline closed – we are in the incredible situation of not knowing whether or not we have actually managed to sign Andrei Arshavin.

It began so promisingly.  The morning saw SkySportsNews cameras capture footage of Arshavin just minutes from Arsenal’s training ground and indeed my own home.  However, just as I was about to trudge out in to the snow to try and catch a glimpse of the owly one, Sky broke the news that Arshavin was “heading to a London aiport”, and that his agent, Dennis Lachter, was insisting the deal was “200% off”.

Now, later in the day, when the deal began to look considerably more “on”, it was suggested to me by various parties that this ‘deal collapse’ had been spun by the club to put the frighteners on Zenit.  It’s a theory that made plenty of sense at the time.  However, I’m not sure that had it just been a stunt, Lachter would’ve been quite so vicious as in these quotes:

“We’re very disappointed, a deal has been worked on for nine months. First it was Tottenham last summer, now Arsenal.  What’s the problem with this deal? Money as always. The Russians are animals and how can Arsenal offer less than £15m and half of Arshavin’s contract?

He’s getting €3.875m and the club is offering half. Who would take another job for half the money? Arsenal have been making big waves by saying this would be the big historic transfer in the history of the Gunners. Well, it’s bull. They thought they could pull this off by saying we are a big club, this is a nice country, all that stuff. But he’s not a 16-year-old from Africa. The life in England is more expensive – a car, a house, it’s all more expensive in London, and he has to bring his family, he has one kid who is three years old, another who is one years old. It’s ridiculous.”

Well, it seems the impoverished Arshavin’s demands were eventually settled, as sources at the remarkably helpful Arsenal Supporters’ Trust were quick to inform me that the Russian was not leaving the country, and was instead at Highbury House finalising his contract.

Those reports were later corroborated (or stolen?) by Sky TV, and later news of an agreed fee, personal terms, and successful medical followed.  The deal was all in place, with the exception, we were repeatedly told, of £2.5m that Zenit were demanding Arshavin hand them back.

And so we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And the deadline came and went.  And then, disaster struck.

Our old friend, Zenit spokesperson Alexey Petrov, declared that a deal was “definitely off”.  It was calamitous, it was sickening, and it was therefore almost inevitably true.  However, within about twenty minutes, General Direct Maxim Mitrofanov appeared to utter his now well-known catchprase: “negotations are ongoing”.

No, you haven’t misread: the deadline had passed, Zenit had declared there was no deal, and then suddenly the transfer was somehow resurrected for a second time.  In the next few hours some kind of settlement was arrived at that suited all parties, with Arsene Wenger confident a deal would be confirmed that evening.  The Russian Press have since speculated that the player agreed to pay Zenit around £1.5m for breaking his contract in order to smooth over his departure.

Arshavin praying for Arsenal moveWell as you now know, a deal wasn’t confirmed that evening.  The hours sped by, and eventually news reached us via motormouth Dennis Lachter (surprise surprise) that no deal can be ratified until tomorrow.  My sources at the Premier League indicate this is no cause for concern: they simply wanted to allow their staff to get home in the difficult weather conditions, meaning there is a backlog of transfers that need to be confirmed later this morning.  Arsenal have been silent on the matter, but Zenit have confirmed to the Russian media  that a deal has been done and the figures will be released tomorrow.  For what it’s worth, I’m hearing suggestions of a £12m fee with wages of £70,000 p/week, which would be quite the coup.

I still refuse to be steadfastly confident, unlike the majority of the British media.  This deal has been through so many twists and turns that it just wouldn’t surprise me remotely if there was one final, nasty sting in the tail.  However, fatigue is probably prompting unnecessary levels of pessimism from me.  All being well, Arsenal should recieve word from the Premier League this morning that the paperwork is all in order, and Arshavin is an Arsenal player.

If he does sign, Arshavin has told his person website that he will wear the number 23 shirt – which would be nice, and avoid the associations with Hleb that 13 would generate.

If he doesn’t sign… I don’t know.  After everything this story did to those who followed it closely throughout yesterday, it’s hard to predict the impact that the Premier League rejecting our attempt to register the transfer would have.  The biggest concern is that at 8pm yesterday evening (2300 their time), the Russian FA had yet to dispatch the neccessary International Transfer Certificate for Arshavin to complete the deal.

On reflection, were this to fall through I suspect most people would just laugh.  This is the most ridiculous transfer saga I can ever remember us being involved with this.  Compared to this, Baptista was a breeze.  That’s not to say I don’t want the player – I really, really do – but this has is becoming unbearable.

We thought it had to end by last Monday.  Then before the West Ham game.  Then before 5pm yesterday.  Surely, by midday today, we will have some closure on what has become a truly torturous episode.

When it happens, if it happens, I’ll be back.  Till then.