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.

Live Transfer Deadline Day Updates

I can’t believe we’re here again.

On September 1st 2008, as the Summer window drew to a close, it was unthinkable that we wouldn’t sign a central midfielder.  I even signed off the article saying:

“The above is a bit of fun, but in seriousness, surely someone will arrive.”

And I wasn’t the only one.  Arseblogger was equally confident:

“Obviously we’re all going to be watching anxiously, breath bated, to see if Arsene gets his chequebook out. In the last couple of years we’ve done deals just as the window is about to close so it wouldn’t be a big surprise if we left it that late again. I’m hopeful we’ll bring in one, at least, and I’d love to see a couple come in.”

Instead, we watched in disbelief as Arsene Wenger spent the closing hours of the window at Underhill watching Arsenal Reserves.

The January Transfer Window was seen by all Arsenal fans as a chance to put right the mistakes of the Summer.  Yet here we are, with 17 hours remaining, and there has not been an arrival.  If the deals that are expected to go through today are completed, Arsenal and Liverpool might well end the window as the only top-flight clubs not to bring players in.  Considering the urgency with which our squad requires improvements, that is extraordinary.

It’s not, of course, entirely for lack of trying.  Our first bid for Andrei Arshavin was submitted way back on December 28th.  More than a month has passed, and no fee has been agreed.  One would imagine there will be a final push to do a deal today, as a solution would benefit all three parties.  Sky have reported that Arshavin flew to London last night, but they also reported that on Saturday, and it turned out to be utter nonsense.  I confess: I don’t hold out much hope.  And Arshavin himself seems as confused as anyone:

Clueless... 

Will Arshavin sign?  Will we make a late move to replace the injured Abou Diaby?  Will Manchester City return with an improved offer for Kolo Toure?

I will be here for the next 17 hours, attempting to answer those questions and bring you updates on the latest info as and when it arrives.  Admittedly, the first seven or so of those hours will be spent sleeping, but apart from that, I’ll be here until the window closes at 5pm London-time, with the odd little update on this blog (keep your finger on the refresh button) and odder and littler updates over on twitter.

Starting… NOW:

0000  Well, there are some bits of transfer news I didn’t bring you yesterday.  Real Madrid have swooped for the man who has arguably been Arsenal’s most consistent performer in recent seasons:

Head Groundsman Paul Burgess.

His last game at the club will be the home match with Fulham at the end of the month, and then it’s off to Madrid and La Liga.  Best of luck to Paul, who has helped produce what is surely the finest playing surface in the country.

Eighteen-year old midfielder Henri Lansbury, who was once regarded as one of the club’s top prospects but has fallen behind the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey in the pecking order, has joined Scunthorpe United on a month’s loan.  Presumably if it works out well, he’ll be staying there a little longer.

There have been a few stories floating around the internet about teenage Brazilian striker Wellington.  Well, whatever you read elsewhere, rest assured: he will join Arsenal at the end of the season, as arseblog told you a few weeks back.

And so, this most stressful of days is underway.  Join in the fun on the Guns or on twitter. 

0007 So, here’s the latest on Andrei Arshavin:

SkySportsNews say he’s on a plane.  I am doubtful. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s still in St. Petersburg, awaiting an agreement between the clubs. I wonder how he’s passing the time till then? Do you think, in a moment of excitement, he transfered himself to Arsenal on Pro Evo and is now contemplating having to move himself back to Zenit?

Meanwhile, Zenit’s club newspaper leads with the story “ADVOCAAT: I THOUGHT ARSENAL’S FIRST OFFER FOR ARSHAVIN WAS A WIND-UP…”

Tremendous. Sounds like it’s going swimmingly.

0111 So.  Sky insist Arshavin has jetted into England, and they seem to have consulted Zenit to ratify that, with the Russian club keen to point out that no fee has yet been agreed.

Throughout this saga (and that really is the word) I’ve used two primary sources in the Russian Press: Sport-Express, and Sovietsky Sport.  I feel it’s only right that I refer to them now.  They have become like friends to me.

Sport-Express claim that Arshavin and Lachter both landed in England last night, before stating that no-one knows if a deal will be completed today or not.

Sovietsky Sport, meanwhile, have a very elaborate story which suggests that when Arshavin left Zenit’s Dubai training camp, he flew to Paris, where he has remained since.  They also say that we have raised our offer to £13m + £3m add-ons, and that it’s still not to Zenit’s liking.  They speculate, with some justification, that with Arsenal seemingly not having applied for a work permit or having conducted a medical, that a deal is unlikely.  Indeed, they lead with the headline, “Arshavin to remain in Petersburg?”

Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, has been talking about the pressure that would inevitably fall on the potential signing:

“When the biggest star is a guy who has never kicked a ball for you, it’s very difficult to understand.  We do not need an instant saviour.  There is always a danger that people always want a wonder man, but I do not believe in that.  I believe we have to keep going, and accept that the expectation level on him would be very high – if he joins us. But if he doesn’t join us, then I am not more pessimistic.”

Maybe we’ll be about to clinch a deal, and then suddenly Arshavin will announce that he just can’t handle the level of expectation, and has decided to join Spurs, where such things are considerably lower.

Speaking of Tottenham, I’m hearing from well-placed sources that they will re-sign Robbie Keane today, along with a winger on loan – indications suggest reputed former Arsenal target Ricardo Quaresma could on the way.

I’m expecting there to be plenty of activity today.  The window has been fairly quiet, but I think that’ll be forgotten in a final flurry of fiscal foolishness, with Man City at the heart of it.

It’s time for me to get some sleep now.  Who knows what might have happened by dawn?

0903 Good Morning all!  Look outside: IT’S TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY!

Let’s start with the news that Andrei Arshavin has been spotted in Hertfordshire, close to Arsenal’s Colney training ground:

Arshavin in Hertfordshire

More photos available here.  Meanwhile, Man City have denied any interest in the player, despite Dennis Lachter and Zenit attempting to drum up some up.

I reckon the snow will force the FA to be even more lenient than usual about the 1700 deadline.  It could be a long day…

0944 Just realised I’ve left the comments at the bottom of this article open by mistake. They’re closed again, for now.

Last night, Zenit St Petersburg moved to sign Hungarian left-winger Szabolcs Huszti, whose name (I imagine) is pronounced: “Ummmm…”.

The relevance of this news is that he could be seen as a potential replacement for Arshavin.  It turns out the owly little fella is currently at the hotel which doubles as my gym, about fifteen minutes down the road.  If it weren’t so freezing, I’d head over there and attempt to cuddle him.

0949 Arshavin has left and is heading back to Russia.  Not a joke or a lie.

1001 Ok.  Dennis Lachter has told Sky that the deal is off as Arsenal simply can’t afford Arshavin.  Whilst no fee has been agreed, the sticking point appears to be Arshavin’s wage demands, with suggestions that we have offered just half his current wage packet.

Arshavin has now left his Hertfordshire hotel with the intention of heading back to St. Petersburg.

I have to say, I’m pretty gutted.  Failing to pull this off and not having a viable back-up will make us look very stupid.  And the main reason we will look very stupid is that we will be very stupid.

1057  Arshavin’s agent, Dennis Lachter, has texted a friend confirming that the deal is “200% off”.  Quite depressing.

In a bid to lighten the mood, let’s decide which is funnier:

The fact that Spurs have spent £30m+ on two players who weren’t good enough to make it at Arsenal (Palacios & Bentley), or the fact that both those players would probably walk into our current midfield?

1131 Deal is off.  Great source.  Five-and-a-half hours to see if Arsene really does have “other targets”.

1133 Or maybe longer – transfer deadline extended.  This could be torture.

1146 The FA Cup replay with Cardiff, scheduled to take place tomorrow, has been postponed.  Which is a shame, because the morale boost of a cup win might be neccessary after today ends without a signings.

Have to say, I really can’t believe this is about to happen.

1223 Ok, well the sources I have close to the deal still insist the deal is off.  But a source at the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust suggests otherwise.  The AST have contact with all directors and executives, and they are still very confident a deal will be done.

God. This is exhausting.  I just pray the deadline isn’t extended.  4 hours and 33 mins left as I type this.  Not sure I could handle any longer.

1314 If Dennis Lachter is 200% sure it’s off, but the AST are 99.99% sure it’s on, does that mean it’s -100.01% likely to happen?

1327 3.5 hours left and the only IN to the Premier League so far has been veteran Greek midfielder Angelos Basinas joining Portsmouth.  Could be a manic last few hours.

1513 Ok.  Apologies for being off duty.  I had to calm down, and was still updating over on twitter.

First, some definite news: Paul Rodgers has extended his loan spell with Northampton.  Apparently he’s been doing well for them, which is nice to hear after his difficult debut for us at Burnley.

Now, ArshavinThe Goon Blog has an audio interview with a Russian journo who has spoken to the Zenit St. Petersburg press office, who are confident they’re approaching an agreement on a £15m fee is “very close”.

Apparently the “flying back to Russia” story was a smokescreen to get Sky Sports News off Arshavin’s tale and panic Zenit into reducing their price.  Sky are now also reporting that a deal is “very close”, and it seems that (as ever) Dennis Lachter is their source.

We should have an outcome one way or the other within a couple of hours.  The deadline has been extended, but only with very specific stipulations that will not apply to any Arshavin deal.  Fingers crossed.

1523 Skybet now have Arsenal at 1/7 to sign Arshavin.  5/1 on him remaining at Zenit, which is the best odds they’ve offered for some time.

1533 At 1514 Lachter told the BBC “There’s nothing new I can tell you”.  Elsewhere, there are rumours that Giovani dos Santos has failed his Portsmouth medical.  That’d be a bullet dodged for Tony Adams.  Dos Santos is terrible.

1543 The AST are still confident of a deal going ahead.  If it does, they’ll be speaking to Gunnerblog with full details of what they know of the negotiations.  But if we do get him, it seems waiting till today may have saved us £5m.

1555 Just to dampen any rising hopes, Philippe Auclair, the French journalist and pal of Arsene Wenger, told TalkSport a while ago that any deal is off.  That doesn’t match up to my sources, who suggest Arsenal are working to get something agreed before the provisional 1700 deadline.  Just over an hour left folks.  It’s going right to the wire.

1609 Sky believe that a fee and personal terms have been agreed.  However, Zenit are still demanding a sum from Arshavin to sign for Arsenal.  This isn’t just  a small figure we’re talking about – we believe it’s in the region of £2.5m.  No certainties yet.  I am quite a nervous man.

Nightmare scenario: Spurs get their £15m man and we fail to get ours.

1614 Apparently Olivier Davourt has joined Fulham.  Maybe that means we’ll cease to be linked with him every transfer window.

1819 Ok, obviously the site has gone mental and I’ve been unable to update.  And obviously, I haven’t a clue what’s going on, but it does not look good at all. We should have the bad news in official form within an hour.

1859 Blimey.  Arsene Wenger has reportedly told Sky he is “confident” that a “positive announcement” will be made tonight.  If you’re still with me, you’re very brave very strong folk.

1910 Apparently Sky say it’s finally done.  I didn’t see it myself, so a little unwilling to believe it…

1916 The Agence France Press say he has signed until 2012.  Again, nothing from Arsenal or Zenit since Zenit’s terrifying u-turn of about an hour ago.

2030 Haven’t been able to get onto the site for a long long time.  Some mad stuff going on, typified by Yahoo putting these two stories out within the same minute. 

The latest news is that we’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow to see if the deal has been rubber-stamped.  Agent Dennis Lachter told the BBC:

“It was completed in extra-time but we must wait for confirmation.  In 16 years this has been the most difficult transfer ever.”

There might be a couple more updates on here before the day is out, but I won’t guarantee it.  I’m absolutely exhausted by it all.  if the Premier League don’t confirm it tomorrow, I may just start to cry.

2354 And that’s it for the day.  Thankyou for reading – it’s been a record-breaking day on Gunnerblog.  I’ll be back with a new post in an hour or so, attempting to summarise one of the most frantic days of transfer activity I can remember.  And we still don’t know if Arshavin is our player.  Incredible.

Goodnight, and God Bless.

No more to follow.  It’s time to go to bed.