Victory in two winnable games will see us in the Quarter-Finals

Cardiff City 0 – 0 Arsenal
Highlights
here; Arsene’s reaction here

Apologies for my absence over the past couple of days.  Various technical issues hampered my ability to blog – normal service has now resumed.

There is, I feel, so little to say about yesterday’s game.  It’s not that nothing happened.  If I was feeling generous, I could even describe the first-half as “eventful”.  But almost all those events can be attributed to Cardiff’s endeavour, and their subsequent exposure to counter-attack.  When Cardiff tired, and the initiative fell to us to dictate the game, we failed to sparkle, and a draw, in the end, was probably about right.

In the first twenty minutes, our makeshift midfield was not even second best.  Booed throughout his return to his former club, Aaron Ramsey looked far from his best, and he received little support from the hapless Alexandre Song.  Song has been absent from the team in recent games, and it’s fair to say I had forgotten just how bad he can be.

However, he was made to look good by a terrible performance from Emmanuel Eboue.  The Ivorian’s display was dragged further into the mire by a dreadful dive and a head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging reaction to his inevitable substitution.

In the first-half, Cardiff had three or four presentable chances, but failed to significantly test Lukasz Fabianski.  At the other end, Nicklas Bendtner and Samir Nasri failed to capitalise on the gaps Cardiff occasionally left at the back.

One sensed that once the Welsh side failed to score in their good spell, the game could only go one way, and the second half was almost one-way traffic.  However, despite the introduction of Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Adebayor, we failed to break down a sturdy Cardiff defence, with our only significant chance being miscued by the Togolese striker.  The Championship team could even have nicked it when a fantastic free kick struck the crossbar in the dying minutes.

It wasn’t a stellar game, and whilst results have improved, we’re steadily becoming rather dull to watch.  I know Denilson was rested yesterday, but our midfield still looks painfully weak, and I really hope Arsene uses what remains of the transfer window to bolster that area of the field.

Inevitably, we arrive at the subject of Andrei Arshavin.  Arsenal reportedly told Zenit that today was the deadline for any potential deal, and it’s therefore unsurprising that the Russian club are still trying to get Arsenal to coalesce with their demands.  Maybe there’ll be something definite today one way or the other, but I now have a nasty feeling this one might run all the way until January 2nd.

Meanwhile, Charles N’Zogbia would rather join Aston Villa.  That’s funny, because I’d rather he joined Aston Villa too.

Anyway, we’re still in the Cup at least, and victory over Cardiff in the replay would see us in a winnable home tie against West Brom or Burnley.

A demain.

Zenit officially reject a £15m bid for Arshavin

As you all know by now, Zenit St. Petersburg’s board today convened to discuss Arsenal’s latest (and final) offer for Andrei Arshavin, which amounted to £12m plus £3m in bonuses.

Well, this afternoon Zenit’s own radio station confirmed that the bid had been rejected.

The Daily Mail had this morning run an oddly-worded and seemingly unsubstantiated article which suggested a deal had been agreed, but it appears they not only jumped the gun – they’re running an entirely imaginary race. 

You have to imagine that this is the final nail in the coffin of a deal that was dragged on (and on (and on (and on))).  Today is the final working day before the deadline of the 26th that we imposed upon the deal, and with the Arsenal hierarchy insistent we will not increase our bid and Arsene Wenger 98% unfussed, it seems as if Arshavin will remain a Zenit player. 

In other news, William Gallas is back to fitness, and Kieran Gibbs could start in place of the suspended (and evidently fairly relaxed) Gael Clichy.

Sorry for the bad news re The Russian, all.  Post mortem tomorrow.

Peter Hill-Wood confirms we’ve made our final Owly offer

Of all the publications in the world, Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood chooses to give his exclusive interviews to The Daily Star.  Odd.  Perhaps it’s what he reads.

In an article with the surreal and arguably misleading headline “I’LL BE SHAVIN YOU FOR £12m”, Hill-Wood confirms what Gunnerblog told you yesterday: that Arsenal will not be increasing their bid for Andrei Arshavin.

“This is our final offer – we don’t go any further. If we don’t get him, we don’t get him. There are other fish in the sea. There is a limit. We made an offer and have now increased it a bit, but we don’t do exactly what everyone wants us to do necessarily.”

So there we have it.  Zenit, meanwhile, have revealed that we have given them until Monday to reconsider our offer, whilst Dennis Lachter has labelled the St Petersburg’s club’s attitude “barbaric”.  The man stuck in the middle of this deadlocked tug of war, Andrei Arshavin, has turned to God for help.  I might suggest that getting his agent to reduce his own fee might prove to be more productive than pleading to any deity.

One can’t help but feel that it’s all a little… I don’t know… silly?  It looks like macho posturing on the part of two clubs who seem to be clinging to their principles to the point of a fault.  It would benefit both sides for a deal to happen, but inevitably it won’t as both parties wait for the other to blink first.  Still, the ‘deadline’ information does tell us one thing:

ONLY FOUR DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE END OF THIS NONSENSE.

I’ve promised that until the Arshavin story is well and truly out of the headlines, I’ll be furnishing you with other reasons to be excited.  Well, last night brought us two very very good ones:

The Reserves played out a 2-2 draw with Stoke, in a game which was notable principally for the fact that Eduardo completed his first competetive 90 mintues.  By all accounts he looked a little off the pace in the first half, but improved as the game went on, having a late goal disallowed after a neat finish.

Apart from Eduardo’s ever-nearing return, another thing to whet your appetite is yet more confirmation of the astounding potential of Jack Wilshere.  Just look at this goal:

Stunning.  There are so many players who wouldn’t even have the audacity to try that, let alone pull it off.  That was the first of a Wilshere brace.  He can’t be far from knocking on the first-team door, and perhaps that’s a factor in Arsene’s refusal to pay over the odds for a creative player.

Till tomorrow, Gunners.

Source: Arshavin deal off – So let’s find something else to get excited about…

Well, there’s only one place to start, and that’s with the news that a well-placed source confirmed to me last night that any deal for Arshavin is off the table – for now, at least.

The Zenit hierarchy have proved impossible to negotiate with – it is not so much the asking price for Arshavin that is problematic, but the constantly shifting demands that are extraneous to the fee itself.  Without wanting to say anything that could implicate a source, it’s fair to say that these two stories are both, in their own way, depressingly close to the mark.

The situation as it now stands is that Arsenal have made as many as three offers, which have all been rejected.  The information I heard last night was that those close to the deal do not expect another offer to be made.  That means that either Zenit will have to do a u-turn and accept our final offer, or the deal is off.  And if they’re ever going to do that (which I doubt), it’ll only be right at the end of the window.

A key thing to consider is that Zenit are owned by Gazprom – the largest extractor of natural gas in the world.  The financial power behind the club is extraordinary.  They have no fiscal need, whatever the current climate, to accept a bid for Arshavin.  They were only ever likely to agree to a deal if it suited them down to the last detail.

I have to admit, I do feel a little sorry for Arshavin, who is clearly desperate to move to Europe but hindered at every turn by the demands of not only his club, but his agent to boot.

As far as Arsenal are concerned, one can only hope that Arsene wasn’t lying when he said Arshavin was not his only target.  There is no doubt the Russian is a hugely talented player, but if Zenit won’t be pinned down then our time would be better spent concentrating on deals which actually have a chance of coming off.

And as for us lot – the clamouring Arsenal fans – I suggest we forget about this deal.  In fact, for the sake of our sanity and what is left of our hair, I suggest we forget about the possibility of signings entirely.  There are things at the club to be excited about that don’t involve transfer fees, agents, or deadlines.

Take for example, Samir Nasri.  When one considers we actually spent a fair chunk of money on this guy, it’s surprising his arrival wasn’t accompanied by a little more fanfare – especially when one throws in the fact that he came pre-packaged with one of the best put-together youtube compliations I’ve ever seen:

Hats off to the Marseille fan who edited that.

Despite a few injury problems, Nasri has settled exceptionally well, with six goals to his name already – a rate better than one every four games. If he carries on that pace in the second half of the season, he could end it with more goals than his predecessor, Aleksandr Hleb, scored in his entire time at Arsenal.

There are faults to his game – he occasionally drifts out of matches, and doesn’t always perform to his best level away from home. It was interesting to hear Arsene Wenger say at the weekend that Nasri requires pressure in order to perform – perhaps, like a fair few of our players, he finds it difficult to motivate himself against the smaller sides.  Looking at some of the massive fixtures we have lined up in the second half of the season, we can probably expect to see yet more from Nasri before the Summer.

When one considers that this is first season in English football and that he is still only 21 – the same age as Nicklas Bendtner – the level of performance he has delivered thus far is remarkable.  And THAT is something to be excited about.

There’ll be something else to be excited about here tomorrow.  And it won’t be anything to do with a Russian playmaker.

Arsenal refuse to meet with Zenit in Petersburg

Contrary to reports in the press this morning, Arsenal have not flown a delegation out to Moscow, or Petersburg, or anywhere like it.  When asked this morning if a fee has been agreed for the playmaker, Zenit President Maxim Mitrofanov denied any deal had been done, adding:

“Zenit are prepared to meet Arsenal to discuss this. We are ready to reduce the fee and accept certain bonus clauses as part of the agreement. But so far Arsenal have refused to increase their offer for Andrei above £12m. If the Londoners come over to Russia to meet with us there is a very good chance they will get Arshavin. But so far that hasn’t happened as Arsenal say they see no point in having discussions in St. Petersburg.”

Indications in the Russian press are that £12m is our final offer, and that at this stage we remain uwilling to go beyond that.

Arshavin and his agent, Dennis Lachter, seem relatively unconcerned.  In one interview with SovSport, Lachter talks openly about contact he’s had with Inter Milan and Juventus (whilst insisting he’s heard nothing from Man City), and in this piece he suggests Arshavin may wait till November and buy out his contract:

“Unfortunately, there is no movement and no new news this morning.  Definitely money is still the sticking point, I think Zenit is still asking for an unacceptable amount of money, they are still playing very tough – it’s the position of the club and this is the grim reality.  We will not go out of contract with Zenit in the Summer, we will wait until November. In November he will be able to use his right to buy out under Article 17 of the FIFA rules.   I believe we will have many options. He will be one of the most wanted players in World football. I can’t say if it will be Spain, Italy or England – time will tell.”

It doesn’t look great.  It is, of course, entirely possible that Lachter is using the threat of a contractual buy-out to force Zenit into accepting Arsenal’s current or next bid.  However, what seems increasingly likely is that our bid has been rejected, we’re refusing (as with Xabi Alonso) to go above that £12m figure, and Arshavin is now on the look-out for another way out.  The way this is looking,  my money would be on the latter.

So it seems this week won’t bring the good news many were hoping for.  Thanks to Dublin Adam again for the detective work and translation.  There’s still almost two weeks of this nonsense to go.  Painful.