Quality deficiency makes need for Arshavin clear

Arsenal 0 – 0 West Ham
Highlights(?) here; Arsene’s reaction here

The funny thing is, the players did OK.  By their recent standards, this was by no means a poor performance – we were certainly better than at Goodison Park just a few days earlier.  On that night, we grabbed a goal we didn’t neccessarily deserve. Fortune was less kind to us yesterday, and we got exactly what was coming to us.  The simple fact is that these players do not have enough quality for a decent performance from them to guarantee a win.

I don’t think I ever envisaged seeing an Arsene Wenger side struggle to score goals.  Even at the start of this season, whilst we were poor at the lack we still had imagination and guile going forward.  Now, shorn of Fabregas and Walcott, aswell as long-term absentees Eduardo and Rosicky, we are reliant almost entirely on Robin van Persie for inspiration – the decision to rest him yesterday is one that is increasingly hard to understand in light of the result.  RotorGoat from East Lower yesterday pointed out that since the win over Man U, we’ve only scored four goals at home in the league.  Four.  We might be on an unbeaten run, but we’re not creating enough chances to win games and convert one pointers to the threes we need to catch Aston Villa.

Emmanuel Adebayor has come in for a lot of criticism of late, and he is undoubtedly looking unmotivated and out of form.  There were two half chances that, last season, would probably have found the back of the net.  However, the key problem remains the midfield unit.  The deterioration from Rosicky-Fabregas-Flamini-Hleb to Nasri-Denilson-Diaby-Eboue is painful.  The manager was fairly blasé about the possibility of signing Arshavin after the game, but a schemer of his quality would be a hugely significant addition. 

We lack quality.  We have about 27 hours to add some.

For those that are interested, the latest on Arshavin is that the player is in St. Petersburg with a private jet on standby to fly to Moscow if a deal can be agreed.  Zenit say they are still waiting for an official response from Arsenal to their compromise offer of £15m in two installments.  Arsenal, meanwhile, are playing a very dangerous waiting game, trying to negotiate the price even further towards their initial £12m offer.

If anything does happen, it’ll be tomorrow, and you’ll be able to follow the frantic final day of the transfer window both here on Gunnerblog and on twitter.  I’m taking the day off to endure the torment of us inevitably signing no-one.  Join me.  At least the blind panic will enable us to forget about the West Ham match.

‘Till then.

Arshavin has 2 days. Or 53 hours. Or 3203 minutes. Or 192216 seconds.


Time is running out for Arsenal to complete a deal for Andrei Arshavin, but for the first time in a saga that has now run for more than a month, there does seem to be a little urgency and signs of significant progress.

Sky Sports News and Russian source Sovietsky Sport are reporting that Arshavin has left his Dubai hotel separately from his Zenit team-mates, and boarded a flight to London.  Just as Arsene refuted claims yesterday that we had applied for a work permit, the player’s representative is denying the Sky story, suggesting the player is returning to St. Petersburg as scheduled

Arsene, however, seems confident.  It is incredibly unusual for him to talk about another club’s player openly, but yesterday he was very candid about why Arshavin is a target:

“In a big club, you are always under pressure to have a player who gives you something special. It’s like that everywhere — at Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. They are the players that are most difficult to find.  He’s a guy who can go past people in the final third.  He can have the key, individually and collectively.  He is an experienced player, 27, a good age and we are a very young side. We will not have Fabregas in the next six to eight weeks, we will not have Walcott in the next five weeks, Rosicky in the next eight weeks. One more body could help us.”

There remains such a thick fog around the goings-on in this deal that it’s very difficult to read.  Even Zenit are unusually quiet.  All one can really detect with any certainty is a general movement towards a positive outcome as the window creaks closed.  I still think this will go right up till the last few hours of the window

If he does arrive, he’ll be the only man through the door, with the manager insistent that his current crop of central defenders and midfielders is good enough.  I’m not sure I agree with him there, but it is worth pointing out that Arshavin is one of a select few quality players available in January, and that is only because it’s the Russian off-season.  Whatever Arsene says now, I expect him to move for a central midfielder in the Summer, with suggestions he has already enquired about one world class player based in Spain.

Arsene is keen to tie up a deal for Robin van Persie, who (terrifyingly) joins Walcott, Toure and Gallas in having just 18 months remaining on his contract.  The manager says:

“I’m convinced it means a lot to Robin to stay here.  He wants to be part of the Club and of course we have to satisfy his demands as well. I don’t think we’re far away.  He knows how much it means to me and we will try to sort him out and Walcott. I’ve invested a lot of time in him because I feel it is important to them and it means something to them to be at this Club.”

With Robin’s current form, this deal is arguably more important than any potential signing.

Today we face in-form West Ham, whose strike partnership of Carlton Cole and David Di Michele could cause us all sorts of problems.  Cole is in the kind of rich vein of form that has deserted Emmanuel Adebayor of late, and the Togolese could well be left out today with Nicklas Bendtner starting.  Hopefully the return of Eduardo will provide Adebayor with the competition he evidently needs to motivate himself.

Other than that, the side sort of picks itself.  I’d imagine Song might drop to the bench with Diaby playing alongside Denilson, and one would expect Gallas to continue to keep out Toure.

The Hammers are playing well under Zola, but it’s a home game against a mid-table side: we ought to win.

Come On You Gunners.

I just had a bet on Arshavin to stay at Zenit

The way I see it, that makes it win-win.  If he doesn’t sign, my £10 will return as £45 and I will spend it on forgetting that the Russian ever existed.  And if he does sign, it will be feel a bit like I bought him.  For £10.

Arsene has been speaking about Arshavin in an interview with Arsenal.com which was recorded yesterday.  How the situation has progressed since then I’m not sure, but it went a bit like this:

It’s being reported today that you said that the Arshavin deal was 90% done – is that right?

AW: No… it was 90% not done!  10% done, but then at this level the percentage has not a big meaning because the 10% can quickly become the 90%.  Let’s see!  Anyway, you won’t have a long time to wait now because we are at the 29th – that means very shortly it’s the transfer deadline.

You did say you’d expect to know more in the next couple of days, so is it make or break for this deal?

Yeah, of course. 

Before the game at the weekend even?


So you want it done by the time you kick off against West Ham?

If it can be done, of course we want to do it as quickly as possible.

Arsene went on to say that he had made enquiries about other players, but no serious bids.

Well, like I say, that interview took place about 24 hours ago, and one can only imagine Arsenal are confident of progress after the news broke that we have successfully applied for a work permit for the player.  I don’t think that’s any guarantee of a deal being done, but we’re obviously keen to have it in place incase a deal comes together in what remains of the window.  Arsene should be doing a press conference any minute now, so doubtless he’ll (refuse to) comment on that particularly tidbit.

For what it’s worth, Arshavin did not board the Zenit team bus for their friendly today, remaining in their Dubai hotel.  The Guardian, meanwhile, reports that Arshavin, Arsenal, and Zenit are close to a compromise over the moneys involved.  I think this one is going to go right to the wire.

Arsenal will apparently turn down a £12m bid for Kolo Toure.  That’s an awful lot of money for someone whose seemingly no longer first-choice and has only 18 months remaining on his contract, but I suspect the lack of time to find a suitably replacement is a big factor in our decision.

Like I say, Arsene should be speaking to the press very soon, so there should be news on that as well as West Ham’s game tomorrow morning.  Tata for now.

Van Persie’s late show continues to paper over the cracks

RVP celebrates

Everton 1 – 1 Arsenal (Cahill 62, Van Persie 90)
here; Arsene’s reaction here

Of late, Arsenal have developed a habit of scoring late goals.  A friend pointed out last night that if our last five games had finished after eighty minutes, we’d have walked away with just six points – instead, after Robin Van Persie’s late equaliser, we have amassed eleven. 

As the headline suggests, the performance was pretty poor, and when that’s the case you are likely to be reliant on moments of individual brilliance.  If anyone can be relied upon to deliver those, it’s Van Persie: the Dutchman has scored or set-up every Arsenal goal in the month of January.  It was clear this was a season in which Robin needed to step up and start fulfilling his potential.  Thankfully, he has.

God knows where we’d be without him.  He is papering over the cracks of a side that are desperately lacking in creativity.  Indeed, if you were to continue the analogy you’d have to say that not only has he papered over the cracks – he’s wrapped himself round them like bandages.  We can only pray he himself doesn’t end up requiring similar treatment off the back of another injury.

The game itself was one of very few chances.  Perhaps it’s no surprise that it was congested – Everton’s dearth of strikers means they took to the midfield with six midfielders, which combined with four of own own and Van Persie dropping deep meant there wasn’t room to swing a cat in the middle of the pitch, let alone for Alex Song to waddle through his enormous turning circle.

Our first chance of any real note fell to Denilson, who skied it over the bar with his left foot.  Shortly after that, Everton were in front.  I doubt any sane bookmaker would’ve offered long odds on Tim Cahill scoring with a header against us, and lo and behold he did just that with a magnificent leap to beat a Baines cross.  Actually, for once bad defending wasn’t really to blame – it was just a truly excellent header.

But somehow, we managed to claw it back with our sixth injury time goal of the season.  It hadn’t looked remotely likely: despite the introduction of Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue, we were still struggling to offer anything at all, with Emmanuel Adebayor (admittedly deprived of service) particularly poor.

And then, just as the final whistle was about to prompt the mightiest of groans from Arsenal fans everywhere, Van Persie struck.  A long ball forward from Diaby, control on the chest, and a searing volley into the far corner.  Stunning.  Everton were the better side on the night, but it’s moments like that which separate the top four from the rest.

And make no mistake about it – the top four is what we’re aiming for.  Whilst Arsene might make the occasional noise about us being in the title race, these comments after last night’s game are far more telling:

“I maintain what I said yesterday; for me Everton is as much a threat for us as Aston Villa.”

To be honest, it’s good to see a bit of realism from the manager.  Maybe if our unbeaten run continues priorites can change, but for now it has to be about getting away from Everton and above Aston Villa to secure that priceless Champions League place.

If we’re going to do that, performances will have to be better than last night, and new signings would undoubtedly help in that respect.  Predictably, Arsene was asked about Andrei Arshavin’s proposed £15m transfer.  What’s equally unsurprising is quite how cryptic he contrived to be:

“There is nothing new, because today I have been focussed on the game, and I did not pick up any phone calls so nothing has happened. It was 90 per cent that I will be able to give you more in the next two days. Remember in this job the other 10 per cent can be more important than the other 90 because people can change their mind quickly.”

Apparently he was at pains to point out that he can’t be sure if it’s 90% on, or 90% off.  Helpful.  The comments were so confusing that Arsenal World have printed them with a slightly different meaning.  I guess the only thing we can take from it is that there should be some news either way in the next two days, though with only three working days in the transfer window remaining, even that is not particularly revelatory.

So: poor performance, decent result.  That seems to be the way it is at the moment.  It’s better than good performances and bad results, I suppose, but I as a club I suspect we’re a little more ambitious than to believe the two are mutually exclusive.

Busy day for me today.  Have a good one.

Full transcript of Zenit CEO’s interview + Everton Preview

You might have forgotten, but we have a game today.  Quite a big one, in fact: it’s fifth against sixth as we face strikerless-yet-dangerous Everton.

The reason such a telling fixture has been overlooked is principally the continued speculation over Andrei Arsharvin.  Arsene Wenger and Arshavin’s agent have both refuted claims that a fee has been agreed, but unsurprisingly it is the Russian club making the most noise.  Many thanks again to Dublin Adam for translating Zenit CEO Maxim Mitrofanov’s interview with Sovsport:

Zenit CEO Maxim Mitrofanov: “Arshavin Holds the Key to His Future”

It is completely possible that the soap opera entitled “Andrei Arshavin’s Exit to Europe” could soon be near its long-awaited end. Zenit, along with the London club Arsenal, are doing all within their powers to complete the transfer of their superstar forward to the Gunners. The only obstacle, it would seem, is the financial demands of Arshavin himself, who in the words of the English, are twice as high as his wages currently are in St. Petersburg. Yesterday the CEO of Zenit, Maxim Mitrofanov, told Sovietsky Sport about the last few chapters in the Arshavin story, and also outlined the possible departures of Anatoly Timoschuk to Bayern Munich and Pavel Pogrebnyak to Blackburn Rovers.

Sovietsky Sport (SS): Late on Monday evening Zenit released a press statement, in which it was confirmed that an agreement in principal had been reached with Arsenal regarding the departure of Andrei Arshavin. “What is therefore delaying the deal?” was the first question to the CEO of Zenit:
Maxim Mitrofanov (MM): Initially, we had wanted to get £20m for the transfer of Arshavin; however we understand that we had to lower our demands as Arsenal had started the bidding at £12m. There then began a series of compromises, which are now basically complete and agreed. A necessary condition of sale is obviously the interest of the third party, i.e. the footballer.

SS: There had been talk that the issue was the return of half of a signing-on fee in the region of €5m that Arshavin received from the club in 2006?
MM: I can’t discuss the sum involved. But I can say that Arshavin has 2 options. The first is certainly linked with the signing-on fee that he received 2 years ago. He didn’t just receive it for nothing; it was for his signature on a 4-year agreement with Zenit. The contract is only half-complete; therefore it’s logical that one-half of this sum should be returned to Zenit. That is the widely accepted practice in Europe, and we are sure that Arshavin understands this. However, he doesn’t even want to consider this option. You should also note by the way that Dick Advocaat has always respected the wishes of the player to play abroad.

SS: What’s the second option?
MM: Arsenal cannot increase their offer higher than £15m. For Zenit an acceptable transfer fee was £18m. Where can one find £3m? According to the English, Arshavin has asked for an annual salary of £3.5m net. Taking into account the huge taxes, that means Arshavin would need an annual wage of £6.5m – £7m. If he went to Arsenal and agreed a wage of £2.5m per annum, Arsenal would save £4m over 4 years and an additional £3m could be given to Zenit. We would eventually the desired £18m. But Andrei does not want to consider this option.

SS: But seriously, £2.5m is even more than the €2.2m that he earns in Zenit!
MM: Correct: But the question is what he actually wants: to play his favourite game or to become rich. In the past, Andrei hadn’t once stated his desire to play abroad, had respected the interests of Zenit and didn’t even want to meet with Arsenal. However, he now holds the key to his own future. He didn’t need to sign a contract with us and take the signing-on fee. But he did do and he did it of his own free will.

SS: According to out information, 2 years ago the agreement between Arshavin and Zenit was agreed in dollars. But at the request of the footballer the currency was changed to euros, but the amounts remained the same.
At the time it was already clear that the Euro was growing against the Dollar, but the club met with the player in any case. After that, by the way, we had no chance to refuse any similar request from any of the other players who wanted their contracts switched from dollars to euros. So, formally speaking, one can say that Arshavin’s contract has cost Zenit a lot, not just in wages and fees.

SS: Was the possible departure of Arshavin discussed at the board meeting on Monday?
MM: The decision about whether Arshavin was going to be sold was made long ago. All of the board members share this point of view. The question was personally answered to Arsenal by the Zenit President, Alexandr Dyukov, but the negotiations were carried by myself and Ken Friar.

SS: What role has Dennis Lachter played in this?
MM: He is fully within his rights to discuss the conditions of the player’s contract. However, and significantly, he has attempted to discuss with Arsenal on our behalf, but the Londoners immediately came to us and informed us of this and dialogue returned to being direct between the 2 clubs. By the way, as far as I understand, Arshavin still has an agreement with his previous agent (Pavel Andreyev) and Lachter simply represents his interests.

SS: Is it true that Lachter is demanding €5m if this deal goes through?
MM: That’s a question for Lachter. I can only say that in December at the request of Arshavin, he was given authorisation to carry out negotiations about his contract as part of this transfer. According to current regulations, the player does not have the right to discuss with other clubs, if he has more than 2 years remaining on his contract with his current club.

SS: This autumn he has the right to buy out his contract and become a free agent. In this scenario, Zenit will receive a lot less.
MM: Yes, according to the rules of FIFA, during this protected period, the player has the right to break the contract and pay the club compensation. In this case: the signing-on fee. But there is one small nuance: a group of the leading clubs in Europe in an effort to protect themselves against such situations, have agreed amongst themselves not to go after players who have released themselves from their contracts in such a way. This agreement isn’t formally written down, but it does exist. If Arshavin breaks his contract, none of the top clubs in Europe will want him. Therefore, it’s not in his favour to do this.

SS: Is it true that when the current contract was signed in 2006 with the ex-President of the club (Sergei Fursenko) it was communicated to Arshavin that if any club offered €15m for him, he could leave?
MM: Arshavin tells it like this. I can’t confirm or deny this as I didn’t hear those words myself. But in any case, any transfer must take into account many number of factors. Firstly, 2 years ago Andrei was not a UEFA Cup winner, a Supercup winner and holder of a Euro bronze medal. Secondly, only Barcelona offered €15m but the Catalans required a very quick answer as they were going to buy another footballer. But they could also not guarantee Andrei a place in the team. They said “Yes. He’s a good player and he has a chance. But we can only guarantee a place on the bench”. I don’t think this offer satisfied Andrei and he himself has said as much in interviews.

SS: It’s been said that Tottenham offered over €20m for Arshavin…
MM: Tottenham offered €16m and an additional €4m in instalments. That offer didn’t satisfy us, even though we thought about it long and hard. They even also offered us 5 different players. We, of course, declined. As regards Arsenal, who are the third team to have formally entered negotiations for Arshavin: on December 27th or 28th, I think, we received a fax from Ken Friar where they stated their price: £12m. Everything else since has been discussed verbally.

SS: How do you think the talks have gone?
MM: Tonight (Tuesday) Arsenal will try to reach an agreement with Dennis Lachter. I hope that this will conclude positively. The transfer window closes on February 2nd, but the London club need to receive a work permit for Andrei to play in England. But this takes a couple of days. Therefore, as we understand it, all the details need to be agreed at the very latest by midday on Wednesday 28th January.

Make of that what you will.  And note that midday on Wednesday 28th January has been and gone, and there’s been no news.  I actually managed to speak to Dennis Lachter about an hour ago, and he was perfectly pleasant, but (you won’t believe this) unwilling to comment.  In his own words:

“Any speculation now could jeapordise a deal.”

However, a pal in France told me that Arsene yesterday gave an interview to Canal+ in which he said that the transfer is “unlikely” to happen.

It’s increasingly hard to care either way, but I went into the transfer window insistent that Arsene should strengthen, and I’ve seen nothing to change that belief.  I will be seriously worried if, as looks likely, we have not made a signing come Monday afternoon.

Unsurprisingly, in his press conference yesterday Arsene was far more animated when talking about those players we already possess in the squad and who will soon(ish) be returning from injury.  The first bit of really good news is that Eduardo has been called up to the Croatia squad for their game against Romania on February 11th.  I’d be surprised if he plays for Arsenal before that date, but what a landmark it’ll be when he takes to the field for his national team again.

Another player on the comeback trail is Tomas Rosicky, who is back in light training.  If all goes well, he could return in eight weeks – though that is a gigantic ‘if’.  As Arsene puts it:

“If all goes well [he’ll be back in] eight weeks.  But that assumes he survives as we increase the intensity of training.”

Assuming the survival of any man in the treacherous wastelands of London Colney makes an ass out of you, me, and presumably Dupree.  Still, we wish Tomas all the best.

Arsene Wenger is confident that Theo Walcott will sign a new contract.  We should all hope it happens soon – slightly worryingly, Theo only has 18 months remaining on his current deal.  He’s not the only one: come the summer, both William Gallas and Kolo Toure will also be one year away from the expiration of their contracts.  It’s a little hard to see either signing a new deal, so maybe we’ll cash in on one or both when the transfer window re-opens.

So, finally, EVERTON:

Tonight’s game is a really tricky one.  Despite barely having a striker of note available, Everton have some top quality players: Cahill, Arteta, and Fellaini would probably all get into the current Arsenal side.  They’re built on a very solid defence, with Jagielka and Lescott at the heart of it, whilst Arteta’s set-pieces are a tremendous outlet for them to snatch goals.

William Gallas could come back into the starting line-up, though I myself might be tempted to leave him out.  You’d imagine that Johan Djourou will definitely play because of his aerial presence, so only one of Gallas and Toure is likely to start.  Gael Clichy is available after suspension, and Denilson should return after being rested at Cardiff.

This game is a real test for us and our recent unbeaten run.  If we can keep that run going, whatever the result, then we have to consider it a decent result.  Defeat, however, would leave us six points of adrift of Villa and bereft of reinforcements.

Come On You Gunners.