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.

“The Arabs are coming! The Arabs are coming!”

“…So through the night rode Ivan Gazidis;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
Through every Russian village and farm,
A cry of defiance, yet one that won’t please-us,
A voice in the darkness – something about “City”,
And suddenly for Arsenal the outlook is shitty.
For, borne on the night-wind of Kaka’s rejection,
Mark Hughes is now plotting Arshavin’s defection;
In the hour of darkness and peril and despair,
The people will waken and listen to heed this-
The blurted cries of a CEO with no hair,
And the midnight message of Ivan Gazidis:

THE ARABS ARE COMING! THE ARABS ARE COMING!

(When you’ve trivialised the Obama election victory as readily as I have, then The American Revolution really is nothing.)

Morning all.  First, what in my opinion can only be considered good news: Kaka has rejected Manchester City – but don’t worry Noel, at least you got this guy:

Don't worry, guys!

It seems that a historic club and a highly principled individual have stood firm against swathes of cash, and however clichéd it seems I can’t help but believe that represents a victory for football.

For Arsenal fans, however, it could give cause for concern, as today’s Times’ leading story suggests:

“Now that the lure of AC Milan has trumped City, Cook [Gary – Executive Chairman] and his advisers will have to look elsewhere for their marquee signing. Andrei Arshavin, 27, the Zenit St Petersburg and Russia playmaker, is reported to be under consideration. Arshavin is Arsenal’s No 1 January target and it remains to be seen whether Mark Hughes, the City manager, would want to play Robinho and Arshavin in the same team.”

If you want to see Arshavin at Arsenal, you’d better hope Mark Hughes doesn’t fancy seeing Robinho alongside Arshavin, and instead decides to follow up the £14m signing of Bellamy with a £28m swoop for Danny Murphy.  Because if City do want Arshavin, they’ll get him.  Whilst we’ve steadily revised our bid, trying to do a deal that suits the club, City could waltz in with an offer of £20m and £100,000 p/week and blow us out of the water.

But here’s what I would say to counter that:  I don’t think Kaka was part of Hughes’ team-building strategy.  I think he was a one-off ‘marquee purchase’, as The Times call it.  On that basis, I can’t see Hughes feeling that a team containing Robinho, Wright-Phillips, and Ireland need Arshavin.  Furthermore, I don’t think the Russian has the star profile to warrant the movers-and-Sheikhers that control City forcing him upon the manager in the manner of Robinho, say, or Kaka.

On the other side of this still spinning coin is the fact that if, unlike Kaka, Arshavin sees City as a club worth joining ahead of a member of the established European elite, perhaps he’s not the kind of character we need.

In any case, we may beat City to any potential deal before the idea has even been fully hatched in their minds.  As alluded to in the bastardised poem above, representatives from Arsenal (one would guess Gazidis and Ken Friar) are believed to have jetted into Moscow to try and hammer (and sickle?) out a deal.

Zenit manager Dick Advocaat seems resigned to losing Arshavin, saying:

“Negotiations with Arsenal continue and the chances are very high that Arshavin will soon play in the English Premier League.”

Mouthy agent Dennis Lachter, meanwhile, said:

“There is no concrete news yet but on Tuesday there could be.”

Well, today is Tuesday.  But then, I can’t be sure of the exact worth of Dennis’s word.  I am, however, sure that even Manchester City wouldn’t pay very much for it.

Hurry up, Ivan, and get the deal done.  Lest you forget: The Arabs are (possibly) coming.

Arsenal prepare final swoop for ‘The Owl’

The signs indicate that this week Arsenal will renew their attempts to sign the man once voted ‘Most Owlish Player in the Russian Premier League (2005/06)’: Andrei Arshavin.

Owl?

Let’s start by clarifying the facts – I had a Spanish teacher who once came out with the entirely nonsensical but somewhat endearing phrase, “What you know, is what you know”.  This is the same man who once translated a bit of Spanish as follows:

“And what you’re literally saying there, is to ‘deep breathly’.”

Anyway: what we know is what we know.  And this is what we know Zenit & Co have said:

And this what we know Arsenal have said:

  • Nothing, really.

Ah.

So what do I think will happen this week?  Well, there isn’t much evidence to go on, and what evidence we have is somewhat contradictory.  For example, the fact that Zenit have invited us to Russia is no guarantee that we’ll be able/willing to meet them there.  It’s equally possible that Advocaat is simply not aware of negotiations at board-room level, and that a meeting is scheduled.

I don’t think this is a transfer that will go to the last minute.  There are too many uncertainties about it.  For one thing, it’s not like Arshavin can pop up the road for a medical an hour before the deadline – he’d have to come over from Russia.  Throw in the fact we’d have to sort him a work permit, and it looks like this week could be make or break for the deal.

In which case, perhaps Ken Friar and Ivan Gazidis will be dispatched to see if they can broker an agreement.  Our opening offer was reportedly £10m with £3m in add-ons.  You’d have to think that anything hitting the £15m mark, allied to Arshavin’s own desire to leave, would be enough to force Zenit to relinquish their grasp on Russia’s most talented footballer/owl.

Arsene has pursued this player since the Summer, when he followed up a brilliant UEFA Cup campaign with some stunning performances in Euro 2008.  At that stage it seemed Arshavin was well out of our price range, especially with competition from Barcelona and Tottenham, but with those vultures having sated their appetities elsewhere, and our need for creativity greater than ever, his arrival would now make plenty of sense.  When faced with the choice of Arshavin or Eboue for the right wing, there can only be one reasonable answer.

I have a feeling this isn’t the last time I’ll be talking about this story this week.  It could be painful – I’ve invested in it now, and thrown all my eggs into this awkward Russian basket.  That never tends to turn out well – I’m sure we all remember Baptista, and even Xavi Alonso just a few months ago.

Don’t let me down this time, Arsene.  Send your boys out eastwards and bring me The Birdman of Petersburg.

Van Persie’s hassistrick sees Arsenal keep pace

Nasri fires in the vital second goal

Hull City 1 – 3 Arsenal (Adebayor 30, Cousin 65, Nasri 83, Bendtner 86)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction
here

There ought to be a word for a hatrick of assists.  Seeing as there isn’t, I think I’d better take it upon myself to introduce one.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘The Hassistrick’.

They were three moments of real class from Van Persie: a whipped corner for Emmanuel Adebayor to head home, a turn and through-ball for Samir Nasri to put us back in front, and a one-two with sub Nicklas Bendtner to set the seal on a fine result for Arsenal.

After Villa, United, and Chelsea all picked up victories in hugely improbable circumstances, we had to win to prevent ourselves from falling six points behind the top four.  I feel we responded to the challenge with one of our best performances in some time, inspired by the front pairing of Adebayor and the aforementioned Van Persie.

It was those two who combined for our opening goal. Shortly after the Dutchman’s thunderous free-kick had been tipped onto the bar, he swung in a corner which Adebayor rose impressively to nod back across goal and into the net.  The towering climb was part of an all-round performance from the Togolese striker that was as good as any display he’s offered this season – Arsene’s comments about him needing to step-up seem to have had an immediate impact, which can only go down as good man-management.

Later in the half a good move ended with Eboue (who was up to his old, rather distressing tricks – the principle trick being managing to go an entire game without completing a pass) firing wide.  However, we were not able to assert our dominance by adding to our one-goal lead.

The second half was a very different affair – Hull were sparked into life by a goal for which Gael Clichy has been heavily criticised.  He’d been given a torrid afternoon by the pacey Bernand Mendy, and as a cross-field pass was launched towards the right-winger, Gael was so worried about Mendy going outside him that he backed right off the former Bolton man.  However, this allowed a cross to be swung in, which deflected off Clichy onto the head of Daniel Cousin, who finished expertly, just as at the Emirates a few months ago.  An error from Clichy, and not his first of the season, but I still hope there’s no truth at all in this story.

Hull’s team and crowd were revived, and they could even have had a penalty after a clumsy aerial challenge by Johan Djourou on Manucho.  However, we managed to find an extra gear.  Eboue was replaced by Bendtner, and our attacking threat was instantly more potent.  First Van Persie swivelled on the edge of the box and slipped in Nasri, who finished brilliantly on his weaker foot; then the front three combined to put the icing on the cake, with Bendtner netting his second goal in consecutive games.  One would imagine the Dane will get a well-earned start in the FA Cup at Cardiff.

I think the scoreline was a fair reflection of our supremacy.  Hull aren’t the side they were at the start of the season – but then, anyone who realistically thought their early form would last has about as much logic in their head as Harry Redknapp does in his transfer policy.  We, meanwhile, are putting a little run together that shows signs of promise in the battle for fourth place – it’s worth Aston Villa will be without Ashley Young for the next three games after he was sent off at Sunderland in a game they were a little fortunate to win.

That is the battle we’re in – not the title race.  The difference between us and a side like United is clear: they’ve managed to keep ten consecutive clean sheets, whilst we are always liable to concede a silly goal like yesterday’s.  Their success is built on the back of their defence – our achievements would have to be in spite of ours.

Tomorrow the transfer madness resumes.  Be here or be happy.  I know which you’ll choose.