“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.

This oughtn’t be about revenge

Arsene Wenger is insistent that today’s game against Hull is not about revenge (for this, if trauma has blocked it out):

“On Saturday we just want to continue our progress, it is not about revenge at all. We feel we are on a good run so we want to be quiet and focus.”

Abou Diaby might not neccessarily agree, as arseblogger points out, but unsurprisingly I believe that Diaby is wrong and Wenger is right.  Wanting “revenge” on Hull City would make us seem somewhat pathetic, like a lion declaring a vengeful war on the mouse that bit it.  Today, as Arsene says, is about continuing our progress and, in doing so, asserting our dominance. 

One would imagine it’ll be the same team that faced Bolton, with Kolo Toure skippering the side alongside Johan Djourou, and Diaby and Denilson playing in the centre.  Robin van Persie will start with Emmanuel Adebayor, who Arsene is hoping can recapture the form of last season.

I know I said I wouldn’t be talking about Andr*i Arsh*vin until Monday, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be interested to read this.

I’m confident today.  Hull seem to be playing without the freedom and fortune their start granted them, whilst our own decline seems to have halted.  Three points might not be ‘revenge’, but it’d still do very nicely indeed.

I will not be mentioning any potential signings until MONDAY MORNING

As I type, reports are suggesting that Kaka has signed for Manchester City. Everyone, it seems, has their price.

There isn’t a vast amount of Arsenal news around today – Arsene insists he has transfer targets other than Arshavin, but he might well just be trying to put one over Zenit.  They’ll be more likely to sell if they believe he has deposited some of his eggs in other baskets.  Howevr, Arsene did confirm that Brede Hangeland and Jimmy Bullard of Fulham are not on the radar.

I need a break from the transfer window – it’s doing my head in.  Tomorow and Sunday’s blogs will be all about this weekend’s tricky looking game at Hull.  They’re not in the best of form, and we certainly owe them for what happend at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season.

That’s all for now.  Don’t forget, you can catch more regular updates over on Twitter (I don’t get paid for plugging that.  I just really really like twitter).

Happy Friday to you all.