Alex Song could be like a new signing

Hello all.  I’ve had a truly miserable day.  I won’t go into it, but suffice to say if the tone of this blog is a little down-beat, then you can blame the world for its barely-disguised conspiracy against my being.

Arsene Wenger has revealed that Andrei Arshavin’s protracted move from Zenit St Petersburg is not imminent, saying:

“We know what we want to do, but we are not close to signing today because I would tell you. But there is no basic news. There again, we are in negotations yes but we want to respect our principles.”

It is unclear if he means our principle of not making public any impending signings, or our principle of not really buying anyone at all, ever.  Still, he does describe himself as “very hopeful” of a deal.  Interestingly, the BBC have downgraded that to just “hopeful” in their headline.  Such curmudgeons, the beeb.  Arshavin’s highly infuriating agent claims there could be some movement “early next week”, which leads me to believe that’s when our next official bid will be tabled (and inevitably rejected, when Zenit receive a fax offering them £10 of Woolworth’s vouchers and a tangerine).

Arsene claims the injured quartet of Fabregas, Walcott, Rosicky and Eduardo are like new signings.  I don’t know about you, but I happen to think some new signings would be a lot more like new signings.  We can but dream.

It’s quite lucky we’ve managed to put this run of seven league game’s unbeaten together, otherwise people would really be panicking.  But many of those results have hardly been convincing – we’ve scraped 1-0 wins at home to Wigan, Portsmouth and Bolton, and showed our defensive frailties in the game at Aston Villa.  Our problems may seem to have evaporated, but even my small knowledge of the hydrologic cycle tells me that stuff that’s evaporated eventually condenses and comes pouring down as horrible, horrible rain.

Still, at least Alex Song could be fit for the game at Hull.  He’ll be like a new signing, I suppose.

Oh, so THAT’s why City aren’t in for Arshavin…

Manchester City last night threatened to blow the transfer window wide open by making a £91m offer for AC Milan’s Kaka.

It’s ludicrous.  It’s crazy.  And most remarkably of all, it seems to be true.

£91m is obscene.  No footballer is worth that amount of money.  But then, Robinho wasn’t worth £32m, and Wayne Bridge wasn’t worth £12m.  The money doesn’t matter to City, and whilst Mark Hughes has been trying to add Premier League experience, haggling over a £12m fee for Craig Bellamy, Sheikh Mansour has had bigger fish to fry.  Whether or not Milan would cave in to such a huge offer (almost double the current world record of £48m for Zinedine Zidane) remains to be seen.  If they do, it sets a dangerous precedent – and just how long before the £60m offer for Cesc arrives?

Back in the real world, we continue to pursue that Russian fella, who is proving to be as elusive to our clutches as he is to most defenders.  Thanks to Dublin Adam, who provided a translation of this article which fuels us with the following information:

  • Arshavin was verbally promised he would be sold if an offer of €15m arrived, but Zenit are now holding out for €18m
  • Arsenal offered €10m rising to €13m, but this, as we know, was rejected
  • Zenit want all the cash upfront
  • Arshavin’s agent, the thoroughly infuriating Dennis Lachter, is reported to want €5m in fees for the deal
  • Arshavin has informed Advocaat he will not play for Zenit again, and has refused to travel with the squad to a camp in the UAE

We’ve seen situations like this before.  Sylvain Wiltord infamously went on strike to secure his move from Bordeaux to London.  It seems Arshavin is prepared to do the same.

It’s really difficult to see how this one will end up.  The key factor for me is that I just can’t think of another player of Arshavin’s quality who would be available in this window – unless, that is, you happen to have £91m to throw around.  It’s hard to see how Zenit could reject an offer in the region of €15m, though whether we are able or willing to go that far remains to be seen.

It’s at that point now where I feel invested in it.  I’m succumbing to the temptation of checking NewsNow in the hope that a fee will have been agreed – or even to hear that negotiations have broken off so I can begin the inevitable mourning process. 

I suppose if I had more of a life, this probably wouldn’t happen.  But then that seems like such a lot of effort.

Oh, almost forgot:

Congrats to two on-loan Young Guns who did well last night: Jay Simpson scored a cracking goal for his first in a West Brom shirt, whilst Armand Traore’s blistering run down the right (yes, the right) set up Peter Crouch’s goal in Portsmouth’s victory over Bristol City.  Both players will be hoping to make enough of an impression in the next six months to get an opportunity at Arsenal in 2009/10.  The goals may well appear on 101greatgoals today.  Ciao for now.

Zenit negotiating with “a number of English clubs”…?

Today’s blog is a) brief and b) late.  Apologies for both.

Zenit St. Petersburg’s General Director, Maxim Mitrofanov (who, incidentally, looks somewhat like a fat schoolboy), has suggested that Arsenal are not the only club in the frame for Andrei Arshavin’s signature:

“With regard to the transfer of Andrei, we are negotiating with a number of English clubs.  Zenit negotiates with potential buyers directly, this corresponds to the interest of foreign clubs interested in buying Arshavin.”

That second setence really doesn’t seem to mean anything at all, but a one-line quote would’ve looked a bit rubbish, so I left it in.  The good news (assuming, as this blog does, that the signing of Arshavin would be a ‘good’ thing), is that negotiations with Arsenal are still ongoing.  Allow some other Russian, Alexey Petrov, to explain:

“From Manchester City no documents have been reported in our club.  In recent times the only offer for Arshavin was from Arsenal, proposing £10 million. However the leadership of our club considered that this amount is insufficient for a player of this level.

Negotiations with Arsenal are not finished, they are continuing, but you cannot say there is anything definite.”

If City aren’t in for him, it’s hard to imagine another English club who might have made a bid.  Spurs spring to mind, but I’m not sure he’s quite what they need.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Mitrofanov is trying to make it appear as if there’s competition to force Arsenal’s hand in negotiations.

What could make the difference is that Arshavin himself is in little doubt about what he’d like to happen:

“In some games last season, we played football which was very similar to that of Arsenal.  I would prefer my present No 10 but in the team where I hope to move it’s not vacant. So I’m ready for any number they are going to offer me.”

Well, at least the shirt number aspect of negotiations shouldn’t be too problematic.

We’re almost halfway through the transfer window now.  One wonders how long Arsene will persist with this deal before he begins to move for other potential targets.

Nicklas Bendtner apparently gave away the starting line-up for the game against Bolton.  Frankly, even if he did, I can’t see what difference it would have made: it wasn’t a particularly revolutionary selection, and I’d be surprised if the Bolton management gaped in shock and awe and what Bendtner allegedly made public.

Finally, you have to love the committment of some Arsenal fans.

Back with more tomorrow.

Arshavin Latest: You can’t get “really special class” at a really special discount

Andrei Arshavin would greatly improve our team

Yesterday morning came the ‘news’ that Zenit St. Petersburg have rejected a bid from Arsenal for Andrei Arshavin that amounts to around £10m.  Zenit spokesman Alexei Petrov said:

“I can confirm that Zenit did get an official offer from Arsenal about Andrei Arshavin. It was rejected as insufficient. They offered about £10m. No new offers have arrived from them since. At the moment, Arsenal are the only club to have approached us about the player.”

It remains to be seen whether or not this was the first bid of a lengthy negotiating process, or the culmination of talks that had taken place beforehand.  Opinion among the press is split, with some sources suggesting we will return with a £12m offer, and The Mirror convinced we will be gazumped by an £18m bid from cash-flushed Manchester City.  It’s hard to know what I believe, but I would say the following things:

  • I find it hard to believe that bid was rejected after Friday afternoon’s press conference, and at that stage Arsene did little to suggest his interest in the player had ended;
  • The paper who claim Arshavin is headed for Manchester are the very same publication who earlier this week ran an “Exclusive” saying that he was “on the verge” of a £10m move to Arsenal.

If City have come in, then Zenit will be delighted.  Their sole reason for making our move for Arshavin public was to drum up interest from other clubs, and now that Tottenham seem to have ended their interest in the player, City are the obvious candidates: they have a need for quality players, and what’s more, they have the money to make Zenit (and probably Arshavin) drool.

Whether or not City are interested, it’s important we push this one as far as we possibly can, even if they have a bid accepted.  Should the player makes his preference to join Arsenal clear then that could still swing the deal in our favour.  But having had a £10m bid rejected, it’s clear we’re going to have to rummage down the back of the sofa and see if we can go that little bit higher – be it £12m, or maybe even £15m.

£10m for Andrei Arshavin is not a realistic price.  This is the player who was voted the sixth best in Europe just a few weeks ago.  The players above him were Ronaldo, Messi, Torres, Casillas, and Xavi.  Immediately beneath him were David Villa, Kaka, Ibrahimovic, and Steven Gerrard.  He is in the company of players who are worth £30m and upwards.  I sincerely doubt that even Arsene believes that kind of player is worth as little as £10m – hell, we got £12m for Aleksandr Hleb…

Hopefully the bid is just an opening gambit, and we are realistic enough to know we’ll have to go higher to get our man.  Arsene has said:

“What I want, if we do add somebody, is really special class.”

However, you cannot expect to get really special class at a really special discount.  Sometimes, when a player fits the bill, you have to be prepared to go that extra mile, or pay that extra million pounds.  We all know how much our refusal to pay the £2m difference between Liverpool’s asking price and our offer for Xabi Alonso has cost us – not financially perhaps, but certainly in terms of points.

There was a time, a few weeks back, when I was so convinced of the weakness of our squad that just about any arrival would be greeted with open arms.  The likes of Jimmy Bullard and Mark Noble seemed attractive alternatives to Song or Diaby.  But now it has become clear our spending is going to be limited, and wholesale changes are not just likely but impossible, I actually concurr with Arsene, and the quality of the player(s) that we bring in is all-important.

There aren’t many footballers who have the quality not just to walk straight into our team, but also to improve it – Arshavin is one of those.  The arguments against his signing are not convincing:

  • the Russian league is extremely physical with very cold conditions, so he ought to be better suited to the Premier League than many of the mediterranean players we sign;
  • he may be 27, but the Russian mentality is so different to the Western one.  One only need look at the (admittedly somewhat) extreme threats aimed at Arshavin over his desire to ‘Go West’ (as it were) to understand that the inward-looking effects of Communist rule still linger.

How many players do we have whose inspirational style has guided a team to UEFA Cup victory?  How many players do we have that have been lauded as one of the stars of a high-profile International tournament?  How many players do we have with a degree of the skill, invention, and direct running Arshavin displays in the video below?

Answer: not enough to justify pinching pennies over the price of a player who would improve us immediately.  Not when he’s ‘all grown-up’ – now.  It’s not often a player in that class becomes available; for one to be available in January is almost unheard of.  The match against Bolton made it clear how much we require a player to combat our lack of creativity.  We need to compensate for the combined missing attributes of Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, and Theo Walcott – that’s not something any old player could even contemplate doing.  Arshavin is a unique opportunity and one I’m convinced that, much like in the case of Alonso, we would regret missing.

The potential competition from City is nothing new to us.  In one Summer we infamously lost out on Shawn Wright-Phillips, Julio Baptista, and Robinho as the vultures of Chelsea and Real Madrid swooped on Arsene’s targets.  When we missed out on those players, we didn’t settle for the second best available, because second best is not enough for Arsenal.  Arsene recognises that much – now he simply needs to recognise that he has to push the boat out that little further to secure players of the requisite quality.

This one could run longer than Mathieu Flamini powered by a duracell battery.*

*though, obviously, it won’t run beyond 5pm on January 2nd.

Bendtner makes a point; Arshavin required urgently

Arsenal 1 – 0 Bolton Wanderers (Bendtner 84)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

Nicklas Bendtner is the Emirates crowd’s current scapegoat of choice.  After Emmanuel Eboue was declared ‘Out of Bounds’ for the boo boys, an unspoken decision was made to train all sights on the Danish striker.  Yesterday he replaced Eboue in a more literal sense, coming on as a substitute with fifteen minutes remaining.

He played from the right wing in a 4-2-4 formation, and after coming close with a header as his first touch, he twice gave the ball away after dribbling into the centre of a congested pitch.  After that, a fair number of fans began to ironically cheer every remotely successful touch Bendtner had – pathetic behaviour from a section of the home crowd I’m beginning to feel increasingly alienated from.

Still, Bendtner himself delivered the perfect rebuke, launching himself at a Robin van Persie cross to end 84 minutes of frustration.  Naturally we handed Kevin Davies a chance to equalise, but Almunia saved and we managed to hold on for the victory.

Bolton had defended well enough, and with so many creative players out through injury we struggled to break them down.  Our best spell came in the second half, when Samir Nasri swapped with the sloppy Abou Diaby and played from a deep, central position.  Vela and Bendtner then joined Adebayor and Van Persie in an attacking foursome that proved, eventually, to be just too much for a depleted Bolton side to contain.

That said, I can only really cite two other scoring opportunities in the game.  One came shortly after Nasri was moved inside, when the Frenchman picked out a brilliant pass for Adebayor.  The African, much like when he rounded David James against Portsmouth, dallied, and Bolton were able to block.

The other chance fell to Adebayor’s strike partner, Robin van Persie, who managed to squeeze a shot away after an Ade flick.  However, his right-footed strike bounced off the post and was cleared.  The paucity of chances created advertised just how badly we need a player of Andrei Arshavin’s invention and skill.  The latest news of the Russian is that Zenit have rejected a £10m bid – there’ll be more on his potential transfer here tomorrow.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of enjoying the stadium’s Club Level facilities for the first time, and I have to say it was quite the experience.  The manner in which I tore into the buffet was particularly shameless, and I oughtn’t be surprised that today eating anything, and indeed moving anywhere at all are proving equally problematic.

My seat was right next to the director’s box, and whilst the rest off the board filed back to the dining room after the game, it was good to see neww CEO Ivan Gazidis stay and clap each player off the pitch.  Fabio Capello was also present, though who he was supposed to be watching is beyond me (*cough* WILSHERE *cough*).

Sat just ahead of me was a certain David Dein.  Seeing him sat amongst the relative plebs, just feet from the director’s box that was once his stomping ground, I began to understand (if not appreciate) his motivation to force his way back into a position of power at the club.  That said, he looked downcast and quiet throughout the game.  The humiliation of his sacking from Arsenal has forced him to address his previously effervescent public persona.

Finally, a word for Kolo Toure.  Linked with a move away from the club, he was captain yesterday as we kept a second consecutive Premier League clean-sheet.  Walking off the pitch, he saluted the fans and repeatedly clutched and kissed the badge.

Players do come and go, but it is not Kolo’s time yet.

Arshavin thoughts tomorrow.