Afternoon update: Arsene’s press conference, Cesc, Dann, Mata, Eboue

Greetings all.  Wipe away those tears and sit down for your second blog of a big day for Arsenal.  It’s been busy for me too, but I’ve managed to keep an eye on the traumatic events at our beloved club.

First up, at 9am, was Arsene’s press conference.  Reading the quotes coming in I was quite sure that our manager had cracked under the strain and gone completely mad.  A couple of choice quotes:

“I expect nobody to leave the club.”

“At the moment we have too big a squad – We are not in a position where we are short of players.”

Naturally the twitterverse was up in arms about this.  It seemed for all the world as if The Emperor was indeed well and truly naked, and frankly it was becoming a little awkward and embarrassing.

Until, that is, I saw the video.  You can have a watch of it here.  It proves that, as ever, context is everything.  The familiar curl of the lip and the twinkle eye instantly give an entirely different reading to what Arsene says.

He’s playing a game.  And the aim of that game is “give nothing away; disturb the squad as little as possible before the Newcastle game”.  And, on reflection, he does it rather well.

Of course it’s frustrating for us as fans – when Arsene communicates with the press he communicates indirectly with us, so when he tries to pull the wool over their eyes he simultaneously deceives supporters – but he has his reasons.  What’s very clear to me is that Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri due to depart imminently.  Both players have accordingly been left out of the squad for tomorrow’s game at Newcastle.

If you believe some reports, the Cesc deal is already done.  There are conflicting stories coming out of the two clubs on this one, and the smart money is on the move being finalised on Monday.  I for one won’t be saying my goodbyes until he’s definitely off.  We’ve put up with this one for so long that another 48 hours or so isn’t going to hurt.

In Manchester, Roberto Mancini said still were “still working” on a deal for Nasri, but conceded it was “not easy”.  I’m sure a few million pounds would smooth over any difficulties there.

In his pre-game interview for Arsenal.com, Arsene was asked about Birmingham centre-half Scott Dann.  He said:

“He is one of the centre-backs we look at.”

We know Phil Jagielka is one of the others.  Hopefully Arsene’s ultimate decision is driven by quality rather than value.

According to The Guardian’s Richard Williams, Arsene later told the newspaper journalists there was no deal for Juan Mata and none was likely, whilst reports of an agreed fee for Jadson are premature.

Finally, the club today announced their squad numbers for the 20011/12 season.  New boy and possessor of “exceptional qualities” Alex Chamberlain inherits Denilson’s 15, suggesting the Brazilian probably won’t ever be back, whilst Ryo Miyaichi takes 31, Jenkinson 25, and Szczesny downgrades his 53 to a 13.  One the major reasons for the delay in announcing the numbers was that Gervinho wanted compatriot Eboue’s 27, but the club were waiting for the right-back to be sold.  Now, they’ve decided to just give it to him anyway, leaving Eboue without a squad number.  It’s safe to assume he’ll be joining Cesc and Nasri in leaving the club before August is out.

Right. Tomorrow I’ll be back with a piece more focused on the Newcastle game and the season ahead.  Till then.

Jadson identified as Cesc’s replacement

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Tomorrow is the first day of a new season.  Ordinarily, I’d be hugely and embarrassingly excited about that.  Today, it feels like a speck on the horizon as compared to the impending horrors of the transfer market.

The trio of Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City have been very quiet about the futures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, until last night, when Arsenal.com released this small clip. Give it a watch.  Arsene doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to.  It’s clear that Cesc Fabregas is on the way out, possibly as soon as today.

The player himself has maintained his silence, breaking it only to say:


Presumably it’s a new work phone.  Or perhaps this was the clincher in negotiations.  €29m + €6m + €5m + blackberry bold 9900.

Joking aside, it looks like I’ll have to roll out the ‘Cesc’s Arsenal career’ obituary imminently.  I might start pre-writing them for any decent player we ever have.

On Nasri, meanwhile, Arsene says the situation is “stable”.  Stable how, exactly?  Even if he’s not sold he’s still at most ten months away from leaving.  My increasing feeling is that both players will indeed be sold, and probably over the next few days.

As worried as you are about Jadon coping in the Premier League, he looks far more worried himself

The surest sign yet that the pair of playmakers are on the verge of leaving the club comes in the form that Arsenal have already identified his replacement: the Brazilian JadsonThe Independent go as far as to say a £12m fee has been agreed – and my information is that this deal is very much on Arsenal’s agenda, with the only concern surrounding the playmaker’s eligibility for a work-permit.

With all the talk about Juan Mata, I was reminded of what happened when we lost Thierry Henry.  The expectation was that we would move for a big name, like Nicholas Anelka.  Instead, Eduardo da Silva appeared from nowhere.  It’s much the same with Jadson, who ironically now plays alongside Eduardo currently for Shakhtar Donetsk.  Some papers are suggesting Arsenal would like to sign both Mata and Jadson, but I’m not convinced Arsene will move for more than one dwarfish attacker.

Jadson is even smaller than Mata, standing just 5’6″ tall.  To put that in perspective, it’s an inch shorter than Arshavin.  His age would also make him an unusual Wenger signing – he’ll be 28 in October.  Yesterday he tweeted:

“If everything goes to plan, I’ll have some news for everyone at the start of next week. Hope it works out. #happy”

If Jadson does arrive, I hope it’s as part of a concerted spending spree in order to restore morale and strengthen our ever-weakening squad. Joel Campbell, another potential signing from across the Atlantic, is due to hold a press conference in the next 24 hours at which he will announce which club he is due to join.

Speaking of press conferences, Arsene will step before the media at 9am UK-time before travelling to Newcastle.  The chances of taking Cesc or Nasri with him have got to be slim to none.  The rest of the team news is here.

For more on Cesc, Nasri, Newcastle and the season ahead, keep your eyes peeled on Arseblog for the first Arsecast of the season, with myself and Goonerholic.  I won’t, I hasten to add, be rapping.

The End Is Nigh

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Whisper it, but it may almost be over.

El Mundo Deportivo: "Today, Cesc"

A transfer saga that has hung its miserable shadow over us since the day Cesc Fabregas first arrived in London, and that has spent two years showering uncertainty on to our captain and our club, may be about to end.

Widespread reports in England and indeed Barcelona (click images on the right) suggest a deal is imminent.  Of course, we’ve been here before, but the sheer weight of speculation suggests there may be fire at the heart of all this smoke.  The impending commencement of the season, too, may have hurried negotiations along.

Barcelona’s supposed final offer, which they expect Arsenal to accept today, totals €40m.  It’s unclear whether that’s a full €40m, or if the Catalan club are including in that figure the €5m Arsenal will save by not paying Cesc any kind of loyalty bonus.  Whatever they end up paying, it won’t be more than about €29m upfront – and it’ll be a bargain.  Cesc will go for marginally more than Andy Carroll.

Sport: "Cesc - Yes"

As I said a few days ago, the specifics of the deal don’t matter that much to me.  In fact, I’d happily lose out on a million euros or so if it meant we could get it done quickly.  Going in to the new season with this huge issue resolved and a new captain appointed would provide a welcome boost.

When the deal is finally done, both clubs will declare the fee “undisclosed”.  Barca well tell the Catalan press they got a bargain, and Arsenal will brief the English press that they got a fair price.  We’ll never know the truth.

There’s plenty more to say about Cesc and his departure.  I’ll save it for when any of this speculation is confirmed.  The next days promise to be painful, but I think it’s best for everyone now that this gets sorted.  The night is darkest just before the dawn; we can and will emerge from this still unbowed, still Arsenal.

Parting with Cesc will certainly hurt more than seeing off Samir Nasri.  If rumours are to be believed, he could follow Cesc through the door marked ‘exit’, with Manchester City ready to pay upwards of £20m for the midfielder.  If we’re going to lose Nasri, I’d rather do it now for that sort of money than in a year for nothing.  He played for France in their 1-1 draw with Chile last night, so if he is left out at Newcastle on Saturday it’s safe to say he has little future at Arsenal.  If, that is, he’s still here.

An Arsenal executive told the BBC that “all the funds generated by the sale will be reinvested in new players”.  I don’t doubt the board would be willing to do just that, but the final decision, as ever, will rest with Arsene.  Will he be pragmatic enough to forget some of his principles and spend the money required to settle an unsteady ship?  Time will tell.

One signing that does appear imminent is that of Joel Campbell.  I told you on July 29th he’d agreed to join, and last night a Costa Rican journalist who met the U-20 international side off the plane from the World Cup in Colombia confirmed to me that Campbell intends to hold a press conference announcing his decision on Friday before travelling to England on Saturday to finalise things.  The club have applied for a special talent visa as they did with Ryo Miyaichi, and, if successful, would make Campbell part of the first-team squad for 2011/12.

Right, that’ll do for now.  Something tells me I might be back here before the day is out.

Only one number counts when it comes to the Cesc deal

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According to reports in Cataluña, yesterday’s meeting between Arsenal and Barcelona officials ended without agreement on a fee for Cesc Fabregas.  Barca’s latest offer still falls short of Arsenal’s £40m valuation, and the saga looks set to run on in to the start of the season.

Whilst Arsenal are undoubtedly right to push Barca to pay as high a fee as possible, the truth is that I don’t think it matters too much exactly what the final amount is.  What difference does a few million euros make, really?  The fact is that Arsenal are losing their captain against their will.  Having a little bit more money in the bank won’t make that blow any easier to suffer.

The only figure that matters to me is how much is reinvested in the squad.  Cesc Fabregas cost Arsenal less than a million pounds in compensation.  His sale will generate an enormous profit, and one that, if we’re serious about always planning to keep Cesc, is not one we’ve factored in to any budget.  Without going in to the economic detail – mainly because I don’t know enough about it – it’s money that we should be able to go and spend.

And boy do we need to. Partly to fill the gaps in the squad that remain from last season, but also to put a positive spin on what has been a horribly draining story for the football club.

Arsene says he understands the fans’ frustrations, and is doing his best to recruit new signings, adding that “next week, something might happen”.  It’s hardly definitive, but it’s something.  We can hope.

The preposterous nature of Fabregas situation reached new heights yesterday when, after showing off the fact he was training like a good boy, the club elected not to take him to Lisbon.  Arsene said:

“Everybody is free to think what they want. We cannot stop people raising questions.

He is just coming back from injury and is not ready to play in a game. But he is not injured.”

I have to say I’m amused by the idea that the solution to Cesc’s lack of practise is to stop him playing in, well, ‘practise matches’.  It’s clear there’s more to this than meets the eye, and sooner or later Arsenal are going to have to be honest about that, otherwise Arsene will find himself facing some very difficult questions if and when the skipper is left out of competetive games.

Also missing from the 19-man squad are the injured Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Carlos Vela, and Laurent Koscielny.  Youngsters Frimpong, Miyaichi, Lansbury and Miquel are included.

So tonight an Arsenal team will line up without either Fabregas or Nasri.  Might have to get used to that…

Friday Round-up: Udinese, Cesc, Bartley & more

Hello all.  It’s the end of yet another week of summer stagnation at Arsenal.  Seven days ago we were headed in to the Emirates Cup.  Based on Arsene’s quotes in his press conference at that tournament, I felt that the dominoes would soon begin to fall.  The Cesc saga surely had to come to a head, whilst Phil Jagielka and Juan Mata were both reportedly on the way in.  A week later, and it’s ‘as you were’.  Or arguably worse: if you believe everything the press tell you, Jagielka has rejected a move, Mata’s escape clause has expired, and the Cesc deal could drag on until deadline day.  With the players due to go away next week on international duty, it’s hard to foresee a flurry of action changing anything major between now and the start of the season.

The squad have flown out to Portugal this afternoon, where they will face Benfica in their final friendly of the summer tomorrow night.  As usual, all the discussion surrounds Cesc Fabregas, and whether or not he a) travelled and b) will take any part.  He’s certainly playing a full part in training – the club have gone out of their way to show photos of him looking all smiley and chummy with Arsene.  Catalan paper Sport are claiming that he hasn’t travelled, but there are conflicting reports and no official word as yet.  If he has remained behind, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the BBC say Ivan Gazidis was due to meet Barcelona today.

Samir Nasri won’t be on the plane either are reportedly picking up ankle injury.  Whether it’s a genuine injury or more like Cesc’s phantom hamstring problem remains to be seen – L’Equipe claim today that his move to Man City could be back on.

One player who has left, albeit just on loan, is Kyle Bartley.  A full season with Rangers will do good things for him, and hopefully he’ll return in twelve months a better, more experienced player.  It was suggested to me today that the major dam halting the flow of our transfer activity is our inability to move on squad players like Almunia, Eboue and Bendtner.  We can’t even sell our best player and captain for a decent fee, so selling these guys is a hell of a task.  Bendtner is apparently now the subject of interest from Stoke after they failed in bids for Carlton Cole and Cameron Jerome.  Imagine being the third choice on that list.  And then imagine your ego is as big as Bendtner’s.  I’m afraid I can’t see that one working out.

Lastly, we come to the most important news of the day: the Champions League draw.  Arsenal will face Udinese, with the first leg at the Emirates on Tuesday, August 16th.  Check out this article for the lowdown on our opponents.

Udinese will be tough opponents – certainly the likes of FC Zurich or Odense might have made life a little easier.  Having lost Sanchez, Inler and Zapata, they’re likely to be weaker than last season.  They’ll also be behind us in their preparations, as Serie A won’t yet have kicked off.  That said, both Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie are suspended for the first leg, whilst Cesc Fabregas will be keen to avoid participating and thus becoming cup-tied.

If, that is, he’s still here…