The Emirates Cup is here, with Arsenal facing Boca Juniors at 4.20pm today. The game is like on ESPN and there will be highlights on Arsenal Player later today.
It’s a significant landmark in the Arsenal calendar. For Arsene, it marks the end of the first phase of pre-season. Rather than building stamina, training will now begin to be geared towards match situations. A limitation of six substitutions also means that for the first time this summer players will be asked to complete 90 minutes.
For fans, it represents a return to the Emirates and the commencement of a new campaign. With the Premier League just a fortnight away, the vernacular shifts: “next season” becomes “this season”, and thoughts turn to tackling the fixtures on the ever-encroaching horizon.
With all that in mind, it’s particularly worrying that Cesc Fabregas will continue to be absent from our preparations. It’s no secret that he wants to move to Barcelona, and yesterday was a watershed moment, as for the first time Arsene publicly questioned his commitment to the cause:
“I always say he is torn between two loves – the club where he has been educated as a very young boy and the club where he has been educated from 16 onwards and he has been given a chance. I personally can understand it – but of course we want to be certain about his complete commitment.”
I have to say that what with these comments, added to Peter Hill-Wood’s statement the day before, it feels very much as if we’re waiting for Barcelona to come in and put us out of our misery. They’ll sense that, and know that they can bide their time, incrementally increasing their derogatory offers until eventually we accept. The Spanish papers today reflect that too, with all sorts of language about how Arsenal “have realised they have no choice”.
Arsene was loathe to talk about any kind of deadline yesterday – “the only deadline is August 31st” – but I hope that privately the club have taken a stronger position. Barca need to be told that either an appropriate bid arrives for Cesc by such and such a date, or any deal is off. The player is under contract, and a disgruntled Cesc is still a more useful asset than most other footballers.
The skipper himself must be in real limbo. I don’t, however, subscribe to the idea that Cesc has gone on any kind of strike to force through a move. The decision to exclude him from first-team involvement will either have been mutual, or the manager’s.
That said, but the longer this goes on the greater the chances of the player’s relationship with the fans being severely damaged – predominantly through Barcelona’s fault, not his own. If they want Cesc, they owe it to him to come in for him soon before this gets even messier.
I think the situation is probably best summed up by this genuinely mental film from Scottish lunatics FitbaThatba. Enjoy:
Perhaps in an attempt to offset some of the gloom, Arsene was bullish about the prospect of new signings, saying:
“Our business will be done sooner rather than later but it is difficult to speak about any individual player because that makes things difficult.”
To me, that says that next week could be a big one on the negotiating front: the squad are stationed in London Monday to Friday, Arsene will have his afternoons free to oversee any negotiations, and any potential arrival would have a week to settle in before the Premier League kicks off.
Although he conceded an interest in both players, he refused to comment on negotiations for Phil Jagielka and Juan Mata. In my opinion, they’d both be superb additions, but I don’t want to get carried away – all signs suggest Everton are very resistant to the prospect of losing Jagielka for anything less than £18m, which I can’t see us producing.
Unless, of course, we had sudden windfall from the sale of a certain Catalan midfielder. Hmmm…