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…