Archive for July, 2007

Lassana Diarra didn’t fly with Chelsea to Brondby

636 comments July 31st, 2007

When Abou Diaby signed for Arsenal, he made no secret of that fact he had turned down Chelsea to do so. Many pundits were surprised that Jose Mourinho was interested in introducing the powerful Frenchman to a squad already packed with International midfielders. But Mourinho, whatever you may think of him, is no fool, and in Diaby he saw 50% of France’s future midfield partnership.

Diaby’s career has already been paralleled with that of current France captain, Patrick Vieira: a significant compliment. But behind every great player is a man who gives him the platform on which to perform his heroics. These figures are often the less heralded of the pair – Adams had his Bould, Wright and Henry had Bergkamp, and when at Arsenal, Vieira had Emmanuel Petit and then Gilberto Silva. And with France, he had perhaps the greatest exponent of this art alongside him: Claude Makelele.

Lassana Diarra is essentially Makelele Mk II. Both Diarra and Diaby received their first call-ups to the senior France squad towards the end of last season, and manager Domenech has been fairly unequivocal about his hopes for the youngsters to replace the great pair of Vieira and Makelele. It was this potential partnership that was in Mourinho’s mind when he moved for Diaby. And it might be the same idea that is leading Arsene Wenger to reignite his interest in a player he first pursued more than two years ago.

Diarra is a quality player. Last season he excelled for Chelsea in midfield and at right-back. My brother is a season ticket holder, and often he would report that Diarra had been the best player on the pitch. He’s a neat passer with a tremendous engine and surprisingly tough tackling for one so small.

What is odd about this transfer is that Diarra plays primarily in positions that we are already well covered in. We’ve got so many right-backs and central midfielders that we’ve started playing them on the wing. Perhaps in Diarra Wenger sees a genuine holding midfield player – a back-up for Gilberto that currently we don’t quite have.

It may just be that he doesn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to sign an International class player for a fee of around £2m. Diarra’s contract expires next summer, so his market value is at an all time bargain low.

Or, of course, it could just be meaningless media talk. But I can tell you for a fact that Diarra was last night a late withdrawal from the Chelsea squad that travelled to Brondby. Still, it’s hard to get too excited in a Summer where we’ve been duped by misleading transfer stories again and again. Let’s wait and see.

One transfer saga that has finally been wrapped up is that of Jose Reyes. It’s been a long goodbye, except instead of blowing kisses we’ve mostly been flipping the finger at a player who has agitated for a permanent move back to the Spanish capital for nearly two years now. After he threatened to scream and scream until he was sick, he finally got his way, and he’s now an Atletico player. I expect we’ll never quite know what the fee was, but you can be sure we made a loss on a player who seemed to give up on a career in England the first time the sun disappeared behind a cloud. are great value.  Yesterday they published a story saying Kieran Gibbs had joined Southend, only to be later change the story to feature Kerrea Gilbert.  Well, it is indeed Gilbert who has gone on a six month loan.  Part of me would be surprised if we saw the 20-year old in an Arsenal shirt again, though the length of the deal allows room for Gilbert to return when Toure and Eboue head to the African Nations Cup.

That’s all for now.  Our transfer profit for this Summer is now in the £10-15m bracket.  Let’s hope it’s not by the end of the month.

Jose Antonio Reyes Sold to Athletico Madrid

93 comments July 30th, 2007

The deal is finally done. Atletico Madrid have announced the signing of Jose Reyes on a four year contract, for a fee believed to be in the region of €9m. It wouldn’t surprise me if the fee remains undisclosed at Arsenal’s behest, to prevent any embarrassment over the loss we might make on the Spaniard.

Reyes will be presented to the fans tomorrow morning, and will join the Atletico squad when they fly out to Holland for the Amsterdam tournament. Sadly, we don’t play Atletico, so will miss out on the opportunity to give him a United-style kicking.

To be honest, he deserves it. He’s held the club to ransom over his transfer back to Spain. A year ago he was probably worth £15m. Today he’s left for just over a third of that.

Still, it’s a bit more spending money for Arsene. More on that tomorrow.

Arsenal 2 – 1 Inter: Breathtaking Robin Soars

360 comments July 30th, 2007

With a shimmy, a side-step, a drag-back and a blast with his right foot, Robin van Persie won the Emirates Cup.  A breathtaking goal.  Arsene may have talked about the importance of a team ethic in the wake of Henry’s departure, but if Robin keeps doing things like this then nothing will be able to stop him emerging as the star of this young Arsenal side.

Yes, it was only a friendly, and yes, Inter Milan were not fielding a full-strength side, but nonetheless this was a good victory.  After falling behind to a David Suazo header, we showed a great deal of respect for our fans by fighting back to claim the Emirates trophy.

The first goal came from Aleksandr Hleb, finishing at the second attempt after Eboue played in Sagna to pull it back.  Eboue and Sagna combined well throughout the game, and certainly have the potential to build a strong partnership on the right-hand side.  Sagna is strong in the air and powerful in the tackle, whilst Eboue looked very dangerous in the final third.

Hleb, meanwhile, deserved his goal after another excellent performance in the role I originally envisaged for him behind the striker.  Whilst it’s clear he’s never going to be a Bergkamp, he could certainly prove a useful linking player, particularly in the Champions League.  I can’t be the only fan who doesn’t want to see him wide again.

Gallas and Toure looked unusually solid, whilst even debutant Kieran Gibbs had a decent game, and wasn’t over-awed by the occasion or the opposition.  The Emirates Cup has been important for Arsenal in terms of getting fit and bringing in a few quid, but crucially it’s also given fans a reason for a bit of optimism.

A win was neccessary to keep the trophy after PSG trounced Valencia 3-0.  Their fast, free-flowing football was a joy to watch at times.  It’s obvious this Le Guen fellow knows what he’s doing, and if PSG undergo a renassaince under his stewardship I’m sure we’ll hear his name linked with Arsenal again.

On to Amsterdam now where we’ll be joined by Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Eduardo.  Eduardo’s work permit hearing isn’t until Thursday, but meanwhile he’s free to train/play/cavort in Amsterdam, or indeed anywhere else on the continent.

One player who certainly won’t be there is Jose Reyes, who is expected to sign for Athletico Madrid today for €9m.

It’s been a good weekend, but I don’t want to be hear in a year’s time going, “Well, at least we won the Emirates Cup”.  Arsene’s got a month left in which to bring in the players we need.  This time, with all the cash from Freddie and Jose, I trust him to do it.

Arsenal 2-1 PSG + Fascinating Anelka quotes

359 comments July 29th, 2007

After a goal and an assist yesterday in a promising performance, it was all going swimmingly for the young Danish striker. When a driving run from Alex Hleb brought about a penalty, Bendtner wrestled the ball from the more experienced Emmanuel Eboue, before side-footing a lazy effort against the goalkeeper. Maybe Bendtner should’ve learnt his lesson from last season, when Birmingham fans were incensed when he refused to celebrate with the team after not being allowed to take a penalty. In future, he should steer well clear. Penalties + Bendtner = trouble.

That aside, he showed good strength and aerial ability to give the PSG backline plenty of trouble. If he improves his movement and general effort levels, he could be a handy player.

Other notable points from the match (a report of which can be found here) were that Gael Clichy was outstanding, Emmanuel Eboue looked dangerous at right-midfield and Hleb was played, quite unbelievably, in his actual position behind the striker and really did rather well.

Nonetheless, our incredible lack of wingers was on display for all to see.  In the course of the game, we field four wide players: two of which were central midfielders, and the other two full-backs.  Sort it out, Arsene.

Today we face Inter, and the likes of Jens Lehmann, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas, Hleb and Robin Van Persie are all set to start. Sadly, it seems that Patrick Vieira will be unavailable with a knee injury.

And now the main event. The reason you clicked this link. In yesterday’s match programme, Arsene suggested he’s looking to sign one or two new players (much to my relief). In the post-game press conference, this sparked a long line of questioning about one man: Nicolas Anelka.

Press: The players you’re looking to sign – are they from England?

AW: I can’t tell you.

Press: Did you want to bring Anelka in? Did the board say no?

AW: No.

Press: …Which part of that are you saying “No” to?

AW: He asked me the question, “Did the board say no?” And I said, “no”.

Press: So did you want to bring Anelka in?

AW: I can bring in who I want, and the board doesn’t interfere in that, unless it’s a financial situation and we cannot afford them.

Press: Did you want to bring Anelka in?

AW: I just gave you the answer, no?

Press: You told us you can bring in who you want, but did you want to bring Anelka in? Did Anelka want to come?

AW: Of course. I felt that we have the strikers we need, and that I wanted a striker like Eduardo who can play on the flanks, and can play with Anelka, or with Adebayor, or with Van Persie, and that’s why we have gone for Eduardo, and it was more a question of choice – nothing to do with the quality of Anelka. I rate him very very highly. It was just we had Adebayor, Bendtner, Van Persie playing in the same position.

Press: You have said you’d like up to two more players. Can you indentify the positions? Will you definitely not sign a striker?

AW: I cannot tell you at the moment. Because you are all too clever.

Press: So the possibility of going for Anelka is still there?

AW: …I cannot say that at all at the moment.

Press: So it could still happen Arsene? Anelka could still end up at Arsenal?

AW: Well there are plenty of strikers in the world that you could buy.

Press: So is the thought process behind one or two of your targets related linked with the possiblity of Eduardo not coming?

AW: No.

Press: Have you ruled out an offer for Anelka?

AW: Why are you so obsessed with Anelka?

Press: I’m asking as a journalist: what’s the situation?

AW: At the moment, I have not made any offer for Anelka.

“At the moment”. If you have ArsenalTVOnline (it’s dirt cheap, you should) go and watch the press conference. Arsene is definitely up to something. It could be one of several things:

1) He is just enjoying toying with the press

2) He is happy to use Anelka as a smokescreen whilst he gets on with something else

3) There is some form of genuine interest there

The way the journalist pursued the story suggested he might have heard something relating to option number 3). The incredible slip of the tongue about Eduardo playing with Anelka, on top of the suggestion that Eduardo could play wide should be enough to keep you salivating all day.

Just don’t come crying to me when we sign 16 year old Belgian hotshot Helmut Crapschaft instead.

PSG Preview + Arsene wants four captains

292 comments July 28th, 2007

The Emirates Cup kicks off today, and it’s starting to feel like the Premier League is very very close indeed. Exciting stuff. Inter Milan will take on Valencia before we play against Paris Saint Germain.

PSG have slipped from the heady days of Ronaldinho’s presence in the side, and ended last season in 15th place. Whilst Arsenal should be looking to overcome them today, there are a few players worth keeping an eye on:

Despite PSG’s poor season, the Portugese striker was again the top scorer in Ligue 1. The club captain has scored 47 International goals in less than 90 caps: no mean feat.

Marcelo Gallardo
The former Monaco playmaker returned to France in January of this year, and was instrumental in PSG’s late-season revival. The Argentina international is likely to be battling it out with our own Denilson for control of the midfield area.

Cristian Rodriguez
This Uruguay international has the bizarre nickname of “The Onion”, because he makes defenders cry. Although he hasn’t set Europe alight in the way he was expected to when he came over from Penarol, he had an impressive Copa America, and will be hoping to build on that this season with PSG.

We’ll be without Adebayor, Walcott and Rosicky for the tournament as they recover from the arduous Austrian training camp. All three are short-term absentees.

Eduardo could make his first appearance at the Emirates as a home player, but it could also be his last if his work permit appeal is turned down. In seriousness, I’d be amazed if Thursday’s appeal is dismissed – he is a regular International player who I believe will bring great ability to the Premier League.

The Daily Mail have linked us with a move for Chelsea’s Lassana “Lassie” Diarra – whilst I’m an admirer of Diarra’s talent, I can’t see how we need him with Gilberto, Cesc, Flamini, Denilson, Diaby, and Song in central midfield, with Sagna, Eboue, Hoyte, Toure and Djourou all able to play right-back. This story’s legs are about as long as the miniscule Diarra’s.

Finally, Arsene might make Gilberto captain. Or Kolo, or Gallas. But they might only be “team captain”, because Jens could be “club captain”. But it depends who plays.

There’s nothing like clarity.

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