Archive for August 22nd, 2011

Four factors in another massive week for Arsenal

197 comments August 22nd, 2011

To my slight surprise, I’m jetting off to the continent this week.  I’ll spend much of it locked in a room, away from internet access and my beloved Arsenal.  It’s unfortunate timing.  All summer a host of Arsenal bloggers, including myself, have heralded the start of a “big week” at Arsenal.  This week might just be the biggest of them all, for the following four reasons:

Champions League Qualification

I don’t need to tell you how important this is, both economically and for the morale and stature of the club.  We’re so accustomed to dining at Europe’s top table that actually securing qualification would be met more with relief than joy, but don’t let that mask its significance.

Udinese showed in the first leg that they’ll provide a huge test for us, especially with our injury problems.  We could also be without Arsene Wenger on the touchline, after UEFA extended his touchline ban by two games for “not abiding by the decision of the control and disciplinary body during the Champions League play-off game against Udinese last Tuesday”.  Arsene will be furious, as he and the club spoke directly with UEFA before the game to make sure they would not be in breach of the regulations.  Presumably if Arsene appeals the decision, the ban could be delayed, which would allow him to be pitchside on Wednesday.

The latest news on the playing front suggests that both Jack Wilshere and Johan Djourou could be in contention, which would be a massive boost.  Song and Gervinho are also eligible, and Robin van Persie will be able to take part after missing the first leg through suspension.  There is another player who was suspended from that first leg, whose potential participation is already the subject of some debate…

Samir Nasri

If Arsene picks Samir Nasri on Wednesday, and Arsenal qualify, he will be unable to play for another club in the Champions League this season.  Obviously, that would jeopardise any move to Manchester City.  Therefore, I expect some clarity in the next 48 hours or so as to whether or not this deal will go ahead.

There are a lot of mixed messages coming out of both camps – City and Arsenal – and the truth of the matter is rather difficult to unpick.  City, however, must realise that if they want the player they have to act now.  And even with the ragged state of our squad, I can’t justify turning down £20m for an asset we will lose for nothing at the end of the coming season.

I don’t think Nasri will play in Udine, especially with Wilshere and Song available.  I’m less convinced that the clubs will be able to agree on a deal before then – this might drag on until the very end of the window.

Further depatures

If he does go, Nasri won’t be the only one.  The club still anticipate the departures of Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia – the Spaniard isn’t even mentioned by Arsene Wenger when discussing his goalkeepers for next season, and has, for all intents and purposes, been ‘released’ from his contract.

Personally, I’m hoping that Bendtner can’t find a club and ends up staying – on current form, he is far more of a threat than Marouane Chamakh.


The precise sums we’re prepared to spend will probably depend on Wednesday night’s results, but it’s clear that some strengthening will have to happen between now and the end of the window – ideally before Sunday’s potentially morale-sapping clash with Manchester United.

All sorts of names are being tossed around, but there’s nothing tangible there.  Arsene told TF1 that he was “still involved in the French market”, which has fuelled speculation around Rennes and France holding midfielder Yann M’Vila.  His club, however, say they know nothing of any bid.

There are predictable links with Lille winger Eden Hazard, as well as that quartet of English-based centre-halves – Samba, Jagielka, Cahill and Dann.

I don’t think it’s at all unrealistic to hope for three signings between now and next Wednesday – especially if Nasri goes.  One must be a centre-back, another a central midfielder.  The third could be anything from a left-back to a centre-forward.

Whatever happens, I won’t know too much about it.  I’ll certainly find some foreign bar surrounded by moustachioed men to watch the Udinese game, and if I can find an internet cafe or WIFI connection to share my thoughts on it with you I will.

I return on Friday, when the landscape at Arsenal promises, for a variety of reasons, to be very different.

It is, after all, a big week.

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