Archive for June, 2013

Arsenal ahead of Liverpool in race for Clement Grenier

1,554 comments June 15th, 2013

In the past few weeks, Arsenal have been consistently linked with a move for Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier. As of last night, my understanding is that all this smoke has a very real fire at its heart.

Arsenal’s interest is genuine. They have already held discussions with the player’s agent, and Grenier knows what he woud stand to earn at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal are not the only Premier League club looking to Grenier to provide their midfield with an injection of creativity. A delegation from Liverpool travelled to France to speak with the player’s representatives last week. However, their offer fell significantly short of Arsenal’s proposed salary.

As yet there is no deal in place between Arsenal and Lyon. Given Grenier’s delicate contractual situation – he has just one year left on his deal - I suspect Arsenal would be looking to secure a bargain. Given our reticence to push the boat out when it comes to transfer fees, it may be that the France midfielder is forced to see out his current deal before moving on a bumper Bosman salary next summer. However, given that Arsene Wenger is already in direct contact with Lyon, it’s clear Arsenal would prefer to secure his signature now.

Grenier, a central playmaker, is not a player we urgently need. However, he would add depth and quality in an area of the park where we are forced to rely on injury-prone players like Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere.

On the subject of Lyon, many of you have emailed me to ask about our interest in Grenier’s side-kick, the more defensively-minded Maxime Gonalons. The honest truth is that I haven’t heard a peep about that deal since I told you that initial discussions had taken place with his representatives in the spring. Perhaps the end of season form of Aaron Ramsey put an end to those particular negotiations.

Although we may not yet be making headlines in the media, it’s comforting to know that Dick Law & Co are beavering away behind the scenes. Hopefully their labours come to fruition soon.

Further reading: Clement Grenier – Scouting Report

Trailer: Sebastien Squillaci – Man of Steel

1,589 comments June 14th, 2013

Proof, if proof were needed, that I have too much spare time.

Journey well, soldier.

If the embed is playing up click here to go directly to the video.

Over to you, Arsene

1,794 comments June 8th, 2013

Ivan Gazidis takes a lot of stick from Arsenal fans. Our perceived lack of ambition is generally pinned on the multi-accented CEO, who is free of the emotional complications most reasonable fans still feel with regards to Arsene Wenger.

The refrain was heard frequently at the Emirates last year: “Ivan Gazidis, what do you do?”

In the light of this week’s extensive Q&A, I’d like to pose a response: what more can he do?

Gazidis’ primary duty has been to put the club on a secure financial footing. With the new commercial deals signed and settled, he has done that. It is not Gazidis’ responsibility to decide how that money is spent. It is Arsene’s.

Gazidis has been explicit. There are funds available. Big funds. Here are a few choice excerpts from Thursday’s mission statement:

“Could we spend £25m on a player and pay him £200k p/week? Of course we could do that. We could do more than that. We have a certain amount which we’ve held in reserve. We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you.

The key to this summer is going to be making the right decisions without damaging the great team unity and spirit which we have – adding to that appropriately and I think we have the right person to do that in Arsene. I think he will make the right decisions and I think we will go into this next season with a lot of excitement around the team.

So certainly we will take a step forward this summer, how bigger step will depend on how well we are able to execute over the next month or two.”

It’s bold stuff. As a fan, it’s impossible not to be excited by Gazidis’ words. The financial landscape has shifted, and Arsenal have been raised aloft to join the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Dreams become plausible. Before yesterday I would have dismissed the link to £20m Gonzalo Higuain as ‘pie in the sky’ stuff. Now, it’s tempting to believe we might just pull it off.

If there’s a nagging concern, it’s that Arsene may not be able to shake the shackles of a decade of prudence. Talk remains cheap. Arsenal are using the rhetoric of a super-club. Now they need to act like one, too.

A significant part of yesterday’s news was Gazidis’ allusion to a new contract for Arsene. Personally, I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to hand him a new deal. The final day euphoria has masked an otherwise disappointing season. The club’s trajectory is worrying. I’d have waited to see how Arsene fared this summer and in the first part of next season before broaching the subject a new contract.

Some will argue it’s vital to have a manager tied to a long-term deal to win over new signings. That’s nonsense. Robin van Persie joined Manchester United with no guarantees over Alex Ferguson’s future. Similarly, the players who come and go at Chelsea care little about the short-term tenancy agreements of the Stamford Bridge dugout.

In modern football, few players are a disciple to any one managerial messiah. Money and medals matter far more.

Perhaps Gazidis feels it’s important to present a united front. I can understand that, with a couple of caveats.

The first is that this contract must be breakable. Conventionally, a three year deal for Arsene means exactly that: three years. In his Arsenal career to date, it’s been explicitly clear he’d never be sacked and similarly that Wenger himself would never walk away from a contract.

With that in mind, if our downward trajectory continues, his signature could swiftly become a sentence. If Gazidis and Wenger agree a new medium-term contract, it must be on the understanding that it may have to be suddenly cut short if things don’t improve.

The second stipulation is that Gazidis and Wenger have already had a discussion about transfer targets in which the manager has show willingness to break a habit and actually spend what is available to him.

Gazidis has done his job. Player recruitment is Wenger’s bag.

Over to you, Arsene.

Transfer thoughts: Koscielny, Grenier, Higuain, Jovetic and more

1,468 comments June 5th, 2013

Football’s annual auction is also known as the ‘silly season’. I’m not sure silly does it justice. For starters, it sounds a lot more fun than the seasonal process of being pillaged, gazumped and ultimately disappointed.

This summer, we’re told, will be different. We’ll see. It felt worryingly familiar yesterday when Laurent Koscielny started mouthing off about his future. The quote that made the headlines was:

I want to lift trophies and to have a winning record. I hope the club will give me the means. If this weren’t the case, I’d look elsewhere. Paris [Saint Germain]? I don’t know. I’ve not heard anything.

Clearly Kos isn’t content with finishing top of the Fair Play League.

In seriousness, I’m not sure there’s much to worry about here. Koscielny is merely echoing the sentiment of the fans: we all want the club to push on and compete for trophies. He also told Eurosport “I do not want to go anywhere”, but that just isn’t as interesting to journalists.

The PSG link seems entirely spurious. Here’s a transfer window tip for you all: if you ever see a player quoted as mentioning a club in the form of a rhetorical question, it’s because they’ve been asked about it directly by an interviewer. They haven’t brought it up themselves. No-one talks like that.

I am not hungry right now, but eventually I may want to eat something. A sandwich? I don’t know. I’ve not heard anything. Of course sandwiches are delicious, so I am flattered to be linked with them.

This journalistic quirk also accounts for the quotes from Gonzalo Higuain suggesting a move to Arsenal may be on the cards:

There have already been offers and I hope that Madrid do the best for me and themselves.

Arsenal? They would suit me, I’m still young and I have goals.

I’m glad Higuain still has goals. Arsenal could use about thirty of them per season.

I’d love to see a player of Higuain’s undoubted calibre at Arsenal, but as yet there’s little evidence that there’s much substance to this story. There are an unusual number of high quality forwards available on the market this summer. The likes of Higuain, Villa, Rooney, Benteke, Cavani, Falcao, Gomez and more could all be on the move. Everyone knows that Arsenal need a forward, so it’s just a question of connecting the dots to create a story. It’s almost impossible for us to know how legitimate any one of these rumours is. The chances are that one is bang on. If you give enough monkeys enough typewriters, they will write a correct transfer story on

The story with most smoke around it is the link to Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic. The most recent twist is that according to The Times Chelsea have entered the race. Wouldn’t it be just like Mourinho to announce his return to English football by ruining our transfer plans?

Anyhow, after that detour through the apparent rhetorical habits of footballers, back to matters closer to home. If Laurent Koscielny’s future seems safe, the same can’t be said for Bacary Sagna. The full-back insists that talks with Arsenal are ongoing, but the lack of progress is telling. I suspect the club are unwilling to provide Sagna with the length of deal he’ll be offered elsewhere. For a player who has suffered two broken legs inside two seasons, security will be paramount.

Arsenal may be faced with a choice: sell Sagna now, or allow him to hobble away on a Bosman in a year’s time. Personally, I hope they choose the latter of those two options. Sagna still has plenty to offer, and another season would help Arsene decide whether or not Carl Jenkinson is ready to inherit his first-team spot. What’s more, Sagna’s market value is not sufficiently high to demand selling now. It’s not like we’d be throwing £20m+ away, as with Nasri and Van Persie.

Sagna is French. So is Clement Grenier. As this article has worn on, you may have noticed that my links have become progressively more lazy. I wrote a brief scouting report on Grenier which you can find here. Grenier is a central attacking playmaker with the shuffling gait and effortless technical skill of Robert Pires. He is not, at first glance, the midfielder that we need.

Heading in to the window, many expected Arsenal to recruit a holding midfielder. Indeed, I mentioned a month or so ago that talks had taken place with the representatives of Grenier’s defensive-minded Lyon team-mate, Maxime Gonalons. Subsequent links with the likes of Victor Wanyama have strengthened the idea that Arsene Wenger is looking to add steel rather than sheen to his midfield.

However, perhaps the outstanding performances of Aaron Ramsey in that role have given Arsene pause for thought. In recent weeks, with Cazorla playing predominantly on the wing, the number 10 berth has been shared between Tomas Rosicky and  Jack Wilshere. Given the increasing age of the former and the fitness problems of both, perhaps recruiting a new playmaker wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.

We can but wait and see.

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