New defender – tick. Now to the midfield…

Remarkably, it’s less than a month until our first pre-season match, against Barnet on 18th July.

It’s gone fast – partly because we’ve had the U21s, partly because of the Confounded Cup but principally due to the fact that Wenger has made a statement of intent with an early summer signing.

Now, if you’re paying £10m or thereabouts for a defender – the most we have ever spent on someone in the back line – it’s safe to assume that, as many other bloggers have already, that barring an injury or a calamitous piece of judgment from Wenger, Vermaelen has been signed with a view to being a permanent fixture.

So with Senderos also having returned, it’s easy to see why the rumours are currently strong that we’ll be offloading one of our other central defenders. With Gallas, Toure, Vermaelen, Senderos, Djourou and Silvestre in the same position, it doesn’t take a genius to see that one, and probably two of those players will leave. Four central defenders is ample.

So we all expect some activity there.

Somewhere else we’ve been expecting activity is in central midfield, which might go some way to explaining why Diaby has apparently eschewed his summer holiday in favour of beefing himself up in the gym.

Diaby is not stupid: he can see that his chances will be diminished next season if he doesn’t step up a level. On the evidence shown so far, the ‘new Patrick Vieira’ is not even as good as the currently ageing one – not that there aren’t flashes of brilliance there. His goal at Anfield in the Champions League quarter-final in 2008, his league goal at Villa last season; at his best he can be fabulous. But he does need better concentration, he needs to stay fit for longer and he needs to up his workrate, so it’s pleasing (if the story is true) to see that he wants to push on.

The same goes for the others in central midfield: Denilson (a massive 51 appearances last season), Song (48) and even Ramsey (22) will feel threatened by any newcomer just as their colleagues in the back line probably are now. Fabregas’ inclusion is a given – but none of the others can be so confident.

So are we likely to see one of the above leave too? If we signed a big name central midfielder who will slot straight into the side then it wouldn’t surprise me, and the most obvious candidate to go is Diaby himself. Denilson has enjoyed Wenger’s favour all season, Song improved massively and Ramsey is still very, very young.

So as I said, all power to Diaby for wanting to do something positive.

Anything else this evening?

Well, Melo is flattered by Arsenal’s interest. I wouldn’t get too giddy by this – it’s the eyelash-fluttering stage of the relationship. Wenger might not even spot him across the crowded dancefloor, but even if he did, we’re probably a long way off a first date.

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