The summer of glove

What a pleasant football-less summer I’ve had to date. That’s the main point to take from the almost one month of nothingness from me. I can’t say I’ve missed it too much, frankly – I’ve even stopped watching re-runs of the cup final. I’ve made snarky comments (it’s the equivalent of keeping your engine ticking over) from the sidelines but apart from that – not a whole lot.

I’m pretty relaxed because I don’t subscribe to the theory that we are watching other sides tear past us as we dither and loll about in the transfer doldrums. This happens every single year – every year! – and we’re only 13 days into the actual transfer window. If I let myself get fried about it this early I’d end up looking like Emmett Brown (as opposed to Gilles Grimandi, or on a bad day, Leo Sayer).

And in Petr Cech, I think we’ve done an astute bit of business. (OK, I confess, I just wanted to shoehorn that headline in – apologies if I’m a month late and someone else beat me to it.) Our squad’s pretty strong and for a while now, for me it’s been more about how we play and set ourselves up, and less about who we actually have in our squad. I think we’ve made mental strides and are less naive.

| Do we need more goals? |

Now look, if we could secure a 25-goal striker, I’d be all over it. Goals are great and goals win you games. Not one of our defeats last season was by more than two goals, and most were by one.

That said, these things are never as simple as all that.

For a start, we can expect more goals from Welbeck next season. Maybe not 20, but more than 8. We can expect more from Walcott, if he stays, and stays fit. Giroud can bag a few more and the list goes on. There are more goals in this side from our strikers and from the midfield.

But we hardly shot blanks last season – we only scored two fewer league goals than Chelsea. They just happen to be a bit more solid than us, and they have a bloody-minded mentality that we are still learning.

So do I think we will buy a new striker? If one is available, I can see Wenger being ruthless as he was with our goalkeepers. And if Walcott leaves – yes probably. But I can also see him not signing a striker, and to be honest, would that be an unmitigated disaster?

| Elsewhere |

I don’t think we’re done yet. I couldn’t tell you who we’ll get or where, but Cech aside, it’s all housekeeping at the moment. New deal and loan for Jenks. A case of Poldi Lang Syne. Diaby has left the building – good luck to him. Sanogo will follow and so will others. We’re trimming the fat.

And now pre-season is upon us. There’s a game on Sky on Wednesday in Singapore. It’s sort of kind of back!

Creaking back!

Pre-season / Shirts / Lick of paint

Good afternoon to you all from a scorching, dry and frankly unbearably hot London. And I’m a Dutchman. (And I want a transfer).

Suffice to say I have been content this week to look at slideshows of Arsenal players returning to training and at pictures of our new, purple strip – purple I ask you! George Graham would never have agreed to it. As weeks go, it’s been a lot more sedate than the last one, in which van Persie scorched the earth and Red & White took the opportunity to ‘capitalise’ with some opportunistic PR. And as shirts go, it’s a lot more sedate than the one that forms the background of this blog (and of my Twitter handle). That shirt came not long after acid house and the second summer of love. Coincidence? I think not.

As the players trot about in purple Wojciech will be wearing pink, but given we’ve all seen him in a tutu, I think he can handle that. George Graham would never have agreed to it, though.

Anyway, the above paragraph or so is what is known as ‘puff’. The main reason for a post today is to air the new theme. It’s been probably three years – certainly two – since I last got the emulsion out and it’s long overdue. I’m not adding zillions of carousels and other visual stimuli for the simple reason that I’m not posting that frequently, but this is a bit different – a touch breezier is the technical term – so let me know what you think. It’s got a few widgets down the right and it’s meant to be ‘responsive’- which means it ought to fit all manner of devices seamlessly. We shall see if that pans out.

Pre-season’s here, and thank the stars for that. Now there’ll be some actual football to think about, starting today in the Memorial Cup in Southampton. Obviously, all the other stuff will rattle along, no doubt as welcome as a skittish bluebottle, but we can’t do a lot about that. Football is what it’s all about. Let there be goals.

And to celebrate that, here’s a montage of some shirts (trying out Diptic – it’s been a day for tech).

Nothing to write home about, but nothing to boo either

Arsenal 1-1 New York Red Bulls

I have been to pre-season games before. I stood on the terraces at Underhill one July afternoon and though the memory is a bit hazy now, I’m sure I have also paid visits to Borehamwood and Stevenage in my time. Solid pre-season turf on all counts.

Craning my neck further back, I even remember going to the Makita International Tournament at the old Wembley in 1988. It was about as full as it was hearted – that’s to say, around half.

But I’ve never before been to the Emirates Cup, so today was a new one for me. I’m not sure I saw it in its best light.

Once the game started – we didn’t bother with the first match because we didn’t want to push our luck with the attention spans of two small boys to consider – I was quickly reminded that it’s only when you attend one of these games in the flesh that you realise just how inconsequential they are. Maybe it was different against Boca Juniors, but today’s game, though committed, lacked the obvious competitive bite. The opposition was weak. The pace was slow. Quite frankly, and this is putting it mildly, the edge of my seat was at no stage being put under any undue pressure.

The materialisation of a Mexican Wave that rippled round the ground not once, not twice, but about eight times tells you all you need to know. We had been advised on the tannoy to do it in order to avoid deep vein thrombosis.

As a slickly-marketed money-making exercise, it’s a winner. The ground was full and the Arsenal shops were rammed with punters. I took my 5-year-old and two seats cost almost £50. At half-time I bought three hot dogs and two plastic bottles of beer (I’m a weak man: I’ve broken the merchandise promise I made to myself after the ticket price rise already) and it set me back £21. So that’s a £75 day-out. The outlay didn’t really match in the input, but there you go, it’s a pre-season game, not the European Cup final. All the same, I had hoped for a bit more excitement than we got.

Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to be there with a mate and it was a good opportunity in a benign environment to bring my still-learning littl’un.

But really, I find it hard to read too much into individual displays or the collective performance when so little was at stake, and it was so obvious that was the case. It was my first glimpse of Gervinho – he looked sharpish and direct. There was Wilshere’s injury and Chamakh’s form to ponder, van Persie’s goals-scoring prowess to marvel at, there were Afobes and there were Bartleys to assess, there was Henry to applaud to the rafters but the bottom line is, it was a pre-season game, and there wasn’t much else to conclude. Booing at the end? There was some. Amazingly, there was some. Not exactly a great portent, is it?

We’re off to Benfica next (what’s that one in aid of?) before the season’s start in two weeks’ time. What will the starting XI be that day? That’ll be when it gets interesting.

Gervinho: Uncorked at last

Arsenal signings 2 – 1 Arsenal sales

Arsenal: Specialists in snail-paced transfers. The good news is that Gervinho has definitely signed – or at least, he’ll “shortly join” us “subject to a regulatory process”. If Cesc and Nasri’s summer represents the longest goodbye – Wenger disagrees on this point, vehemently – then Gervinho’s has without doubt been the longest hello. His four-year contract has been dithered over so long it’s already only got three years left on it, which means that he’s only one year away from demanding a new one and a further one year away from agitating for a move away. Modern football – it’s great, isn’t it?

Sorry Gervinho, I am more than likely doing you a disservice. Either way, the Ivorian is a silky-footed striker, and if YouTube is any guide, he’s a very different beast to the departing Nicklas Bendtner. If £9m is the asking price for the Dane, then someone has a good deal on their hands, I think. He’s no winger, patently, and he misses more than he scores, clearly, but the main thing is, he does score and he can make an impact. He just never quite fitted into the system we play.

Cesc and Nasri: we have ominous signs on the one hand and an upbeat Wenger on the other. Wenger really has stuck his neck on the line with Nasri in particular. As usual though, we have very little from the players themselves. No ‘I’m staying’ or indeed ‘I’m off’ direct quotes, just tidbits and guesswork. Wouldn’t it be pleasant if they came out and actually told us what their plans were? Both players leaving would be a blow, of course it would, but the ceaseless rumour – the lack of conclusion – is the thing that hacks me off the most.

Here’s a thought: If you’re staying, be unequivocal and tell us. And if you’re not, well good luck and toodle-pip. We would need to replace you so give us time to do it. Sadly, the reality is that I inhabit a dream world. This kind of openness rarely happens when so much is at stake – money, mostly – and that’s why the chess game that is a high profile transfer gets played out, via agents and ‘representatives’, the way it does.

As for the issue of income from his transfer: if it’s clear he’s not going to sign a new deal then I’d be inclined to take the money and move on. But it’s a tricky one. OK, so you lose £20m but on the flip side you have a good player for one more year, you also have rivals who will not have benefited from him strengthening their team, and you have a message being sent out that we will not sell every Tom, Dick and Nasri who has had his head turned by more money.

Oh well – at least we have actual football to actually watch. With the obvious lack of star transfers to get excited about on the tour, we do at least have some interesting newish faces to pass judgement on. Miyaichi, Frimpong, Jenkinson – one a new signing, one returning from loan and one back from injury. They’ll all be Like A New Signing, so there.

The game against a Malaysia XI will be the first game streamed live on the new Arsenal Player, I think, so buffers ahoy!

Phew! Pre-season is here.

So it all kicks off again, at Barnet, this afternoon.

And while the squad does contain the expected Frimpongs, Coquelins and Barazites of this world, it’s a surprisingly strong 21-man squad when you add Rosicky, Arshavin, Gallas, Vermaelen and Almunia.

How marvellous it is to see Tomas Rosicky back. By my reckoning (with a little bit of help from the worldly-wise internest), he has been absent from the pitch for roughly forty-six million, six hundred and fifty-six thousand seconds. The poor fella has had to rehabilitate for 18 long months, and his treadmill-pounding began just when the world went to the financial dogs. It must have been pretty miserable looking at the looped news on Sky on his sofa with his hamstrings all askance.

Anyway, welcome back the T.

From Tomas to Thomas – it’s a big welcome for our Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen. As it stands, he has to battle his way to the front by displacing Toure or Gallas – though I’m sure Gallas and Toure will feel threatened too – so we could see some concentrated minds at the back as the competition for places hots up.

(Incidentally, we do have another top Gunner out there – Thomas Cruise. Who will be his wingman?)

(As if the poor lad hasn’t heard that before).

Finally, and I was rather hoping this would have gone away by now, but I am struck by how much of a PR disaster Emmanuel Adebayor is. He and his ‘people’ have managed to go about this on-off transfer so hamfistedly that, in addition to the already lukewarm Arsenal fans, I can’t imagine Man City fans are wheeling out the brass bands in anticipation of his arrival either.

It’s not as if the non-partisan football fans of the world are looking upon him through soft focus either. The press he has received – whether it is fair or entirely fabricated – does not paint him in a pretty light and his advisors have a job on their hands to turn his reputation around.

Some of it’s been pretty vitriolic. Sure, I’d like to see him sold too, but reading some of the stuff I have read online, you’d think he was the most despised Arsenal footballer of all time. Is he really?

It’s all gone sour with him now, and he needs to move on as much as we would like him to. But he’s hardly the first footballer who wants to feather his nest, nor is he the first employee to wish he worked somewhere else and let his performances dip as a result. His obscene weekly salary does not protect him against that.

What City are taking a punt on is a player who – when his mind is right – has the ability to cause havoc. A player who, even in a bad season, can score 15 goals. For their sake, I just hope he wants the challenge there enough to replicate his form of 2007-8. (Clearly, personally I’d rather he forgot how to tie his shoelaces – that would serve the Arsenal best).

For our sake, I hope he realises that there’s no way back at Arsenal and that moving to City, as his only option, is something he should grasp with both hands and get stuck into.