The long and winding post

Morning all, and a long overdue ‘morning all’ it is.

I’ve barely been able to get on the pooter recently, I don’t know what’s going on.

I did snatch parts of the Emirates Cup over the weekend – all the parts except the goals. I sat through the first 75, goalless minutes of the Atletico game before being called away to feed the animals, then managed to miss the first 20 minutes of the Rangers game. I did however see Wilshere’s second goal, so that’s not bad – 75% of the matches viewed, 20% of the goals caught.

Concisely if a little simplistically, I took the following from the weekend’s action: a) Rosicky’s return adds a whole new attacking dimension b) Wilshere is the most exciting Arsenal youth product for a long, long time, c) our defence is still patchy and d) we have too many left-backs but still not enough quality in central midfield.

All of which there is time to fix, this being pre-season and all that. But overall, I would say I was heartened, particularly by our added width and some of our attacking play.

It’s been covered elsewhere, but it was also interesting to see how 4-3-3 has become flavour of the day. It certainly sets our stall out as an attacking beast, but the crunch will be whether it works against the chunkier and less dainty sides. Perhaps we’ll just revert to 4-4-2 in those scenarios?

Now, transfers. With one or two exceptions, it’s been a quietish summer, but you do get a sense that the market is going to explode into life at some point soon. From Arsenal’s perspective, we know this because Arsene has told us he wants all his business done by the time the season starts, and that he wants one or two players to come in. Whether we believe Wenger on this is quite another matter, but that is what he has intimated.

In the revolving door, waving goodbye, is Philippe Senderos. It’s not been confirmed, but strong rumours suggest he is Everton-bound. Eboue’s departure, at one point seemingly a certainty, is less clear now. Beyond those two possible departures, I can’t see anyone else leaving at all. And with Eboue, he is our only reasonable back-up for Sagna, so if he was to go, we’d need cover there anyway. We have sold wisely (if that is possible), but we cannot decimate our squad any further, with the possible exception of letting a left-back out on loan.

Incoming, the whole of the Arsenal-supporting world is eager for an experienced central midfielder (I’m really so tired of typing those three words), but thus far, apart from Vieira and Wenger fluttering their eyelids at one another, we’ve had no indication of anyone being looked at since Melo said no thanks.

And then there’s central defence: at one point we had seven central defenders (if you include Song – and he’s down here as a defender), but now that Toure has gone, and Senderos could well be next, we’re down to five. Is that enough? Do we possess enough quality there if Gallas and Vermaelen get broken?

So bearing all this in mind, why am I surprised that, along with Chamakh, we’re now linked with Kalou?

I would argue our priorities lie elsewhere, but I’m not the Arsenal manager, and we all know how Wenger loves to throw a googly.

And finally, I promised (as one or two other blogs have) to make the following known:

Arsenal are filming some scenes for a Theo Walcott ad at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday. Rather than just fill it up with extras, they want genuine Arsenal fans to come along.

It’s 9.30 till 4 (quite a long day), but Nike will give you lunch and a free Arsenal shirt of your choice (home or away). On top of that, of course, there’s the chance to feature in a Nike film about your team.

Anyone interested in attending should email their Name, age, contact details, preferred shirt and size, and ideally a picture to nike@knucklehead.co.uk

So tuck in if you fancy it – could be fun.

Vieira Lynn – We’ll Meet Again?

It does seem to have been a cracking week for real and imaginary Arsenal news.

We’ve had the exit of two established, experienced players – and yet, for the most part, Arsenal fans all see the logic of both sales. Put bluntly, Wenger wanted to sell both Adebayor and Toure, and has done so with bells on, making around £40m. Terrific business, in truth.

Toure goes with more goodwill than his Togolese predecessor – much more. Reports suggest the deal has been on the cards for six months, and that makes sense, given he handed in a transfer request back in January. A good deal for both parties, but a sad day for those of a sentimental hue, given Toure’s association with the Invincibles of 2004.

A lot has been written about Wenger’s transfer nous, and there’s no denying it’s spectacular. To get the money he got for Adebayor and Toure was staggering – especially as there was hardly a bidding war for either.

But just as there’s no point in being the richest man in the cemetery, there’s no merit in having the biggest bank balance in the Premier League. Wenger knows this only too well, but the question is: does he genuinely think the squad as it stands is competitive enough, or is he Wengering like mad, as he always does, by giving little away?

Like for like, right now, the current squad has five more players than the squad that started last season – Vermaelen, Senderos, Arshavin, Rosicky and Eduardo. And it’s two down, with Ade and Kolo departing. Added to that are all the things harder to measure, such as improvements in Song, Ramsey, Denilson, Walcott etc.

That doesn’t hide the lack of physical oomph and experienced heads in the centre of midfield. Or that Wenger seems nonchalant about replacing Adebayor.

Nevertheless, Wenger insists the side is good enough and that he won’t be rushed into things – but he also says he’s looking at possibilities. It’s classic Wenger. So it goes without saying that there’s zero point in judging the squad or getting on one’s high horse about a perceived lack of transfer activity (at least, transfer activity going in the right direction), until the clock chimes midnight on 31st August.

Besides, it’s not like there’s not stuff bubbling away to keep us interested. Eboue seems on the verge of a departure – another exit I find hard to disapprove of – and this morning, NewsNow and Twitter melted down with talk of Vieira making an improbable prodigal return. Tonight, it’s Blaise Matuidi again – tomorrow it will be someone else.

We can be ‘ready to swoop’ or ‘about to pounce’ until the cows come home – Wenger won’t tell us one way or another.

But to all those who think Wenger is too blindly loyal, the sales of Adebayor, Toure and – possibly – Eboue point to a harder edge. Wenger is offloading what he doesn’t want.

And when he does that willingly, he rarely makes a mistake.

I just can’t see it happening

A week since my last post. Not a lot’s happened, that’s why, apart from the now default ‘Fabregas to leave’ rumour (swiftly followed by his denial). Are we going to have more of this? Seems likely – unless he retreats to a monastery and takes a vow of silence.

Some of the more fanciful links see us linked to Benzema (deeply unlikely) and Ribery (source: The Daily Star – so don’t go out and get Ribery printed on your new away shirt just yet). This stuff can be so far fetched – I can’t see it happening.

A raft of ex-Arsenal players being linked to returns to England too – Vieira, Hleb and Reyes.

I’d love to see Vieira back – but I can’t see that happening either. He’s 33, and got about a million miles on the clock. It would be like buying a vintage Alfa Romeo: Deeply desirable new, but a bugger to run in later life.

Hleb too – I’ve been wondering for a while, ever since he didn’t even make the Champions League final squad, whether he might find his way back to England. Sure, London was too busy for him, but clearly Barcelona wasn’t (work that one out if you can), so maybe. Deeply infuriating though he was, he’d be a desirable signing. Experience of the league, fabulous close control. As long as prospective employers don’t expect him to score goals then he’d be worth a pop. Can I really see it happening? Not really – I suspect he’d rather stay in Spain or return to Germany.

As for Reyes, well one of the other Arsenal blogs picked up on his remarkable fall a while ago (apologies bt I don’t recall which one it was). He’s gone from a player who in 2004 was worth up to €17m to one now on the market for £4m. And he’s only 25.

Anyone wanting him would have a job on their hands even at that price. As well as turning round three years of worsening form, they’d have to entice him back to England. He hated it here. Hated the weather, the food, said there was nothing to do. I can’t see it happening.

We’ve had Adebayor linked to Milan again, though, a rumour that refuses to go away. But read what the Milan honcho says and he’s hardly wheelspinning his way to London to bag his man.

“If Dzeko is [available] we will start talking sums. Adebayor and [Sevilla striker] Luis Fabiano are the alternatives. For Adebayor there has been a telephone call, during which Wenger was friendly.”

More here.

Hardly the ringing endorsement Adebayor would like, eh? He might find it harder to find the club of his dreams than he thinks. He’s on fat wages for a start, and he doesn’t strike me as being the kind of player who’d be happy to take a wage cut. To be fair to him, I’ve yet to see a footballer who would.

It’s rare for a player to be so universally disliked, I must say. I am a little more cicumspect: I don’t like his attitude but if he can score 16 goals in a bad season, and 30 in a good one, then he should only be sold if a) the price is right and b) we have a replacement lined up.

Unless the Dzeko deal falls through though, I wonder whether it will happen at all.