Tottenham’s defeat yesterday indicates the impact of pressure on players. It is convenient how everyone keeps offering up the excuse of the England manager’s job for Redknapp and his crew to hang their hats on when purely and simply they are having a poor run of form with confidence dropping. For Arsenal the opposite is true with Robin van Persie (a truly incisive and in-depth interview, well done) and Thomas Vermaelen keen to increase that pressure by taking three points against Newcastle tomorrow.
The Arsenal vice-captain said,
We have got good results against Tottenham and Liverpool – and if we play like we did against Milan, I am not worried because we will be top four. We can beat any team. There are a few contenders – Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea. We will have to fight toe-to-toe for fourth, and maybe third. You never know.
We can have a lot of wins towards the end of the season.
The prize of Champions League qualification is seen as the basic requirement for a season’s toil. The next three Premier League matches might well be crucial in achieving that; Newcastle (H), Everton (A) and Aston Villa (H). Nine points is the expectation although it is not a forgone conclusion. Spurs meanwhile have Stoke (H) and Chelsea (A). Those final might be psychologically crucial; one goal separates the two sides’ goal difference and if a ten point gap also disappears, there has been enough of a collapse to suggest that Tottenham might struggle to finish in the top four.
Transfer rumour is grist to the footballing mill; this weekend has seen plenty emerging about Arsenal. And none of it is new in terms of the “targets”. Mostly it is surrounding Robin van Persie. Duncan Castles got the ball rolling by opining in The National that van Persie’s agent has agreed terms with Manchester City. Darren Dein is suspected of being the hand behind this and might be. Known to be the Dutchman’s commercial advisor, according to this month’s World Soccer his actual agent Kees Ploegsma is concerned that Dein is looking to takeover all of the captain’s affairs.
Any truth in Castles’s story? It would be of no surprise; in fact the only astonishment would be reserved for City being the only club his advisor(s) had agreed a contract with. That The National is an Abu Dhabi newspaper with undoubtedly closer links to City’s owners than is commonly known. It is, however, a world away from a deal with Arsenal being done and this type of story does little to abate the anger felt with the Mancunians over their handling of the Nasri sale. In a sense though, the welter of Arsenal-released stories and this a two sides of the same coin; negotiating stances are taken and if the moneys mentioned by Castles are correct then the club know the neighbourhood that City are in. At £210k per week, it’s a very nice neignbourhood.
Whether money is the defining factor remains to be seen. The Mirror has gone with the squad strengthening angle, enlisting the views of Marco van Basten that four players would be needed to get the captain to extend his stay. Very handily, they have listed the four: Podolski, Goetze, Vertonghen and in a belated attempt to recognise Manchester United’s conquerors, Javier Martinez of Athletic Bilbao. Woo and indeed, hoo.
Goetze is back as flavour of the month with The Heil reckoning that Arsène will ‘break the bank‘ to sign the German midfielder, helpfully telling him which players to sell to ensure that the funds are available to allow “World Exclusive” to be plastered over the signing story. It is not a hard position to suggest that Arsenal will look at strengthening with Benayoun probably returning to Chelsea and Tomas Rosicky more of a squad player. Yes, Wilshere will return but it gives the Arsenal midfield more quality and competition. In truth it seems more likely that the club would want a central midfielder than a wide player with Miyachi and (if true) Podolski enhancing the numbers at the club who can play there.
No goalkeepers mentioned which is surprising since Fabianski and Almunia are likely (or will) leave this Summer.
Anyway, the sun is shining over the dales so that’s your lot for today. ’til Tomorrow.