All the parties involve may subscribe to the theory expounded by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and for the media, the silence truly is golden. It means that any angle can be taken and if it can be perceived as pro-Liverpool, there is precious little evidence to oppose it. Despite stories to the contrary, it seems highly unlikely that Arsenal did not know exactly what the wording of the so-called This Is Not A Release Clause (John Lydon’s initial effort was later refined) in Luis Suarez’s contract said. It would be an extraordinary state of affairs if someone at the club took the word of an agent on the legal interpretation and the bid of £40m+£1 was too precise, too exactly calculated for there to be any ignorance at play on their part.
Arsenal’s silence neatly dovetails with Liverpool’s posturing to lend itself to the scenario at play in this morning’s papers, that Liverpool hold the upper hand. To the extent that they will eventually name to he price and it will be lower than their expectations are reportedly set at. This is a deal where other factors complicate matters, not least of which is the player’s suspension. It means that as buyers, Arsenal are not in any particular hurry to complete negotiations. It’s like choosing your own Christmas present in October and then being made to wait until 25th December to have it. This is a deal which could run for some time yet.
All of which begs the question of where else the club is looking for additions to the squad. Many do not see the necessity for that, the second half of the season proved it; keep up that form and the title is bound for The Emirates trophy cabinet. The flaw is that after the back-to-back defeats to Chelsea and City, Arsenal played four of the top seven and took three points. Nowhere near good enough to in the title, especially since three of those games were at home. Some people are oblivious to the shortcomings of anything or anyone related to Arsenal. As starting points go, this could the best basis for progression that Arsene has ever had but we need to add quality to improve the depth of the squad for that to happen. Too much stock is being placed in the club’s mantra that managerial changes elsewhere hand Arsenal an advantage. Logic dictates this, the sensing of weakness in an opponent. Logic also extends the argument that Wenger and Walcott, to name two, have expounded. If Arsenal do not win title, managerial change does not weaken, it strengthens and thus this is the path Arsenal should follow. It’s a double-edged sword, one which may yet haunt the manager.
As it is, the unlikeliest transfer of the Summer is unlikely to be anywhere near completed before this weekend’s Emirates Cup. Tickets for the second day are according to the club, sold out. Personally, I would not go on the Sunday because I don’t agree with the invitation extended to Galatasaray but time is a great healer, as they say. If you cannot get any tickets for that day on ticket exchange, there are Arsenal tickets are for sale. The key for the weekend is fitness, improving the sharpness ahead of the forthcoming Premier League campaign. Arsène was very positive about the training during the Far East tour and will be keen to use the next couple of weeks to have everyone ready for the visit of Aston Villa. Prior to that, the trip to Helsinki to play Manchester City offers a more realistic litmus test of how far Arsenal have come from the meeting twelve months ago. The two sides know each other well but the change of manager will be particularly interesting in City’s case. Unlike Mourinho and Moyes, Pellegrini has no grounding in English football, his is a fresh persepective. Will that make City more of an unknown quantity. No doubt he has studied the club’s performances as defending champions, what changes will he make to Mancini’s frankly dull defence of the title? It will be an interesting match from that perspective.
The tournament is the opportunity for the players to continue with their confidence building which can carry them a little further than they might otherwise go. It is a good opportunity to gauge where they stand at the moment; Napoli qualified for the Champions League group phase automatically and will field a much-changed side, replete with new strikeforce and goalkeeper. There is no avoiding the contrasts between the signing of Higuain and protracted negotiations for Suarez. Arsenal are a big club but not one that is used to spending money, not one that has the experience of conducting negotiations with reluctant partners, especially when those clubs have an asset we are trying to acquire. Reflecting on the transfers past, I wonder if Arsenal’s own stance of wanting to get deals completed efficiently, quietly and with a minimum of fuss, led to some naiveté on their part, expecting a reciprocity in behaviour from the likes of Madrid and Liverpool.
Do the players need that kind of fixture to embed belief in their souls that they are ready to take a further step? One of the many spurious benchmarks used is activity on the club’s ticket exchange or the number of season tickets available for “rent”; the claim is made that these offer some guide to discontent with progress. In some cases, I am sure they genuinely do but there are always opportunities to buy football tickets, particularly nowadays. The Premier League like to push the fact that it is the people’s game but ticket revenues are still key to that, despite the ever-increasing share of revenues provided by broadcasters. As a recession ends, it is historically a tougher time for businesses than the trough itself. If this is the end of that economic cycle, FFP may well be a saving grace although the looseness of it all makes you wonder otherwise.