Morning all, Friday and the weekend is arriving with a great big nothingness as far as Arsenal are concerned. Monday night football, the Premier League’s cunning plan to get clubs used to the idea of appearing in Channel 5’s Thursday night schedules, means Newcastle will not be hitting town until everyone else has played. Even then, such is the general gloom surrounding Alan Pardew’s tenure, how many will venture down from the North East is another matter. That and a proposed tube strike.
As it is, Arsenal find themselves occupying the moral high ground this morning with Michel Platini confirming what everyone else knew all along; FFP is a waste of time and effort. No clubs, according to the UEFA president, will be banned from Europe next season. They are just very naughty boys and are going to sit on the naughty step for fifteen minutes. It’s no surprise, UEFAs own website lists the potential sanctions in their “Everything You Need To Know About FFP” and sitting 8th in a list of 9, is exclusion from UEFA tournaments. The structure of the punishments is telling; as telling as the limit of €100k which is set for the first stage of punishment. Anything over that has to be referred ‘upstairs’.
The tariff once there is primarily designed to be financial once the tellings off have been administered. Clubs will be warned, reprimanded, sent letters in the strongest possible terms. It gets interesting four years down the line – you can’t envisage a scenario where a warning and reprimand will be issued in the same punishment cycle – when deducting points will occur. That’s an interesting concept, deducting points. In what competition exactly? They might as well end the report on the judgement with the sentence, “Yes, we know you are going to take this all the way to the CAS and probably win because your lawyers are better than ours but hey, we’ve got to try, haven’t we”. There are so many flaws in the process of cajoling clubs into line that render the regulations toothless. I wonder how clubs banned for previous indiscretions such as non-payment of taxes will feel reading Platini’s words? Financial Fair Play is not just about losses but it was never a realistic proposition that a big European club – be that in terms of reputation or wealth – were going to find themselves ever faced with the ultimate sanction.
As it is, Arsenal will continue doing things the Arsenal Way. Perhaps a burning sense of injustice or searing disappointment in the administration of FFP will be the foundation for a brighter future?
The echoes of the past abound this morning, not necessarily pleasant ones either with the Daily Star reporting that Bacary Sagna’s patience has snapped with the club and sources close to the player report he is joining Manchester City in the summer, following the path trodden by Clichy, Nasri, Tour and Adebayor albeit without a nice fee coming the other way. This is obviously not the same Bacary Sagna who earlier this week was on the verge of signing a new deal. It must be confusing for Arsène to have two right backs with the same name.
So much of the summer’s activity is dependent upon who stays. The clear cut departure of Lukasz Fabianski is a little murkier after the player suggested he might stay if he had more playing time. You can’t blame him for wanting that as he approaches the peak of his career but I don’t see him usurping Szczesny from the starting line-up on a regular basis. I guess the offers from elsewhere may not yet be so appealing that leaving Arsenal is a certainty. That situation highlights the problem the manager has in acting. Being closer to the players, his sense of their futures is keener than ours but a change in one can alter his plans significantly. Not having to replace a goalkeeper might free up £7m in his transfer and wage budget, for example. That may be a decisive gap in valuations between two strikers closed, such are the relatively fine margins dealt with in the summer. We know he needs a striker, some say two if the over-the-top reaction to Lukas Podolski not ruling out any eventuality in life is anything to go by. Everyone has their own opinion on who and how many need to arrive, and in what positions. Stories emerging now rarely bear any resemblance to summer activity with cynicism pointing to season ticket renewals or paving the way for the news of Arsène’s contract renewal.
For me, it will be interesting to see what Wenger does about the midfield. His two defensively minded players are the wrong side of thirty and that may have more bearing on his thoughts than anything else. Of course he will point to the return of Abou Diaby’s fitness as a potential cure but Arsène has to be pragmatic, no matter how romanticised the judgement of the player emerging from his injury hell is. Can he afford to rely on his compatriot, even though he may share the view of Sagna on Diaby’s abilities? It is a genuinely tough decision for him to take having seen first-hand the daily struggles undertaken to get back to playing.
Patrick Vieira’s induction into the National Football Museum’s Hall of a Fame offers a stark contrast of what might have been. A leggy French midfielder to break up play and storm forward in Vieira’s mould, Diaby’s performance at Anfield hinted at that career. Injuries destroyed it. Drifting into the Brazilian sunset this summer seems an unfeasible end to the season for Diaby but it would give an indication of his fitness levels were he to go, the demanding rigours of tournament football would only be of benefit to the club if he were to remain fit for the duration of the French involvement. It is a huge risk of course for Deschamps and no matter how much he admires the player, surely not one he will take. It should, for the player, be one step at a time. See if your body takes a Premier League season then worry about the national team. A premature retirement from that level might be the best course of action anyway. But let’s not run before he can walk.