Tom Cleverley? Chris Smalling? Jesus wept. The heralds have warmed up, their fanfare for the silly season has begun.
As a thought, is it too late to pull out of the deal to sell Djourou to Hamburg…?
And as transfer talk is where we’ve started, it’s where we’ll continue with the tabloids going into overdrive on the prospect of Mad Mario / Super Mario Balotelli joining Arsenal for £25m from AC Milan, who apparently need to cut their wage bill. There’s no doubt he is an immensely talented player who comes with baggage. For that price, it seems a good deal. His record since leaving Manchester City is a goal every other game and that satisfies Arsenal’s need for another scoring outlet to relieve the pressure on Olivier Giroud.
A penny for his thoughts on the matter. Giroud did not worry about Suarez joining last summer, believing they complimented each others style of play. He was more concerned by Higuain’s possible arrival, seeing the Argentine striker as a direct threat to his place in the XI. How, I wonder, would he view Balotelli? The Italian can play the ‘lone’ striker role as he has proved at international level to England’s detriment, Arsenal would offer plenty of service from either flank but he has the technique to offer something different to Giroud, to compliment him if you like, so the pair could work in tandem. Of the two options, the former seems most likely and Arsène is not the sort of manager to spend £25m and park a player on the bench unless they are on their way out of the club.
But with Balotelli, talk inevitably turns to behavioural issues. Since returning to Milan, he seems calmer off the pitch or at least better at managing the media coverage of his life. He’s older in any case, more mature, better at handling situations; more settled as well if reports of impending nuptials are correct. London offers all sorts of distractions and it will be something for him to consider, whether the paparazzi following him, waiting for the slip, is something that bothers him. But knowing this, if Arsenal do take the plunge, then it’s something the club lives with. There is no point in complaining about his behaviour if you know there is a high likelihood of it happening.
Do I think he is the answer? Of the forwards we’ve been linked with so far, Balotelli is by a long way, the best. And for that reason, probably the least likely signing of the summer. But we will end up with Tom bloody Cleverley.
Perhaps the most interesting rumour yesterday surrounded next season with reportedly, Arsenal facing an opening day trip to Anfield. It’s not dissimilar to the rumours at the start of last season or 2012/13 when the day before the fixtures were announced, Arsenal were left with tough away games to start with. It turned out somewhat different in both cases although there was an early season trip to Merseyside two seasons ago but not on the opening day. That’s not to say it won’t happen, we have to go there at some point and after last season’s mauling perhaps getting that, City and Chelsea out of the way in the first three away games is not such a bad idea; two or three draws from is not a bad return compared to last season’s big fat zero. It might also focus minds on getting deals completed quickly so that the strongest possible squad is available.
But the real thing is on its way and by tomorrow night, I am sure will have all worked out the necessary points for a top four finish.
To be fair, we normally have to wait until the end of the transfer window before Arsenal’s title chances are resolutely dismissed but Tony Adams has seen enough to know that it’s all over before it has begun. According to the former captain, Mr Arsenal,
I don’t think they will win the title as Chelsea and Manchester City are blowing the league apart and Man Utd will come again. I don’t think Arsenal will finish any higher than 4th at the moment which is a little bit sad, but they needed to win the FA Cup because they had stick from the fans.
They played some remarkable football at times last season, but they they do leave themselves open. When they come up against big teams they tend to leave themselves too open because they want to play freely and roll teams over.
Well, that’s the unbridled optimism for a new season well and truly punctured. Is there any point in the Premier League announcing the fixtures for 2014/15 tomorrow? Presumably Adams missed Liverpool’s efforts last season or doesn’t think they can repeat the second place finish because Luis Suarez will be leaving for Real Madrid this summer.
I admire Adams willingness to stick his neck out with predictions for next season but I’ll wager that most people will wait and see if Arsène manages to sign a player or two before the summer’s out. Ideally, before the World Cup final given all bar twenty-six players are available for talks at that point. To do so gives him most of the pre-season to work on integrating newcomers into the squad and setting the players so that they are firing on all cylinders when it comes to the first match of the season.
The World Cup continued space yesterday with Pepe’s dismissal serving to cement his position as the World’s Stupidest Defender. Considering his disciplinary history, to be sent off for such a crass act merely served to underline the idiocy of his actions. The Portuguese knew it wasn’t going to be their day when the lesser talented Ronaldo wannabe, Nani, spoiled a perfectly good opportunity for Coentrào who later departed with a strain of sorts.
Mesut Özil had a decent hour or so the pitch, decidedly one-footed at times and culpable of a poor finish when presented with a decent chance but in the first half, he was a constant thorn in the Portuguese side. Mertesacker was relatively untroubled throughout as what was shaping to be an entertaining encounter, was ruined by the first half shenanigans. Podolski, a late substitute, ambled on to the pitch in a quite impressive manner. You’ll guess by that, I am struggling to recall him touching the ball. Khedira, recently mentioned as a possible transfer target, fared well and was more impressive than in the Champions League final.
Müller’s hat-trick was overshadowed by his part in Pepe’s downfall, which if he possesses the famed German sense of humour, will be the title of a chapter in his memoir. It was a staggeringly stupid act of the Real Madrid defender’s part and entirely in keeping with character. The Germans would have identified his temperament as a weakness and sought to exploit it. Müller did just that and Pepe fell for it.
Play acting, exaggeration, call it what yo will; over-stating the impact of physical contact is deceiving the referee and thus cheating. It’s nothing new though and I struggle to understand the vitriolic response this incident engendered when others are let go without comment. There have been plenty of exaggerated dives already, tumbles made to look a lot worse than the contact merited, if there was any.
These players are professionals, they have played a long time at the top-level. They know what will happen in those circumstances, they have been guilty of the same ‘crime’. It doesn’t make it right, of course but as Patrick Vieira observed, that behavioural trait is never going to be changed in players unless you change wider aspects of the ‘management’ of the game, e.g. empower the fourth official to become involved in these incidents real time. Still, it was funny seeing Chiles already sunken brow sink further down his face as the rage made it seem like a waxwork melting under intense heat.
And amid all this, sitting bemused by the furore erupting from his left, Fabio Cannavaro wondered what all the fuss was about…