If Brazil 2014 is the footballing gift that keeps on giving, in my little pun-riven world the transfer window is not far behind. Chuks Aneke left Arsenal to try his luck in Belgium with Moules-frites too tempting an offer to refuse. Zulte-Waregem will be his new home for the next few years and good luck to the young man as he forges his professional career away from The Emirates.
He joins a long list of departed of whom much was expected but never materialised. Potential has always been subjective, football is littered with players who went on to have careers the great and the good decreed they would never enjoy. I guess the question really becomes focused on the end product of the Academy; judgement is frequently passed on how many end up in the Arsenal first XI? There was a time when this was going to be the way forward when cash was not as plentiful as it is now. That brave new world would see Podsnap’s Technique bringing through a generation of Alphas to dominate the squad. It didn’t happen and it never will, an ideal sold as reality but unattainable without the decimation of academies at a more local level. Ironically, that is exactly what the national team needs, centres for excellence that give us a production line of international class footballers. The problem is that just because a club is deemed ‘big’, it is no guarantee that their youth academies are going to work; Arsenal know that and have acted to rectify problems. It’s a brutal truth that it is the same for all but a few clubs at the top of the professional game around the globe.
Money talks and it is bragging right now with Serge Aurier reportedly agreeing personal terms with Arsenal. Whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen especially as until a fee is agreed and a contract signed, talk of him joining remains speculative. As if to add credibility to the ‘chase’, Liverpool have £100m in their pockets that is burning faster than any building fire that Steve McQueen ever tried to put out. QPR and Swansea are also seen a potential threats to Arsenal’s successful pursuit of Aurier. Which is a bizarre combination, two top four sides slugging it out with clubs who many will tip for relegation this season for an Ivory Coast international. I suppose the Bony connection will feed into that somehow.
It sounds more likely than Mario Balotelli joining Arsenal despite reports this morning that his Mr20% is meeting with Arsène whilst the manager is in Rio. This, having met with the big cheeses of Milan in a week when the fee of €39m became a cash sale only, on the nose and with no extended terms, not even throwing in a €10m Joel Campbell will tempt them now. The twists and turns, eh? Still at least agents get to see the world and eat in nice restaurants.
More likely in all this is Loic Remy and his release clause which is suffering from the very deflation that the European Central Bank is trying to avoid across the continent. Starting the summer at £12m, the utter disinterest of anybody when it came to making a bid has forced the release clause down to £10m this morning. If Arsenal bid, it will probably rise to £15m.
If Arsène were able to draw himself away from all this activity, he would have enjoyed the Germany v Ghana game yesterday. It simmered for a while before reaching boiling point in the second half. Mertesacker didn’t enjoy the best afternoon for his 100th cap but Mesut Özil flourished in the open spaces offered. A draw was a fair result and keeps Germany on course to qualify. They face a daunting task though as the three-team USA!USA!USA! could seize top spot if they beat a Portugal squad licking its wounds about being asked so often about Ronaldo’s wounds, not to say the drubbing they received thanks to Pepe’s stupidity. A draw would not be the worst for either country and leave the final round of matches poised nicely.
Elsewhere, the stout defence of Iranians ran out of energy and in a flash, Lionel Messi broke their hearts with the game’s only goal. Argentina should have won more comfortably but could equally have lost with Reza missing two presentable chances in the second half. They’re through; Bosnia are out with England in good company. The navel gazing has turned into bitching with a large number of ex-managers revelling in Roy Hodgson’s relative failure by pointing out where it went wrong for England. The prefix “ex-” identifies the experience of these critics and their knowledge of failure makes them well-suited to comment. You would have thought that England were expected to win the World Cup judging by the reaction as opposed to being roundly written off before a ball was kicked.
The hypocrisy of it all is breath-taking.