Before the frivolities, a moment’s silence to pay respects to the late Alfredo di Stefano.
So this it, the first sense that there is a resumption of club football around the corner. Pre-season training began for some yesterday, others drift into Colney over the coming month, ready to launch a trophy challenge on five fronts. Yes, five; when Arsenal are involved, the Community Shield counts as a trophy. How many – if any – will be successful, well, that’s the rollercoaster ride we embark upon in six weeks time. Unlike the book or dvd where you flick through to the end, we don’t know how it will turn out, just that it will sear into your emotional well-being. Good or bad, that is up to the fates to decide.
Arsenal can help themselves, of course. You can’t be held a hostage to fortune over the course of a season and reading between the lines, they seem to be doing their utmost not to be pulled into Lady Luck’s hypnotic gaze. Barcelona said something and nothing yesterday but appeared to confirm that Alexis Sánchez is moving anywhere but Liverpool, observing at their press conference, “Negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. We don’t want to talk about these things openly.” In transfer talk, it’s the equivalent of 2+2=614.
Dissecting that comment is interesting. Or more interesting than ignoring it. Could it be that they don’t want to talk about such things openly for tax avoidance reasons? Might it be that they don’t want the world to know how much the Suarez deal will cost them in light of the economic conditions in Spain, fearful of a backlash from the nation over a fee deemed to be obscene? Could it be that the Chilean is going to Juventus for more money than Arsenal are willing to pay and they don’t want Liverpool to know lest they up the asking price? Who knows. Other questions arise from it, most notably, “Have aliens landed and taken control of Barcelona because frankly that’s more likely than the Catalans keeping quiet over a transfer?”
When Andoni Zubizaretta observes that “Negotiations held privately are better. I’m happier that way. The rest is speculation“, you know that this time, Mars Attacks were successful. A messy deal revolving Barcelona is somewhat apposite today given di Stefano’s own history.
Meanwhile the media report that Arsène remains in Brazil, preparing for the pundit’s role in the final quartet of matches in the World Cup, ready to drop everything and return to Blighty at a moments notice should any transfer require his input. Which is all of them. A regular criticism of Wenger is that he is too much of a control freak, that he does not let the coaching staff get on and coach. That can’t be levelled at him now; he’s certainly left the conditioning aspect of the pre-season training to others. At the same time, Wenger has been accused in the past of dithering over deals so staying well out of it seems to saté that desire to neuter his influence over the monetary side of the club.
I am sure that this extended stay in South America will draw ire to the surface in some; he can’t win in that respect. If it backfires, if Sánchez for example, signs for Juve or whomever, because their manager met him in person whilst he sat on the Copacabana, then I’m afraid his position is indefensible. If he signs for Arsenal, then fair play to him for resting ahead of the coming campaign. Whatever the case, a rush to judgement now is a moment of haste and frankly there are other, more productive things to get het up about.
Over halfway through the post and I haven’t even mentioned that the only reason Arsenal want to sign Lars Bender is to shift the Bendtner shirts that are currently wedging the warehouse door open. There is no truth in the rumour that the club has directed the work experience lad to bring his red felt tips in to work and start colouring over the superfluous letters. None at all. With the Spanish media reporting Tony Kroos has agreed a deal at the Bernabeu, no doubt the stories about Sami Khedira will pick up pace as well. This one could run and run which is what you want it to do, given it is about midfielders. The warning signs will be there if even the transfer tattle doesn’t have legs. If you feel that contemptuous, the familiarity of the situation brings it about. Transfer window, big money waiting to be spent, German Real Madrid midfielder…stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Elsewhere, a question emerges: when is a transfer not a transfer? When it’s a done deal in the papers. Take Mathieu Debuchy. And someone wants to take him outside and give him…a first class ticket to north London. The player announced to French TV he was joining Arsenal at the weekend, the fee dropped about £3m in the blink of an eye and everyone was happy. All except Carl Jenkinson probably, who was no doubt hoping to be given a shot at the right back slot. However, this morning, as Puma ready themselves for the kit launch, it seems unlikely that anyone much will be there to celebrate it. Debuchy won’t, this morning sees a slew of reports that The Barcodes want Campbell or Jenkinson on loan to seal the deal. How true, who knows? The latter seems unlikely as it would leave us bereft of cover on the right; the former? Pffft, if Arsène is still in Brazil, who knows. Where’s that plane ticket…