Midfield is pre-occupying many minds with Real Madrid desperate to recoup some cash by selling Sami Khedira to Arsenal instead of the German taking a season’s pay and then signing for Bayern Munich for nothing. Khedira has apparently been in Bavaria for talks but is willing to drop his Arsenal pay demands by 10% to an eye-catching £225k per week before the taxman takes it down to a paltry £134k. I’m not sure his Mr20% is really understanding the new money-rich Arsenal has not taken leave of its senses. Entirely. Of course that sum could be just newspaper talk as could the resurrection of this move, one designed to provoke the club back to the negotiating table and in no way should it be considered a last desperate throw of the dice by his employers to get £24m instead of losing that plus a year’s wages. No…
At the same time, Douglas Costa is fast becoming this year’s Yann M’vila although he has yet to have his 21,485th sighting at Colney for a medical. The red light flashed and klaxon sounded at Arsenal Transfer HQ as the English media reported that the Portuguese media had reported that William Carvalho has been put up for sale by Sporting Lisbon. It suggests that Arsenal’s negotiating stance was something like, “£24m OK? No? Oh, we’ll get back to you on that one…“, followed by a lengthy silence. Have Sporting blinked first in the game of transfer chicken?
What’s interesting in all this midfielder talk is the absence of protestations that we don’t need him which would have arisen in previous years. Gradually, there is an understanding that a squad needs competition if Arsenal are to challenge on multiple fronts over the course of a season. Well, unless you are talking about forwards and then the immediate assumption is that you don’t think Olivier Giroud is good enough. Oh, hello Brick Wall, good to talk to you again.
Midfield is, it seems to me, the last piece of business that Arsenal are likely to do this summer unless provoked into action by sales. With United being rebuffed by just about everyone when it comes to central defenders, Thomas Vermaelen remains the only peg on which that hat can be hung. It still seems likely that the Belgian will go, his absence from the Austrian training camp assumed to be down to negotiations although the reasons may not be that sinister given he picked up an injury in the World Cup which could require treatment. Thanks for the straws, I’ll hold onto them for a while longer.
That dilemma underlines how difficult it is to keep seasoned internationals happy when they are not playing. Wenger has found a partnership which works – or works better than Vermaelen and Koscielny or Mertesacker – and no matter what happens in terms of injuries or suspensions, he will revert to the trusted ones until they let him down over a time and necessity forces him to review the situation. That’s the way of the footballing world and is harsh on the player left out, particularly if they have international aspirations.
It’s why in many respects David Ospina took something of a brave decision to join Arsenal. He knows that he will have to be patient with little chance of first team action immediately; his international career could be damaged as a result of that and it puts pressure on himself to perform, to put himself into contention in the manager’s mind. It puts Wojciech Szczesny under more pressure than he has been before. Even when he was dropped from the side a couple of seasons back, you sensed that he would begin the following season as first choice. That was emphasized when having recovered from injury, Lukasz Fabianski was not restored to the side despite having played well whilst his compatriot was left on the bench. Was that the time the elder of the Poles knew his time at the club had come to an end?
The choices in each position is interesting from Arsène’s point of view. The footballing cliché is that he will have the selection headache he will like but also tests his patience in players. Previously, it could be argued that some kept their place in the starting XI through lack of options, irrespective of their own form. Looking around the squad now, there is an element that suggests Wenger can be more ruthless with players in the event of a poor game or two. Will he act in those circumstances more swiftly than before or is the patriarchal, nurturing instinct too strong?
Whatever the case is, with the summer activity so far and that still to come, Wenger is giving himself a strong shot at competing for silverware on a consistent basis going forward. Going out in blaze of glory indeed.