Thanks to Steww, Cbob and Big Al for holding the fort with their wise words and time whilst I – and I quote directly from Al - take a well-earned holiday. I like the cut of your jib, sir.
The transfer window increases stress levels unnecessarily in some people. As I write this, according to the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), still one day,
sixteen fifteen hours and twelve ten minutes to go for incomings and outgoings during the Summer 2012 Trolley Dash. It ought to be obligatory for everyone to spend the last fortnight of the transfer window on the Iberian peninsula, take in some of the mañana attitude. Even the cockerels here are laid back, starting their morning call around 8am local time and certainly those around here, are somewhat half-hearted in their application: cock-a-doodle-meh. Mind you, I want some of whatever Julio Cesar has been smoking if his dreams include QPR winning the Premier League.
This morning sees Theo Walcott occupy prime position once more. Yesterday saw the player accused of greed, etc, on the basis that, well, there was no conclusive basis. Nobody really knows what is going on with his contract talks save for the facts that (1) there were some last year which broke down because the player wanted to wait until this Summer before making a decision on his future, and, (2) there are talks ongoing at the moment.
Beyond that, we don’t know what is offer, what is demanded. His agents and the club have been very coy about briefing the press to this point. There was talk of £100k per week some time ago and some use this yardstick to judge whether Walcott is worth it or not. It is an interesting theory; how do you judge whether or not a player is worth a certain wage when you do not know the structure or confines within which the salary level is operating? Paper talk is exactly that, the player (or his agent) briefing the press will embellish his salary with all bonuses included, giving the appearance of a hefty wage packet. The club will do the opposite, presenting themselves as financially responsible. It is only when egos or lost payslips come into play, that you find out what is actually earned.
Still it doesn’t matter since he is not leaving. Arsène sought him out at the training ground apparently and they had clear the air talks which will no doubt spawn a hastily constructed website statement outlining how the player sees the club’s direction as being opposite to that which he wants to take, alongside a eulogy for Brendan Rodgers and that he is a manager for whom the player has long held admiration.
And no, Mr Henry, we do not want Andy Carroll although if your club is struggling for strikers, can we interest you in Chamakh or Park. In fact that would be a way to either firm up a club’s interest in Walcott or put them off entirely. Yes, he can go but only if he takes Chamakh, Park and Squillaci with him. They are the best of friends you see and we couldn’t possibly dream of splitting them up…
But what role will Walcott occupy at Arsenal. He has long held the desire to play centrally and has shown on occasion, the necessary calmness and finishing to be highly successful but I am not convinced that he can play there permanently, at the moment at least. Walcott is often berated for running into blind alleys, shunted and buffetted by defenders into positions of no progress; lacking a footballing brain, the abuse from former professionals not noted for their intelligence. Yet this belies his tally of assists and goals last season from wide positions.
There is merit in the argument about providing van Persie with opportunities being easy and it is that kind of movement up front that Theo has to strive for. Moreover, it is too easy to forget that Walcott is still relatively young although I wonder if he is too old to be retrained as a centre forward? I could see, I think, Walcott working as part of a strike pair but I am not enamoured with the idea of the England international as leading the line. I have yet to see those qualities shine through, there is a lack of guile at times, something streetwise not there, the spark of nastiness is absent.
Despite his publicly held desire to have all the work done well before the end of the transfer window, it seems that Arsène is going to be a busy man. There are still outgoings to resolve although Nicklas Bendtner’s options became more limited with Milan’s signing of Bojan. Surely the penny is dropping with himself or Team Bendtner that there is a perception gap between his view of his abilities and that held by others? Perhaps not. Still the best laugh came with the observation that Park’s agent claiming that Arsenal wouldn’t sell the Korean until January because of the lack of goals in the opening two Premier League games.
More important than all of this though is the Champions League draw in Monaco this evening. Arsenal’s consistency in qualifying for the group stage and beyond is rewarded by another appearance in Pot One, the seeded teams. Of that octet, Arsenal are the only ones never to have triumphed in the Champions League or its forebear. Indeed, the other seven teams have won it this century, Porto’s victory over Monaco still remains, I think, the best opportunity that Arsenal had of winning the trophy. The home defeat to Chelsea still irks as much as the missed opportunities by Henry in Paris.
Looking at the seedings, there is a Group of Death awaiting with Dortmund, Juventus and Zenit awaiting someone. Quite how Manchester City ranked in the second pot is questionable, presumably an unfortunate by-product of the consistency of the English clubs in this tournament. The easier path to the knockout phase is Braga, Olympiacos and BATE; that’s Manchester United’s group sorted out for them. Beyond that, there is tricky opposition in each of the seedings and with countries having four entrants, that will not change. Indeed, the emergence of money at clubs such as PSG mean that Platini’s egalitarian desires are going to be consumed as the same competitors swap pots each season. Another reorganisation is coming and a proper League is the only option beyond returning to three cup competitions.
Big Al is back tomorrow with his usual Friday column. Hasta mañana.