Arsene Wenger has moved to quash speculation about signing Saviola and Curtis Davies, and any number of the players at those Italian clubs affected by points deductions and relegations. To be honest, the more you think about it, are any of the Milan, Juve, Lazio or Fiorentina squads going to radically improve the current Arsenal squad? Well, aside from Buffon, Cannavaro, Nesta, Gattuso or perhaps Pirlo then the answer is probably not. Thuram would be useful as a squad player, covering Senderos who is now out for approximately three months. Centre half is the only significant weakness in the squad. Djourou will work as cover next season whilst I had hoped Cygan would have left by now. One player would probably make all the difference. But £10m for Curtis Davies? West Brom are out of their tiny minds. Perhaps Gordon Taylor would care to remember this price next time he complains that there are not enough Englishmen at Arsenal. Could Sepp Blatter please tell my why Arsenal should pay twice Davies’ worth to secure his services? It is not a market force in operation here because the supply is there but demand is non-existent at that price. It is little wonder that Wenger looks abroad – Kolo Toure cost 1/3 of that price and was already an established international. On the subject of Toure, his brother Yaya will probably be the only other significant addition to the squad this transfer window – excluding any surprises – which will be good, given Diaby’s absence. I cannot see how Baptista would fit in – he is not a defensive midfielder but would compete in an already congested attacking area of the squad. If Saviola cannot be accommodated then neither will Baptista, surely?
It is right, of course, that he keeps his cards close to his chest and does not let on his interests, denying competitors the chance to counterbid for players. When discussing Saviola specifically, he pointed out the large number of players he has to fill the forward roles in the team. During the last few years, he has amassed an attacking squad that frankly embarrasses a large number of the clubs close rivals. Look at those forwards at Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane and once you get past the first choice and none of those clubs have the depth. The word missing is “strength”. Arsenal’s squad is full of potential but little of it is so far realised, domestically at least. Adebayour had a promising first season but needs to start converting more of his chances otherwise he could find himself in the same boat as Kanu. van Persie is by the far the most developed and ought to find himself playing more for the first team. Reyes has to produce this season. He has been bulking out physically over the last two summers but is still lightweight at times, this season may well be his make or break in English football.
Publicly at least, Arsene Wenger appears to be an ideal manager to work for. Even if you stab him in the back, you get nothing but praise when he speaks to the media. Ask Ashley Cole. Despite his philandering ways with Chelsea, Cole is still considered to be an integral part of the squad by his manager, the only hint of criticism is that he should let his football do the talking rather than his mouth. Cole is currently splitting Arsenal fans down the middle. Either they want him to go because of his dalliance or they want him to stay. Personally, I think he should go. Not for his weasling ways but simply due to the fact that an unhappy employee will never give you his all. Further, it can be a disruptive influence should his relationship with the club sink any lower. That does not mean he should be allowed to depart cheaply. A minimum the club should be looking for is £20m, especially if Chelsea are involved. After all, if they are prepared to pay over the odds for Shevchenko and Essien then they can stump up for young Master Cole.
Perhaps it is because they have all week to come up with their stories but Sunday is unsurpassable for football gossip in the papers. The Mail On Sunday has Rooney’s life story – one of a series of five books being ghosted by Hunter Davies – as its lead but the real humdinger is the news of the five Premiership clubs upon whom the Stevens Inquiry is focussing. It goes so far as to name them – Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Bolton and Manchester United. The first four are hardly surprising because outwardly they seem to conduct a significant proportion of the transfer activity in the division but for United to be caught up in this is incredible, for several reasons. Firstly, they are one of the biggest clubs in the world and should not need to pay sweeteners to induce players to sign for them. Secondly, given their status, surely they would have expected any irregularities to be brought to the surface. In much the same way that Chelsea are despised for being able to waste money on whomsoever they want, United were in that position for years.
The paper reports that the Criminal Charges have not been ruled out but on what basis they could be laid is not known, presumably the English equivalent of sporting fraud, but will The FA have the balls to deal with them following the example set by the Italians? We can only dream of Manchester United being relegated and starting with a thirty point deduction….
Meanwhile according to the News Of The World, Arsenal have made a formal bid off £12.6m for Gianluigi Buffon with Milan apparently the competition for his signature.The same paper claims Wenger wants Cole to stay whilst denying they are going to sign any of the Juve players because they cannot afford the wages. Presumably getting Sol’s £90k each week off the books is not enough. Never mind Arsene, when Cole leaves there’s another £50k+ each week, more than enough for a Buffon. Which still leaves a vacancy in the Centre Half Department to be filled. Do that and he can be considered to have a reasonably strong squad for the forthcoming campaign. Interestingly, a number of stories are emanating from Spain regarding a Baptista / Cole swap deal – Cole claims a secret deal is keeping him at Arsenal whilst Baptista alleges that Arsenal are still interested in him – whilst Cole’s wedding party was not attended by a large number of the first team squad, the News Of The World suggests that it was due to David Dein’s daughters wedding, the paper conveniently forgetting that most of the World Cup participants are still on holiday.
A marvellous songwriter I stumbled across a couple of years ago, familiar no doubt to many. The website is here with more downloads – check out Hearts Of Oak as a good introduction to the band. This set is from last August and was culled from the Live Music Archive, a great repository for audio recordings of gigs in either mp3 or lossless formats.
Little Dawn / Sons Of Cain / Dial Up / Me And Mia / The One Who Got Us Out / Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone / The High Party / The Sword In The Stone / The 11th / Counting Down The Hours / Timorous Me / Shake The Sheets / Hearts Of Oak / I’m A Ghost / 2nd Ave, 11am / Biomusicology / Parallel Or Together / Suspect Device
Download it here.