The usual media speculation is filling the back pages and airwaves over recent days with The Sun Says So It Must Be True claiming the Club are worried AW is off to Madrid despite all those ‘close’ to him indicating the contrary and that Bernd Schuster has been heavily linked with the role since Christmas. Freddie says he’s staying until he finishes playing; his contract is up in two years time so he will be on the rolling one year contracts if Arsenal still use them at that point considering that they breach the Age Discrimination Laws or retiring at the age of 32.
Obefami Martins is being moved to the Club by the media and Fat Sam is increasing that media move with his comments. In this instance, you can have sympathy with the Newcastle fans having been through the same sort of crap with Henry. Personally, whilst he may be a good player, he will be out of circulation for up to six weeks in the Winter so is he the correct solution? And everyone is getting excited because Carlos Tevez wouldn’t be rushed by Internazionale because he loves the Premiership so much. I’m sure the public declaration by West Ham that they were offering him £115k a week had no bearing on this at all. Which begs the question when does the money count more than the opportunities? If Arsenal did come a-knocking with an offer for less, would Tevez answer the call or would he stay put to earn more?
One player who seems hell-bent on coming is Bakari Sagna. Having professed his strong desire to join Arsenal recently, reports suggest that we have had one bid knocked back already. The player is supposedly unhappy with this and willing to strike over it, reportedly saying that he will not be turning up for pre-season training if he doesn’t get his own way. The Auxerre President, Gerard Bourgoin, said yesterday,
Sagna has a deep desire to play in England and he genuinely wants to wear the Arsenal shirt. They seem keen to sign him as well. The conditions for him to leave have not all been met — at least for the time being
I guess that those ‘conditions’ mean another million or so on the offer and if Arsene wants him then they will probably be met in the next week or so. Which will not satisfy those who want a ‘big’ signing now and resent the fact we haven’t made it yet, noting that others have been active and we have not. However, given there is another six or seven weeks until the season starts and a full two months before the transfer window closes, is there any reason to rush? Better to get the player you want rather than rush into a ‘bad’ deal as Fat Sam reckoned Newcastle had done with Martins and Owen, referring to their exceptionally cheap release clauses. Going the other way seems to be Matthieu Flamini who likes the look of Steve Bruce; takes all sorts I suppose. I thought he said he would be buying out his contract but it seems he will be contributing a couple of million to the coffers instead.
Elsewhere, Michel Platini is proving to be a right Royal pain in the Arsenal. Apparently, his plans for Cup winners to have a place in the Champions League have been presented to UEFA’s Executive Committee and will now go forward for a final ‘decision’ in September. Like one has not been taken already. If approved – we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the ‘fix’ is not already in place – it means that fourth place in the Premiership will now qualify you for the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners will get a play-off against the lowest equivalent qualifiers in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal. Put into practice this time round and Arsenal would be playing one of Toulouse, Lazio, Valencia, Werder Bremen or Benfica just to get into the final qualifying round. A UEFA source said:
The president appears very keen to include Cup winners in the Champions League – it boosts national associations and also helps Cup competitions in those countries where it has diminished in importance
So it would seem that the competition rigging goes on; seedings in the Qualifiers and Groups to ensure that the top teams progress with a sop to the smaller nations that allow them to believe they have a chance to get through. In England’s case, it seems that barring a miracle, the top four in the Premiership will still qualify as it is over a decade since someone outside of the top four won the FA Cup (in fact it might be the top two of that season but not sure where Liverpool finished when they won the Cup) but it is another erosion to the Competition, getting further away from the use of the word ‘Champion’ than ever.