The desire within UEFA to make football a level playing field for all clubs insofar as money is concerned received Arsene’s backing yesterday. David Taylor, General Secretary of UEFA, spoke of the aims,
[Club Licencing is] very important to actually bring more balance to our competitions and more balance to European football
In other words, we are bored with the English, Italian and Spanish clubs dominating our prized tournament and we want more smaller countries to be reaching the last eight or beyond, financing their status through borrowings. That the regulations have been in place for several years and UEFA have ignored them is conveniently ignored.
On the one hand, I can see the point to it all. The classic case of being technically insolvent and dominating is Real Madrid. Arsene was not referring directly to them when he said,
I think teams who have deficits should be kicked out of Europe
That was aimed at United and Chelsea, bringing a hilariously indignant response from United blogs. The mind games may not work on Ferguson but he still knows which buttons to press to wind up their supporters. Back to the matter in hand. That United won in Moscow probably brought mixed emotions to the surface for UEFA’s new breed; a club that is heavily indebted to banks won over a club that is heavily indebted to its owner. Therein is the crux of the matter. It is not so much the debt that is there, more that Chelsea are not servicing theirs, paying their way via the largesse (or largest) pockets of their owner.
It is not as if there is a good model for UEFA to point to in a major league. The English model of free-market economics is governed by Corporate Legislation in the UK; the Italians are essentially bankrupt (financially as well as recovering morally) at the top end of the scale and as for the Spanish, the fan based model that is held up as Utopian is no more secure than the rest, evidenced by the number of clubs near bankruptcy. Indeed, Madrid started this whole ball rolling with their Galactico-era triumphs in the Champions League at the turn of the century, saved only by a dubious deal over the sale of their training facilities at a time when they had defaulted on one £8m instalment of the Anelka deal according to the Arsenal Financial Statements of 2001.
France and Germany have strong regulations for clubs but there have been problems in both countries, PSG in the former, Dortmund the latter, being the most notable to drive holes through rules. Laws can, and have been, tightened in both cases as a result but where there are such regulations, there are lawyers finding holes wide enough to drive tanks through.
It is also another justification for the business model utilised by Arsenal, extended by proxy to the transfer dealings, as well as highlighting the problematic nature of finding investors in the club if the Board were so inclined.
On the subject of transfers, he has not ruled out bringing in another signing but it seems the ubiquitous ‘third man’ is always creating a problem. It is, so it seems, easier to resolve problems with squabbling children than it is to seal the deal with transfers. Arsene would like all transfers paid for in one hit rather than staged. It is all to do with managing their commitments, according to Wenger. And nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it would massively reduce transfer fees Arsene, eh?
Newcastle bowl into town for an early season visit to The Emirates on the back of four points out of six. Not entirely convincing in their home win last weekend, they were utterly resolute at Old Trafford in earning their opening day point. Have a guess which version Keegan will hope takes the field this teatime. God, I hate that phrase when referring to football kick-offs. Neither afternoon nor evening, it is a pain in the Arsenal; gee, thanks Setanta.
There are no new injury worries reported with Nasri, Gallas and Walcott all recovered from minor knocks received against FC Twente. It is decision time for Arsene. Making assessments based on the ‘recovery’ match in midweek is hard. Does he stick with Djourou (three clean sheets to his name) or bring back Toure (none) to partner Gallas (two goals so far and joint top scorer). Whichever is chosen the clean sheets statistic needs to be re-engaged. Personally, I would stick with Djourou for the moment as he and Gallas seem to have clicked in terms of solidity but Toure is a world-class defender and will no doubt be recalled.
Midfield will be strengthened by the return of Cesc and I have a suspicion that Alex Song may make an appearance to partner him. Whilst Arsene noted last term that the Cameroonian apparently does not have the physical stamina to play in the centre for a whole season, he is more defensively assured than Denilson. No doubt that there is a balance to be struck between defence and attack but with a Cesc more geared to playmaking, a requirement to have someone effective holding back than the Brazilian is required. If Arsene does make the change though, it will be more to do with rotation than anything else. The other possibility is Eboue taking the central reins and as such, he deserves his chance to prove his critics wrong.
The team I suspect will be fielded is
Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Walcott, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri; van Persie, Adebayor
Whichever way, three points are vital following last Saturday’s defeat, as much for confidence as keeping in touch with Liverpool and Chelsea whilst stealing a two-point gap on United. As the players return to fitness, starting a winning run is important to enable the full-strength squad to build upon that.