Tag Archives: Stevan Jovetić

Man City's players dropping like flies to avoid the Emirates…

Ahead of Saturday’s visit from Man City, it seems that Citizens left and right are finding excuses to avoid the fray. Usually, players manufacture their injuries to avoid international friendlies; this time through, however, it seems that the mighty Mancs might be suffering a bit of pre-match malaise as player after player has picked up an unfortunate knock or niggle, relegating them to observer’s status, rather than reprise the thumping they absorbed in the Community Shield. As with that match, Citeh may field an XI full of back-benchers, this time by necessity rather than by choice. So it goes…

“Quick, lads! Look like you’ve been a supporter for more than a few years!”

At first, the news trickled in. A few of those back-benchers found their way out of town via loans. Álvaro Negredo made his way back to Spain, getting a loan-deal to Valencia. No bigs, as he was one of those impulse-buys we’ve come to expect from Citeh. Next, however, it was squad-stalwart Micah Richards, the longest-serving (by my reckoning) member, having debuted away to Arsenal way back in October 2005. Despite having racked up 245 appearances in the interim, Richards has joined Serie A’s Fiorentina on a season-long loan. It appears that, rather than face us, he’s abandoned ship.

Casting further back into the past, we have Costel Pantilimon joining Sunderland on a free transfer, where he can learn from no less than Vito Mannone. Further down the pecking order, perhaps, we have Javi Garcia going to the fertile footballing grounds that are found at Zenit-St. Petersburg; Joleon Lescott joining West Brom on a free (!), and Gareth Barry achieving ‘elder-statesman’s’ status at Everton.

And it’s not just the loans. More recently, “injuries” have cropped up. We Gooners know full-well, of course, what it means to lose players to niggles and knocks. It’s part and parcel of who we are. However, as referenced above, even Gooners could look to interlullian injuries as a bit of gamesmanship: “Golly, sir. I know we have a pointless friendly in East Backwaterianton, involving a 12-hour flight with interminable delays and seats that just don’t recline far enough, whose result has no bearing on my position for club or country, but I just can’t shake this soreness in my, um, deviated septum, so…” However, there’s a plethora of such injuries incurred during the interlull that begs questions. Zabaleta suffered something in Argentina’s (eventual) triumph over Germany last week. Kompany almost missed Belgium’s “crucial” friendly against Australia. Jovetić, once-coveted in these very environs,  seems to have strained his hamstring while training with Montenegro. As such, the availability of all three is in doubt.

Even for a squad as deep as Citeh’s, other questions persist. Will Agüero feature? What of Džeko? Neither of them is fully fit. One has to wonder, then, if the injuries that Citeh have suffered are physical or existential in nature. Having glutted themselves on transfers-in and trophies, have they finally reached a point of satiety that will see their squad settle for medicrioty? Why battle, after all, when all of your material needs are met? That’s the thing about wild roller-coaster rides, such as the one that Citeh have enjoyed over the last five years or so. The thrill-seeking is all but gone. What’s left to accomplish (other than a Champions League drive that lasts past the round of 16)?

To their credit, I suppose, none of the former Gunners who have made his way to the Etihad have begged off—so far, Clichy, Nasri, and Sagna have laid low rather than drawing attention to themselves. Then again, the absences of such illustrious teammates will thrust them and others front-and-center. Can they handle the pressure of taking to the pitch to represent a club whose path to success diverges so wildly from the path that Arsenal have taken?

Ancelotti does Arsenal a bit of a favor in the transfer-carousel. Maybe.

I remember the breathless anticipation of waiting in line for the carousel, eagerly eyeing each horse, hoping for the coolest of them all, usually a black one frozen in mid-gallop, and the mad dash once the gates flew open. We’d run like crazy to get to the horse we wanted. Trouble was, everyone seemed to want the same horse, so whoever got it forced the rest of us to find our second-choice, or our third-choice, and so on. There were so many kids running around and only so many horses worth riding, and even though everyone ended up with horse, not everyone got the horse they wanted.

So it goes with finding a center-forward. With all of the players and managers and teams swirling around, the metaphor falters. Who are the kids and who are the horses? Who’s chasing who, and who will end up where? A quick skim of the headlines offers a confounding mix of players and teams: Carlo Ancelotti is heading to Real Madrid and won’t release Higuain until he can sign Luis Suarez as a replacement. Juventus is

pursuing Higuain and Jovetic, and Fiorentina wants Higuain, presumably to replace Jovetic. Cavani may leave Napoli, so Napoli wants Mario Gomez while Bayern want Lewandowski. And that’s just for starters.

Where is Arsenal in all of this? Which horse will we end up riding? Will we grab the reins of  that wild stallion chomping at the bit, galloping across an imaginary pitch, ears flattened and eyes rolling, or will we end up settling for the pretty l’il filly, raising one delicate hoof ever so daintily, prancing and cantering in a cozy meadow?

This latest snag involving Luis McBite-Bite Suarez may actually help us get that stallion. Liverpool has apparently signed forward Iago Aspas from Celta de Vigo as they prepare to unload Suarez’s dental prowess on yet another league. To be honest, though, it’s hard to know how Ancelotti’s apparent desire to sign Suarez affects Higuain’s potential move. It might just be enough to irritate Juventus enough to switch their focus back to Jovetic–a move that I believe is in their best interests anyway as it hobbles a league rival. Fiorentina is said to be pursuing Higuain as well, but I just don’t see this move making any sense from his point of view. It would be a dramatic down-grade for him–would he really trade this year’s 2nd-place finish in La Liga, Champions League semi-final appearance, and the virtual guarantee of annual Champions League football in order to play for Fiorentina, 4th place finishers in Serie A and hoping to qualify for the Europa League next year?

I like Higuain. I’m convinced that he’d make a great addition to the squad. We might have to break our club’s transfer-fee to land him, but he’s proven his quality, he doesn’t seem to suck up locker-room space like “bigger” names might, and he might therefore be worth it. Given Higuain’s second-fiddle role with Real Madrid, we could offer him the role of #1 center-forward, from which he could very well score 20 or more goals (something he’s already done three times in La Liga), not to mention contention for a Prem League championship (ahem) and Champions League competition in one of the biggest and most-urbane cities in the world. Late last week, a figure of £22m for Higuain was making the rounds. If we up the offer to, say, £25m or £28m, would this be enough to get Higuain’s signature? How much farther would we have to go to make an offer too good to refuse without going overboard? 

How to choose between Jovetic, Higuain, Benteke, and Villa…

After Andrei Arshavin’s shock away-move caught everyone at Arsenal off-guard, the urgency to sharpen the attack has reached a fever-pitch that–oh, wait. Nevermind. I’m sad to see Arshavin go. Among he, Squidward, and Denilson, I thought he had the most to offer. Oh well. No sense crying over split milk. With the official transfer window still a few weeks away, we have to prioritize our targets. The four forwards we’ve most often been linked to–Jovetic, Villa, Higuain, and Benteke–all have their flaws and fortés, and we’d be wise the kick the tires on each (being gentler with Villa, of course).

We’re going to need a forward who can deliver reliably and ruthlessly. Despite being the only team in the Prem to feature four double-digit scorers, we lack that one player who can change a game week after week with a stunning goal. The committee-approach of the 2012-13 season certainly worked in terms of the sheer number of goals we’ve scored, but we still limped through far too many games when we just couldn’t unlock a defense to score–across all competitions, we failed to score in nine matches and scored a single goal in 18, with predictable impacts on points-dropped and progress in various cups. I won’t dredge up those numbers. I don’t want to live that much in the past.

When it comes to the pasts of the players we’ve been linked to, however, it’s well-worth a closer look. Sadly, it looks like the most “available” player, and the one who carries the most impressive resumé,  might also be the least desirable at least in terms of our needs: David Villa. He’s far and away the oldest of the bunch at 31, and although he’s played at the highest levels of football between the Spanish national team and Barcelona, these are factors that might inflate his stats. Simply put, Barcelona’s dominance of La Liga has been so complete that its forwards find far-more opportunities to score than forwards at other clubs might. His market-value has plummeted from a high of £44m in 2011, due in part to injury, his age, and concerns over his longevity. He might represent a nice addition to the squad, but he might have to accept a second-string role–I’m not sure he’s willing to change clubs without upgrading his role. Then again, with the arrival of Neymar, he’s almost certainly going to drop further down in the pecking order.

At the other end of the spectrum, at least as concerns age and experience, is Christian Benteke. He has only one season of top-flight action, this past year with Aston Villa, but has made the most of his time. He almost single-handedly dragged the Acorns away from relegation, scoring 19 goals despite being the focus of each opponent’s defense. Aston Villa has apparently slapped a £40m asking price on him with interest from Spurs and Fiorentina making the headlines lately. That might say something about those club’s concerns regarding Bale and Jovetic, respectively. If they’re willing to meet that price tag, it might indicate that Bale and Jovetic each have one foot out the door, and the clubs plan on using their transfer fees to finance Benteke’s move. If Aston Villa is serious about that price tag, he’s become ludicrously overpriced. Too bad. Among the current four, he’s been my first pick for a while. I see Aston Villa’s priorities, though: use that asking price to keep Benteke or use that transfer-fee to finance some new transfers.

I guess I’m tipping my hand a bit by now addressing Jovetic. I’m still not sold on him. No offense against Serie A, but I just don’t feel like Jovetic has dominated opponents there as he should in order to justify his current asking-price. Once you look past Juventus and AC Milan, there’s a sharp drop-off in quality (according to the Euro Club Index). His thirteen goals this year are good for 11th-best in Serie A, which again doesn’t make me drool as much as I’d hope. If I’m going to knock Villa for his injury, it’s worth noting that Jovetic has one of his own, one only described as a “cruciate ligament injury”. Whether it was a tear or something less serious, he does seem to have bounced back nicely, but whether he’s risen to the levels we’re looking for and would have to fork over to get is still an open question in my book. At a starting price of £26m, he’s feeling a little over-priced.

Even with Higauin, who has all but sworn on a Bible that he’s leaving Real Madrid (which should deflate his value just a bit), I’m not salivating. He’s been a good player for club and country. Despite having to play in Ronaldo’s shadow and having to platoon with Benzema, he’s still managed to average 0.44 goals per game, not enough to set the world on fire either, but more than Jovetic’s 0.3 despite Higuain being his club’s 2nd or 3rd choice attacker and Jovetic being his club’s 1st-choice. Even after we repeat the caveat we used with Villa above–that Real Madrid, along with Barcelona, co-dominates La Liga in a way that might inflate players’ stats, Higuain now emerges at the head of my list. He’s proven himself but isn’t ageing, he’s high-priced but not exorbitantly so, and he speaks both French and Spanish. Okay. So two of three of these carry a bit more weight than the last one, but it’s still worth noting that his ability to communicate with Giroud, Cazorla, Arteta, and others is a factor to at least keep in mind if not front and center.

I’ve come to the end of this, then, having not quite convinced myself as to which of these four we should put at the top of our list, so I doubt I’ve swayed anyone who’s come this far with me. I apologize, but maybe it’s a sign of a bigger issue: should we not step up our ambitions to pursue another bigger name? I don’t want to see us going after the likes of Ronaldo or Rooney, necessarily; I don’t want to devote so much of the club’s finances, personality, or locker-room oxygen to someone quite that big. It might stifle other players as much as it inflates our wage-sheet or goals-scored. Still, a step-up from the current batch could split the difference. Lewandowski? Cavani? Any other suggestions?

By Jove. A £22m signing of Jovetic? The Arsenal site does seem to–nope. Nevermind.

Nope. At least not yet, so don’t get your knickers in a twist. A quick search of “Jovetic sign Arsenal” shows us that caughtoffside says we “are set to complete” a deal. However, the same site reports that, 22 days ago, it’s a “DONE DEAL (their capital letters, not mine): Arsenal agree £24m fee and personal terms…”. C’mon, guys, keep your own rumors straight. If it was a “done deal” on April 24th, it can’t be “set to complete” today. I held my nose and clicked the earlier link, and sure enough, the traditional tripe greeted me: we had “reportedly moved a massive step closer to securing a deal”. A loophole that big is enough to drive a truck through. Sideways.

This is not a real photo from the team website.

I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech and letting the marketplace of ideas sort the good from the bad, but it pains me to see the same recycled articles draw readers in like moths to flame (or is it flies to shite?). I’m not claiming that I’m any better, more-original, or more-insightful than the sites that peddle rumors all day, every day. I’m still cutting my teeth in this realm, after all, and have a lot to learn about what to say and how to say it. I see the allure from a writer’s point of view. The stories practically write themselves to the point that some sites probably actually have a fill-in-the-blank template that they can trot out: just replace the names of the player and the team, add a fresh paragraph about the player’s stats and the team’s needs (which can be copied and pasted from previous posts, and voilá–article written. 25,000 viewers later, they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

At one point, I compared transfer-talk to crack, a comparison that seemed apt: cheap, quick, and exhilarating but ultimately leading to depression, addiction, paranoia…I even feel bad addressing it, not to mention indulging in it or luring readers here. I feel chintzy and slutty. I look back my list of posts and get depressed at seeing how often I’ve addressed the issue and how many more hits those posts have gotten compare to my attempts at statistical analysis, for example.

It might be the cognitive dissonance talking, but I wish we could round up the rumor-mongers, put ’em in gorilla costumes, slather ’em up with pheromones, and drop them off in the Nyungwe rainforest. I can’t stand the idea that leeches and tapeworms and other parasites get to suck and slurp and siphon from this club that I love so much. I hate the idea that, like vampires, they can draw their energies and play with my emotions, my hopes, and my fears, and I hate myself when I fall for their tricks. I’ll check in with the BBC and transfermrkt because they’ll mention rumors and I can get a summary of the latest from the tabloids without soiling my hands (or clicking the links, driving up their revenue and rewarding their chicanery). However, once in a while, I’ll stumble across something that seems real or that appeals to me so much that I can’t resist reading the whole article. Bastards. It is like crack. For the two minutes I spend reading the article, I’m excited and thrilled and I start imagining what this will mean for us in the Prem and Champions League. Then, by the time I’m done, I realized what I’ve just become.

If the crack-comparison doesn’t work, the transfer-talk is like seeing a prostitute. Again, cheap, quick, and exhilirating but leading to depression and worse. Sure, you can go out and spend as much money as you want to rent the finest prostitute out there, but the thrill is fleeting and short-lived. There’s no anticipation, no deeper connection, no sense of passion. One might as well rent one of those dolls. By contrast, Arsene’s approach has been more like building relationships–finding and nurturing younger players who, when they do grow into their potential, is all the more inspiring. Jack Wilshere’s goal against Montpelier filled me with a ecstasy that I don’t think a goal from Jovetic ever could. I know it’s foolish to hope for a squad full of players who have come up through the academy. At some point, at some level, we do have to spend. As sordid as it is to see others pulling away by spending, spending, spending, there are no trophies for balancing a spreadsheet or for taking the high road. I just hope we don’t go too far along the low road and lose ourselves  along the way.

How Arsenal prises Lewandowski from Dortmund

We’ve been connected to quite a few players this year, and it suggests something about our quality and reputation. In years past, we’ve had to wring our hands in despair at the prospect of losing players. This year, however, we look set to hold on to everyone we care to keep, and this frees us up to focus on pursuing what we need by way of upgrades instead of replacements.  Most of the chatter has focused on Stevan Jovetic, on whom I’m just not sold. I’d prefer Benteke as certainly better, not just financially but in terms of performance. However, if we’re looking for a top-flight center-forward, one could be a game- and season-changing addition, and if we’re looking to make spend a few pounds, dollars, or euros to signal our intent, why not make a bold move for Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski? Sure, he’s been linked to Bayern Munich, and such a move has its obvious attractions, but he’d be pilloried up and down (something I’ve already done) for switching to Dortmund’s Bundesliga rivals and Champions League bogeymen. If he’s looking to move, why not offer him the somewhat safer havens of playing for Arsenal? I wouldn’t mind printing out that post excoriating him and eating it (literally–I’ll post a video of myself doing it). He could signal his ambition without pulling a van Persie. In doing so, he could rightly claim to be helping to elevate a proud and ambitious club instead of latching on, remora-like, to the biggest shark in the sea.

But how? Assuming Dortmund is willing to part with him, can we outbid Bayern? Maybe. I don’t know their financial situation very well, but I have to imagine that, having committed to hiring Guardiola, apparently having signed Mario Götze, and also continuing to pay Robben and Ribéry, Bayern has a little less flexibility than we have in dealing with Lewandowski. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we do have trouble offering something more attractive. How do we (a) convince Dortmund to parley with us, and (b) entice Lewandowksi to listen?

Let’s deal with (a) first. Let’s say Bayern can match or exceed our offer. Why not throw in Podolski? As much as I have enjoyed him as a person and player, and as well as he’s partnered with Giroud, he seems least vital to our needs. This is an odd statement to make about someone who was 3rd in goals and assists despite slogging through injury for long stretches. However, with Cazorla, Wilshere, and Walcott looking to hold down the attacking midfield roles, Poldi would be the odd man out more often than not. If we are bringing in Clément Grenier, Poldi might become that much more dispensable. A return to the Bundesliga might be attractive to him, not to mention giving Dortmund a replacement for Lewandowski (even if it’s not exactly a one-for-one in quality…). Still not enough? Where’s Denilson? If Götze is set to depart, Dortmund will need midfield options as well. The perpetually on-loan Brazilian might offer a suitable replacement until Dortmund decides on a more-incisive player, and combining him with Poldi might make our offer to Dortmund all the more attractive, enough to turn them from Bayern, whom they have no interest in strengthening at their own expense. Deal with us, and they stifle Bayern, emerge with money to spend and as many as two other players to deploy. Still not enough? Fine. Throw Bendtner in (unless that queers the deal rather than strengthening it.

Once we’ve captured Dortmund’s attention, we say to Lewandowski, “look. You play for Bayern, you’re all but sure to win silverware. Where’s the glory in that? It’s a limo-ride, luxurious and relaxing and fun and all, but do you want be known as a carpet-bagger who goes where the going’s good, or do you want to be known as team-leader? You do know you’ll be carrying water for Robben and Ribery all season, waiting to nibble on their scraps and left-overs. They have trouble enough sharing the ball with each other. How do you think they’ll treat you, Johnny-come-lately? Come to Arsenal, and you’re our #1 center-forward (sorry, Ollie) and a lynch-pin in delivering this team to the top of the Prem and the Champions League. You wouldn’t be a hood-ornament as you would at Bayern; you’d be a driver. Instead of being hated by your former fans, you’d be merely mocked and then forgotten. At Arsenal, you’d slot in seamlessly and quickly bed-in to quick and sincere attention from fans. Think it over. You could have it all at Arsenal, and you’d know that you’ve rightly earned each trophy we win together.”

I’m not saying that anything I’ve said could come together. For all we know, Lewandowski has already signed with Bayern, and I’m just spittin’ in the wind. However, necessity is the mother of invention, and we need a strong center-forward. We could do worse than signing Lewandowski, but it would be awfully hard to do better.