Tag Archives: Victor Valdes

Vermaelen to Barcelona? Hmm..

Just as soon as I’d finished my promise not engage in transfer-talk, news from The Guardian is that Barcelona are preparing a £15 million offer for the man.  This comes on the same day that Arseblog’s Sam Limbert suggests that the captain’s armband has become too much of a burden and may be responsible for Vermaelen’s poor form to this point in the year. The responsibilities may distract from his own duties, and he may feel additional pressure to overachieve in order to live up to the role once held by Van Persie and Fabregas. Speaking of them, perhaps we should sell Vermaelen if only to keep with tradition. Wilshere slides into the captain’s role, and–oh. On second thought…

We’ve certainly done enough business with Barça recently that another deal would just be one more added to the list. Fabregas’s departure was a homecoming, and Song’s was more of a selfish, Van Persie-esque trophy grab. The musing over Vermaelen comes at what feels like an opportune time, if only because so many have pundits have asked so many questions about Vermaelen’s role and play. Maybe we should send him to Barça but insist on exclusive talks over Valdes and Villa–I’ll leave the letter-based jokes for someone else. In other words, yes, we’ll send Vermaelen but only if Barca agrees to send us one or both of their players. That’s a win-win, right? We get an experienced keeper and talented striker, and Barça gets a defender to replace an aging Puyol with–stop.

If they are trying to replace Puyol with Vermaelen, doesn’t that tell us that Vermaelen is good enough to play for Barça, one of the world’s best, if not the best? Doesn’t that tell us that, despite his slumping form, he’s still seen by intelligent football minds as among the best defenders in Europe? They’re surely not signing him to simply sit on the bench. That’s Song’s job, after all. This line of thinking should lead us towards keeping the man. Not only this, but Barça probably sniffs a bargain–“we can purchase him when he’s been run down by critics and devalued by fans”. The same report in The Guardian suggests that Liverpool’s Daniel Agger is worth £20 million. I don’t see a gap of £5 million between the two.  If Barça seriously wants Vermaelen, they’d have to do better than £15 million, in my book.

The real issue though is that it just doesn’t make sense yet for us to sell Vermaelen. We’ve already identified defense as an area to strengthen, so it doesn’t fit to sell the man, leaving us in need of two new defenders. If we can find two stronger defenders, and the prices work out, then let’s do it. I like Vermaelen, but our first priority, to borrow the phrase, is the badge on the front, not the name on the back. That might sound cold, and I don’t mean it to, but it’s true. I want what’s best for this club and hope this means holding onto Vermaelen. I also want a club that will strike fear into the hearts of many when it takes the field.  If we add a keeper and a striker, everyone’s form will improve, especially the captain’s.

Transfer Targets to Turn the Team Title-wards

Reports out of [insert name of country and publication here] have linked Arsenal with [insert top-tier team or obscure backwater team name here]’s [name over-priced 31-year old or unknown 17-year old], who has turned heads with his [choose one: prolific scoring/ tenacious defense] and has lead his team to the top of [insert name of European football league here].  Arsene Wenger is believed to have discussed an offer of [roll six-sided dice four times and put sum here]. There is likely to be competition for his signature, however, with other reports suggesting that [add several names of various European teams here] are also following [player’s last name here]’s progress. According to [player’s last name here]’s agent, the player is keen on a move to the Premier League and the Emirates is a distinct possibility. “We have had some interest from several European clubs, it is true,” said [player’s last name here]’s agent. “We have had talks with Arsenal, so a move in June is possible.”

Woof. I hope that wasn’t as tedious to read as it was to write. Look, I get it. We’re up for a long stretch without a match to prepare for or a result to dissect, and minds will quite naturally turn towards other subjects. Given our recent losses and reports of financial status, I understand why names are getting tossed around. It’s about as purposeful as window-shopping. A few weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids to a posh hotel downtown for a vacation, figuring it’d be cheaper and less hassle that getting on a plane to go somewhere, and walked past all sort of shops. Did you know that men’s wristwatches can sell for $10,000? I think they must keep more-accurate time at that price. Or maybe they can change their own date-setting on leap-years instead of you having to twist that little knobbie on your own on March 4th after you finally realize it’s a leap year. I digress. Transfer-talk in March is like putting together a Christmas list in September, and you have just as much a chance of getting what’s on your list as a 6-year does on his or hers. Just like those kids, there is no Santa Claus who will magically deliver all of these wonderful gifts on a wondrous December morning. Oh–if you are a small child, or someone more grown-up whose childish naïveté has not yet been crushed by the cynicism of the modern world, ignore that last sentence. Moving on. Instead  of Santa, we have a fretful board that worries about how much this will all cost and just how little they can get away with spending in order to placate us without jeopardizing the budget.

I’m sure that all of us have our wishlists; I know I’m guilty of dreaming of a striker or two, maybe a keeper or  menacing center-back, but until I read something like the following, I don’t really care to spend too much more time on it: “____________________ has signed a deal with Arsenal for the 2013-14 season”. Otherwise, all of the articles that address rumors are only there to generate page-views and ad revenue for the sites that post them (and, yes, I realize that I hardly above the fray on this, having just written this and other posts that discuss the very issue).

Do we need some new players? Yes. Is now the time to start bandying rumors about? Apparently. Is now the time for minnows like me to worry about transfer rumors? Nope. Arsene, bless his little heart, likes to wait until the transfer-window is just about closed before announcements are official. That’s another subject for another day. Until then, go occupy your time with something more fruitful, like interacting with other human beings or learning a musical instrument. I’m working on the guitar.

Why Qualify? We're Gonna Get Crushed Anyway…

Some of the pessimists among us look ahead to our second leg of the Champions League and anticipate a deeper drubbing at the hands of Bayern, and they also make the mistake of conflating our struggles in the UCL with a reason for why we should not even bother with qualifying for next year. After all, their reasoning seems to go, why qualify for a competition that we will only get dumped from in its second round and have no hope of winning?

This line of thinking, as I’ve already implied, is sorely lacking on a number of fronts. At its lowest, qualifying for UCL is entirely different from competing in it. For some teams, in fact, qualifying is the only issue that matters. Some teams, like Bayern, Barcelona, and Juventus, arrive with realistic expectations of making it all the way to the final, if not winning the whole thing. Others, like Dynamo Zagreb, Olympiakos, or Man City, are lucky to be there, even if they know they’ll go winless and leave with a -4 goal-differential. For this latter group, the thrill and the prestige of qualifying is reward enough.To have a chance to go the Camp Nou or Old Trafford might just just be a player’s lifelong dream–so what if his team gets absolutely blitzed? He got to shake hands with and maybe even nutmeg (or get nutmegged by, more likely) players like Ronaldo or Messi or Pirlo? Thirty years from now, that’s a memory he can cherish and share with children and grandchildren. At the risk of sounding too sentimental, it gives a team a rare chance of glory–actually beating one of the giants of the world, as Celtic did to Barcelona this past November. I cried tears of joy after that game.

The financial rewards are so obvious that they barely need explaining. Chelsea, not that they need it, earned 59.935 million through their victory. A team doesn’t even have to win to bring home some coin. Just appearing in the group stage is enough to earn 7.2 million. God forbid you draw or actually win a group-stage game–one group-stage win earns “only” 800,000 For some of those smaller teams, 7.2 million is enough money to sign some higher-profile talent. We at Arsenal might turn up our noses at such meager sums, but this can be enough to vault a team to its league championship.

For us, however, the matter is somewhat different. The financial benefits are nice, to be sure, but there are other issues at stake. There’s the relatively trivial matter of our streak–15 years in a row of UCL qualification is nothing to sniff at. All streaks must end, of course, and continuing a streak is not in and of itself reason enough to trying to maintain it. A related issue, and one that we must attend to, is how appearing in the UCL confirms our standing in European football and related issues of player signings. If we fail to qualify for next year, we run the risk of becoming known as an also-ran, of seeing our reputation tarnished, and it’s a long slog to come back from that. Look at Liverpool, who won the UCL in 2005 and finished 2nd in 2007. They’ve missed UCL qualification ever since and almost went bankrupt. Once one of the Big Four of British football, they now sit in 7th place, with even the Europa League just beyond them. Let’s see who stays and who signs for them over the summer.

And it’s with that issue that we return to our own prospects. If we have any expectation of signing players like David Villa or Victor Valdes, who have become accustomed to UCL play, or of signing players like Edinson Cavani or Stevan Jovetić, who aspire to play on that stage, we can make a much more compelling case to them if we qualify this year. Heck, we might even be able to get away with more of a low-ball offer. If we fall out of the UCL, the chance of signing players of this caliber don’t necessarily disappear, but it does become more remote. A second dilemma is that we might see players of our own who look to sign elsewhere–certainly a problem we’ve had quite enough of in recent years, thank you. Is UCL qualification a path to a trophy? Perhaps, if only indirectly. Qualify=money=prestige=transfer signings=stronger squad.

Again, the difficulty of competing in the UCL is not to be confused with the importance of qualifying. Despite all of our recent struggles, there are few teams that can claim to have done as well for as long as we have at this level–and that’s saying something. Did AC Milan destroy us last year? Yes, but then we very nearly returned the favor. Did Bayern give us a bit of a thrashing in the first leg? Sure. But we’re still standing, and that’s something that only 15 other teams in all of Europe can claim. Not too shabby.

An Arsenal Take-over? Is this really the best time to discuss?

In classically poor timing, The Sun (among others, I’m sure) has published a story detailing a £1.5 billion bid for Arsenal from a group of investors from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Details of the plan would include a buy-out first of Stan Kroenke who, according to the article owns 66.64% of the team and then of Alisher Usmanov, who owns 29.11%. Now, I hold no particular affection for Kroenke or Usmanov even though I feel like they have been detached and disinterested owners on whom I direct most of my ire at Arsenal’s recent struggles. However, my real anger at the moment is that this comes out so close to such an important match. I am sure that our players are professionals and can tune out the chatter and believe that the same is true of Wenger. All the same, the only way for the timing to be worse would be for it to come an hour or two before the game. That we have close to 24 offers little solace.

I’ll deal with this in more detail later. For now, a few, quick points to illustrate my reluctance.

  1. We have learned earlier in the week that our financial picture is quite rosy. We have a profit this year of £17.8 million and reserves of £123.3 million. In other words, we’re flush enough to go out on the transfer market and be aggressive. We’ve already discussed going after the likes of high-profile targets like Valdes and Villa, among others. 
  2. This team has dedicated the better part of the last decade towards financing a new Ashburton Grove. Why endure the struggles, especially the tribulations of the last few years, only to part our legs at the first offer to appear?
  3. Financial Fair Play, for all of its flaws, lurks just around the corner. At the risk of exposing the limits of my financial acumen, I’m not sure how much a takeover like this would help us.
  4. We’ve kept up with Chelsea and Man City admirably (that’s a cute modifier, that word “admirably”) despite their immense spending and amassing talent. Do we really want to become like them just to beat them?
  5. As I mentioned a moment ago, I do not particularly care for Kroenke or Usmanov, but I don’t feel the urgency to get rid of them on the first opportunity. Let’s learn a bit more about the new investors before rushing in.
A cockerel (Spurs’ logo) is an immature male chicken. A capon? Castrato.
Not sure which one is superior to the other.

As it currently stands, it’s not like the story carries a whole lot of substance. In fact, I hope to make this my last words on the subject, at least for the next two to three days. Last I checked, we have a team of lily-livered Lilywhite cockerels to caponize (if I add in a reference to a goose being cooked, does that stretch the Spurs logo too far? Perhaps). On to White Hart Lane we go…

£17.8 million

Wow–according to several reports out today, Arsenal has reported a profit of £17.8 million and is sitting on £123.3 million in cash reserves. Sure, the sale of key players has boosted these figures and is not a long-term strategy for raising cash (or winning games), but this is an impressive statistic that gives us something to think about for the summer–should we renew our pursuit of the likes of David Villa, or are there other priorities? I don’t think we need such a high-profile signing. Villa is likely to cost a fair amount, maybe upwards of £14 million. The lure is there, sure. Who wouldn’t want a striker who has scored as often as he has? On the other hand, he’s 31 and is coming off of a broken leg, so I’d prefer that we look somewhere else–how about Benteke? He’s 22 but is proving his worth, having scored 11 times in 20 games. With Theo Walcott coming into his own, and with our summer signings showing flashes of form, goal-scoring isn’t necessarily our highest priority–we are, after all, the 3rd-highest scoring team in the Prem. Better instead to shore up our back line. We could go after Valdes or Reina–Reina’s recent fade might make him more of a back-up than a competitor for the starter’s role.

It’s not just the keeper position that we should address; the backline could do with some sprucing-up. It’s funny to talk in these terms when we have the 4th-lowest goals allowed in the league. As I said in my previous post about Szczęsny, we need some presence back there, someone who can intimidate the opposition. Of our defenders, only Sagna seems to possess any kind of visible fire or steel in his play. Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Miquel, they all seem like good players, but none of them seem able to summon the kind of intensity or strength that other defenders can. None of them seem able to intimidate opponents as Vidić, Terry,or Puyol might (whether this intimidating quality stems from skill or personal repulsiveness is another question. Mr. Terry, I’m looking at you, much as it pains me to do so). With that in mind, would someone like Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta fill the bill? He seems a little too pretty. We’ve previously been linked with Etienne Capoue, another defender (and midfielder) who seems steely and flinty enough to give opposing forwards pause as they think about trying to get inside the 18. 
Most of the headlines that have come out on Arsenals’ finances have been critical, pointing to past sales and Wenger’s apparent refusal to splurge. Instead, I prefer to look at it as an early Christmas present, and there’s nothing wrong with a little window-shopping, is there?