Of course you will have noticed, but save for the gloriously entertaining Confederations Cup, there’s been very little by way of football these past few weeks. In such times of hardship, we’ve been subjected to the ‘news’ that Theo Walcott has been on the most laddishly boisterous stag party that we could have expected from the rambunctious Berkshire scamp. It seems as though Theo’s reputation as a maddened party-animal will be safely upheld through reports of his latest endeavors, as explained in this genuinely profound article from The Sun, whereby “The lads were downing Coronas, cocktails and shots from 11am to 6pm” – I mean, steady on boys. Let’s hope for the sake of the team that Theo and his pals can recover sufficiently from these obscenely debauch acts in time for pre-season.
Alas I digress. The beautiful game has been put on hold for the time being, excepting for the footballing equivalent of an in-form Mike Tyson competing twelve rounds against Phillip Schofield. All that’s left in its place till its safe return is cricket. Cricket and the endless ditherings of a million ‘ITK’ sources on Twitter, spouting this and that about a vast myriad of players – some familiar, some you’ve only heard of through many hours of ‘research’ on Football Manager 2013. Deals are close we’re told. Personal terms are ‘agreed’, bookies are slashing odds, players are announcing their intentions, chairmen are praising player X, managers are praising player Y. It’s all rather exciting. And of course 95% of it is nothing but pure conjecture, the wild fantasies of imaginative hacks up and down the land, looking to fill pages and sell papers.
But there’s always that famous phrase, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.’ For want of anything better to talk about, let’s do just that. There are a number of names that for whatever reason are consistently linked with The Arse. Some of these sound fantastic, some less so. Without adieu, let’s jump in and have a look at some of them.
Gonzalo Gerardo Higuaín
If you read everything you believe, this one is as good as done. Reports vary as to both the price we’ll pay Madrid (somewhere around £20million) and the amount we’ll give him in wages (anywhere from £115-150k per week, depending on where you’re looking). Should the deal go through, this will quite easily break our current transfer record and unequivocally operate as a statement of intent. I really can’t see any reasons why you’d oppose the signing. The statistics are great and are evidence that Higuaín is a striker of the very highest calibre, having a goal every 88.9 minutes over the course of his career. Since he signed for Madrid in 2007, only Messi and Ronaldo have scored more goals in La Liga. 107 goals in 187 appearances speaks for itself and is especially impressive a feat when you consider the fact that he’s often shared strike duties with other centre forwards, notably Karim Benzema.
His style looks to perfectly suit our own, with quick movement and fantastic anticipation. Most important of all though – he is a natural goal scorer with an ability to find the net. It really goes without saying that we’ve lacked a high-class goalscorer since the departure of RVP. Though Higuaín is a different player, he’d be a hugely important acquisition for the club moving forward. Though we’ve already added one striker to the squad in the form of young Frenchman Yaya Sanogo (who scored in for his country in the U20 World Cup on Friday), this is presumably one for the future. At 25 years of age, Higuaín is very much for the here and now, being the perfect age to join and make immediate impact heading towards the peak of his powers in front of goal.
One aspect that I feel has been slightly overlooked is the way any potential move could impact Giroud. Facing fearsome competition for the central striker berth can only force the latter to improve his game. Whilst the Frenchman had an incredibly stellar first term, the addition of a world-class forward to the team means he’ll have to further up his game if he hopes to appear regularly.
Hipster Seal of Approval Rating: For the price, there’s nobody better – 91%
Wayne Mark Rooney
Mmh. Really? Are you sure Wayne Rooney could actually ever play for Arsenal? This one is a strange one, but I must admit the more this story builds the more it intrigues me. There’s plenty of interest across the market for the player, with Madrid, Chelsea and PSG all reportedly interested in signing the glossy-haired scouser, with his face like an inverted wagon wheel. If rumours are correct, we’re in discussions with the player over a deal worth approximately £175k per week and a humungous £7million signing on fee. Initially, you’d completely dismiss the idea but we know Rooney wants out of United. Most likely, he’s not keen on the prospect of playing second fiddle to Van Persie. Fair enough.
Could he do a job for us? I’m still undecided on what his exact role would be, but feel that undoubtedly his signing would benefit the team. He’d surely provide goals, but there’s just something not right about the whole thing. For a start, he’s never come anywhere near close to fulfilling the kind of potential we’d all expected in the wake of that goal. I can’t help but view Rooney over the course of his career as somewhat overrated and think there may be smarter options out there for us, especially considering the masses of cash we’d be lumping on it. His penchant for pasties, booze and sniff during the summer months would be a concern. Furthermore, he really is an absolute buffoon. I’d definitely struggle to cheer Rooney in an Arsenal shirt, mainly because he’s such a moron.
Hipster Seal of Approval Rating: Personally doubt the rumours concerning this one. For me, something of a gamble – 72%
Again, a player we’ve been very strongly linked with in recent times – so much so, that we’re now favourites to sign the Belgian, whatever the fuck that means. With a fee in the region of £24million being suggested, this would be another giant signing for Arsenal should it go ahead. He’d add much needed verve, bite and crucially power to our midfield. 11 goals and 5 assists in 31 EPL games last time around shows his class.
There are real questions as to where he’d fit in exactly, should he sign. Some suggest that the signing would begin the phasing-out of Arteta from the starting XI, however I can’t see this myself. Arteta has established himself as crucial to the team, a metronomic force in the middle of the park, keeping things settled and contributing perhaps more than anybody else in terms of recycling possession from midfield (Mikel made 2517 passes last season in the league, more than any other player).
I’d suggest that another player we’ve been linked with fairly routinely in Asier Illarramendi of Real Sociedad is a more ‘typical’ Arsenal player being a diminutive, quick and decisive passer. He certainly impressed in the recent European U21 Championships, playing a deep-lying role for a triumphant Spanish setup. Illarramendi is a pure defensive-midfielder, who is adept both in the tackle and at passing the ball (his passing accuracy at the Euro’s was over 95%). Illarramendi becomes an even more enticing prospect when you consider that he’d be available for under half of what we’d need to pay in order to acquire Fellaini. Also, there’s the possibility of the youngster being tutored by our able vice-captain and moulded into one of the very finest DM’s in the world.
Should we decide to splash the cash, it’s difficult to pin down the Belgian’s best position. Fellaini’s overall ability lends himself to a box-to-box role, contributing equally to both defensive and attacking phases of play. At only 25 there is huge potential for Fellaini to join us and run our midfield for the next six or seven seasons. Additionally, he’s proven in the air, so would add options in both attacking and defending set pieces (in the rare instance Walcott ever manages to clear the first man).
Hipster Seal of Approval Rating: Could well be the ‘new Vieira’ we’ve waited so long for, but there are interesting alternatives that may appeal to Wenger’s economic values – 83%
Ashley Errol Williams
OK. I’ll admit it – I can see why people would link Williams with Arsenal. He had an excellent campaign with Swansea last year, who play in a similar way to us favouring controlled, possession football. However, put simply I don’t think he’s good enough to play for Arsenal. When you factor in the muted transfer price of £10million, my interest drops even further. Granted, Williams is a strong and dependable Premier League centre-half. If we could get him for half the price Swansea are after, it’d perhaps be more of a goer. In saying that, he is their captain and they’ve every right to try and get the best price they can for him – I just hope it isn’t with us. Should it go ahead, I’d truly hope it would be as supplement to Koscielny, Mertesacker and Vermaelen and not spell the end for the latter. Selling Vermaelen would be a huge mistake for the club. TV5 still has much to offer us and if he can get over what was admittedly something of a nightmare season last time out then there’s no reason why he can’t offer genuine challenge to our two established first-choice centre-backs.
It’s not that I’m against us signing another defender, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. In an ideal world, we’d definitely sign an additional centre-half and have four players in the squad who can play that position – you can discount Djourou, he’s had ample opportunity to prove his worth, a good player who’s not quite up to scratch. By having choice of four solid centre-backs, we’ll avoid having problems when the inevitable happens and injuries pile up. Though he performed incredibly well there when called upon against Sunderland last year, the less Sagna has to play in central defence the better.
There are alternatives we can consider – the best in my mind being Angelo Ogbonna of Serie A side Torino. Ogbonna is a 25 year old Italian of Nigerian descent, who is attracting serious interest from Juventus. If it were me, I’d act quickly and take the money we’re supposedly offering Swansea for Williams and snap up Ogbonna. In fact, they’re fairly similar players in the way they approach the game. But put it this way, in Football Managerspeak, Ogbonna has the potential to be much better than Williams and a leading premier division defender. He’s also three years younger than the Brit and in my mind a far, far more viable purchase for the club. Bottom line, Williams is the wrong option. The fact that he’s British is overstated as a factor of importance. You pay a premium for players of Williams’s ilk, simply because he was born in England. For me, the wrong approach.
Hipster Seal of Approval Rating: Wenger, take the £10million and spend it on a defender of genuine international quality (preferably one based in Torino) – 40%
Whatever happens with players coming in, its crucial that we offload further driftwood from the squad in order to free up some wage money. Though we’ve done well to already ship off Denilson, Arshavin and Squillaci, there’s still more work to be done. The amount of utter tosh that Wenger has compiled over recent years being paid staggering wages really is nothing short of incredible. When you see the figures, its staggering. Wenger has developed a reputation over the years as an astute economist and most of this reputation is well deserved. However, paying the likes of Squillaci £50k per week to play one game a season is frankly embarrassing. Arshavin was on £78k per week. 78 thousand pounds! What did he do with it all? Judging from footage of the past year, at least 30% of that figure went on building huge reserves of jam tarts. Jam tarts and lard.
But what of the merry band of miscreants we’ve still got left? There’s still plenty of ‘talent’ to be dismissed:
Marouane Chamakh – £60k p/w (£3,120,000 per year)
Back in 2010, after the Moroccan forward had enjoyed a fantastic season up-front for Ligue 1 team Bordeaux, there weren’t many Arsenal fans who had a problem with Wenger signing the player on a bosman. He was tall and great in the air – something we missed, so all was rosy. Three years on, I’m sure everybody is in agreement that signing Chamakh was a mistake. A big shitty mistake with an incredibly odd hairstyle. Despite a good start to his career where he filled in ably for an injured Van Persie, scoring some important goals, it all went to pieces very quickly. He’s scored three goals in the past two seasons.
The figures make for grim reading, having cost us well over £10million since joining. I’m sure there’s something sweetly ironic with the fact that Chamakh is a qualified accountant, its almost as though he predicted he’d be spending most of his adult life doing nothing other than sitting and counting his own vast wealth. As the saying goes, nothing in life is free. Even with that said, very few things in life are proposed as ‘free’ but actually cost ten million quid.
André Clarindo dos Santos – £60k p/w (£3,120,000 p/y)
“Ooh, a Brazilian left-back, he’ll be just like Sylvinho!” was the common cry from Arsenal fans up and down the land when Wenger picked up the chubby-but-plucky defender from Fenerbahçe in August 2011. It made sense – we needed cover for Gibbs, who was still struggling (as always) to maintain full fitness and stay injury free. Again, it didn’t take long for the truth of things to become woefully clear to all and sundry.
Dearest André’s career with us has been rubbish, to put it lightly. I can’t even be bothered to go into it in detail, you know the story. Completely not interested in anything other than claiming a paycheck. Was farmed out back to his homeland at the back end of last season – let’s just hope we can figure out a way for him to stay there permanently. Another instance where Wenger’s calculator must’ve been on the blink.
Nicklas Bendtner – £50k p/w (£2,600,000 p/y)
Oh Nicklas. You with ‘wonderkid’ potential on so many editions of Football Manager, alongside Carlos Vela. You could’ve been great. Though he’s certainly entertaining, I can safely say his entertainment value isn’t quite worth the £2,600,000 the club pays him in wages. Another one who could do with a
slight massive attitude adjustment, but in honesty I think his fate with Arsenal was sealed with the signing of Giroud, who does everything that Nicklas promised he’d do, without ever actually delivering.
Johan Danon Djourou-Gbadjere – £50k p/w (£2,600,000 p/y)
Unlike the players I’ve mentioned thus far, I can’t really fault Djourou’s approach in the time that he’s been with us. Put simply, he’s a good defender who isn’t quite good enough to play at the very highest level. Say no more.
Park Chu-Young – £50k p/w (£2,600,000 p/y)
Words fail me.
If you add up the players on this list, it’s a staggering £14million worth of yearly wages! What the hell. If we can somehow get rid of them, it’ll put us in great stead to bring in additions of genuine quality. When you consider the amount we’ve spent on complete turd like Park, it makes paying Rooney £175k p/w look like peanuts, it really does. The trouble is, who on earth is going to take these players on, knowing they command such ridiculously high wages? It’s something of a problem, but let’s all hope that its an issue that be ironed out as pre-season draws ever closer.