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Friday, 1 September 2006

Beauty & The Beast

Hi folks

In some of the responses I've seen from other Gooners, there seems to be some feeling that Chelsea have ended up shafting us with their Samsungs, or that Dein has played Martha to Peter Kenyon's Arthur. However I have to beg to differ.

I've always been convinced that the Ashley Cole transfer would eventually take place (even if only because of his bloomin' book, as word has it that Cole’s so scathing in the publication babout the club he’s been at since he was in short pants that the book would’ve been shelved until his departure). But I have to admit that as the hours ticked away yesterday afternoon/evening, I was growing increasingly anxious. The ticker on the yellow band at the bottom of the screen on Sky Sports News was flashing by, offering optimism to fans of almost every other Premiership club but ours.

Many Gooners must have been green with envy as all the gossip of the past few days came to nowt, when West Ham announced the biggest transfer window coup, by securing the talented South American duo of Tevez and Maschareno. With Spurs summer signings hardly having the sort of positive impact that was expected in their opening games and with the £18 million from the sale of Carrick burning a hole in Martin Jol’s pocket, Spurs brought their spending this week up to £12 million, with the £6 mill signing of Chimbonda.

My mood of increasing frustration eased somewhat, when the Boro chairman appeared on TV to speak about the arrival of Robert Huth. When asked when the deal would be concluded, he said that Chelsea’s Peter Kenyon was otherwise detained, adding “I think we all know why that is!” Mercifully my mobile phone eventually chirruped with a text message which confirmed “Cole gone for Gallas plus cash and Reyes / Baptista swap as good as rubber-stamped” and having passed on the gossip to all the Gooners on the Mailing list, I was grateful to at long last be able to switch off the rolling sports news and return to watching Eastenders, a relieved Arsenal fan.

The other two deadline day deals of interest to us all was the announcement that Pascal Cygan had departed to join Robert Pires at Villa Real for £2 million. I don’t think there’ll be a single Gooner who won’t be grateful for the thought that we’ll never again have to fear for the sight of the hapless Pascal’s name on an Arsenal team sheet. However I happen to believe that Cygan might fare quite well on the continent. For a lumbering defender Cygan is not without ability and playing in La Liga, where teams have a tendency to drop off when not in possession and defend zonally, Pascal might not be prone to the sort of regular pratfalls he’s experienced in the frenetically paced Premiership, where the preponderance of the pressing game ensures that speed of thought and the ability to turn slightly quicker than an oil tanker, are essential qualities.

The other note of interest flashing across the Sky Sports News ticker was the info that Juan Pablo Sorin had left Villa Real for Hamburg. We might witness the long curly black locks of the Argentina captain in the friendly being played between Brazil and Argentina at our new ground on Sunday. If so, I am sure those present will appreciate why the defenders arrival in Germany could make scoring goals against Hamburg in the Champions League a more arduous proposition. Or in actual fact, from my memories of Argentina’s World Cup performances, it was Sorin’s raids down the left flank, when joining their attack, which left an imprint on my memory (or perhaps it was just his hair?).

Meanwhile as far as the Ashley Cole deal was concerned, my reading of the situation was that it was Chelsea’s reluctance to allow William Gallas to join one of their immediate competitors, which was the principle sticking point. Chelsea are the only team who don’t need to sell any of their players. To the contrary, they are the one club in the country whose absolutely limitless budget means they can prey on absolutely any other Premiership outfit, picking off the cream of any talent they happen to fancy, by making the sort of obscene offers that most players simply can’t refuse.

It was a couple of months back at the start of the summer that I heard the rumour about Gallas’ falling out with Mourinho. Apparently the French defender was annoyed, as he’d been frozen out at centre-back since the arrival of Carvalho and so one of the best centre-backs on the planet was only being used as a bit part utility player, usually being asked to play out of position. So when AC Milan came a calling, Gallas was annoyed that Mourinho set a totally unrealistic asking price, basically to prevent him leaving and when the player confronted the arrogant one, he was told the he could rot in the reserves for all Mourinho cared.

Such is the level of enmity between Chelsea and Arsenal at board level that I am pretty certain Mourinho would be mortified to eventually get Ashley Cole but for their to be a consensus of opinion that we’ve come out of the deal smelling of roses. So when we suggested that we wanted William Gallas, Chelsea were only offering him in a straight swap, knowing full well that this would be unacceptable to us. I have yet to read any of the papers, but I wouldn’t mind betting that the more knowledgeable pundits will perceive that with Gallas plus £5 million in cash, we’ve certainly got the better end of this deal.

In response to any Gooners who don’t agree and who think we’ve been short-changed, I would suggest you speak to any Chelsea fan this morning. In my humble opinion, if there’s a weak link at Chelsea, it’s Carvalho. While the Portuguese centre-back is a cultured player, I’ve occasionaly been surprised by his defensive naivety and often feel that it’s only been the doughty efforts of John Terry that’s saved Carvalho’s bacon. I reckon if you poll Chelsea fans, the vast majority will tell you that they feel their team has looked a lot more secure whenever Gallas has been on the pitch. However the Frenchman has been under utilized almost ever since Mourinho brought his fellow Portuguese defender to the club, leaving Gallas out in the cold, rarely getting a look-in at centre-back and rapidly becoming a defensive utility player, who only ever got a game playing out of position at full-back..

If we get a William Gallas arriving at our club, rejuvenated by the prospect of regular football, rather than a player who was merely looking for a way out of his misery under Mourinho’s thumb, then I hope we’ll soon discover the reason why so many knowledgeable football folk were absolutely baffled why Gallas couldn’t get a game at the Bridge. Never mind Ashley Cole’s controvertible label of “best left-back in the world” (after all this is a player who has hardly played a full 90 minutes since October last year!!), prior to Gallas being frozen out at the Bridge, many felt he defender was one of the best around.

The fact that this deal will have pissed off Mourinho and will have left most Chelsea fans with very mixed feelings about the overall effect on their squad (having lost Huth as well and with a fairly decent full-back Wayne Bridge, left wondering about his future), should be sufficient cause for us to sparkling with snap, crackle and pop this morning. Sure it could be argued that Chelsea were at least £5 million light with their cash payment in this incredibly protracted transaction. However methinks that you are looking at yesterday’s event from the wrong end of your Gooner telescope. When you consider that at 5pm yesterday evening we were worried we might be stuck with the destabilizing effects on our squad of a miserable Ashley Cole and a moping Jose Reyes, until January at the very least, or perhaps the possibility of both players joining Campbell, Pires and Bergkamp in the mass exodus of experience, with no prospect of any new additions, then in truth we really should be whooping with joy over how things have turned out.

Obviously Chelsea have got themselves a half decent full-back, but I happen to think that while Ashley might still turn it on in the high profile Champions League games and the most glamorous Premiership encounters, with his glitzy celebrity lifestyle and with nothing left to prove, he’s hardly going to want to be working his rocks off twice weekly. And with a ready made replacement waiting in the wings, I honestly wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the shrewd Mourinho ends up utilizing a somewhat hungrier Wayne Bridge, when it comes to matches like those played on a miserable winter’s night up at Wigan?

But it doesn’t really matter how Cole performs at the Bridge, as you have to consider the situation from the point of view that Ashley had become totally useless to us and it could have had an extremely negative effect on the mood of the entire Arsenal camp, if Cole had been left cooling his hubristic heels until January

As far as the Reyes / Baptista swap was concerned, perhaps it was merely an example of Arsène’s poker faced negotiating tactics. However when you consider that we were led to believe that Wenger was almost exclusively focused on signing Baptista last summer, it seemed strange that Arsène hardly appeared particularly enthusiastic about relieving Real of their recent signing.

Real Madrid, now there’s another club whose nefarious shenanigans with players belonging to other clubs, have hardly placed their board at the top of the Arsenal’s Xmas card list. As I understood it from the rumours I heard a while back, Real were desperate to relieve themselves of the liability of the Beast’s substantial wage bill and this was always the deal making condition involved in Reyes’ departure.

While it was said that the estimates concerning Reyes’ original purchase price were hugely inflated, where the substantial total was dependent on all sorts of additional performance related clauses in his complicated contract, I wouldn’t mind betting that with our achievement of reaching the Champions League final and with Jose’s performances for Spain in the World Cup, the total price for Reyes probably rocketed up to somewhere near the reported figure. Unlike Chelsea, the Arsenal couldn’t afford, nor were we willing to accept a big financial hit on the sale of Reyes. I imagine this was probably a big part of the reason why we were reluctant to accept a straight swap for Baptista.

Hopefully the Beast’s muscular presence in our midfield might suit the Premiership and I pray that the Brazilian will lend some much needed physical gravitas at the heart of the Gunners’ performance. Admittedly Baptista was playing out of position, in the few times I saw him play for Real at the start of last season, when I was specifically watching Madrid’s matches because I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about and to see why Wenger had supposedly been so desperate to bring the Brazilian to London.

However I have to admit that to my unknowledgeable eyes, the Beast hardly appeared to be anything special and certainly didn’t produce the sort of performances which would’ve explained why Wenger had been so determined to land the Beast, that he’d ignored the possibilities of any other transfer business. Perhaps it was these lacklustre displays that left Arsène feeling somewhat more equivocal about losing Baptista to Real and also resulted in Wenger being not nearly quite so keen to barter Reyes.

My greatest concern is related to the fact that in the first place the Beast wasn’t particularly keen to play for the Arsenal and so having chosen the warmer climes on the Continent and the prospect of playing in La Liga, where the style of football wouldn’t be so alien to him and where he might not have nearly so many problems settling down and communicating in the local lingo, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he struggles on his arrival in London. What’s more you have to wonder how much of a say he had in his departure, because if Baptista was presented with a fait accompli, where he was going, whether he wanted to or not, we might have good cause to be worried about where his own heart is at.

While Baptista is bound to suffer some problems at first, as is the case with most players on their arrival from abroad, I believe his introduction to the Premiership could prove crucial. Hopefully the presence of Gilberto as a potential baby-sitter should prove beneficial. But after having been given time to find his feet, if Baptista isn’t able to produce the goods pretty quickly, I’ll be seriously worried that we might have ended up only swapping a homesick Jose for an unhappy Julio. Nevertheless the arrival of Baptista and Gallas should prove a great boost for the Gunners squad and I am convinced the swap with Real was a clever compromise, because Reyes’ value was hardly going to increase while he remained with us as a bench warmer. And the presence of the miserable Spaniard was hardly going to promote a positive mood in the Arsenal camp.

Meanwhile after Gallas has spent the past couple of seasons playing out of position, it will be ironic if he ends up arriving here and immediately being asked to do us a favour and fill in at left-back. With Sol Campbell seemingly prospering with Pompey on the South Coast, some might be questioning the wisdom of letting a player with such a wealth of experience walk away. However it’s likely that the new challenge is the principle cause of any apparent rejuvenation and I remain convinced that at his age and in his physical condition, Pompey will be very lucky if they don’t lose Sol to injury for at least a third of the forthcoming season.

Whereas if Wenger ultimately envisages a fit William Gallas forming a consistent partnership with Kolo Touré, I will be a little worried about the effect on the likes of Senderos and Djourou. Having only recently found their first team feet, it will be hard on these two youngsters, if they’re forced to take a step back. I only hope we don’t end up losing either of these two great prospects because they believe they need to be playing regular first team football.

However if a thoroughly ruthless Mourinho can manage to keep his huge squad happy, whilst rotating all his world class stars, then there’s no reason Wenger shouldn’t be able to cope, with what is after all, a far more pleasant problem, than the recent prospect of trying to get a team full of kids to cope with their manful Premiership task.

Still, despite my best efforts to convince fellow Gooners that we should be over the moon this morning, our mood can hardly compare to that of the totally gobsmacked Hammers. Although the picture I really want to see is the one of the faces of Maschareno and Tevez, after flying in from Sao Paulo, on their arrival at a less than sunny Upton Park. Surely as they walk down a grimy Green Street, it’s hardly going to be the scene the two players imagined of the glamorous environment of the Premiership.

When everyone was assuming that the Arsenal were going to be the front runners to sign the two Argies, because it was said that they were more likely to fancy the delights of our cosmopolitan capital, over the polluted climes of an industrial North-West, I don’t think there could’ve been an aficionado of the beautiful game who wasn’t totally dumbfounded yesterday when it was revealed that they’d been lured to the environs of a dismal East London instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as jealous as hell. I have yet to see Maschareno play but Tevez was extremely impressive in the World Cup and any player who can keep Lionel Messi out of the Argentinian team has to be bloody brilliant as far as I am concerned (as Messi is just about my favourite non-Arsenal player on the planet at this point in time). According to the pundits, this other midfielder is an equally gifted footballer and if the two of them can adapt to fulfill their potential in the Premiership, then West Ham could well develop into a force to be reckoned with (I only wish we were playing them now, before both players have time to settle in).

To be honest, so long as it doesn’t result in the Irons taking any points off us, I will be quite happy for the Hammers. Wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful if West Ham end up leapfrogging Spurs as London’s third best team (or even second – although it’s stretching the imagination even further than it is for us, to hope they’ll give Chelsea a run for their money!).

I am sure there isn’t a Hammers fan that gives a monkey’s about any of the raft of suspicions that have been raised as a result of this surprising move. Absolutely the only thing they care about is that they are going to have two of the planet’s greatest players turning out in claret & blue.

It’s never been ours to reason why, whilst we’re all doing and dying. As much as we might decry the way in which Abramovich’s money has totally distorted the beautiful game in this country, you could probably build a house with all the hypocrisy that would be emanating from Highbury, if we had our own Gooner oligarch spunking his millions on our squad.

You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve got it slightly wrong with any of my facts (for a change!). But the suggestions I’ve seen so far are that the Iranian/British geezer who has befriended the two Argies and whose sports marketing company still owns the two players contracts, has loaned them to West Ham as a means of getting his foot in the door to eventually buy the club. Or he’s merely parked the two of them up at Upton Park as shrewd investment, so they can both adapt to the Premiership and then be sold for £20 million each to his Russian pal across town, when they’ve proved their worth.

The other possibility that was suggested to me last night was that perhaps this movement of players around the planet bears little real relation to the beautiful game and anyone’s ambitions to succeed in their quest for silverware, but is merely the latest and most convenient means of laundering and eventually legitimizing the ill-gotten gains of East European Mafioso. Surely I am not alone in finding it just a little bit disconcerting that huge chunks of our national sport are rapidly being sold off to the sort of “businessmen” for whom a football club seems to be the fashion accessory of recent seasons.

Obviously I stand to be corrected if all these billionaires have a genuine interest in football and are merely motivated by the prospect of developing the game in this country, at an apparent cost to them of so many millions, merely for the benefit of all us fans.

However conscientious cynic that I am, I simply cannot help but have my suspicions over the insidious way in which certain incredibly wealthy individuals have been acquiring controlling interests in so many of our footballing institutions. I am long enough in the tooth to appreciate that “money talks”, but I’m absolutely astonished that with their untold wealth of somewhat questionable origins, certain folk can walk into our football clubs with their suitcases full of cash, purchase shares in such an incredibly important part of British culture and not only are their massive fortunes accepted as being completely kosher, without any apparent worthwhile investigation, but they’re all enjoying the added bonus of being immediately accepted into the upper echelons of British society. When if it wasn’t for the odd twist of fate and perhaps a cache of Kalashnikovs, instead of a “respectable businessman”, they might be some giant Georgian’s bitch in a Siberian gulag, serving 20 to life!

We all know full well that traditionally the ownership of a football club has invariably proved to be an extremely expensive calling, rather than a shrewd career move, of the sort that has seen the family inheritances of several a multi-millionaire disappear double quick, down the drainpipe of many deluded dreams. Consequently does this not lead any of us to question the motives of men who’ve only ever shown ambition to acquire wealth, rather than to find a cause where they can dispose of it so rapidly?

As I’ve said, doubtless I wouldn’t feel the need to be anywhere near so circumspect if we had our own sugar daddy. What’s more despite the somewhat shady looking nature of the Argies arrival, I was half hoping this might be a prelude to Le Prof making a totally out of character move, with a successful bid for Reo-Coker, for the sort of incredibly inflated amount for the British youngster which would have normally bought us three experienced foreigners!

Sadly, just as everyone else in the footballing world seems to be developing some sort of relationship with their own mega-rich Ruski, the Arsenal decided to go with the relatively tapped out Arabs. I am reminded of the joke about Moses sitting up in heaven and looking down at a Holy Land almost completely surrounded by oil rigs and turning to the Lord to taunt “Schmock, you told me to go for the milk and honey”

Nevertheless, even if we were to come up ‘trumpski’ in the footballing “land grab” which seems to be taking place, with no questions asked, at the present, while I wouldn’t baulk over the bounty of an oligarch all of our own, their motives would be no less obvious to me than if it was Tony Soprano buying the Yankees!

In the meantime at least we can now look forward to our next game with renewed optimism, that’s assuming Baptista doesn’t break a metatarsal if he plays in Sunday’s friendly!

Big Love
Bernard

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

sure you haven't got just a little more to say bernard!!!

Kim Stian Ervik said...

You forgot to mention that we got Denilson too!

N16 Gooner said...

Found your blog for the first time today, and I find myself spookily in agreement with much you have written over the last few months (It's a quiet day in the office).

My initial thought were £5m was a good deal for Kenyon and Chelski, however on reflection - and the apparent spat between Kenyon and Mourinho seems to confirm that we have got the better of the deal.

I'm not one for wishing Ashley an injury, or that he falls foul of a Number 19 bus, as many blog have wished, but I'm looking forward to some serious banter when we go to the bridge in December.

The beast looks a good fit for our missing midfield muscle - and although his time at Real was unremarkable - remember AW has a great record in spotting undervalued/underused talent.

Finally, Pascal - I wish him well, and as Goodplaya said - he's not good enough, but he always gave 100%.

Love the blog, I'll be back for more.

Apologies - posted this the first time on an old entry!