Kaka in Blue, they needed the money

It’s strange being a football fan. One day we’re arguing over whether it’s right to even argue about whether it’s right to criticize players, the club, and the boss and the very next day Kaka is sold to Real Madrid for a world record £59m making every football fan pause, take a breath and assess their club’s situation.

As Arsenal supporters we are used to the constant speculation linking our players out of the club: Fabregas has supposedly been going back to Barcelona now pretty much as far back as I can remember. If anything, this is an odd year for Gooners because we haven’t seen the ubiquitous “Cesc to Barca” summer story; perhaps Iniesta and Messi winning the Champions League has something to do with that. But whatever the case there hasn’t been much speculation about Arsenal players at all this season, really. There was a brief moment when Adebayor mentioned the word “Milan” which was spun into a tragicomedy about Milan “keeping tabs” on Ade and there is some speculation that Inter might go after Robin van Persie, but that’s it as far as any transfer speculation for Arsenal players. Maybe that will “hot up,” as the Brits say, now that Kaka has made the move to Madrid.

I kind of doubt it. After this season where he clearly wasn’t motivated to play his best, I think Arsenal are stuck with Adebayor. No matter the brilliant goals, potential buyers are going to wonder if taking a chance on this once brilliant player is worth the risk. Similarly with Robin van Persie, even though he’s had arguably his best season with Arsenal teams will have to look at his injury record and wonder what the return on their investment is going to look  like. Both of these guys are capable and I like both players when they are on, but both are going to be risky investments.

You also have to take into account the global financial climate, Kaka evidently did when he made his move, and ask what kind of money teams are going to be tossing around. Even after netting nearly £60m in the deal, if AC Milan are having as much financial troubles as Kaka says, then what are they going to be willing to splash out in transfers? After all, Milan, he says, are run like a business. Maybe they will take a look at Adebayor and maybe they will take a look at Dzeko, the player is certainly star struck by the prospect of signing for Milan. Either way, I expect Milan not to use all of their cash.

Meanwhile, the “financial crisis” at Liverpool is sparking rumors of a mass exodus of midfielders from Anfield. Last week Liverpool basically said that Alonso was only available for £23m+ and sensing blood in the water Mascherano and his agent are now putting out feelers for a transfer to Barca. Who know what crazy Liverpool would do with the money they netted IF they sold both of those guys, spread some around, pay off some debts, who knows.

And, of course, we shouldn’t rule out the insanity that will occur when City make some serious bids for world players. Or what happens when Ronaldo goes to Real Madrid for a new, new, world record? Maybe that will loosen everyone’s purse strings.

It’s not just transfers that are going to distort the market, England passed a tax increase raising the taxes on top earners to 50% and that too could have a deleterious effect on our favorite league. Already Arshavin has had to deny rumors that he was unhappy with the pay cut he felt he was going to take. What effect will this tax increase have on contracts and the ability for clubs like Arsenal to woo potential signings? Again, I’m uncertain.

In fact, if there’s anything I’m certain of, it’s that I’m uncertain. Unlike last year where I foolishly proclaimed my certitude about Arsenal’s future and that they wouldn’t be signing a defensive midfielder, this year I have no clue what Arsenal are going to do. It’s looking like we are going to sign Vermaelen for nearly £11m, but no one knows for sure. Vermaelen is either a defensive signing and will take the place of Toure or Gallas, or he’s the defensive midfielder that we’ve all been looking for, again no one knows. Hell, no one can even agree on how to pronounce his name!

I guess I’m just going to embrace this unknown. Hmmm… it’s a bit exciting not knowing what’s going to happen, like Christmas when you’re a kid. Hey is Barca really are after Mascherano, maybe we will get the Yaya that everyone put on their Christmas wish list.

Who knows?

Vermaelen and Arsenal get the short end of the stick

I was chatting with some supporters yesterday and they were saying how the transfer period gets them down because of the commonly held notion that Arsenal “don’t spend” on players. I’ve seen this a lot among Arsenal supporters and I really don’t understand it. With a few exceptions, Arsenal have bought great players every year that I have been an Arsenal supporter: Arshavin, Nasri, Eduardo, Rosicky, and Gallas. We’ve also outbid big names for great future prospects like Walcott and Ramsey. What we don’t do is act like a bunch of buffoons and buy insanely expensive big name players.

A lot of people see reports like “Real are in for Ronaldo” and “Chelsea make surprise bid for Kaka” and wonder why Arsenal aren’t in that mix.  You have to understand, though, 90% of what the football press prints is bullshit. Bullshit designed to make gullible fans salivate over unattainable and unrealistic players. Players who may not add anything more to a team than bragging rights. Is buying Kaka at £50m a guarantee of success? If it was, why didn’t AC Milan win more last year?

There’s also a sense, fueled by the press, that buying players is simple, that buying Yaya Toure is like buying a loaf of bread. That Arsenal just head down to the mini-mart and pick up a Yaya. That’s the way it seems in all the comments. First off, Yaya has a stupidly expensive release clause in his contract, something like £80m. So, Arsenal could force his sale, but at that price they would be seriously foolish. In fact, if they paid £80m for Yaya I would seriously consider whether I want my money going to an enterprise so foolish. So that means that they need to convince the player to leave the lovely coast of Spain, where he just won a treble, including the Champions League, and come to a town that I love dearly, but lets face it, is not the weather, food, or trophy capital of the world. Convincing any big name player to leave is going to take a lot of money, money we don’t have. Hell, Chelsea, Man U and Liverpool don’t have the money either, but they fake it.

So, if you listen to the press Arsenal never buy anyone, but it just isn’t true. Arsenal spend prudently in the market, buying players who fit our system rather than buying dream team players who help fans jerk off to their fantasy team. I’d much rather support a team that I know is going to be in the Premier League for my whole life than have them do something foolish like bring in a Buffon and go down the path of Liverpool.

Which brings me to Vermaelen. Somehow, before we’ve even seen him in a uniform, he’s already being slagged off by “supporters.” Can we even give the guy a chance? I mean, it took me two whole seasons of mediocrity before I was ready to boo Eboue and here is a player who hasn’t signed anything yet and people are already saying he’s “not tall enough” and “not Arsenal quality.”

JUST.STOP.

This is the same pattern when Arsenal sold Henry and brought in Eduardo, everyone got all stabby about Dudu saying he wasn’t Arsenal quality. Well, he clearly is and from what I’ve seen of Vermaelen, I’m thinking he will fit into Arsenal’s system very well. Yes, he’s 1/2″ shorter than Kolo Toure, and a whopping 4″ shorter than our aerial dominators Diaby, Adebayor, Bendtner, and Djourou. But the fact is that our tallest players are pretty poor in the air so height alone is not an indicator of aerial ability. Heading the ball is about timing and about how high you can jump or “hang time” and not about how tall you are. Moreover, defense, and especially defending in the Arsenal system is about strength and speed, which from what I’ve seen he has plenty of.

But you know what? I’m not saying he’ll be Arsenal’s saviour. I’m also not saying he’ll be Arsenal’s goat. I just think he looks a lot like William Gallas to me and William Gallas is Arsenal’s best defender, hands down, so let’s give him a chance.

That is, if he signs with us.

Other players who are not coming to Arsenal

He hasn’t signed anything for anyone yet but with Liverpool squawking about his value being above £23m I’m fairly certain Arsenal can forget about signing Xabi Alonso. Oh well, I like the guy and all but I think we have our Alonso already in Denilson and £25m or whatever they are looking for is stupid money.

Vermaelen close, but no cigar

unfortunately van Persie scores here

Bit of a flurry of news today on what the Dutch press are calling the “imminent” transfer of Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax to Arsenal and what the Brit press are calling a done deal.

The original report is from the Belgian, Dutch language, Sport newspaper, HLN. Maybe Setanta translated the page differently but according to Google Translate there is no mention that this is a done deal. It looks like Arsenal and Ajax have agreed to a fee (depending on your reading a fee between £10-12m) and that Vermaelen’s agent is in London negotiating salary.

I wanted to know a bit more about the player and there are some famous photos of Vermaelen and van Persie getting into a bit of a scuffle, so I looked into it and that’s from the 2007 Amsterdam tournament where Arsenal won 1-0 and lost van Persie to injury at the end of the match. You will draw your own conclusions about his ability based on that link, but I’m advising caution. Yes, he was brushed aside rather easily by Eduardo in that video, and yes he’s pretty much directly responsible for van Persie’s goal but that was two years ago and as you can tell from this video he’s beefed up quite a bit.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KrQJ3oyW_k]

You can also see from the above video that he’s pretty damn good in the air, beating Gareth Barry and Klaas Jan Huntelaar to the ball.

If Arsene buys him I’m sure he’ll be quality. After all, he is Ajax captain and some of the comments I’m seeing from Ajax fans are that he will be greatly missed.

What isn’t being discussed, so far, is which of the two Arsenal center backs he will replace. If you asked me earlier in the year I would have said Gallas, hands down, but now I’m not so sure. Wenger has spoken glowingly of Gallas since he stripped him of the captaincy and I really do think Cappy is our best defender. Toure, on the other hand, has had a pretty rough season and famously handed in a transfer request because he couldn’t handle whatever was happening in January. Frankly, I think if (and that’s a big if) Wenger gets rid of one of them, it will be Toure.

What’s really strange is that if Toure leaves it will be the latest in a long line of Arsenal defenders who basically had a mental breakdown and left the club at the end of the season (Campbell, Senderos, and now Toure). Being a defender at a big club takes a lot of mental strength, and being a defender at Arsenal, where the tactics constantly expose defenders, must be absolutely maddening.

There really isn’t much more going on, Arsenal are still linked with Edin Dzeko (striker) and Yaya Toure (defensive midfielder). The latter has reportedly rejected a Barcelona contract offer which may give some of you hope but I think is just his agent angling for a bigger contract. Another supposed Arsenal target is Joleon Lescott and between Moyes saying his players aren’t for sale and Manchester City reportedly offering Everton £18m and the player £80,000/wk I’m thinking that Arsene would either have to move a big name player or convince Lescott that a Champions League campaign will increase his England chances.

Well, I guess he could sell Robin van Persie for £25m.