How Arsenal got their Hleb back.

[THIS SPOT RESERVED FOR IMAGE OF ARSHAVIN HOLDING UP AN ARSENAL SHIRT]

After a hectic final 24 hours of the world’s most protracted transfer deal, we’re only slightly more certain of seeing Arshavin in red and white than we were yesterday. Which is just about the most frustrating thing I can imagine.

That’s not true, I can imagine being a Spurs fan; firing the best manager in your club’s recent history, selling off all your best players, firing the guy who got you your only trophy in several years, because he couldn’t motivate a team of losers, and then buying back 3 of your former players in what can only be a desperation move to save your Premiership season.

I can imagine that.

I guess it’s like they say “cream rises to the top — and if you’re Robbie Keane you drop back down to Tottenham.”

I guess in some way, the Arshavin transfer saga is equally incredible. Last year when Spurs were flushed (get it? Spurs? FLUSHED???) with cash, they made an £18m bid for the diminutive playmaker and were rejected by Zenit. Today there are reports that Arsenal paid somewhere between £10 and £15m for him. Hey, if all those shenanigans yesterday saved us £7m then it was all worth it.

I really like the Daily Express story linked above there: it’s so fantastic that it’s sort of magical. In that story, Arsenal paid a mere £10m for Arshavin, his picture has already been taken, the paperwork is all signed, Andrei took a huge pay cut, paid for his own flight in, AND paid off his signing bonus out of his pocket. Oh yeah, and he expects to play Tottenham on Sunday! He also rides a unicorn and can fly on rainbows, I don’t know why they didn’t report that bit.

best.deal.ever

I don’t know what really happened yesterday, the closest we’ll get to the truth of this matter is probably over at Gunnerblog. There are more twists and turns than a M. Night Shamalan screenplay. I can’t wait for the reveal: Arshavin is actually an alien and he melts if he gets wet. Why did they come to a planet that is 90% water? ARE THEY THAT DUMB!!?!

And finally, it was being reported yesterday that Arshavin will wear the number 13 for Arsenal, which was the number that Hleb wore and generally considered a cursed number. If you add in that he’s kind of small, and dribbly, it made me think “wow, Arsenal are buying Hleb back!” And then I watched some videos of him and it got me thinking that he’s more like Rosicky than Hleb, mostly because he scores goals. So, as for the title of the blog, I couldn’t really say “how Arsenal got their Rosicky back” since we still have a Rosicky.

Rosicky’s only like a new signing after all.

The snow is like a new signing

Good mourning everyone! Today is the day that the transfer deadline will pass, Arsenal will sign no one, and Gooners the world over will be seen pulling their hair out. You might as well start mourning its passing right now.

The latest news goes like this: Arshavin flew in to London in order to be available in case Arsenal found £3m under Peter Hill-Woods’ mattress, the Gods thought they would test Londoner’s resolve by dumping 1″ of snow on the town, London ground to a halt — even the underground stopped running (there’s no snow down there!).

Meanwhile, back in Arsenal’s board room, some kind of deal was reached with Zenit, except no deal was reached! From what I gather, the thing holding up the transfer is that Zenit paid Arshavin a £4m signing bonus up front for his 4 year contract with them and they want half of that back, because he’s breaking his contract! Sounds reasonable to me.

Arshavin is refusing to pay this fee, because… well, I really don’t know why he would do that, but we know for sure that he’s refusing to pay the fee. He’s telling Arsenal if they want him, they need to pay the fee… oh yeah, and he wants a pay increase as well.

Remember back when I said that I was very uncomfortable signing Arshavin because he was threatening his team with a contract strike? Also remember how Arshavin was telling everyone he’d take a pay cut to join Arsenal? Funny thing about that, as it turns out, it looks a lot like Arshavin and Zenit are BOTH “football jokers” as one Arsenal exec put it.

So, after seeing his wage packet (which would be a modest increase over Zenit), he reportedly went back to the airport in disgust, to his private jet, to  fly home.

I’ll be sure to update this post when the transfer window closes and Arsenal haven’t signed anyone.

Meanwhile!

That 1″ of snow? Well, they have called off tomorrow’s match against Cardiff on account of 1″ of snow — THE BLIZZARD OF ’09!

And to brighten your day, here’s a quote from Arsene Wenger…

There’s always a danger because people always want a wonder man. But I believe we have to keep going, and accept that the expectation level on him would be very high if he joins us. But if he doesn’t join us I am not more pessimistic. We have as well not to go overboard with the crisis we face. Let’s judge our team at the end of the season.

UGH

I want to go back to bed, I was having a great dream about trophies and sunny days and….

Update!

I have been informed by a reliable source that the transfer deadline has been extended.  Wenger has been quotyed as saying “It’s like a new transfer window.”

Update Redux!!

Theo Walcott should be back in 4 weeks, like a new signing!

Update Tridux!!!

The Cardiff game has been tentatively rescheduled for February 16th and Setanta is showing the match live. That’s right, on President’s day, Briooots! Which if you don’t know, is the day which Americans celebrate George W’s birthday by festooning our nude bodies with $1 bills and masturbating to pictures of nookular missile silos.

Also, everyone is reporting that Arshavin is parked at Heathrow in a white Ford Bronco, ready to zoom back into London and sign for Arsenal as soon as they agree to pay him more than everyone else on the team by giving him a “signing bonus” which he will use to pay Zenit to pay back his “signing bonus” which is in no way a “transfer fee” nor “salary” which would break Arsenal’s “salary structure” — in negotiating, this is known as the “Flamini gambit.”

Check-Mate, Zenit.

Update Quardux!!!!

The transfer window closed an hour and a half ago, there was no announced signing, and yet the media outlets are reporting that the deal is still on!

Screw the rules!

Update Quintux!!!!!

The Andrei Arshavin saga seems to have come to a close, at least according to L’Equipe, who are reporting that Arshavin is now an Arsenal player.

Unfortunately, I cannot verify this because YOU PEOPLE ARE FLOODING ARSENAL DOT COM WITH YOUR F-FIVE-ISM.

Also, L’Equipe is reporting that Arshavin is not match fit and won’t be for two weeks, when he is eventually healthy he will be like another new signing.

So, it’s like we signed two players for the price of one! We will totally do the treble now.

A Pair of DD's: a Dour Draw and David Dein

Eboue comes down with another of his mystery injuries.

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal’s title bid suffers fatal blow

Telegraph: Arsenal bereft of ideas as West Ham’s run continues

Quote of the day

We will finish above Aston Villa. I’ve nothing against O’Neill. But you ask me who will be Manager of the Year and you have to wait until the end of the year. Villa have played well until now. But you judge a marathon at the end. No one remembers who was leading after 20 miles. — Arsene Wenger, at the Friday press conference assuring everyone of Arsenal’s quality.

The Valtrex

Glossing over an obviously flawed Arsenal squad, Diaby had his best game in the center of the park. He wasn’t a revelation or anything, but on a day when too few Arsenal players had anything to say about a stolid West Ham squad he did at least look lively in the middle of the park. Of course yesterday’s performance only hides the symptoms of this flailing Arsenal team and his stupid yellow card in the 23rd minute means that he will be suspended for the upcoming Spurs match; leaving a barren midfield bereft of one of their “best” players.

The clean sheet Arsenal kept also sort of glossed over the underlying problems on this team. West Ham was content sitting back the whole game and only foraged forward occasionally. So pardon me if I don’t get too excited by a team that kept a clean sheet off the opposition’s 2 (two) whole shots. Not shots on goal, TOTAL SHOTS.

But since there wasn’t much else to celebrate… yippie! a clean sheet!

The Genital Outbreak

It was hugely frustrating to sit there and watch as Villa get a draw, Wenger’s words about them dropping points ringing in my ears, and see the performance that some of these players put in.  I’m sorry, but far from championship quality (we saw that later in the day as ManU held Everton to a 1-0 win) Arsenal look a lot like their closest rivals, Villa. We’re going to have to hope for them to crack and for us to suddenly warm up if there’s any hope of us taking 4th this season.

Vela got a chance to come on and show what he’s made of when Arsenal’s clown (Eboue) when down with some injury that he’s no doubt already recovered from. Vela started well but I think we saw yesterday why Wenger doesn’t play him more; he’s too easy to nudge off the ball.

When Wenger brought Vela on he sort of pushed Bendtner wide, or at least that’s what everyone is saying. I didn’t see it that way, Bendtner was playing as a third striker since he never tracked back to play defense. In fact, according to his heat map, he basically never left the right corner of the pitch.

Not that Bendtner could have tracked back to play defense –  as the Liverpool supporter watching the game said “he’s garbage.” He’s not garbage, but neither is he a quality starting striker on a team pushing for a trophy.

Which makes me wonder why Bendtner got the start over van Persie? We’re not privy to the fitness tests that happen prior to the game nor am I in anywhere near the same league of intellect as Arsene Wenger, so I must assume that Wenger had a good reason for sitting the only player on this Arsenal team who A) seems to give two f*cks and B) has scored and created every single goal in the month of January for Arsenal.

As long as we start Bendtner and Adebayor as our strikers, we deserve a 0-0 draw.

Man, You Got Herpes on Your Face

In a lot of ways Adebayor epitomizes this Arsenal team. He’s hugely talented, having scored 11 goals and gotten 6 assists in all competitions this season. He’s also very important for the heart of the team, I’ve seen him be the only player on the pitch who even tries to win a game. So, it’s insanely frustrating to see him put in the performances he’s put in this week. In short, he’s inconsistent.

Yesterday he exhibited all the qualities that his detractors love to harp on; he was lazy and wasteful. Maybe he’s tired? I don’t know, I do know that all the goals he’s scored this season have been against bottom clubs. Far from “terrifying defenses” as he did last year, top clubs are handling him very well.

I wonder if a week off might not re-energize him and put some fire in his belly?

Conclusion

After the match, Arsene said

We lacked some creativity in the final third, the final pass and from some set pieces. They were very strong in defence I must say with James Collins and Matthew Upson and that’s why we couldn’t score.

I can’t fault the spirit but I believe as well that we lost a bit of sharpness from playing on Sunday at Cardiff, on Wednesday a very physical game at Everton and maybe that was why we lacked a bit of sharpness to score.

Yes, exactly why Arsenal should have signed 2 players in the break: to give us some sharpness, rest players who need it, and add creativity in the final third.

I am worried though since I think that Arsenal might not sign anyone. Not that we will miss out on 4th place, I think 4th place is well within grasps if Arsenal start ticking over. No, more worried that we might do something stupid, like rush Cesc, Eduardo, Theo, or Rosicky back and see one of them suffer an even more serious injury.

Whether we buy Arshavin or not (or even something more surprising like Alonso or Arteta) by-and-large Arsene needs to get the squad we currently have up for these games against our “lesser” opponents and, judging by the lackluster performance of Adebayor, he’s not doing his job. Come on Arsene, lets get the club back playing beautiful football, scoring goals, and striking terror in the hearts of our opponents, you can do it!

And finally, like a bad case of herpes, we had a David Dein outbreak yesterday as well. He doesn’t actually call for Arsenal to be sold to some billionaire but that’s exactly how all the headlines read and what we’ve all come to expect. Let me put this out before it becomes a house on fire: the reason this team is not buying is not down to lack of funds, it is down to lack of will on the part of the manager.

You might not like to hear that, but that’s the facts as far as I can discern them. With cash reserves currently at £93m (and only set to grow as our current Champions League campaign unfolds) the decision on whether or not to buy a player is not about a lack of funds. Hell, with those cash reserves, with our history, and with Arsene Wenger as boss Arsenal could have any player on the planet right now if they wanted him.

So, no sheik with tons of money, false hopes, and a copy of Football Manager in his back pocket is going to change Arsene Wenger. Well, actually, he would change Arsene Wenger; he’d have to get rid of him in order to build his little dream team. Because from what I can tell, Wenger is committed to this youth team project.

Besides, as I’ve argued here extensively, it’s not like the Chelsea/Liverpool model has produced much of a sustained challenge to Man U’s utter dominance either. Sure, Chelsea spent insane amounts of money to win 4 trophies and now look at them; uncertain about the future of the club as the owner looks to be backing out, stuck with bloated wages, aging stars, no youth prospects, and half a billion pounds of debt. I feel very strongly that this is Chelsea’s last year as an oligarch’s dream team.

So I say no to a sugar daddy: what this team needs is just a little more balance on the pitch, not a bigger balance in the bank.