Friday, July 1, 2011

Hold fire on Gunners and Wenger

Fri Jul 01 08:54AM
Samir Nasri Arsene Wenger
There's nothing the media love more at this lazy stage of the summer, when wishy-washy transfer stories are the order of the day, than a good old crisis. Thankfully, the newspapers were able to latch onto Thursday's developments at Arsenal, where a pivotal summer for the club and Arsene Wenger became a touch more vital due to what is inevitably being described as an imminent 'exodus'.
Leading the growing ranks of the restless to the Promised Land away from Emirates Stadium is, of course, Cesc Fabregas, and an inauspicious start to Thursday was ensured by reports in the press that a £35 million deal would be done with Barcelona. Frankly, ED suspects most football fans would be happy to be put out of their misery on this front.
A merciful end is hopefully nearing in one of the most protracted and tiresome sagas since George Eastham took four years to bring an end to retain and transfer in 1963. That blessed moment when Cesc poses next to the Barca club crest will be football's answer to a trip to Dignitas.
But Arsenal fans stewing in the news of the likely loss of their captain had more to assail them when the afternoon brought with it a fresh development and the news that Gael Clichy was poised to join Manchester City for £7 million and that another Frenchman with one year left on his contract, Samir Nasri, could indeed be joining him.
Well, that's depending on which source you read in this ever reliable period of the football calendar. The largely impeccable Daniel Taylor of The Guardian reports city are "bemused" by the Nasri suggestion.
But if Arsenal do lose the man shortlisted for the Player of the Year award - in conjunction with their skipper, whose head is so clearly in Barcelona that he may as well be sporting Sagrada Familia novelty specs on his next public appearance - it will clearly represent a severe truncation of the club's creative talent. Real cause for concern.
However, the imminent departure of Clichy, and for a respectable £7 million, is nothing to fret about. His form has been on the slide for years, as has his ability to interpret the offside rule.
Thursday did not witness a positive turn of events by any means, but it was not exactly the end of days either, even if the agent of Denilson also revealed there have been no offers for his client. Big-name departures can just about be stomached, but another season of the Brazilian incarnation of an ageing Ray Wilkins, master of the sideways pass?
What said developments certainly did do, surely, was convince the trained economist sat in the manager's office that now is no time for austerity packages in North London. The sales of Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy, if confirmed, will bring in £62 million alone, and more could follow.
No longer can Wenger turn to youth and repeat the mistakes of the past. And mistakes they were, even if guided by the noblest of intentions.
Though giving Fabregas the freedom to express himself in the wake of Patrick Vieira's departure in 2005 resulted in the growth of one of the world's finest midfielders, Gael Clichy has not met Ashley Cole's standards and, most crucially, Wenger's decision to place faith in Denilson in a summer when Lassana Diarra, Gilberto Silva and Mathieu Flamini all left the club was a bad decision with lengthy repercussions.
What is clear is that there is no new generation pushing for inclusion. Jack Wilshere, to his immense credit, has skipped a few grades, but surely Wenger will realise that the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury and Conor Henderson are not the answer Arsenal are searching for at the moment.
Hard cash needs to be injected into the market to produce Arsenal's own stimulus package and the encouraging news is that Wenger is already showing a readiness to slay the sacred cows that have constituted the philosophy of his approach in the transfer market in recent seasons.
Though ED admits Gervinho, who confirmed he is en route in The Sun on Friday morning, could hardly be more of an archetypal Wenger signing - a flashy forward from Ligue 1, he even came through at Beveren for God's sake - pursuits of Chris Samba and Gary Cahill suggest a more open and inclusive approach to the transfer market this summer.
Developments so far - namely the capture of youngsters Carl Jenkinson, Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin - have ensured envious glances are being cast at the early work being done at Old Trafford, but there are still two full months remaining in the window. Indeed the European market only formally opened for business on Friday.
It was a point acknowledged by Wenger himself on Thursday as he said: "We are in a waiting period, everybody is waiting for the other moves. Everybody has their cards in [their] hands, hoping for the big transfer. There is nothing moving yet. The period will be more active at the end of July when we will need to really strengthen the team."
That last part bears repeating: "We will need to really strengthen the team". It is not a phrase that Arsenal fans have heard often from a man loathe to criticise his players in public or indeed introduce new recruits for fear of "killing" those coming through.
If significant investment is not made then this could very well be the season that finally buries Wenger. In that respect it is probably the biggest challenge he has faced at the club.
But let's not bury him prematurely. There are plenty of concerning developments at Arsenal, but with change comes the opportunity for the renewal and realignment of the squad and its approach.
Such an undertaking is inherent with risk of course, but results over the past few years have hardly suggested this is a squad that deserves to remain intact.
The trick lies in striking the right balance. This is not a crisis yet.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The name is going to bring plenty of memories but we ask that people forget about his uncle. He has the same name but he is a totally different player to Dennis and we don't want people to compare him. Dennis is one of the best foreign players to have played in England and we want Roland to get as high as possible, but from the beginning we just want people to take him as a young and promising talent." - Gus Poyet plays down expectations of the imminent arrival of beautiful assists and sharp elbows at Brighton after signing striker Roland Bergkamp, nephew of the great Dennis.
FOREIGN VIEW: "Carlos will play because he can link much more with Lionel and the idea is not to have players of such speed as we would have if (Angel) Di Maria and (Ezequiel) Lavezzi played (either side of Messi) ... With Carlos we have more play." - Argentina boss Sergio Batista hands an unexpected reprieve to Carlos Tevez as he names him in the team for the country's opening game of the Copa America. 
COMING UP: We have a busy one today. Paul Parker and Jim White chip in with their latest blogs, while we reveal the right-midfielder who has made it into our Greatest Premier League XI. The Women's World Cup continues and we will have live coverage of the games involving Japan and Mexico (14:00) and New Zealand and England (17:15), while the Copa America also kicks off overnight as Argentina play Bolivia (01:45).
Meanwhile, at Wimbledon it's men's semi-finals day so Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Novak Djokovic is followed by the latest crushing disappointment to befall Andy Murray in a Grand Slam when he takes on Spanish beefcake Rafa Nadal.

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