Arsenal : Drowning in Oil Money

Manchester City have thrown an incredible amount of money around in the last couple of years. Even when Thaksin Shinawatra was at the helm of the club, they managed to spunk quite a bit, with Sven Goran Eriksson doing what he does best; spending other people’s money. Mark Hughes was in place when the big money arrived in 2009 (in the guise of mega-rich Sheikh Mansour of the United Arab Emirates) and wasted no time whatsoever in splashing the cash.
The club that has received the largest share of this Arab wonga has been Arsenal. Through a combination of acquiescence and pressure, Arsenal have sold Manchester City a selection of their finest players.
As with all newly super-rich clubs, there is a defined recruitment process that City needed to follow as they tried to establish themselves as a force. The first stage was to recruit players capable of challenging in the league. Mark Hughes built on the work of Sven and recruited capable players such as Santa Cruz, Given, Bellamy, and perennial wage chaser Wayne Bridge. He was also able to sign luxury items such as the cry baby Robinho, the incredible sulk Carlos Tevez and everyones favourite king-fu fighter Nigel De Jong.
Adebayor and Kolo Toure were the first to go up to Manchester from Arsenal and were part of that initial recruitment wave. Nobody at Arsenal gave a monkeys chuff that Adebayor left. As soon as he started likening AC Milan to a beautiful woman (Beyonce, I seem to remember) the Gooners faithful lost interest in him. From that point on it was to prove a rocky relationship between player and supporters (that culminated in the disgraceful chants by Arsenal away fans at White Hart Lane last weekend).
Kolo Toure, on the other hand, was sorely missed. Nobody could work out why Kolo had to go, as he was a firm fans favourite. The reason for his departure had something to do with a personality clash with William Gallas, a fact that mystified supporters when Gallas was allowed to leave for nothing after running his contract down not long after. What made the whole scenario all the more confusing was that nobody really liked the mardy French twat in the first place – sure, Gallas is a quality player, but he’s also a giant numpty.
The second stage of recruitment was to supplement the initial signings with players of increasing stature and quality, until they are purchasing players who can be really considered top class. Chelsea bought Drogba, Essien and Cech (and later Mata and Torres), Manchester City have bought Dzeko, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero.
More recently Arsenal have had two of their French internationals leave the fold in search of pastures light-blue (as part of this second wave). Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri both left the club in recent months. Amusingly, Clichy was previously quoted as saying “I really believe if you are a player who thinks only about money then you could end up at Manchester City” back in 2009. In fairness to him, that was then and this is now. Word on the street is that Kolo was his best friend at Arsenal and Manchester City are an altogether more exciting prospect than they were two years ago.
Samir Nasri was a much more frustrating transfer. Arsenal supporters had taken him into their hearts and had supported him through some indifferent form early on in his Arsenal career. Finally, the boy had come good, and when Cesc left it seemed as if it was Nasri who would fill the hole left by the Spaniard. But no, Nasri had other ideas. He took the paychecks when it suited him and left when it suited him. Whilst it’s true that Arsenal didn’t have to sell him, there was significant pressure from the board, the player, and largely via the media, Manchester City. Poor old Arsene Wenger was left pissing in the wind after repeatedly stating his determination to keep the player, only to have the club undermine his wishes and cash in on the French international.
All these transfers are what they are, which is a combination of two things. The first factor is obviously money. Manchester City are able to offer significantly more money than their North London rivals. Considering the falling value of the pound and massive tax rates that the players have to pay, its safe to say that these same players could earn a lot more overseas than they do at Arsenal, but it’s testament to the quality of our league that they want to stay in it. There are only a couple of clubs who can currently match the top continental wages and City are one of those clubs. The second factor is sporting ambition. Two years ago, when Adebayor and co made their way to the (yet to be renamed) Etihad Stadium, the ambition was there for all to see, they were just a few years away from realising it. Now it’s a different matter. Think what you want about them (and believe me – I think they’re just about the most immoral club in football and that along with Chelsea, they’re ruining the sport and making it a complete joke) but they’re here to stay and from now on, they’re going to have a massive say in who wins the cups, the Premier League and the Champions League.
So, with the history briefly explained and all the relevant factors taken into account, it will come as no surprise to hear that the latest Arsenal player to be talked about in the same breath as Manchester City is Robin Van Persie. If I was a betting man I’d say that Theo Walcott is a gnat’s pube behind the same level of concerted rumour mongering. But that’s just speculation on my part.
A 30 million bid for the Dutch international has been mooted as a possibility in January. What is perhaps most concerning for the Gunners is Van P’s recent admission that he doesn’t know where his long term future is BUT he wants to stay in the Premier League. That looks like a very carefully worded green light for City, if you ask me. Whilst it would be a surprise to see Van Persie turn his back on the club that nurtured his prodigious talent, would it really be all that shocking?
Arsenal have, in many respects, done most of this to themselves. By using City as a convenient place to offload their players for high financial returns, they have strengthened a rival considerably at the same time as weakening themselves. Yes, they might be a bit closer to paying off that mortgage, but at what cost to their sporting ambitions in the short-term?
On the other side of the argument, there is something happening to the English game that affects all clubs, not just Arsenal. Manchester City are not breaking new ground, they are merely following the path laid down for them by Chelsea. The West London clubs introduction in the title battle has effectively run Arsenal to ground. Sure, the Gunners have come close in recent years, as have Liverpool, but the only clubs to have actually won the league since Chelsea became major players are Chelsea and Manchester United. Happily (and I never thought I’d say that) Man Utd have resisted admirably and have repeatedly beaten Chelsea on the pitch and in terms of points. But can they continue to prosper in a league with two financial superpowers instead of one, and especially when these clubs can spend with a sense of abandon? My worry is that they can’t, not forever, and with the possible demise of their ability to win titles, over the next two or three seasons we could potentially see a league contested only by City and Chelsea.
Is that a massive problem? I think it is. In my opinion we’re in the midst of the darkest days of the Premier League. Sure, our domestic league is full to bursting with great players and a variety of different teams with different styles, the games are end to end and we’re never far away from a classic match. But at what cost? I think we’re letting the integrity of our domestic game slip away under the strain of foreign investment. Russians, Americans, Arabs and investors from all corners of the planet are flocking to the Premiership to bask in its prestige, but in allowing these billionaires into our sport are we not relinquishing control over something that should remain quintessentially British? It feels like these foreign investors are having a great big game of who’s got the biggest shlong and we, the paying supporters of our respective clubs, are (in the main) having to foot the bill both financially and (more importantly) emotionally.
If the reports are true and Manchester City offer Arsenal 30 million for Van Persie then chances are they are going to accept. It’s sad but true, but Arsenal have always been a selling club. Van P looks like he wants to leave (if the quotes attributed to him are true) and the lure of playing in a competitive team whilst being very well paid may be too much for him to turn down. After all, a player only has a finite amount of time to find success and after that it’s retirement. Who can blame the top players for wanting to go to the clubs who are going to compete, and why should they give a shit where their wages come from?
Perhaps the saddest truth is that with the former Gunners mentioned in this article, Arsenal would be ideally placed to challenge for all major honors (much more so than they are currently capable of doing). Manchester City have rolled into to town, flung some money around, turned some heads and are now using their new found strength to try and tip the scales of power. What is most frustrating is that we knew this would happen, we’ve already seen the same thing at Stamford Bridge, and yet the FA, UEFA and FIFA have done nothing to stop it. Yes, we’ve got Financial Fair Play in the pipeline, but having watched City flaunt it with their £350 million pound joke of a stadium endorsement fund, we all know there are going to be ways around it.
So where does this leave us? Well, if you support City or Chelsea then I imagine things are looking pretty rosy right about now. For supporters of all other clubs the writing is on the wall for all to see. These middling uber-rich clubs are willing and able to not only pay whatever it takes to recruit the players they want, but to also massively inflate the market and make it impossible for other clubs to compete. Remember the days when £100,000.00 a week was a massive wage? There are City players on more than twice that now and the rise in prices don’t look like slowing down. Normal clubs, grown organically on gate receipts, sponsorship and television rights are becoming a relic in our new modern game and this developing trend shows no sign of abating. This may have something to do with the fact that the men who are capable of making the changes needed are amongst those getting rich off of the current regime – but that’s a story for a different day.
Arsenal are the poster boys for ‘how to run your club properly’. They play within the rules, they do things the right way and they try and compete whilst living within their own means. Sadly, they are also the clearest example of how a properly run club can be dismantled by their big-spending fantasy-football inspired rivals using nothing but big fat wads of oil money and a bit of media assisted tapping-up. Whether or not Arsenal have done much of the damage themselves is irrelevant, it is still happening. One of the best run clubs in football, the benchmark that UEFA is holding up for it’s FFP initiative, is having it’s assets picked off by wealthier clubs funded by private investors. Other clubs will see this happening and will wonder whats the point of doing things by the book if, at the end of the day, it’s pointless and clubs like Chelsea, City and Real Madrid just trample over their hard work. The authorities need to start protecting the clubs that try and do business properly, because if something isn’t done to change the path that we’re currently on then we risk losing the most important thing we have in football; the excitement of genuine, honest competition. And once that’s gone, who’s going to give a shit? I know I wont.

Another excruciatingly predictable weekend of football.

What an exciting weekend of Premiership games. Though not too many surprises.
This Saturday I was at a proper football match, watching Bromley scrape past their neighbours Welling into the next qualifying round of the FA cup. For the record; it was two pens and red card that made the difference for the home team. It was nice to get back to basics and watch a proper game of football.
Right, enough of that, lets go back to the big league and talk about what went on at the top, and more importantly, what we learned about the teams playing there.
Aston Villa 2 – 0 Wigan
Well, I think it’s fair to say that Villa are a better team than Wigan. No surprises with the result then. It’s good for England that Bent and Agbonlahor scored. I think (what I always think) that Wigan are going to struggle this season and their survival hopes rest entirely on the quality of the promoted teams. This year might be the year that the perennial over achievers actually do us all a favour and piss off back to a league that they belong in, a league where it matters not that your pitch has huge holes in it and that only ten thousand people bother coming to your home games.
Blackburn 0 – 4 Man City
Man City are, unsurprisingly, still looking awesome. They’ve got such a fantastic array of talent at the club that its difficult not to see them finishing top three. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that off the field they’re a bunch of money-grabbing whores and that they (along with Chelsea) are ruining football, but they’ve got some seriously class players and a good manager in Roberto Mankini. Blackburn are in trouble. Big Trouble. Relegation beckons. Next.
Bolton 1 – 5 Chelsea
Now I didn’t see this one coming to be honest. Not the result, that can always happen against Chelski. Nor the resurgence of the big spending Russian billionaires fantasy football team either, but the collapse of Owen Coyle’s Bolton. I just didn’t see it, I thought they looked good for a mid-table finish and another comfortable season. That’s not how it’s turning out though. Bolton look a mess; perhaps more so than any other team in the Prem. Sure they’ve had some tough games but they’re shipping goals galore and not scoring many, and we all know what that means in the Premier League. Coyle better sort it out soon or he’ll be getting his P45. Chelski on the other hand have turned a corner. They look like real contenders. I fully expect them to be the filling in an end-of-season Manchester sandwich.
Everton 0 – 2 Liverpool
When a Liverpool fan told me that Everton were robbed by the ref then I knew that it must be true. Once again another football match has been ruined by an inept referee. Liverpool are still looking good for 4th place (for my money) and Everton will still finish in the top half. That’s about when this one stops being interesting.
Fulham 6 – 0 QPR
I thought that Fulham were going to struggle this season, but maybe Martin Jol is going to prove me wrong. QPR, on the other hand, will struggle – of that I have no doubt. Though I think they’ll just stay up, it’s going to be tight tight tight. What a goal fest this game was (that’s 5 in 2 for Johnson), lovely stuff.
Man Utd 2 – 0 Norwich
Norwich got the praise for pushing the Mancs hard. It’s good that the Canaries are playing well, they’ll need to if they want to stay up. Don’t think we learned anything from this game; Man Utd are a great shout for the title and Norwich will give anyone a good game, but will often come up short.
Sunderland 2 – 2 West Brom
Bendtner scored for the Black Cats. He will prove an excellent signing I reckon. He was always played horribly out of position at Arsenal and with a good run in a team that plays to his strengths (which Sunderland do) I think he’ll score plenty of goals. Anyway, a score draw between two excellent candidates for 14th and 15th come May. Yawn.
Swansea 2 – 0 Stoke
Proof that a footballing team can beat the formidable Stoke City. It speaks volumes that Pulis and his team are no longer talked about as relegation candidates. Though they’ll have to do better than they are if they want to be serious challengers at the business end of the league. Swansea are also looking like a surprise package and might just stay up. Might.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal
This was quite a lackluster game. Arsenal proved they don’t have the heart to challenge for the title this season. They’ve got technical skills coming out of their bum-holes, but they just don’t look like they’ve got the minerals anymore. Tottenham didn’t look much better to be honest. Their first was a handball and the second should’ve been saved. Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened was at the end when Wenger refused to shake Clive Allen’s hand after the game (earlier this year Allen shoulder barged Wenger, and like an elephant Wenger didn’t forget). Rather amusingly Allen decided to stroll down from the high-ground he briefly inhabited and retorted to Wenger that he was a see you next tuesday. Classy.
Wolves 1 – 2 Newcastle
It’s only a matter of time before Newcastle come back to earth. Obviously that time is not here yet and fair play to them. They’re not as good as their position suggests and it wont be long before they’re back in mid-table where they belong, but who can begrudge them a taste of days gone by when they would finish near the top as a matter of routine. Expect another survival by the skin of their balls season for Wolves.
So, to sum up: Nothing unexpected happened. Nothing was confirmed that we didn’t already know. The Manchester teams are favourites. Chelsea look like the only viable challengers. Liverpool are, in my opinion, most likely to finish fourth. Arsenal don’t have the stones to win the league and Tottenham aren’t as good as they think they are and wouldn’t have won today were in not for a handball. At the other end of the table; none of the promoted teams look certainties to go down. Once again, it might be more interesting watching the drop than watching the top.
Right, that’s your lot. Now piss off.

Decision time at the Emirates

It’s time to make a decision at Arsenal. With financial fair play looming on the horizon, the financial playing field that clubs have to play on looks to be leveling out – no longer will smaller, wealthier clubs be able punch well above their weight. Gooners everywhere will breath a sigh of relief. For them, it can’t come too soon. However, it is going to take a little while longer before it makes the impact that Arsenal need it to.
In the mean time Arsene Wenger is staring at the possibility of losing the latest crop of his established stars. Van Persie, Arshavin, Vermaelen, Djourou and Walcott are all now two years off the end of their contracts and the club will be looking to secure them on long-term deals in the very near future. 
Without the long-term contracts, Arsenal will find it hard to fight off offers for their best players next summer. Before the introduction of financial regulation, wealthy clubs will use this last opportunity to pay inflated prices to try and prize the key assets away from other teams. The vultures are already circling the Emirates and the rumours have already started as to who and when. 
So Arsenal have a choice. They can, just this once, break the bank and secure their best players on lucrative, long-term contracts. Or they can sell them and invest this money in youthful replacements and debt management. 
What is most painful for Arsenal fans is knowing that their two majority shareholders are both billionaires. Whilst it looks as though Usmanov (one of the richest men in the world) would happily invest some serious money into the club, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke seems much more interested in seeing a regular profit sliding into the bank.
The danger is that if Arsenal become less competitive on the field, they become significantly less competitive off it. Maybe now is the time that Arsenal takes a step away from the moral high ground, spunks some cash and in doing so, protects its short-term future. The long-term seems to be reasonably assured thanks to the strategy in place at the club, but could sticking to their guns leave Arsenal vulnerable because of financial markets outside of their control?
It’s a tricky dilemma for Arsenal and its supporters. Every fan that I know is incredibly proud of the way that the club is run. It is good to know that the team they support has been built organically. Yes, there are a few dissenters calling for private investment, but by and large they are a small (but vocal) minority. The main problem for many supporters is frustration; they pay the highest prices in the league to see their team play, but they don’t see the same level of investment made on players that the other teams make. This is largely due to debt attached to the new stadium, which many fans seem to have forgotten is still being paid off. Still, it’s undoubtedly frustrating for everyone. 
So what are the possible solutions and outcomes?
1.Arsenal carry on as they are, lose a few players and bring a few new faces in. They stay in or around the top four, financial fair play kicks in, they become more stable and as the stadium is paid off, they are able to offer amongst the highest wages on the planet, attracting quality players and future success.   
2.The club invests money now and pay their established players the wages needed to keep them. They invest heavily in new players such as M’Vila, Hazard and Benzema and continue to be competitive domestically and on the continent. 
3. Kroenke stubbornly refuses to step up and take some responsibility for his team. They don’t respond to the financial market and in doing so they drop away from the top of the league.  They can’t compete financially and lose all their best players and so don’t stay competitive. The loss of additional revenues slows the mortgage repayment and it takes Arsenal many years before they are stable enough to challenge again.
There are many more permutations and possibilities. These are the big three. Carry on as is and succeed, increase short-term investment and succeed or fail to respond to the market and in doing so set the club back as many as five to ten years. 
What makes this such a horrible predicament is the choices that it presents. Does Arsenal abandon its principles – the very principles that make it the envy of every responsibly run club in the world – and throw cash at their problems? Or do they stick to their guns and hope? 
This supporter would like to think that they can weather the storm and turn things around before it gets too bad. Arsenal are a great club and given their ethical approach to the financial side of the game, they should be applauded. FIFA and UEFA should be doing more to make sure that clubs that stick to budget are rewarded on the field. The current suggestion is that UEFA will ban overspending clubs from playing Champions League football. We can’t expect the big clubs to take expulsion from European competition laying down, they’ll just form a new ‘super’ league, fracturing the sport beyond repair. Financial penalties for irresponsible clubs are never going to work; I think points deductions for serious offenders are the only way it’s ever going to change the game. 
Arsenal has some decisions to make. Do they stick or twist? Do they stand by their principles or move with the times? One thing is for sure, the next season is going crucial for the Gunners. Even if they don’t win a trophy, they’ve still got to keep moving the club forward, because without momentum they might just go off the rails. 

When is a penalty not a penalty?

In the debacle that I just witnessed, poor old Arsenal were robbed. If that injury-time ‘tackle’ by Robinson on Walcott had happened anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a free kick. But why not a penalty? Because he had his hands down? Do me a favour. 
Officials have conspired to consign Arsenal to their third defeat of the season. Frankly, this shoddy officiating is becoming a joke. Arsenal were the better team today and any neutral would agree with me – the stats don’t lie. A clearly offside goal and a fortuitous own goal by Song made the difference in a game that the Gunners really should’ve won.
These freak events sometimes happen, and you can’t legislate for them. But today, right at the death, Arsenal should have had a reprieve. Robinson comes charging out, Walcott squeezes his shot off, Walcott is sent crashing to the ground. Apparently a late tackle isn’t a foul when it’s in the box.
Rewind a few weeks to the Newcastle game. Barton assaults Gervinho by yanking him up off the ground by his throat. A foul. In the box no less. The referee has to stop play. But do Arsenal get a penalty and does Barton get a red for his violent play? No, Gervinho gets a red for pawing at Barton, who in turn gets a yellow.
These are two incidents in recent games that have shaped Arsenal’s season so far. Even forgetting the offside goal scored by Blackburn during a crucial passage of the game, the Gunners should’ve got at least a point today. If you were to add three or five points to their tally then things wouldn’t look so bad for Wenger and his men.
There will be inevitable calls from disgruntled Gooners, screaming for Wenger to be sacked. I don’t concur with them though. He’s just not getting the rub of the green at the moment. Hardly a sackable offence.
The problem for me is with the linesmen and the referees. Nowadays, all to often, refs and their officials are affecting results. These officials are supposed to be watching over games, not deciding them. Every season the sport gets faster and faster, and refs can’t keep up. Unless they’re given help they are going to keep making massive mistakes, then the wrong teams are going to keep getting results they don’t deserve.
Last season, in an independent study, it was shown just how much inept decision making cost certain teams. Have a look here to see just how different the league would have looked if referees didn’t make costly mistakes.
Even with video help and a fourth referee, you are never going to erase human error from the game. But in this day and age, with so much riding on results, how can the greatest, most popular sport on the planet still be living in the dark ages when it comes to officiation.
I’m getting bored of it now; bored because more and more often results are being unfairly handed out. How are we, as supporters, supposed to maintain our enthusiasm for a sport that is not only corrupt, but deeply unfair?

An Interesting Weekend…..

Well, that’s week four of this seasons Premier League put to bed, and what an interesting week it was. Here is my round-up…….
Arsenal 1 – 0 Swansea
Arsenal, by the skin of their balls, just scraped past Swansea. The Welsh team looked good on the ball and caused Arsenal all sorts of problems, they just didn’t have anything up front. It’s clear why they haven’t scored yet, their strikers are toilet. Arsenal looked nervous all over the pitch. Unless they pull their collective socks this is going to be a very long season for them.
Bolton 0 – 5 Man Utd
Bolton will be regretting not selling Gary Cahill. Not only have they lost out on millions, but his presence in the Wanderers back line seems to be non-existent. They’ve shipped 11 goals already this season. Manchester United we’re in imperious form. Wayne ‘The Hair’ Rooney has scored his second hat-trick in two games and I bet Arsene Wenger and Harry ‘fuck off I’m a football manager not a wheeler-dealer‘ Redknapp will be booking some of their players into clinics down Harley Street as we speak.
Everton 2 – 2 Villa
Everton and Villa pulled a predictable draw out of the bag. Predictable because they’re both pretty good teams and I had an inkling that they might cancel each other out.
Fulham 1 – 1 Blackburn
Well done to Blackburn for getting their first point of the season. Still, If they don’t get relegated this year I’ll eat my hat. They’ve got some decent players, but their manager Kean looks like a ‘yes man’ for the Venky’s and he’s already singing the excuses. When will people learn that you shouldn’t sack Fat Sam; he might roll out the most unimpressive football on the planet, but the man keeps his team up. I tell you what, there’s only one man who can save Blackburn now – Gary Megson.
Man City 3 – 0 Wigan
Manchester City are still looking good and comfortably put Wigan to the sword, but then they were always going to weren’t they! Like their neighbours (no, I don’t mean Oldham Athletic), they can’t seem to stop scoring goals for fun. This is going to be an interesting battle for the title methinks. There’s not a gnats pube between them, for my money.
Norwich 0 – 1 West Brom
Norwich City will (rightly) feel aggrieved not to have got something out of their game against WBA. They looked bright, although maybe lacking a little pace. West Brom showed their Premiership experience by being clinical when it mattered. Still, there is no excuse for the assault that Gabriel Tamas inflicted on James Vaughan in injury-time – it was a stone wall penalty and, once again, the ref missed it (he must have felt like a massive tit when he saw the blood pissing out of Vaughan’s mouth afterwards). Still, when it’s all said and done, this is the BIG TIME and Norwich got taught a lesson in ‘how to win dirty’ by West Brom.
QPR 0 – 0 Newcastle
QPR gave us a first look at their new team. Exciting times for the peeps at Loftus Road. I predict a long hard season, but i’ve got this feeling in my nuts that they’re going to stay up. Just. Newcastle will also be in the fight to stay up, but by the end they’ll have done enough. Though if they keep recycling good players then I can’t see their stay in the big league lasting forever. Didn’t watch this game, watched the BBC text service – wish I hadn’t bothered to be honest. What we writers do for you readers!
Stoke 1 – 0 Liverpool
Stoke proved that they’re here to stay with a good win over Liverpool. I think that the Karma Police reared their ugly heads at the very end of that game. Luis ‘I’m a big fat hand-balling cheat’ Suarez got booked in injury time for protesting too loudly after the ball-to-hand incident involving him and Matthew Upson. To be fair to him, it wasn’t the first clear handball of the game, but he’s had it coming since the cheating git did this.
Sunderland 1 – 2 Chelsea
Chelsea did exactly what they needed to if they intend on challenging the Manchester teams for the title; they won away at Sunderland. They’ve got a lot of strength in depth (Torres on the bench is testament to that) and lots of pace. I think they’re going to have a good season, but I don’t think they’ll win it. Maybe next year. Sunderland, without Gyan, looked a little limp. It’ll be interesting to see how high Bruce can steer them this season.
Wolves 0 – 2 Tottenham
Tottenham got back on the wagon after beating Wolves. To be honest, we all saw that coming, and it’s not a surprise that this got last billing on MOTD. Yawn…..

Barcelona – What a bunch of…..

I laughed my ass off when I first read it. Poor, poor Arsenal. Gooners who’ve heard the reports must be very frustrated. Some idiot at Barca – a vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu – has been out gloating how they’ve completely ripped Arsenal off.
Apparently he reckons that the 35 mill that they paid was cheap and that Fabregas is worth closer to the 60 million that Arsenal initially valued him at. Perhaps he should’ve kept his mouth shut; nobody likes to get robbed, but its worse when people shout about it in the press a month after the deal has been done.
The incident has confirmed for me what I have long suspected: Barcelona have no class.
When they are actually playing the game they are a joy to behold. The passing, shooting and movement are all top notch. They are, without a doubt, the best team on the planet right now.
But this level of quality is sadly lacking in everything else that they do. They dive around like a bunch wimps, crying and holding their faces when people look at them funny. They might have skills, but they’re also a cheating scum. I know that in European leagues and in South America that they look at it as ‘earning a free kick’, but I don’t care how you dress it up, it’s petty cheating and it doesn’t suit a team that are so excellent in all other respects.
Off of the pitch they are not much better. Gone are the sponsored UNICEF – a saving grace for the club – replaced by the sponsoring Qatar Foundation. Not so much a charity but more a PR exercise by some seriously corrupt oil sheiks still trying to convince the world that they didn’t bribe their way to the 2022 World Cup.
They regularly tap up other teams players. They realise that the pull of playing for such an amazing team is going to convince their targets to push through transfers, so they just bypass the part of the transfer process which involves them agreeing a fee and go straight to the talking to the player part. They’ve started brazenly doing it through the media, and UEFA don’t seem even slightly bothered. Sure, they don’t get the president to do it; it’s the players who speak out on their behalf, but at the end of the day, it’s still tapping up.
Nobody doubts that Fabregas shouldn’t be back at his old stomping ground. Only the most unsympathetic Arsenal supporter would suggest otherwise. But surely they could have a little more decency in how they recruit. First they tap the player up by talking about him publicly for over two years, then when they actually get their man, they rub salt in the wounds of the selling club by reminding them how much more they should’ve paid for the player.
They’ve done a good bit of business with resigning Fabregas. He is indeed worth more than the 35 million that Barca paid. And maybe there is bit of justice in the fact that they got him on the cheap from Arsenal (who themselves poached him from the prestigious Barcelona Academy many seasons ago). But there is such a thing as being a ‘gracious winner’ and not gloating in the face of someone you’ve just defeated, whether on the pitch or in the board room.
Barcelona seem to have the world at their collective feet. They’ve got everything. Just like Charlie Sheen, they’re winners. It’s just a shame that they’re also a bunch of @*?%’s.

Transfer Deadline Day # 2

A power cut robbed me of my first entry (about 30 seconds before I submitted it – you can imagine the expletives) so this one is going to be much more functional.
First I’ll go with the confirmed signings; then I’ll round up the maybes.
Arsenal left it to the very last second to sign Mikel Arteta from Everton. It took a transfer request and about 10 million squids to make it happen. Everton fans will be pissed as the proceeds will undoubtedly go straight into the overdraft and not back into the squad. To cheer them up Moyes has moved to sign Royston Drenthe from Real Madrid (on loan I think). Arsenal wrapped up a loan deal of their own; Yossi Benayoun is going to be sitting on the Emirates subs bench this season it would seem.
Bolton signed Kakuta on loan from Chelsea. I’ve heard good things about him, it’ll be interesting to actually see him play. They’ve also moved to sign Ngog from Liverpool, the figure I heard was 4 million, but don’t quote me on that.
Palacios has joined Stoke. Tony Pulis will be delighted. He’ll be an excellent signing, just you watch. Stoke have have also made Cameron Jerome their new bitch. We’re waiting to see if the Peter Crouch deal goes through or not. I bet the Potters fans can’t wait to see his robot dance.
Scott Dann has hopped and skipped his way up to Blackburn. He must be very happy. Personally I thought he might get a bigger club. They’ve also signed Yakubu, presumably they’ll feed the Yak chicken and he will score.
Chelsea had their own last minute dot com moment and signed Meireles from Liverpool at the last second. Apparently he handed in a transfer request at around 10pm. Talk about fannying around.  Still, it worked. I’m sure he’s looking forward to his reunion with Villas-Boas. Expect lots of continental kissing and passionate embraces.
Liverpool fans can console themselves with the fact that they have splashed out on everyones favourite ultra-violent umpa-lumpa – Craig Bellamy. He’ll do well there methinks.
The billionaires favourite – Shaun Wright-Phillips – has made the move to QPR. We’re waiting to hear whether the Ferdindand deal went through.
There were all sorts of saucy rumours flying around. There were murmurs of Kaka to Spurs but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen as soon as we heard the words ‘Kaka’ and ‘Spurs’ in the same sentence.
Wesley Sneijder didn’t sign for Manchester United. Frankly I’m relieved. The last thing they needed was more quality in the middle of the park. Staying in Manchester, Tevez didn’t get his move away. I imagine he’ll just have to be happy earning a fortune whilst living in a box  in Mancini’s basement.
Ribery was suggested as a possible signing for Chelsea. It’s probably for the best that that didn’t happen. Imagine a Terry/Ribery pulling team; Terry does to shagging, Ribery coughs up the dough afterwards. The women of London can sleep easy tonight. Wayne Rooney will be disappointed though; he’s still the ugliest player in the Premier League – despite his ever-so-pretty new barnet.
Last, but not least; there was a fantastic rumour that City offered Barcelona 100 million and Balotelli in exchange for Messi. Now that would have been funny.
Goodnight.

Transfer Deadline Day # 1

Arsenal have been busy busy busy today. They’ve confirmed the signings of two defenders: Mertesaker and Santos. Two great bits of business by the looks of things. Now all they need is some midfielders. Arteta is looking like the man they want, though if I were Wenger I’d be suspicious; he went through the Barcelona Academy. Perhaps he should have a DNA test as part of his medical.
Joe Cole has picked Lille (the French champions), over Aston Villa. You’ve got to feel sorry for Cole; he was supposed to be the next best thing and he’s….. well….. not. That signing fueled all sorts of rumours regarding Eden Hazard, but so far it looks like that ain’t happening.
Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch still don’t know where they’ll be playing next season. Presumably they’ll go wherever you can get a better deal on a tube of Pringles. Those curved little buggers just get Crouchy dancing. Expect them to head up North somewhere.
Owen Hargreaves has signed on the dotted line for Man Citeh. Presumably they’re trying to keep their physios busy, after all they pay them and it’s not fair if they just sit around on their arses all day doing nothing.
Villa have made two underwhelming signings with Alan Hutton and Jermaine Jenas heading over to the second city. I envisage they got sold purely to fund…..
Last seasons Player of the Year – Scott Parker – has just signed for the Spurs. Great bit of business by that scamp ‘Arry ‘fuck off I’m a football manager, not a wheeler dealer’ Redknapp. Can’t believe nobody signed him before today.
Greasing the wheels of that transfer were the loan signings of Bentley and Lansbury. I reckon that West Ham have done a good bit of business there. And here was me thinking they were skint. Staying in the Championship momentarily, West Ham have also signed the player with the best name in world football; Papa Bouba Diop. I never get bored of saying that.
Christian Poulsen has come out of retirement at Liverpool to sign for France’s answer to Peckham Springs – Evian.
Zdenek Grygera signed for Fulham. Expect to see him worshipping at the shrine to Wacko Jacko any minute now – it’s in the contract.
Davide Santon went from Milan to Newcastle late last night. Boy, he’s in for a shock.
There have been some other transfers but none of them did anything for me, so I’m gonna pretend they didn’t happen.

Transfer Bollocks

Transfer gossip is reaching fever pitch tonight with the window closing in just over 24 hours. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at who’s bought who.
By the time you read this, expect some of the mentioned deals to have gone through.
Arsenal need new faces and fast. After getting well and truly spanked by the Champions on Sunday, Arsene Wenger’s red cheeks have emerged from the darkness of the Emirates to place several bids on several players. Some of them might have even passed puberty. The shock. The horror.
Mertesaker is seemingly on his way to North London. That will please Gooners everywhere. Santos looks like in interesting attacking full-back, if the deal is done. After kidnapping Park Chu-Young (see yesterdays blog here) Arsenal seem to have sorted their striker shortage.
With the exception of Mertesaker, whose signing will no doubt please most supporters, Arsenal have yet to address their most pressing issues. The most notable of which is the gaping hole in the middle of their midfield. Apparently Dortmund have politely given Arsenal the finger following an unsuccessful bid for Mario Goetze. Though, given the fact that he’s only just grown pubes, most Arsenal supporters will probably breath a sigh of relief.
The Gunners have also been sniffing around the Chelsea subs bench of late. Apparently they like the smell of Malouda, Alex and Benayoun. I predict that one of these might go. Maybe. But then what do I know?!
In Wenger’s usual stomping ground of Ligue 1 there are rumours aplenty. Lucho Gonzalez is too old for Wenger so don’t expect to see him. Marvin Martin is a possibility as is nearly every other creative midfielder worth his salt. M’Vila looked likely but apparently Rennes want 30 trillion for the player. No, I can’t see it either.
I know, I’m banging on about Arsenal a lot. Don’t worry, I’m nearly done. But I promise you the dealings there are more interesting than at any other club. You’ll see.
It might be easier to list the players that Arsenal haven’t been linked with. Maybe not, but you get the idea. There are fecking hundreds of them. Here’s a digest, in no particular order.
Cahill, Samba, Jagielka, Dann, Baines, Vertonghen, McCarthy, Arteta, Hazard, Jadson, Willian, Elia, Pereira, Zarate, Benzema, Defoe, Doyle etc etc etc etc zzzzzzzz. There are more, but I stopped giving a shit halfway into that list.
Aston Villa are apparently having a look at the perennially-crocked Owen Hargreaves. That sounds like a really ‘good’ idea. Unless he’s going to give them a cut in his next fitness video I can’t imagine why anyone would want him on their physio table. They must be desperate.
Alan Hutton might be on his way from Spurs. They also quite fancy Yossi Benayoun. That cheeky little Israeli scamp must have put something in the water because everyone seems to want a piece of him today. Scott Parker has an outside chance of signing for the Villans.
At the end of the day I don’t expect anything exciting to happen over there. It’s almost as if Alex McLeish has sucked all joy out of that place.
Blackburn Rovers once dreamed of signing Ronaldinho, but since he realised that they intended on paying him with giblets, there has been an unsurprising lack of transfer activity going on at the club. They look like they might sign Scott Dann from Birmingham and they’ve also been linked with the not world-famous furniture store Bangura’s of Stockholm. Meh.
Bolton might have condemned Gary Cahill to Europa League football. The bastards. By playing hardball with Arsenal and pricing the player out of the move he wanted, it looks like Cahill’s options are now limited. He said he wanted to play Champions League, so lets see if he waits for a free transfer or if he goes for the payrise that Tottenham will surely offer.
The Wanderers have been linked with that pint-sized bundle of pace Shaun Wright-Phillips. Good signing he would be I think. Well that’s how Yoda would write it if was: 1. Real. 2. A football writer and not a Jedi Master. They’re also looking at NGog from Liverpool; presumably they’re not missing enough easy chances.
Chelsea have probably done most of their business. After all, they’ve spent enough money to make Solomon blush. Word on the street is that they’re talking to Stoke about loaning out their 20 million signing Lukaku. Can’t see it myself. Seems like they’re spending money now before the Financial Fair Play comes into effect, effectively stockpiling players for a rainy day. It’s not fair, but nobody seems to have noticed.
The one possible signing that could happen in the next 24 hours is Modric. Is he worth the reported 30 mil that Spurs are after? Maybe, maybe not. But lets face it, nobody gives a toss if Chelski get ripped off, do they?! Still, he’d be a good signing for them.
Oh, I nearly forgot about Gregory van der Wiel. Another quality full-back for the subs bench. Presumably Chelsea plan on arming the defenders with air rifles and forcing them to compete in a work-experience-boy shoot-out for a place in the first team.
Everton have no money. They might get a loan signing but I doubt it. They’re that skint. The vultures are circling now and expect one or two first teamers to ship out tomorrow. Arteta to Arsenal, maybe. Coleman to Liverpool, maybe. We’ll see. It’s a shame cos Everton are a great club. It proves just how difficult it is to compete with the big boys if you don’t have a sugar daddy to sit behind you, stroke your hair and buy you nice handbags.
Fulham are definitely on the prowl for new players. Their options seem limited because: 1. They don’t like to spend lots of money. 2. They’re just not that exciting. 3. Mohammed Al Fayed insists that all new signings worship at his private shrine to Michael Jackson. Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine.
They’ve cast their beady eye on Grygera from Juventus. I won’t lie, I haven’t got a frickin clue who he is. More likely is Zaha from Palace and Jerome from Birmingham. Nothing scares fans more than pillaging players from the championship. I expect a tough season for them.
Liverpool have lots of money and they’re not afraid to spend it.
Some crazy rumours are about involving Joe Cole (almost certainly on his way to Lille on loan), a wedge of dirty five pound notes, a bottle of lubricant and Eden Hazard. I think it’s gossip mongers grasping at straws, but hey ho.
Sebastian Coates looks like a done deal. Look forward to loads of ‘get your Coates love, you’ve pulled’ jokes. I know I am.
Coleman looks a possibility, though it remains to be seen whether Everton want to suffer the indignity of dropping on all fours and selling one of their prized assets to a much hated local rival. Though money makes people do the strangest things.
Afellay is a long bet from Barca. And I read somewhere that King Kenny is going to have a head-butting competition with Arsene Wenger to see who will sign Pereira from Parma.
Breaking news. Liverpool in for 1 goal in 4 game striker Zarate. Do me a favour. NO CHANCE.
Manchester City, fresh from signing everyone good, have probably finished with their shopping. Though you never know. Fernando Gago from Real, maybe? Hargreaves from the United treatment table is more likely. Some people have called this one a gamble. Though it’s not really a gamble if you have all the money in the world, is it?!
I’ll be honest, I don’t really care what they do.
Manchester United proved at the weekend that they don’t really need to sign anyone else. That said, they’ve been heavily linked with the excellent Wesley Sneijder all summer. It’s a deal that may still happen. If it does, United will have put the cherry on top of an excellent midfield. Pound for pound they might not have the best players, but they’re a cracking team. Couple that with more injury time minutes than you can shake a stick at and you’ve got a winning formula.
They’ve also been linked with some dude called Ganso. He’s probably good. If you really care then google him.
Next.
Newcastle. Now that Mike Ashley is putting the finishing touches on dismantling the team that got his club promoted, he’s looking for cheap replacements to help them kick on. They’ve already made some interesting signings and they look like that they might make one or two more.
Davide Santon is the most likely. Having sold Enrique to Liverpool they need a cheaper alternative. They’re looking to loan Macheda from the Red Mancs. PSV’s Pieters looks like he might be on his way; expect him to be cheap too. I also read a rumour about Aly Cossokho from Lyon.
It seems like Ashley and co., are following the Wenger method. Sell your players at home, buy replacements of dubious quality from France and hope that it all works out. Perhaps someone should point out to the Newcastle board that it hasn’t really worked out all that well at Arsenal.
Norwich City’s survival this season hinges on who they have and who they will sign this summer. They’ve recruited from the lower leagues so far with Vaughan and Ayala the only exceptions. To be honest, rumours are a bit thin on the ground here. The best I could come up with is a last ditch attempt to sign Lansbury from Arsenal. I’m sorry, don’t hate me.
QPR – now this is more like it. They’ve got a few quid laying about somewhere I think. They’ve been linked with Scott Dann and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Can’t see either happening, but never doubt the power of the pound.
Someone somewhere says that they’re interested in signing Liam Ridgewell from Birmingham. I know many Villa fans will be disappointed that he’s not going back to them, but they’ll get over it.
They have just signed left-back Traore from Arsenal. Obviously he did a great job of selling himself on Sunday.
Stoke have been strongly linked with footballing journeyman and Pringles salesman Peter Crouch and his side kick, Wilson Palacios. Pretty boring rumours if you ask me; however, I think both would fit right in to Pulis’ team. If they sign them both then I think most Potters fans will be pretty chuffed with their summer spending.
Sunderland are a team who have spent this summer. They’ve got loads of new faces in at the Stadium of Light. Whether they’ll gel or not is a different matter; time will tell.
In an attempt to undo all their good work in the market it sounds like they’re trying to waste some wonga on signing Samaras. I think the only people who would be happy about that deal are Celtic fans.
Interestingly they’ve been linked to Papiss Cisse from Freiburg. He’s been scoring goals for fun in Germany. If they sign both Cisse and Samaras I think they’ll cancel each other out and they’ll be just as good as they were before they signed them.
Also, I just read that they too like the cut of Peter Crouch’s jib. It’s all about the strikers up there it would seem.
Swansea have, according to those devils over at Sky, just signed German keeper Gerhard Tremmel for free. Expect him to never play.
They also want to sign Master Bates from Middlesborough. I’m so funny.
That is all.
Tottenham! Why the exclamation mark I hear you scream? Well, I expect old ‘Arry ‘fuck off I’m a football manager not a wheeler dealer’ Redknapp to do some serious business in the next 24 hours.
They’ve been linked with Owen Hargreaves. Though I imagine he’ll stay up in Manchester one way or another. They’ve been heavily linked with Scotty Parker and, to be fair, it looks like a good match. They’ve also been giving Yossi Benayoun the eye today, hoping that he elopes with them instead of one of his other suitors.
Craig Bellamy has been touted as a possible signing. You never know, the no-necked bully might fancy a bit of London action. It also looks like they might make a move for Gary Cahill in a player plus cash deal, but he’ll only go if they buy him some Milk Tray.
They’ve been linked with Damiao for a while now; thats a maybe. According to the Times they’ve been passing love notes after class to both Fofana of Le Havre and Barta of Barca; it’s called hedging your bets and we’ve all done it.
Harry’s been trying it on with Joe Cole all summer, though it looks like he’s fallen in love with the French. He likes the accent and the ease at which they surrender to his charms. Allegedly.
I expect one or two of these players to sign. And probably one or two that we haven’t even heard of. He moves in mysterious ways does old ‘Arry.
West Brom are going to be tough to write up. I can’t find any decent rumours. They looked like they might sign Owen Hargreaves, but even he bolted when he realised just how boring they are. Expect Woy Hodgson to make one signing that nobody has ever heard of and expect it to be very boring. To be fair he has transformed them from being the team most likely to get relegated to being the team most likely to be terminally boring. Yawn….. You see what I meant about Arsenal now. Bet you wish I could rub some funk into this section don’t you?!
Wigan have just signed Albert Crusat from Almeria. According to some news outlets. It’s probably true. Why would they lie? Everyones favourite hate-rag – the Daily Mail – reckons they want to sign dos Santos from Spurs. Not really that interesting is it?!
A carrier pigeon just arrived here with news that Wigan are in talks with Celtic over the signing of Shaun Maloney.
I read somewhere on Twitter that they were looking at two South Americans called Canuhe and Fernandes. Sounds about right. They tend to make most of their signings by buying prospects from across the Atlantic. Expect one or two transfers and expect them to be just good enough to help keep Wigan up by the skin of their collective balls.
Wolves. Why do I feel like I’m talking to myself right now?! Well, as far as I can tell, nobody wants to sign for them and between you and me, I’m not surprised.

The Kidnapping

Lille chairman Michel Seydoux raps on a hotel bedroom door. He is in a fine mood. He is about to pillage the recently relegated Monaco for one of their star performers. And what is best is that he is doing so for a pittance.
“Park! Open the door” He yells through the door (in French). “Park, we’ve got to start the second part of your medical. We’re due at the medical centre any minute now!”
After some banging and some more shouting, Seydoux goes and gets the concierge.
“Open this door right this minute.” He barks. Still in French. After all, we are in France.
“But sir, this room belongs to Mr Park Chu-Young” whimpers the nervous hotel employee.
“Who do you think paid for the room you imbecile? That’s right, it was us. Now open it before I ‘it you with something ‘arrrd.”
Reluctantly the concierge opens the door. Seydoux peers into the room.
It’s empty.
Slowly and cautiously he enters the room. The Lille OSC protection team follow him in, side arms drawn. The room is empty save for a note on the bed.
PARK CHU-YOUNG IS OUR PLAYER NOW. HAHAHAHAHAHA. A.W.
Seydoux drops to his knees. He screams up to the heavens.
“Nooooooooooooooon”
Meanwhile at Arsenals state-of-the-art complex for evil footballers in Colney, London: Wenger removes the cable ties from his captive’s wrists and the blind fold from his eyes.
“It is time for you to take the bleep test.” He pauses, more for effect than anything “And should you fail I have instructed my henchmen Frimpong and Song Billong to strap you to a goal post and tackle you from behind until they have broken your legs. HAHAHAHAHA.”
Park Chu-Young blinks in the harsh light and gulps. He knows he has no other choice. He must complete the bleep test, because should he fail, he may never be released by his new captors.
Wenger laughs in his face “Ha, we have you now Monsieur. I have needed a much publicised kidnapping victim since that pesky Francesc Fabregas escaped my evil clutches and returned to his family in Barcelona”. He spits on the floor.
Pat Rice appears from nowhere. “What’s the plan boss?” =
“The plan” Wenger cackles with a look of relish in his eyes “Is to turn Arsenal into the most evil club in the world!”