Posts Tagged Emirates Stadium
The protracted tussle between nascent Premier League underachievers Arsenal and world conquering Barcelona to have midfielder Francesc Fàbregas in their respective teams is currently seeing its fourth season play out; complete with the usual rumoured agreements behind the scenes and blown out of proportion comments among other plots in a number of episodes in this saga.
This season’s tussle actually set off in the run up to the last UEFA Champions League final with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique posing with a picture of Fàbregas taken down from a wall at the Arsenal training ground; an opportunity that came about with the Gunners granting the Catalan side access to its training facilities ahead of the win at Wembley over Manchester United.
This same duo, along with Liverpool keeper Jose Reina, also succeeded in forcing a Barça jersey on Fàbregas after the Spanish national team lifted the 2010 World Cup at South Africa; a campaign that saw Fàbregas contribute to the success even in his bit part role.
Back then (Fàbregas: Season Three if you may), Arsenal was going to have none of it as regards negotiating any fee for his transfer to the Nou Camp. Currently, the stance has changed with the Gunners willing to negotiate having set their asking price at a staggering £60m.
Importantly and fortunately for Barça and otherwise for Arsenal, what has not changed is the silverware cabinet at the Emirates Stadium, which bolsters Barça’s approach for Arsenal’s talismatic midfielder coupled with the fact that the Nou Camp (with all bitterness in admitting so) is Fàbregas’ home.
Arsenal’s move; however perilous it is, to appear as lending a listening ear to Barça’s approach for the player may well be what will keep Fàbregas at North London since it puts the Gunners in the light of not forcing Cesc to stay at the club (the perilous part of it), which then puts Barça in the light of being desperate for a player it in reality has no need of with the likes of Seydou Keita and Ibrahim Afellay behind the spotlight of Xavi and Andres Iniesta just as Thiago Alcantra is staking his claim to more appearances in the Barça first team especially on the back of his sterling performances at the recently concluded European U-21 Championships that Spain won.
Hence, by holding out for a fee that is obviously well out of Barça’s valuation of the player as well as what the club can afford, Arsenal has somewhat put itself in a win-win situation and put the courting Spaniards in a win-at-a-great-cost position.
Again, Arsenal’s position here is precarious due to Arsène Wenger’s transfer policy of not spending more than a footballer’s valuation in his economic view. So should Fàbregas join Barça because the Catalan giants actually meet Arsenal’s valuation or Arsenal accept Barça’s reported next offer of £35m, Wenger’s policy would mean the already disgruntled and disillusioned Arsenal fans would have to endure a seventh, eighth and perhaps ninth season without a trophy.
The second part of this piece will elucidate why I say this…
Unless you’re a die-hard non lover of Arsenal FC, you just have to agree that the Gunners have made quite an impressive start to the season; until of course the blips of drawing at AZ Alkmaar and West Ham United in the Champions League and Premier League respectively.
With a game in hand in the league, Arsenal is third with 19 points; just five behind Chelsea that has played all 10 league matches and that could have been three points had Arsenal not conceded two late goals at West Ham.
So clearly, the problem with Arsenal apparently this season is not about precision upfront; Robin van Persie has four in the last four league matches and even Thomas Vermaelen has four league goals (outstanding for a centre back) but keeping it tight at the back.
Vito Mannone is a good talent of a goalkeeper but maybe the Gunners are missing Manuel Almunia in goal (my opinion). Whichever it is, it is obvious the backline is the weak point of the Gunners.
But Vermaelen and William Gallas (to my surprise) have played well this season at the centre but it’s not in their play; Vermaelen’s, Gallas’ and the rest of the back, but their psyche.
Arsenal have conceded quite a number of set piece goals and penalties this season owing to a momentary loss of duty with any member of the back line; including young Mannone unfortunately.
If Arsene Wenger (60 on October 23) could improve the defence’s endurance and alertness levels, Arsenal would be almost unstoppable this season.
Would they end their drought…now it’s too early to say but just as in 07/08 when they lost the league with four draws and a defeat, they look pretty good and for now, they have the ball in their possession!