Friday 13 July 2012

Big money changes hands still - no sign of Wenger's predicted economic meltdown yet

What a strange day in the world of football! The breaking news is that Glasgow Rangers will begin as a newco in the Scottish Third Division. Interestingly, the decision was made in the interests of fair play. Seeing as Arsenal's plans for the future rest on the implementation of UEFA's financial fair play standards, perhaps it is a good day for the Gunners. However, I am unable to see it that way as my heart goes out to Glasgow Rangers fans who are blameless in all of this. Now they are facing a future too bleak to envisage. I can only hope that the club survives.

The other breaking news is that John Terry has been found not guilty of racism against Anton Ferdinand. I won't give my opinion on this case, but the implications for Arsenal may be that Chelsea will be a stronger team because of this decision. Let me explain further. Although Chelsea's captain will feel the brunt of abuse next season, his acquittal will help the Blues team morale. I mean who would want to be led by racist? However, I believe Terry is past his best, despite a good showing at the end of last season and Chelsea will struggle to replace the likes of Didier Drogba and other outgoing stars. The team is ageing and I see a transition year ahead for them.

That's enough of that this move onto things more Arsenal-orientated. Air miles are the first thing on my mind. "We need to cut down a little" is what we would say to Mr Fly-Too-Much. I don't want to be too hypocritical here as I've always maintained that we should reach out to our fans worldwide to make sure that our fan base continues to increase. It always annoys me that we have not taken advantage of our popularity in Asia and subsequently we have allowed the likes of Manchester United to fully develop their brand at our cost in these far-off regions.

The flipside of travelling out to these long distance destinations is tiredness. I just heard Theo Walcott on Arsenal Player saying he enjoys these trips but hates the long-haul flights. Unfortunately, long flights can lead to injuries, but to put things into perspective we are not flying as much as Manchester United pre-season. United will travel over 23,000 air miles. Everton and ourselves will travel over 17,000 air miles. While Manchester City will travel 14,000 and Stoke 13,000. It will be interesting to see if this long-distance travel has any impact on teams' performances at the beginning of the season. The team is doing the least travelling are Norwich and Wigan with around 2000 air miles apiece and Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton with around 1000 miles each.

If this theory holds any water then we would expect ourselves, United, Everton, Manchester City and Stoke to start the season poorly by their standards; and Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, Southampton, Wigan and Norwich to perform above expectations at the beginning of the season. Watch this space!

Our pre-season begins tomorrow with two half matches at St Mary's Stadium. The first game is against Anderlecht, who play in purple and white. Suddenly, the colour the Royal Sporting Club playing in is relevant given our new away strip, which is mostly purple. We've been told that this new colour gives us a regal flavour in a Diamond Jubilee year. I don't really care what colour we playing away from home as long as we win a trophy this season.

I think the home kit is far more important than the away kit, although like many I prefer yellow shirts and blue shorts to be our main away strip. You have to feel sorry for Cardiff City though, who will be playing in red at home for the first time in their entire history. It makes you think that the world of football has gone crazy. It makes you realise that you have to hold onto some traditions or you risk losing your identity. Cardiff's crest may be marketable in Malaysia, but to have a dragon above the Bluebird that has represented Cardiff for some time seems to be rubbing the fans' noses in the brown stuff. Let's hope that nothing like this ever happens to our club.

Now onto the other news. Wales boss Chris Coleman intends to ask Aaron Ramsey if he minds playing alongside Ryan Shawcross for Wales. I know what I would say if I was Rambo, but our young Welshman seems to be a decent guy and will probably forgive and forget that horrific tackle from the Stoke defender. Anyway, if they train together Rambo will have the opportunity to put one on Ryan behind closed doors. Not saying he will though, as I know he's too professional to do that.

Going back to tomorrow's friendly games for a moment, it will be interesting to see who makes the cut. I'm expecting Arsene Wenger to field two separate sides: one to face Anderlecht at 6:45pm and the other to take on Southampton at 8pm. It seems bizarre to play fellow Premier League club in a pre-season friendly, but we've got another one coming up against Manchester City so we'd better get used to the idea. I'm expecting Wenger to field a stronger team against Anderlecht and a slightly weaker team to take on the Saints. It's going to be interesting to see what Wenger does.

After bringing in Giroud and Podolski, Wenger doesn't appear to be doing much on the transfer front. It seems as if he thinks he's done all the business he needs to. Former Gunner Gilles Grimandi has come out and said that these two signings were made early in case Robin van Persie decides to leave. This wasn't exactly the kind of news we wanted to hear as Arsenal fans, although we are grateful that the club has brought in a couple of decent signings are not left it until the last minute like last season. However, many people are saying the defence desperately needs strengthening and until that happens Robin van Persie cannot be expected to commit himself to a new contract. Sometimes the best form of defence is actually defence and not attack!

Talking of defenders, France international Mathieu Debuchy is heading to Newcastle from Lille, while another Arsenal transfer target Junior Hoilett seems bound for Borussia Moenchengladbach. Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski has been tentatively linked with a move to Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund. I really can't see this deal materialising so I will leave it there for now. The same goes for Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich, although he seems ready to move on.

One Arsenal transfer target who is moving on it appears is Clint Dempsey. Liverpool are ready to pay £9 million for the USA international and that seems a lot more than we are prepared to pay for a 29-year-old. Perhaps Fulham are ready to sell now that they have signed Hugo Rodallega on a free transfer from Wigan. Meanwhile, Fabio Borini is also on the way to Anfield it seems, but I still don't think they'll be significantly stronger for this forthcoming season.

Another team expected to push us all the way next season for a Champions League spot is Spurs. Although they've signed Jan Vertonghen and are close to signing Emanuel Adebayor on a permanent basis I don't see how they will be stronger than they were last season without Luka Modric, who is poised on the brink of €44.4 million transfer to Real Madrid. Plus they now have a manager in Andre Villas-Boas who knows how to lose friends and alienate people in the dressing room. It's not a recipe for success any more than a dodgy lasagna! AVB won't be alienating Portugal international midfielder Joao Moutinho, as the latest news on him is he's staying at Porto.

The other news concerning our club is that we have lost out on the signing of Rennes midfielder Tongo Doumbia, who has opted to join West Bromwich Albion instead. Boo-hoo! Not!

If we want to strengthen our midfield we should look at Portugal's international players. Wenger predicted they would do well at the Euros and they did, so that begs the question as to why the Arsenal boss doesn't buy more players from that country? Apart from Moutinho, I would have been looking at bringing in Miguel Veloso if he were available. The best is yet to come from the 26-year-old who recently joined Dynamo Kyiv, so they will reap the benefits of his talent. Now that really is boo-hoo!

Despite all the talk of doom and gloom regarding the world economy, money is beginning to change hands almost as swiftly as ever with AC Milan about to cash in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. Paris St Germain are ready to pay the Italian giants £49 million for the pair. While this kind of money still exists in the game, the bankrolled clubs will continue to buy success while the self-sustaining clubs, like Arsenal, will watch with envy. I'll settle for third place in the Premier League again and no trophies as I think that is the limit of our ambition at the moment, sorry to say. Until there are changes at the top, we cannot expect any more than that.

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