As revealed late on Tuesday night, Arsenal have completed the surprise signing of Mikael Silvestre from Manchester United. The France defender becomes Arsenal’s fourth summer signing and will add experience and versatility to the squad. The greatest surprise was that Ferguson allowed him to move to one of United’s rivals. What will shock Arsenal fans is that Silvestre, aged 31, is being offered a two year contract, whilst Wenger let Gilberto leave, 31, and now we are trawling Europe looking for an experienced midfielder.
Following Silvestre’s arrival, it was no surprise to learn that Armand Traore had joined Arsenal’s south coast retirement home, Portsmouth. Traore is a raw talent, spending time in Arsenal’s reserves with the occasional Carling Cup game will not improve him as a player. A season or more on loan at a Premiership club or a Championship club will benefit Traore. He will be exposed to top rate wingers week-in week-out at Portsmouth and be al to improve on his defensive qualities. At Portsmouth he will come under the defensive instructions of Tony Adams, if he is sensible he will listen to the Arsenal legend and improve ten-fold.
The great piece of news coming out of the Emirates is that Arsene Wenger has stated that he is still after another player, and that it will be a midfield player. When pushed as to whether Barry is out of the equation, Wenger merely stated the obvious that a player’s value drops if he is not available for European competition, but that does not preclude you from buying him. Wenger stated that he might surprise the media as he did with Silvestre. Whilst not dismissing the Barry link, this might have been a way of Wenger telling Beintez that if he doesn’t get his finger out over selling Alonso to Arsenal, Wenger is prepared to move for Liverpool’s number one transfer target of the summer. This will be a kick in the teeth for Benitez and might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, leading him to resign.
Other target for Wenger are Gohkan Inler, he will be a cheaper option than either Barry or Alonso, however he is not the experience we need. I am sure given the chance Diaby or Denilson will perform as well as Inler.
Miguel Veloso has again been mentioned as interesting Wenger. The drawback is the high transfer fee that Sporting Lisbon expect to receive for him. A transfer fee of £18M, is the transfer fee that was expected for Barry and Alonso before their European appearances redcued these fees. The Veloso transfer link is being engineered by his agent, who is desperate to get a move for his player and is running out of time and clubs.
I clearly believe the Alonso is the number one target for Arsenal, as demonstrated in the recent Spain game he is a goalscoring midfielder, something that Diaby and Denilson clearly are not. Alonso will add to the experience of the squad and to the attacking abilities of our midfield something distinctly lacking last season. But Arsene being Arsene it will not surprise anyone if the new signing is one who has not been mentioned in dispatches so far. Time is running out, the FC Twente game is 6 games away, this was the target set be Wenger for a new midfield signing, we will have to wait and see.
Whilst the players have been going through their paces in Austria, Arsene Wegner has been going through his book of possible midfielders to bring to the club. Having seen the paucity of players available to him, the Arsenal manager must be regretting allowing Lassana Diarra to leave in January.
Wenger would like to bring someone in before the Emirates Cup and has five players on his radar and has made tentative enquiries about three of them already this summer.
It has been well documented that Pat Rice spoke to Aston Villa assistant manager Steve Walford about Gareth Barry. Even though Liverpool were making all the running on this transfer, things have cooled down as it appears the Liverpool do not have any money to spend on players unless the sell players. Barry would be a good acquisition for Arsenal as he does not need any time to acclimatise to the Premier League. Arsenal will be able to pick him up for around £14M.
Arsenal have already had a bid turned down for Xabi Alonso, Liverpool are holding out for £16M, the exact sum that will price away Barry from Aston Villa. Alonso’s main exit route was Juventus, but they baulked at the price and went for Paulsen from Sevilla at £7M. Unless Atletico Madrid or Barcelona are prepared to stump up £16M, Liverpool will either have to lower their price to help finance a bid a for Barry or they will keep Alonso. Wenger will not wait around for Benitez to make a decision as we could be waiting till next summer!
A player that was rumoured to be on Arsenal’s radar earlier in the summer is Michael Johnson of Manchester City. The plus points of Johnson is he is young, English, has Premier League experience and will cost in the region of £12M. But is he the experienced player Wenger has spoken about? I doubt it and this is probably agent talk to try to flush out other potential purchasers.
Going abroad, there are two potential targets, Miguel Velosso of Sporting Lisbon has been touted by his agent all summer to anybody who would listen but to no avail. He is young, but Sporting are demanding £18M for a young player who is part of the Portugal squad but not a regular.
The other target is the younger brother of Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure. Wenger had a close
look at Yaya several seasons ago, but was unable to buy him as he would not have qualified for a work permit. Toure then went on an odyssey of football outposts before finally arriving at Barcelona last season. It is well known that Arsenal tried to get Yaya as part of the Hleb deal, but this did not materialise. Not to be deterred, Arsenal have spoken to Barcelona about completing the move for the younger Toure, but talks are at an early stage. Barcelona may be prepared to let Toure leave if they buy Velosso. Yaya has gone on record as to say that he would love to link up with his older brother Kolo. The arrival of Yaya Toure at the Emirates would be a solid signing.
One player who will not be coming to the Emirates is Andrei Arshavin. Zenit are demanding £22M, whilst he players wants £100,000 per week. Only Chelsea will not bat an eye-lid at such demands.
One player of experience will definitely join Arsenal, according to Arsene Wenger. In an interview after Saturday’s game at Barnet, Wenger was asked about impending signings, his reply was, ‘I cannot give you any names, but we are still thinking of bringing in one player, yes. We’ve lost good players, but we have bought two players and have some good young players coming through. The Arsenal boss added: “It could happen, yes, one, maybe two maximum, but one certainly.”
The favourite is Gareth Barry. Arsenal, as always, go about their business quietly, whilst Liverpool’s pursuit of Barry has become acrimonious, with Benitez making public pronouncements almost on a daily basis. The deal to bring Barry to the Emirates will shock Liverpool as it will be substantially lower than the £18M they have been quoted. The deal will involve long timer target Justin Hoyte moving to Villa Park on a permanent basis and one or two Arsenal players joining Villa on loan. Wenger will offer O’Neil the choice of Djourou, Nordveit, Randall, Gibbs and Lansbury to join the Villains on season long loans.
The Barry deal could go through this week, allowing Gareth to join up with his new team-mates in Austria.
The second signing and this does not include any other young players, will not be decided upon until after the Emirates Cup. This will allow Arsene to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the players at his disposal. He will be able to see how the young players are developed from last season, and see which ones are ready to step up to the first team and make a worthwhile contribution.
A striker will not be among the new arrivals as Wenger expects Adebayor to report for training this week and to be part of Arsenal’s squad for the beginning of the season. Barcelona have cooled their interest in Adebayor recently, leaving the Togolese forward no other option than to return to the Emirates and continue his fine scoring form of last season.