Another Saturday comes around and the usual suspects are still being linked with Arsenal.
Ricardo Alvarez, yes the player were supposed to have signed on a free transfer, who then become subject to a tug of war between Arsenal and Manchester United, is back in the frame or perhaps not. Arsenal sent over representatives to discuss the transfer with his club Velez Sarsfield, reports (or rumours) were that Velez wanted £10M. The trail went cold, then TalkSPORT reported that Roma were to sign the Argentine winger. Now we have Argentine media reports stating the Alvarez will sign for an English club next week. All we can say is that Alvarez is a player that Wenger has identified as someone who can add to our attacking options, though once the name is out in the football world other teams will jump on the bandwagon. As usual Arsenal are remaining very quiet, though we know that Wenger is due to go to South America soon, could it be to conclude the deal for Alvarez?
An old favourite has re-emerged, Blaise Matuidi, the St Etienne midfielder stopper / playmaker is back on the scene. This is the third summer we have been linked with Matuidi, the first link was in 2009 when we were “close to signing” Matuidi for £2.5M, then in 2010 the fee had risen to £8M when we about to sign the St Etienne player, now we are being linked with a £13M offer. It has been rumoured that Blaise has indicated that Arsenal is his preferred destination, but Wenger’s priorities are defence and attacking options, at least until he knows what will happen with Fabregas. Will Wenger spend £13M on Matuidi, I doubt that will happen, this story is more about Matuidi’s agent trying to drum up interest in his player.
Arsenal were also linked to Samuel Eto’o, but at £30M and 30 years old, the only club who would spend that sort of money for a has been are Chelsea. Eto’o is a great striker, but is he really the player we need? Perhaps if the fee was £8M he would be worth considering, but £30M plus £6M a year wages, not even Wenger will be mad to contemplate a deal for Eto’o.
A new player on the block is Jose Enrique the Newcastle United left-back. Enrique is coming into the final year of his contract, and has indicated that he wants to leave. He is 25 years old, 6ft 3” and battle hardened in English football. The Times has indicated that Arsenal have made contact with representatives of Enrique. Enrique would be a perfect replacement for Clichy. He will share the left=back slot with Gibbs and would cost around £8M.
Finally a story breaking from Italy is that Arsenal and Manchester United are in talks, whatever that might mean, with the agent of Mirko Vucinic the Roma striker, the asking price £26M. Vucinic is 27 years old and a Montenegro international. The sources for this story are the player’s agent and as is usual when an agent spreads stories and uses a couple of big teams it is to flush out other potential buyers. I doubt Wenger or Ferguson will even contemplate Vucinic unless the fee was around £12M.
No doubt by the end of today there will be 3 or 4 more players linked to Arsenal and tomorrow we can add a further half a dozen. These keeps us all guessing as to what is going on behind the scenes, what players is Wenger actually talking to and has the club made any offers for any players.
What drama at the Stadio Olimpico, Arsenal did not perform well, the attack was blunt but the team pulled through in dramatic fashion.
Arsenal fell behind after 9 minutes. Poor defending by Toure and Gallas and Bendtner failing to track back allowed Juan to give Roma the lead. They had to weather the storm in the first half but gradually started to assert themselves. Arsenal escaped a penalty claim in the first half.
The second half started with Arsenal dominating the game, Roma fell further and further behind and you got the feeling they were to settle for a draw and take the game to penalties. Playing with one up front meant it was always going to be hard to score and Arsenal created few clear cut chances. Van Persie snatched at several opportunities, but the Dutchman is suffering with a lack of faith and composure in front of goal at the moment. Arsenal had a great chance to score, Bendtner played the ball to Eboue, a good return ball would’ve put the Dane through, but the pass took him away from the goal.
Former player Baptista had a glorious chance to score before the end of the second half but as we all know Baptista is not the most lethal of strikers and failed to trouble Almunia. Toure had Arsenal’s best chance to score right at the end of the game, but put the ball over the bar.
Roma were hanging for penalties as Arsenal made all the running but were unable to break the deadlock on extra-time. Now we hade the dreaded penalty shoot out.
First was Eduardo, but his penalty was save. Roma scored next as did van Persie, next it was Vuconic who had tormented Sagna all game, what followed was a pathetically lame penalty that Almunia saved. Arsenal’s remaining penalty takers Walcott, Nasri and Denilson all scored with ease. We moved into sudden death, Sagna and Toure converted as did Diaby, next it was the turn of Tonetto, his penalty would have done the Italy rugby team proud as it sailed high over the bar.
It was not vintage Arsenal; it was a resolute defence and a misfiring attack. The formation 4-5-1 needs the right personnel to work. Bendtner on the wing is a non-starter, though he showed some good ball control, he is not fast enough or direct enough to make it work, van Persie is out of sorts at the moment, maybe it is his new contract, but whatever it is he needs to sort it out.
The one major plus from last night was Abou Diaby. He played the game like a master, holding off challenges, making runs, and attacking. This is the Diaby we need to see every week.
Arsenal are through to the last 8, a tough challenge awaits us, but we will have both Fabregas and Adebayor available for the quarter final, and there is a chance we might also see Rosicky. A 4-5-1, with a midfield of Nasri-Fabregas-Diaby-Rosicky and either Walcott or van Persie playing behind Adebayor will be a very attack minded and frightening midfield.