Interesting news today, away from real life: Samir Nasri has been offered the same contract as Cesc, £110,000 a week, to stay at Arsenal. Whether it's true or not, it comes as a good sign. If it was a story planted by Nasri's agent, then it may indicate a paving of the way to the signing of a new contract: 'we fought the club and won a better deal'. If it is a story planted by the club, at least it shows that they're trying to assert some control over the story, and if the player is eventually sold, it would not be because of penny-pinching on Arsenal's part. As I stated in the last post, I'm not at all convinced that the whole Nasri story wasn't stirred up by the agent to gain greater leverage in contract negotiations with the Arsenal - to sell him to Man United, even for £25 million, would be folly and (symbolically, for the fans) an admission of defeat. Personally, I would rather the club forced Nasri to stay and run his contract out than sell him to United this summer. The perils of player mobility yet again.
And once again, the shrill plaints from the arseblogosphere, calling Wenger out for his lack of activity. I don't know what some of these 'fans' want: for Arsene to declare that he's intent on signing Player X and have the price of the player go up, put the other club on the back foot and be less likely to do a deal, and (most importantly) indulge himself in precisely the same kind of public tapping up that we all so deplore with regard to Barca's pursuit of Cesc? No.
Now, let's begin with a few assumptions about next season.
1. Cesc is sold to Barcelona, some time in late August, for about £37 million.
2. Nasri signs a new contract.
3. Bendtner, Denilson, Squillaci and Almunia are eventually offloaded for varying amounts, sum total about £15 million.
4. Gervinho arrives early next week, for £11 million.
5. Arsenal sign a centre-back; let's say Cahill for £17 million.
6. Arsenal sign a dynamic, experienced, defensive centre-midfielder (Motta, Vidal, Barton, who knows?).
Some of the young players will go out on loan again: JET, Aneke, Miquel, Afobe for the first 3 months. I would keep a couple of others at the club who have been knocking around for a while: Henri Lansbury and Kyle Bartley. Both did really well on loan last season, the latter gaining Champions League experience with Rangers, and must be a better option than Squillaci as a fifth central defender (and with our recent injury record at this position, 5 players in this position in the squad would make a lot of sense). Lansbury did well at the Under-21 Euros as a sub for England, outshining Jordan Henderson, who Liverpool paid £20 million for. (Today's speculation is that Norwich will offer £2million for Lansbury - this seems a gross underestimate of his quality.) I'd also see whether Frimpong can come back from his year of injury and be the physical presence in the middle of the park he appeared to be last pre-season.
Here, then, are two teams that we could play from an updated squad, both playing 4-2-3-1:
Sczeczny; Sagna, Vermaelen, Cahill, Gibbs; Song, Wilshere; Gervinho, Nasri, Walcott; van Persie.
Fabianski; Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Jenkinson; Diaby, Frimpong; Ramsay, Arshavin, Miyaichi; Chamakh.
Add to this: Bartley, Lansbury, new central midfielder, Rosicky, Mannone.
I think this looks a pretty good squad. I hope Miyaichi can get a permit: I've seen extensive highlights of last season, when he played left-wing for Feyenoord, and he was electrifying. Great acceleration, very quick, skillful and with a good trick or two, played with his head up, good finisher. He is small, granted, and it was 'only' the Dutch league, but he reminded me of two other small, dark-haired wingers who had a great impact in their short Arsenal careers: Anders Limpar and Marc Overmars. Like the latter especially, Miyaichi is fast, direct, and can cut inside from the left and finish well off his right foot. I really like the look of him.
Miyaichi and Gervinho would give the Arsenal what they've lacked for a few seasons: directness and pace. I'd also start Walcott on the left, just off van Persie, as a striker rather than a wide player. If a new, dominant, dynamic central midfielder played alongside Wilshere instead of Song (the ideal being Paddy at age 24) then we'd have a hell of a team.
I do think Arsenal fans underestimate the qualities of some of our own players; I do think that, despite the collapse at the end of last season, the current squad is very good and could, with a bit of luck and a tweak in style (and fortitude), pick up a trophy. I don't think it needs major surgery - a bit more time, and as Arsene said today, 'one or two more' important cogs in the team, and there would be every reason for optimism.
And that would be true even if Nasri is sold.