Neither of them travelled to Portugal
One week to go to the first League match and it is now clear that Arsenal's pre-season preparations are in meltdown. Cesc Fabregas has not flown to Lisbon to play against Benfica tonight but Wenger admits he is NOT injured. Arsene's contention is that he is not fit enough to play, but that he's not hampered by anything. Sorry, but I am now totally confused. I suppose, having had the entire nation see Fabregas gambolling around the pitch on Thursday Wenger could no longer claim he had a "muscular problem." I am completely flabbergasted, however, by the idea that he is not fit enough to play. How exactly is he supposed to get fit if he doesn't take part in a match or two? The lies that are spewing forth from the Arsenal management are reaching whole new depths. How about a little bit of honesty now and again? The facts would seem to be that Fabregas is about to join Barcelona, so why not just admit that we're trying to do a deal, while adding the necessary caveats about the right price etc being agreed? I'm sure we'd all be happy enough with that.
The famed "muscular" injury appears to be a contagious problem as it has been passed to Samir Nasri. It's strange how this injury afflicts any player on the verge of leaving the Club. Maybe they do some "special" training to inflict damage to these muscles. Having said that Laurent Koscielny also has a "small muscular problem." As to which small muscle we remain in the dark. There are reports that Nasri and Wenger have had a falling-out and that this is Nasri's punishment. If it's true that there has been a row then I am certain that it is a tactic from Nasri to force a move before the transfer window closes. The claimed falling-out is alleged to have happened on the way back from China, however, thus causing me to doubt its veracity - we've played in Cologne and in the Emirates Cup since then and Nasri was involved in each (even being made Captain in the second-half againstBoca Juniors).
Meanwhile Bendtner and Eboue are also absent as they "might be on their way out of the Club." So what the hell was Eboue doing on the pitch last weekend? Why was Bendtner included in the open training session on Thursday if he is not going to play any part in the team? I am getting more and more confused as the days go by.
What of those that are genuinely injured? Well, Theo is training (we knew that because we saw him on Thursday) but he is not ready to play yet. Fair enough, a little bit of caution could go a long way with Walcott's injury record. But then there is the curious case of Jack Wilshere. Jack was taken off early on Sunday with an apparent ankle problem, but his midweek scan was positive news. Now we are hearing from Wenger that he might not make the start of the season next week - indeed it is "very difficult to set a concrete deadline on his comeback." I smell some Vermaelen/Rosicky deja vu on the horizon with this.
At least we've made plenty of new signings to augment the squad and alleviate such injury/contract/don't-want-to-play-for-Arsenal type problems. What's that you say? We haven't made a lot of signings? Oh dear. That means we really do have problems. Our problems are so acute that Ignasi Miquel has been added to the travelling party less than a week after playing in the European Championships with Spain U20s. This is the same Ignasi Miquel who was not included in the first-team squad photos taken on Thursday - but Kyle Bartley, who was, has been loaned to Rangers. Once again, there appears no logic and no strategy to our preparations.
Will we see any signings before next week? I'm not holding my breath. I'm not going to copy and paste the annoying quotes but you can read them for yourselves here. I'm afraid I can not agree with Wenger over the complications involved in buying players. The biggest problem I have with it is the "agree the fee" bit (I'll ignore the problems he claims to have in identifying the players - this should have been done months ago). Agreeing the fee is quite simple - you match the valuation of the selling Club, otherwise you can't buy the player. Liverpool haven't had too much trouble with "agreeing the fee" for players this Summer. Nor have Manchester United. If Bolton say Gary Cahill is available for £17m then that's what you have to pay, just as Barcelona have to match our asking price for Cesc - the "rules" work both ways. The reason we haven't signed Juan Mata is that we made an offer which was less than the release clause in his contract, thus giving Valencia the opportunity to reject the offer. I'm all for getting players as cheap as you can, but there is a time and a place - Arsenal's situation demands decisive action in the transfer market, and it should have been done and dusted long ago. Wenger claims there might be some "good news soon." MIGHT BE. Remember there are international matches this midweek so getting to talk to players will be next to impossible. He says we want to add "...not quality, but super quality." Ah, I wondered how long it would be before we got that old chestnut. Such claims explain fully the signings of Silvestre and Squillaci in recent years - "super quality" in abundance.
I used to love listening to Arsene Wenger
I've got all this way, and haven't even got around to mentioning the European Cup qualifiers. You often make your own luck in football, and Arsenal have certainly made theirs after the way last season finished. As a result of the capitulation in Spring 2011 we now face a tough two-legged tie against Udinese. It could have been worse, in that we have avoided Rubin Kazan, but we shouldn't be in this position. We will also be missing Robin Van Persie from the first-leg (and Nasri) after the shenanigans in Barcelona. With the first game being played at home it simply adds to the difficulty of the tie. I dread to think of the consequences should Arsenal not get through this qualifying round, they are too stark to consider at this point. I have a genuine fear that, given our first three League matches, our season could be effectively over inside the first two weeks of the season.
I am frightened at what lies ahead, and so should every Arsenal fan be.