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New Cash-Happy Arsenal Set to Buy Huntelaar after Sealing Big Sponsor Deal?

The big news of last week for Arsenal was that they signed a contract extension with Emirates that will total 150 million pounds over the course of five years to keep the airline company’s name on the front of Arsenal jerseys.  For the Gunners this is a huge financial bonus that has fans crying for manager Arsene Wenger to buy some new additions to the squad.  Almost immediately after the big money move for the club was announced, it seemed rumors began to spread that Arsenal may be looking to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.  Personally, I see this as the perfect move for both the player and team.

Huntelaar is a wonderful Dutch striker playing for Schalke 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga.  Last season he scored an astounding 48 goals in 47 total matches in all competitions.  He led the Budesliga with 29 goals, and helped his side reach the UEFA Champions League.  Facing Arsenal in the tournament’s group stage, Huntelaar scored twice in two matches, and his team earned four points off of the Gunners to take control of their group.  Apparently he caught the eye of Wenger in those games.

With his contract set to expire at season’s end, a move seems perfect.  Arsenal needs to replace striker Robin van Persie, now of Manchester United.  Huntelaar has always been the number two man for the Netherlands in international matches, and if he could become the new top man in England, he might just usurp that position.  He would have every opportunity to compete against his compatriot, and if he led Arsenal to glory, what Dutch coach could deny his starting role?  This is the perfect way for Huntelaar to emerge from Van Persie’s shadow!

For Arsenal the move is a no-brainer as well. Although the team recently purchased forwards Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud over the summer, only Giroud is a true striker.  And Giroud even stated upon arriving at the club that he didn’t intend to replace Van Persie.  Giroud is a good striker with a large stature, but currently Arsenal has no real depth behind him.  The option used so far this season has been the erratic Gervinho, whose play is best suited for the wing.

Think of the strikers at Arsenal’s competitors: Manchester City houses Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, and Carlos Tevez (4 world-class strikers!).  United boast a forward trio of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and Javier Hernandez.  Arsenal just has Giroud.

After their grand announcement of the new Emirates deal, the team stumbled to a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa.  Goal scoring has been a touchy subject for the Gunners this season.  They are tied for just fifth in the EPL with 23 goals from 13 matches.  This is the same mark as teams like West Bromwich, Everton, and Tottenham; not the stuff you’d expect from a team with a history like Arsenal.

Huntelaar brings experience and talent to the team.  He has been described by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, as the “best player in the world, bar none (in the penalty box).”  At age 29, he is in his absolute prime and has played for many prestigious clubs including Real Madrid and AC Milan.  If he brings his talents to North London, Arsenal could once again have a fearsome attack, and Huntelaar may well be on his way to earning a starting spot for his national team.  Although Schalke may hold onto him until summer based on their good Champions League form, Huntelaar would be wise to join Arsenal sometime soon.

Who Had the Best 2012 Sumer Transfer Season?

The transfer window officially closed this past Friday so it is now time to observe which European clubs were best improved.  This is an inexact science and only time will surely tell who which clubs have benefited the most, but the following three clubs look to have emerged on this side of summer in the best shape.

1.  PSG – Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the most famous of the French club’s incoming transfers and is sure to bring world-class ability to the attack at PSG.  Having played at Inter Milan, Barcelona, and AC Milan, as well as amassing 80 appearances internationally for Sweden, Ibrahimovic is as good as they come and should help take PSG to the next level.  Also arriving at the club were experienced Brazilian center back Thiago Silva and the exciting Argentinean talent Ezequiel Lavezzi.   Further, they signed a young 19 year-old named Marco Verratti, a creative midfielder who has been compared to Andrea Pirlo.  Expect PSG to dominate France’s Ligue 1 and make some noise in the UEFA Champions League.

2. Manchester City – Although it was a rather quiet summer until just a few days ago, Manchester City showed again why having infinite funds is so much fun for assembling a squad.  They decided to buy up a great deal of young English talent with Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell.  Sinclair, a winger, has been an integral part of the recent success for Swansea City.  Rodwell came through the ranks at Everton as a defensive midfielder and has recently been called up to the England national side.  They also bought Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia from Benfica and young Serbian defender, Matija Nastasic.  Finally, they purchased right back Maicon from Inter Milan, a veteran right back.  Although most of these signings will be seen as projects, the club is already an incredible squad and they have displayed a strong desire to build for the future.  Last year’s Premier League champions were also to hold onto all their stars so they have merely improved.

3.  Manchester United – They basically upgraded two positions that they were already strong in with buying two superstars.  They offloaded struggling Dimitar Berbatov and brought in the EPL’s best striker Robin van Persie.  The Dutchman had a world class hat trick this weekend and probably could have scored 6 if he had converted a penalty and scored a few of the other numerous opportunities that he just missed.  Also, the club bought Shinji Kagawa, a wonderful Japanese midfielder who has been impressive in Germany for Borussia Dortmund.  The great thing for this team is that they didn’t sell anyone of note.  Yes, their midfield is aging and they should have bought some more youth there, but Giggs and Scholes are still quality and their strikers are the best in the world now between Van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Many teams bought and sold players this summer, and although many teams will feel that they improved, those teams were also guilty of selling their best players.  Chelsea, for example is thrilled with new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar, but legendary striker Didier Drogba left the club.   Players like these will be missed and their former clubs will have to make do without them.  Therefore, since Man United, Man City, and PSG retained their best players and merely upgraded by purchasing great talent, I felt that they had the most successful 2012 summer transfer season.


Sceptical about Van Persie Transfer

It has just been announced that Manchester United have agreed a £22 million transfer deal with Arsenal for Robin Van Persie.  RVP will receive a staggering £200,000 per week for his services!

A lot of United fans are hailing this as a fantastic signing, but personally I’m not so sure…I can see another Berbertov on the horizon.

Van Persie is a great striker there is no denying that; winning the Premier League golden boot with an impressive 30 goals last season, however this is a player with some “baggage” attached.

Firstly he is extremely injury prone, since joining Arsenal in 2004 he has been injury an incredible 27 times, and has meant an average of only 26 starts per season.  Based on his history, and the fact that he is already 29, I can’t see him even making it to Christmas before he picks up his first injury at United.  See a complete list of Van Persie’s Arsenal injury list at the bottom of this article.

Secondly he has a bad attitude, he has shown with both the Dutch national team and with Arsenal that he likes to stir up dressing room discontent, play the blame game when the chips are down, and give unauthorized interviews airing the teams dirty laundry.  He will quickly find that at Manchester United this kind of attitude is not tolerated at which point he will either change, which seems unlikely, or follow Berbertov on the fast-track to no where.

Hopefully Van Persie will prove me wrong by staying injury free and continuing to bang in 30 odd goals a year; but I think it’s more likely that he will be continually injured until he slowly fades into the history books.

Robin Van Persie Injury Record List

Groin Strain 2012 February 29th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2011 August 7th
Knee Injury 2011 February 28th
Hamstring Injury 2011 February 22nd
Flu 2011 February 8th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2010 August 28th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2010 June 1st
Sprained Ankle 2009 November 14th
Knee Injury 2009 September 13th
Groin Strain 2009 April 18th
Groin Strain 2009 March 30th
Hamstring Injury 2008 October 6th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2008 August 31st
Thigh Muscle Strain 2008 May 2nd
Thigh Muscle Strain 2008 April 4th
Thigh Muscle Strain 2008 January 11th
Thigh Muscle Strain 2007 December 24th
Knee Injury 2007 October 18th
Metatarsal Fracture 2007 January 22nd
Ankle/Foot Injury 2006 November 19th
Hip/Thigh Injury 2006 September 14th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2006 February 10th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2005 December 22nd
Knee Injury 2005 October 17th
Ankle/Foot Injury 2005 February 5th
Sprained Ankle 2004 November 26th
Sprained Ankle 2004 August 27th

Will New-Look Tottenham Survive?

Tottenham Hotspurs had the unfortunate result of finishing fourth in the English Premier League last season.  Due to Chelsea’s victorious Champions League campaign, the Blues received the final English seat in next year’s tournament, although they finished behind Spurs.  Tottenham was relegated to the Europa League tournament for this season.  Such a sad way to end a once-promising season looks to result in some drastic changes in the team.

Anguished stars Luka Modric, Jermain Defoe, and Rafael van der Vaart could very well depart the club after missing out on a vital Champions League spot.  Modric is currently being linked to Real Madrid in Spain and looks set to leave, especially considering how badly he had wanted to transfer last summer.  How will Spurs deal with the loss of their best midfielder?

Ever since Emmanuel Adebayor has signed permanently, the speculation regarding Jermain Defoe’s exit has grown.  Defoe is aging and is likely to lose that speed that he built his career from.  Adebayor is a menace on his day, but his attitude has to be questioned due to the sheer number of clubs he has moved among in his career.

Rafael van der Vaart has been linked with a return to his former club Hamburg, but money looks to be a serious issue for the transfer to materialize.  New manager Andre Villas-Boas has urged the Dutchman to stay with the club, but once again the lack of a Champions League opportunity could sway the midfielder’s mind.

A greater concern to the club will be the new manager himself.  Former boss Harry Redknapp had propelled the team to the brink of greatness and was simply unlucky to not earn his team a Champions League spot due to the Chelsea victory.  The squad he had assembled was among the best in the EPL, and the team was in the hunt for the league crown for much of the season.

Now that Villas-Boas is in charge, how will the team respond?  Clearly his stay with Chelsea last season erupted in flames as the players had rude farewells following his firing.  Given how the team seemed to rally around his departure, I find the signing rather strange but perhaps he can spark some magic like he did with Porto two long seasons ago.

However the transfer season pans out, we will have a new Tottenham next season.  The club has enjoyed a successful stint in the last few years, but now the team will be under extra pressure to take the next step.  The new boss will need his club to come out strong and prove that the manager switch was the correct move, or else he could very well endure his second sacking in two seasons.

Which Youngster Shined Brightest at EURO 2012

In addition to being perennial stomping grounds for Spain, major international tournaments like EURO 2012 can serve as proving grounds for young professionals to gain fame and secure transfers to major clubs.  With much of the world tuned in, those few games are often the most vital of any young player’s career.

Recently, players like Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil, Andrey Arshavin, and Alexi Sanchez featured in major tournaments and earned big money moves to clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.  EURO 2012 also enabled a new crop of young professionals to shine, and a few are likely to embark on a similar path as their successful predecessors.

One such player is Alan Dzagoev from Russia.  Already a key man at CSKA Moscow, the 22 year old burst onto the international scene scoring three goals in Russia’s first two EURO 2012 matches.  Unfortunately, a loss to Greece in the final match resulted in Russia’s elimination even though they had a better goal differential.  Thus the tournament was cut short for Dzagoev, but he clearly drew notice from a host of major clubs and has already been linked with Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United.

Alan Dzagoev is an attacking midfielder and would improve any team with his smart passing and deft finishing.  At such a young age, he could develop into a world famous star if he seals a move to the right club.

Another exciting new player at EURO 2012 was Mathieu Debuchy of France.  The Lille right back had an outstanding performance against England in the country’s tournament opener which clearly drew interest from the English Premier League.  Earlier this year, Debuchy was heavily linked with Newcastle, but now it seems as if Chelsea or possibly even Inter Milan are set to swoop in and lure the player to a bigger club.

Chelsea would be a fantastic place for the Frenchmen where he could linkup with his former Lille team mate, Eden Hazard.  The tandem led Lille to a Ligue 1 championship in 2011 and would love the opportunity to help Chelsea improve upon their recent league troubles.  Debuchy’s attacking prowess makes him an intriguing talent.

Probably the most exciting player to emerge from EURO 2012 was Jordi Alba of Spain.  Alba was able to start each match at left back for the Spanish side after an injury to Carlos Puyol.  Those expecting a drop in quality were horribly mistaken.  Alba’s speed and technical skill helped Spain lift the trophy.  In addition to excellent defending, Alba also had an assist against France and a wonderful goal against Italy in the final.  He made a daring 60 yard run out from his own half and collected a brilliant Xavi pass and eased the ball into the net like a classy veteran.

Barcelona has already gobbled up this talent just last week, but we can expect lots of chatter about the destination of Dzagoev and Debuchy.  For these players, EURO 2012 was a tremendous success.  The soccer world will soon become quite accustomed to their names.

Arsenal’s Summer Transfers Suggest Possible Formation Change

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is usually cautious and slow during the summer transfer period.  He rarely makes big splashes in the market and prefers to recruit small name youngsters with big time potential.  This summer he seems to be singing a different tune and has already made two big buys in forwards Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.  This influx of strikers suggests to me that Wenger is prepared to divert from the current 4-3-3 formation in order to best use his new toys.

The 4-3-3 houses a lone striker with two supporting wingers on the flanks.  Clearly captain Robin van Persie is first choice for that role, but the club has suffered recently as he is depended upon too greatly for goals.  I think that the future of this Arsenal side may see the classic 4-4-2 makeup which gives Van Persie more support up top.

Both Podolski and Giroud could thrive as supporting strikers.  Additionally, Arsenal could ask Theo Walcott to join the foray up top.  Walcott has often times struggled on the wing since his delivery on crosses tends to be rather poor.  In a more advanced role, he could utilize his speed to make quick runs and get more looks at goal. Also he would have more opportunities to make smaller passes forward inside rather than big crosses from outside.

Arsenal has suffered from mistakes at the back and the 4-4-2 formation would also add more support for thwarting counter attacks.  With an extra body in midfield, more emphasis would be placed on defense and would strengthen the side.

Arsenal could better utilize their midfield players here too.  Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could well thrive in outside midfielder roles where they could be better placed to help the attack from ventures forward while knowing their compatriots are behind for support.

Jack Wilshire and Alex Song could well hold down the center and distribute from within while slowing down the opposition.  The 4-3-3 was a smart option when Cesc Fabregas was pulling the strings in midfield, but he is gone now and the formation needs to adjust.

I feel the general problem with Arsenal recently has been that the two wingers are often stranded and rarely make a difference in matches.  We have all seen the woes of Andrey Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner, and Marouane Chamakh as evidence.

With their impending departures and the arrival of both Podolski and Giroud, I sense that Wenger is looking for a striking duo up top.  These players would have more of a physical presence in front of the goal and would take some of the weight off of Robin van Persie.  Both players are coming off of prolific years in Germany and France, and will be looking for ways to get on the field and score goals.  If they are left out wide, I fear they will be under-utilized.  Perhaps Arsene Wenger is set to alter Arsenal’s look to a 4-4-2 for the upcoming season.

Disappointing Transfer Deadline

nicokrajcarWith the likes of Berbatov and Robinho being signed within minutes of the transfer deadline last year the deadline has become quite an anticipated event.  Many football TV shows and websites run live deadline coverage, with up to the minute news.

This year it was a bit of an anti climate with none of the “big four” making any last minute moves and no real superstar players being signed.  As a United fan I was a bit disappointed, I know Sir Alex had said there would be no further signing this summer, but I had thought this might just be a ploy to throw others off his trail.  I think United could have really used at last one “game changing” player to come into the squad, and I’m starting to wonder if that Ronaldo money was really available, or if the Glazers are bleeding the club dry.

It seems Spurs did the best on deadline day with the signing of Nico Kranjcar.  I had previous mentioned that Kranjcar was unhappy at Portsmouth and only had 1 year left on his contract, so when Luca Modric broke his leg it’s no surprise the Harry Redknapp swooped in for Kranjcar’s signature.  I’m starting to worry that Spurs could be a real force to contend with this season.

Another of the more notable signings was Richard Dunne from Manchester City to Aston Villa.  I would say that for a bottom-half-of-the-table club trying to break into the top half, this would be a good signing.  But I thought Villa’s goal was to break into the top 4?  Manchester City would seem to be one of Villas direct rivals this season, so I can’t understand buying a player who has been pushed onto the bench of your rivals?  Maybe Martin O’Neil thinks he can get something better out of Dunne…I’m not so sure there’s anything extra to get…

Pascal Chimbonda; Premier League’s nomad

pascal chimbonda 2009Tottenham have just announced that Pascal Chimbonda will be switching teams again.  This will be his 5th transfer to a Premier League team in the last 4 years!  The latest destination on his tour of England is Blackburn, with Rovers reportedly ready to pay a £2million transfer fee.

It’s hardly surprising that another switch was on the card seeing as Tottenham now have Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back, who’s looking like a top class player, and also Gareth Bale as a backup.  It seems unlike that Chimbonda would get much game time at all.

All the moving around has got to take a toll on a player and it appears to have taken a toll on Chimbonda, who has seen both his first team appearances and transfer fees eroded.  In 2006 he was worth £4.5 million from Wigan to Tottenham, now his value has been cut in half.

2005–2006		Wigan Athletic 2006–2008		Tottenham Hotspur 2008–2009		Sunderland 2009–2009		Tottenham Hotspur 2009–????		Blackburn Rovers

Vidic set to stay at United

Nemanja Vidic pledges to stay at UnitedIt’s always worrying when transfer talk starts to consistently circulate about a key player.  And recently there have been numerous stories about Nemanja Vidic leaving Manchester United.  The most recent reported destination was Barcelona; AC Milan and Real Madrid have also been mentioned.

There have also been reports that Vidic’s wife is unhappy in Manchester; but I’m not sure how true this story can be if she managed to live in Moscow before coming to the UK.

Vidic has put the gossip to bed by clearly stating that he will be staying at United for at least this season.

United need Vidic for at least this season; they have some great prospects coming through with Johnny Evans already proving last season that he is a top level center back and ready for first team football.  The red devils also have Craig Cathcart and Johnny’s brother Corry Evans who also look like quality players, but still learning their trade.

There are always a few transfer rumors about top class players, it’s what sells newspapers, but the talk about Vidic does seem to be above average, and I have a feeling he will not be with United forever.

Burnley sign Bikey, Liverpool sign who…?

Bikey versus LiverpoolYou know finances are tight at Anfield when newly promoted side Burnley are able to out spend them in the transfer market.  Burnley have confirmed the signing of Andre Bikey from Reading for a reported fee of around £2.8million.

Meanwhile over in Liverpool, where as demonstrated against Tottenham the defensive squad depth is seriously depleted, Rafa has been given a shocking £1.5million transfer limit.  Given the fact that Liverpool have sold a number of players it actually equates to them having no transfer budget at all, only being able to spend funds generated from player sales.

Reportedly Liverpool are about to announce the signing of 30 year old Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos from AEK Athens.  I had said Rafa was gambling by bring in Aquilani, but now he really seems to be snatching at straws to fill the gaping whole in his defensive squad.

I think Burnley have made a good move for Bikey, he may not be the best defender, but he has premier league experience, he is powerful and will not be pushed around by any team.  He also managed to grab a few clutch goals for Reading when they were in the premier league, and is a good offensive asset for set pieces.

As a Manchester United fan I just can’t help grinning at the news that keeps coming out of Anfield.