Friday, 7 March 2014

Contract ramblings, Jack's injury and thoughts on Kallstrom, Ozil and Bendtner

It's an eventful week for an Arsenal supporter.

New juicy deals for Mertesacker and Rosicky have been agreed, and Ramsey and Cazorla could be the next. Sagna and Bendtner are edging closer to the exit door, Wenger's situation remains uncertain, Wilshere has cracked his left foot, and most importantly, one of the most exciting deals of the transfer window could be in action against Everton.

I kid, of course. Signing Kim Kallstrom is hardly a deal that would send shivers even down his own cracked spine. However, I doubt that any Arsenal supporter would positively dread watching him take to the field. Yes, he symbolizes everything wrong with Wenger's transfer policy, but I'll still look forward to what he could possibly offer to the team.

Anyway, here are my takes on the recent flurry of activities:

On Mertesacker's and Rosicky's deals...
I'm delighted. Merty, for one, has signed his last long-term contract with Arsenal, which means that his best years are secure at this club. You'd be a fool if it took you this long to understand that he's been a terrific player this season. Under the influence of Steve Bould, Per has become an expert at reading the game and intercepting dangerous passes.

I hardly need to emphasize his partnership with Laurent Koscielny as well - all I can say is that they've been superb in forming one of the most stable Arsenal backlines since the Invincibles.

However, confidence has made Mertesacker much more than just a competent defender. He's become a leader, a vocal presence and one of Arsenal's nicest guys. Although a player like Bacary Sagna, for instance, has been one of our most consistent and reliable defenders for years altogether, his silent and sombre nature has meant that Gooners have almost taken him for granted. Mertesacker's forceful and vocal nature, however, has meant that he is considered indispensable to the team.

Tomas Rosicky's signing is also a fantastic piece of business. Word has it that he has signed a 2 year contract, which means that he is almost certain to retire at Arsenal. I love the guy, his never-say-die attitude and an obsession to pass the ball forward makes him an important part of the team. He is clearly desperate to make up for lost time. His tendency to press the ball high up and put in astounding workrate game after game is a rare sight from a 33 year old.

He celebrated his new contract in fine fashion too, scoring a good goal against Norway. It goes without saying that if he can replicate this goalscoring trait in the coming three months and stay clear of injuries, he'll be one of our players of the season.

On Ramsey's and Cazorla's rumoured deals...
Arsenal are rightly tying up their key players to new deals with a hope to keep them for the foreseeable future. While Sagna's, Podolski's and Vermaelen's futures remain uncertain, players like Mertesacker, Rosicky, Koscielny, Wilshere, Gibbs, Ozil, Walcott and Chamberlain are set to stay for the next season and the one after it in all likelihood. It's delightful to add Santi and Rambo to that list.

Cazorla is awesome. While I know that he's not had much influence on our team this season due to injury (and Wenger stupidly shunning him out wide), he's just a joy to watch when in the mood. There are only so many players in the world who possess qualities like dribbling, finishing, shot power, pace and two-footedness. In a twist of cruel fate, the only other person I know with these traits is Julian Draxler.

To think that we've tied down our own Ronaldinho for our future plans leaves me salivating.

If that leaves me salivating, the news of Ramsey signing a new contract (IF the reports are accurate) would leave me choking for breath. Even though I was surprised in finding myself to be pretty much the only one unnerved by his rumoured 100K per week, I'm happy with Wenger letting go of his 'socialist' wage structure.

For the first time in a long time, players at Arsenal are not leaving the club due to money issues. The ghosts of Ashley Cole and Samir Nasri are finally disappearing.

I agree that Ramsey has undergone a transformational season. However, I'm still not sure that his superb run is one that has permanently made him a much better footballer. Seeing that he had already signed a long-term deal in December 2013, it's a bit of a financial gamble from Arsene to dish out a much juicier deal to the same player based on 6 months of form. I don't know if Ozil's high wages are forcing Wenger to give others a pay rise or that he's simply fearful of losing his key men, but either way, things are panning out positively. Oh, speaking of Ozil...

OZIL wasn't booed, Joachim Lowe was...
It's shameful to see the media relentlessly piling on Ozil's bad times by suggesting that he was the one being jeered when taken off. Ozil, on the contrary, had assisted Mario Goetze's goal and received an award before the match, why would he be booed by his own supporters then?

In an attempt to clear out another myth, I want to point out that his assist doesn't mean Arsenal are going to see inspired performances from him. Maybe Lowe's indication that Ozil might miss out on the World Cup's squad could instigate him, but I wouldn't put my money on it. Not when he's surrounded by slowcoaches like Giroud and a tactical blockhead for a manager. Still, I'll play the waiting game on this one.

Jack Wilshere won't be sorely missed...
With all due respect to Jack, I feel that his unexpected lengthy layoff won't affect Arsenal that badly. For one, we have Aaron Ramsey who is returning, not to mention Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who can be half-decent in that role. Flamini and Arteta are options as well, not to forget Abou Diaby who might return later in March.

Kim Kallstrom, dare I add, is an option as well. I know that he isn't what fans wanted (me neither), but the fact remains that his return from injury literally makes him a "new signing", and I'm instinctively excited to see how he plays. I know that I'm sounding incredibly far-fetched and optimistic, but should he put in some Flamini-esque shifts and contribute to some silverware, it'd be a fairytale story and Wenger would be held as a messiah.

Bendtner confirms, Sagna to leave as well?
After (would you believe it) a decade at Arsenal, Nicklas Bendtner has declared that he won't be extending his contract (assuming we offered him one). In one of many frank statements, Bendy said:

"I’m not going to stay at Arsenal – first team football is what I’m after. The plan is for me to move on. I’m ready for a new challenge. To keep my spot I need to play regularly."

Honestly? I'm sad to see him go. Not because I think he has a future at Arsenal, or because I consider him as apt backup to Giroud. However, ever since he scored against Cardiff, I've subconsciously extracted him out of my mind's categories of 'deadwoods' and placed him in 'memories'. I know it's a bit weird to miss an egoistical, deluded and annoying footballer, but it's just how I feel. All I can hope is that Wenger (presuming he stays) buys a much better replacement in the summer.

Elsewhere, Bacary Sagna has remained defiantly quiet. I still staunchly believe that his future depends on Arsenal winning a trophy or not, so it's kind of unpredictable to deduce if he's staying or not. While the league is dead, the FA Cup is very much on, and I'm not ruling it out. On the contrary, I'm pinning all of my hopes on it.

Fabianski, Viviano, Bendtner; three departures have been confirmed. If we don't win anything, I believe Sagna, Vermaelen and Podolski will be added to that list. With the prospect of buying 7 players in one window looking very much possible, I don't want Wenger overseeing such a busy transfer window. He fell short of 2 players in the last summer and 2 players the summer before - there's almost a guarantee we'll witness the same dithering and indecision in the next transfer window with him at the helm.

Wenger still hasn't signed a new contract; that gives me hope. However, I'm not going to pin all my hopes on that, because factors like an unpredictable board and a stubborn manager come into play. Instead, I'll put my hopes on something much more tangible - the FA Cup tie against Everton.

There's no denying that winning the FA Cup will save our season. Lose the game tomorrow, and our season finishes just like that. Win it, and we get closer to a trophy and closer to stemming an exodus.

It's time to get serious.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )