Arsenal Transfer News and Rumours Tracker: Week of February 10
A less-than-abject performance in the 5-1 defeat to Liverpool on February 8 has left Arsene Wenger and the club's fans scrambling for any kind of purchase that will put their season, firmly, back on track. For Wenger and his team, that means welcoming crisis-club Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium on February 11.
For the fans, they need to see their team put in a performance of real conviction and magnitude. It also means, however, that they want to see their team linked with the kind of players they weren't linked with during the winter window.
The transfer window may be closed, but that hasn't stopped players being linked with transfers, both in and out of the club.
Here, Bleacher Report brings you your weekly dose of transfer rumors, gossip and stories surrounding Arsenal. Be sure to check back later in the week for any further developments.
—LAST UPDATE: Friday, February 14—
Arsene Wenger Is a "Specialist in Failure", Says Jose Mourinho
Friday, February 14
There was no love lost on St. Valentines day as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger waded into each other.
Wenger was first out of the blocks with his usual Friday press conference for Arsenal's official website.
The Frenchman claimed that the Premier League was Chelsea's to lose when he said, "it is very open, only Chelsea can lose it because they are in front and all the other teams can win it."
He then went one step further with an obvious dig at Mourinho. The Blues' boss has constantly played down Chelsea's title chances during this extremely tight season. Wenger said that managers say this when they are afraid to fail.
He then added:
If you're not in the race you cannot lose it, if you declare yourself not in the race you cannot lose it, it's as simple as that. I think just that our job is to be ambitious and to try to win, and if we do not win to take full responsibility for that.
Jose was, given his character, understandably upset and, never one to let sleeping horses lie, lashed back with a most venomous press conference retort, as per by BBC.
If he is right and I am afraid of failure, it is because I didn't fail many times.
Eight years without silverware, that's failure.
He's (Wenger) a specialist in failure.
If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave and don't come back.
The two managers have a long running feud that goes back almost 10 years.
As the Premier League season turns towards its final straight, it would appear that the gloves are well and truly off.
If this is the opening salvo between the respective managers, prepare for fireworks when Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea on March 22.
Arsenal Fans Could Boycott Bayern Munich Champions League Clash
Friday, February 14
While FC Bayern Munich endear themselves, even further to their beloved fans, by subsidizing their trip to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal's fans have taken a different tact and may actually boycott the match all together.
The Daily Mail is reporting that Arsenal fans are being asked to stump up to a whopping £132 to watch their team take on the German giants in the Champions League round of 16 clash.
The english daily then claims that season tickets are the most expensive in the Premier League. It quotes Steven Maxwell, who already pays £1,995 for his season ticket, as saying;
I take no pleasure in doing this (not going to the match). It’s like fighting with a loved one. Arsenal are like a girlfriend who doesn’t love you back.
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust spokesman Tim Payton also told the paper:
We are very concerned. Season-ticket holders have already paid up to £2,000 in advance — the highest in world football. Their commitment deserves better. Arsenal’s grasping approach will have a detrimental effect on the noise in the ground, harming the team’s chances for an important game.
Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal’s chief executive) promised that when commercial revenues rose it would reduce ticket price increases. To date, those are just empty words.
To rub further salt into Arsenal's fans wounds, in mid-January, the Daily Mail revealed that Bayern were going to subsidize their fans' tickets for the match.
Instead of paying €75 for the privilege of watching the game at the Emirates, the 2,974 travelling Bayern fans will only have to pay €45. The Munich based club decided to subsidize the trip, to the tune of €90,000, as a thank you to their fans.
In a message posted on the club's website on Wednesday, as per the Daily Mail, they said:
For the 2,974 tickets made available by Arsenal, we have received 18,000 orders. The ticket price asked by Arsenal is £62 (€75) each.
The terrific support of the fans lifted Bayern [last year]. Particularly noteworthy is the large number of Bayern fans who not only supported the highlights, but were at every game.
The fact is that this loyalty at such a high number of games does not only take up a great deal of time, but it also tears a big hole in the wallet.
Bayern has therefore decided to subsidise the tickets for the away game at Arsenal with nearly €90,000.
Thus every Bayern fan who buy a ticket for the game in London on February 19 will pay only €45 (instead of the regular €75).
This is intended as a small thank you for your great support in 2013.
There is little doubt that Arsenal could learn a thing or three from Bayern given the evidence at hand.
Arsene Wenger Met with Mario Balotelli's Agent to Discuss £25M Transfer
Thursday, February 13
Fresh off the back of another disappointing performance and result that had left Arsenal's fans booing their team off the pitch, Mediaset, h/t the Metro, has, perhaps, put a perk in their step by linking the Gunners with an end-of-season move for AC Milan's Mario Balotelli.
The tube-goers favorite free newspaper is reporting that Arsene Wenger met with Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola, to discuss a transfer during the summer with Arsenal's new sponsors, Puma, tipped to finance the transfer in some part.
Balotelli is not the prototype for an Arsene Wenger or Arsenal-type player. The 23-year-old has courted the media and trouble in equal measure during his eight years as a professional footballer.
In 54 Premier League matches with Manchester City over the course of two-and-a-half tiresome seasons at Manchester City, the Italian international scored 20 goals. It is worth noting that he rarely finished the matches he started and that he was sprung from the bench 21 times according to Soccerbase.
His time at AC Milan has fared better with the striker bagging an impressive 21 goals in 30 matches. However, as always with Balotelli when he is on form he is unplayable in the best way possible, but when he is off form he is unplayable in the worst way possible.
It is well known that Arsenal needs a new striker as competition to Olivier Giroud.
It remains to be seen if that player is Balotelli.
Wenger would be far better suited buying a cheaper player with less baggage than the inconsistent forward.
Lukas Podolski: I Left Bayern Munich Too Soon
Thursday, February 13
With the Champions League round of 16 game against Bayern Munich just around the corner, the last thing that Arsenal fans would have wanted to hear is Lukas Podolski saying he should have never left Bayern.
Speaking in Germany's Sport Bild magazine, as per the Guardian, Podolski said he would have never left if Jupp Heynckes had of joined Bayern a couple of seasons earlier. He said:
I believe that if Jupp Heynckes had arrived one or two weeks earlier in 2009, I would probably still be at Bayern now.
Podolski has rarely featured for the Gunners this season because of injury. With Arsene Wenger's choices for the wide midfield positions limited of late, he could find himself a serious contender to play against Munich.
However, should the German international appear star-struck about Germany's biggest club, he will find a place on the bench very quickly.
Hugo Lloris Laughs off Link
Wednesday, February 12
Tottenham Hotspur's Hugo Lloris moved to distance himself from Olivier Giroud's recent comments linking him with a desire to play for Arsenal.
The French shot-stopper told Spurs' official website that he found the comments embarrassing.
I think maybe some words were twisted, but it is embarrassing. I don't think that, I'm very focused on Spurs' ambition and I am very pleased to play for Spurs.
I have too much respect for the Club and the Spurs fans to think that kind of thing. Of course I know him very well because we are teammates in the national team - the same with Laurent Koscielny - but I am a Spurs player and I'm very proud to play here.
Given the form of both teams at present, the North London derby on March 16 will be an absolutely massive game, and Lloris is sure to play a key role.
Arsenal Checking out Wolfsburg's Central Midfielder Maximilian Arnold
Tuesday, February 11
Wolfburg's Maximilian Arnold is one of the hottest talents in the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old central midfielder has scored six goals in just 14 games this season. However, his main attributes are his ability to cover ground at great pace and how he links defense with attack.
The Daily Mirror is reporting that Arsenal and Juventus are tracking the German U-21 international. The English daily also reports that Arnold has a buy-out clause from his contract for just £8 million.
The fact that Juve are interested in the midfielder will send out worrying signals to Arsene Wenger. Paul Pogba has been sensational for the Old Lady this season and has been linked with a return to Manchester United by the Daily Star.
If Juve are following the midfielder it could be as a successor to Pogba. Arsenal do not need any more central midfielders at this particular time. However, Wenger may be interested in the fact that the pacy player can also play wide on the right.
Arsene Wenger Side Steps Robin Van Persie Return to Arsenal Question, for Now...
Tuesday, February 11
In the build up to the crisis club derby between Arsenal and Manchester United, Arsene Wenger was forced to side step media questions about Robin van Persie returning to the Emirates in the future.
The question was strange and mischievous on the eve of the all-important game. As the pressure mounts for both teams and managers, the last thing needed was any extra firewood needed for the Arsenal-Manchester United bonfire.
Speaking to the media ahead of the crunch clash, Wenger is quoted by Mirror Sport as side stepping the van Persie to Arsenal question by saying:
Look, I don't think that is an ideal subject for us to treat today.
I think it is best we don't talk about it at the moment...
Van Persie left the Gunners in 2012 having scored 96 goals in 194 Premier League matches. He joined arch-rivals Manchester United as the English top-flight's top scorer and picked up from where he left off as he guided the Red Devils to last season's title.
Now with 18-months left on his contract, according to Transfermarkt, he could become a viable option for Arsenal.
The Dutch international will be 33 at the beginning of his next contract, so a move to Arsenal looks unlikely, but not impossible.
Wenger, however, was more inclined to talk up his team and how he expected them to respond against David Moyes' struggling side.
It's always a disappointment to lose a game, but I think it was an accident because we have been very stable defensively and we have to treat it like that.
Look we just come back from 10 games unbeaten run. You cannot consider one game as the trend, the pattern of our season. It's an accident, not a welcome [one] of course, a very disappointing one, but a successful season is decided by how you respond to that.
His choice of words is remarkable because he has chosen to write off the defeat to Liverpool as "an accident."
This is a psychological tactic by the Frenchman as he tries to repair the obvious damage the loss will have caused. If his stance works and Arsenal beat United, all will be forgotten.
However, if they lose, he will come under increasing pressure and with his team facing Liverpool and Bayern Munich over the next two games, he will come under increasing fire.
Olivier Giroud: Hugo Lloris Would Join Arsenal
Monday, February 10
The paper quotes the Gunners' World Cup-bound centre forward as saying:
We go out together and talk about everything. We talk about life and sometimes the French team a bit and our wish to have a great experience together at the World Cup.
Have I asked him to join Arsenal? Yes, I have with Lolo (Laurent Koscielny).
He would have liked to, he would quite like to.
You will have to ask him the question.
Whether Giroud was just being mischievous has yet to be determined.
He did, however, also add that he thought France were going to win the World Cup in Brazil...
Fans Facing Transport Chaos as Tube Strike Looms
Monday, February 10
The Premier League's midweek fixtures could take a real battering if a proposed tube strike goes ahead over the next 48 hours.
Matt Barlow reported in the Daily Mail that the London Underground workers in the RMT union are set to strike. Barlow writes:
London Underground workers in the for 48 hours from 9.30pm tomorrow (TUE) which will disrupt the network and complicate journeys for supporters, starting with those heading home after West Ham’s relegation scrap against Norwich at Upton Park tomorrow.
Those bound for Arsenal v Manchester United and Fulham v Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday will also be hit.
A spokesperson for Arsenal said:
The match still going ahead at present, but we are in constant liaison with all relevant authorities.
Similar to last week's strike, we understand some parts of the tube network will still be running.
We are urging fans to plan their journeys and leave plenty of time.
RMT union leader Bob Crow is adamant that this week's strike will go ahead, even though he apologized for last week's strike. RMT workers walked off the job last Tuesday night and returned to normal duty on Friday morning.
The BBC are reporting that the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has decided not to meet with RMT. This stance has drawn stern criticism from Islington South and Finsbury MP, Emily Thornbury.
Speaking to BBC's Week in Politics she condemned Johnson for not meeting Crow, by saying:
It's just the most ridiculous bit of willy-waving I've ever seen. It's macho nonsense.
The strike surrounds the "Transport for London" initiative that will ultimately see the loss of over 1,000 jobs on the tube-line, to a saving of around £50 million per year going forward.
Crow explained his union's stance on the matter:
The strike is on Tuesday night unless the company (TfL) move their position.
They can't expect our union just to get a letter saying 950 jobs are going.
We want the company to sit down and take the pressure off. We remove the threat to strike and they remove the threat to take staff off the platforms.
Talks between RMT and TfL are ongoing but look set to interfere with match transport for thousands of fans.
Mikel Arteta: I've Never Seen Wenger so Angry
Monday, February 10
The aftershock from Saturday's shattering defeat to Liverpool are still reverberating around Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta, utterly inept in midfield against the Reds, revealed to the press core, as per the Guardian, that Arsene Wenger was incandescent with rage following their dreadful performance at Anfield. The Spaniard said:
We have had two big crises already.I think the Manchester United defeat was a different game to this, but City and this one are really hard to take.
We have to react because there is nothing we can do about this now.
We know we need to improve and face those games in a different manner because after 19 minutes we were 4-0 down and it was like a car crash. The manager was really upset at half-time, that's normal because it wasn't good enough for this football club.
It was the angriest I have seen him.
If Arteta does not want to see this side of Wenger again, he will urge his team to put in a performance befitting of the club.
Arsenal Chasing Gareth Barry
Sunday, February 9
Being linked with another central midfielder is not exactly the news that Arsenal fans wanted to read or hear following the harrowing defeat to Liverpool.
But if there is one thing that Arsene Wenger likes collecting as much as Pokemon, it's midfielders.
The paper alleges that Wenger tried to sign Barry on loan from City this summer. City, however, refused to deal with the Gunners as they deemed them title rivals and Barry went to Everton instead.
The 32-year-old English international has been excellent for the Toffees this term and has formed a formidable partnership with James McCarthy at the heart of their midfield. When he initially signed, it was felt he was brought in as mere back-up for Darron Gibson and McCarthy. However, Gibson ruptured his ACL while on international duty with Ireland in October, as per the Independent. The ex-Manchester United star will be out until this summer at least.
Barry, to his great credit, has become an important part of Roberto Martinez's team in Gibson's absence and the ex-Wigan Athletic manager would be mad not to try and make him a permanent addition to the squad.
Everton, however, will not be in a position to compete on a financial basis with Arsenal.
Barry would be a solid addition to the Gunners' ranks, but it would surely be at the expense of Mikel Arteta, who has started to look weary of late. Barry is not exactly the most mobile of players, but he is swifter than Arteta and offers a far more physical presence than the uncapped Spaniard.
This isn't exactly the kind of news that will perk Arsenal fans up as they head towards the crunch midweek clash with Manchester United and the Champions League battle with FC Bayern Munich.
In a week where the transfer rumors surrounding Arsenal haven't been all that great, the best news, perhaps, is that, according to the Telegraph, Franck Ribery might miss the crucial first leg for Bayern after having surgery on his buttocks.
Arsene Wenger Targets Fabian Schar
Sunday, February 9
According to Mirror Sport, Arsenal are now facing losing their long-term defensive target Fabian Schar to Barcelona.
The Catalan giants are rumored to be chasing the 22-year-old FC Basel prospect and see the talented defender as a possible replacement for 35-year-old Carles Puyol.
In December, the Metro reported that Arsenal were very interested in acquiring the Swiss international centre-back. The daily quoted his agent, Dimitrios Papadopoulos, as saying:
He is happy at Basle, where there is a great atmosphere within the club.
Arsenal? I can confirm we have had contact with English clubs who want to sign him.
There is also interest from Italian and German clubs, but we have more contact from England.
The World Cup-bound defender is valued at €6 million according to Transfermarkt. Switzerland have been drawn in for the World Cup in Brazil this coming summer. There, they will face France, Ecuador and Honduras.
If truth be told, the Swiss are expected to progress to the knockout stages, and Schar will play a major role. His valuation could double or triple following some good performances on the game's greatest stage and Arsenal would be wise to get in early before the trickle of interest in the player becomes a flood.
Arsene Wenger: We Need to Answer Questions Against Manchester United
Saturday, February 8
Arsene Wenger didn't pull any punches in his post match press conference with the BBC after the 5-1 loss to Liverpool.
The Frenchman is one of the only managers on the circuit to answer every question put to him. If his team thought he would go easy on them following their humiliating performance, they had another thing coming.
The performance overall was poor on concentration and pace and our defensive stability was very poor. We always looked vulnerable defensively so it is congratulations to Liverpool. They were the best team and we were very, very poor.
We conceded two early goals on set-pieces and then you are in a position where you have to come out, but we knew we had to be focused and at that kind of level. Our overall performance was just not good enough.
We are very disappointed, but let's not lose our confidence and belief that we can do it.
It raises questions that we have to answer on Wednesday night. I still think we can win the league because mathematically it is possible.
It is always what you make of a defeat that decides your future. We have a lot to answer and a lot of answers to find.
It is perhaps better I don't talk too much and get on and respond well against Manchester United on Wednesday because I include myself in that performance.
His team needs to respond against Manchester United, who are looking for a big response too having drawn 2-2 with Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Arsenal, after leading the Premier League table and playing well for so long, now find they are behind Chelsea and are neck-and-neck with Manchester City. Liverpool are just five points behind them and Tottenham Hotspur, who have had a terrible season, are just three points off the Reds.
Ex-Spurs boss Harry Redknapp told TalkSport that he wouldn't be surprised to see his old team finish above Arsenal come May.
With 13 games to go and with Man United next up for the Gunners, the race is well and truly on.
Bacary Sagna Eyeing a Move to Galatasaray?
Friday, February 7
At the pre-match press conference for the humiliating loss to Liverpool, Arsene Wenger told the waiting media, as per the Daily Telegraph, that he wanted Bacary Sagna to stay at the club after his current deal runs out in June. Wenger said:
I believe his future is here and any other decision would be wrong. Because he is a defender we are ready to give him more than one year.
I would like him to sign just now, but I have to accept it. It is his freedom, the decision belongs to him.
He wants to keep his options open, because he is at the end of a contract. It is an important contract for him.
He is 31 years old (on Feb. 14). I can understand. I hope that in the end, I am right, but we are not close at the moment.
The Gunners are said to have offered the soon to be 31-year-old French international a two-year £70,000 per week deal to stay at the club. Sagna, however, is looking for a three-year deal and is monitoring a move to Turkey with Galatasaray. The income tax rate for high earners is just 13 percent in Turkey, according to the Telegraph, compared to 45 percent in England, as per MSN Money.
Losing a player of Sagna's quality would be a big blow to Arsenal because he is the undoubted first-choice right-back at the club as well as a reserve centre-back.
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