26th May 2016: Xhaka did his homework + number changes confirmed

Good evening. Some more from our brand spanking new Gunner Granit Xhaka to begin with tonight, after the midfielder revealed he’d spoken to a trio of former Arsenal stars about the club before signing.

He said:

I spoke with (Havard Nordtveit) about Arsenal and he told me it’s a big club, a family club and it’s very important for me to come here. Philippe (Senderos) played here and I play with him in the national team. Johan (Djourou) and Philippe have only told me positive things. Arsenal is Arsenal. It’s not a small club, it’s a very big club and it’s like a family. It’s very good for me because I love my family and to have another family here is very good.

Nice to see some OGs (Old Gunners ©) praising their former employers and helping us to secure new signings. Whatever your views on Arsene Wenger and the culture at the club, one thing’s for sure – players like being at Arsenal and not just for the pay-packet.

Sure, players have agitated for a move in the past and I’m sure more will in the future, but how many would jump at the chance of a return having found out the hard way that the grass is far from greener elsewhere? Away from the pristine carpet at Emirates stadium, it’s often long, unloved and littered with dog sh*t – just ask Cesc, Samir or Robin, as they turn out at a bus-stop in west London, warm the bench or take to the field in Turkey.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have been readjusting shirt numbers following the departures of Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta. Aaron Ramsey has taken the latter’s number 8 while Alexis Sanchez is our new number 7. The Chilean’s old number 17 goes to Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka will wear Ramsey’s old number 16.

The one I’m most looking forward to being allocated though, is the number nine. I just hope it goes to a world-class, big-money new signing and not to Chuba Akpom or Yaya Sanogo, all due respect to the youngsters.

It’d suit Robert Lewandowski rather well if you ask me, although rumours of interest in Alvaro Morata refuse to die down, especially after Juventus’ manager  Massimiliano Allegri suggested the Italian club are preparing for life without the Spanish striker. He said:

The club are working on the transfer market and monitoring possible alternatives. We have a lot of forwards with players who are all in national teams and many young guys. I’ve already given Morata some advice: he needs to stay at Juventus… What did he say? He nodded. I hope he understands, I’m saying this for his own good.

No you’re not Massimiliano, you’re saying it for your own good. Morata’s a quality striker and would be difficult to replace so you want him to stay. Which is fine by me providing you let us have Paulo Dybala – I’m easy either way.

Of the pair, Morata’s probably more suited to the Premier League given his build, but Dybala’s the more naturally gifted as far as I’m concerned and has that hard-to-describe certain south American quality about him. That unpredictable, cut-above-the-rest-of-the-world brilliance.

Interestingly, if reports at the time were accurate, they’re both players we tried hard to sign before they opted to join Juventus. Sometimes, long-held interest by a club and manager can help to secure a deal at the second attempt, a bit like with Mesut Ozil, so hopefully that might be the case again with one of these two this summer.

Back Friday.

23rd August 2015: Wenger should act like Frank Lucas

Sunday salutations. So today wasn’t nearly as good as yesterday, both weather-wise and as far as our rivals dropping points is concerned.

It rained all morning, then, despite John Terry compounding last week’s embarrassing half-time removal by getting himself sent-off at the Hawthorns this afternoon, West Brom being awful at football meant they couldn’t capitalize on their numerical advantage for most of the second half and lost 3-2.

To make matters worse, over at Goodison park, Man City continued their perfect start to the new season by beating Everton 2-0. Even without Kevin de Bruyne, the best performer in the Bundesliga last term according to most observers, who’s strongly rumoured to be signing for City before the close of the transfer window, they’ll be difficult to keep up with, if the first three games are anything to go by. Their starting eleven is already pretty scary and they boast depth no other squad in England can come close to matching.

Unless of course we decide to sign a defensive midfielder like the highly-rated Krychowiak from Sevilla and a long-sought, deadly, world class striker. Then, I think, with everyone fit our squad would look almost as frightening as City’s, and more games would be won in the tunnel before kick-off through postural intimidation, like in the good, old Vieira era. One steely stare from Cavani would make opponents instantly sh*t themselves and the game would be mentally won before it had begun.

In seriousness though, we do need an upgrade at centre forward if we use, say, Sergio Aguero as the benchmark. Yet finding another player of similar striking pedigree, let alone one who is available for purchase, is clearly a very difficult task – something Arsene Wenger again highlighted at his pre-match press conference on Friday:

There’s a shortage in the world (of number nines). It confirms what I just said, that there’s a difference between financial power nowadays and the availability of top-class players. It is simple. For any deal, when you want to buy something you go to see the owner and if he doesn’t want to sell, he doesn’t want to sell. You cannot buy. In our job it is exactly like that. When the players are not free you cannot buy them because it’s the club who decides, the person who owns the contract who decides. In Europe you have maybe 15 clubs with a huge financial resource.

We’ve all been over the usual candidates countless times, the likes of Cavani, Higuain, Benzema etc, but the alternative, if none of the ready-made ones are attainable, is to try to unearth the next top striker. Leading up to the winter window late last year, Paulo Dybala was linked with a move to Arsenal from Palermo and is tipped by many to be the next great Argentine striker.

Of course there’s no way of knowing for certain if we were definitely interested, but I think it was the Palermo owner who revealed our interest in the player, which is as close to confirmation as you could ask for in these matters. And although Dybala’s since opted to remain in Italy and joined Juventus, his consideration as an addition does suggest Arsene has been searching for an Ajax Suarez or a Palermo Cavani.

With changes to work permit rules taking effect this summer, which I believe basically mean any player costing ten million pounds or more is automatically eligible to play in England, perhaps Arsene should act like Denzil Washington in American Gangster and go straight to the source.

Why not cut out the traditional launch pads for south Americans in Europe, like Porto and Palermo, and buy the most promising, available, young forward playing in undeniably the most prolific footballing continent when it comes to producing great strikers?

Don’t ask me which players exactly, because that’s not my job for one, and coverage of the Latin American leagues is still pretty limited in the UK. But I’d wager there’s at least a few soon-to-be world class strikers rising up the ranks at places like River Plate, Peñarol and São Paulo and if we don’t have scouts in place who can identify them, then we should get some, because it would be a whole lot easier than scouring a European market, where demand currently far exceeds supply.

By the way, if anyone from the club is reading, I’m ready and available to be stationed in Gremio to look out for the next Ronaldinho. Just saying.

See you next week.