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So Now We Know The Saga Of The Summer For Arsenal

AW - Arsene 2Yesterday, The Daily Telegraph posted a story from Paul Heyward that Paris Saint-Germain’s “most senior figures” had revealed to other club officials that they had managed to convince Arsene Wenger to leave Arsenal to take over for Carlo Ancelotti at the Parisian club.  The story goes to imply that Wenger, who has never broken a contract in his long career, had some sort of option to terminate his contract a year ahead of its 2014 conclusion.  While his capture for 2014 was a near-reality, the article does state that these “owners” are assured that they could convince him to make that move this summer.  A meeting with PSG’s top echelon is scheduled to occur sometime next week said the article, quoting a piece in Le Parisien (Read their piece here. It is in French). 

Arsene’s move would, apparently, be part of a massive game of coaching musical chairs.  Jose Mourinho would leave Real Madrid for Chelsea.  Real Madrid would bring on Carlo Ancelotti from PSG to replace him.  PSG would then bring in Arsene Wenger, who has already tapped Germany’s coach Joachim Low as his heir.  Low’s place would be taken by Bayern’s ousted manager Jupp Heynckes, who is being replaced by Pep Guardiola.

All of this is, of course, a load of nonsense.

As Arseblog was quick to point out, no such “option clause” exists in Wenger’s contract.  He’s locked in to this deal through 2014 and, as he’s said so many times, he honors his contracts.  Mourinho may be leaving Real Madrid but his move to Chelsea isn’t assured, as other news reports say Chelsea is talking to Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini for their soon-to-be-vacant position.  Likewise, there’s reports of Real Madrid targeting everyone from Rafa Benitez to the very same Arsene Wenger that PSG is after – meaning Ancelotti isn’t for certain the new guy at the Bernabeu.  We know Guardiola is going to Bayern and Heynckes will be out. But there is nothing to indicate that Heynckes is being tapped for the Germany job.  Nor have any rumors surfaced that Low is ready to leave the Die Mannschaft position just over a year away from the 2014 World Cup.  Specially since he’s likely to have one of the preeminent favorites ready to go for Brazil.AW - Arsene 2 PSG

So all of that article by Heyward sounds like some truths and a lot of conjecture and some small doses of bullshit thrown in.  It’s all very nebulous and, if you try to nail down its facts, it disappears like a puff of smoke.  All of it par for the course for the English media.

For years, the tabloids and sports journos have had an easy time in the summer transfer window keeping tabs on who’d be the next “star” to leave the Emirates.  (I put “star” in quotes because some of the names were never stars or never became stars).  Names like Vieira, Cole, Henry, Toure, Adebayor, Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie, Song and Walcott have all helped fill the back pages of the tabloids during the lean months.  It’s almost become a yearly tradition.  “Who else is out the door in North London?”

The problem for them is that, this year, there isn’t a ready-made name.  Theo Walcott was re-signed.  The names of the players who will leave are not notorious or glamorous enough — does Squillaci move the needle?  How about Park?  Maybe Bendtner, but only if he’s in his undies.  The two names who may be used are Bacary Sagna’s (who is out of contract) and Thomas Vermaelen’s (who has lost his starting place).  And again, neither of them would be compared to Henry, Fabregas or van Persie. 

But Arsene Wenger would be compared.  Arsene Wenger is a big name.  And Arsene Wenger’s position makes that a real question for them to ask.

Given the pressure on Wenger to end the ongoing streak of trophy-less seasons, as well as the general malaise that it has brought upon the Arsenal supporters, it would not be wrong to consider Arsene Wenger’s position as the man in charge of Arsenal.  Seventeen years is a long time.  Things have not gone as desired.  Mitigating circumstances aside, the support for Arsene in many circles has deteriorated to the point of open revolt. 

AW - Walcott & Dutch SkunkIn some senses, the keeping of Theo Walcott felt more like the club saying “Enough!” than the retention of the club’s best player.  Even with that signing though, the club has lost a lot of ground to its former rival, Manchester United, and this summer will be key to propelling the club back into the upper echelons of English and European football.  Whether that job should remain in Arsene Wenger’s hands or in the hands of a newly-selected manager is a question that has some merit.

But let’s not act like this article is in any way, shape or form interested in being part of a serious debate.  It’s a talking piece meant to create pageviews.  Just as the “Fabregas to Barcelona” and “van Persie wants out” sagas of the previous years helped keep Arsenal in the back pages of the tabloids, so is this “Will Arsene leave?” article meant to be the first of wave of contract rumors and articles that hint at Wenger’s possible departure.  Never mind that he has stated he won’t break his contract.  Never mind that the board has indicated they would like to sign him to another deal.  And never mind that he is still supported by a large section of the Arsenal base. 

It’s just the first salvo in what’s likely to be the “Arsenal Saga of The Summer.”  The story that’ll be trumpeted by anyone who is desperate for a story to turn into his boss when there’s no games being played and no breaking news on the horizon.  Arsenal have been so good to journos these last few years, providing plenty of easy meat to sell.  You’d think this could have been the quiet summer.  But I guess they’re not ready to give up on their traditional source of cheap news. 

It’s a shame.

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