15 June 2013

Kos to Barcelona, Vermaelen to Bayern, Sagna to PSG...I like what I'm hearing!

It's at times like this when I really enjoy the transfer-season. I'm not talking about the various players we may or may not bring in, who's been linked to us, or anything of the sort. For the first time in many seasons, we don't have to worry about losing a key player. Everyone is safely under contract (at least for now) and can't force a move the way others have in the past. With that security, we can have a chuckle at some of the headlines suggesting that our players are wanted elsewhere.

The latest has Barcelona sniffing around at Koscielny (after apparently stalking Vermaelen earlier in the season) which makes sense given how fragile their defense is. Were it not for the dominance of their midfield in keeping possession, they'd have to hang their hopes on Messi doubling his 1.46 goals-per-game average to stay competitive. It makes sense for Barcelona to continually look to us to replenish their squad; we play a style similar to theirs, although admittedly not at nearly the same level, and why should they be bothered to scout and develop players when we're apparently content to do this for them? However, times have changed. We're no longer a team that has to mind its accounts so obsessively that we leave ourselves few options but to sell our best players. In years past, if they wanted a player, they would take the player. I doubt they'll find us quite as open to their overtures as we've been in years past. I'm all ears, though. I do love being flirted with, even if I have no intention whatsoever of giving 'em what they want.

It's a similar situation with both defenders and Bayern; each has been linked at some point with a move there, but the logic is less-clear, at least in terms of their needs: they have a solid defense, so strong, in fact, that they only conceded 18 goals on their way to winning the Bundesliga. For them to come around, then, isn't so much born of the kind of apparent desperation Barcelona seems to feel; however, it should rankle the likes of Lahm, van Buyten, Martinez, and Boateng that Guardiola seeks replacements (okay, maybe "reinforcements"). It's not the first time that he's apparently been interested in Vermaelen, for one. At the risk of accidentally insulting Vermaelen, if I was a Bayern defender, I'd be a tad insulted that my new coach was looking to bring in a player whose stock has fallen as far as Vermaelen's did this year. From our point of view, as I've suggested in the past, it's not for nothing that he's on their radar. Players struggle from time to time, and Vermaelen happened to do so just as Koscielny was re-establishing the form that won this Gooner's heart last year while forming a solid partnership with Mertesacker. I'm sure Vermaelen will reclaim his form, if not his starter's role, sooner rather than later.

It's really only Sagna about whom I do worry. He's only under contract until June 2014, and while he's getting long in the tooth and perhaps fragile in the tibula, he still bleeds Arsenal red through and through. On one hand, I would hate to see him leave for PSG. On the other, I want him to hoist a trophy or two before his time is up. I believe that will happen for us here next year in one way or another, but I understand his concerns. His swan-song looks ready to be sung far sooner than those of Vermaelen or Koscielny, and I daresay he's had to endure a bit more criticism this year than is warranted. Who breaks the same fibula twice in a year and comes back at the same level? Sagna does (if you trust whoscored.com, that is. His 2012-13 rating was a 6.99; his 2013-14 rating was a 7.01). I'd hate to see him go. He still has the fire in the belly, not to mention the skill and wisdom, that this squad needs.

Which brings me back to where I started. I'm enjoying these stories whole-heartedly. Some of Europe's biggest, most-accomplished, and freest-spending clubs want our players, and we get to say, "make like a drum and beat it." We can hold up three fingers--index, middle, and ring--and say, "read between the lines." Why not have fun with it? Enjoy it for what it is: a barometer of the quality of these individual players, and perhaps a foreshadowing of great things they and the squad as a whole may accomplish in the upcoming season.