14 October 2013

Benzema, Bergkamp, and Lewandowski...

Sigh. Another interlull day does what it does. I can't even drum up much excitement for the qualifiers. Germany and Belgium are all squared away, but England, France, and Spain still have to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror. The Czech Republic could still sneak in, but Wales and Poland are both eliminated. One might hope then that Poland rolls over for England to assure that England finishes above Ukraine, who travel to winless, goal-less San Marino and its minus-45 goal-differential. Coming on the heels of Ukraine's fans' despicable behavior towards San Marino in the first leg, one hopes that a bit of karma delivers San Marino a famous 10-0 victory. Time will tell.

As for Arsenal news, it's slim-pickings indeed, as the most noise seems to come from what didn't happen or won't happen until January if it happens at all. I refer first to the fake Bergkamp twitter account @DBergkamp1969, which has been suspended after it was exposed as a sham. I'm not sure what would motivate a person to embark on such a fruitless project; I worry about the 20 minutes of my own life that I wasted tweeting #RedknappClaims such as "'Arry knew she was a tranny the whole time he was watching The Crying Game." Comic gold, I'm sure, but was it worth it? I'm sure that whoever set up the take Bergkamp account was twirling the ends of his handlebar moustache as he set up the account and said something like "Curses! Foiled again! If only it wasn't for those meddling kids!" once the account was suspended. Shame on me, of course, for following the account. I'm not sure what I expected to get out of it. Did I think I'd manage to tweet him with a just-right mixture of warmth and aloofness and nonchalance that would inspire Dennis to reach out, not with a tweet, but with a sincere and heartfelt DM? Alas, it was not to be, and it's a bit of a shame that we won't be hearing from him, at least via twitter, because his insights into the game, and his recollections of his time with Arsenal, would make for some beautiful reading. Maybe he should skip twitter altogether and just put out a book...

Elsewhere, there's tall-talk already of Karim Benzema being made available at a "cut-rate" price of £20m and of Robert Lewandowski saying that he "never said that [he] will sign a contract with Bayern" and he "would like to play in [sic] Premier League". Each of these has been seized on by eager minds as doors thrown open to Arsenal. First, Benzema. I'm not wildly enthusiastic about him, certainly not as much as I was for Higuain. He's lackadaisical, and aside from a strong showing against Galatasaray, hasn't done much yet to distinguish himself for a free-scoring Real Madrid. One would think that Higuain's departure would have given Benzema room to make his mark, but, aside from a ridiculous haircut, there's been little positive to say about him. The contrast between signing Mesut Özil from Real Madrid and signing Karim Benzema strikes me. The first is the steal of the season and sent a strong signal about our growing ambitions. Özil is, after all, touted as being among the world's ten best footballers, and for him to leave Real Madrid for any club is stunning. On the other hand, we have reports of Real Madrid actively shopping Benzema at a price two-thirds of what they paid for him in 2009. With the market for strikers what is was this summer, something stinks there. He's only gone for two goals from 26 shots in eight matches, and he's apparently second-choice for the French national team behind none other than Olivier Giroud. Giroud has spoken openly about wanting another striker, and perhaps Benzema would thrive in a new setting and under Arsène's management, but I worry about the locker-room tensions there. That said, it's October, and there's a lot of football to be played between now and January. Let's see how Benzema does—and what he might have to say about joining Arsenal—before we get too worked up about him one way or the other.

In similar fashion, Lewandowski's comments feel exciting at first blush...until we remind ourselves that, again, it's only October, and he's highly unlikely to leave Dortmund in January. Even if he's now talking down a move to Bayern, this is probably little more than maneuvering ahead of any negotiations over wages. If he's seen as committed exclusively to Bayern, this could depress his value. Keeping the likes of us, Man U, and Chelsea interested is a solid tactic for extracting the best deal for himself (and I don't mean that as a criticism).  I've joked in the past that we should sign Lewandowski to save Dortmund the anger and disappointment of seeing him leave for Bayern, the same anger and disappointment we felt when van Persie left for Man U, but maybe there's something to it. If he's dead-set on leaving, we'd be remiss to ignore him. He wouldn't be cheap, of course, and might even look to be the highest-paid player in most squads. As with Benzema, I refuse to get excited about him at this point. I am excited about Lewandowski in a way that I'm not about Benzema, and I think his signing could feel almost as good as Özil's was. His potential appearance at Wembley on Tuesday, in front of as many as 18,000 Polish fans, would offer a tantalizing, up-close view of his talents. However, it'll have to sit on the back, back-burner for now.

Looking past that and back to Arsenal itself, it looks like we could have Rosicky, Cazorla, and Sanogo available to face Norwich on Saturday, and the idea of seeing Cazorla partnering with Özil has me drooling already. We'll take a closer look at the match later in the week. Until next time, thanks for stopping by...