The Reuters global sports blog
As the annual Arsenal transfer soap-opera gets underway, it’s worth wondering why such high-profile players leave one of England’s best clubs every year.
Should Robin van Persie sign for Manchester City, much will be made of their financial muscle, but they are not the only club in England with resources – indeed, Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in the world and could easily afford to offer competitive wages.
But after seven trophyless years, it doesn’t take long to work out why Van Persie is likely to follow Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri through the exit doors in north London. It’s medals, not money, that makes Arsenal players move.
Premier League wages are generally so high that even after a season or two at the top level, players are financially independent for the rest of their lives – provided, of course, they manage their money properly. But that money cannot fill a trophy cabinet, and players like Van Persie need to win titles to feel that they have been successful in their careers.
Anyone who might have assumed the deteriorating form of English clubs in Europe since Manchester United won the 2008 Champions League resulted from a convergence of misfortunate circumstances such as tough draws or mounting injuries to key players has been emphatically refuted.
Come Thursday, the Premier League might be left without a single club to represent it in either the Champions League or the less fancied Europa League, where Manchester rivals City and United were not just beaten but also played off the park last week by rivals many of their fans will have considered second-class opposition.
Robin Van Persie’s stoppage-time winner at Anfield on Saturday was not the most spectacular goal of the Dutchman’s career but it could go some way to confirm his status as the best volleyer the Premier League has seen.
The Arsenal hit-man notched his 31st goal of the season when he latched onto Alex Song’s lofted through-ball to guide a side-footed volley past Jose Reina at the Liverpool stopper’s near post.
Perhaps stung by criticism from the likes of Patrick Viera and Emmanuel Petit, Arsenal’s stunning 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur was built not just on pretty passing but on solid tackling too.
Viera and Petit provided the steel in midfield for Wenger’s first great Arsenal side, and both have recently been critical of their slide towards mid-table mediocrity.
It’s taken a long time, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic has finally delivered a performance worthy of his talent against an English team in the Champions League.
Long scoffed at by British fans and journalists for his pale imitation of a top-class striker in Europe’s top competition, Zlatan delivered something of a virtuoso performance as Milan thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at the San Siro, rendering the last 16 return leg in London next month all but meaningless.
Men tuning in for lots of action in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg ties would have rued the decision to stay in front of the TV on Valentines’ Night when Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen and Olympique Lyon against APOEL Nicosia reached the 40-minute mark.
Both were 0-0. APOEL had not registered a shot on goal. Barcelona had dominated their German opposition with 78 per cent of possession, yet no opening score.
The clock said 68 minutes, and no one at the Emirates Stadium in north London was looking at the action on the pitch as the fourth official held aloft his lit-up board to signal the re-introduction of Thierry Henry to English football.
Ten minutes later and he’d scored the game’s eventual winner. Comebacks don’t get this good this often.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
With Cesc Fabregas gone and Samir Nasri possibly on the move too, there is a lot of gloom around Arsenal at the moment and Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool did nothing to help the mood.
Arsenal fans are for the first time questioning the stewardship of Arsene Wenger and have demanded some top signings to prevent yet another trophyless season.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
The pain for Arsenal fans just rolls on it would seem, as a trip to my office's kitchen confirmed on Monday when I heard two voices grumbling about "Van Persie" and "not enough shots".
The North London club's woes of the last two weeks or so have been much publicised, but perhaps at last there is some news to cheer Gunners fans up in the return of former keeper Jens Lehmann? Who would you prefer in goal? Lehmann, or Arsenal's only currently available goalie Manuel Almunia, in good form in the last two matches against Barcelona and Manchester United?
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
Holders Inter Milan will face Bayern Munich, the team they beat to clinch the trophy last season, in the Champions League last 16 with a repeat of the 2006 final also due after Barcelona were drawn to meet Arsenal.
Bayern might actually be favourites given Inter's struggles so far this term while Barca and Lionel Messi destroyed Arsenal in the quarter-finals second leg last season despite the two sides' similar style of play.