One of the worst kept secrets in football was finally revealed today when Arsenal announced that Gervinho will shortly be signed from French double winners Lille. The only hold up would appear to be what the club call a "regulatory process" which can only mean him receiving a work permit I would imagine. As the Ivory Coast player of the year for 2010 I can only hope that he would be seen as a worthy candidate for a work permit, and he can join up with the rest of the first team squad when they return from their two games in Asia.
Gervinho had a very successful season with Lille last season, and his 15 goals and 10 assists in 40 games were one of the factors which helped them to claim their double. He also managed 13 goals the previous season in 28 games, and it's a good return from a player utilised in a wide attacking role. He only turned 24 in May which should mean Arsenal get his best years as he progresses towards his peak as a professional footballer.
Arsene Wenger held a press conference in Kuala Lumpur ahead of Arsenal's first pre-season friendly on Wednesday against a Malaysian XI, and he revealed his thoughts on both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. He said he expects Cesc to stay at Arsenal despite the Barcelona saga going on for years at this stage. He said Arsenal have to close that chapter and focus on the new season, hopefully with Cesc.
Speaking of Nasri he said he expects him to stay also, but there is always speculation when a player has only one year left on his contract. He said Nasri is very happy at the club, and committed to staying. He hopes Nasri will sign a new contract, but he said he is not the only one to decide that.
It's hard to know exactly what to make of the Nasri situation, but it would appear that Arsenal are prepared to keep him at the club for the coming season even if it means losing him on a free transfer next summer. If Nasri is happy to stay and doesn't want to sign a new contract there's not an awful lot Arsenal can do, as he can't really be sold against his will. It will be interesting to see how the fans react to him at the Emirates if he does stay, but refuses to sign a new contract.
Nasri has made it clear that the most important thing to him is supposedly the chance of winning trophies, but if he waits until next summer to decide his future it can only be for monetary reasons. If he thinks Arsenal can deliver the trophies he should sign a new contract, but if he thinks they can't then he should put in a formal transfer request. I have a funny feeling he will see out his contract, and join whatever team can supply him with the biggest sackful of money next summer.
With so little to write about during the summer there was a deluge of Arsenal stories today, and the current situation at left back was yet another thing Wenger spoke about. He said he felt the club had Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traore at left back, and that Thomas Vermaelen can play there too if needed. He seems to think Arsenal have what they need in the position, but I'm not so sure myself.
Gibbs looks to be a promising prospect, but he is far too injury prone to be depended upon to play as first choice left back since the departure of Gael Clichy to Manchester City last week. Traore has spent a season on loan at Juventus, but he hardly set the club alight with his performances. Before his departure he was far from good defensively when he played at left back for Arsenal.
Vermaelen is seen as Arsenal's only certainty in the centre of defence, and unless they can sign at least one more central defender the defence will be weakened if he has to play at left back. I wasn't overly impressed with Clichy in the last two seasons, but as it stands Arsenal do not have anyone better than him to play at left back. There were quite a few Arsenal fans who felt Gibbs should have been given a chance ahead of Clichy last season, and they will know if they were right or not quite soon.
The manager also revealed that both Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia could be departing the club this summer, as they are currently talking to other clubs. He didn't reveal which clubs, but if the two of them can be sold and Denilson gets his wish to leave as well it will leave room for Arsenal to add to their squad. It should also reduce the wage bill by a large enough amount to pay a couple of top class players if Wenger can identify the players he wants and tie up deals for them.
At the end of last season Arsenal needed to strengthen their defence, and as it stands that has not happened. Clichy has left and Vermaelen has returned from injury, but otherwise their options are the same as last season. The need for a top class central defender is still of paramount importance, and it's an issue which has to be sorted as soon as possible. Arsenal cannot expect to sustain a realistic challenge for the Premier League title if their defence does not improve significantly from last season.
Finally for today the live Premier League matches to be screened between the start of the season and December were announced today. Arsenal will play eight games live on TV in the first four months of the season, and six of those games will be away from home. Arsenal's away form was second to none last season, but I get the feeling the TV companies want to see them on their travels in the hope that they will struggle.
Their opening day fixture away to Newcastle United will be live on ESPN at 5.30pm on Saturday August 13th, and they will also play at home to Liverpool and away to Manchester United live on the TV before August is out. With Champions League qualifiers sandwiched in between those games August should see Arsenal appear live on TV five times in 14 days. It will be a welcome return to action for all armchair fans, but it will be a very tough start for the team.
That's it for today.
Here's what Arsenal could be losing if Nasri leaves.
See You Tomorrow.