Saturday, 16 July 2011

Arsenal's Asian Tour Draws To A Close As The Search To Strengthen The Team Continues.

It has been a long time since Arsenal took part in a pre season tour, but with their commercial revenues lagging behind those of some of their nearest competitors they did so this week. Usually Arsene Wenger takes the players to Austria for a tough workout in the rarefied air of the Alps, but this season the Arsenal fans in Malaysia and China will get to see their heroes in the flesh for a change. Reporting on the events in both countries from an Arsenal perspective makes a pleasant change from the constant stream of transfer speculation at this time of year.

On Wednesday Arsenal played a Malaysian XI and beat them 4-0 with the goals coming from Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Carlos Vela and Tomas Rosicky. It was a good workout for their first pre season friendly, and the stifling heat in Kuala Lumpur certainly made things tough for the players. Both Ryo Myaichi and Carl Jenkinson made their debuts for Arsenal, although it will be another while before they get to make their competitive debuts.

Myiachi looks like a very talented player and he would probably get a few chances to show his skills in the Arsenal first team this season, but he may not qualify for a work permit. He joined Arsenal in January from his high school team in Japan, but he was immediately loaned to Feyenoord in Holland. If he is unable to acquire a work permit to play for Arsenal the chances are he will go back to Feyenoord to continue his progress with them, but hopefully the UK authorities will see sense and allow him to play for Arsenal.

Both countries are part of the European Union and they should be subject to the same laws I would imagine, but it appears work permits for non EU players are a lot more difficult to obtain in the UK. He impressed at Feyenoord in the second half of last season and another season of first team football at a fairly high level could be very beneficial to him and Arsenal too. He's still only 18 years old and he hasn't played for his country yet so he probably has an awful lot of room to progress.

Jenkinson was signed from Charlton Athletic last month and he turned 19 earlier this year, but he is still quite inexperienced in footballing terms. He can represent either England or Finland in international football if he makes the grade, and he has played his underage football for Finland to date. He played relatively few games in his time at Charlton, but it would appear that Wenger already sees him as an understudy to regular right back Bacary Sagna.

Both players impressed on Wednesday and they should get another chance to do so again when Arsenal play Hanzghou Greentown in their next game later today. The game will be shown live on Arsenal Player again, but hopefully there won't be a repeat of the problems on Wednesday when the broadcast of most of the first half was missed due to technical difficulties. As a red member of Arsenal I will get to see the game for free on Arsenal player, but it's also live on ESPN as far as I know.

Forbes magazine has rated Arsenal as the seventh most valuable sports franchise in the world, with Manchester United and Real Madrid as the only football clubs more valuable than them. Their rating(thanks to arseblog news) sees Arsenal valued at $1.18 billion and it should hopefully see the spending power of the club increase dramatically in the not too distant future. Of course Arsenal are still saddled with the debt from the construction of the Emirates stadium, but when they are free from that debt they should be in a very healthy financial position.

The spending power of some of the teams below them in the list is far superior to that of Arsenal, but there is very little that can be done when the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have money poured into them by wealthy sugar daddies. Financial fair play is soon to be introduced to football, but City have already shown there are ways around it with their owners giving them a fortune for their stadium naming rights. I have no doubt that Chelsea and City will continue to find creative ways around financial fair play, and Arsenal will still not be able to compete with them for transfer fees or wages in the future.

If either City or Chelsea were to lose the backing of their owners they would soon disappear from the upper echelons of football, but for the moment there is little that can be done about them. Similarly other clubs manage to operate with huge debts and it doesn't affect them in the transfer market or in the wages they pay either, and it remains to be seen if financial fair play will call a halt to the antics or Real Madrid, Manchester United or even Barcelona. I very much doubt it, but unless Arsenal are prepared to saddle the club with huge debt or get taken over by somebody with more money than sense things will not change.

Arsenal continue to be run as a financially sustainable club, and they operate within the boundaries of their financial limitations. There has been more than a little disquiet among plenty of Arsenal fans, as they see other clubs spending fortunes on new players and exorbitant wages. So far Arsenal's transfer dealings have only seen the arrival of the aforementioned Jenkinson and Gervinho.

At the end of last season Wenger admitted to the failings of his squad, and he said he would be very active in the transfer market in the summer to strengthen the team where it needed it. The Arsenal defence suffered very badly from set pieces last season, and their inability to defend them has to be addressed this summer. It would seem that Wenger is now of the opinion that the return from injury of Thomas Vermaelen will be all that the defence needs to put things right. 

I can only hope that he is keeping his cards close to his chest and he does have a new central defender lined up, or Arsenal will yet again concede too many goals to seriously contend for the big trophies. The players can of course practice their defensive technique at set pieces, but I am sure the same promise was made last summer and it most certainly didn't work. The patience of the Arsenal fans is growing thin and the failure to address the team's serious defensive flaws could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

If Wenger fails to add to his defensive options and Arsenal continue to suffer defensively from set pieces all eyes will be on Wenger. It's a huge risk for him to take and I really hope he does add to the team's defensive options, or it could spell the end of his time at the club. As it stands Arsenal have failed to offload any of their want away players, but if they can sell Nicklas Bendtner, Manuel Almunia and Denilson it could give Wenger the money he needs to make that much needed defensive purchase.

With the fees received from those three players and the wages saved in their departures, Arsenal should surely have enough to buy the player they need. It's all well and good for Wenger to say Thomas Vermaelen is like a new signing, but if there is one injury to any of the central defenders(besides Squillaci) it will leave Arsenal with very few options at the back yet again. Arsenal's chances of competing at the very top and winning trophies cannot be sacrificed because Wenger will not buy a player that the squad desperately needs.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at how Vermaelen fared in his first season at Arsenal.

See You Tomorrow.

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