Baptista to leave Arsenal
After an uneventful week at the Arsenal Football Club things have exploded into life with the news that the club will not be signing on-loan Brazilian forward Julio Baptista on a permanent deal. The chances of the club striking up a deal with Baptista were heavily reliant on whether Real Madrid decided to sign on-loan Arsenal winger Jose Antonio Reyes on a permanent deal. The intention was for Arsenal to sell Reyes to Madrid and gain the services of Baptista for next season at a heavily reduced price. But with Reyes looking more and more likely to join Atletico Madrid over the summer, the decision was made by Arsenal to send Baptista back to Spain rather than pay in excess of €20 million to sign him at the club.
“Arsenal have told me they are not able to buy me and so all I can do is return to Real Madrid. I have enjoyed my season with Arsenal and in England. I adapted well. I didn’t play much at first but finished much better. The first year is very difficult.”
Wenger makes the right decision about Baptista
I have previously stated that although I believed that Baptista’s first season in the Premier League had been exceptionally disappointing, I would have preferred to sign him permanently and given him a second chance next season on the condition that Reyes stayed at Real Madrid. However, in light of recent events the amount of money it would have taken for Arsenal to sign Baptista is exorberant to say the least. Giving Baptista a second chance is not worth the €20 million fee that was being reported, Arsenal have realised this and the correct decision has been made.
To ‘The Beast’ all I can say is, good luck to him. He tried his socks off in his time at the club and things just didn’t happen for him. I honestly believe his form would have improved if given the chance at a second season with Arsenal but now we will never know. He seems like a top lad and a real team player and I personally wish him all the best.
Togo lift Adebayor ban
The Togo Football Federation has lifted the ban it enforced on Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor and will allow him to participate in the African Nations Cup in 2008. Adebayor had previously been banned with two other Togo internationals after protesting about player payments from the World Cup in Germany that had not been paid by the federation. Whether Adebayor does return to the team is a different matter altogether – he has previously stated his reluctance to play for Togo due to death threats – but if he chooses to play for Togo then it will place an enormous risk on the club during the tournament, with Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure already away.
With this news and the news that Julio Baptista will not be signing on with the club, Arsenal will be left with just two established strikers in Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie for the best part of two months during the African Nations Cup which starts on the 20th of January and runs until the 10th of February. With Henry and van Persie missing much of the previous season through injury, there is a real worry that Arsenal’s strike force will be severely undermanned at times next season.
Wenger to sign new striker?
There are a two basic options that manager Arsene Wenger needs to consider to solve this dilemma. The first is quite obvious, and the one that most Arsenal supporters would prefer; to sign a new player. At this stage the club has been linked with a number of forwards, the following being the stand-outs:
- Michael Owen (Newcastle United)
- Jan Huntelaar (Ajax)
- Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona)
- Ryan Babel (Ajax)
- Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen)
In my opinion, there are only two players on that list that Arsenal could realistically lure to the club – Babel and Owen. If Owen was to sign for the club he would surely be expecting consistent first team football and I’m not sure that Wenger would be looking to give it to him. I could see him being used in much the same way as Tottenham manager Martin Jol utilises Jermain Defoe, and I’m not sure that Owen would be happy with this. As for Babel, he looks a real possibility if Arsenal do push hard for his services. He is valued at around £6m and is probably the most likely candidate if Wenger does chose to sign a new forward.
Change the formation?
Wenger’s second option is a little more obvious; to alter his teams formation for the time when Adebayor is away. Whilst Wenger’s preferred formation is a 4-4-2 with two out-and-out strikers (Henry and van Persie), he has also previously used the 4-5-1 formation to good effect. This would especially be effective if Arsenal manage to sign either Franck Ribery or Ryan Babel and utilise them on the wing.
Playing only one of Henry or van Persie for a month or so would mean that both players remain fit and rested while Adebayor is away – and whoever is on the bench can come on midway through the game and provide real impact when necessary. If one of the two players did get injured then the other could cover for them and young Danish strike Niklas Bendtner could be brought in as an emergency replacement. However, injuries to both players would leave the club in a dangerous situation, especially if Arsenal are in the middle of a fight for the Premier League title, as we all hope they will be.
Either way, Wenger has a lot of thinking and planning to do in the summer if he is to get his squad just right for next season.