So another week of multi-continental international football loveliness has been and gone, with bugger all real news on the Arsenal front.
While it’s been fun doing scouting reports on Pirlo Alonso Charlie Adam (thanks Neil Lennon) Xhaka, watching Cristiano Ronaldo go through his latest big tournament crisis, and seeing fans of Albania, Hungary and Iceland go absolutely bonkers en masse, the European Championships haven’t been that satisfying for club football fans.
Not even the wry smiles of recognition elicited by watching the various faces of Olivier Giroud’s woodwork striking anguish or the smug satisfaction of watching golden boy Harry Kane stink out the place for England can quite cut the mustard for fans hungry for a signing.
Of course, most possible enjoyment of the European Championships is tempered by the fear of the impact of the impending referendum on the UK’s relationship with the same continent, and the increasingly poisonous atmosphere around the issue. I’m a proud Londoner, a proud Gooner, a proud artist and proud of my complex bloodlines, so the political attempts to justify right-wing extremism in the UK at the moment isn’t fun. Particularly when it ends up with good politicians getting assassinated by nationalist nutters.
And given the recent form of the British core at the club, I don’t want any change to the rules that impacts on our ability to sign players from elsewhere in Europe.
So, taking myself away from all that, I have been casting an eye over the Copa America when I can, increasingly realising that Chile are far too strong to let Alexis get any summer rest. Their epic 7-0 trouncing of Mexico means they have a dangerous but unconvincing Colombia in the semi-finals, and in the increasing ‘search for a striker’ desperation, his national team partner Eduardo Vargas is an intriguing watch.
Since finishing runner up to Neymar in the South American Footballer of the Year award in 2011, his career in Europe has been disappointing. Mostly shunted out to the flanks, he’s only scored 13 goals in 99 games for Napoli, Valencia, QPR and Hoffenheim. In the same time he’s scored 29 in 43 for his country and has a telepathic understanding with Sanchez, top scoring in the 2015 Copa America and top scorer so far this time. I’ve never seen him look convincing at club level, but internationally, even against the best, he is very impressive. Enigma.
Elsewhere, there are other tasty morsels on view. Gonzalo Higuain seems to have completed his transition from talented big game bottler to world class poacher over the last 12 months, and is now his nation’s undisputed number 9 following his astonishing 36 goals in 35 games for Napoli this season. That’s double his previous Serie A best. The player says he is ‘calm’ regarding transfers, and with good reason, as Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis nearly always gets top dollar for his player sales, and at 29 Higuain would be a lot of dosh for not a lot of years.
So with one perennially linked figure seeming drifting into the realms of implausibility, another emerges in the mind of journalists and bloggers alike. Returning to Europe, noises from Germany suggest that Julian Draxler is the latest Wolfsburg player to want a way out after the club’s disappointing season, and whenever Draxler is named, so are Arsenal. To me it seems that ship has sailed as far as Arsenal are concerned, but we know Wenger will go back in for a player if he likes them enough.
That seems to be the theory applied by Corriere dello Sport, who suggest Wenger will be renewing his interest in Stevan Jovetic, which last appeared to carry any weight nearly four years ago. Given his downturn in form and terrible injury record, not to mention the fact that he is a support striker rather than a number 9, it seems a fatuous rumour.
In desperation, we even had journos last week trying to lazarus-like resurrect the now fully zombified prospect of Edinson Cavani and the equally unlikely barrel-scraping rumour of a bid for childhood Arsenal fan Daniel Sturridge.
Elsewhere, the Lukaku links seem to have dried up, despite the best efforts of the likes of Paul Merson, but perhaps if his performances for the rest of the tournament can be more like that against Ireland than that against Italy, we may yet see them re-surface.
Likewise, the circumstances surrounding the future of Alvaro Morata seem as complicated as ever, with Madrid remaining coy about their buy-back clause and newspapers suggesting every big club in England bar Manchester United are interested. Lots of other people are commenting, but the player and the clubs are wisely keeping schtum.
Which brings us back to the man currently in possession (if he wants to be). Despite a bit of tub-thumping from Leicester’s vice-chairman, the bookies suggesting he will stay put, and Wenger hinting at the same, no one is actually any the wiser about the intentions of a certain Mr. Vardy. Following publications left, right and centre saying the deal was off over the weekend, more are suggesting today that actually it might be back on. Sometimes in the same publications.
It’s almost as though none of them actually have any concrete information and are hedging their bets. Of course the longer things are left, the more the chance that Arsenal will move in another direction, but Vardy himself has been remarkably consistent in his stance, not offering any clues either way while semi-awkwardly enjoying the limelight. One would assume if things were definitively decided either way there would be some comment from any of those involved beyond Wenger speculating (and perhaps applying a little gentle pressure).
And of course, it’s entirely plausible that Vardy wants to use the time to wait and see what his team-mates Mahrez and Kante decide regarding their future, particularly as the latter owes the club less and seemingly has the pick of Europe knocking at his door.
Certainly nothing official has come from either club or the player, so it is just the media and the fans alternating stance until they put themselves in a spin.
So in honour of us, the uninformed and the powerless, here is a an old favourite of mine from the endless time sink that is the internet…a comment on our situation in the style of Shakespeare:
O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke — banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, ’tis what it’s all about.