Showing posts with label Robert Lewandowski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Lewandowski. Show all posts

17 December 2013

Beat Bayern, then sign Lewandowski. Easy peas.

Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy. Sadly, we won't face Bayern for the first leg in London until 19 February, by which time the transfer-window will have long since shut. However, should we defeat Bayern, we won't simply advance to the Champions League quarterfinal; we'll have served notice to Mr. Lewandowski that we are, shall we say, a club to play for. It might have been nice to have dumped Dortmund in the group stage instead of Napoli, the better to encourage Lewa to consider his options in January, but he might have simply fulfilled his long-held desire to move to Bayern. Now that we've drawn Bayern, we have a chance, however daunting it may be, to show him (and others) what we're up to and capable of.

Before I get ahead of myself, I should get one issue out of the way: I harbor no illusions of winning the Champions League (okay, well one illusion. It's the same in which I'm a little taller and have a Triumph motorcycle). I don't think we have the depth or quality to sustain a serious run through to the championship. I do think we can beat Bayern, though, and not just because we've done it before. There's a tiny asterisk around that 2-0 win at Allianz Arena, one that reminds us that Bayern started the match assuming they would coast through on away-goals. Once we seized that opening, though, we did fight for and earn the victory. We won't have that little trick up our sleeves this time 'round. If anything, Bayern will be even more alert to the threat we pose because of that win and, more recently, because of our form. That said, even with the recent setbacks we've had, we don't have to rely on the element of surprise. We've shown that we have the form and the quality to beat almost anyone on any given day. 

No less an expert on the matter than Dortmund's own Jurgen Klopp believes the same, saying back in November, "Yes, Arsenal have the quality to win the Champions League. They are young, healthy and good technically. They were clever enough to get a result tonight. Of course they can win the final if they don't play against Bayern Munich." I'm going to go ahead and ask you to let me parse that as I will. Klopp said we can "win the final [emphasis added]" if we don't play against Bayern. Well, this isn't the final. It's the knockout phase. Therefore, if I understand Klopp correctly, and I believe I do (why wouldn't I?), we will beat Bayern in the knockout stage and, because we won't face them in the final, win the Champions League. No other interpretation is even remotely possible.

I kid.

If we can beat Bayern—a big "if", admittedly—even if we don't advance, we remind Lewandowski of what we're up to. Compare the two squads. Bayern is or has arguably peaked. Many of its key players are past their primes. Ribery is 30. Robben will be 30 in January. Lahm turned 30 in November. Schweinsteiger turned 29 in August. Dante turned 30 in October. These are starters, key players, who are still performing well but on whose careers the sun is starting to set. By contrast, look at Arsenal. Yes, we have a few players getting long in the tooth. Cazorla just turned 29. Arteta's 31. Per turned 29 in September. However, beyond those, we feature Wilshere (21), Ramsey (22), Gibbs (24), Walcott (24), Özil (25), Szczesny (23), and Giroud (27). In other words, not only are we in-form, we're primed to get better. Many of our key players are on the verge of realizing their potential rather than reminiscing about it. I ended that list with Szczesny and Giroud deliberately, and here's why.

As implied by the above-photo, Szczesny and Lewandowski seem to get along. They're mates. Besties. BFFs. They might even go old-school with those necklaces with a heart, split in half so they share it, that says "Best Friends". Maybe. There's something to that. Friends encourage each other to make good decisions. At the other end of the warm-fuzzy scale, Giroud's age and, let's face it, limited skill-set, make him replaceable. Look: I like the guy and enjoy it when he does well. He seems like a likable bloke who works hard and puts forth his best effort. However, as good as he is at several things, he doesn't truly excel at any of them. Not on a regular basis, at least. In the short term, we might have to bolster our striking options in other ways—a loan perhaps, for some decent player who can at least keep Giroud fresh. In the long term, though, the boot would be on the other foot as Lewandowski leads the charge and Giroud comes on for him late in matches or starts here and there.

What would it take to make this happen? Lewandowski will be out of contract in the summer, which might force Dortmund to seek a reduced offer. This would depend, of course, on Lewandowski's wishes. He doesn't have to abide by Dortmund's wishes. However, we could offer him a pay-raise, something in the order of £200k a week, although this might prompt some resentment among the rank-and-file. How would Wilshere or Ramsey or Walcott feel about a teammate earning that much more than them—double, in most cases? Would the idea of winning silverware be enough to offset their interest in higher wages for themselves?

It's pretty clear that a player of Lewandowski's caliber will probably not make a change mid-season, not when his club contends for Champions League and Bundesliga silverware, not in a World Cup year. Let's hope, then, that Zenit stuns Dortmund and that we send Bayern packing, clarifying once and for all that Bayern, even under Guardiola, are yesterday's news and that we are the club to play for.

This year's Champions League may not offer us much of a chance for silverware, but it's an audition of sorts, an invitation to players like Lewandowski and others to make their mark. By all means, then, let's do what we can to demolish Bayern but then turn our attention towards winning the Prem. The list of players who would kill to play for us would include more than just Lewandowski, and that's not at all a bad position to be in.

14 October 2013

Benzema, Bergkamp, and Lewandowski...

Sigh. Another interlull day does what it does. I can't even drum up much excitement for the qualifiers. Germany and Belgium are all squared away, but England, France, and Spain still have to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror. The Czech Republic could still sneak in, but Wales and Poland are both eliminated. One might hope then that Poland rolls over for England to assure that England finishes above Ukraine, who travel to winless, goal-less San Marino and its minus-45 goal-differential. Coming on the heels of Ukraine's fans' despicable behavior towards San Marino in the first leg, one hopes that a bit of karma delivers San Marino a famous 10-0 victory. Time will tell.

As for Arsenal news, it's slim-pickings indeed, as the most noise seems to come from what didn't happen or won't happen until January if it happens at all. I refer first to the fake Bergkamp twitter account @DBergkamp1969, which has been suspended after it was exposed as a sham. I'm not sure what would motivate a person to embark on such a fruitless project; I worry about the 20 minutes of my own life that I wasted tweeting #RedknappClaims such as "'Arry knew she was a tranny the whole time he was watching The Crying Game." Comic gold, I'm sure, but was it worth it? I'm sure that whoever set up the take Bergkamp account was twirling the ends of his handlebar moustache as he set up the account and said something like "Curses! Foiled again! If only it wasn't for those meddling kids!" once the account was suspended. Shame on me, of course, for following the account. I'm not sure what I expected to get out of it. Did I think I'd manage to tweet him with a just-right mixture of warmth and aloofness and nonchalance that would inspire Dennis to reach out, not with a tweet, but with a sincere and heartfelt DM? Alas, it was not to be, and it's a bit of a shame that we won't be hearing from him, at least via twitter, because his insights into the game, and his recollections of his time with Arsenal, would make for some beautiful reading. Maybe he should skip twitter altogether and just put out a book...

Elsewhere, there's tall-talk already of Karim Benzema being made available at a "cut-rate" price of £20m and of Robert Lewandowski saying that he "never said that [he] will sign a contract with Bayern" and he "would like to play in [sic] Premier League". Each of these has been seized on by eager minds as doors thrown open to Arsenal. First, Benzema. I'm not wildly enthusiastic about him, certainly not as much as I was for Higuain. He's lackadaisical, and aside from a strong showing against Galatasaray, hasn't done much yet to distinguish himself for a free-scoring Real Madrid. One would think that Higuain's departure would have given Benzema room to make his mark, but, aside from a ridiculous haircut, there's been little positive to say about him. The contrast between signing Mesut Özil from Real Madrid and signing Karim Benzema strikes me. The first is the steal of the season and sent a strong signal about our growing ambitions. Özil is, after all, touted as being among the world's ten best footballers, and for him to leave Real Madrid for any club is stunning. On the other hand, we have reports of Real Madrid actively shopping Benzema at a price two-thirds of what they paid for him in 2009. With the market for strikers what is was this summer, something stinks there. He's only gone for two goals from 26 shots in eight matches, and he's apparently second-choice for the French national team behind none other than Olivier Giroud. Giroud has spoken openly about wanting another striker, and perhaps Benzema would thrive in a new setting and under Arsène's management, but I worry about the locker-room tensions there. That said, it's October, and there's a lot of football to be played between now and January. Let's see how Benzema does—and what he might have to say about joining Arsenal—before we get too worked up about him one way or the other.

In similar fashion, Lewandowski's comments feel exciting at first blush...until we remind ourselves that, again, it's only October, and he's highly unlikely to leave Dortmund in January. Even if he's now talking down a move to Bayern, this is probably little more than maneuvering ahead of any negotiations over wages. If he's seen as committed exclusively to Bayern, this could depress his value. Keeping the likes of us, Man U, and Chelsea interested is a solid tactic for extracting the best deal for himself (and I don't mean that as a criticism).  I've joked in the past that we should sign Lewandowski to save Dortmund the anger and disappointment of seeing him leave for Bayern, the same anger and disappointment we felt when van Persie left for Man U, but maybe there's something to it. If he's dead-set on leaving, we'd be remiss to ignore him. He wouldn't be cheap, of course, and might even look to be the highest-paid player in most squads. As with Benzema, I refuse to get excited about him at this point. I am excited about Lewandowski in a way that I'm not about Benzema, and I think his signing could feel almost as good as Özil's was. His potential appearance at Wembley on Tuesday, in front of as many as 18,000 Polish fans, would offer a tantalizing, up-close view of his talents. However, it'll have to sit on the back, back-burner for now.

Looking past that and back to Arsenal itself, it looks like we could have Rosicky, Cazorla, and Sanogo available to face Norwich on Saturday, and the idea of seeing Cazorla partnering with Özil has me drooling already. We'll take a closer look at the match later in the week. Until next time, thanks for stopping by...

02 June 2013

How Arsenal prises Lewandowski from Dortmund

We've been connected to quite a few players this year, and it suggests something about our quality and reputation. In years past, we've had to wring our hands in despair at the prospect of losing players. This year, however, we look set to hold on to everyone we care to keep, and this frees us up to focus on pursuing what we need by way of upgrades instead of replacements.  Most of the chatter has focused on Stevan Jovetic, on whom I'm just not sold. I'd prefer Benteke as certainly better, not just financially but in terms of performance. However, if we're looking for a top-flight center-forward, one could be a game- and season-changing addition, and if we're looking to make spend a few pounds, dollars, or euros to signal our intent, why not make a bold move for Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski? Sure, he's been linked to Bayern Munich, and such a move has its obvious attractions, but he'd be pilloried up and down (something I've already done) for switching to Dortmund's Bundesliga rivals and Champions League bogeymen. If he's looking to move, why not offer him the somewhat safer havens of playing for Arsenal? I wouldn't mind printing out that post excoriating him and eating it (literally--I'll post a video of myself doing it). He could signal his ambition without pulling a van Persie. In doing so, he could rightly claim to be helping to elevate a proud and ambitious club instead of latching on, remora-like, to the biggest shark in the sea.

But how? Assuming Dortmund is willing to part with him, can we outbid Bayern? Maybe. I don't know their financial situation very well, but I have to imagine that, having committed to hiring Guardiola, apparently having signed Mario Götze, and also continuing to pay Robben and Ribéry, Bayern has a little less flexibility than we have in dealing with Lewandowski. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we do have trouble offering something more attractive. How do we (a) convince Dortmund to parley with us, and (b) entice Lewandowksi to listen?

Let's deal with (a) first. Let's say Bayern can match or exceed our offer. Why not throw in Podolski? As much as I have enjoyed him as a person and player, and as well as he's partnered with Giroud, he seems least vital to our needs. This is an odd statement to make about someone who was 3rd in goals and assists despite slogging through injury for long stretches. However, with Cazorla, Wilshere, and Walcott looking to hold down the attacking midfield roles, Poldi would be the odd man out more often than not. If we are bringing in Clément Grenier, Poldi might become that much more dispensable. A return to the Bundesliga might be attractive to him, not to mention giving Dortmund a replacement for Lewandowski (even if it's not exactly a one-for-one in quality...). Still not enough? Where's Denilson? If Götze is set to depart, Dortmund will need midfield options as well. The perpetually on-loan Brazilian might offer a suitable replacement until Dortmund decides on a more-incisive player, and combining him with Poldi might make our offer to Dortmund all the more attractive, enough to turn them from Bayern, whom they have no interest in strengthening at their own expense. Deal with us, and they stifle Bayern, emerge with money to spend and as many as two other players to deploy. Still not enough? Fine. Throw Bendtner in (unless that queers the deal rather than strengthening it.

Once we've captured Dortmund's attention, we say to Lewandowski, "look. You play for Bayern, you're all but sure to win silverware. Where's the glory in that? It's a limo-ride, luxurious and relaxing and fun and all, but do you want be known as a carpet-bagger who goes where the going's good, or do you want to be known as team-leader? You do know you'll be carrying water for Robben and Ribery all season, waiting to nibble on their scraps and left-overs. They have trouble enough sharing the ball with each other. How do you think they'll treat you, Johnny-come-lately? Come to Arsenal, and you're our #1 center-forward (sorry, Ollie) and a lynch-pin in delivering this team to the top of the Prem and the Champions League. You wouldn't be a hood-ornament as you would at Bayern; you'd be a driver. Instead of being hated by your former fans, you'd be merely mocked and then forgotten. At Arsenal, you'd slot in seamlessly and quickly bed-in to quick and sincere attention from fans. Think it over. You could have it all at Arsenal, and you'd know that you've rightly earned each trophy we win together."

I'm not saying that anything I've said could come together. For all we know, Lewandowski has already signed with Bayern, and I'm just spittin' in the wind. However, necessity is the mother of invention, and we need a strong center-forward. We could do worse than signing Lewandowski, but it would be awfully hard to do better.