While speculation continues about Baptista, Dacourt, and
other established stars, those in the know keep an eye on
the less famous comings and goings at Arsenal. Who's going to
be the next Cesc/Toure/Senderos/Vieira?
IN: Armand Traore, from Monaco. One potentially very exciting
prospect is this teenage defender. Early reports caused
a little puzzlement, till everyone sussed that it's not
the Liverpool player but instead a coup that's been
touted as being possibly of Fabregas proportions. But
he's only 16 so let's not count our chickens. We may never
see another 16 years old of Cesc's class.
We asked our French correspondent Philippe about him, and it all
sounds good. Traore is a highly-rated player from the
French international youth sides. He's of French-Senegalese
descent, and was coached at Racing in Paris before switching
to Monaco for a season. He was highly thought-of there, and
nicknamed "the new Evra" (Evra is another French-Senegalese
left-back at Monaco, who's broken into France's senior set-up
and who has himself been linked with Liverpool).
But Monaco were slow to snap Traore up
on a proper contract, and Wenger (with prompting from Gilles
Grimandi, apparently) pounced.
Traore is an attack-minded left-sided defender, and is expected to
be number 3 in that position behind Cole and Clichy. He's signed
a 4 year deal. Some reports, incidentally, have suggested he
plays at right-back or in the centre of defence, but Philippe's
usually spot-on with these things. Mind you, one never knows where
young players will end up once Wenger gets hold of them.
I see that some sites are saying Traore's arrival is still
not certain. We checked with Philippe and he seems sure it's done and dusted. Also, note that Traore is currently named
on the official Arsenal site's first team squad list.
Of course, the arrival of a new left-sided player, even of such a
young age, raised questions about who might be leaving us from
that side of the pitch. But soon after Traore's arrival came the
news of Ashley Cole...
STAYING: Ashley Cole. What more needs to be said about this?
Whatever the full truth may be regarding events of earlier this
year, we can only hope that a few more fans have learned the lesson
that newspaper reports saying there are "irreparable differences"
between a player and the club are not to be trusted. Ash got himself
into a pickle, but he said he didn't want to leave and he hasn't.
Instead, he's signed a 1-year contract extension which
takes it up to 2008.
IN DOUBT? Robert Pires
The appearance of a new player on the left does however inevitably
make one wonder about the Pires rumours that fail to die. He has
one year left on his contract and the stories say that he wants a
2 year extension while Arsenal are only offering one. His agent
has denied any possibility of his moving to Galatasaray, but
hasn't denied the latest rumour that Juventus are hoping to team
him up with Vieira again. Juve are said to
want him on a free, but it seems unlikely that Arsenal will let
him go for nothing unless they can help it. More likely they'll
get a few million for him, or just let him play out his contract
a la Wiltord/Edu. But naturally we're all hoping he signs
that extension. Pires had another storming season, finishing 4th
in the Premiership goal-scoring table, and few players would be