Something will have to give this weekend. As Sir Alex Ferguson would say, it’s squeaky bum time, and there’re no prizes for guessing whose bum is the squeakiest right now! Part of Arsenal’s ‘insurance’ in their face-off with Chelsea over Cole was the expected windfall to come to them from Reyes’ sale to Madrid. Arsenal had calculated that the failure of Calderon to land any of Robben, Kaka and Fabregas was already a source of bother for him as this piles early pressure on his presidency, as only the Spanish system can (because these were the players he promised to bring to the club when campaigning for the club’s presidency and the basis upon which he was elected). While signing Cannavaro and Ruud are no substitutes, Arsenal recognize that Madrid need a Reyes signing to further ameliorate that early setback. Typically, they’ve sought to milk the Spanish club to the hilt.
However, Calderon has wised up. He recognized the subtle blackmail immediately and did the necessary thing. First, he apologized to the fans for not being able to bring any of those promised players and then declared unequivocally that he can’t bring them anymore. Now, he’s doing the next necessary thing by telling Arsenal that Reyes isn’t a priority as they’re more after Diarra. This, of course, is top bluffing, but it serves the purpose of rattling Arsenal and also creating a well of support for Senor Calderon amongst the Madrid fans who also think the dingdong has gone on for too long. He’s taken a leaf from Chelsea’s book by telling Arsenal he’s “not going to pay one euro over the odds” for Reyes; so, they either take the £10 million on offer or forget it.
Now, the Arsenal board will need to think. Where is the money they need to spend to strengthen their squad in the first year at the Emirates Stadium going to come from? Can they fight on three fronts this late in the day? First, there is the Chelsea front over Cole, then there is the Madrid front over Reyes and then there is Arsenal versus the mini-sharks waiting to unburden them of their loot from the big clubs once Arsenal come asking for their own players! What goes around comes around! Arsenal do not have the insurance of Madrid anymore. They will have to decide between taking Madrid’s £10 million and parting with Reyes or Chelsea’s more substantial offer and parting with Cole. Reyes has already indicated that if he doesn’t move to Madrid (as much as he wants to) he’d be hurt, but he’d have to get on with it at Arsenal nonetheless. But neither Cole nor anyone on the Arsenal board, including Wenger, would dare think of Cole remaining with Arsenal after the close of the transfer window.
There is no pressure on Chelsea. Mourinho has said we need one or two defenders. Cole or no Cole, we will get them before the transfer window closes. Besides, it is not in Arsenal’s interest to continue the brinkmanship further than the coming week, because that means even if they eventually sell for a higher amount than Chelsea are offering now, they may not likely have the time to spend the money wisely before the window closes. And, of course, there exists the clear and present possibility of other clubs with money moving in for their target(s) before they can actually raise money. Thus, I think immediately before or immediately after the first league games of the season, the Cole situation will be resolved “one way or the other”, to borrow Monsieur Wenger’s precipitate phrase.
Within Arsenal itself, Dein may do well to begin to think of his own position since every finger within and without are pointing to him as the stumbling block. He must know by now that he’s already lost his halo with a substantial section of Arsenal fans, especially as it’s obvious that Wenger is already losing patience. In fact, if the cack hits the fan over this sale or no sale situation, Dein would probably have to begin to think of moving on. Okay, he has a huge stake of £45.5 million (or 16% shares) in Arsenal, but that may not be enough to keep him on the board in an active capacity, especially if the fallout affects Arsenal’s long-term prospects negatively. With the mini-disgrace he’s already facing at the FA, he might just be flirting with obscurity. It’s his move right now and everyone is waiting.