B/R World Football Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down This Week's Biggest Rumours
With all the speculation that flows in the papers through the course of each week, it can leave the head a little fuzzy.
We have thumbed through the gossip over the past seven days and picked out the highlights.
Some are believable, others less so, and in the following slides we'll put our own spin on things by giving them a rating.
Arsene Wenger Says Arsenal Won't Spend, but That's Not Certain
In Van Wijk’s piece, Wenger said: "We have a squad that is, number and quality wise, very, very good. After that in January we are not desperate (to buy) now."
These quotes slipped a little under the radar, but they are interesting given Arsenal’s fine start to the Premier League campaign.
Arsenal are two points clear at the top of the Premier League table, which has raised hope of a title challenge, but the Gunners will have their mettle tested in the coming weeks.
On November 2, Arsenal entertain Liverpool, and the following week they travel to champions Manchester United.
Positive results would lead to increased title hype, while defeats would prompt talk that the Gunners do not have the depth to match the big guns.
Whatever the outcome of the next two league games, it is obvious that Arsenal are short in certain areas—particularly up front, as this tweet from Squawka about the first half against Crystal Palace on Saturday highlights.
Arsenal have managed just one effort on goal despite completing 223 passes and having 70% of the possession. #AFC— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 26, 2013
Olivier Giroud has been in supreme form—he bagged his fifth league goal of the season in the win over Crystal Palace on Saturday—but he needs support.
Wenger may suggest January is not the time to spend, but he knows his attacking options are a little thin.
History shows that Wenger is reluctant to spend large sums. But with his side firmly in the title mix, the Frenchman may well head down a different path and make a big play.
Believability meter: Low
Wenger may say he’s unlikely to spend, but don’t be surprised if he does bring in a new player or two.
Jack Wilshere Has Much to Do to Justify Barcelona Link
On Tuesday morning, we woke up to a story that caught our eye. The Star’s Nick Lustig writes that Barcelona are lining up Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere as a replacement for Xavi.
It is understandable that Barca are looking to secure a replacement for Xavi, given he is 33 and in all probability only has a couple of years left in his legs.
Lustig picks up on a piece from Spanish paper El Mundo Deportivo, which claims that Barca have put together a wish-list of targets to replace Xavi and his midfield cohort Andres Iniesta. As this tweet shows, those are big boots to fill.
Barcelona trio Xavi, Sergio Busquets & Andres Iniesta completed 167/183 passes vs Real Madrid (91.3% accuracy) - http://t.co/m34xtfPNPc— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 26, 2013
Per Lustig, Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan and Atletico Madrid’s Koke feature on that list alongside Wilshere.
Wilshere’s name is the interesting one on this list. He has long been held in high regard, and Lustig’s piece claims Barca scouts were impressed with the England international when they were deployed to watch Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will testify as to the qualities of Wilshere, and his neat style of play is not dissimilar to Barca great Xavi.
However, Wilshere is a player who has been plagued by ankle problems, and, as Wenger said last week, per the Mail's Sami Mokbel, those issues continue to dog the midfielder.
As stated, Wilshere is in the Xavi mould, but his form this season has been solid rather than spectacular.
At present, Wilshere is not even the best midfielder on Arsenal’s books. The special talent that is Mesut Ozil is the shining light, but Aaron Ramsey is also outperforming Wilshere this season.
Per Premierleague.com, Ramsey has five goals and four assists; Wilshere has two goals and one assist.
Believability meter: Low
For Wilshere to be considered a target for Barcelona, he must first shake off his injury troubles and produce the consistent level of performances that Wenger knows he is capable of.
Diego Costa Likely to Prove Beyond Chelsea in January
Fernando Torres has stepped up his level this term, while Samuel Eto’o opened his account for the season against Cardiff on October 19, but it is clear that a striker is needed at Stamford Bridge.
The paper scribes are aware of this, and a piece on the subject came to our attention.
On Tuesday, the Mirror’s John Cross revealed that Mourinho is plotting a move for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.
In his piece, Cross wrote:
Jose Mourinho wants Chelsea to buy a big-name striker in January—with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa on his wish-list.
Mourinho is hopeful Roman Abramovich will back him, after they missed out on Wayne Rooney in the summer and none of their forwards have established themselves as No. 1.
Costa is a striker in the Mourinho mould. He is all about power, and his style of play is not dissimilar to Didier Drogba.
Cross is saying £35 million is the sort of money it would take to land Costa. That sort of price is not beyond Chelsea, but there are a few things that mean a move is unlikely to happen.
Are Atletico willing to sell? At the present juncture, they are firmly in the Liga title mix and have made a perfect start to their Champions League Group G campaign.
With that in mind, it would be folly to sell their most potent attacking threat if they have any desire to lift silverware.
On top of that, Costa is set to represent Spain at the World Cup. He has played two friendlies for Brazil, but now has Spanish nationality and is expected to commit to Vicente del Bosque’s side.
Leaving Spain in a World Cup year would not be viewed well by the Spanish public and could jeopardise his chances of making it to Rio next summer.
Believability meter: Low
There’s no doubt Chelsea want a striker, and Costa would be a good option. But it would take a mammoth bid to tempt Atletico into selling, while there’s no guarantee the player would want to leave Spain.
Manchester United Gareth Bale Capture Looks a Long Shot
This is the same Wales international who only joined Real Madrid for a world-record fee in the summer.
Bale joined Real without having had a proper pre-season, and he has been beset by fitness problems.
It has been forgotten on account of the problems, but Bale made a sizzling start to his Real career with a goal on his debut.
It has gone downhill since then, as he has battled injuries and seen his club wage war with the media amid talk that he requires an operation.
That would appear to have been put to bed when Bale was handed a start against Barcelona on Saturday, but his Clasico debut did not go as planned, as he threw in a below-par display and was subbed in the second half.
Gareth Bale's El Clasico Debut: 54% pass completion rate, 0% take-on success, 0% cross success, 2 fouls & 1 yellow card. Absolutely abject!— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 27, 2013
On the heels of that performance was a report from Sunday Times writers Jonathan Northcroft and Duncan Castles, which claimed United were keeping tabs on Bale’s situation and could make a bid in the summer.
After securing the capture of Bale, Real president Florentino Perez revealed that United had tried to beat them to the deal.
While Bale’s season has not started well, United’s has been as bad in its own right. The failure to bring in any of their top summer targets, aside from Marouane Fellaini, did not help the Red Devils’ cause, and they are eight points adrift of league leaders Arsenal.
A capture of a marquee player such as Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo or Cesc Fabregas would have boosted new manager David Moyes, but it did not happen.
Northcroft and Castles claim it could happen next summer, but given how hard Real fought to get Bale—and the amount paid—it would be an astonishing move if he were to be sold after just one season.
Should Bale prove to be a flop in Madrid, he almost certainly will be moved on at some stage. But injuries have prevented him from making any sort of impact, and he should be judged after he’s had a decent run in the team.
Believability Meter: Low
There is likely to be truth in the claim that United are monitoring Bale’s situation, but a departure from Real after one season just does not appear likely.
Manchester United to Win Leighton Baines Battle with Everton
The England international full-back remains firmly on Moyes’ radar, and the Express’ John Richardson is convinced a deal will happen in January.
In his piece, Richardson writes:
Manchester United boss David Moyes will successfully end his £15 million pursuit of Everton's England star Leighton Baines in the January transfer window.
Sunday Express Sport can reveal that Moyes' former club already have advanced plans to replace Baines, who they are resigned to losing just months after rebuffing a number of offers from United.
Richardson’s line is pretty strong; he is convinced the deal will be done when the transfer window opens in January.
There are some reports you read that do not ring true. There are others that look to tick enough boxes. Richardson’s piece falls into the latter category.
Moyes, with his team eight points off the title pace, knows his squad needs pepping up, and left-back is an obvious area to improve.
Patrice Evra is in the final year of his contract, and there is doubt as to whether he will extend his stay. Even if Evra does sign a new deal, he will be 33 by the time next season comes round. At 29, Baines has the fresher legs.
Of greater importance is that Moyes knows Baines so well from his time at Everton, and he does look like a manager who needs men around him he can trust. Baines would certainly be one.
That leaves them exposed, and Richardson expects the Red Devils to step in.
Believability meter: High
Moyes may well have a number of targets in January. Baines is certainly one, and expect the Scot to get his man this time around.