Every footballer dreams of representing his nation in big tournaments because he'll get a chance to showcase his talent on the world stage and the likelihood of him been spotted by the voracious scouts of the clubs around the world is very high. Arsenal are a club that's renowned for having a brilliant scouting network but Steve Rowley and his team also put half an eye on international tournaments.
Players like Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Vela were among the set of players that had their big breaks in youth tourneys and the trend has continued ever since. Most tournaments take place in the summer but the harsh weather conditions of the tropical continent called Africa prompted the hierarchy of its football organization (CAF) to set up its tournament (Africa Cup of Nations) in January.
The Africa Cup of Nations is a tournament many scouts all over Europe and the rest of the world pay serious attention to because of the nature at which Africa's best showcase themselves. Hassan Shehata and the Pharoahs of Egypt have dominated the tournament as the alpha team but the country's poor showing in the qualifiers led to the resignation of one of the most respected moustache-wearing figureheads in African football.
Despite being a tournament every African wants to play in, there's one major setback the tourney causes. Football teams with a large African contingent become depleted and there's always this urge to buy in a player or two especially when the clubs are challenging for honors in their respective leagues.
Arsenal is a club that has had its fair share of African contingent that became key players to the squad. In the mid-'90s to early 2000s, Kanu Nwankwo was a player the Gunners adored for his exploits on the pitch but they were robbed off his services in January 2000, 2002 and 2004 because he answered the clarion call from the Super Eagles. Kolo Toure and Lauren Etame-Mayer were also key defenders that have been lost to the African Cup of Nations during their time at the club.
The 2012 African Cup of Nation begins on the 21st of January and all Gooners are in joyous mode because the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon failed to qualify for the tournament. With the kind of form Alex Song is in, it would have been disastrous to lose him at such a crucial point of the season were the Gunners are still chasing the leading pack.
However, Ivory Coast's Gervinho and Morocco's Marouane Chamakh have been called up by the Elephants and Atlas Lions, respectively, and Arsenal is set to lose both players for an entire month. Unlike Chamakh that has been in the fringes, Gervinho has risen to be a key player for Arsenal and his absence will be sorely missed, judging from the way Andrey Arshavin has been playing this season.
Arsene Wenger has been withstanding a barrage of fans calling for him to buy a spare striker in the winter transfer window because they don't really want their beloved club to lay all its eggs on a Robin van Persie basket. The "chicken" called van Persie has already laid 19 eggs this season and at this rate more "eggs" are likely to come, but who will Arsenal run to when the poultry farm's gates open up and this chicken gets attacked?
"We lose players like Chamakh and Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations so hopefully, touch wood, we do not get any injuries to our strikers. But if an opportunity turns up in that department then we will buy."
This news has fueled the media vultures to start swarming round Arsenal to give tidbits of possible transfers into the club. I'll start with the biggest of them all where Tuttomercatoweb are reporting that Arsenal is gearing up a £30 million bid for Real Madrid's hotshot Karim Benzema.
Sky Sports has reported that Arsenal have placed Anderlecht's Lucas Biglia on their radar but clubs gunning for Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze have to keep their money back in their pockets because the "German Messi" suffered a thigh injury in Dortmund's last match against Kaiserslautern and he'll be out for a month or so. However, Wenger has already ruled out a move for the bloke.
Danish bad boy Nicklas Bendtner has been on the spotlight for the wrong reasons again. Shortly after that Lionel Messi-inspired 4-1 Champions League defeat to Barcelona in the 2009/10 campaign, Bendtner was seen outside a club with his pants down. He claimed that he was trying to put them back up but the bouncer was more concerned about getting him into his car.
This time reports are emerging that Nicklas Bendtner (who was probably drunk) went into a pizzeria in Copenhagen at night in search of the round delicacy but he was short of cash so he decided to play the "don't you know who I am" card. Bendtner's credit card was rejected and his request for free pizza was knocked back, so he arrogantly proclaimed that he could buy the whole restaurant if he wanted to.
A 22-year-old carpenter who was behind Bendtner in the queue at the Gothersgade Pizza House had this to say:
“He was f***ing arrogant and came up as if he owned the place. Everyone just stood and looked at each other and shook their heads over the way he behaved.”
“He played really stupid. When he could not pay, he demanded to get free pizza and said: ‘Do you not know who I am? I can buy the whole pizzeria.'”
The video of his recent shenanigans can be seen here.
Bendtner has always had this cockiness about him and I truly thought that he'd stick to it on the pitch at least. He said that he wants to be among the best strikers on Earth and hit back at Arsenal after his loan move to Sunderland, but he hasn't actually shone at the Stadium of Light and his lack of goals among other reasons probably led to the dismissal of Steve Bruce.
The club has a new manager in the form of the impressive Martin O' Neill, so we'll see how things go for Bendtner and his teammates. At least they've hit the ground running with a win over Blackburn last weekend and ex-Gunner Seb Larsson put the final nail in Blackburn's coffin.
In other Arsenal-related news, Mikel Arteta says that he'll like to contribute to the team's cause with more goals and Ryo Miyaichi's loan move away from Arsenal will be decided in the beginning of January.
The quote of the day goes to Tellitasitis, a commenter on the Bendtner article on Who Ate All the Pies:
"Obviously his ex (former Danish baroness, Caroline Fleming) dumped him ‘coz he couldn’t pay for her pizza either. If I was in that line, I’d have thrown him a football & watched him make an even bigger twat of himself."