The reaction at the Emirates was to smile and ignore the latest words from Merseyside.
John W Henry’s that Luis Suarez will be allowed to go to Arsenal did not get any official reaction.
believe it is all bluster and bombast, the last fusillades from an army in headlong retreat.
Even Arsene Wenger, quizzed by one fan if he was going to sign the Uruguayan during Arsenal’s Members’ Day, put his thumb up.
For Arsenal, as with Chelsea over Wayne Rooney, the belief is .
But Henry did not amass a fortune by being an idiot, soft or a patsy.
He turned himself into a billionaire by being a hard-nosed businessman, who knew when to trade, and when to stick.
And if Henry is as good as his latest words, sticks to his vows, then things might be about to get a whole lot messier in N5.
From cocky assurance the fish was ready to be reeled in, to another empty net – and with no time to cast the rod again.
This, the , would be the summer it all changed, when the sacrifices of recent years would be placed in greater context.
Since Patrick Vieira struck the decisive shoot-out penalty that clinched the FA Cup in 2005, Arsenal supporters have watched a series of heroes depart for temptations elsewhere.
Vieira himself, followed by Thierry Henry. Then, as they always knew would happen, Cesc Fabregas.
Promises of big-money replacements have come and gone with remarkable rapidity, the doubts over Wenger starting to surface by those who once proudly trumpeted “Arsene knows”.
But last August, as those Gooners were powerless to prevent Robin van Persie leaving not for a foreign field but for Old Trafford, to become, as Sir Alex Ferguson accepted, the biggest single factor in Manchester United’s title glory, was the tipping point.
Wenger appeared to recognise it.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis certainly did, although his post-season promise of “a big summer” of spending and a £70million transfer pot, was a break with tradition at the most traditional of clubs.
This time, the Emirates faithful were told, the money was not only available but would be spent.
Gazidis said: “We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you.”
It sounded a bit like a solicitor experiencing a mid-life crisis, splurging on a Ferrari when it had always been family saloons.
Unwanted by Real Madrid, Wenger identified the Argentine as the man he saw as his new spearhead.
Everything seemed in place. Except actually doing the deal, as Arsenal saw Higuain run into the arms of Rafa Benitez at Napoli instead.
Arsenal could afford him, the club suggested. He fitted Wenger’s profile. Except while Rooney wants to come to London, it is Chelsea blue he covets.
And now it’s Suarez.
Alerted about the alleged clause in the Uruguayan’s contract – who knows how that could have happened? – they offered £40,000,001 to trigger it. Or so they thought.
The plan was simple. Exploit the vulnerability. Force Liverpool to sell. Take their man for a knock-down fee – even if Wenger knew the hardest part was going to be ensuring Suarez learned to knuckle under and toe the line.
Fine, if it works, if you get your man. Less so if you overbid and have nothing in your hand.
Especially with the fans demanding tangible proof the promises are real, and not just hot air.
Arsenal, surely, did not anticipate the extent of Liverpool’s fury, , confirmed by Henry’s Illinois tones.
Suddenly, the stakes are being raised.
Should the season begin, let alone the transfer window slam shut, with 20-year-old free transfer Yaya Sanogo being Arsenal’s only summer capture, the underlying frustrations and tensions will surely be one bad result away from boiling over.
That bitter rivals Spurs are aiming to get four times as much for Gareth Bale as Arsenal received for Van Persie will also raise questions over the boardroom direction of the club.
Of course, if Wenger’s confidence is justified, if Suarez is destined for the Emirates, the doubters will hold their tongues.
Hull City are grabbing the tiger by the tale – and adding Tigers to their official name.
Nicknamed the Tigers and with their famous amber and black colours, the club has been known as Hull City Association Football Club since it was founded in 1904.
The AFC tag is being dropped, with the club now to be known as Hull City Tigers.
Assem Allam, the Egyptian-born businessman who took the club over in 2010 and saved them from financial crisis, declared: "Hull City is irrelevant.
"My dislike for the word ‘City’ is because it is common.
"City is also associated with Leicester, Bristol, Manchester and many other clubs.
"I don’t like being like everyone else. I want the club to be special.
"It is about identity. City is a lousy identity. Hull City Association Football Club is so long.
"In Tigers, we have a really strong brand."
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Bernard Noble of the Hull CityOfficial Supporters’ Club admitted he was not entirely happy with the rebranding but nevertheless expressed support for Assem Allam.
"My personal opinion is I’m disappointed because I’m a bit of a traditionalist," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"But this guy saved us from liquidation and administration and it’s his club.
"I will still say ‘I’m going to watch City’, ‘I’m going to watch the Tigers’, ‘I’m going to watch Hull’. I will still say that and so will many other people.
"As far as Hull CityTigers is concerned, the fans – the 25,000 people who will be there forthe first home game against Norwich – they’ll say ‘I’m off down to watch City’.
"There will be disappointment there but I think we will realise that going into the Premier League we want to be a bit different, and hewants to be that bit different to get the business up and running.
"He’s a very, very successful businessman."
Allam’s son and vice-chairman Ehab Allam defended the decision to drop AFC from the club’s name after 109 years.
"We have dropped the AFC as it is something which has become redundant," he said.
"The identity of the club is the Tigers, the stripes, and the colour scheme of amber and black, which remains.
"We just feel that, now being on the international stage, we need to strengthen the brand identity.
"AFC is redundant, it is not used by the club, the fans never mention AFC, nor do the media.
"We have dropped something that is redundant, that is of no value, and is of no use."
However, Ehab Allam admitted the club could not force people to accept the rebrand.
"People have the right to call the club what they like, it’s their club," he said.
"We are not going to fans and saying they all have to refer to us in the same way.
"They call it what they like, we will do the same, but it is for commercial reasons that we are choosing this branding."
Any references to AFC on club branding are to be phased out, although AFC will remain on the shirt crest during their first season back in the Barclays Premier League, before being removed from the 2014/15 campaign.
Allam wants to market the club as Hull City Tigers locally and Hull Tigers to national and international audiences.
"In the commercial world, the shorter the name, the better. The more it can spread quickly," said Allam, who took over the Tigers in 2010 following their relegation from the top flight and whose
"I have always used short names in business. It gives you power in the science in marketing. The shorter, the more powerful the message," he said.
There’s a presumption in England that most defenders which are strong going forward simply can’t defend.
Maicon, Roberto Carlos, Marcelo, Dani Alves, Glen Johnson, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué and David Luiz among others have all fallen foul of this belief at one time or another.
But what stands out above all else is that most of these players are either Brazilian or Spanish. Obviously this isn’t a definitive list, but these two countries do spring to mind, yet are also held up as examples in an idealistic footballing world.
In England growing up, the Sunday League sidelines are full of coaches and dads alike screaming at kids, to either "don’t mess around at the back" or "if in doubt, put it out."
Unless Peckham was the one anomaly of this, it makes it all the more remarkable that Rio Ferdinand was able to excel as a centre-half and not moved into a position further up the pitch. was produced in spite of the system and not because of it.
In fact, he did start out as an attacking midfielder and it was his physical presence that persuaded scouts he could thrive in the heart of a defence.
Perhaps, it was this bit of luck alongside his footballing genes that has taken Rio to the top; brother Anton, cousins Les and Kane are all playing – or have played – to a high standard.
It certainly wasn’t the structure he grew up in, as he has previously criticised. He said on Twitter: "A coaching strategy for our young teams/kids needs to be implemented to see change. In most Premier League teams retaining the ball is done best by foreign players in the team … they are taught to pass to a man with a man on."
The FA were obviously quick to respond that there is work being done to fix the dilemma, though the likelihood is, it will be 10 to 15 years before another English player in the Ferdinand mould comes through by design.
During his younger years, his pace and strength helped mask any doubts over his concentration issues. He often didn’t get the credit he truly deserved: with an ability to hold a high defensive-line pushing the larger forwards away from goal, while his aerial prowess meant he could drop off and allow the quick strikers to be closer to his goalkeeper.
Furthermore, his positioning, organisational proficiency and in-game intelligence have improved throughout his career as his speed has naturally slowed. He was arguably at his peak between 2005 and 2008, when he played over half of his matches for the Red Devils, scoring seven goals. It was fitting that he netted in Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell match at Old Trafford in May.
Ferdinand is still the highest paid transfer for a defender, as Manchester United sent around £30 million across the M62 to Leeds, despite the fact the move was made eleven years ago.
Nearly 300 appearances and six Premier League titles have ensured this money was well spent. He has not been without his fitness problems, however, and there was certainly a time two years ago when some question marks were raised over recurring back and knee injuries.
The ability to judge his own body limits has been interpreted negatively by some national team fans when he has withdrawn previously from friendlies, but it’s this type of action that has prolonged his career and made such a decision fully justified.
Having rarely been without incident throughout his playing days, it’s this mental strength that will be crucial to the defender’s post-Ferguson era at United.
The English centre-back that was once regarded as brave, throwing himself into challenges and blocks has its place, but in tandem with a more technical defender, if the country is ever going to step up a level.
Though surely, being courageous isn’t mutually exclusive from technique as the likes of Carles Puyol and Rio Ferdinand have demonstrated.
Arsenal will face Turkish side Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-offs in a what is likely to be a challenging two legs for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Both legs are set to go ahead despite the Fenerbahce waiting a final ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over whether they will be allowed to go into the competition proper this season, after being banned by UEFA for match-fixing in domestic competition.
Home and away matches against will take place as the CAS verdict is due before the group stage draw is made.
However, UEFA explained that no decision has yet been made regarding what would happen in the event of Fenerbahce winning the tie and losing their CAS appeal.
Arsenal will travel to Turkey for the first leg before the return match at the Emirates a week later.
Meanwhile, Celtic have been drawn against Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan. Ties for both matches will take place on Aug 20/21 and Aug 27/28.
Champions League play-off draw
Dinamo Zagreb v FK Austria Vienna Ludogorets v Basle Plzen v Maribor Shakhtyor Karaganda v Celtic Steaua Bucuresti v Legia Warsaw Lyon v Real Sociedad Schalke 04 v FC Metalist Kharkiv Pacos Ferreira v Zenit St Petersburg PSV v AC Milan Fenerbahce v Arsenal Ties to be played 20/21 and 27/28 August
England boss Roy Hodgson is thrilled the country gets the chance to celebrate one of his greatest predecessors tomorrow.
will showcase the FA’s grassroots commitment as part of the organisation’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Events will be taking place in Sir Bobby’s native North East, at the Football centre which bears his name in Ushaw Moor, Durham, attended by his widow, Lady Elsie.
There will also be a women’s football festival at St George’s Park, a beach soccer event in Dorset, a Respect event at Netherton United in Peterborough, and a tournament and coaching session at AC Paulista FC in Lewisham, London.
Naming the event after Sir Bobby, who steered England to within a penalty shoot-out of the World Cup Final in 1990, demonstrates once again the reverence in which the former Three Lions player and manager is held.
And Hodgson, the latest inheritor of the ”poisoned chalice” of carrying the nation’s burden of expectations, can think of no better recipient of the honour.
Robson said: ”I think it is great that Sir Bobby’s name is used in connection with the National Football Day.
”You really could not find a man more energetic, more enthusiastic, more committed to football at all levels.
”With Bobby it was not only the seniors. He was always talking about the younger players at his club and how talented they were.
”I think for a grassroots day and grassroots football is very, very important.
”I hope it is something we can expand upon and improve upon and it’s great that Bobby Robson’s name is associated with it.”
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the Champions League and Europa League play-off draws.
Yes, it’s still early August and supposedly still the height of summer (though the rain clouds outside Mirror Towers would suggest otherwise) but it’s time to get back to the serious business of football.
Arsenal scraping into fourth place last season means Arsene Wenger and co will be waiting with baited breath to see who stands between them and a place in the Champions League proper.
North of the border, Neil Lennon’s Celtic are also in the draw, after they beat Swedish side Elfsborg to reach this round.
Stay with us as we chart the draw as it happens. It is slated to begin at 10.45am with the Europa League play-off draw following that.
So who could Arsenal be paired with?
Well, the draw features 20 teams: ten champions (including Basel and Celtic) and ten sides who qualified thanks to their league position. The latter group features Arsenal as well as Milan, Lyon, Schalke and Zenit St Petersburg.
Arsenal are seeded for the draw, meaning they will face one of five sides: PSV Eindhoven, Fenerbahce, Metalist Kharkiv, Real Sociedad and Paços de Ferreira on either August 20 or 21 and the following week.
will be keen to avoid Fenerbahce, whose squad includes former Premier League players Raul Meireles, Dirk Kuyt and Joseph Yobo. PSV can count on a number of exciting young attackers and would also pose a significant threat.
Metalist are the dark horses of the draw, having impressed in the Europa League in recent years, while Sociedad will be keen to impress after qualifying for Europe for the first time in a decade.
The preferred draw for is likely to be Paços, a modest regional side who snuck into the competition after finishing third in Portugal.
And if you’ve heard of all of those sides, then kudos to you.
The Scottish champions will be hoping to reach the group stage for the second time in two years – and get the chance to repeat their heroics of last season when they shocked the mighty Barcelona, beating them 2-1 at Celtic Park.
As we wait for the draw to start, we’ll give you a quick update on what else is going on this morning.
Strutting Chelsea chief Jose Mourinho is plotting a third bid for moping Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, according to reports in this morning’s paper.
in our paper talk round-up here.
To keep up with all the latest transfer news as it breaks, why not keep our transfer news live blog open in a little corner on your screen? You know – small enough so your boss won’t see if he walks past your computer.
Or if the thwack of leather on wood is more your thing, – assuming the heavy, dark clouds over Durham don’t delay the start of play.
Right, the waffle has started at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, so we’re getting closer.
They are now showing some highlights of last season’s final, which seems like it was only a few days ago.
Lots of shots of shouting Germans at Wembley, and there’s Klopp! Poor old Jurgen, ’twas not to be his day.
Now here’s UEFA suit Giorgio Marchetti to explain the ludicrously complicated technical procedure of the draw.
He’s reminding all the teams present they won’t have to organise their own matches as UEFA will kindly do all that for them. What loves.
He’s now explaining the seeding system. He reckons it’s very simple and very clear. Here we go…
First out of the hat: GNK Dimano (Croatia) and they will face Austria Vienna.
Next up: Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL) will play FC Basel.
FC Viktoria Plzen (Czech) will play NK Maribor.
Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan, will play Celtic FC!
Steaua Buchurest will play Legia Warsaw.
That completes the ‘Champions Route’ part of the draw and now they will move on to the ‘League Route’ part.
So we will now discover who Arsenal will face. Stand by…
The first balls are out.
Olympique Lyonnais (Or Lyon, as we call them) will play Real Sociedad.
Germany’s FC Schalke will face Ukraine side Metalist Kharkiv.
FC Paços de Ferreira of Portugal will play Zenit St Petersburg.
PSV Eindhoven, who won in 1988 will face AC Milan.
So that means Arsenal have got Fenerbahce, a tricky tie for the Gunners there.
And, as the saying goes, that concludes the draw for the Champions League play-off round.
The matches will be played on the 20th/21st and the 27th/28th of August.
So probably not the draw Arsene Wenger was hoping for there. Fenerbahce will be a tough nut to crack. They have a few familiar names in their ranks who you will recognise from their Premier League days.
Joseph Yobo, formely of Everton marshals their defence, while ex-Liverpool man Dirk Kuyt plays up front.
Another former Liverpool man, who also played for Chelsea, Raul Meireles is one of their midfield dynamos.
So here’s the full draw:
Dinamo Zagreb v FK Austria ViennaLudogorets v BaslePlzen v MariborShakhtyor Karaganda v CelticSteaua Bucuresti v Legia WarsawLyon v Real SociedadSchalke 04 v FC Metalist KharkivPacos Ferreira v Zenit St PetersburgPSV v AC MilanFenerbahce v Arsenal
Or, if you prefer, in picture form:
We’ll bring you some reaction on that Arsenal tie as soon as we have it, and join us on the hour for the Europa League play-off draw.
Swansea and Tottenham will find out who they have to defeat to make the group stages.
Michael Laudrup’s boys beat Malmo 4-0 on aggregate to reach this stage, while Spurs qualified directly for this round by virtue of finishing fifth in the Premier League.
Just a quick note on that Arsenal tie, Fenerbahce are awaiting a final ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over whether they will be allowed to go actually go into the competition proper this season, having been banned from competing in Europe by UEFA for match-fixing in domestic competition.
They have challenged that ruling and a CAS verdict is due before the group stage draw is made, but home and away matches against Arsenal stand to go ahead before that decision arrives.
UEFA today said no decision has yet been made regarding what would happen in the event of Fenerbahce winning the tie and losing theirCAS appeal.
Fenerbahce finished second in the Turkish Super Lig last season.
Rght, let’s get this second draw underway.
Mr Bald Man is chuntering away in Nyon, so let’s see who is in the draw today.
Group 1 Seeded: APOEL FC (CYP), SC Braga (POR), Be?ikta? JK (TUR)*, SK Rapid Wien (AUT), Feyenoord (NED)Unseeded: FC Kuban Krasnodar (RUS), Tromsø IL (NOR), SV Zulte Waregem (BEL), CS Pandurii Târgu Jiu (ROU), FC Dila Gori (GEO)
* Be?ikta? JK’s participation in the competition is subject to CAS proceedings.
Group 2 Seeded: FC Dynamo Kyiv (UKR), KRC Genk (BEL), AZ Alkmaar (NED), Swansea City AFC (ENG), OGC Nice (FRA) Unseeded: Apollon Limassol FC (CYP), Atromitos FC (GRE), FC Aktobe (KAZ), FH Hafnarfjördur (ISL), FC Petrolul Ploie?ti (ROU)
Group 3 Seeded: Sevilla FC (ESP), R. Standard de Liège (BEL), Eintracht Frankfurt (GER), FC Salzburg (AUT), FC Nordsjælland (DEN)Unseeded: IF Elfsborg (SWE), Qaraba? FK (AZE), WKS ?l?sk Wroc?aw (POL), FC Minsk (BLR), VMFD Žalgiris (LTU)
Group 4 Seeded: VfB Stuttgart (GER), FC Spartak Moskva (RUS), PAOK FC (GRE), FC Chornomorets Odesa (UKR), Real Betis Balompié (ESP)Unseeded: FK Jablonec (CZE), Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (ISR), HNK Rijeka (CRO), FC St Gallen (SUI), KS Skënderbeu (ALB)
Group 5 Seeded: FC Sheriff (MDA), ACF Fiorentina (ITA), AS Saint-Étienne (FRA), Trabzonspor A? (TUR), FC Rubin Kazan (RUS)Unseeded: Molde FK (NOR), Esbjerg fB (DEN), FK Vojvodina (SRB), Grasshopper Club Zürich (SUI), FK Kukësi (ALB)
Group 6 Seeded:Udinese Calcio (ITA), Tottenham Hotspur FC (ENG), FK Partizan (SRB), FCDnipro Dnipropetrovsk (UKR), Estoril Praia (POR), Maccabi Haifa FC (ISR)Unseeded: JK Nõmme Kalju (EST), FC Thun (SUI), FC Pasching (AUT), FC Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO), FC Astra (ROU), FC Slovan Liberec (CZE).
They’re showing highlights of Chelsea’s win over Benfica in last season’s final now.
Obviously Chelsea aren’t in it this season (at least not yet), but fellow Londoners Tottenham are, along with Welsh wizards Swansea.
UEFA suit Giorgio Marchetti is back to waffle on about the rules of the draw. The representatives from all the clubs look enthralled.
The balls are in the bowl and we are underway!
They are doing the draw in batches so we’ll bring you the full draw as soon as we can type it, but we’ll bring you Spurs and Swansea’s oppo straight away.
And Swansea are out of the hat, they will play FC Petrolul Ploiesti of Romania. (Us neither).
We’re now into the team-by team draw, so stand by for Tottenham’s opponents.
Tottenham have been drawn against FC Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia.
Not a bad draw for Spurs, and certainly a tad easier than Arsenal’s Champions League draw with Fenerbahce.
So we’ll bring you the full draw in a moment, but the headlines are: And Swansea will play FC Petrolul Ploiesti of Romania and Tottenham have been drawn with FC Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia.
Both have that feel of classic early round ties against obscure opposition in the far flung reaches of Europe.
The matches will be played on August 22nd and 29th.
So here, as promised is the full draw:
Kuban Krasnodar v FeyenoordZulte Waregem v Apoel NicosiaRapid Vienna v Dila GoriPandurii Targu-Jiu v BragaTromso v BesiktasApollon Limassol v NiceAktobe v Dynamo KievSwansea v Petrolul PloiestiAtromitos v AZFH Hafnarfjordur v GenkIF Elfsborg v FC NordsjaellandSlask Wroclaw v SevillaSV Red Bull Salzburg v VMFD ZalgirisFK Karabakh v Eintracht FrankfurtMinsk v Standard LiegeJablonec v Real BetisRijeka v VfB StuttgartChornomorets v SkenderbeuMaccabi Tel-Aviv v PAOK SalonikaSt Gallen v Spartak MoscowMolde v Rubin KazanVojvodina v FC SheriffTrabzonspor v FK KukesiEsbjerg v Saint EtienneGrasshoppers v FiorentinaMaccabi Haifa v FC Astra GiurgiuUdinese v Slovan LiberecDinamo Tbilisi v SpursEstoril Praia v FC PaschingNomme Kalju v DniproPartizan Belgrade v FC ThunTies to be played 22 and 29 August.12:34 pm
And that concludes the draw for us here on the live blog.
It’s now back to business as usual for us on the site, which means keeping a watching brief on all the transfer sagas currently playing out.
Will Luis Suarez engineer his way out of Liverpool? Will Gareth Bale seal his move to Madrid? And what of Wayne Rooney?
Keep up with all latest on all these stories and more in our transfer news live blog.
Or if the thwack of leather on wood is more your thing,