It's all smiles for Joe Cole at Liverpool.
This began as a comment in response to Kellz, but took on a life of its own so it gets its own post.
I won't speak for Neal, but for me JCole isn't free. No transfer fee, sure. But 90K a week is a lot of money. Especially -- and here's what I can't get past -- for the one position on the field where Liverpool have numbers! I keep coming back to, "Is JCole a significant upgrade -- for that kind of money -- over Babel, Aquilani, Gerrard, Jovanovic, Maxi, Babel, Kuyt, and Riera?"
Let's put it this way, what if Liverpool got Gigi Buffon on a free? That's a big signing for Liverpool, right? He's a huge name in international football with a long pedigree and titles to his name. But do you need to spend big money (wages only, but still) on Buffon when you already have Reina?
At some point you have to fill needs, and not just make signings to "win the press conference". There are outfield positions where Liverpool are weak or thin, or both. Who starts the season at striker if Torres can't? N'gog? Kuyt? Are you happy with those options? Would you rather Liverpool be paying some of that money for Guillermo Franco or Benjani who were released from their clubs this summer? Maybe they would have been better off spending a transfer fee on Luis Suarez or Miroslav Klose. Or maybe Robbie Keane, who isn't wanted at Spurs and is a lifelong Liverpool fan.
Wait... Never mind. Scratch that last idea.
What if Liverpool had signed Paul Scharner on a free transfer? It wouldn't be a sexy signing. But he can play holding midfield. He can play in the center of defence. Both are positions where Liverpool could use further options. I don't know how Torres and Gerrard would have felt about that signing, but it seems silly to me to think that Torres and Gerrard would pledge themselves to Liverpool because they went out and signed another attacking midfielder. Unless they think that they'll have leverage to demand pay increases themselves based on what Cole is now earning.
As for your thought experiment of JCole going to Arsenal, I think the same thing. "Is JCole a significant upgrade -- for that kind of money -- over Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey, Fabregas, and Walcott?" I think the answer is no. In fact, I think Arsenal should now go out and buy Scharner to be understudy to Song and third or fourth choice center back. In fact, I'm starting the official bandwagon now!
In short, I think Liverpool have won a lot of press but I don't see how Joe Cole is going to help them win a lot of matches. I'll be happy to be proven wrong and if so, I'll be thrilled to put him in my fantasy team. But this transfer doesn't pass the smell test for me.