Ah, the New Year. Fireworks, cold, snow, and the re-opening of the January transfer window. This means rumours abound; from broadsheet newspapers that should know better, tabloids that are inherently rubbish, Skysports, Twitter and those few reliable sources. With so many sources and rumours, it becomes hard to separate fact from fiction; based on today's papers, Arsenal may sign the once world-class (and possibly still) Kaka on loan, or the decidedly so medioce that he's not even England quality-class Kieran Richardson. Most of this is plain rubbish, but what makes a source reliable?
1. Consistently Getting Things Right
A trusted source is one who consistently releases information that is proven to be right. Simply throwing names at a board in the hope that one sticks doesn't work in this situation; this source has to have a high success rate with transfers. This means a history of correctness with past transfer windows, so all those who start a blog or Twitter account January 1 that's called "[Blank]_ITK" and is "focused on transfers" are not to be trusted. Those who get stuff right, and have a history of doing so have achieved the first step of being trustworthy.
2. Rumours Aren't Flashy
Arsenal's record transfer is around £15-17 for Andrey Arshavin. This has been bettered several times other by the old Big Four, and of course, Manchester City. So, any rumour linking Arsenal to a £25m plus purchase of a flashy name is likely unreliable. Could Arsene Wenger spend a huge amount of money? Yes, he could, but he likely won't, so treat those rumours with disdain. If they are proven to be true, it'll be even more exciting and satisfactory when said player joins. Those who are reliable will report transfers that are typical of Wenger's buying history, and should make sense within the constraints of Arsenal's wage budget and transfer budget.
3. Don't Claim To Be "ITK" or "In The Know"
If you claim to be In The Know (capitalised because you know The Man, right?), you're not. Sorry, but putting "ITK" in your Twitter description whether you say you are employed by Arsenal or just a gas station makes it impossible to be "ITK". Why? Because Arsenal will have a contract preventing employees to publicly leak information, especially on sites like Twitter that makes it easy to track. If you don't work for Arsenal, but at a gas station, you likely won't have a contact inside Arsenal; no, the Arsenal Tea Lady is not going to see Arsene Wenger's transfer list. Those who are actually in the know won't need to claim so because they have nothing to prove; they are connected journalists, fanshare holders or prominent bloggers. They don't need to prove they're in the know, because they display it with their work.
So, who is a reliable source?
In my considered opinion, there are only a few trustworthy source with regards to Arsenal. Fulfilling the credentials listed above are Arseblog, Gunnerblog, Jamie Sanderson and David Ornstein of the BBC. All are well connected, have a history of getting transfers right, and, perhaps crucially, fact check their stories before releasing to the general public. If you're going mad with the amount of rumours this month, you can do far worse than following those 4.
Can those 4 get things wrong? Of course. Transfer stories are murky waters at best; piles of mud with tires and other things clogging up the land at worse. That's why all stories should be taken with a grain of salt until the deal is announced on a club's website, and that is why this blog doesn't report on most rumours. Does that mean that you can follow those who claim to be "in the know"? Sure. But remember. If they claim to be "in the know", and are reporting things that seem unlikely (one Tweeter tonight, called "Agent_ITK" claimed Daniel Levy called up Arsenal to talk about Theo Walcott moving, a preposterous decision given that Junior Hoillet would be much cheaper and easier to purchase, and also given that Arsenal wouldn't sell to Tottenham), it's probably best to ignore them.