Wenger Signs On The Dotted Line

Morning all,

It seems like there has been a little bit of action on the news front, so instead of writing some guff about what I think about stuff, I thought I’d write something about what other people think based on facts rather than my own spurious guesswork.

I couldn’t write a blog today about Arsenal without mentioning first the excellent news that Arsene Wenger has finally penned a new deal worth a reported £75,000 a week. The four year deal sees the Frenchman staying at the club until 2011, coincidentally the same year that Cesc will either have to sign on again or move on for nothing. At 57, Wenger’s new deal means he will be 61 when the contract expires and we should really start some contingency planning for when he does decide to step down as manager. I am of the opinion that he’ll be offered a position at the club other than manager when this eventuality does occur, but what that’ll be is anyone’s guess. However, he might well decide to sign for another 4 years and retire at the normal age of 65. Hopefully when he does decide to call time on his tenure, he’ll do so as the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal.

I mentioned Cesc above, and there is an interesting story doing the rounds at the moment. In an interview with Radio Marca (Spanish radio causing trouble again – who’da thought) Cesc admits to having talks with Real Madrid in July. When you consider that AW stated during the summer that he did not give permission for anyone to talk to Cesc about a transfer, then you have to wonder what is going on. Surely this is a case of “tapping up” a la Cashley, and as such there should be some action taken by the club/UEFA/FIFA/God. I would enjoy nothing more than seeing Real getting a beat down from…well, anybody. However, Cesc seems happy at Arsenal, saying,

“We spoke for a long time. But it is absolutely not true I struck a deal to join them next year.”

“My decision to stay was clear and emphatic. I’m certain I made the right choice. No matter how long I may live, I will always know I was correct to stay. There were many reasons but chief among them was my respect for Arsene Wenger and the love I have for Arsenal.”

I’m a big fan of Cesc. He’s filling the void as my favourite player that Dennis’ retirement created and with each passing season he goes up in my estimation as a player. Mourinho will tell you that Lampard is the best midfielder in the world, which we all know not to be true, but if you can tell me how, based on this season’s form, that Cesc isn’t the complete package then I will take my hat off to you. I don’t normally wear a hat, but I will put one on and then take it off, as is my commitment to my belief.

It’s not all sweetness and light at The Grove though. We’ve got some disgruntled players in Bendtner and Lehmann. Nicklas is a little peeved at being left out of the squad that faced Portsmouth.

“I didn’t get any explanation. I don’t know why he did that and I’ll demand to know why and have a talk with Arsene Wenger when I get back. But what is said will stay between us.”

Oh he’ll “demand” and explanation will he? Not sure The Boss will like that. No doubt he’ll set him straight and Bendtner will be seen skipping down the halls at London Colney licking a big lollipop.

Also, Jens has the arse. When asked about whether he’s lost his spot as number 1 or if his Arsenal career is over, the German mentalist said,

“Such interpretations really get on my nerves.”

Oooh. Get him. But the stopper also added,

“Arsene Wenger will put me in the team again. I will play again.”

Good attitude Jens. And through his enforced absence and the competition created by Almunia’s solid displays, I expect to see an invigorated Jens back on his game.

Finally there’s some stuff worth reading about Kroenke in The Independent.

And now I’m off to do some work. Lucky me. Happy Friday.

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The Day Today

Morning all.

Let’s start with some football talk shall we? Well, yes we shall.

First up I should probably mention that as expected, Seville overcame AEK Athens in their Champions League qualifier second leg with a 4-1 trouncing of the Greek champions. A resounding 6-1 aggregate win sees the men with the oranges put the UEFA Super Cup defeat by AC Milan and the tragic death of Antonio Puerta behind them to join Arsenal, Slavia Prague and Steaua Bucharest in Group H. Even with the addition of Seville, the current UEFA Cup champions, this group looks decidedly winnable and I really can’t foresee any problems for Arsenal in qualifying from it – probably as winners. Then, no doubt we’ll have to play Barcelona at the first available opportunity. With the way the team is playing at the moment and assuming we get a nice draw in the 16, I see no reason why we can’t reach the quarters or semis without breaking much of a sweat.

And therein lays the answer to the question of why we have so many midfielders. I was pondering this t’other day and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why we’d bought Diarra (who is undoubtedly quality) when we already have Diaby, Denilson, and Flamini. Flamini apart (who I think is still a solid squad player) that is some bench to have. 3 potential first choice internationals just sitting around waiting for a chance to shine when Cesc or Bert are out. But then when you consider that some will get Carling Cup runs, some Champions League experience, FA Cup matches and league games, you can see that we need legs. Lots of legs. There is no question that central midfielders do the lion’s share of the running around and with AW’s youth policy and his buying wicked players policy, I can see him using all 6 players quite regularly. It’s not so much squad rotation, but using the “minor” competitions for giving them experience and then having options available for the bigger matches. This is the only reason I can see that would make Diarra sign for us when he left Chelsea in search of regular football. I expect him and Diaby to partner Denilson in the cup games and “take turns” in subbing on in the league. Either way, I’m happy we’ve got Diarra, and I’m very happy about having such a good central midfield lineup.

Onto the Afghan Hound look-alike, Robbie Savage then.

“Van Persie did a piece in the paper slaughtering us, which is wrong. It’s a man’s game. It’s physical. You’re going to get stuck in and make tackles. And they do that, so it’s very hypocritical of them.”

Who’da thunk we’d be cited for being a bunch of hard men? Anyway, it makes me chuckle that these Blackburn players and their manager keep coming out saying stuff about us moaning. Touched a nerve, have we? Guilty conscience? Either way, it’s still funny that Robbie Savage thinks he can criticise anybody. Take a look in the mirror pal.

Some good news for football. Dennis Bergkamp has been voted into the Football Hall of Fame. Congrats to Den, but also well done to all those that voted. It would have been a travesty if the Dutch legend hadn’t made the cut. Watching him play was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my footballing life. He is, and always will be, my hero. I don’t think there has ever been a player that did what Dennis did in the way that he did it. The special moments are too numerous to recount, but remember the goals against Leicester and that one against Newcastle and you will realise that Dennis was something very, very special and we were all privileged to watch him play in the red and white.  Gefeliciteerd Dennis.

Finally, Danny Fiszman has said he wants to take a more active role in the club and that no oligarch is getting his oily, steely hands on his shares. I promised myself that I wouldn’t write any more on this subject because I think I’ve said all I need to say on the matter, but I thought it was worth mentioning that Diamond Danny is stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing.

Sadly, it’s time for work. I’ll be thinking of you…

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Sparta Preview – Arsenal Not Signing Adriano – Lehmann

Tonight sees the second leg of our Champions League qualifier against Sparta Prague.  A 2-0 away win stands us in good stead to qualify, but the job is certainly not over yet and we’ll need to keep things tight at the back to ensure there’s no hiccups along the way.

Thankfully, at the press conference today, AW revealed that Philippe Senderos will return to the squad so there will be no need for Alex Song to play.  At all.  None.  With Almunia still in for Lehmann and Eboue and Sagna out, Justin Hoyte and  should be the only change from the team that beat Manchester City at the weekend.  I’m expecting the line-up to be;

  • Almunia
  • Hoyte
  • Toure
  • Senderos
  • Clichy
  • Hleb
  • Fabregas
  • Gilberto
  • Rosicky
  • van Persie
  • Eduardo

I feel Eduardo will come in for Adebayor who had a stinker against Citeh.  As mentioned yesterday, we’re still searching for the striking combination that will provide the most goals and it’s fairly certain that RVP will be the mainstay, accompanied by one of Eduardo or Adebayor.  From what I’ve seen of Eduardo, he looks like the best man of those 3 to link the play between the midfield and his partner up front.

In a splurge of newsy soundbite benevolence, Wenger also commented on the rumours surrounding the non-signing of Adriano.  The Boss said,

“If I find the right player with the right quality I will always take him. With Adriano they wanted to give you a player and also take one from your squad. It would mean losing a player and then get one in who you were not desperately wanting. It is nothing to do with the quality of Adriano.”

I’ve got to say that really, Adriano would be a massive coup for us.  He’s proven quality and plays in the style of an Arsenal player, albeit one who is a human battering ram – the sort of player we thought Julio Baptista would be.  The question is who did Inter want in return for him?  It would have to be someone we’d consider too important to lose.  Fabregas?  Rosicky?  RVP?  Gilberto?  Your guess is as good as mine.  In fact, it’s probably better.  What would’ve been perfect would be to swap him for Bendtner or Adebayor and then asses the situation at the end of the season.

Wenger also commented on the Lehmann situation.  With rumours rife that the German is considering his future with the club, AW was quick to play that talk down and state that Jens is still committed to regaining his No.1 spot when he returns from injury.

“I had a meeting with Jens last Friday and he is not capable of playing at the moment. I know what is happening and he is not on his way out of the club.”

Finally, have a butcher’s at this.  How does Mark Hughes think people who have eyes and watch his team play using them don’t formulate their own opinion of his team (and in particular Robbie Savage), that his pathetic retaliatory finger pointing won’t change?  The man is clearly deluded.  I personally can’t wait until the next time we play his lot and we see Robin and Cesc both “accidentally” slide tackle him when chasing balls that are going out of play.  I can see the little smirk on Arsene’s face now.

Anyway.  Off to work for me.  Have a good day won’t you?

Cheers

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Normal Service Is Resumed…

…In more ways than one.  Firstly let me apologise for my absence over the bank holiday weekend.  As you can imagine I was very busy with doing all the things that are supposed to be done on a bank holiday – having BBQ’s and getting hideously drunk.  I had good intentions to update the blog, but hangovers and late nights put paid to that.  But I’m back now, so you can all rest easy.  I’m sure that’s a big relief to hear.

What was also a big relief was 3 points bagged against Man Citeh.  The vastly improved mancs could’ve provided Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side with a bit of a stumbling block, but after a hard fought, open game, it was Cesc ‘The Cescinator’ Fabregas that proved to be the difference between 1 and 3 points.  I’m sure you’ve all heard and read about the game a lot over the last three days so I won’t dwell too much on that.  But it is important to note that last season against a vastly inferior Citeh and us still having ‘talisman’ Henry, Ljugberg etc we managed to lose 1-0 in the opening stages of the campaign.

Everyone’s going on about Chelsea being top of the table, and to be fair, they are.  But the fact that both Arsenal and Liverpool are only 3 points behind and both have played a game less seems to have eluded most of the media.  That’s probably due in no small part to the hype that SKY surround the Russians with rubbing off on the rest of the sports news media.  Even Manchester Utd seem to have fallen off the radar a bit.  No doubt that will be remedied over the course of the season as they begin to rise back up the table, but for now they languish in the bottom half and have been looking extremely ordinary so far.

Taking note of all this is Mr Arsene Wenger.  He realises that the start Utd have made this season and ours last season are not dissimilar.

“At this stage of last season, we had only two points and were already under mental pressure,” said Wenger. A team like Manchester United are big enough to deal with that and come back. But we were a very young side and it was a bit too much for us. It was important to get a good start this time and we have done that.”

He has a good point.  Utd are experienced whereas we were not last time around.  Chelsea are also comprised of seasoned campaigners and know what it’s all about.  The fact that we’ve hit the ground running and not had a stuttering start like last term stands us in good stead and its effect on morale cannot be underestimated.

Also riding the wave of optimism is Manu Adebayor.  The Togolese international has been talking about the need for him and RVP to score goals.  And plenty of them.

“We are at Arsenal to score goals, we are at Arsenal to play football, we are at Arsenal to enjoy ourselves on the pitch and do something together. Give us time. We understand each other off the pitch, so we are just trying to do it on the pitch. I hope we can score plenty of goals. I just want to do my best – if that is 15 goals or 20 goals, just as high as possible.”

I really can’t see Manu and Robin being the bestest of buddies and practising their funky dancing together, but I think that maybe they could have a good relationship that could be translated to the pitch.  For both of them this season provides something new – being joint first choice striker (along with Eduardo).  Before, it was always Henry that was going to be the main man, but with his departure a void has been left and not filled.  There will probably not be another Thierry Henry.  You can’t replace a player like that anyway; he was unique.  So we’re left with filling the void left by one man with two men.  It will take some time for the relationships to develop, but we have seen from all 3 players flashes of what their capable of.  I fully expect that over the course of the season that the goals will begin to flow once a rapport between strikers is established.

Some tenuous transfer ‘news’ for you.  Apparently we’re after Ajax’s Urby Emanuelson.  Quite why we need another fullback is beyond me, but it won’t stop the rumour mill will it?

So that’s it.  I’ll hopefully be posting on the regular again as of today, so check back soon. Enjoy you’re post-BH day at work.  Bleurgh!

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Lehmann – Walcott – Dein

Mornin’ all

Quick one this morning becasue I’m in a rush.

First up, Jens Lehmann has been saying that he’s not bothered by the pressure of the mistakes he has made.  As he makes his first appearence at Wembley for Germany against England tonight, he is stoical about all the talk that has surrounded his high profile errors in his first two Premier League matches of this season.

“After the first minute I had two very good games against Fulham and Sparta Prague. Even on Sunday I felt fine.  So I don’t feel under any pressure at all. I do not read comments which people make about me. I judge myself. That is enough.”

No one can say that Jens is not a professional, and I hope that tonight provides a chance for him to move on and leave behind the stigma of being a bit of a “Teflon”.

Theo Walcott played last night in a game analagous to the one gainst Blackburn.  The England U-21’s faced Romania and drew 1-1, with Theo being booted all over the place.  Is it going to be the norm now for good, quick players to be kicked and hacked until they can no longer play their natural game?  I thought all that died out back in the 70’s.  Yes, football is a man’s game, but it shouldn’t be the case that players can get away with victimising a flighty winger or striker and negate their impact by simply kicking them.  Thankfully, Theo came through it without serious injury and had quite a good game by all accounts.  These U-21 games are very important for the young Englishman, as it provides an opportunity to hone his skills against opposition commensurate with his own ability.  Hopefully this will stand him in good stead for future Premier League appearences where he can build on what he has learned at International level and gain some confidence, which does seem to be his main problem at the moment.

Finally David Dein will be attending this year’s Soccerex.  It will be interesting to hear what Dein has to say when he is inevitably quizzed about what happened at Arsenal.  The format will be a ‘one-on-one’ which I imagine will be a Q&A.  If Joe Public gets to ask the questions, then we might see Mr Perma-tan squiming a little bit.  And who wouldn’t like to see that?

Right, must dash.  Have a good day

UPDATE: Thanks to Arseblogger for pointing out that that Gallas was probably referring to the next France game being 6 weeks away, not his recovery from injury and subsequent return to the Arsenal squad.  Good work sweary-Dublin-based-Arsenal-blogging fella!

And thanks to GilbertoSilver over at Gunnerblog for bringing us the rumour/news that Arsenal have been trialing Honduran winger, Wilson Palacios.  Head over to Gunnerblog for more.

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Gallas – Walcott – Dunn

William Gallas has admitted that his injury is worse than previously thought.  The club reckoned that he’d be out for 3 weeks, but gallas reckons it’s more like 6.  Talking to French paper, L’Equipe, Gallas said,

 “I believe it is over for Italy.  You will not see me again until October. It is a bad blow, it is always difficult to accept, but now I have to rest.”

Right then.  Brilliant.  Captain out injured for a long time.  Hmmmm, where have I seen this before?  To be fair to Billy G, whilst I was all for getting rid of him this summer because of his whinging and his mediocrity last season, he’s turned things around, and has even looked like being quite a good captain.  It is  a blow that not only our captain, but a first choice and experienced centre back will be missing fo such a long time.  Hopefully, Gallas is just telling porkies and it’s really not as bad as he’s making out, but if it is, then we will be seeing a lot of Big Phil Senderos over the next few weeks.  If you cast your minds back 2 seasons, Phil partnered Kolo Toure for a long time and managed to get us to the Champions League final.  He’s a good player, but one who is susceptible to lapses in concentration and these really, really need to be cut out if he’s to make the grade. He does bring ariel prowess to the defence though, and in a team that genuinely lacks height, that cannot be underestimated.  When he gets a good run of games, Phil can look like a class player but he struggles when thrown in at the deep end.  Hopefully breaking him in this season against teams that don’t contain Didier Drogba might be just what he needs, and with hard work on the training ground he could prove some of the naysayers wrong.  If he doesn’t get his act together, we might find ourselves ruing the decision to let Johan Djourou go out on loan.

Whether AW is up to some japery is unclear.  What is clear though is that he has definitely said that he’s surprised that Theo Walcott didn’t make the England squad.

“I was surprised last week when people were talking about a striking crisis in England and nobody mentioned Walcott…”It has taken him some time but now in the last week I can see he is really coming back [from a shoulder injury]” 

Now, Le Boss could be making a subtle joke about Theo’s inclusion in the World Cup squad and all the uproar that caused, or he could be being 100% genuine.  Sometimes it is hard to tell with the laconic Frenchman, but from wha I’ve seen, he really is a big fan of Walcott’s and to be fair he does have a point.  With all the injuries to front men for the Germany game, Theo was in with a shout of selection due to two simple facts:

1. He’s a striker

2. He’s English

He probably doesn’t merit a place on current form, but we all know what he can do on his day, and I’m sure McClaren does too.  He also has the added bonus of being able to play on the wing too.

Finally, hideous git David Dunn has been spouting shite about Arsenal being moaners in the Mirror.

“It’s getting a little bit funny because every time we play Arsenal, they’re the ones who say we’re violent. But we’re not, we’re committed and that’s what you would expect from any team.  It always seems to be the Arsenal camp who come out with that kind of comment. I wouldn’t be so sure Alex Ferguson would say that and he would expect that from his team as well.”

He obviously doesn’t remember 3 days ago and the comments Fergie made about Ronaldo getting lumps kicked out of him.  And will someone tell him that being commited doesn’t constitute allowing your team to foul and cheat your way around a pitch.  When he follows it up with statements like,

“They have better players than us with more ability going through the team so we have to close that gap and make it into a little bit of a battle.”

You can see that the man is as stupid as he looks.

Ok dudes.  That’s it for today.

Peas out.  Or whatever those krazy kidz say

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Tomas’ Is Going Home

Phew, what a night.  Played  a half of a pre-season friendly tonight, and I can assure you, match fitness is totally different to ‘feeling good’.  Whenever you hear a player say “the signs are good, I expect to be back for the next game”, add on another week plus one more game before they are really “back”.  After 5 minutes of playing right wing, I was knackered.  Properly.  Last season, I played 3 games in a weekend a few times, and that wasn’t too bad.  Once you midway into the season and the consistent playing has worked it’s VO2MAX magic on you, you can handle it.  The DOMS on a Monday/Tuesday is a killer, but that’s to be expected.

 All very interesting I hear you (not) cry, but what has this got to do with anything?  Well I’ll tell you.  Gilberto missed the whole pre-season with the team, and while he’s been playing, he’s missed out on getting used to the new additions, and life post TH.  Also, Eduardo hasn’t played since Ajax and while that was a good workout, he too will need to get up to speed quickly for proper competitive matches.  Add to this Diaby, Adebayor and Denilson, and we had better hope none of the guys gets injured Wednesday night, or we could be in serious trouble.

Arsene has announced the squad for Sparta which looks like this;

Jens Lehmann
Manuel Almunia
Alexander Hleb
Tomas Rosicky
Mathieu Flamini
Cesc Fabregas
Theo Walcott
Nicklas Bendtner
Gael Clichy
Bacary Sagna
William Gallas (c)
Kolo Toure
Philippe Senderos
Alex Song
Robin van Persie
Emmanuel Eboue
Justin Hoyte
Armand Traore

 Pretty much what you’d expect, I’m sure.  I am worried though that our thin squad is being made thinner by injuries and getting everyone up to speed and ticking over nicely for Blackburn will be tough.  Even more so if someone does get a knock.

 More on Sparta then.  The Boss reckons the key man will be Tomas Rosicky, and from what I saw of him against Fulham, I’d be inclined to agree.  I have this thing that before a season starts I decide what player I think will be the main man and get the name put on my shirt.  05/06 I thought Cesc would be the man, and he inspired us to a Champions League final.  Last season I didn’t get a feeling, so I didn’t do it and we struggled.  This year I am torn between RVP and Tomas Rosicky, and I think that both could be key players if we are to exceed the expectations of the majority of people.  Arsene said of the Czech player’s return to Prague,

 “It is a game where Tomas is a bit more under pressure than others because of the extra scrutiny.  But he is classy and I feel he is at the age where he can get the right balance in the final third.  He is sharp, quick and lively. We want him to give key passes and score goals – and I am convinced he will.”

So am I Boss, so am I.

A lot is being made of the Gilberto captaincy thing.  I’m sure you’re all aware of it, so I won’t go into all that.  But I will say that I alluded to the fact that maybe Wenger is slowly beginning to phase out the Brazilian.  With Diaby and Denilson waiting in the wings and Bert past 30, it is reasonable to assume that Wenger wants the captain to be on the pitch 100% of the time and he cannot guarantee that Gilberto will have that opportunity.  I can honestly say I agree with that…if that is what Arsene thinks.  But I think that Bert has been awesome for us since his arrival, even more so last season, and I feel empathy for him.  But as I say, we have to look to the future, and I believe that Wenger thinks so too.  Gallas is old you might say.  Well, true, he is.  But I reckon that his tenure as captain is temporary so that Kolo and Cesc can learn the ropes from someone who will probably play as many games as there are available, rather than someone Wenger is looking at with sideways glances.

Hilariously, Lawrie Sanchez has issued an apology to the Arsenal players for essentially calling them cheats.  In an interview on Sky Sports News he said,

“I’ve got to hold my hands up and say I was wrong to a certain extent, the incident regarding Hleb was probably a good shout for a penalty.  My initial instinct as a manager is always to protect my own players so, without seeing the incident; I spoke perhaps a bit too rashly.  That said the one for the penalty I’ve seen them given and I’ve seen them not given.  But I was speaking too much with adrenaline. Sometimes you shoot from the hip when you should wait a little bit longer.”

Not sure he should still be claiming that tripping over your own feet constitutes a penalty, even if you have “seen them given”.

Anyways, I’m out.  It’s late and I need some sleep.  Hopefully an earlier post tomorrow.Cheers all 

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