Monthly Archives: October 2007

Gilberto talk is Nonsense, Corbyn Probing Usmanov

Starting straight away with Arsene Wenger denying outright the Gilberto-is-leaving talk quoted profusely in The Mirror. Many reports were speculating that Gilberto had ‘refused to play centre-back’, and wanted to leave the team. In response, Wenger had this to say:

I deny that categorically, and I find this assessment disrespectful to a great professional like Gilberto. He is 100 per cent professional and is in the squad for tomorrow. He will play.

Which adds a lot of certainty to the situation and also makes my pondering over tonight’s First XI a little easier. We’ve said it many times before: Gilberto will have an important part to play in this season. Midfielders get injured often, and he’s the first in line to walk into the centre of midfield. His professionalism and calm is well known to Arsenal fans, and he’ll have taken his absence from the team in his stride, surely. It will be good to see him starting tonight, and I’m sure that he’ll put in a more than decent performance against what should be inferior opposition.

Next in the news-review-line is the British Governmentt probing Alisher Usmanov’s buying of Arsenal shares. The government man in question is North Islington MP, Jeremy Corbyn, who has asked the secretary of state for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to “release reports received from British embassies relating to Alisher Usmanov”. The reports have been filed as ‘personal details’ by the predictable Usmanov lawyers, so they have bought some time, in that regard. We’ll have to watch that one develop.

Michel Platini, an adminstrator who will only ever have popularity from the past and never in the present, has spoken out against Arsene Wenger’s policy of ‘poaching’ young players from clubs around the world. Platini says:

I do not like the system of Arsène Wenger… If my son is playing at Millwall and at 16 Manchester [United] come in for this player, then when will Millwall have a good team?

At first, it does get you thinking about how it’s so wrong of us to poach all these players that would make these smaller, poorer clubs a little better and improve the game on the whole. The fairies and garden gnomes all hop away, however, when you consider a number of conditions:

  • The players that Arsene chooses are still raw, and a lot do not make it at Arsenal but do go on to have decent careers at other clubs. You cannot tell me, however, that they would have become better players at a smaller club under mystically better tutelage. Wenger and his coaches are the ones that nurture the players into proper footballers – it is down to the clubs to implement the new coaching techniques he’s brought in if they’re too be successful in this regard. Even Liverpool and Man Utd are trailing in our wake in that department, and will be several years before they even catch up.
  • A lot of players we’ve picked up are from the likes of ASEC Mimosas (Toure), Beveren (Eboue), Etoile Carouge (Djourou), Barcelona (Fabregas and Merida – see just how much I weep for that club), Feyenoord (van Persie, and Barazite if Im not mistaken). An academy from Cote d’Ivoire, a Belgian club, an obscure Swiss club, and two major clubs from Spain and Holland. No one’s exactly upset about this, are they? I wouldn’t believe for a second that Walcott would become anything near a premiership player under Southampton’s coaching – how would they get promoted with just him? He (and Gareth Bale) were inevitably going to be moved on.
  • The final point is that teams like Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid (and I’d gladly insult the first and last of those clubs by throwing Chelsea in alongside them), through inflating the markets for years, have meant that smaller clubs have had no choice but to give up their younger stars for financial gain. Arsenal have Walcott on their books, and he alone – he’s already been covered in the previous point.

Onto a Frenchman we all, amazingly enough, like more. William Gallas has spoken about how there are ‘no egos‘ in the side, and hence, no talks about doing an invincible-run ala 2004. The interviews dont really reveal anything new – this blurb here sums it all up, really:

We just want to win every match, but for us it is more important to win something this year. If we can beat that record, then why not? But it is not what we are thinking about. Only winning trophies can give you the satisfaction.

In the other bits and bobs: Fran Merida has spoken about his ‘three minutes’ of Arsenal time and the fine he recieved from Barcalona; Justin Hoyte is contemplating a loan move away from Arsenal; Almunia is treating the Man Utd game just like any other; and we’ve been linked to a Real Madrid youngster in the form of Pablo Sarabia. Fascinating stuff!

To the Sheffield Utd game, then, and we should be seeing a similar side to the one that beat Newcastle in the Third round of the Carling Cup. Team I’d imagine coming out at Bramhall Lane is as follows:

CARSHE-31OCT========Fabianski========

=Hoyte=Gilberto=Song=Gibbs=

Walcott=Denilson=Diarra=Diaby

=====Bendtner=Eduardo=====

This team, to its potential, should see an adequate performance to beat Sheffield United, even away from home. I will say, however, that it would not be altogether surprising to see the team bow out to a team like Sheffield – the run’s been very good over the last couple of seasons, so lets not try and jinx it via over-confidence.

So superstitious. Come on the lads, and a report to follow tomorrow morning. Au’voir!

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Nothing Changes: Gallas Chirpy; Man Utd ‘The Best’.

Morning, all. Today’s blog brought to you by William Gallas Quotes, freely available via the Ctrl-V combination of keyboard presses.

William Gallas – Captain-Blocktastic – has said that teams will be fearing Arsenal after their Anfield Draw on Sunday. Elaborating, he says:

We had not lost a game and we had just won 7-0. That can help you a lot. Liverpool were maybe a little bit afraid of us and a lot of top teams will be afraid of us again. We showed we can play well, we can score at any time and we can handle the physical game as well.

There are some subtleties to our team strategy that are lost on a lot of people, mind you. My Man Utd supporting uncle just ‘doesnt get’ what the hype is about Fabregas (even though he’s scored 10 goals already this season), and the passing style, while praised to high heaven by several pundits, isn’t the same as a bunch of phony step-overs and Wayne Rooney on the cover of the FIFA games. Point being: we often still have a style that can be underestimated by a lot of teams. Gerrard, Torres and Carragher make a nifty Championship Manager team. Ours doesn’t…I hope the point is evident.

William Gallas has also praised Francesc Fabregas Soler, or ‘Cesc Fabregas’ for short, saying in time, he will be recognised as the best player in the league. Gallas has said that this will require personal management of his exertions out on the field, saying:

He has to know sometimes when he is tired, to not play a physical game because sometimes when they are young, they like to touch the ball too many times. Cesc has to save his energy, but he can be the best player.

And it’s not just Gallas rabbitting on about young Arsenal players. Former Arsenal hit man Davor Suker has cast his eye over Arsenal’s young team, and says that it can go places. Davor says:

In the next two to five years, Arsenal will dominate in Europe. They have young players with great talent. I know when Arsene Wenger puts something in his head he will do it and I wish him the best. He’s one of the best coaches I had in my career.

Controversially, Davor Suker also says this team can go unbeaten in the league, but I dare not quote that. It’s there to see in the article, but going unbeaten is not the priority of this season, nor should it be the priority of any season (if it happens, it happens [once and once only]). Winning the league is clearly what must be achieved, and if we lose one or two games along the way while nutting Man Utd 2-0 in the process, well, all the more happier for my watching.

Owen Hargreaves has come out warning that Man Utd are confident going into Saturday’s game at the Emirates Stadium, and insists they are still the number one club in the country. While I’m not one to pick a fight *snigger*, I’d like to take a moment to reminisce on Manchester Utd’s scintillating campaign thus far, which saw draws to the mighty Reading and Portsmouth, and a loss to the ‘so-not-thrown-together’ Man City. Can we expect this ‘top team in England’ to play all out attacking football against us on Saturday? If they do, I’ll tip my hat while they lose 2-0. Expect to see the thuggish, defensive, belligerent Man Utd we all know.

What might tick the Mancs off ever so slightly is that Howard Webb, referee of the Liverpool Arsenal game, will now ref a consecutive Arsenal match on Saturday. Personally I cannot read much into it, as all referees (apart from Uriah Rennie) are Man Utd fans as it is.

In other news, congratulations to the Arsenal academy, who thrashed West Ham’s academy 6-1 away from home. Oh, and poor Paul Scholes. Poor, poor Paul Scholes.

Hope that appeased the baying masses, unlike an increasingly desperate Sepp Blatter. Sheffield Utd preview tomorrow, y’all. Stay smashing until then.

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Arsenal Crowded out, but Plaudits Still Deserved

Gerrard FabregasAnd so a good game ends 1-1; a game Arsenal trailed for most of the match, but certainly came close to outplaying their opponents in the second half.

An 80th minute eye-of-the-needle-pass from Hleb – surely the assist of the season so far – saw Fabregas run into the box, take a touch, and poke the ball past an advancing Reina to cancel out Steven Gerrard’s 8th-minute freekick.

For the majority of the first half, Arsenal did not have any clear-cut chances to speak of, as play became congested often in Liverpool’s third. Liverpool had the better first-half chances, with the long balls finding Voronin and Kuyt often, resulting in a lot of 2-on-2 situations. Our passing along the ground meant that Mascherano sitting in front of the defence congested the play, which saw us having to scrap for any real chances, if any.

Gerrard’s goal was almost inevitable, in a way, once the free-kick was lined up. The wall, as many papers can attest to, could have done a lot better at protecting Almunia’s goal, and the connection that Gerrard made meant the goal was pretty much a given.

One-nil down spurred on the side, and given the ‘hostile Anfield atmosphere’, quote end quote, the passing display Arsenal put on was very impressive. Going on into the second half, it never quite felt like Liverpool were going to go up 2-0, especially with Crouch replacing the anonymous Torres at halftime with the Spaniard’s injury.

Though Crouch looked dangerous at times, Arsenal bossed the second half around. Rosicky released Eboue down the right wing, who released a thumping shot low onto the base of the upright, the rebound fizzing towards Fabregas who could only spoon his shot well over the bar.

Fabregas made amends on the 80th minute to finish off Hleb’s best pass of the season. Hleb made his way down the left wing, with three runners going forward from center. Two runners ran offside before the pass, but they were two brilliant decoys for Fabregas, the furtherest away from Hleb, who collected the ball on the D, and placed the shot past Reina for the equaliser.

With ten to thirteen minutes remaining, Arsenal’s ascendancy was more than obvious, which had steadily accumulated throughout the second half. Liverpool were tired and out of substitutions – what’s becoming a very evident Wenger tactic to tire the opposition out late on – and Arsenal really should have won the game.

Fabregas teed himself up for a shot at goal, which felt like it was only going to go in, but hit the same upright Eboue hit earlier, with Niklas Bendtner missing the rebound in similar fashion to Fabregas’ miss. Though both rebounds were quick to the feet and required immediate reaction, at least one of them, one felt, could have been taken.

Still, 1-1 it finished. Our winning streak comes to an end, but both Liverpool and Arsenal remain undefeated in the league. Arsenal can be satisfied with a draw, far more than Liverpool, but a win was there for the taking. Liverpool defended in droves on their own turf, with Arsenal dictating the approach play but not fashioning enough clear-cut chances. In the end, you can only blame yourself for such things.

After the game, Wenger said of the performance:

I feel we came out of this first big test stronger. I was always very confident, but I hope we convinced a few more people today. There’s a long way to go, but in my opinion we have the talent to fight up there for the championship. I would give credit to the attitude and the quality of the team.

And the team’s bravado and confidence in their own ability has to be applauded when showing it off in Anfield. I still feel like it is two points lost rather than a point gained, though. On the title race, Wenger again had this to say:

We will try, we give everything in every game and we did that again today – it was a big test but we showed tremendous quality. It will be a big challenge but we will be there.

We now sit tied for points with Man Utd with a better goal difference and a game in hand. Next up is Sheffield Utd in the Carling Cup, but the one that really counts is the Manchester Utd vs Arsenal game on Saturday. After this showing, that game will be close, and what all Man Utd/Arsenal games should be: Riveting.

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‘Pool Preview – Arsene Tries to Cover up Jens’ Antics

Only a few hours to go before the Liverpool-Anfield match. I cannot wait for it to begin.

Players have been talking, and Cesc Fabregas has been saying Arsenal ‘cant play perfect football all the time’. More specifically, he says:

If (your tactic) needs to be ugly then you have to be ugly. Not ugly as in kicking and fighting – but in battling it out to make sure you win the game by being the strongest, physically and mentally. It’s not the way we want to play but if we have to of it, then, this time, we are ready. It is winning these sorts of games that delivers the titles.”

Alongside this, Wenger has spoken about how Arsenal have matured as a side – what would be a blaringly obvious remark is spoiled remarkably by Jens Lehmann’s delusionary ramblings. He has now said that ‘while he made two mistakes’ that we all know of, he has counted similar mistakes by Almunia. Did. Not. See. That. Sorry, Jens.I wont even bother quoting him on this. Read it here, instead.

Prior to the Liverpool game, Jermaine Pennant has gone on about how he was left out of Arsenal’s side because he was English. Sorry, Liverpool (and my Pool supporting friends), but as much as we all like Steven Gerrard, he makes a group of two (coincidently, English) players alongside Pennant who will defer responsibility of their own failings for something completely trivial (and overused, in Pennant’s case). Gerrard, of course, you will remember, blamed England’s failings in the World Cup for the fact they chose Walcott in their squad, who didnt play any minutes to be blamed for the abysmal Football side that is The Three Lions. Walcott, a very English lad, will be featuring in tonight’s match, of course.

As for tonight, my fervour for the match remains – though I always get a dose of pragmatism leading up to one. It’s Liverpool at Anfield, and in a way, that’s all that needs to be said. It will be tight, and probably not as blown out of proportion as I might have enthused earlier in the week. All the same, Im heading off to the Man Utd-supporting Uncle’s to watch the game. And it’s for that reason that we’ll win. Or something. Either way, it’s always a highlight of the football calendar, this fixture.

So put on your scarves and cheer on those REDS.

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Budget Blog, with Stan!

A late blog today that will see a few upheavels in my schedule, which means tomorrow could have an even scant-er blog, or none at all. The Liverpool preview will come Sunday evening, Australia-wise, in all likelihood.

Stan Kroenke was in London this morning for a conference, with David Dein curiously in tow. He responded to takeover speculation, with some quirky things to say to boot, though none of it is exceptionally quotable. It can all be found in this article here.

Gallas has praised Wenger for the style and panache of the current side’s play, which is all well and good, and very repetitive. Finally, a bizzare pair known as Laudrup and Jensen (oo’ eva ‘erd of ’em?) want to manage Arsenal, one day. As a pair, mind you. Most bizzare, and will probably never happen. Le Tissier has gone on about how wrong he was in his predictions for the season (sorta), and This Particular Player is back for the Anfield clash -which could spell a much better Liverpool opponent. Not so confident now, eh?

A very budget blog today. I plan on it improving after the weekend, though – more time, you see. You see? Yes! Of course you all do…

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Liverpool Confirm my Suspicions…

A quick one today, as I really have to run everywhere.

Manuel Almunia has shrugged off the blatant horse-spit from Jens Lehmann, saying he does not envy the position that Lehmann is currently stuck in. Almunia says:

If I read the papers and listen to what other people say about me and all these things, then I will turn crazy. I don’t want that. When I’m playing well I honestly don’t mind other things that are happening. “Maybe if I was playing badly I would be more worried. But now for me life is fantastic and I want to take my chance.

The other news centres around the mass-hype-market now surrounding young Theo Walcott, which is as predictable as it was inevitable. With all the calls of ‘Theo for England’, we can only really hope the kid keeps his feet on the ground – already, he’s had to say ‘Im not the New Thierry‘ to the rediculous circus that is The English Media™.

Most of you will know that Liverpool lost 2-1 in Istanbul this morning/last night (Australia/Europe)…not only will they now have to travel back home with one day less to prepare, they will be facing a furiously-in-form Arsenal side, looking to get past a very much past-it Sami Hyppia. I’ll keep the hyperbole for tomorrow, maybe.

In other news, Robin van Persie has gone about how we’re ‘not as flashy‘ as the other big teams, but play better football, and there’s some crap about Juventus wanting to buy William Gallas. One day, broken promises, one day – I shall rip all these rumours to shreds. Why bother, some may ask. Otherwise, Liam Brady – Arsenal’s Academy manager and arguably the greatest Irish player ever, is considering taking on the job of Ireland’s coach.

All for now. Must run, diddums’.

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Thundering Arsenal Blast Seven past Slavia

It was surreal in its easiness. Arsenal equalled Juventus’ record for most goals scored in a Champions League match by destroying Slavia Prague 7-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

Five minutes in, the game was over. Hleb vindicated what I’ve always said about him when it comes to his dribbling skills. Many have laughed when I said he was a more accomplished dribbler than Christiano Ronaldo – well, have a look for yourself, why don’t you? Hleb played keepball while toying with two defenders, before feeding in an onrushing Cesc Fabregas on the left side of the box to wickedly curl in the ball for the opening goal. A very good goal that was a prelude for the deluge to come.

The second goal saw a Fabregas corner cleared off the line by the Slavia defence, but only into the left section of the box, which saw an onrushing Hleb (from the left, Myles. How wrong can you be?) smash in the looseball, taking a deflection from the defender, Hubacek. 2-0 and crusing.

The third was comical at best, a Slavia defender hitting a raking longball back to his own keeper, who could do nothing else than poke it straight at Theo Walcott, who sidefooted the poor chap to shoot at an open goal. The Emirates was waiting for that one, though no one thought his first European goal would be as easy as that. Cries of “Theo Theo Theo!” rang around the stadium right until the half time whistle.

The second half had barely started when Hleb rifled in his first ‘non-own-goal’ goal. Coming in from the left (from the left, Myles. How wrong can you be?), the midfielder, amongst a host of Arsenal players having an absolute stormer, jinked into the box, cut back and forth making a mug of a defender, before shooting straight and wrongfooting the keeper for 4-0. It sparked a 13-minute period of punishment for Slavia, who went on to concede again five minutes later. Walcott made it 5-0 in very Henry-esque fashion, dinking past a defender down the left channel before toe-poking the finish to score his second of the night. A very elegant goal full of poise from the young man, and hopefully it can spark a rush of goals somewhere down the line from here.

The sixth goal was by miles the best goal scored yet this season. And not just by Arsenal, mind you. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd, Liverpool – for all their money, or history, or whatever else – no one, repeat, no one could have scored a goal even close to that technical brilliance that Fabregas was merely spoilt to finish off. A true Wenger-goal; an urgent dribble down the left wing from Hleb saw him dish the ball to a centrally-placed Adebayor, who let the ball go as he dummied the defender. Picking it up once more, he splashed it out to Walcott on the right, who in a single touch saw Fabregas in brilliantly for the midfielder to finish off a simply sparkling move.

The rest of the match was toying with the opposition, with Almunia only having one save, albeit a solid one, to make for the remainder of the match. Gilberto had come on for Flamini, Bendtner on for Adebayor and Rosicky on Hleb, all in the 60th minute. Theo’s chances for a hattrick were spoilt by an excellent close range save from the Slavia keeper, the rebound falling to Rosicky, who smashed his shot onto the crossbar.

On the 88th minute, Emmanuel Eboue (he with no football brain) played in a brilliant backpass which saw Bendtner break through the defence, to dribble in the ball for his first European goal for Arsenal, and the seventh on a very surreal night.

So thats ducks broken for Bendtner and Walcott in the European department, and a game that gives a new lease on life after the collection of 1-0s and 2-0s we’ve grown accustomed to lately. Liverpool, make no mistake, will be a completely different kettle of fish, of course.

Onto other news that came about before the game, it centered greatly around Jens Lehmann’s ‘humiliation’ of being left out of the side since his stupendous mistakes against Fulham and Blackburn (remember them?). I really don’t want to linger too long on his comments, which can be found here, only to say that his career at Arsenal, bar injuries to Almunia and Fabianski, is all but over. The comments made are totally unprofessional, and if this were a Championship Manager game, I’d have fined Jens two weeks wages, cast him into the Nile river and ordered him to harvest crops for the teams steamed vegetables for the next month. Expect him to be sold in January.

Gallas had a somewhat prophetic interview before the game where he talked about Theo Walcott, amongst other things, and there’s a profile piece in the Daily Mail of Bacary Sagna’s adaptation to the English game.

Anyone else feeling a warm fuzzy glow? Expect a piece tomorrow on the prospects of the Anfield clash with Liverpool, as well as whatever transfer crap churns up – I think I’ll rip into everything, transfer-rumour wise tomorrow – I’ve been ignoring it for quite a while, lately. Got to do your service, you know.

Enjoy the afterglow. It can be that good, on occasion.

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