We’ll start the day with some good, wholesome news for a change (not that carnal rubbish we’ve had to put up with lately – ‘kids these days…’). Mathieu Flamini – of hassle-tastic, hard-bastard terrier-fame (abbreviated HTHBTF, which sounds like the name of a prescription steroid…) – is expected to return for Arsenal’s trip to Prince William’s favourite club.
It’s a welcome return to a side that will be bereft of both Clichy and Hleb – though Wenger reckons there’s a tiny chance they could feature; perhaps in the form of 89th minute sub-runouts – and it’s important we get players who will fight for a result at Villa Park. We have not played well, home or away, to Villa in quite some time; not since that 5-0 drubbing at Highbury, anyway. Villa have got a number of very good players, and have a good team-ethic instilled by Martin O’Neill. Gallas, Rosicky and Flamini will be expected to push the team on with battling performances.
For the sake of keeping the good news rolling (it’s going downhill quickly after…), Manuel Almunia should be hearing a call from the Spanish national side soon enough, according to Arsene Wenger. Wenger is comparing Manuel Almunia to French goalkeeper Gregory Coupét – saying Almunia is similarly a ‘late bloomer’, and should be in the mix alongside Reina and Casillas for Euro 2008. Three cheers for the SunGod!
In the last dregs of Good News™, Wenger has said that Carlos Vela – who gets his European passport in March 2008 – will be fighting for a first team place next season. The wonderkid from Mexico, as even Port Vale fans will know by now, has been on loan to Celta Vigo, Salamanca and now Osasuna to get a passport so as to be eligible for a work permit in England, and has had some hype following him wherever he’s gone. Some sources rate the kid as ‘The Next Hugo Sanchez™’ – though the (football) culture in Mexico is very similar to the one in Argentina, and we all know how many ‘The Next Maradona™’s there have been over the past few years.
Now, time to buckle our seatbelts for some world-shattering news items. Arsene Wenger himself has said that anything could happen with Cesc Fabregas, who could either play in Villa’s game, or sit 10 days out. Frankly, that’s the most dichotomous prognosis I’ve heard in a while – so I’ll put money on the fact that Fabregas will be sitting out a few matches. While ANR believes that Rosicky will return to central midfield in place of Fabregas, I think the Sevilla game taught us a lesson, and that’s not to have anyone but Rosicky protecting the left-wing if Traore’s at left back. Flamini and Diarra might be seen in the centre, with Eboue and Rosicky taking up their usuals. To sum up, Clichy and Hleb could be out for another two weeks, while Robin van Persie still sits out for an additional fortnight.
With regards to his touchline ban, Wenger says he will not appeal the decision, which currently sees him sidelined for the Steaua game. Murmurs abound that he will also have to sit out the first leg of the Round of 16 match as well, which is quite likely to happen. Wenger, however, believes that a ban against Steaua is enough of a punishment, as he had not actually done that much wrong. The manager says:
“At the end of the day I know what I have done, and I know I have not done a lot.
It’s like if the speed limit is 60mph, sometimes you are not caught when you drive 70mph and sometimes you are caught when you drive 61. I drove 60 and a half. I was surprised that I was sent off for what I said. I said [to the fourth official] it was naive to give Alves time to waste that time. I said ‘I bet with you he will sprint in two minutes’. It was less than two minutes.“
The man keeps coming up with glorious quotes for the press, doesn’t he? Cesc Fabregas has also stood up and defended Wenger’s selection against Sevilla, saying only Arsenal would send in as young a squad as that into a European cauldron. The midfielder says:
“The only team that can do something as brave as that to develop young players is Arsenal. The manager only deserves praise for it. I have also learned from defeats like that in the past when I was a younger player.“
Traore and Denilson to reach the levels of Cesc’s magic in their respective positions? We can only hope and pray.
In a final news roundup, Emmanuel Adebayor has said ‘it will take a £100m bid to prise him away from Arsenal’, which is hilariously typical of my favourite striker – he really does rate himself highly. Which is what strikers need, of course. Ending in a whimper, Michel Platini has confirmed that the 2009 season will see his horrible changes to the Champions League unfurl. Pox upon the name…
That is all, and you’d better be satisfied with your lot. Ungrateful swines. Be gone with you all..!