Monday, 13 December 2010

Manchester United v Arsenal match preview - Fab two face fitness tests

Picture courtesy
 Tonight's match against ManUre isn't a title decider but it will give us a huge psychological boost if we can win it.

Interesting team news - the Fab two, Cesc Fabregas and Lukasz Fabianski, face late fitness tests. I suspect that Fabregas will be on the bench and Fabianski will be fit enough to play. If Fabianski doesn't make it, we face the possibility of Wojciech Szczesny making his debut. I've been hoping that he would get his chance for some time, but I'm sure this would be the best match for it to happen. Better that than Almunia though.

Elsewhere, the usual suspects Diaby and Djourou are unlikely to be fit, so it will be Koscielny at centreback and either Wilshere or Denilson in midfield. Van Persie or Rosicky will most likely play in Cesc's position if he isn't fit.

As usual, several of the ManUre players have come out with what are obviously pre-planned comments to put out whatever message Alex Ferguson wishes to get across to the Arsenal players, his own players or the referee.

Darren Fletcher tried to influence the ref by insisting that he is not a dirty player. Definitely, not in any way whatsoever, honest governer:
"I don't think I'm a dirty player, I know I'm not a dirty player. I go to win the ball and sometimes you give away fouls doing that, but it's not malicious. It's all part of the British game. The referees here use a lot of common sense and they know when players are generally trying to win the ball and those going out to hurt people."
Thing is, no-one is suggesting that Fletcher deliberately set out to injure Arsenal players in the match against them at the Theatre of Wet Dreams last season - just that he cynically set out to distrupt Arsenal's rhythm by constantly fouling them and didn't get punished by the referee. Note the reference to "it's all part of the British game'' as well. Just another way of saying "They don't like it up 'em" or "we need to get amongst them", and almost as cynical as his tackling.

Meanwhile, Patrice Evra has said that Arsenal are just a feeder club and will never win anything. His comments seem either designed to play on the Arsenal players' insecurities or to wind them up. On this occasion I'm not sure it will work. Arsenal seem to have developed a bit of a mental block when it comes to playing the top teams and I believe this the main obsticle to us us from winning the league this season. However, I think we just need is a that bit luck in those games to give us more belief. Once we've beaten ManUre and Chel$ki that should give us the confidence.

If Evra had said this twelve months ago, I think a lot of Arsenal players would have thought to themselves: "yes, he's right, we do lack physical presence and a killer instinct", but I believe most people within the club now realise that this is no longer as true as it was and Arsene Wenger should use the comments to motivate his team.
We had a good result a few weeks ago against Man Citeh, but against Chel$ki it was the same old story - outplaying them but ending up losing because we weren't clinical enough in their area or solid enough in our own. If we'd had more confidence, we might have taken some of the chances that came our way or been more assured at the back.

Probable Arsenal line-up:


Sagna      Squillaci     Koscielny    Clichy

                Song         Wilshere

  Nasri           van Persie       Arshavin


Subs: Szczesny, Djourou, Eboue, Fabregas, Rosicky, Walcott, Bendtner

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Arsenal v FK Partizan Belgrade - match highlights video

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Henri Lansbury - Arsenal's goalkeeping problems solved?

Henri Lansbury could be the solution to Arsenal's so-called goalkeeping problems after looking impressive for England u21's last night.

Lansbury was called upon as a makeshift keeper after Jason Steele, who came on a as second-half substitute, was sent off for a professional foul on Boris Vukcevic. Unfortunately, his first task was to concede the resultant penalty, but didn't let in any more after that during a solid 30 minute performance and made several good saves.

Manager Stuart Pearce was suitably impressed:
"Henri put himself forward and I thought he was outstanding. Everything that went to him he handled very well. We might have found another goalkeeper tonight."
 Unfortunately, despite Lansbury's best efforts, England lost 2-0 to Germany.

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Saturday, 13 November 2010

Match of the Day - complain about bias

I have made a complaint to the BBC about the bias shown on Match of the Day against Arsenal in the match against Wolves. Here is the content of my message:
'I would like to complain about the bias shown on Match of the Day by extensively reporting on the foul by Cesc Fabregas in the match between Wolves and Arsenal, but the failing to mention or include in the highlights an equally bad tackle by Karl Henry on Andre Arshavin in the same match (

I would like the BBC to address this issue with an apology on Match of the Day, which should include showing the clip in question.

Many thanks for your consideration
Mark Wellington'
 If you also wish to make a complaint, you can do so here on the BBC website.

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Arsenal v West Ham - it's all about the formation and the fight

Picture courtesy Arsenal Arsenal
Alex Song came up with the goods on Saturday with a late goal to seal a hard-fought 1-0 win. This is something that we didn't see happening last season and is, I believe, the result of a slight tactical change that Arsene Wenger has made this season.

Last season (especially at the start) we played mostly 4-1-2-3 with Alex Song acting as an anchorman behind two more attacking central midfielders. This season it has been 4-2-3-1, with two defensive midfielders who are given a little bit more freedom to go forward behind a single attacking central midfielders in the form of Fabregas. The new tactics are not too dissimilar to the 4-4-2 formation that Arsene Wenger has employed in the past (think Petit, Vieira and Bergkamp instead of Wilshere, Song and Fabregas).

One of the consequences of this is that Alex Song more often finds himself in attacking positions and this is something that he has had trouble adapting to, putting in several below-par performances so far this season as he has had trouble knowing what positions to take up and difficulty getting back into defensive positions in time when we lose the ball.

To some extent, I think this is still true in that Song has not yet reached the level of performances for us this season that he did last. However, he is a very intelligent player and I can see signs that he is starting to get to grips with his new role a little better. And what better evidence of this than his goal against West Ham, which was in fact the third consecutive match in which he has scored.

Many Arsenal fans have criticised Saturday's performance against West Ham saying that we underestimate the so called smaller teams and looked under-par; others meanwhile, say that it was just the kind of good, solid, gritty performance, against a team that came to park the bus, of which champions are made.

I'm more of a glass-half-full type, so I tend to lean more towards the latter. We can't expect all of the players to perform at the top of their game all the time, and by the law of averages there are going to be some matches when several players don't perform at their best for whatever reason. What is important is that we still win these matches, which in this case we did.

On Saturday, Fabregas, Chamakh Arshavin and Denilson were all a bit off the pace but the team fought hard to make sure we got the result.

We all know how key Fabregas is to the team's style of play. Unfortunately, picked up a knock quite early on and wasn't playing as freely as he normally does. In any case, he has only just come back from an injury and isn't properly back into the swing of things yet. I very much hope (to say the least) that Fabregas isn't going to be another van Persie who is injured more than he plays. Arsene Wenger will probably rest him for the Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

Chamakh looked a bit tired to me. He has started all but one league match and all but two matches in all competitions so far and came on as sub in the two matches he didn't start. In addition, matches against teams who park the bus are always going to be more suitable for scoring goals and creating chances from midfield or the back four because the striker doesn't have much space. The striker's main role in matches such as this is to tie up the several players who are marking him to create space for others, which he did well.

Arshavin has admitted that he is off-form and so we need say no more. Some people have argued that Tomas Rosicky should come in to replace him. Arsene Wenger has quite rightly pointed out that although Arshavin isn't playing well, he is still producing the goods in terms of goals an assists. Rosicky, for me, is a little bit the opposite at the moment - he is playing some pretty football, but there is no end result in terms of goals or assists. I know it has been a long while since he was injured but I think he still needs more playing time to get back to his best. We have only seen a few flashes of the old Tomas though already this season, but I believe there is more to come. I think anyway that Arshavin needs to play his way back to form and whilst the team is still winning we can afford to let him do that to some extent.

Denilson, though he has improved this season, is still for me a young player who is inconsistent and is prone to the odd poor performance. But will he now get enough chances to improve with Song, Diaby, Ramsey and Wilshere for competition?

Player ratings v West Ham

Fabianski (7) - Another solid performance.
Sagna (7) - His usual solid but unspectacular self.
Squillaci (7) - Starting to look like an Arsenal player.
Koscielny (8) - Justified his inclusion ahead of Djourou.
Clichy (7) - Occasionally out of position but did superbly set up the crucial winning goal.
Song (8) - Starting to settle in his new role and scored the winner.
Denilson (6) - Had one of his occasional off days.
Nasri (8) - Looked our most potent attacking threat for much of the match. Unlucky with a great freekick from about 80 yards that hit the bar.
Fabregas (7) - Playing with an injury and couldn't be at his best but got better as the match went on.
Arshavin (6) - Started brightly but soon faded. Will get back to form soon.
Chamakh (5) - Was always surrounded by three or four West Ham players and couldn't really get into the game

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Newcastle v Arsenal match preview - it's all about the squad

Picture courtesy The 'Arris'
The press are going on today about how Arsene Wenger is now taking the Carling Cup more seriously because we haven't won a trophy in five years and he's desperate, but in trust his selection policy hasn't changed.

The policy has always been to select players that didn't start the match the previous weekend and aren't likely to start the following weekend. We have on occasion in the past selected teams in the early rounds that have included none of the first team and none of the subs, but that has only been when we have been drawn against lower division opposition and as Wenger has said many times he 'picks a team that is capable of winning the match'.

The reason our Carling Cup teams are stronger now is that our squad is much strongerand we have less injuries. Assuming that our first choice eleven is as follows...

Fabianski; Sagna, Squilaci, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song, Wilshere; Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin; van Persie

...there are some impressive players who will only make the bench when everyone is fit: Almunia (I know!), Koscielny, Eboue, Diaby, Rosicky, Walcott, and Chamakh. Even more impressively, there are some very good players who won't even make the bench: Szczesny, Mannone, Djourou, Gibbs, Frimpong, Denilson, Lansbury, Ramsey, Emmanuel-Thomas, Vela and Bendtner.

It could be argued that we need to have a few injuries occasionally to keep everyone happy. Either that, or we give them a match in the Carling Cup. With that in mind, I expect tonights line-up to be:

Eboue, Djouou, Koscielny, Gibbs
              Denilson, Diaby
       Walcott, Rosicky, Vela

Arsene Wenger has been talking up Emmanual-Thomas and Henri Lansbury this week so I expect them to be on the bench. One or both may even start.

I'm calm and relaxed about tonight's match. Partly, this is due to the fact that we look like we have a strong enough team out to beat a weakened Newcastle United, but also, although it would be nice to win the Carling Cup, I won't be heart-broken if we don't. That said, it is about time we won a trophy and Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal under George Graham have all won the trophy in the pastas a stepping stone to going on to win better things.

Also, it will shut the press up about 'not won anything for five years'. Although it will probably change to 'haven't won anything bar the Carling Cup for five years' until we win something proper.

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Sunday, 3 October 2010

Chelsea v Arsenal - match preview

Didier Drogba - the man Arsenal must stop

I said before the Partizan game that I hoped Lucasz Fabianski had a great game, regained his confidence and then went on to have a fantastic season. I don't claim to be Nostradamus based on one lucky prediction, but Fabianski duly came up with the goods to complete Part I of The Fall and Rise of Lucasz Fabianski and I'm hoping today he can begin start of Part II. The Partizan match should have given him confidence and that, in my opinion, is all that he has ever lacked. Arsene Wenger said that we finally saw the real Lucasz on Tuesday the one that he and his coaches see in training every day. Still, confidence is a fickle thing and Chelsea can be very intimidating. Fab will need to get a few good touches early on.

Certainly we need Fabianski to be confident. Chelsea have won the last four meetings between the clubs and haven't lost in the last seventeen matches against Arsenal in all competitions.

To make matters worse, we go into today's match in pretty average form and with Fabregas, Vermaelen, van Persie, Walcott and probably Diaby (to name but a few) unavailable. That means that the team virtually picks itself unless Arsene Wenger throws us a curve ball by leaving out Arshavin or something. The only question mark is which of our attacking midfielders starts in Fabregas' position, and I think that Nasri will get the nod. Rosicky will be on the right and Arshavin on the left.

Likely Arsenal line-up

Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy
              Song, Wilshere
      Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin

Subs: Szczesny, Djourou, Eboue,Denilson, Diaby, Vela, Lansbury or Emmaunuel-Thomas

I've had a couple of little bets on Arsenal to win (4-1) and Nasri to be the first goalscorer (12-1). I'm not saying I'm confident of either happening, but the odds seem very generous on both, so I thought it was worth a pot..

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Monday, 27 September 2010

Arsenal v West Brom - video highlights and post-mortum

If you can bear to, you can watch the 'highlights' of Arsenal v West Brom by clicking on the window above.

I watched the game on a live internet feed but wished I hadn't bothered. I switched off when it was 3-0 to West Brom (even typing that makes me feel slightly nauseous) but was pleased to see at full-time that we did actually have the fight to come back to 3-2 with two goals from Nasri.

On paper, a home match against the Baggies looked like a cakewalk but (as the cliché goes) football matches are not played on paper; they are played on grass. Whether due to complacency or whatever, Arsenal didn't turn up. I hope Arsene Wenger let them have it with both metaphorical barrels in the dressing room at the end of the game.Occasionally in the past we have looked poor in the first half of games but then come out much better in the second half, but in this match we only really started playing when we were 3-0 down, and by then it was obviously too late.

I have a theory that we always play poorly after a good League Cup display because the first-team players feel under extra pressure from the understudies who have played so well, but as Arsene Wenger has said, pressure should make top players play better, not worse.

That all said, at 1-0 down the game was still very much winnable, but the Spanish Waiter finally made the mistake we've been dreading all season and at 2-0 the players must have felt they had a mountain to climb. To give Manuel credit, he had been impeccable this season up to that point and he made a great save from the penalty when it was 0-0. But we all knew this error was coming, didn't we? It was just a matter of when.

Almunia is now out of the match away to Partizan Belgrade with an 'elbow problem'. Although it was not explicitly stated by Arsene Wenger, I can exclusively reveal that the problem is that he doesn't know his elbow from his arse and consequently often gets tangled up when diving to stop simple shots at his near post.

I am, like many Arsenal fans, now in a very difficult position with regard to our goalkeepers. Arsene Wenger has stated that his pecking order is Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny. For me, Sneezy is the only one of these who looks up to the job, so I'm in the unenviable position of wanting Manuel, Flapianski and Mannone to make mistakes (which will probably cost us matches) so that he gets his chance. And just to add an extra dimension, Sneezy has now started to make noises suggesting that he is unhappy at being fourth choice and has reminded Arsene Wenger not too subtly via the press that his contract expires at the end of next year.

Oh, the agonies of being a football fan. Anyway, let's hope that we beat Partizan tomorrow and Flapianski has a stormer and then goes on to regain his confidence and perform brilliantly all season. Well, I can dream, can't I?

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Sunderland v Arsenal - Sam Allardyce influences the media

I was gutted after Sunderland's last-gasp goal at the Stadium of Light. Conceding a goal in the last minute gives you no time to get another goal and feels like a kick in the stomach.

The fact that the Sunderland goal came from a mistake by Clichy and that we missed a penalty and several other good chances only served to make the feeling worse.

But I think there are a lot of positives to be taken from this match and I don't think we should be too downhearted. Overall, I thought we did pretty well against a Sunderland team that is very difficult to beat at home and without Cesc and Song for most of the match, having already been without van Persie, Walcott, Vermaelen and Diaby from the off. Would ManUre or Chelski have done any better with the equivalent players from their line-ups missing?

If Sam Allardyce wants any proof that what managers say before a game can influence referees then he only has to look at himself. Last week he was moaning about Arsene Wenger complaining about 'hard but fair' tackles on his players and as if by magic his Blackburn team got away with constant fouling of the Fulham keeper this weekend (one foul in particular resulting in a Blackburn goal which was allowed to stand), while Arsenal get a player sent off really cheaply and Sunderland were allowed to get away with several very cynical tackles without even picking up a booking.

Urgh... it makes me mad. And don't even get me started on the fact that that wasn't even what Le Boss said.

Anyway, despite the disappointment, we may look upon this as a good point come May.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Arsenal v SC Braga - video highlights

Highlights of last night's amazing match against Braga, including that back heel by Jack Wilshere to set up Chamakh. Awesome!

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Thursday, 26 August 2010

Arsenal v Blackpool video match highlights

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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Arsenal v Blackpool match preview

Blackpool Tower (picture courtesy friskierisky)
Cesc, van Persie, Djourou and Song are all available again for today's match at home to Blackpool.

Song will come straight back in at centreback but Fabregas, van Persie and Djourou are on the bench. That means that Wilshere will get another run out, which I'm pleased about.

As I said last week, I think Arsene Wenger will sign a goalkeeper and another centreback before the transfer deadline and it now looks like the centreback could be Squillaci, who was left out of Savilla's Champion's League squad and looks to be on his way. As usual, Wenger is being very circumspect in an effort to keep the price down, saying simply:
"He is one of the players that we are looking at".
I expected him to say something like that but I think he will be an Arsenal player pretty soonish . I get a little bit frustrated with all these so called Arsenal fans on the interweb-thingy who say that Wenger is lying about signing players. I say "good". I like Wenger's poker facedness in transfer dealings. Would you prefer him to say "I intend to sign Schwarzer and Squillaci and I'm willing to pay whatever it takes"? Fulham and Savilla would immediately up there asking prices, the chances of us signing the players wouldn't have improved any, and Almunia's and Fabianski's already low confidence would be knocked even further.

What's positive is that even without the additional centreback and goalkeeper that we all agree we need, we still have lots of options. Gibbs or Eboue could come in at fullback without weakening the team any; van Persie could play on the right, left or upfront; Song could come back to replace Wilshere; Vela could come in if we decide to give Arshavin a rest.

Given that we've got Denilson [slightly embarrassed cough], Bendtner, Nasri, Frimpong and Ramsey still to come back from injury, and should be making two more signings in the next week or so, I believe things are looking good.

I'm hoping for at least 3-0 today but Blackpool will be full of confidence after winning 4-0 away to Wigan last week and it won't be easy.

Full line-up vs Blackpool:

Sagna, Song, Vermaelen, Clichy
Rosicky, Diaby, Wilshere
Walcott, Chamakh, Arshavin

Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Eboue, Fabregas, Vela, van Persie

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Friday, 20 August 2010

Liverpool v Arsenal - Match review and ratings

A 1-1 draw at Liverpool isn't a bad result for the first game of the season. Before the match I would have taken a draw at Anfield and that's exactly what we got, so I won't complain.

Liverpool were eager to impress a new manager in the first game of the season on their own ground were always likely to be difficult to break down without the flair of Fabregas and van Persie, and so it proved.

Manuael Almunia got the nod in goal ahead Fabianski in goal, Diaby played the defensive midfield role, Wilshere also got a chance in midfield, Eboue started on the right of attack (quite rightly in my opinion after his excellence performance in the last friendly against Legia Warsaw) and the rest lined up as expected.

Arsenal had the majority of possession in a fairly uneventful first half but created little and it was Liverpool who had the better chances, with Clichy clearing off the line from a David Ngog header. Arsenal's best effort of the first half came after just four minutes when a powerful Thomas Vermaelen freekick was pushed wide by Reina.

Then the Gooners were given hope just before the break Joe Cole lunged rather recklessly at Koscielny and got a straight red card. I thought it was possibly slightly harsh based on the kind of two-footed lunges that were producing yellows last season. Still, as long as referees are consistent with it, I'm happy to see challenges like Cole's punished with a red card. But of course, that's the rub - we all know that they won't be consistent.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned for Arsenal in the second half because Liverpool (as teams who are down to ten men often do) came out for the second like a side possessed and Arsenal completely failed to weather the storm in any way at all.

Ngog scored just a minute after the restart. Arshavin, who found himself in the unfamiliar territory in the left back position, played a dangerous pass to Wilshere on the edge of his own area. Wilshere had to turn quite awkwardly and failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Glen Johnston to intercept and feed Ngog, who rifled it in at Almunia's near post.

Andy Gray blamed Almunia for the goal but although he and Wilshere were partly to blame it was Arshavin in my eyes who should shoulder the majority of the responsibility. Although Almunia probably could have done better with the shot, it came unexpectedly after we conceded possession on the edge of our own area and it was fired with some velocity. Arshavin however, gave a hospital pass to an inexperienced player in a dangerous position when he should be old enough to know better. To be fair to him, he doesn't normally get that close to his own goal and probably didn't know what to do.

Koscielny's sending off had the distinct whiff of the referee trying to even up the numbers after sending off one of the home side's players. His handball for his second booking looked accidental and what made it seem particularly harsh was that Ngog committed a particularly blatant and deliberate handball in the first half for which the ref gave a free-kick but didn't book him.

In the end it needed a mistake from Reina for Arsenal to equalise. The Liverpool goalkeeper fell onto the ball as it rebounded off the post from a Chamakh header and put the ball into his own net.

There is no truth to the rumour that the Liverpool players tried to pull an Arsenal shirt over Reina's head after the final whistle.


Almunia: 6 - flapped at a couple of crosses and might have done better with the goal

Sagna: 6 - Solid defensively but poor going forward
Koscielny: 8 - A good solid display, unlucky to be sent off
Vermaelen: 7 - good display overall, might have closed down Ngog more quickly to prevent the goal
Clichy: 6 - See Sagna above
Nasri: 7 - Had a lot of possession but couldn't find the killer pass
Diaby: 7 - Not at his best but did well in what is not his best position
Wilshere: 6 - Solid but unspectacular first start in the Premier League
Eboue: 7 - Worked hard defensively but couldn't find the space going forward
Chamakh: 6 - Can play much better but worked hard and created the goal
Arshavin: 6 - Great player but clearly not on form at the moment

Rosicky (Eboue, 59): 8 - Arsenal's best player by far in the second half, looked back to his best
Walcott (Wilshere, 59): 6 - Started up front then went out wide, given little space by a determined Liverpool side
van Persie (Diaby, 76): 5 - Not given enough time to affect the game

Apologies for the lateness of this post. It was written a few days ago but not posted due to PC problems. A preview of the Blackpool game will follow tomorrow morning.

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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Wenger to sign goalkeeper and centreback before deadline

Mark Schwarzer (picture courtesy p_a_h)

If you read very closely between the lines of recent comments by Arsene Wenger you can just about hear him admitting that he intends to sign both a goalkeeper and an experienced centreback before the transfer deadline.

Which is good news because these are the two positions that most observers believe that Arsenal need to strengthen to be in with a genuine chance of winning the league.

On the centreback situation, Wenger said:
"We are looking around, but at the moment nothing will happen before the match, so it will be Koscielny and Vermaelen who will start."
That suggestes that not only is Arsene still looking to sign a centreback, but that it will be one who is capable of competing with Koscielny and Vermaelen for a first team place.

On the keeper situation he said:
"I don't know yet [who will start], we will have to wait until Sunday afternoon."

"What is important at the moment is for us to focus on players who are in the squad and not give too much room to any speculation."

"I believe that we have goalkeepers who have quality and class and they have a good opportunity to show that on Sunday."
If you analyse this very carefully you will see that he is saying:
"I want to sign a new goalkeeper, but I don't want to damage the already fragile confidence of Almunia and Fabianski, one of whom will need to start on Sunday in a very tough match against Liverpool."
That goalkeeper could well be Mark Schwarzer, who has asked for a transfer and has been left out of Fulham's squad for today's match against away to Bolton (supposedly due to injury), which suggets that the move could happen soon.

Speaking about a potential move, Schwarzer said:
"I need it to happen. I’ve had a couple of chats with Mark and it’s delicately poised. Who wouldn't be keen to go to Arsenal? At this stage in my career. It's an amazing opportuity to play at that level and one I really want to take."

"It's taken a long time and the season's very close. On one hand you understand them [Fulham] not wanting to disrupt too many things but I want things resolved as quickly as possible. Only time will tell whether that happens or not."
So, things are looking good. Of course, as many have lately observed, buying a footballer is not like buying a packet of crisps. First the player's club must be willing to sell and agree a price, then the player himself has to want to move and agree to the terms that the buying club are offering.

However, this is positive news and I wouldn't be surprised if a keeper at least arrives very shortly. I'm keeping everything crossed.

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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Gibbs, Wilshere and Walcott - how did they do?

Jack Wilshere (picture courtesy Attilafozo)

I think I must have been hallucinating yesterday evening because it looked as if Arsenal had three players in the England team. And you know what? They all looked good.

Inevitably after all the hype surrounding Jack Wilshere, it was Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs who impressed the most.

Kieran Gibbs was probably the most impressive of all. He came on at half time for Cashley Cole and was probably England's best player in the second half, two moments of sheer bloody brilliance from Stephen Gerrard aside. As incredible as it sounds, Gibbs along with Stevie G., were the driving forces for England and I would even go so far as to say that it's unlikely that England would have won the match without them both.

As for Gerrard, after a mediocre first-half display in which he constantly seemed to give the ball away, he was magnificent in the second half. The thing I like about Gerrard is that he isn't a fair-weather player (metaphorically speaking). Most of the really top players are good when the team is playing well, but some struggle when the going gets tough. This is not the case with Gerrard. In fact he seems to play better when backs are against the wall (the 2005 Champions League final is another fine example of this). Let's hope he isn't as good on Sunday.

Theo Walcott put in a good evening's work and was probably England's best player in the first half before being replaced by Ashley Young at half time. He made some very lively runs with the ball, caused chaos in the opposition's defence and delivered the final ball when required - something he has been accused of not doing in the past.

Sometimes I feel that the criticism of Walcott is very harsh. Ashley Young didn't put in one successful cross or shot last night but was hailed as a success; whereas Theo often puts in good crosses which the forwards fail to convert and gets criticised for it. Hey-ho!

I said before the World Cup that Walcott, despite his obvious rough edges, could offer England far more than either Lennon or Wright-Phillips, and I wonder if Fabio Capello now regrets not taking him.

In case you need reminding of what Theo Walcott can do when he's on form, check out this earlier post from last week 

Jack Wilshere might have slightly mixed feelings about the match. According to the Press Association, he was detained in hospital on Tuesday night with stomach pains and only returned to the England team hotel at 5am on Wednesday. On the advice of doctors therefore, Capello only gave Jack ten minutes to impress, which wasn't really enough. On the plus side however, he made his full England debut and can be very pleased with his ten minutes overall. F*** it, scratch that, he made his England debut at only 18 years old and must be over the moon. Let's hope that he takes confidence from this and has a good performance against Liverpool on Sunday.

So all in all a good evening for Arsenal's English youngsters. I only hope that they keep their feet on the ground and that fraternising with a lot of overpaid, over-hyped, arrogant w*****s won't rub off on them.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Official: Cesc Fabregas is staying at Arsenal

Cesc Fabregas (Picture courtesy RobTM)

Cesc Fabregas has finally confirmed that he will be staying at Arsenal and won't be joining Barcelona this summer. He is quoted on the Daily Mail website saying:

'I have had many conversations with Arsene Wenger both in person and over the phone over the last few months and although the content of those conversations will remain private, the conclusion is that Barcelona have had two formal offers rejected by Arsenal. I am a professional and I fully understand that it is Arsenal's prerogative not to sell me.'

'I owe a lot to the club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal. I can assure all the fans that now the negotiations have ended I will be 100 per cent focused on playing for Arsenal. I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch, that is the only club I will be thinking about. I am looking forward to the start of the season and putting this speculation behind me.'

However, Fabregas did confirm that he had been tempted by a move to Barca:

'I would like to apologise to all the Arsenal fans for not speaking sooner about my future but I have not known what I was going to do until this moment.'

'I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me. This was the club where I learned my football, it is my home town where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing. There are not many players in the world who would not want to play for Barcelona.'

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Theo Walcott videos - top 15 goals, top 15 assists and more

For those who doubt Theo Walcott's ability when he's on form, here are a few reminders...

Top 15 goals

Top 15 assists

Early career at Southampton

2 goals for the under 21s

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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Best goal celebration ever

There's no need for me to add anything else - just watch it!

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Six of the best Arsenal news stories from the past few days

 Manuel Almunia (courtesy timsnells)

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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Barnet v Arsenal - match review

(picture courtesy jonnyr1)

Transfer talk

As you are by now probably aware, the surprise team news from Saturday's match against Barnet was that neither Eduardo nor Manuel Almunia turned up at the ground despite being named in the 22-man squad 24 hours previously, leading many to speculate that they were in negotiations with other clubs regarding possible moves. The official club line is that Eduardo had picked up a knock and Almunia was ill. Yeah right, with 'pretendhedidntdropuitus' perhaps.

Since then, Eduardo has been linked pretty strongly with a possible move to Shaktar Donetsk for a fee believed to be in the region of £6 million, with some sources reporting that a move has already been agreed. This seems to be backed up by the fact that Eduardo has not been named in the 27-man squad to travel to Austria. If this is true, it will be sad to see him go but he hasn't really recovered from his leg break either physically or mentally and £6 million seems like a good price. Well done Martin Taylor - you ruined Dudu's career. I hope you're sufficiently proud of yourself.

There is no news yet concerning Almunia. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he's on his way out and another keeper is coming in. Unlike Eduardo however, Almunia has been named in the squad which travels to Austria.

The first half

This really was a game of two halves with Arsene Wenger choosing a different eleven players for each half. With a lot of players being rested after the World Cup, Arsene Wenger chose a mixture of youth an experience each side of half-time but the line-ups were surprisingly strong proving that the Arse have a stronger squad this season than most people suppose.

There was much speculation before the match that, having signed Maroune Chamakh, Arsene Wenger would revert back to to the old 4-4-2 formation, but in the event the team lined up 4-3-3 as they did for the whole of last season:

Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski

Defence: Havard Nordtveit - Laurent Koscielny - Thomas Vermaelen - Armand Traore 

Midfield: Tomas Rosicky - Emmanuel Frimpong - Jack Wilshere 

Forwards: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas - Jay Simpson - Andrey Arshavin

Arsenal looked good in the first half. Most fans were looking forward to seeing how new signing Laurent Koscielny would do but in all honesty Barnet were never really a threat to Arsenal and it was difficult to judge how he would do against better opposition. I think all that we really learnt was that he can pass the ball quite well.

The undoubted star of the first half was Emmanuel Frimpong who controlled the midfield, and I'm excited to see how he does in Austria. He could be exactly the type of combative player we need as back-up to Alex Song. A new star could be born.

Jack Wilshere was also as impressive as ever, setting up two goals and generally looking like an Enlgand star in the making and it was interesting to see that he seems to have become stronger and more competitive following his loan spell at Bolton in the second half of last season. Bolton will no doubt be keen to take him on loan again this year, but it may be that Arsene Wenger thinks he will benefit more competing for a place in the Arsenal team with the likes of Diaby, Denilson, Nasri and Rosicky. We shall see.

Speaking of Rosicky, both he and Arshavin looked very sharp and ready for the new season having not played in the World Cup due to both Russia and the Czech Republic unfortunately being knocked out in the qualifying stages.

And speaking of players looking stronger, most of the young players (but in particular Emmanuel Frimpong, Armand Traore, Havard Nordtveit and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas) looked much stronger and bulkier than last season, and when Nordtveit was interviewed after the match he admitted that he had been doing a lot of work in the gym. All of these players did well but Nordtveit and JET were especially impressive, though I would have liked to see both of them in more central positions where I think they will both eventually end up playing in the future.

In goal, Lukasz Fabianski was untested but seems to have regained his confidence after a couple of dodgy performances in the first team last season.

Up front, Jay Simpson scored two goals but I'm still not convined by him and think he might struggle against better opposition.

Andre Arshavin scored the other first-half goal.

Thomas Vermaelen was Thomas Vermaelen as ever (that's a good thing, in case you hadn't guessed).

Second half

The second half was very different. As already mentioned, Arsene Wenger made eleven changes at half-time. The team for the second half was:

Goalkeeper: Vito Mannone

Defenders: Craig Eastmond - Johan Djourou - Ignasi Miquel - Kieran Gibbs

Midfielders: Samir Nasri - Henri Lansbury - Conor Henderson

Forwards: Theo Walcott - Marouane Chamakh - Nacer Barazite

(Wojciech Szczesny replaced Vito Mannone after 68 minutes in a pre-planned switch)

Without Emmanuel Frimpong to run the midfield, Barnet enjoyed more possession in the second half and Arsenal didn't put too many moves together. Henri Lansbury is showing a lot of potential but, like Denilson, he is no defensive midfielder and I wonder whether AW might have have been better playing him at right back with Eastmond filling the defensive midfield position in which he looked very promising for the first team in several matches at the tail end of last season when Song and Denilson were both injured. He wasn't helped by Samir Nasri and Conor Henderson also failing to impose themselves, though I expect good things from both players in future. Nasri did at least pop up with the only goal of the second half after an error by a Barnet defender.

At the back for Arsenal, I was quite impressed by Ignasi Miquel, who I have never seen before. He looked skilled and combative. After a slightly shaking start where he alsmost gave the ball away in a dangerous position, he looked pretty confident. It was also good to see Johan Djourou and Kiernan Gibbs having recovered from serious injuries last season.

Elsewhere, Theo Walcott, like Arshavin and Rosicky in the first half, looked sharp have not gone to the World Cup and Nacer Barazite looked confident and showed some good passing and movement. Of course all eyes were on Marouane Chamakh who looked quite impressive without really posing too much of a threat on Barnet's goal. Again, better things are to come from him I'm sure.

Other than that, the second half was pretty much a non-event, but overall it was a good workout for the team and a few of the younger players did themselves no harm at all.

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Six of the best Arsenal news stories from the past few days

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              Thursday, 8 July 2010

              Koscielny signs from Leyton Orient and new keeper announcement

              Laurent Koscielny finally signs

              In a surprise move, Arsenal have announced the signing of centre-back Laurent Koscielny from League One team Leyton Orient (or possible French Ligue 1 team Lorient, I'm not sure which).

              Koscielny is so far uncapped at international level but that is now likely to change as he is qualified to play for either France or Poland and they are likely to be fighting over him once he is thrust into the limelight at Arsenal.

              A lot of so-called Arsenal 'fans' have already voiced their disappointment at the signing without having seen him play, but Arsene Wenger is confident that Koscielny is the real deal. He said:

              "Koscielny is a central defender with great ability who performed extremely well last season for Lorient. We identified him as a very strong centre half who has made big progress very quickly. He has shown he is mentally strong, he's a fighter and a very strong competitor. Koscielny is a great addition to our squad."

              Koscielny meanwhile is also understandably excited to be joining Arsenal, saying:

              "I'm very excited to be joining Arsenal. They are one of the biggest teams in Europe with many great players. I'm really looking forward to playing in the English Premier League and the Champions League with my new club. Also, in Arsène Wenger, Arsenal has one of the best managers in the world and I can't wait to work with him and do my best for the Arsenal supporters."

              He is confident that he can settle into the side quickly and help bring the Premier League title back to Arsenal:

              "I am very confident," he said. "It takes a lot of work especially in the defence. You need to know your colleagues very well and you need to work hard every day. It is important to have those relationships quickly. I hope we will have a fantastic season this year and get that Premier League title. I came here to improve myself and win titles."

              Pictures of Koscielny seem hard to come by (though I am assured that the player does actually exist). You can view exclusive pictures of our new signing on the Official Arsenal Website.

              New keeper announcement soon

              In other exciting news, according to ArsenalInsider, Arsene Wenger has said that there will be an announcement about our keeper situation after the World Cup:

              "Manuel Almunia Rivero is a talented goalkeeper. In training, he is superb, the only problem is that he gets nervous on big matches, thereby making silly mistakes. After the World Cup, we will be making an announcement on goalkeeping."

              What this means I'm not sure, but it could be that a new keeper (possibly Eduardo or more likely Mark Schwarzer) will be announced with Manuel Almunia possibly leaving. Time will tell, but I'm excited.

              If it is Schwarzer, I will be reasonably happy. I'd rather have Joe Hart or Eduardo (the other one, who plays in goal for Portugal), but perhaps they aren't realistic targets.

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              Friday, 2 July 2010

              Is it time to Lego? Highlights of England v Germany in plastic bricks

              Watch highlights of England v Germany in Lego bricks!

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              Monday, 28 June 2010

              England v Germany - the linesman's point of view

              Above: What the linesman saw

              The picture above could shed some light on the assistant referee's diabolical decision in England's match against Germany.

              Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to make excuses for England - they lost because Germany were the better team. Before the World Cup began I thought that England had problems (dodgy first choice keeper, lack of centrebacks behind the first-choice pairing of Terry and Ferdinand, lack of quality strikers apart from Rooney and poor form by both the team and most of the key players before the tournament - I could go on), and so it proved.

              We have to face the fact that England's players are not as good as the media make out, but Fabio Capello must also take a proportion of the blame. He got every major decision wrong: He left out Walcott and Johnston but picked Lennon and Wright-Phillips who were awful; he picked Rob Green in goal and he made a howler in the first match; he picked Heskey up front and he missed a sitter in the first match; he stuck with Upson when King and Carragher could have come back and he had a stinker.

              And the players looked so terrified when they went out onto the pitch that they were beaten even before kick-off. At times it was more like three ferrets than three lions.

              But still, seriously, what was the linesman thinking? Was he even watching the game?

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              Monday, 21 June 2010

              Arsene Wenger accused of hypocrisy over tapping up

              Steven Pienaar (courtesy nicksarebi)

              FootballFanCast have accused Arsene Wenger of hypocrisy over his positive comments in the press about Steven Pienaar and Joe Cole. Wenger has previously criticised Barcelona for their public tapping up of Cesc Fabregas via the media but has now publicly commented on the merits of both Pienaar and Cole, which could also be viewed as public tapping up.

              On Pienaar, he said: "Pienaar has grown this year. He was usually a very busy player but the final ball was missing a little bit. This year he has gained in personality and he has kept his work-rate - so he has been much more efficient. What also played a big role in his growth was that Mikel Arteta was not there for a while and that he had to take the responsibility of being the playmaker of the team. He was one of the best players in England this year. He would get into the Arsenal team. I always had an eye on him since he was at Ajax."

              And on Cole he said that: "I like him as a player because when he played against us he always did a lot of damage. He can create impact through his creative play; he can dribble, he can pass, he can score goals."

              I feel as if I have to defend Arsene Wenger on this issue. Funnily enough, I was talking to my brother (who is an Everton fan) about this same thing last week. He said pretty much the same thing as FootballFanCast (i.e. that Wenger is a hypocrite) to which I replied that Arsene would not have made those comments had there been any chance whatsoever of us signing Pienaar. I also pointed out that Arsene is a pundit on EuroSport so he has to comment on players. Remember the European Championships two years ago when Arsene Wenger said that he wasn't sure if Andre Arshavin would be able to cut it in the Premier League?

              The situation with Cole is of course completely different. He is out of contract and Arsene Wenger is therefore able to say anything he wants about him. Personally, I hope we sign him. We shall see. Although not mentioned in the article, you could say the same about Marouane Chamakh, who was in the last six months of his contract and therefore eligible to speak to other clubs. Arsenal offered a fair price for Chamakh when he was still under contract but Bordeaux preferred to keep him until the end of the season and thus lost out on a fee.

              So the FootballFanCast article is just a blatant attempt to smear Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.

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              Thursday, 17 June 2010

              Opening day fixture: Liverpool fans confident of victory over Arsenal

              Right: Arsenal vs Liverpool (courtesy wonker)

              Arsenal have been drawn away at Anfield on the first day of the new Premier League season. The match is scheduled to take place on Saturday 14 August but may be put back to the following day if it is televised on Sky.

              Liverpool fans are typically optimistic about their chances. The official Liverpool FC website has listed selective comments from their fans on Twitter, Facebook and the official Liverpool FC forums.

              One fan, who calls himself swagatamb (probably not his real name!) said: "Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd among the first 5 matches! Thrashing them would surely make us forget the previous season!!".

              Another, Matthew Spencer, said: "Looking forward to this season actually. With the new kits looking great like a throwback to the 80s and Kenny Dalglish at the helm I think we'll have a great season. Not saying we will win the league but with new investors and a new manager some new players we will be a force again. Let's make Anfield a fortress again! YNWA".

              And another Danny 'Boy' Simson said: "We'll 'ave the gunners no probs!".

              I'd love it if we shove their Scouse-accented words back down their throats, but more realistically, it is hard to judge how we will do next season until we know who we are going to sign and who might be leaving (you know who I'm referring to).

              Arsene Wenger has been making the right noises but Barcelona keep getting away with publicly tapping up our captain and so far we have only Maroune Chamakh, though we have been linked with a lot more players.

              I'm still optimistic though and I've got my fingers firmly crossed that we will be signing a goalkeeper, a couple of centre-backs soon. A defensive midfielder as back-up to Song would also be welcome because what player who's good enough will be willing to sit on the bench?

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                Thursday, 3 June 2010

                Six of the Best Arsenal News Stories from the Past Few Days

                Cesc Fabregas (Courtesy RobTM)
                Arsenal tell Barca they have no intention of selling Fab and that they should f*** off and die.
                Rumours are building that Joe Cole has signed for Arsenal. We shall see.
                An well-balanced article on UEFA's planned financial fair play rules.
                Theo Walcott has been used and abused by England.
                Good news - Aaron Ramsey is on the mend.
                Another great video of Arsenal's future no. 1 in action. I get excited every time I see him play. (No, not in that way!)

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                Friday, 28 May 2010

                Latest on Fabregas - Barcelona still hypocrites

                According to the Daily Mirror, Barcelona have finally contacted Arsenal to enquire about the availability of Cesc Fabregas and were immediately told he is not for sale at any price. As yet, they have still not lodged an official bid despite continually tapping him up via the media.

                The Daily Mail claim that Barcelona believe the intense media speculation surrounding the proposed switch has hampered proceedings. Err, that would be the 'intense media speculation' that Barcelona themselves have created to unsettle Fabregas would it? Unbelievable!

                The latest comes from Barcelona presidential candidate Marc Ingla who is quoted in the Sun as saying: 'Cesc will be a Barcelona player, yes, yes. The money is not as important as his dream because he wants to return to Barcelona and it's a dream for our fans. Of course Barcelona wants to complete a quick deal. I believe that Cesc's time at Arsenal has finished, they have benefited from him and now we hope to reach agreement.'

                The money is not important? You what?! Barcelona want to complete the deal quickly? Well, maybe they could start by making an official bid for the player rather than just talking about it. My belief is that Barca simply don't have the money at the moment and they are stalling in the hope that either the player will hand in a transfer written request, forcing Arsenal's hand and potentially lowering the fee, or that they can somehow find the wonga down the back of the settee.

                Meanwhile, according to the Mirror Cesc's father has now confirmed that he wants to leave the club to join Barcelona but claims that he does not know which way things will go:
                "I tend to think that he has decided. It appears more clearly that he will do it. He has had his time there and given everything. He has been there since he was very young."
                 However, more positively, he did also say that:
                "I am talking about this but he could still be there next season. Whatever happens, he has great respect for Arsenal."
                We know that these days the players hold all the power and that Fabregas having five years left on his contract means little other than allowing Arsenal to hold out for a higher fee. However, if Fabregas doesn't get his wish to move to Barca, I don't expect him to have a strop. Despite Barcelona's overtures, he has refused to burn his bridges with Arsenal by being drawn into handing in a transfer request, perhaps realising that there is a good possibility that the two clubs will not be able to reach an agreement. According to several sources, he said:
                "I had a long conversation with Arsene and it was probably the greatest conversation I had with someone in my life. I respect him so much. He told me to concentrate on my football, he told me to concentrate on the World Cup, he told me to leave it in his hands and he will deal with whatever happens in my future. It's not up to me anymore. It's just now about Arsenal and whoever it has to be, and that's it. I don't want to say anything else. I have great respect for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club and for the Arsenal fans."
                If the clubs can't come to an agreement I think Fabregas will stay for one more year. And who knows, if we win something he may be persuaded to stay beyond that (or quite possibly not!).

                At the moment I'd rate the transfer as 50:50. At least if he does leave, Peter Hill-Wood has confirmed that Arsene Wenger will be given all the money from the transfer to spend on players. (Though of course we know that is no guarantee that he will choose to spend it.)

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                Thursday, 20 May 2010

                Let's Talk About Cesc, Baby - Fabregas is off to Barcelona. (Again.)

                Cesc Fabregas (Picture courtesy RobTM)
                So Cesc Fabregas is off to Barcelona. (Again.) It may be true, it may a load of cobblers. Who knows? At the moment things look in the balance.

                For the time being the story seems to have little more credibility than any of the previous ones. I'm not saying that Fabregas won't leave Arsenal this summer but for the time being I'm going to withhold judgement.

                As so often in the past, the story is based on a rumour started by Guillem Balague in Spanish newspaper AS(S). According to Balague's official website, he wrote an 'exclusive' article in AS(S) stating that:
                Cesc Fabregas has told Arsene Wenger today that he wishes to leave Arsenal this summer in order to return to FC Barcelona. The Spanish midfielder flew into London for talks with the Arsenal coach today for a meeting that will prove decisive in determining his future. Fabregas recently made clear his desire to play for Barcelona, should he ever leave Arsenal, and emphasised that he would like his future sorted before the World Cup finals in June.
                Fabregas has now informed Wenger of his desire to play for Barcelona next season and the Spanish club understands that the Premier League club will demand a fee in the region of £30 - £35 million. If Arsenal were to insist on a fee in excess of that figure, it may prove too high for Barcelona who feel that while a deal could still be done, it would be difficult.

                Cesc Fabregas left Barcelona in 2003 to sign for Arsenal when he was 16 years old in a move that angered the Spanish club who felt that the Premier League side had exploited a Spanish employment law that prevented Barcelona from tying him to a professional contract. Consequently, Barcelona feel that Arsenal should be willing to negotiate as they would have little grounds for complaint if Barcelona were to aggresively [sic] bid for the player. 
                Sky Sports, as they tend to do, are milking the story for all it's worth and it has been repeated in just about every other news outlet, but so far it is just unsubstantiated rumour and lots of questions currently remain unanswered.

                For instance, how does Guillem Balague know the intimate details of a private conversation that allegedly took place between Cesc Fabregas and Arsene Wenger? How can the alleged meeting have taken place at all if Arsene Wenger is apparently currently out of the country on holiday? And how serious are Barca about signing Fabregas given that they have just spent £35 million on David Villa, seem to have several other high-profile targets on their radar and already have Xavi and Iniesta who play in Fabregas' position?

                The only quotes we have so far from anyone come from Barcelona Sporting director Txiki Begiristain who, when told that Fabregas had reportedly asked for a transfer, said:
                It's great news that he wants to come here and I think that one day Cesc will have to come to Barca. But what matters is Arsenal and what their decision is. They think he is a very important player for them. We have to respect that.

                I wish it was as soon as possible. But we have to respect Arsenal's wishes and the contract he has. At times the wishes of players do not come true because they are under contract.
                 I guess that pretty much sums up the situation at the moment.

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                Thursday, 13 May 2010

                Theo In, Campbell Out

                Theo Walcott (picture ourtesy RobTM)

                As you have probably heard by now, Theo Walcott has been named in Fabio Capello's initial 30-man England squad for the World Cup but Sol Campbell has been left out.

                I think Sol must have got the fairly obvious message that Capello doesn't fancy him too much. He hasn't been included in the squad of 30 which included six centre backs: Jamie Carragher, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Ledley King, John Terry and Matthew Upson.

                Of those, John Terry is obvious a shoe-in, but Carragher was asked to come out of retirement, Dawson is uncapped, there are doubts about Ferdinand's fitness, Ledley King is a permenant crock and Upson has never really impressed. So if he can't get in before those lot, he's got no chance. Phil Jagjelka or Joleon Lescott would probably be next in line.

                Personally, I would have liked to see Sol at the World Cup but Mr Capello is England manager and he probably knows what's best for the team.

                I'm not sure whether Sol is technically still an Arsenal player but I hope that he will sign on for another season. According to Arsenal Mania, the player himself is keen to stay.

                England's 30-man provisional squad in full

                Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

                Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.

                Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

                Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney.

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                Monday, 3 May 2010

                'Ins' and 'Outs' This Summer at Arsenal

                With Arsenal's season pretty much over, I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk about who might be leaving and arriving this summer.

                GK - current players: Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny

                First, the goalkeepers. I think everyone (including, hopefully, Arsene Wenger) is now agreed that we need a new keeper. Manuael Almunia is good enough as back-up but shouldn't be starting every week. Meanwhile, Lukasz Fabianski has come in for a lot of stick this season due to some high-profile errors, but I'm still convinced he can become a top-class keeper given two or three more seasons. Unfortunately, we've now gone seasons without winning a major trophy and I no longer believe we can wait for him to mature. Vito Mannone has never really convinced me despite several very good performances this season but, again, could provide good back-up in future. Finally, Wojciech Szczesny looks the mutts nuts and will, according to Arsene Wenger, become Arsenal's numero uno one day. But he's not ready for the first team yet.

                So who should we sign? Well, it's not easy to sign a top-class keeper. Many names have been mentioned who, to my mind, would not really be any improvement on what we have. Robert Green, for example. For me, Joe Hart looks quality and we should do anything we can to sign him. Unfortunately, it looks like it may be difficult to prise him away from Man Citeh, but we can always hope that he decides to submit a transfer request. Jussi Jaaskelainen could also fit the bill and might come a bit cheaper. I would be happy with either of those two. I wouldn't be surprised though if it's not someone relatively unknown like Jens Lehmann was (if Arsene Wenger decides to sign a keeper at all).

                Defence - current players: Sagna, Eboue, Clichy, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Gallas, Campbell, Djourou, Silvestre, Senderos

                Despite what has been said in the media, I think we currently have what we need in defence. Our full-backs Sagna, Clichy, Eboue and Gibbs all look pretty solid and I think we are pretty soild in that area. At centre-back we have the incredible Tomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, Sol Campbell, Johan Djourou, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos. Of those though, Gallas, Campbell, Silvestre and Senderos are all out of contract in the summer.

                I, for one, won't be too disappointed to see Senderos leave and the least said about Silvestre the better, but it looks increasingly like Gallas will leave when his contract runs out and there are doubts about whether Sol Campbell will sign a new deal. I hope he does but, if not, I hope we sign a promising young player who will be happy to sit on the bench but also capable of coming in without too much disruption should either of the first-choice centre-backs be injured. Chris Smalling would have been ideal because he can also play full-back or defensive midfield, but sadly he decided to go to ManUre. If Gallas leaves, we need to sign a top-class player a la Vermaelen who can come straight into the team. Unfortunately, such players are hard to find. Brede Hangerland would fit the bill, but I doubt we will be able to persuade Fulham to part with him. I haven't seen Neven Subotic play but he comes with rave reviews. Whether we will be able to afford him though is another matter. Hopefully, Arsene Wenger already has someone up his sleeve (not literally of course, otherwise he would be too small for a centre-back).

                Midfield - current players: Fabregas, Song, Diaby, Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky, Denilson, Eastmond, Wilshere, Ramsey, Merida

                Midfield is perhaps the most contentious area. I think we're currently well covered in this position with one possible exception. I believe Cesc Fabregas will still be with us next year despite the continued rumours of him moving to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Timbuktu, and Alex Song cannot be improved upon in my opinion.
                Abu Diaby still continues to get stick from some fans but, although he is still a little inconsistent, he has improved greatly and I think he's worth perserving with.

                Andrei Arshavin has had a poor season after a promising start and has also taken a bit of stick in the blogging community, but I think we have to remember that: (a) he has been carrying an injury for most of the season, and (b) he is often misquoted. We have all learned to live with the constant 'Fabregas to Barca' stories and take them with the huge lump of sodium chloride they deserve. The constant stories about what Arshavin has supposedly said fall into the same bracket in my opinion. Most of the stories seem to originate at the same tabloid-esque website, which I refuse to give publicity to. Samir Nasri is not the finished article, but he has his moments and he will only get better in my opinion. Tomas Rosicky has had a poor season, but he never lets anyone down when called upon (as they say), and as long as he's happy to sit on the bench, I think he's another to keeper.

                It's with back-up for Alex Song that I think we have potential problems.Denilson is not good enough in this position and Craig Eastmond looks promising but not yet ready to play more than a few games a season. The problem is, whoever we sign is unlikely to get into the team ahead of Song and will have to be content to sit on the bench. If Sol Campbell leaves, I hope that we sign a promising young player like Smalling (but not him, obviously) who can play centre-back and also defensive midfield; otherwise, I think we will continue to be weak in this area. Personally, I'm hoping that I'm wrong about Eastmond and that he can develop faster than expected. So far, he's looked good in most matches, but he was a bit disappointing against Wigan last week when with someone with more experience in that position I think we could have gone on to win.

                Jack Wilshere will also probably get more matches next season as well unless he goes out on loan again, and I think we may also see Jay Emmuanuel-Thomas getting a few games.

                Finally for the midfielders, Aaron Ramsey we all know about, sadly, and Fran Merida will probably be leaving at the end of the season. I will be a bit sorry to see him go because I think he has a lot of potential, but sometimes young players get impatient.

                Forwards - current players: van Persie, Bendtner, Eduardo, Walcott, Vela

                Van Persie is our best forward and obviously must stay, and Nicklas Bendtner is also good enough in my opinion as long as he's not first-choice.

                It looks very much as if Marouane Chamakh will be our first signing and I would very welcome that. That would probably leave us with too many forwards and I think Eduardo might be the one to make way. He's had very little playing time this season and just doesn't seem to have recovered properly from his injury, either mentally or physically. He seems to have lost a bit of pace and, sadly, it might be time to say goodbye. That said, Arsene Wenger sees him in training every day and he will know whether he just needs more time or if the damage is permenant.

                I've included Theo Walcott as a forward partly because that's where he's listed on the official Arsenal website and partly because I'm not sure whether we will play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 next season. Theo is another one who has come in for some criticism this season both from the media and from some fans, but I think we have to remember that he is still young and has been injured for long periods this season. When he comes back from the World Cup having been one of the key players for England, we will all love him a bit more. If we do switch to 4-4-2 next season or just use it in some matches, I think we will finally see the best of Theo Walcott.

                Finally, Carlos Vela is another one who has not been seen much this season and I'm wondering whether Arsene Wenger has any confidence in him. For me, he is still a very promising young player and it would be a shame to see him go, but Wenger sees him in training every day and only he will really know if he can ever develop from being a talented youngster to being a world-class player.

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                Saturday, 24 April 2010

                Arsenal vs. Wigan #NickCleggsFault

                It's taken me a long while to get over the defeat against Wigan. I've been avoiding football since. We have a very close relationship and we'll eventually get back together but right now we just need to spend a bit of time apart to have our own space.

                Apparently, there have been some matches involving Barcelona, Liverpool, Fulham and some other teams since then. If anyone reading this knows what happened in those and wants to let me know the scores, I'd be very pleased to hear from you.

                Anyway, I've been racking my brains to work out why we lost against Wigan. Was it the defence? Do we need a new keeper? Was it complacency or just one of those end-of-season things? Or was it the fact that Arsene Wenger didn't bring on Robin van Persie earlier in the match?

                Well, it seems that at the moment there's some kind of General Election-thingy going on in the UK and I've therefore come to the conclusion that it it was all #NickCleggsFault.

                But fear not, fellow Arsenal fans. You can now fight back. You can help the Daily Mail fight against that dastardly Johnny Foreigner Nick Clegg by playing...

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                Friday, 16 April 2010

                Exclusive: Almunia's Green Jersey Was a Bad Omen

                Picture coutresy of Rob(TM)

                It feels a bit like the end of the world today, and I'm not talking about the fact that the skies are filled with volcanic ash.

                Arsenal's title ambitions are all but over for another season. The omens weren't good from the start. When I saw that Tottenham had an unknown 19 year-old in their team, well I just somehow knew he would score with an absolute corker from 40 yards. I first saw Danny Rose playing for Eng-er-land in the Under-21 European Championships last summer. He didn't impress me at all. He was like a fish up a tree. Now he will probably play a few more games for the Spuds before disappearing up his own posterior never to be heard from again.

                Manuel Almunia's green jersey was also a bad omen if you believe research presented today at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon by Dr Iain Greenlees and Michael Eynon.

                Greenlees and Eynon looked at the performance and the expectation of success of 40 university footballers against goalkeepers wearing black, blue, green, yellow, and red strips.

                Each of the 40 strikers took a total of 20 penalties, 10 against a goalkeeper wearing black (the control) and 10 against a goalkeeper wearing either a blue, yellow, green or red shirt. Footballers were asked to estimate how many penalties out of 10 they would score and give a confidence rating for their estimate.

                The researchers found that, although there was no difference in how many goals a striker thought he would score, the fewest number of goals were scored against a goalie in red (54 per cent success rate), followed by yellow (69 per cent success rate), then blue and green (72 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively).

                Dr Greenlees said: "These findings lend support to the idea that red clothing could give a sportsperson or team a small but meaningful advantage (one penalty in five) in a competitive encounter. It also has implications for sports in which a competitor is assigned a coloured corner randomly, like boxing and martial arts in the Olympics."

                I'm starting the campaign now for Arsenal's keeper to wear red in away matches next season!

                Wearing a green jersey didn't seem to have such a bad effect on Heurelho Gomes in the Tottenham goal though. He played the game of his life in the second half, making a string of amazing saves, which Robin van Persie described as "crazy", to earn himself the man of the match and Tottenham the three points. So it goes.

                To be fair, there were a couple of good omens for Arsenal as well. Sol Campbell was returning to his old club and we all know how players like to score against their old clubs. And Robin van Persie was returning from injury after what seems like several years out injured. I was hoping one of those two would do the trick for Arsenal in the dying minutes. Both had excellent efforts on goal (in RvP's case several) but in the end the heroics of Gomes won the day for Sp**s and it was not to be. I guess St Totteringham's Day will just have to wait a little longer for now.

                On the plus side, Robin van Persie was awesome when he came on as a sub for the Arse and it makes you wonder what might have been had our best players like Fabregas, Arshavin, Song, Vermaelen, Gallas, and of course RvP himself been fit more often this season.

                Despite intense pre-season media pessimism about Arsenal's chances this season and speculation that we would fail to qualify for the Champions League with money bags Man Citeh taking our place, I always thought that the realistic expectation for this season was to finish in the top three, and of course I hoped that we might exceed expectations and actually win the thing. For a long while we were in the fight to win it and it looked as if we just might. I think that's all we can realistically ask of such a young squad at this stage.

                So if we can keep the current squad together and maybe add a couple of more experienced players, the youngsters (if we can still call them that) will have grown a lot and learned a lot from the experience and we could finally get back to our rightful place as Premier League champions in 2010-2011.

                Bring on next season!

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