This Tuesday Premier League table-toppers Arsenal face off with Romania's second place team Steaua Bucharest. Arsene Wenger's young guns will go into the match full of confidence, riding a streak of 8 straight wins in all competitions.
The Gunners are first in Group H, following a convincing 3-0 victory over Spanish side Sevilla. Steaua are on the other side of the table, having lost their opening match to Slavia Prague 0-1. They will face a tough challenge against the talented Gunners, who have yet to lose a game this season.
Arsenal are heavy favorites to win both Tuesday's match against Steaua and Champions League Group H. However, their task will be made a bit more difficult due to the absence of Alex Hleb, who was injured in the 1-0 win over West Ham yesterday. Other players who will miss the match are William Gallas, Tomas Rosicky, and Jens Lehmann, although all are set to come back some time soon, after their long-term injuries.
Edit: Hleb, Adebayor, Flamini and Diaby are all doubts for the Steaua game
Although Arsenal are very likely to win this match, Arsene Wenger is still likely to play some of his big names on Tuesday.
The Arsenal backline will probably consist of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, and Gael Clichy; with Manuel Almunia between the sticks. The talented Arsenal midfield will most likely feature Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, and Emmanuel Eboue; although the recently out-of-favor Gilberto may also see some action. Theo Walcott, who was rested against West Ham, may also feature on the left-wing.
Up front, Wenger may choose to play Eduardo da Silva rather than risk Emmanuel Adebayor, although if Adebayor is fit, he will probably start alongside Robin van Persie in a strong Arsenal attack.
The attack, which has scored 16 goals in 7 Premiership games this season, will likely be Arsenal's source of inspiration, with goals coming from midfield as well. Fabregas will be the mastermind behind all of Arsenal's moves as usual, supplying pinpoint passes to the attack, and maybe even adding to his impressive haul of 6 goals this season.
Steaua on the other hand will get most of their inspiration from Nicolae Dica, the impressive Romanian attacking midfielder who has scored 48 goals in 101 league games for Steaua Bucharest. He will have a hard time scoring against Arsenal's defense which has only let in 2 goals since Jens Lehmann's injury.
I expect that Arsenal will dominate the game, although wastefulness may keep the scoreline lower than it could be. I predict a 2-0 win which will keep Arsenal at the top of Group H, extending our winning streak to 9 games.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Alexander Hleb is set to miss Tuesday's Champions League match against Steaua Bucharest after suffering an injury in yesterday's 1-0 victory over West Ham. The victory kept Arsenal two points clear at the top of the table, but was marred by injuries to Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor.
It was a Mark Noble tackle which took out Hleb, and Arsene Wenger was not very happy with it.
"If it was an accident, it is a very bad accident, because if you see his leg it is unbelievable," said Wenger, "It is red and bruised from the knee down to the toes. We are quite optimistic because, for me, Noble is usually a fair player. I don't know if it was an accident or not, but he caught him very well."
When discussing his chances of playing in the midweek Champions League match he said, "I don't think Hleb will play on Tuesday because he cannot walk properly at the moment."
However, Arsene Wenger has stated that Adebayor is likely to be fit in time for Tuesday's match, despite being kicked in the thigh. The Togo striker, who was taken off in the 89th minute yesterday, will be a nice boost to Arsenal's squad, especially considering his great form of late.
Wenger said, "Adebayor had a kick on the thigh, and he looks like he has a good chance to play on Tuesday night."
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Arsenal remained at the top of the table today as they beat West Ham thanks to a 13th minute header from Robin van Persie. Manchester United have yet to play, but even if they win Arsenal will be 2 points ahead with a game in hand. Currently, our closest rivals are Manchester City who 3 points behind, having played one more game.
Arsene Wenger's gunners finally broke their bad spell against West Ham, making it 8 straight wins in all competitions. However, this win was not nearly as convincing as the 5-0 drubbing of Derby or the 3-0 victory over Sevilla.
West Ham: Robert Green; Anton Ferdinand, George McCartney, Lucas Neil, Matthew Upson; Lee Bowyer, Freddy Ljungberg, Mark Noble, Scott Parker; Henri Camara, Dean Ashton
Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Abou Diaby, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie
Arsenal came out of the gates galloping, and Emmanuel Adebayor missed narrowly wide in the first minute after a cross from Abou Diaby.
Dean Ashton had West Ham's first chance not too much later as he shot just over Almunia's crossbar in what was to be a frustrating night for the in-form striker.
Robin van Persie scored the first goal for Wenger's young guns in the 13th minute, heading the ball in after a spot-on cross from late inclusion Alex Hleb.
Ashton then thought he had a second chance, but was flagged for a dubious offside call. There weren't too many complaints though, as Manuel Almunia (who looked secure in goal throughout the game) came out to block his shot.
In the 31st minute, Alex Hleb was taken off after a rash tackle from Mark Noble saw him injured. Wenger had an able replacement for the right wing in Emmanuel Eboue, but it would be disappointing if Hleb were to be sidelined for an extended period of time.
The game's pace started to slow as the end of the first half approached, and despite 5 minutes of added time, nobody else could find the net.
The second half started as the first had - with frenetic pace. Dean Ashton once again missed two great chances to put West Ham ahead in a half full of near misses.
In the 57th minute, Ashton looked sure to score following a cross from Lee Bowyer. However, his weak header fell straight into the hands of Manuel Almunia, rather than in the back of the net.
Then, in the 84th minute, Ashton once again latched onto a cross (this time from a corner) only to see his headed cleared in front of goal by the left foot of Robin van Persie.
Arsenal missed their fair share of chances as well though, as Adebayor failed to round Robert Green in a 1 on 1, and Mathieu Flamini saw a few long distance strikes parried away by the West Ham 'keeper.
Regardless of the missed chances, Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board will be happy with the win and the extended period at the top of the table. With a midweek Champions League match against Steaua Bucharest coming up, it also looks as though Arsenal's winning streak will be extended to 9. A great result for any Arsenal fan...
Friday, September 28, 2007
Alex Hleb passed a late fitness test today and will be included in the squad for Saturday's game against West Ham. The Belarussian will be a welcome addition to Arsene Wenger's squad, especially considering his fine form prior to his injury.
Hleb, who has been heavily criticized for attempting to walk the ball into the goal has already scored twice this season, once in the Champions League Qualifier against Sparta Prague, and once against Fulham in the Premier League. Scoring has not been his most important contribution on the pitch though, as his incredible dribbling and passing skills have seen him make many opportunities for Arsenal's forwards.
Eduardo da Silva, Arsene Wenger's most expensive summer signing, is injured. The Croatian striker aggravated his groin during Tuesday's Carling Cup tie with Newcastle. It has not gotten better yet, so he will be missing the West Ham clash, although he is likely to be back in time for Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League.
With Theo Walcott set to be rested, we are likely to see on form Emanuel Adebayor start up front alongside Robin van Persie. Nicklas Bendtner will probably start on the bench, although we may see him later in the game if Arsenal are having trouble scoring.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Arsenal are set to play an exciting match on Saturday as they take on West Ham, the only team ever to beat Arsenal at the Emirates. West Ham are something of a bogey team for the Gunners, having won their last 4 Premiership meetings, and Arsenal will not be happy if they lose to recently departed Freddy Ljungberb. However, Arsene Wenger's boys will be heavy favorites to win this match, especially considering form that sees them undefeated in 17 games (since the loss to West Ham last season). Both teams have been performing well recently though, as Arsenal are in first, and West Ham not too far behind in seventh.
Arsene Wenger has told Arsenal.com that Alex Hleb may or may not be ready in time for Saturday. In other injury news, Emmanuel Eboue returned from injury against Newcastle, but probably won't feature on Saturday, as he is not match fit. Alex Song has also been added to the injury list, although he probably wouldn't have featured anyway. The other injured players are all still out, although Wenger did put something of a time frame on their returns.
Edit: Hleb is now fit but Eduardo is injured and Theo Walcott is set to be rested
“William Gallas is maybe a week or 10 days away,” said Wenger. “But I would not like to set a time on it really. As for Rosicky you can probably fix the date for Sunderland [next Sunday]. Jens Lehmann will be another week.”
Arsenal come off of the 5-0 defeat of Derby County last weekend and a 2-0 win over Newcastle in the Carling Cup on Tuesday. They will therefore be high in confidence - especially Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas, who have each scored 6 goals this season. Fabregas has scored a goal in each of his last 4 Premier League games and Adebayor recorded a hat-trick in the win over Derby.
Other starters will most likely include Bacary Sagna, Philippe Senderos, Kolo Toure, and Gael Clichy in the back line. It will be interesting to see who Wenger opts to play in the midfield, although Fabregas, Gilberto, Flamini, and Diaby are the most likely candidates if Hleb doesn't manage to return in time. Up front Arsene will most likely start Adebayor and van Persie, although Eduardo and Theo Walcott are also possibilities. Maybe we'll even see Nicklas Bendtner come off the bench.
Whoever we start, we should certainly be playing for a win, even against a bogey team. Craig Bellamy and Dean Ashton have been on decent form for the Hammers this season, but our defense shouldn't have too much trouble handling them if there are no errors from Senderos. We should get another clean sheet, and I expect a few goals from our side as well. I don't want to be too optimistic by predicting 3-0, so I'll go ahead and say that we should win 2-0, to stay at the top of the table.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Maybe I was wrong about Alex Song. And I'm not just saying that because it rhymes.
Song was brilliant in the center of defense alongside Philippe Senderos in yesterday's game against Newcastle. The two held out against a strong Newcastle frontline of Shola Ameobi, Alan Smith, and reported Arsenal target Obafemi Martins; managing to keep a clean sheet (thanks in part to Senderos' clearing off the line).
The Cameroonian was strong in the air and didn't seem to set a foot wrong throughout what was certainly the best Arsenal game of his career.
Perhaps Song is better suited as a central defender than a midfielder. His performances in the midfield have been abysmal thus far (Fulham anyone?) and he doesn't have the pace nor talent to fight for a spot against the likes of Fabregas, Gilberto, Flamini, Diarra and more in a congested midfield.
I have hopes for the lad now. Maybe Wenger can pull off another Kolo Toure, converting a decent player into a fabulous center back. If we keep playing Song in our backline (in the Carling Cup of course) we might just have the impenetrable defense we've been lacking.
Speaking of Wenger, the gaffer wants to play Song at center back as well.
“Don’t misjudge Alex Song,” he told Arsenal TV Online, “because he is a great player.”
“I feel he was misjudged in the Fulham game last year where we had a nightmare first half. He was involved in it so everyone thought he was to blame but I didn’t think so. He moved out to Charlton where he had some great games.
“We believe he is a quality player and I personally believe he can make it at centre back.”
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Arsenal dominated today's games for long spells, despite only managing to put the game away 2-0 in the final 10 minutes. An 83rd minute header from Nicklas Bendtner broke the deadlock, and Neves Denilson put the game beyond doubt with a superbly taken strike from 20 yards out. Arsene Wenger's younger players have once again proved their worth and will go into the fourth round full of confidence despite Wenger's commitment to playing a second string side in the Carling Cup.
Arsenal: Lukasz Fabianksi; Emmanuel Eboue, Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos, Armand Traore; Neves Denilson, Lassana Diarra, Alex Song; Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo da Silva, Theo Walcott
Newcastle: Shay Given; Habib Beye, Sanchez Jose Enrique, David Rozenhal, Steven Taylor; Abdoulaye Faye, James Milner, Charles N'Zobgia; Shola Ameobi, Obafemi Martins, Alan Smith
Sam Allardyce's men created the first clear cut chance of the match when Enrique sent in a dangerous cross from the left wing. Alleged Arsenal target Obafemi Martins headed the ball goalward, but a fine save from the young signing Lukasz Fabianski kept it out of the back of the net.
Nicklas Bendtner had a similar chance after a 17th minute cross from Armand Traore, but the tall Dane couldn't steer the ball goalward, powering it high over the crossbar.
Eduardo soon had his first chance at goal, after some good work from newly returned Emmanuel Eboue, but the newly signed Croatian striker was just unable to send the ball towards goal. He was able to get alone with Shay Given, but was shut down by the Newcastle keeper just in time to keep the scoreline 0-0.
Arsenal enjoyed another chance when Emmanuel Eboue forced a great save out of Given after powering a low drive goalwards from 20 yards.
Both goalies kept their teams clean sheets for the first half, but Arsenal came out the stronger in the second.
Given was called into action again as he made a fine reflex save from Theo Walcott.
Arsenal had another great chance when a blocked shot from Eboue gave the gunners a corner. Eduardo headed the resulting corner towards the goal, but Charles N'Zogbia cleared the ball off the line.
Newcastle then had a penalty shout turned down as Philippe Senderos appeared to bring down Martins in the box.
It was not the last chance Newcastle would have, despite Arsenal going on to dominate the rest of the game. On 83 minutes Traore crossed the ball to Nicklas Bendtner who made no mistakes in powering in his header.
Obafemi Martins had a chance to equalize soon after as he rounded Lukasz Fabianski, only to see his shot brilliantly cleared off the line by a sliding Senderos.
The game then finished beyond doubt, as Neves Denilson unleashed a superb strike from 20 yards out to seal an appearance in the 4th round for the young gunners.
Watch the goals (and Senderos' clearance) here
Monday, September 24, 2007
Surprisingly enough, the readers of this blog decided that Manuel Almunia is the best of Arsenal's keepers. It seems as though Jens Lehmann's blunders (and temper) were enough to turn Arsenal fans away from the angry German.
Results: Who deserves the number 1 jersey at Arsenal?
Jens Lehmann - 42%
Manuel Almunia - 58%
I have to disagree with my readers here. As I stated in my last post on the topic, Manuel Almunia is far too inept at making positional decisions. He may not be as error prone as the Germany number 1, but he also doesn't make the same world-class stops as Lehmann. Crazy Jens may be getting older (and angrier) but his presence in the back is more assuring than Almunia's in any situation other than a back pass.
I'm interested in knowing, why do you guys think Almunia is better?
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Tomorrow will see Arsene Wenger's young guns take on Big Sam's Newcastle side in the Carling Cup. Wenger confirmed that he will continue to play youngsters and players "who need to get up to full speed" in the Carling Cup, despite the fact that Sam Allardyce always plays his strongest squad even in the 'lesser' of the English cups.
Arsene informed Arsenal.com as to some of the players we will be seeing tomorrow.
“You will see Bendtner, Diarra, and Denilson. Maybe Eboue (ankle) will be coming back as well.
“You’ll see Justin Hoyte and Alex Song maybe Eduardo and Diaby. Then there is Armand Traore and Lukasz Fabianski who we have not seen a lot of so far. We have sold out and we will put out a good team. We want to give the opportunity to our fans to see some unfamiliar faces.”
After Wenger saying that both Hoyte and Bendtner will stay at Arsenal, it is great to see the young pair finally get some time on the pitch.
It would be nice to see Bendtner starting a match, as the youngster has great promise. He complained about not seeing enough action in the start of the season, despite his impressive performances, and the Carling Cup could be the perfect opportunity to let the tall Dane show off his skills.
Hoyte also has considerable talent, and as he can play either left or right back he could be a great squad player for Arsenal in the future.
Diarra, Denilson, Eduardo, and Diaby are all players on the fringe of regular first team action, and good Carling Cup performances might see some of them getting more time in the Premier League as well. Diaby and Diarra in particular impressed in the 5-0 drubbing of Derby on Saturday, the former scoring the first goal, and the latter registering some impressive mazy runs.
It should be great to see our young players play, but it will be quite a test against the Premiership's 5th place team. Allardyce is likely to play such big names as alleged Arsenal target Obafemi Martins, former Manchester United striker Alan Smith, Mark Viduka and the impressive young Charles N'Zobgia.
Newcastle's impressive front line may cause trouble for the young Traore and Hoyte, but with Kolo Toure in the center we may be able to hold off Big Sam's strikers. Scoring goals shouldn't be a problem with Eduardo and Bendtner in the lineup, and the home advantage will help as well. I fancy our side will just manage to pull out a 2-1 victory in a tight match.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Well, I thought that I was perhaps being too harsh on Derby by predicting a 4-0 Arsenal win, but the young guns proved me wrong, emphatically winning the game 5-0. Arsenal remain at the top of the table thanks to a hat-trick from Emmanuel Adebayor and goals from Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby.
Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini; Theo Walcott, Eduardo da Silva, Emmanuel Adebayor
Derby: Stephen Bywater; Claude Davis, Andy Griffin, Dean Leacock, Tyrone Mears; Eddie Lewis, Matt Oakley, Stephen Pearson, Gary Teale; Steve Howard, Kenny Miller
Arsenal started strongly and should have been ahead in the 4th minute after an interception from Gael Clichy in the attacking third was followed up by an immaculate pass to Emmanuel Adebayor who failed to make contact with the ball, allowing the danger to pass.
The chance was a warning to the Derby defense, and it wasn't too long before it was followed up by a goal. Abou Diaby (who had a brilliant match today) ran past two challenges before unleashing a rising shot into the top right corner of the net. Diaby's 10th minute goal was a reminder of Arsenal's potent goalscoring midfielders, and all but doomed Derby right from the beginning.
Diaby almost netted a second only minutes later from a similar position, but this time his low shot was pushed away by Bywater. Adebayor also had a great chance on 23 minutes, but the Togolese striker once again failed to make significant contact with a pass (this time from Kolo Toure) and the ball was picked up by Bywater.
The lanky forward couldn't be held off for too long though, as he finally latched on to a fabulous pass from Cesc Fabregas and rounded Bywater to slot home in the 25th minute. At 2-0, and with Arsenal still pressuring Derby, the last 65 minutes of the game seemed a mere formality - but Arsenal continued to play attacking football.
Around the half hour mark, Theo Walcott tried a shot from 20 yards out, but missed well wide. Walcott wasted a chance when Fabregas threaded a ball through to him in the 32nd. The shot went straight at Bywater who picked it up after fumbling. Walcott made some dazzling runs throughout the game, but his final ball (and his shot) left something to desire. Still, he's quite a talent, and I can't wait for him to live up to his potential.
Arsenal nearly went into the second half 3-0, but a 44th minute header from Eduardo was equaled by a brilliant save from Stephen Bywater who had otherwise looked fairly average so far.
A 2-0 lead was enough to give Arsenal some confidence coming into the second half though, and in the 50th minute Eduardo was pulled by Matt Oakley in the 18 yard box, resulting in an Arsenal penalty. Bywater guessed right, but could do nothing to stop Adebayor from slotting home his second of the match.
6 minutes later Kolo Toure nearly netted his first of the season after he headed a cross from Fabregas just wide.
Derby then countered with their first real chance of the game, as Steve Howard shot just right of Almunia's upright.
A few minutes later a nice run from Theo Walcott saw him speed past two defenders only to once again lack the final touch, seeing his shot blocked. Arsenal looked sure to score a fourth though, and it came when Fabregas once again unleashed a fierce drive from 20 yards. Bywater got a hand to the ball, but couldn't prevent it from reaching the net, making it 6 goals in as many games for the midfield maestro.
Adebayor added another fabulous goal in the 80th minute to finish the rout, as he showed amazing control in chesting down a ball before slotting home from about 8 yards.
Arsenal have secured their spot at the top of the table, and Thierry Henry must be ruing his decision to move to Barca. Could this be another invincible year?
Friday, September 21, 2007
Alisher Usmanov, the Russian billionaire who has been rumored to be milling over a possible Arsenal takeover bid, has already lost the affection of many Arsenal fans. Usmanov's lawyers have coerced web hosting companies to take down sites including titles he finds offensive.
Craig Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan, has had his site taken down, as has Tim Ireland, the owner of Bloggerheads.com.
The hard man of Russia was already not popular amongst Arsenal fans who see him as someone in the same vein as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Usmanov has been warned not to attempt a hostile takeover bid by the Arsenal board of directors, but as the second largest shareholder at Arsenal, it seems that he may try anyways.
Personally, I don't want Usmanov anywhere near my club. 21% is already far too much to be in the hands of such a heavy handed man, and Usmanov could easily destroy the image of Arsenal as a pure footballing club. It seems that Usmanov views Arsenal as an investment rather than a soccer team, and it is for this reason that he does not belong. Thank god the board is unwilling to sell.
Arsene Wenger is doing fine with the funds that he was given, and even with minimal investment we now find ourselves at the top of the Premiership table. We are the second richest club in the world now and we don't need Usmanov's money - and we certainly don't need his attitude.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Match Review (5-0 Arsenal)
So here we have it. League leaders Arsenal are ready to take on Derby, a team that has been labeled as the worst ever to play in the Premiership. They have been living up to this label, losing 4-0 to Tottenham and 6-0 to Liverpool and 1-0 to Manchester City in their first three away games this season. They were admittedly given a tough opening schedule, and a visit to the Emirates will not do much to help.
Arsenal, who lost only one home game last season, are currently lossless, after having taken the full three points from 4 games, and having drawn with Blackburn after a Jens Lehmann error. The on form leaders may choose to rest some key players, but Arsene Wenger will be sure not to take any opponent too lightly, and is likely to play many of Arsenal's big names.
However, Jens Lehmann, William Gallas, Tomas Rosicky, and Emmanuel Eboue will not be among the big names present. All four are out with injuries (Tomas Rosicky having been knocked during the midweek Sevilla game) and are not going to feature on Saturday. Alex Hleb and Philippe Senderos are doubts, after having both picked up slight injuries, also in the 3-0 thrashing of Sevilla.
I expect that Wenger will start with something similar to our regular lineup with the exception of the injured players. Gale Clichy, Kolo Toure and Bacary Sagna are sure starters. If Senderos is out, Gilberto is likely to start in his place, despite the defensive midfielder looking rather shaky against Tottenham. I would rather see Bacary Sagna played as a central defender with Justin Hoyte, Lassana Diarra, or even Mathieu Flamini taking over at right back. Either way that we do it, it's hard to envision us conceding to a Derby attack that has only scored 4 goals this season.
In the midfield Cesc Fabregas is the only sure starter. If Gilberto is deployed in the defense, I would expect to see Cesc play alongside Flamini and Diaby. Theo Walcott is the most probable deputy for Rosicky, and it would be nice to see him start another game. Another possibility for the left wing spot is Eduardo, who Wenger has stated he would like to see play as a winger. Saturday's match would be a good time to test this out against a lower opponent, since Hleb and Rosicky are out.
Up front, I have to unfortunately guess that Wenger will start Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor. The pair are quite good and should ensure us a win, but I would rather see one of the two rested, with Nicklas Bendtner being given a starting berth. The big Dane could do wonders for Arsenal and this is a perfect opportunity to introduce him as a starter.
With Wenger likely to play a nearly full strength lineup, I expect us to beat Derby 4-0. I can't believe that I'm predicting such high numbers, but I can't help it. We've just beaten Tottenham 3-1 and Sevilla 3-0, so we should do some damage when we play the bottom feeders at home. This game should significantly improve our goal differential...
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The summer transfer window ended with the surprise last-minute signing of Lassana Diarra from Chelsea. Apparently the excitement of this move was not enough to quell rumors linking Arsenal with other players for the January transfer window.
Talking Soccer today linked Arsenal with three youngsters who are in the vein of players that Arsene Wenger would sign.
The first of these is Diego Capel, a 19 year-old Spaniard. The Sevilla midfielder has been filling in for the injured Brazilian Adriano (not the striker), and has made quite a name for himself in the few games he has played. With an £8 million release clause in his current contract, it seems as though Arsenal may be keen to sign him in January.
Apparently Greek defender Socratis Papastathopoulos is also on Arsene Wenger's wishlist. The 20 year-old AEK Athens defender caught Wenger's eye while he was scouting out Diego Capel in Sevilla, and has now been linked with Arsenal.
Marko Arnautovic, an 18 year-old striker playing with FC Twente in the Dutch Eredivisie, is yet another youngster to be linked with Arsenal. The 6 ft 3 in Austrian wunderkind is reportedly being tracked by many European clubs including Arsenal and Chelsea and the bidding could begin as soon as the next transfer window.
While I normally try to avoid articles which aren't well backed-up, the fact that there were three players being mentioned over at Talking Soccer made me bite. While the veracity of these claims is certainly questionable, at least this may foreshadow in small part the events of January's transfer window.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Arsenal have overtaken both Chelsea and Manchester United to become the second richest football club in the world, behind only Real Madrid. The move to the Emirates stadium is said to be responsible for £190 million gunners turnover for the 2006/07 season.
With the most expensive tickets in the Premiership, it is not too startling that Arsenal earn a massive £3.5 million a match at the 60,432 seat Emirates.
In such a successful club, it is unsurprising to hear that investors are willing to buy more shares. It should come as no surprise then that nearly perfectly coinciding with the announcement of Arsenal's turnover, came talk of an Arsenal takeover.
Alisher Usmanov's investment company, Red and White Holdings, recently bought David Dein's 14.58% share of the club, already prompting takeover talks. Usmanov has since then been buying small quantities of Arsenal shares, snapping up 271 shares soon after buying David Dein's holdings. Now it seems that he has bought more than 3% more of Arsenal's shares, bringing his total ownership to more than 18%, making him the second largest stockholder behind only Danny Fiszman.
Fiszman has declared (along with the rest of the Arsenal board) that he will not sell his 24% stake in the club, and the total holdings of the board (44%) will make it difficult for a hostile takeover to come through. However, Fiszman is not averse to meeting with Kroenke or Usmanov.
However, American businessman Stan Kroenke who owns a 12% stake in Arsenal could join forces with Usmanov, bringing their total ownership to 40%, enough to be obliged to launch a formal takeover bid.
Personally, I think that we are a financially stable club, and with Arsene Wenger's frugal hand in the transfer market, I can't see how a takeover would benefit us. Let's hope these takeover talks don't come true - we don't want foreign ownership like Manchester United and Chelsea.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Wednesday will see Arsenal play Sevilla in the first week of fixtures of the 2007 Champions League. These two teams are heavy favorites to go through to the knockout rounds, and this encounter should prove to be a scintillating one.
Sevilla, who finished 3rd in Spain's La Liga last season, beat Recreativo Huelva 4-1 today, despite a missed penalty from Alexander Kerzhakov. Alongside Real Madrid they are one of two teams with a 100% record in La Liga so far this season (although Juande Ramos' side only played 2 matches due to the qualifying fixtures against AEK Athens). Nonetheless, they should provide a stern challenge for the Gunners.
Arsenal have similarly started well, coming in to Wednesday's match at the top of the Premiership table. Although they were held to a 1-1 draw against Blackburn, nobody can say that they have been under performing. Yesterday's 3-1 victory over Tottenham showed the spirit of our youngs guns, and technically the Arsenal youngsters are as good (or better) than any other team. Arsenal are slight favorites to win this fixture, but it will take some doing to unravel a tough Sevilla side.
One of the most important (and most exciting) battles of the match will be the one between Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy and Sevilla right-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian right-back is better on the attack than in defense, and is an integral part of the Sevilla team. Gael Clichy is also a dazzling attacker, whose dribbling skill is not matched by many players (let alone defenders). It will be interesting to see how the two deal with each other.
Another man Arsenal will have to watch out for is Fredi Kanoute. The former Tottenham striker has been on a good run of form lately, and scored twice in today's drubbing of Recreativo Huelva. The tall Malian will have to be well marked by equally tall Philippe Senderos if we are to keep the ball out of our net.
If we can keep those two quiet, I think the game should be fairly easy for Arsenal. Our midfield is sure to control the game, and the slick one-touch football of Arsenal will be difficult to defend against. Let's hope for some more goals from midfield and some good performances at the back. Maybe we'll even have a Robin van Persie who seems to be in the game...
In any case, I predict that we will win this entertaining encounter 2-1. I hope you can all catch this exciting game (good news for those of you in America: they're showing the match live on Setanta)! Let's hope for a win, because this one will be a huge leap towards the knockout rounds.
Arsenal have only conceded three goals in five Premiership matches and two Champions League qualifiers this season. With such a god defensive record, we have no need to worry about our goalkeepers right? Wrong. Two of the three goals allowed were the fault of Jens Lehmann's errors, and the third (yesterday against Tottenham) could have been stopped by Manuel Almunia - albeit with some impressive effort.
However, while our stand-ins in the back line have been impressive (think Gilberto and Flamini) we have still given up far too many chances. Yesterday's game could and should have had a much higher scoreline if not for wasteful finishing on the part of both teams. What worries me about this, is that many of these chances come from goalkeeping errors.
Manuel Almunia is a completely inept decision maker. Yesterday he chose to charge out of the 18 yard box to try and smother Dimitar Berbatov. A one-on-one between a class striker and a goalkeeper rarely turns out well for the goalie, but the same situation outside of the box (where the goalie can't use his hands) favors the striker almost to the point of it being a sure goal. While a fabulous tackle from Kolo Toure may have saved Almunia's blushes, this error was surely as bad as any of Lehmann's.
There were other situations in yesterday's game where he did not run out when he should have. Rather than attempting to tackle the ball away from Berbatov in the box, Almunia waited for a shot. The shot did come, and he did save it, but again, the save was more because Berbatov shot at Almunia than because Almunia was well-positioned.
Another flaw of Almunia's is his distribution. While it has been better this season than in the past, it often seems as though Almunia is trying to pass the ball to the other team. While I don't doubt his ability at stopping the ball from hitting the back of the net, this is not enough to make a complete goalkeeper, and Manuel Almunia is therefore not good enough to be Arsenal's number 1.
That leaves Jens Lehmann (I'm discounting the young Lukasz Fabianski as a contender for the shirt for a while). Mad Jens was completely at fault for the goals conceded against Fulham and Blackburn, but he has not lost his confidence and has still made many good saves (for club and country) since those first two matches. It seems to me as though these were flukes and I have no doubt that when Lehmann returns (if Wenger chooses to play him) he will perform admirably.
Lehmann's shot stopping ability cannot be questioned, as he has made some fine reaction saves over the past seasons. In fact, the only worrying quality about the German international is his fiery anger. Lehmann has received far more bookings than a 'keeper should, and few will forget his red card against Barcelona in the Champions League final.
For now though, Lehmann is what we've got, and as he's better than Almunia, I say we play him.
Arsene Wenger has not given any clues to who he will choose when Lehmann is fit.
“At the moment I have not really wondered,” he said, “I knew yesterday that Jens could not play so we go for continuity at the moment."Almunia will play on Saturday, Lehmann is injured. He had to pull out of the second match because of his shoulder. He has bone bruising from that game at Blackburn.
"We’ll see what happens [when he comes back] but this is not the only difficult decision I have to make right now..."
Who do you think is the better keeper? Who deserves to be number 1 at Arsenal? Make your vote known in the poll.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Who was Arsenal's best summer signing?
Arsene Wenger 40%
Bacary Sagna 7%
Lassana Diarra 28%
Well, unsurprisingly the fans have decided that Arsene Wenger was this sumer's most influential signing. I was surprised that of the players, Lassana Diarra recieved the greatest percentage of the vote, seeing as how he has yet to play a game.
Diarra nosed out Eduardo by 5%, leaving Bacary Sagna, the only one of the new signings to feature regularly for Arsenal with a mere 7% of the votes.
I was surprised to see Sagna recieve such a small share of the votes, especially considering his solid performances throughout the pre-season and the beginning of the Premiership. He may not be the best going forwards, but he is one of the most solid right backs in the Premiership right now, although he is the type of player who would be more noticeable by his absence than his presence.
I agree that Diarra is a great signing, but as I have yet to see him in an Arsenal shirt, I think that Sagna and Eduardo are more important signings than him.
New Poll Question:
Who deserves the number 1 jersey at Arsenal, Jens Lehmann or Manuel Almunia?
Two stunning goals from Cesc Fabregas and Emanuel Adebayor helped Arsenal to overcome a 1-0 deficit and beat Tottenham 3-1 at White Heart Lane.
Arsene Wenger opted for a different lineup than I expected, opting to play Abou Diaby and Mathieu Flamini in the midfield alongside Fabregas and Alex Hleb. The defense was as expected, Kolo Toure and Gilberto at centre-back, with Gael Clichy on the left, Sagna on the right, and Almunia in goal. Up front Wenger opted to play Adebayor alongside Robin van Persie.
Arsenal started well, with Adebayor forcing a save out of England's number 1, Paul Robinson, in a Thierry Henry-like volley.
However, Spurs started better, with a goal from a Gareth Bale free kick after Gilberto made a clumsy tackle from behind on Dimitar Berbatov. This was not Gilberto's only error, as looked off color for most of the game, making several sloppy passes and making many positioning mistakes. The Brazilian captain had flown in from an international in Mexico just days earlier, so hopefully we can blame his performance on jet lag.
Adebayor nearly pulled one back straight away, again forcing Robinson (who made several great saves over the course of the game) to turn the ball around the post. Arsenal clearly wanted an equalizer, and with the lion's share of possession we had quite a few chances.
In the 25th minute a fabulous pass from Fabregas reached Alex Hleb on the edge of the penalty box. He looked sure to score, but the onrushing Robinson once again managed to save the shot.
Hleb made up for his weak shot with a moment of brilliance in which he dribbled through the Tottenham defense and laid the ball off to Abou Diaby, who's resulting shot hit the crossbar after having beaten Paul Robinson.
Towards the end of the second half, possession started to go more in Tottenham's favor, but there was always a feeling that Arsenal were dangerous, that we would convert one of our chances. However, the second half ended with Arsenal in a familiar position at 1-0 down.
The second half started with what looked to be a sure goal for Tottenham's Berbatov, but the Bulgarian striker had the ball torn off of his feet at the last minute by a game-saving tackle from Kolo Toure. Steed Malbranque had slipped the ball through to the feet of Tottenham's top scorer last season, and Manuel Almunia made a terrible mistake in coming out, but Toure saved his blushes with a perfectly timed tackle.
Adebayor then missed two golden opportunities at the other end. The first came after great work from Bacary Sagna, who cut a pass back only for Adebayor to fire over an almost open net. A few minutes later the Togolese striker was unable to win a one-on-one with Robinson as a perfectly timed dive once again stopped an equalizer.
He was not to be denied forever, though, and finally found the back of the net with a header off a Fabregas free kick.
Berbatov almost pulled out a winner off of a corner, with Gael Clichy blocking the ball on the line. The rebound once again fell to the Bulgarian, only for him to uncharacteristically head wide from only a few meters away.
It was Fabregas who pulled out the winner instead, powering the ball around Paul Robinson from a good 30 yards away after receiving a pass from Tomas Rosicky.
Darren Bent nearly canceled out the young Spaniard's strike, but shot horribly wide in a one-on-one with Almunia.
To compound the Spurs misery, Arsenal scored another in stoppage time. Adebayor, not to be outdone by Cesc Fabregas, whipped a superb volley past Paul Robinson in the 94th minute to seal the game.
A win against our arch-rivals to put us at the top of the table is enough to put any Arsenal fan in a good mood.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Arsene Wenger has assured Arsenal fans that young gunners Justin Hoyte and Nicklas Bendtner will both be at Arsenal after the January transfer window.
Hoyte had already proclaimed his allegiance to the club, claiming that he would rather fight for a spot in the heavily contested right-back position than go for guaranteed first team football at a lesser club.
Bendtner, however, was more of a doubt, as he had earlier stated his unhappiness at not playing enough football for Arsenal. The Danish international, who has yet to turn 20, was linked with Inter Milan during the summer transfer window, and recently complained about his lack of first team chances.
Wenger, though, said that neither player would leave in January.
"Bendtner was only born in 1988. I know young players get impatient, but we will play in a lot of competitions and I will need them both. I don't think either player will go on loan."
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Arsenal's return from an international break will begin this Saturday, September 15, as the gunners face Tottenham at White Heart Lane in the North London derby. The derby between these fierce rivals should be a good game, despite the Spurs abysmal start to the 2007/08 season.
Arsenal have begun the season well, coming into our 5th match tied on points with leaders Liverpool, despite having played a game less than Tottenham, Chelsea, and last years Barclay's Premier League champions, Manchester United. The only 2 points that Arsenal have dropped were due to an error from Jens Lehmann against Blackburn, and otherwise Arsenal have beaten Fulham, high-flying Manchester City, and Portsmouth.
Tottenham, who were supposedly going to challenge an Henry-less Arsenal for a Champions League spot this year, find themselves in 14th place, with only 4 points from 5 games. Arsenal should have an easy time defeating a team which has already lost to Sunderland, Everton, Manchester United, and drawn against Fulham. The only team that the Spurs have managed to beat is arguably the worst team ever to ply their trade in the Premiership, Derby.
Speaking of Derby, this is the first derby of the season for Arsene Wenger's boys, and the outcome here will be important in silencing critics of the young Arsenal squad. It could also be an important game for Martin Jol, as rumor has it that the Tottenham manager will be fired if he fails to win at White Heart Lane on Saturday. Justin Hoyte spoke out on how the players love this game, and the fans do as well, as a drubbing of the Spurs always cheers up an Arsenal fan.
Arsenal will be able to field a fairly complete squad on Saturday, with the only doubts being William Gallas, Emanuel Eboue, and Jens Lehmann. Philippe Senderos will also miss the match due to suspension after his red card in the game against Portsmouth. However, with Gilberto likely to start in a central defensive position and Bacary Sagna returning from injury at right-back, Arsenal shouldn't have too much defensive trouble.
A leaky Tottenham defense which is still missing Ledley King should prove to be Martin Jol's downfall, especially considering the recent scoring spree of Arsenal's midfielders. Jol may be forced to play a not-yet-fit Aaron Lennon in an attempt to score more goals, but I still doubt that Tottenham will score more than 1 goal. Classy Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov will be the Spurs' greatest threat, but even he will have trouble scoring against an Arsenal defense that has let in only 2 goals in all competitions this season (both coming from Jens Lehmann blunders.)
I would like to see Eduardo start in his first North London derby, but even after scoring 3 international goals for Croatia during the break, I fear that Arsene Wenger may start the hard-working but inconsistent Emanuel Adebayor alongside Robin van Persie instead.
Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure will make up the rest of the defensive line (alongside Gilberto and Sagna). In the midfield, the fabulous Cesc Fabregas will start along with Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky. If Gilberto is played as a central defender, I would like to see how Lassana Diarra does in his holding midfield role, and I think it is likely that Wenger will opt to play him over Flamini or Denilson.
Our makeshift back line shouldn't cause any problems if our midfielders and strikers continue to score, and the return of Bacary Sagna will strengthen our defense. The atmosphere of the North London derby will spur on the Spurs though, so while I would like to predict a clean sheet, I would have to guess that the game will end 3-1 in the favor of Arsenal.
Edit: The game did indeed end 3-1. Click here for the Match Review
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Arsenal right-back Justin Hoyte has stated that he would like to stay and fight for a place at the club, despite stiff competition from Bacary Sagna, Emanuel Eboue, Lassana Diarra and Mathieu Flamini.
The 22 year-old made nearly as many appearances as Eboue last season, but it seems as though he will be missing first team chances this season as new signing Bacary Sagna has been a rock at right-back. Hoyte showed some good team spirit, telling Arsenal TV Online how the competition would do good for the team:
"Yes the competition is tough but it is the same as last year with Emmanuel Eboue playing and Mathieu Flamini in there sometimes too. Competition is good for us and good for the team. Hopefully I can work hard in training and break into the team. I just want to play as much as I can."
The youngster will have a hard time breaking into the first team as long as Sagna is injury-free, but if Sagna remains injured, Hoyte is just as likely to be played in his place as anyone else. It's great to see the talented 22 year-old speak well of his teammates after Jens Lehmann's mutterings about how he is the most mature of Arsenal's goalkeepers.
It may benefit Arsenal if Hoyte is played against Tottenham at White Heart Lane as his optimism would certainly help the team. He himself is hoping to book a starting birth on Saturday:
"It is very important. Ever since my youth days that was the one game we looked forward to. It is important for the fans and you just want to win it."
Click here for a preview of the Tottenham vs. Arsenal game
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In my last post I stated that Jens Lehmann would be eligible to play, after returning from injury. However, it seems that Lehmann has suffered from a reaction to the elbow injury he picked up in Germany's 2-0 win over Wales in Euro 2008 Qualifying last Saturday.
Timo Hildebrand is going to replace Lehmann for Germany's friendly against Romania which is to be played tomorrow. It is also unsure whether Lehmann will be fit in time for Arsenal's London derby against arch-rivals Tottenham. However, he was never guaranteed a spot in the game anyways, following his high profile errors and Manuel Almunia's decent performances.
While Lehmann is confident that he is still Arsenal's number 1, Arsenal fans have been less sure of this, and at 37 years-old he doesn't have that much time left in his Arsenal career. Arsenal have recently been linked with Celtic's Artur Boruc and Bolton's Jussi Jaaskelainen, both of whom are arguably better keepers than the out of form Arsenal 'keeper.
I'm not sure if Wenger should start Lehmann over Almunia, but I would like to get him back from injury to at least spur some competition between the two. Let's all send him get well cards.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Arsenal captain William Gallas has stated that he is hoping to be fit in time for Saturday's derby against London arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The French international missed our last 2 games due to a groin injury but his recovery is going well and he is likely to return for Saturday.
Gallas' return will be welcome by Arsenal fans, as we have played the last few games with a makeshift back line, and would have had to play Gilberto as a central defender again next week. Philippe Senderos will miss the game due to a red card against Portsmouth and Johann Djourou was loaned out to Birmingham by Arsene Wenger, leaving us with only light cover in the central defense.
Even with new signings Bacary Sagna and Lassana Diarra we haven't had enough cover in the back line and ended the Portsmouth game with Gilberto and Flamini playing in defense after Senderos' red card and an injury to Sagna.
Sagna is also likely to return in time for the Tottenham clash, as is Jens Lehmann who may or may not start the game over Manuel Almunia. This should come as good news to a defense which had not conceded many goals, but had given up far too many chances.
Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood has claimed that "the major shareholders have no intention of selling and wouldn't welcome an offer." However, he has publicly stated that he is going to meet Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who has reportedly been contemplating an Arsenal takeover move.
Usmanov, who recently bought David Dein's 14.58% share in Arsenal, seems to be interested in taking over Arsenal, despite the fact that the club's Board of Directors (which controls 45% of the Arsenal's shares) has stated its unwillingness to sell.
Hill-Wood explained why he would be meeting with Usmanov saying, "We will have a dialogue with any principal or major shareholder. If they've got some sensible proposals we'll listen to them." Disregarding the possibility of a takeover, I'm not quite sure what type of proposals these would be.
However, I think that in the unlikely case of a foreign takeover of Arsenal, we would benefit greatly. Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea have all benefited from overseas money, and I think that Arsenal could do the same. While we have a lot of promise this season, if we were to add a few experienced world-class players to our squad we could become the best team in the world.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Now that Arsene Wenger has finally signed his new deal many are hoping to see Arsenal compete for some major silverware for the first time since 3 seasons ago. Wenger is among these, and feels that with the backing of the club's board of directors he can help Arsenal to some serious silverware.
He assured Arsenal.com that he has the board's backing saying, "I have had many moments when I have felt down because we have lost a big game, but I never ever had any doubts that I did not have the support of the club"
He went on to tell the fans how he was always going to sign a new deal, as he loves the club. Furthermore he claimed to feel a responsibility to "deliver silverware" and help the team go as far as it could.
"I have been entrusted with complete freedom to implement and execute my plans on what will make the team successful.
"That means I have a responsibility to the fans to deliver silverware and also a responsibility to the players to help turn our potential into prizes. I want to achieve the maximum with this team and it is young and very ambitious as well, and I feel I share that ambition with my team.
"That is one of the reasons, as well, that I wanted to get a taste of how hungry this team is first before I definitely go for it. I love the job I have at Arsenal – I love to win and I feel I can win with Arsenal. They are the main reasons [I signed].
"My heart is tied to this club, so signing a new deal was always my intention."While we all knew that Arsene was doing his best to help Arsenal's players reach their potential it is great to hear him promise silverware and profess his love for the club. I know you can never judge by the first few games of a season, but if we keep playing as we have been (minus the Lehmann errors) we may be getting that silverware sooner rather than later.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky were both on target in their countries ties against Estonia and San Marino respectively, as Arsenal players made a significant contribution to their side's Euro Qualifying efforts.
Rosicky, the Czech captain, headed in for the opener against San Marino, continuing his goalscoring form after a parried shot ended up coming to him. The Czechs went on to win the game 3-0.
Eduardo had a fabulous game for Croatia, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Estonia. He scored in style as well, the first goal coming off of an overhead kick, and the second a superb long-range effort after a beautiful pass from Arsenal target Luka Modric.
Other Arsenal players who featured for their national teams today included new signing Lassana Diarra, pacy midfield Alex Hleb, and Robin van Persie. Jens Lehmann also started for his country, Germany, and rewarded Joachim Low's confidence with a clean sheet - although to be fair he wasn't troubled often in goal, being forced into only 3 saves.
Nicklas Bendtner also featured for Denmark as a substitute, but he was unable to break the deadlock in a game against Sweden that ended as a goalless draw.
Most of these players as well as some other Arsenal players are likely to play for their countries again on Wednesday so be sure to watch the midweek internationals!
William Gallas, Bacary Sagna, Lassana Diarra, Abou Diaby - Gallas and Sagna have both been called up for Raymond Domenech's France squad for this week's European Qualifiers against Scotland and Wold Cup winners Italy. However, with Gallas suffering from a groin injury and Sagna from a back injury, it is unlikely that either will see playing time. Lassana Diarra is likely to play at least some part of both games. Abou Diaby has been called up for France's U21 games against Malta and Wales and is likely to feature in both fixtures.
Kolo Toure, Emanuel Eboue - Toure and Eboue were selected for the Ivory Coast's African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Gabon which is to be played later today.
Robin van Persie - The Dutch striker (and Holland's top scorer in Euro Qualifying) was called up for the Netherlands' qualifying games against Bulgaria and Albania this week.
Tomas Rosicky - The Czech captain has been called up to represent the Czech's in their qualifying matches against San Marino and the Republic of Ireland.
Alex Hleb - The pacy midfielder is likely to start for Belarus in their tricky tie against Romania as well as the game with Slovenia. He will likely be a big factor in his side's Euro 2008 qualifying hopes.
Jens Lehmann - The error prone German 'keeper has been assured by Germany coach Joachim Low that he will maintain his starting spot over Oliver Kahn for Germany's Qualifier against Wales and friendly against Romania.
Eduardo da Silva - Eduardo will most likely be started in both of Croatia's games, facing Estonia and Andorra in Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Philippe Senderos - Since the Swiss are co-hosting Euro 2008 they don't have to go through qualifying rounds, but Philippe Senderos has been called up to play an international friendly against Japan on September 11.
Nicklas Bendtner - Bendtner is set to feature for Denmark against Sweden and Lichtenstein this week, although he will most likely start both games on the bench.
Theo Walcott - Walcott has been selected for England's U21 games against Montenegro and Bulgaria, and the young forward will be hoping to play some part in helping England to qualify for the U21 European Cup in 2009.
Be sure to watch some of these intriguing fixtures and follow your favorite Arsenal players!
Arsene Wenger didn't splash out much cash during the summer transfer window (summary of Arsenal's transfer window activity here), bringing in only Bacary Sagna, Eduardo da Silva, Lassana Diarra, Lukasz Fabianksi, and Havard Nordtveit. However, there is no question that we have gotten some quality players through Wenger's astute eye for talent.
Some would argue that Wenger himself was Arsenal's greatest signing this season. Seeing him finally sign after months of speculation over his Arsenal future was a great relief to Arsenal fans. Having our manager stay on for another 3 years (without a get-out clause) was probably Arsenal's greatest coup this summer, but are some of Wenger's signings even more valuable than himself?
Bacary Sagna has been a rock at right-back since he came in from Auxerre for a fee rumored to be around £6.1 million. His defending has been more solid than any since Lauren was on top of his game, and his overlapping runs have provided excellent support up front. He's no Gael Clichy in terms of his dribbling skills, but his tough tackling adds a needed sting to Arsenal's back line.
Arsenal fans will be hoping that Eduardo will be able to provide the same sting up front. Dudu's arrival was controversial amongst Arsenal fans, with many looking for a more established striker after the loss of Thierry Henry and others happy to have signed a striker who could really put the ball away. I wasn't too keen on him in the beginning, but after seeing him play I began to believe that he could become a goalscoring left-winger in the mold of Robert Pires. Only time will tell, but Arsene may have once again unearthed an undiscovered talent in Eduardo.
The final major signing of the summer came in the form of the unwanted Chelsea utility player Lassana Diarra who came to Arsenal in a surprise final-day transfer. The 22 year-old has bundles of potential that he was never allowed to show with Chelsea and will be great support as a defensive midfielder when Gilberto is out. The 'new Makélélé' has yet to debut for Arsenal, but I think that there is little doubt that he will have some impact this season.
Arsene Wenger has once again managed to buy a fair amount of talent with a small amount of money, and it will be interesting to see which of our new signings has the most impact over our next few seasons.
Who do you think was our best summer signing?
Friday, September 7, 2007
Cesc Fabregas won Arsenal.com's September Player of the Month Award with 52.9% of the votes. Coming in a distant second was the excellent Alex Hleb with 23%, and following in third with 8.1% was Gael Clichy. All three were excellent this season with both Fabregas and Hleb on the scoresheet multiple times and Clichy's runs have created many problems for opposing defenders.
Fabregas deserves the award though. In an Arsenal lineup which has often been criticized for being too light-weight, Cesc has been a box-to-box midfielder, assisting and scoring in the attacking third and tough-tackling in the defending third. Arsenal's prodigious midfield maestro is truly coming of age and putting in some truly mature performances. We should all be happy that he decided not to leave for Spain this season, as Arsenal would not have had the same start to the season without him.
Hleb has improved similarly, becoming more selfish and scoring 2 goals already this season. He has also been executing his typical defense-cutting passes perfectly, and there aren't many (if any) better ball dribblers in England. If he continues to play the way he has been, he could become as feared in the Premier League as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Gael Clichy is one of the best defenders at Arsenal, and one of the best left-backs in English football. His marauding runs up the field have often created goals, and his defending has been world-class - often saving Lehmann and Almunia from making saves by tackling the ball away in the nick of time. Clichy is better than just a replacement for Ashley Cole.
All three of these players were excellent for Arsenal this month and have contributed greatly to our strong start to this years campaign. I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately, but if we keep up what we're doing, we won't be missing Henry at all this season.
Jens Lehmann, Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper since the 2003/04 season seems to have lost his first-choice status at the club after 2 high-profile errors in Arsenal's first two league games. He was taken out due to a reported injury, and his replacement, Manuel Almunia, seems to have played the better of the two in his absence. The veteran shot-stopper was recently backed by Germany coach Joachim Löw to play as the first-choice international 'keeper, but his position at the club has been called into question.
Nonetheless, Lehmann, who reportedly sought a move away from Arsenal during the summer, remains confident that he is still the best goalie at Arsenal, and had no qualms telling this to the press.
"I feel I am the number one at Arsenal and Germany, although I know I have to train hard every day to justify this.
"I have not played recently because I could not play," he said. "If I am injured, then obviously another man plays.
"If he is a superman who stops everything, then I may not play again, but from experience, I know I have played constantly and I am not worried that I will not play again when I am fit."He also displayed some of his characteristic temper in an outburst towards the press in which he said: "Your interpretation really annoys me.
"You write something and then you read it again and think that you were right, so then you ask me what I think of it.
"Don't ask me how I should interpret your interpretation.
"You were in England (for Germany's game against England last month) and have read the English press, which I don't read. If I did read it, then I would go crazy.
"The English exaggerate everything and how can you understand such an interpretation?"
Thursday, September 6, 2007
After months of delays and rumors, the speculation over Arsene Wenger's future has finally ended as the Arsenal manager is understood to have reached an agreement with our board of directors. The deal will tie him to Arsenal until the end of the 2010/11 season and will see Wenger making £4 million a year.
Wenger had earlier hinted that he would come out about his future some time this week, and it will come as great news to most Arsenal fans that he is going to be here for another 3 seasons after this one.
On a side note, Wenger was voted as the best manager in the Premiership for the past month on ESPN Soccernet, with 92% of voters saying that he has been doing a good job in the beginning of the season. He narrowly beat out Rafa Benitez and David Moyes who had 92% and 91% respectively. Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson had a 55% approval rate, while Jose Mourinho was approved of by only 44% of fans.
The fantastic start to the season which saw us drop only 2 points in 4 games despite two errors from Jens Lehmann will quiet any critics of Arsene's transfer policies, and the fact that he has guided the club to three Premier League titles and four FA Cup wins while playing an entertaining style of football makes me hope that he will stay at the Emirates for more than just 3 years.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
According to Arsenal.com, the rumored bet between Tomas Rosicky, Alex Hleb, and Cesc Fabregas is true. They have apparently bet as to who will score the most goals in all competitions for Arsenal this year.
The Czech captain would have won the competition last year, although neither of the three could come close to being described as prolific. This year, however, with the advent of Thierry Henry's departure, Arsenal has seen a majority of its goals coming from the midfield, with Cesc Fabregas the club's leading goalscorer with 4 goals, and Hleb and Rosicky with 2 each.
Rosicky, who possesses a strong shot and had a good scoring record at Borussia Dortmund could go into the double digits this year in terms of goals - if he manages to stay fit. Although he has become an important figure at Arsenal in his first season here, Rosicky has been struggling with small injuries since his arrival, managing to play only 26 league games last season. However, even in the games he played he was not scoring often enough to please the Arsenal faithful. The same goes for Fabregas and Hleb, although they are both more supporting players than Rosicky.
In any case, most Arsenal fans would be happy to see more goals from our previously dry midfield, and if this bet motivates our midfielders to continue scoring like they have in our first few games, Henry may not be missed at the Emirates.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
You may remember the title of this post, as you've probably been hearing the rumors throughout the summer. In fact, the first article I wrote on this blog was similarly titled, and although I wrote it last Thursday a deal has still not materialized.
Whether or not you have read my article, no Arsenal fan has missed the rumors linking Arsene Wenger with a move away from our beloved club. Wenger has brought beautiful football and prodigious young talents to Arsenal, and in the poll I put up on the site earlier an overwhelming majority of readers said that they would not want to see Wenger leave.
It should come as good news, then, that Arsene has dropped a hint that he is going to stay at Arsenal, with a deal possibly being concluded as early as Thursday or Friday.
"I am very motivated. With all the young players I signed, I feel a kind of responsibility.
"I am in talks with Arsenal. I can’t see any drawbacks. There will be some news on Thursday or Friday."Let's all rejoice and hope that this time the deal will finally be tied up!
Monday, September 3, 2007
Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp was voted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame ahead of Sir Trevor Brooking, Ray Clemence, Paul Scholes, Len Shackleton and Ray Wilson.
Bergkamp is now the fifth Arsenal player to be included in the hall of fame, after Alex James, Tony Adams, Liam Brady and Ian Wright.
Like Wright, Bergkamp may well be remembered for his large goal tally - 87 goals in 315 games as a supporting striker. However, it's probably better to remember him for his prolific partnerships with Ian Wright and Thierry Henry. Bergkamp is seen by many as Arsenal's most influential signing, and at only £7.5 million, it is hard to argue against this (although there is some competition from Thierry Henry amongst others).
The Dutchman, whom Alan Hansen regards as being the best foreign talent ever to grace the Premiership, will always be remembered at Arsenal, and it is great to see another Arsenal player inaugurated into the Hall of Fame.
Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who has been with Arsenal since 2003, reportedly tried to secure a move away from Arsenal during the last few days of the summer transfer window.
Lehmann seems to have lost his number one spot to Spanish 'keeper Manuel Almunia who has been performing admirably for Arsenal thus far, with only 1 goal conceded in 4 matches. This means that even when Lehmann comes back from injury he may be relegated to the bench.
Many Arsenal fans lost faith in the belligerent German international after he made two high profile mistakes in his first two league games of the season, costing Arsenal two precious points against Blackburn - points that would have seen Arsenal at the top of the table. However, despite the relative lack of faith from the fans, his Arsenal teammates, and especially Arsene Wenger have continued to back him. It now seems as though he may permanently lose his position as first choice goalkeeper for Arsenal to Almunia, and for that reason he may have attempted to leave Arsenal during the transfer window.
His former club, Schalke, were reportedly interested in bringing him back to the Bundesliga, but time ran out with Arsene Wenger unable to line up a replacement. However, if Almunia continues to be played over Lehmann, we may see the exit of one of our last invincibles in January.
Sevilla today beat AEK Athens 4-1 in Athens to win the tie 6-1 on aggregate. This means that Arsenal's Champions League group will consist of Sevilla, Slavia Prague, and Steaua Bucharest. It also makes the group a lot more challenging - and top heavy- than if AEK had won. It now seems as though the fight for the first place spot in Group H will be between Arsenal and Sevilla, while Slavia and Steaua will be all but written off from the start.
This doesn't mean that we won't be seeing any good games though. Steaua Bucharest is an attacking team so that should be an interesting encounter, and while Slavia Prague aren't giants in the world of European football, they were giant-killers in the qualifiers, beating out Ajax Amsterdam, so they should prove to be some sort of challenge as well.
The encounters between Arsenal and Sevilla should of course be the best of the group, and Arsenal will face a stern challenge trying to top La Liga's 3rd place finishers.
Recent interviews with Arsene Wenger and Gilberto Silva have heard both say that Arsenal don't need to spend big to be competitive in the Premier League and it was this philosophy which Arsene Wenger followed in signing new players this season, despite the fact that the powers that be at Arsenal have been constantly telling the fans that we have copious amounts of transfer money available.
Here are the transfers to and from Arsenal this summer (all transfer prices are what's listed on wikipedia):
IN - All Undisclosed
Eduardo da Silva
Fabrice Muamba - £4 million
Mart Poom - Undisclosed
Thierry Henry - £16.1 million
Jeremie Aliadiere - £2 million
Arturo Lupoli - Free
Freddy Ljungberg - £3 million
Jose Antonio Reyes - Undisclosed
Its clear that we've made a profit on transfers during this transfer season - we are the only big 4 club to have done so, and yet we are 2nd in the league (behind Liverpool on goal differential) after playing a game less than Chelsea and Manchester United. Does this mean that we can indeed keep our Champions League place, or even challenge for the title? Only time will tell, but we're well on our way.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Well, we managed to qualify for the group stages for the 10th year running after beating Slavia Prague 5-0 on aggregate, so we get the excitement of getting to see our team play in the Champions League once again. I discussed the possibilities of who we could face in an article before, but now that the draw has been settled we know who our opponents are.
Our opponents in Group H will be Steaua Bucharest, Slavia Prague, and the winner of Monday’s Sevilla vs AEK Athens match which was postponed due to the tragic death of Antonio Puerta.
Assuming that Sevilla make it through, we should have a pretty entertaining list of fixtures to watch, as Steaua Bucharest are an attacking side, Slavia Prague were good enough to beat out Ajax, and Sevilla are one of the best teams in Spain right now.
I think it is a great draw, as we will have good matches, but we will still be fairly assured of making it through to the knockout rounds. However, it will be a tough challenge to finish ahead of Sevilla, and the Spanish giants should keep us on our toes throughout the group stages. It'll be great to see how Gael Clichy and Dani Alves handle each other as they are two of the best attacking defenders in world football.
Let's hope that we can once again make it to the Champions League finals.
Despite playing much of the match with 10 men after Philippe Senderos was sent off in the 49th minute, Arsenal managed to keep up their spirit to beat Portsmouth 3-1 and go second in the league behind Liverpool (at least until Chelsea play today). Two of the goals once again came from the midfield with Adebayor, Fabregas, and Rosicky on the scoresheet.
Emanuel Adebayor scored the first goal from the penalty spot after Robin van Persie was brought down inside the box by England goalkeeper David James. Adebayor almost scored a second just minutes later when he just barely failed to latch on to a cross from Alex Hleb. But Portsmouth couldn't hold off the second forever. In the 35th minute Tomasz Rosicky sent in a corner kick which was met by the head of Gilberto Silva. The ball fell to Cesc Fabregas who turned and shot, giving David James no chance.
Arsenal began the second half just as strongly as they had the first, and Pompey barely saw anything of Almunia's goal. However, it wasn't too long before Senderos got a 49th minute straight red card for stopping Nwankwo Kanu in front of goal as the last man back. Replays show that Kolo Toure may have been behind him, and was making a run to cover, so Senderos was perhaps not the last man, but thats how the game goes. The more unfortunate part about the red card is that Senderos will face a 3 match ban, furthering Arsenal's defensive woes, and leaving us with only Kolo Toure as a real central defender.
The free kick resulting from Senderos' sending off was well struck by Utaka, but Manuel Almunia was equal to it, parrying the ball which ended up out of play. With Arsenal down to 10 men Pompey were looking more capable of pulling back a goal to bring themselves back into the game, but it wasn't long before Arsenal scored their 3rd.
Cesc Fabregas took a quick free kick to Rosicky, who finished wonderfully, shooting into an impossibly small space between James and Glen Johnson in the 59th minute. Only a minute later Kanu pulled one back with a clever backheel, but it was too little too late as Arsenal went on to win the game with little trouble. In fact, it was Arsenal who were more likely to get a 4th, as substitute Abou Diaby headed powerfully past the left upright.
Arsene Wenger should be proud that his team managed to hold off Portsmouth with 10 men for the majority of the second half. The goals from the midfield are very encouraging, and as we continue to play more and more I am gaining belief that we can challenge for the title without Henry.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Coming up this Sunday, Arsenal face 8th-place Portsmouth at Ashburton Grove. We will be looking to keep up the pace of league leaders Chelsea by recording their 3rd home win of the new season. Arsenal have been in fine form recently, coming off of a 3-0 home victory against Sparta Prague - a victory which secured their place in the Champions League. That match was preceded by a 1-0 win over the then league leaders Manchester City, so Arsenal will certainly not be lacking in confidence. Many of Arsenal's important players were also rested for the midweek clash against Sparta, including Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb (although Hleb needs to face a late fitness test after feeling ill Friday morning). We will also probably see Lassana Diarra's debut at right back in place of the injured Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Eboue.
The Portsmouth players will also be confident though, after winning midweek against Leeds in the Carling Cup, and nearly holding Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge. Portsmouth have seen a decent run of form after holding last season's champions, Manchester United to a 1-1 draw and beating Bolton 3-1. Arsene Wenger has warned us to look out for Portsmouth's defense.
"They have a very strong spine. Sylvain Distin, Sol Campbell and David James at the back. Kanu and Lauren too. They are very intelligent and I feel those former Arsenal players means when they come to us they are always highly motivated."
Arsenal will have to hold back former gunner Nwankwo Kanu and new signing John Utaka if we are to hold onto a clean sheet. Another key attacking player in Portsmouth's roster is defender Matthew Taylor who scored 7 goals last season. If Senderos and Toure manage to snuff out these players, I don't think that we will have a hard time winning the match.
With Eduardo and Robin van Persie likely to start the game upfront we should see plenty of chances, especially as Portsmouth will crowd the midfield seeking to neutralize the threats of Tomasz Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas. With some fine runs from Gael Clichy (and maybe Diarra) we should be able to create easily, and with Eduardo to kick the balls in, I think that it is unlikely that we won't score.
I say we win the game 2-0.