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Monday, March 31, 2008

Rocastle's attributes would have put him on Wenger’s team sheet, every time


By 1970’s Gooner

I remember when David Rocastle began to appear for Arsenal's first team I was filled with excitement and anticipation.

Because when I learned that he was one of Arsenal’s own, a London lad who rose from the youth ranks to make it in the first team I felt that special pride of witnessing a local hero come good.

He wasn’t one of those imports bought from other English or foreign teams originating from as far away as Scotland, Ireland or Wales!

But my excitement rose to fever pitch when I saw him play at Highbury for the first time sometime in 1986.

He rejuvenated the same feelings I felt when I was lucky enough to watch another local lad make it big with Arsenal, Charlie George back in the early 70’s.

They played in slightly different positions and they were of course of a different style.

Rocky was also elegant but he was the strong and forceful type of midfielder whereas Charlie was a more skillful and a forward minded player operating just behind the front strikers.

Nevertheless Rocky made an impression on me for his crisp and precise passing and tackling. He was a very clean, prim and proper type of footballer but he married that with tenacity, determination and strength.

All these are the attributes that are really necessary for today's fotballer in the Premiership which the young guns of Arsenal are sometimes accused of lacking.

He was as his nickname aptly indicates one of the Rocks of the side and would have been on Arsene Wemger's team sheet every time.

You can watch him in action on the video we have downloaded on the right hand side of this page.

He had been recruited to Arsenal after featuring very successfully for South London schoolboys, signing as an apprentice in August 1983. Thereafter his star rose rapidly and his senior debut followed at home to Newcastle United in September 1985.

In 1986 "Rocky" was voted the Gunners' player of the year.

He became a regular on the right of midfield and, having earned the first of 14 England under-21 caps, he covered himself in glory during the club's successful League Cup campaign.

His most memorable moment was contributing the late winner in the Littlewoods Cup semi-final replay against our North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. He also excelled in the subsequent Wembley victory over Liverpool.

The most effective season of his life was 1988/89 when he didn't miss a game as we lifted the Championship in the most dramatic of all title races, winning 2-0 at Anfield in the final game to snatch the prize from their hosts' grasp thanks to a late goal from Michael Thomas.

To the dismay of most Arsenal supporters inclusive of myself, in August 1992 he joined Leeds United in a 2m pounds deal.

I remember reading at the time that when George Graham had informed him that he would be selling him to Leeds he shed many a tear at having to leave his beloved Arsenal.

It was certainly out of the blue that we all learned that he would be leaving. I don’t recollect George Graham ever revealing the reasons for his sale of the lad who was at his prime then.

Maybe he should now.

He did suffer from injury afterwards and never recovered the dizzy heights of his Arsenal performances so maybe Graham was justified in his actions, but who is to know what would have happened if he had stayed.

In February 2001, Rocastle announced that he was suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer which attacks the immune system. He underwent a course of chemotherapy for the illness but passed away on 31 March 2001, aged 33.

Two Arsenal fans started a David Rocastle Memorial group on facebook. Since its creation 18 months ago, it has grown quickly and now has close to 1,000 members, including various members of Rocky's family.

With the 7th anniversary of Rocky's death fast approaching, they decided that it was a good time to try and harness all of the strong feelings that Arsenal fans continue to have for Rocky into a charity fundraising project in his memory.

Arseshirts.com have teamed up to create three limited edition Rocastle t-shirts which will be officially on sale for one month only from March 31st. Every penny of profit is going to TreeHouse, the chosen Arsenal charity for 2007/08 season.

There is a website set up at www.rocky7.co.uk where fans can leave their tributes to Rocky and purchase the t-shirts.

You can buy these t-shirts and wear them with pride, both to help raise much needed funds for a worthy cause and to let the world know that we will never forget our Rocky.

If you don’t want a t-shirt but still want to give something to this great cause then click here and donate.


David Carlyle Rocastle, footballer:

Born London 2 May 1967; played for Arsenal 1984-92, Leeds United 1992-93, Manchester City 1993-94, Chelsea 1994-98, Norwich City on loan 1997, Hull City on loan 1997- 98; capped 14 times by England 1988-92;



Nicklas Bendtner could be the new Ray Kennedy

Fabregas has added a “Peter Storey” attitude to his vast arsenal of talents

Is Justin Hoyte the new Pat Rice?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Arsene’s change of tactics


By 1970’s Gooner

Arsene Wenger made the changes for the starting formation at the Reebock by resting Adebayor and pushing Toure to right back bringing in Senderos to play in the middle of the defence.

In my preview of the game listing the three options available for replacing Sagna this scenario was a possibility but not the one I, or the majority of the voters on the poll that we set up, most favoured.

Most preferred was the simplest option which was to bring Eboue back to defence thus keeping the rest of the defence intact minimizing the number of players playing out of position.

And it was Toure that was culpable for Bolton’s first goal not being close enough to Taylor so as to at least put him off his header.

And as for the second goal; what was Flamini doing passing the ball back into the area? But what has to be also said is Almunia’s slow reaction to the deflection.

He had enough time to adjust his body as the shot and subsequent deflection was not that strong but his delay to dive early enough allowed the ball to roll into the net.

Enough of the negatives.

The come back from 2-0 down, with 10 men on the pitch has to be ranked as the most spectacular ever comeback in the Premier league.

And it came after a first half showing that has to be ranked as Arsenal’s worst performance after that awful defeat at Middlesbrough.

The nearest that I can remember is Kanu’s famous hat trick at Stamford Bridge but that was with 11 men on the pitch!

What made the difference were not only the substitutions that Wenger bravely made as early as the 56th minute even if Walcott’s pace on the right sliced Bolton open again and again, something that was missing till then.

What made the difference was the tactical switch that accompanied the substitutions.

Switching from 4 3 1 1 that Wenger had to revert to with Diaby’s sending off ( RVP was instructed to drop slightly back behind Bendtner) to a more attacking formation of three at the back by taking Senderos off, worked a treat.

After all Bolton were 2-0 up and this was maybe their undoing in the end. Because even if Arsenal had only three players at the back Bolton were not really going to burst their gut to get a third goal.

They probably felt that defending a 2-0 lead with 35 minutes to go and against 10 men was well within their capabilities. But unlike last week at Stamford Bridge Arsene Wenger had the last laugh.

Arsenal did not react to Grant’s switch to 4 4 2 and their use of the long high ball into the box and we paid the penalty. This time it was Wenger that was making the tactical switch.

Arsenal began to push the ball around with purpose and determination; they had after all nothing to lose anymore. They also began to find outlets in Walcott and Adebayor that were not available before.

And the goals kept coming one after the other culminating into the most satisfying of them all, the own goal by Samuel.

At least young Fabregas tried to put the ball in the right area of the goals. That is in the opposite corner to where the goalkeeper was positioned.

Robin Van Persie had two similar chances created by Walcott’s impressive work on the right flank failing to score as he tried the spectacular power drive trying to burst the net.

He did get his goal form the very good penalty he took and this, along with the match fitness he is regaining, will I think prepare him well for the crunch games coming up.

Man of the Match: Alexander Hleb.

Had a very good game throughout even under difficult weather conditions and strong play by Bolton.

He won the penalty for the equalizing goal and gave the assist for Fabregas’s winning goal.


Ratings:

Almunia 5; Toure 5; Galas 7; Senderos 6; Clichy 6: Diaby 5; Hleb 8; Fabregas 7; Flamini 5; Bendtner 5; Van Persie 6; Walcott 7; Adebayor 5

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wenger still interested in Tresor Mputu


By 1970’s Gooner

It seems that Arsene Wenger never gives up on a prospective player until he is absolutely sure whether he is capable of making it at Arsenal.

As you may recall we first reported on this site Arsene’s interest for Congo’s goal sensation Tresor Mputu.

Wenger had invited last December Mputu’s club TP Mazembe for a series of friendly games at London Colney.

Unfortunately during the game Mputu aggravated an old injury and had to come off pretty early in the first half giving Wenger no real chance to observe him at close quarters.

Mputu thought his chance had gone, but apparently not so.

Wenger had one of his most trusted scouts watching Mputu as recently as last Sunday 23rd March during his club’s Champions League game against FC 105 of Gabon which ended in a draw 1-1.

One reason for Wenger’s insistence on still following Mputu is that he has been recommended by his long time friend, Ronald Scheubel whose judgement about potential talent is highly thought of by the Arsenal manager.

When Scheubel recommended Wenger look at a young Ivorian, Wenger listened. He needed little convincing to give Kolo Toure his chance and a transfer fee of around £150,000was soon paid to his club, ASEC Mimosas. The rest is history.

Scheubel had been at London Colney during TP Mazembe’s visit there in December to watch the friendly against Arsenal. He is pictured here with Mazembe’s Financial director Salomon Idi.


It was of course Scheubel that was at the game in Lubumbashi last Sunday to watch Mputu and according to Radio Okapi he was impressed by Mputu’s performance and will compile a favourable report to Arsene Wenger.

But he was not alone in watching Mputu. There were also representatives from three other European clubs there:

Seville from Spain, Standard Liege of Belgium, who have a long standing interest in the player a lot before Arsene Wenger got interested and also Olympiakos Piraeus of Greece.

There are three ways to replace Sagna


By 1970’s Gooner

Sagna has been outstanding for Arsenal having made the transition from French football to the Premiership in I think the least time ever taken for any Arsenal recruit that I can remember.

He was Arsenal’s best player at Stamford Bridge and was voted so by a vast majority of readers of this site.

So trying to replace him adequately after his unfortunate injury would be difficult for Wenger but there at least three options available.

1. Justin Hoyte

This is the simplest way to replace him as it does not move other players out of position and allows Wenger to keep the rest of the players in their normal positions.


But Hoyte has been out of the first team picture for a very long time. He has only one League and one substitute appearance all year so I would not consider him as match fit enough to play at Bolton but also to carry on for the Liverpool trilogy and beyond.

2. Toure or Gallas reverts to right back, Senderos at centre back

Although this scenario sounds a bit outlandish it does have merit. The argument here is that Toure and Gallas proved inadequate to deal with the long and high balls into the centre of the defence that Chelsea in desperation tried successfully.

So bringing Senderos in the centre of the defence along say Toure who has pace, will help in that respect; and Senderos has been playing well prior to Toure’s return to the team.

Gallas has played at right back for Arsenal before and of course he was almost a permanent occupant of that position at Chelsea under Mourinho; and a very effective right back he was indeed.

This option however would involve two changes, one player changing position and another being brought into the team and as such would not, I think, be very high on Wenger’s list of options.

3. Eboue drops back to defence

This appears the less risky option as Eboue of course was until this season Arsenal’s first choice right back with very effective performances throughout last season both in his defensive and offensive duties.

He is also match fit and additionally has not been playing that well at the right side of midfield lacking penetration and precision in his crosses or cut backs.

This move will therefore give Wenger the chance to bring back into the team another right sided midfielder like Walcott or my preferred choice Diaby.

Walcott I believe is much more effective coming off the bench and using his pace to good effect when the opposition is beginning to get tired, like he did at the San Siro.

On the other hand Diaby, although not as fast or penetrative as Walcott, is more experienced and has the strength to counter a physical Bolton side. He will also be very useful at defending set pieces and high balls, a tactic which is likely to be adopted by Gary Megson.


There has been talk by Wenger of resting Adebayor and this may be just what he needs. He has looked tired and laboured lately and giving him a rest now just before the more hectic period coming up with games every three or four days may be just what the doctor ordered.

My team for the Bolton game then will be:

Almunia

Eboue Toure Gallas Clichy

Diaby Flamini Fabregas Hleb

RVP Bendtner





Thursday, March 27, 2008

Barcelona encouraged by Cesc’s split with agent

By Aries

The story that has been going around is that Cesc has been angered by his agent’s desire to stall the recent negotiations for a renewed and improved contract with Arsenal which currently runs till 2012.

Diaz is reported to want a move for Cesc back to Spain and to Real Madrid. Greed has been used as an excuse of course.

But according to Spanish paper “Elmundo deportivo” a source close to Arsenal spoke about the "tremendous surprise" felt at the club for the break up between Cesc and Joseba Diaz.

Diaz is reported by the Spanish paper to have excellent relations with Arsenal and especially Arsene Wenger whose relationship is characterized as “unsurpassed”.

He is the one who has after all acted and still does for Almunia and young Fran Merida and enjoys Wenger’s full confidence.

The recent split is in fact interpreted in Spain as opening the ground a little bit further for Cesc’s transfer back to his homeland.

Barcelona are known to be keen on the player and according to “Elmundo deportivo” so are his (divorced) parents who would prefer him to return home.

But the transfer fee of €50m (35m pounds) is considered very high although his young age 20 would allow for a long amortization period.

Additionally Diaz is a “persona non grata” at Barcelona as he was accused of having taken advantage of the 'impasse' which had preceded the arrival of the new Board headed by Joan Laporta and whisked the young Fabregas to Arsenal.

Now he is out of the picture they feel that their chances of succeeding have increased.

The Spanish media are mentioning Mariano Aguilar, Ivan Corretja and Ramon Sostres as potential candidates for becoming Fabregas’s new manager.

Cesc Fàbregas, yesterday with the Spain national team, did not want to comment on the break with Joseba Diaz. "I do not speak on that issue" he said.

Cesc seems to me to be a sound and mature young man and I would think he would recognise that his immediate future lies with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, the man who has harnessed his rise to stardom and hopefully glory since he was a boy of 15.


I am sure he would not want to make the same mistake that a young Anelka made who thought he could conquer the world but in fact ended up changing clubs every other year not settling anywhere and missing his chance to truly become great.

However Cesc would indeed get frustrated like Henry and Vieira eventually did if Arsenal do not manage to win significant trophies in the next few years. And if he does get frustrated then there are plenty of vultures floating around ready to pounce.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gilberto Silva dropped from Brazil captaincy

By Aries

Poor Gilberto Silva. He has been a fantastic success for Arsenal since his transfer from Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro. He has during these years won Premiership and FA Cup medals in England and was a world Cup winner just prior to his transfer to Arsenal.

He even assumed the captaincy of Arsenal during Thierry Henry’s forced absence due to injury in the second half of last season’s campaign scoring ten goals in the process.

But he was “unlucky” to have been called up this summer to play for Brazil in the Copa America as captain of his national side, an honour he was very proud of.

He captained them to their seventh Copa America triumph, although he was suspended for the Final against Argentina.

Unfortunately for him it clashed with the opening of the new premiership 2007/2008 season and Arsene Wenger began to use Mathieu Flamini in his place.

Flamini proved to be a revelation. So much that Gilberto has been relegated to the bench for almost all of Arsenal’s Premiership games this season.

And to add insult to injury Wenger went one step further and relieved him of the captaincy handing the role to William Gallas.

And now the final insult: Dunga, the Brazil coach, has announced during the press conference ahead of the game against Sweden at the Emirates that Bayern’s Lucio will be the captain for tonight.

“The captain will be Lúcio. But Gilberto Silva will always be a captain in the Brazilian selection” he said trying to relieve the blow.

Gilberto has been considering leaving Arsenal in the summer but for the moment he is concentrating on the next game:

About my future I'll see what happens. I'll just concentrate, work hard to play, to be in the squad, to help, because it's an important moment for Arsenal. It has been difficult, but I have not given up. Maybe I can have my chance before the season finishes."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lehmann: “Arsenal players lack experience and they are young enough to be my sons”


By Aries

Jens Lehmann has been frustrated this season loosing his place to Manuel Almunia yet he has decided to stay in London in the hope of still winning something with Arsenal.

In an interview with fifa.com he revealed that he has no real friends at Arsenal and that of course includes Almunia:

“When you compete with some guys they can't separate the professional aspect from the personal. So there is no big friendship but that does not worry me”

He also revealed that the main reason he has no friends is that most of the Arsenal players are young enough to be his sons!

“I socialised with Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg sometimes, but right now when you look at the squad there is only Gilberto Silva who is near my age and has children”

Comparing the “invincibles” team with the current one he considers that the current team has a lot of technical ability but lacks experience and stamina.

“There are some really good players but now when it comes to the end, it is not only quality that matters but stamina and experience as well”


He is unsure of what to do in the summer after the Euro 2008 ends.

“I don't know what I will do after the summer. I will play the European Championship and then it depends on whether I get a good offer. If I do, I might play on another two years, and if not, I might retire probably.

Eduardo starts training in June. Arsenal permit recuperation in Brazil


By Aries

Eduardo has received permission by the Arsenal medical team to continue his recuperation from his horrific injury in the more familiar surroundings of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.

He has already visited the Brazil national team’s doctor, Jose Luiz Runco and physiotherapist, Odir de Souza at the Park Lane Hilton in London today Tuesday where the Brazil national team has assembled ahead of their friendly game against Sweden.

It is a game which is intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first world title for Brazil. It was in 1958 against Sweden (5-2).

The call up has brought together players from the three English clubs fighting for the Premiership title.


They are Gilberto Silva of Arsenal, Alex Costa of Chelsea and Anderson of Manchester United who has been called up as a late replacement after Kaka withdrew due to injury.

Runco, Brazil’s team doctor, after examining Eduardo stated that “he wants to do the recovery in Rio de Janeiro and we have a new meeting within two weeks”.

The doctor along physiotherapist Odir de Souza have already drawn up a schedule of what Eduardo needs to do for his recovery in Brazil.

In the meantime, Bilic, Croatia’s coach speaking ahead of their friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park has also stated that Eduardo is making a very good recovery and that he will start light training in June.

"He is making very good progress and we expect he will be able to jog lightly by the time the European Championship starts but he will need plenty of time to make a full recovery."

Injured striker Eduardo da Silva will be invited to join Croatia's squad at the Euro 2008 finals to help boost team morale, But this is not our decision it depends on Arsenal - Bilic said.

"I want Eduardo there and so do the players, it would also mean a lot to him,"

Eduardo is expected to fly to Brazil when he will be free of the plaster which is expected in the next few weeks.

Waiting for him there will be his mother Joelma Da Silva. She said on Sport TV:


“Everything in life for him is football. It is the love of his life. I want to be there, on his side but I am sure that he has the strength and with God’s help he will be back to playing soccer again” she said.

Narley Da Silva, a cousin of Eduardo said: “we will give him the affection he needs”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Arsenal’s centre has gone soft but team needs more width. Player analysis and ratings



By 1970’s Gooner

And there were so many people blaming young Senderos for not being able to deal with Drogba’s strength and aerial ability. The whole game turned on the inability of Arsenal’s two centre backs, normally so reliable, to deal with him.

The first goal was conceded when Gallas opted to go in front of Drogba rather than defend the high ball from behind him, as you are always taught to do as a defender (4).

The second when a chip of a ball onto Anelka’s head found Gallas unready to even challenge him strongly enough so as to put him off.

In stepped Toure who was sucked in towards Gallas thus leaving Drogba alone in the heart of our defence (5). He even had time to turn and half hit the ball in off Almunia’s stretched hand.

Almunia was one of a handful of Arsenal players who had a decent game making some fine saves. I feel comfortable with him in goal now (7).

But to blame the defeat on those two errors alone or even on the fact that the officials should have ruled the first goal offside would be putting your hands over your eyes avoiding to see the real reasons for the defeat.

And these are that the team lacks balance form the wide areas of the pitch and also goal scoring ability.

Arsene Wenger was right to want to give more emphasis on wing play rather than try and go through the middle. I of course agree with that as it was one of the points that I made in my preview of the game (Three ways to beat Chelsea).

But Eboue was not penetrative enough and kept giving the ball away (3). Walcott would have been a better alternative and he should have come on much earlier than he did.

Robin Van Persie still needs a few games to get back to match fitness (5). He did provide width but he faded out of the game in the second half. And a team without real width is like a bird that can’t fly.

And I ask you where were the goals going to come from? Adebayor is a shadow of himself when compared to the start of the season (4). He found it difficult to turn his man always electing to pass the ball backwards rather than forward. And on the few occasions he got free to shoot he fluffed his effort.

Chelsea managed to restrict Fabregas (6) and Hleb (5) who were marked tight and given little space to weave their magic. I do not recollect a telling pass they made or even a shot on goal from either of them. Goal scoring from the midfielders was unfortunately not going to give us the answer.

Flamini (6) was the only one who managed a very strong shot form an angle after Van Persie’s beautifully struck cross from the left side.

No wonder it was Sagna then, a full back, who managed to score in the end with a glancing header at the near post from a Fabregas in swinging corner (7).


After that it was a battle between Chelsea’s strength and physical ability versus Arsenal’s …I was going to say slick play but it wasn’t even that. For, after we scored we should have played possession football, kept our heads and passed them to death. But we couldn’t even do that.

In fact it was young Clichy that at least tried to do it, often winning his duels with Joe Cole and generally restricting him quiet well throughout the game (6).

And lastly, what I wished for in my preview of the game worked the opposite way. I wished that Grant would get the substitutions wrong. He got them right but what was more perplexing was that Wenger did not react to them.

Chelsea switched from 4 3 3 to 4 4 2 with Anelka joining Drogba up front and Lampard released from his more conservative defensive role to join in the forward play.

One of Arsenal’s midfielders like Flamini or even Diaby who had come on should have been instructed to patrol that area in front of our defence to add more aerial ability and also to counter Lampard and Anelka.

Are we out of it? On simple arithmetic no; if we can get a win at Old Trafford and Manchester United lose at Chelsea we are right back in it. We also have to win all our remaining games.

But on the evidence of this showing and the psychological impact this defeat would have had on the young guns I would consider it highly unlikely.

But football, like life, is very unpredictable. Stranger things have happened…..

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vela may be playing in London next week


By Aries

Carlos Vela has been called up for the Mexico national team by coach Hugo Sanchez. They are due to play a friendly game against Essien’s Ghana at Fulham’s Craven Cottage next Wednesday 26th March.

Carlos has impressed recently with his very good performances for Osasuna in the Spanish league where he is an ever present on the team sheet for coach José Ángel Ziganda.

He will leave Pamplona to join his fellow teammates for London after Osasuna’s home clash against Real Betis next Sunday 23rd March.

However he will have to shrug off a thigh injury he picked up during Osasuna’s goalless away draw against Valladolid.

There is some hope for him to make the Sunday game against Betis as there has been some improvement in the muscle injury, which carried into this week.

He has not taken part in training today with the medical staff preferring for him to train individually. Ziganda will wait till the last moment before he names his squad for the very important game against Betis in the struggle for survival in La Liga.

Hugo Sanchez has called up ten players from the leagues of Spain, England, Germany, Netherlands and Turkey.

Among them Nery Castillo of Manchester City and another young sensation, Barcelona’s Giovani Dos Santos who himself is also carrying an injury. He is pictured below shaking Sanchez's hand.


List of players invited for the friendly with Ghana:

Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sanchez (Santos Laguna), Moises Munoz (Morelia), Jose de Jesus Corona (Tecos).

Defenders: Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven-NED), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart, GER), Aaron Galindo (Eintracht Frankfurt-GER), Fausto Pinto (Pachuca), Israel Castro (Pumas) and Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul).

Midfielders: Pavel Pardo (Stuttgart-GER), Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna-ESP), Fernando Arce (Santos Laguna), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Antonio Naelson (Toluca).

Strikers: Carlos Vela (Arsenal - Osasuna), Antonio de Nigris (Ankaraspor-TUR), Nery Castillo (Manchester City-ENG), Juan Carlos Cacho (Pachuca), Adolfo Bautista (Chiapas), Guillermo Franco (Villareal), and Giovani Dos Santos (Barcelona - ESP).

Three ways to beat Chelsea

By 1970’s Gooner

Spurs Vs Chelsea. What a fantastic advert for English football. Eight goals, continuous running, commitment and changing fortunes throughout the game with a last ditch wonder goal to make it a deserved draw for both teams.

I, along with a lot of Gooners, was cheering for our North London enemies and they did not disappoint, apart from Berbatov who should have buried that last minute chance.

Nevertheless as with many things you are only as good as your last outing, whether that was on the football pitch or in any other walk of life.

Why do I say that? Because Chelsea are not likely to play any different against Arsenal than they did against Spurs.

They play a 4 3 3 with Drogba in front flanked by Joe Cole and Kalou and with Makelele, Essien and Lampard in the midfield positions.

Surprisingly it was Essien who was making the forward runs against Spurs (he got the second goal) with Lampard being more conservative and Makelele sitting in front of the back four.

They did score four goals but they let in four. So how can Arsenal go one better than Spurs and score more goals than Chelsea?

1. Joe Cole is more dangerous than Drogba. So keep him quiet

Joe Cole has always been dangerous but on Wednesday night he was very dangerous.

Every time he got the ball and had a chance to run at his defender he created havoc.

He scored two very good goals and created a third.

He generally posed a bigger threat than Drogba, who apart from his well taken goal in the third minute was generally quiet.

It must be said however that Joe Cole’s side of the pitch was defended by the inept Chimbonda who was at fault for both of Cole’s goals.

He did not have a good game as he was after all playing on the wrong side of the pitch. He is a right footed player playing on the left side of the defence, like Lauren was if you remember a few seasons back.

That was when Joe Cole turned him on many occasions and eventually scored a clinching winning goal at Highbury.

So keeping Joe Cole quiet will go a long way towards nullifying Chelsea’s threat from the right hand side of the pitch. Clichy and especially Flamini will I think be the key players in doing a job on him.

Flamini in particular will be covering for Clichy when he forays forward to assist in Arsenal’s attacks especially if Hleb ventures in field in more central areas.

Chelsea, since the departure of Robben, have lacked balance every time they try to play 4 3 3. Kalou was deployed on the left wing at White hart Lane but did not offer much penetration or threat.

Anelka is trying to get fit for the game but I wouldn’t think that Grant will risk another lacklustre performance by playing him on the wing as he did for the Carling Cup Final.

So to my mind keeping Joe Cole quiet will be important and I have every confidence that young Clichy (and Flamini) will be up for it.

2. Defend set pieces properly

Unlike Arsenal, Chelsea are very dangerous from set pieces as they have the players that can do damage. There is Terry, who returned to scoring at Sunderland from a set piece, Carvalho, Drogba and Ballack, if he plays.

Spurs defended the set pieces and the high balls reasonably well. King and Woodgate (whom I rate highly) were very effective as were Hutton, Zakora and Huddlestone (when he came on).

It’s a pity that Diaby will probably not be available as he would have been ideal to defend set pieces and help Clichy out on the left wing.

The rest of the Arsenal players apart from Adebayor and Van Persie are not that good at defending high balls so a lot of concentration is needed from those that will be defending.

Almunia can become very important in these kind of situations by coming out and catching the high balls relieving the pressure.

If Arsenal can manage to keep them quiet at set pieces then they will go a long way in getting a result.

3. Attack from the wide areas of the pitch not from the middle

The middle is very likely to be a congested area and trying to thread the ball in through so many bodies is always difficult as we are finding out recently.

On Wednesday night Chelsea were very vulnerable from crosses and putting more emphasis on wing play by Arsenal will I feel go a long way in putting Chelsea’s defence under a lot of pressure.


It is important to stretch the play for another reason and that is to decongest the middle areas of the pitch which will give more time and especially space to Fabregas to weave his magic and try and dictate play.

And we all know that when the little maestro is on song, the whole team ticks like clockwork and then anything can happen…..

So it will be important that Hleb is detailed to stay more on the wide areas rather than venturing infield as he usually does and the same will hold for Eboue of course.

Another option for Wenger will be to play Hleb just behind Adebayor and Van Persie on the left hand side with Eboue on the right.

This will match Chelsea’s 4 3 3 and at the same time provide more thrust on the wings. It is a possibility.

Let us hope

Let us hope that Mark Clattenburg is not as a big a chicken as Riley was and produces the cards when they are needed to keep the game clean.

But what I also hope for (apart from the obvious) is for a repeat from Avram Grant in making “those type of substitutions” at the most crucial points of the game…..

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The reaction to Arsenal’s loss of form from the Emirates crowd has been utterly ridiculous

By Eros, Arsenal Analysis resident season ticket holder at the Emirates

I always knew that football fans are miserable creatures but I always hopped that they had some kind of common sense! Well I was wrong.

The reaction to our recent loss of form from both bloggers and the Emirates crowd has been utterly ridiculous!

At the Emirates especially you can cut the tension with a knife. If an early goal does not come, the crowd starts to get restless which I think negatively affects the performance of this young team.

Also individual players are being singled out for unfair and unreasonable criticism,lately Ade and before Diaby.

Large sections of the crowd encourage the team to shoot at every opportunity! How can you have a shot at goal when 5 defenders block the way?

We started the season in hope, rather than expectation, of challenging for major honours after selling our captain and most influential player to Barca, been ridiculed by the media and all the football experts.

We proved them wrong, spend most of the season in pole position and barring the indifferent form of the last few weeks the team has been performing fantastically well.


But as often happens in football when everything seem rosy, we hit a rough patch, we let standards drop a little, lady luck deserts us for a while and nothing goes our way not even referee decisions.

But instead of support we give the team grief. As soon as a little blip comes along everyone, inclusive of a lot of bloggers and the comments therein, is judgemental, anxious and critical. Above all everyone is a coach.

Hands up who would have snapped my hand off if I offered at the beginning of the season second place three points behind Manchester United with eight games to go.

Add to that a Quarter Final in the Champions League against Liverpool and probably the most exciting five weeks of football in memory coming up! How can anyone not be excited?

I know we are not playing well right now and we have gifted a hatful of points that we probably should not have, but it was hardly unexpected!

We have been plagued by injuries – not an excuse just a simple fact – and we have played the most games out of any team in the league so it was logical to expect some fatigue to set in at some point.

The good thing is that some key players are returning to fitness. Van Persie got some minutes under his belt and Rosicky is close – not too close but close - according to Wenger.

Adebayor

A while back I wrote a piece on Adebayor criticizing some aspects of his play, and if I remember correctly I said that if he does not sort his first touch and distribution out he will not have a long term future in this team, especially with the progress Bendtner is making.

I still believe that what I said is true, however the criticism I have both read and heard about him is unfair!

He has scored 19 league goals this season and has been reliable when RVP was injured, when Edy was finding his feet, when Bendtner and Walcott were not ready to start any league games!


He has had more partners than almost anyother front player in the League and has often been asked to lead the line on his own!

I don’t think that you can ask any more of him this season. Somebody else needs to put his hand up and start scoring some goals.

I’ve read some reports that he‘s gone lazy imitating Henry too much! Where did that come from? The only reason his work rate has dropped slightly is because we are coming up to the end of a long gruelling season!

So in short give him a break, you all know that if he gets a goal he can go on a crazy run again and get us close in both the league and the CL.

Diaby

A lot of people have been disappointed with his progress this year; I am one of them, however to criticize the guy beggars belief! He has been extremely unlucky with injuries and constantly gets played out of position.

You cannot expect someone to get in the team and instantly be sharp.

He was awful in the game against Villa, but got a chance against Milan and significantly improved. Unfortunately he got injured again.

Let’s hope he can stop getting all this niggles and can finally fulfil his potential.

In the meantime be patient! Especially the guy sitting on block 100 I think row 17, calling him: “a waste of space”, “not fit to wear the shirt” or “sell him”. This does neither him or you any favours mate!

Wenger

And finally the ultimate sacrilege. There where calls against Arsene Wenger.

That he is too comfortable in his job, that he is not a true winner, that we should get Mourinho, that if we don’t win anything this year then numbers will start falling, that he has taken us as far as he can, time for a change….

We heard everything this week!!!

Well you all know that none of the above is true. Wenger has just overseen a huge transition from Highbury to the Emirates, using only limited resources, losing his captain and best player without the team losing its competitive edge!

The financial future of the team is, because of him, forever secure. At the same time he has competed against the Abramovic billions, Manure’s aggressive transfer policy and new American owners throwing money at Liverpool.


He has kept both his players and the fans focused on the football in times of uncertainty in the boardroom, when it could have easily disintegrated into a Liverpool type of situation.

Is all the above not enough for the last three years? Throw in there a CL final in Paris, the most talented young midfield player in the world and some of the most exciting youngsters on the Arsenal books.

Vela, Pedro, Traore, Randal, Gibbs, Bartley, Barazite, Merida, Nordveit Walcott, Denilson, Bendtner are some of the players coming out of the Arsenal academy!

The man has been a loyal servant to the club and in most gooners minds he can stay as long as he wants.

Please don’t post idiotic comments about him as you are giving all of us a bad name.

Predictions

The team has looked mentally fatigued over the last few weeks and that I think has affected the fluent pass and move game we usually play. The good think is that in the next few weeks mental fatigue will not come in it.

As in Milan all the players will relish the challenge to show exactly how good they are! Especially Cesc who has a lot of unfinished business against Fat Frank!

I always had a feeling that we would beat Chelsea at the Bridge! I’m hopping Grant will leave Anelka on the bench and play Drogba up front on his own!

I know Chelsea have been unbeaten in donkey’s years but I just have a gut feeling about Sunday! As I said the previous time I posted, the title will be won or lost at Old Trafford! That game is too close to call but by no means are we out of it already!

As for the CL, as funny as this sounds given our draw its now more difficult to win than the premier league as it’s more than likely that we will have English opposition all the way to the final.

I believe we will squeeze past pool, but whether we can go through both Chelsea and United I’m not sure. Hopefully we’ll get to see a repeat of the 06 final, where we faced Barcelona, but as you all know it’s a knock out competition and a bad game means you are out.

I believe that we have a good chance of winning something this year but it won’t be the end of the world if we don’t!

This is only the start for this team which will only get better! It could well be the start of Wenger's most successful tenure!

The truly exciting times are still in front of us.



PS: If anyone has a couple of spare tickets for the Sunday game can they please send me an e mail to Arsenal Analysis (you will find the address on the right hand side of the page). I will be most grateful!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three reasons for four below par performances


By 1970’s Gooner

There is no doubt about it. What looked like a blip at Birmingham, which came after all due to special circumstances, carried itself forward against Aston Villa where we could only manage a draw; and then we began to get worried.

But that performance at the San Siro had every one drooling about the style of the beautiful football that these young guns can master and we again began to believe that those lackluster performances were only blips that every team goes through on their way to glory.

And then came the impotent draw at the Wigan quagmire which, as I wrote then, you couldn’t put it all down to the awful state of the pitch.

The latest points dropped, at home this time, to a resolute and clever Middlesbrough side have brought home to me what a lot of Gooners have probably been fearing.

That there are some common themes underlying these insipid performances and I will start with the most important one:

1. Key players are tired and rotation has not been an option

The long and exhaustive season coupled with not enough rotation means that players are tired and lack energy and movement on which Arsenal’s style of play depends so much.

It is a style that requires all eleven players to perform not only at their best but at a highly synchronized and sophisticated level. Like a jig saw puzzle which requires all parts to be in place before it reveals its beautiful picture.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, have been rotating players both in midfield and in attack.

Players like Lampard, Makalele, both Coles, Drogba and Anelka for Chelsea.

Scholes, Saha, Hargreaves, Carrick, Park and Tevez….for Manchester United.

Torres, Alonso, Pennant, Benayoun, Crouch and even Gerrard for Liverpool.

It is not a coincidence that the team with the most rotation (Liverpool) are now looking the most fresh of the lot scoring goals for fun and coming good in this latter part of the season where trophies are won.


On the other hand Arsenal have been resting players only when they had to i.e to replace injured and suspended players like Van Persie, Rosicky, Eboue, Toure and Eduardo.

Fabregas has looked as though he needed a rest some time ago but wasn’t rested enough. The same can be said of Adebayor who has looked tired running the front line sometimes on his own. Clichy and Sagna have been ever present without really taking a breather. The same can be said of Flamini and Hleb.

This did not affect the performance at the San Siro as the special occasion must have given the players a lift but also AC Milan did not really press tight to deny space nor played it rough on the Arsenal’s midfield. And they did not defend with ten men behind the ball.

But on the domestic scene teams approach the games differently and it is quickness of feet and continuous movement that draggs opponents out of position and creates the necessary space and time to unfold the skills that are obviously in abundance.

The major reason for the relative lack of rotation compared to Arsenal’s opponents is a combination of lack of squad depth and injury.

For example if Wenger wanted to rest either Fabregas or Flamini his options were mostly untried players like, Diaby, Diarra (who needed games) Denilson and Song or the ageing Gilberto.

When actually both Fab and Flamini needed replacing, Gilberto, Denilson and to a lesser extent Diarra were not up to it and points were dropped. This was for the games against Wigan at home and Aston Villa, Newcastle and Middlesbrough away.

2. Not enough goal scorers

An area where the squad was beginning to show its depth was in the forward positions. Van Persie’s injury was going unnoticed mainly due to Eduardo coming to terms with the Premiership and scoring goals for fun.

At the same time Adebayor and Fabregas were also hitting the back of the net and Bendtner was being used to good effect, mainly as a substitute.

A good example of Eduardo’s contribution was the 4-1 defeat of Everton at Goodison Park where the performance of the team was very average but even with having gone a goal behind Eduardo’s goal scoring ability meant that we run out emphatic winners.


But Eduardo’s subsequent unfortunate injury and Fabregas’s lack of goals placed too much of a burden on Adebayor. Rosicky’s absence has not helped either as he is the only other midfielder that is more of a goal scorer.

And until Van Pesie could return to the side Arsenal lacked that cutting edge. The edge that Ronaldo and Roonie are now giving to Manchester United by scoring the goals that are turning draws into victories.

Now that Van Persie is back this may be rectified but unfortunately a lot of points have in the meantime been dropped and RVP will need a couple more games to get match fitness and into his stride…

3. Players playing out of position

Not withstanding the above Arsene Wenger made some choices which affected the team’s performance in two of the four drawn games.

He opted to play Walcott as a second forward alongside Adebayor against Villa at home. He started brightly but it only worked for a while with Walcott benefiting from Adebayor’s lay offs but then running out of steam.

At half time Wenger changed to what he should have started with by instructing Hleb to switch places with Walcott and things improved.

Another example is the Wigan away game. I feel that it was not appropriate that Fabregas was displaced to the right of midfield. This had the double negative effect as such decisions often have in football.

Arsenal’s midfield effectiveness was almost rendered non existent as Flamini couldn’t get the rhythm and passing that by now can produce with his eyes shut when Fabregas is there next to him to receive the ball.

It was not a surprise that Arsenal’s most effective and dangerous moments originated when the little maestro ventured in field to receive the ball and dictate play as only he knows how.

But in addition to missing Fabregas in the central areas of the pitch Gilberto’s impact was not up to standard. He is now a shadow of the player he used to be and more often than not chose to pass the ball backwards or sideways thus slowing the game up even more than the pitch was.

What of the future?

Pessimistic outlook:

Robin Van Persie needs a few more games to find his feet but in the meantime Fabregas and Co find it difficult to return to their early season form. This is exaggerated by the number of crunch games coming up thick and fast beginning with Chelsea away, the Liverpool trilogy and the (hopefully) crunch game at Old Trafford.

Optimistic outlook:

Robin Van Persie comes back with a vengeance and starts scoring goals form the off beginning with Chelsea. Fabregas and Co are rejuvenated, put their tiredness and aching limbs behind them and start putting in the performances that they are capable of.

Take your pick…….

Friday, March 14, 2008

Liverpool trilogy dictates squad rotation by Wenger


By 1970’s Gooner

Arsenal play Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League Quarter Final at the Emirates on Wednesday 2nd April but the run in to this game is not littered with easy Premiership games.

All games in the Premier League are quite significant from now on as we enter the final 10 games of the season. “Squeaky bum time” as some other manager has called it.

After Middlesbrough at the Emirates on Saturday we have to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and then go North to face one of our bogey teams Bolton Wanderers. Then the Liverpool trilogy will begin.

It’s quite a hard schedule really and one that will inevitably tire minds and bodies, putting Wenger’s squad to test.

One has only to recollect how tired and lackluster were most of the Arsenal players at Wigan, a game considered very winnable but happened to be right after the triumphant performance at the San Siro.

So what Arsene Wenger has to decide really is whether he should prioritise between the two major competitions.

Does he want the Premier league more than the Champions League? If he wants both can the squad last the distance? Can he play his first choice eleven for every game without jeopardizing the team’s chances of winning anything in the end?

Arsene has a few blessings in disguise though. Some of the first team players like Rosicky, Diaby, Eboue and Toure that may feature in the three games against Liverpool have been out with injury and suspension and another, Robin Van Persie, is only now returning from injury.

This means that these players will have had a restful period away from the pressures of playing games continuously and they will be getting into their stride by the time we come to face Liverpool, especially Van Persie.


But the same does not hold for the ever regulars of the Arsenal line up like Fabregas, Flamini, Gallas, Sagna, Clichy, Hleb and Adebayor. Arsene Wenger will want to see how their fitness levels fare during the league games coming up but he may consider resting some of them.

Nicklas Bendtner could come in for Adebayor to play alongside RVP for example and Diaby could replace Hleb or even Flamini in the middle. Hoyte could fill in for Sagna or even Clichy. It will not be a Carling Cup side but there again it will not be Wenger’s first choice eleven.

In other words we may not see a full strength line up for both CL games against Liverpool. Especially since these CL games are preceded or followed by some very important league games:

3 days before the first leg against Liverpool: Bolton away

3 days before the home league game against Liverpool: Liverpool home

4 days before away league game at Manchester United: Liverpool away in the CL

And although I would want to win both competitions, I would give priority to the Premier league, if I had to.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Champions League Quarter Finalists ranked in order of least preference for Arsenal

By 1970’s Gooner


Should Arsene Wenger have a preference for the Quarter Final draw of the Champions League? There are various ways of arriving at an answer.

One can argue that Wenger and his merry young men should not fear any of the other seven remaining aspirants to Europe’s Holy Grail.

For if you are a team that aims to be the best then whoever you meet, at whichever stage of a knock out competition, should be considered as another welcomed test of your superiority.

Yet in football, as in many things in life, timing and the process of continuous evolvement can prove pivotal in determining the amount of success or failure.

Unlike Manchester United, Arsenal is a relatively young side that is improving all round at a fast pace even from game to game. Especially with Robin Van Persie to come back into the side.

This implies that Arsenal’s peak could be reached in the latter stages of the competition and therefore avoiding a tough opponent now is even more important for Arsenal.

What is more obvious of course and this goes for Manchester United too, since Arsenal are involved in a tight run in for the title it goes without saying that as easy a draw as possible should be the wish of every Arsenal fan.

Let manchester United slug it out against a Liverpool or a Chelsea....

So I think that, unlike Benitez, yes we do mind who we get for the Quarter finals. And I would go one step further. I would prefer that we face foreign competition.

The reason? The Arsenal style of play is allowed to express itself much more on the continent than on home soil.

English teams press hard, squeezing the space out and not allowing time on the ball especially for the midfielders who are so important in the Arsenal set up.

Look at how Seville found it so difficult to keep up during their demolition at the Emirates.

Look at how Milan allowed the little maestro the space and the time to dictate the play which eventually was their undoing.


I don’t think that your Liverpool’s and Chelsea’s of this world would adopt the same tactics. And there is the fact that English teams know you so well so the element of surprise is factored out.

Here is my list of the seven teams in order of my least preference. You may have a different point of view of course:

1. Manchester United

I would least prefer Manchester United as I consider them to be the strongest of the other seven. No more than that.

2. Chelsea

Chelsea have the most complete squad of all the Premiership teams and this will allow them to rest players for the crucial games of the Champions League especially if they are still behind in the race for the title.

3. Liverpool

Liverpool have this knack of doing well in the Champions League and also a manager who knows the European style of play and is well adept at getting results on the European arena.

4. Barcelona

After the English teams the strongest of the rest is Barcelona. They have the pedigree and the players to do damage. They have been off the boil recently with their stars underperforming and with Messi probably out of the quarters.

Yet of all the rest they still pose a threat but they would also play a more open game against Arsenal.

5. Roma

Roma currently lie second in Serie A, six points behind Inter. Totti and Vucinic provide their attacking threat which was enough to kick Real Madrid out of the competition winning both games home and away 2-1.

This should not be underestimated. Yet they are Italian and Arsenal have shown that they can turn the style on against such teams.

6. Fenerbahce

I have put Fenerbahce ahead of Schalke due to the momentum they have built up by their fantastic and unexpected win at Sevilla as well as due to their very strong home support which usually intimidates visiting teams.

They also have a Brazilian flair in Zico their famous manager, Roberto Carlos and their goal scorer Deivid who impressed me with his display at Sevilla.

7. Schalke 04

Schalke have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the first time. They knocked Porto out on penalties after winning the home leg 1-0 and losing the away leg by the same score of course.

They are currently 5th in the German league 12 points short of top spot. I am not that impressed with their strikers (they have former Rangers player Lovenkrands along with Kuranyi and Asamoah) and in my estimation they pose the least threat for Arsenal.


We have set up a poll on the issue on which you can indicate your preference and can also leave a comment.

Interesting fact

If drawn against either Manchester United or Liverpool then Arsenal will have to play against their Quarter Final opponent three times in the space of 14 days.

This is because Arsenal have a league game scheduled against Liverpool right after the first leg and against Manchester United right after the second leg!





Rosicky blames injuries on busy English schedule but reveals his expected return




Brazil coach calls for “punishment to fit the crime” on Eduardo


By Aries

Dunga the Brazil coach and his assistant Jorginho have been speaking ahead of Brazil’s friendly game against Sweden which is to be played at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium later this month.

They have called Arsenal’s Gilberto, Liverpool’s Lucas and Chelsea’s Alex into the squad which contains some younger players in preparation for Brazil’s participation in the Beijing Olympics.

Amongst them are Milan’s Alexander Pato and Robinho of Real Madrid.

Speaking in Rio De Janeiro both coaches felt the need to also comment on the unfortunate injury suffered by Brazilian born Eduardo Da Silva who suffered a compound fibula fracture and a dislocated ankle after a ferocious tackle by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor.

“Football is a sport of physical contact, but sometimes it is exaggerated. In the case of Eduardo, the defender placed the foot over the ball to catch his opponent” Dunga said.

Both coaches called for the laws to be corrected so that the punishment fitted the crime.

Jorginho himself a world Cup winner with Brazil (in 1994)said:

“Football has much tradition and we know how difficult it is to change. But look at what happened with Eduardo, the offender was only punished with a three game ban”

Dunga also agreed: “The laws need to be changed. We have to protect the players with technical ability and quality” he said.


Dunga is in charge of the Olympic team with Brazil attempting to win their first soccer gold medal.

But this game against Sweden is intended to comemorate the 50th anniversary of the first world title for Brazil.

It was won in 1958, against Sweden in the final(5-2).

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Diego Alves (Almeria), Julio Cesar (Inter Milan)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Sevilla), Alex Costa (Chelsea), Juan (AS Roma), Lucio (Bayern Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Rafinha (Schalke 04), Leo (Gremio)

Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Arsenal), Hernanes (Sao Paulo), Josue (VfL Wolfsburg), Kaka (AC Milan), Lucas (Liverpool), Richarlyson (Sao Paulo), Diego (Werder Bremen), Julio Baptista (Real Madrid)

Forwards: Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Rafael Sobis (Real Betis), Robinho (Real Madrid), Thiago Neves (Fluminese), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rosicky blames injuries on busy English schedule but reveals his expected return


By 1970’s Gooner

Tomas Rosicky’s absence from the Arsenal line up has come at the most busy time of the season when the run in for the title begins to gather pace and the Champions League fixtures reach the knock out stages.

He has been rather injury prone as of late being out of first team action since the FA Cup game against Newcastle at the Emirates on the 26th January.

“Of course, it is very annoying to miss these games," he said to Czech television station Nova.

"The injury simply does not want to fade away but now it seems like it has been improving a little bit.”I am now training with the ball."

He has blamed his injuries to the very heavy schedule of games in England where there is no winter break to give the chance for the body to recover.

“The Bundesliga has a winter break whereas here in England winter is the time when the games are played in quick succession"

"In Germany the players can have a rest and have a winter pre-season, which is a big advantage of course. That is not the case here which is a big difference," he said.

Tomas played in Germany for Borussia Dortmund before catching Arsene Wenger’s eye earning a transfer to North London in May 2006.

There is doubt however whether Rosicky’s injuries can be blamed just on the idiosyncratic busy English winter schedule.

According to the Czech team’s doctor Pavel Kolar "Tomas has an imbalance of his muscle structure,"

Kolar is renowned for his work in rehabilitation, in addition to his treatment of celebrities in the world of sports, politics and entertainment.

He gained wide recognition for his treatment of former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

"In my opinion, this plays a big role in his injuries. Some of his muscles work more and are more developed whereas others are not.

"The problem is in the coordination of muscles which Tomas uses. Muscles on the rear side of his thigh are enormously strained, it is a matter from his childhood." Kolar told MF Dnes as far back as the middle of last October.

And this assessment seems to hold some truth as Tomas has a string of recurring muscle injuries.

Have a look at his long list of injuries since he joined the club:


2008 February 1st: Hamstring Injury

2007 November 7th: Groin Strain

2007 September 20th: Hamstring Injury

2007 July 30th: Hamstring Injury

2007 April 30th: Hamstring Injury

2007 March 1st: Groin Strain

2006 November 10th: Hamstring Injury

2006 August 18th: Groin Strain

2006 May 31st: Thigh Muscle Strain


He was limited to just 22 appearances last season due to various muscular injuries.

Kolar insists exercises will cure Rosicky's problems but it will take a long time:

"It is a task for at least three to five months. But it depends how frequently he turns to the exercises”

Tomas himself has said that he expects to return to action in time for the Champions league Quarter Final which will take place on April 1st (on fool’s day)!

He will miss the home game against Middlesbrough next Sunday as well the away games at Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers.

Let’s hope the Arsenal physios and himself address his muscle problems properly so that the probability for any more injuries is kept to a minimum.


Three reasons for Arsenal’s stutter at the JJB give hope for the future

Three reasons for Arsenal’s stutter at the JJb give hope for the future

By 1970’s Gooner

You sort of suspected it that when Adebayor missed that chance in the first 45 seconds that this would develop into a nail biter.

Especially when the state of the pitch dictated that taking your first chance when it comes and winning ugly would be the only way to get the three priceless points.

Yet to blame the pitch would only account for a third of the reasons for Arsenal’s third successive league draw.

Really one cannot help but agree with Arsene Wenger’s characterization of the pitch as not fit for professional football. It did hamper the flow of the game by making it more difficult for the players to control the ball and keep the game running.

This obviously made the game slightly slower which suited Wigan rather than Arsenal who rely on quick and precise passing so as not to allow opponents to settle or get bodies behind the ball.

But I would disagree that this is the major reason for Arsenal’s abject display. It did add to it but it didn’t cause it.

The second reason which had more of a bearing on the outcome of the game was the state of the players’ fatigue levels. The monumental effort produced at the San Siro obviously took a lot out of the players who then had to travel again, this time to the dreaded North.

It must be said that the team has been stuttering with loss of form anyway, looking tired in the two previous games where points were dropped against Birmingham and Aston Villa. So this performance at the JJB was really a continuation of the inadequate performances as of late.

The third reason however is equally important. Breaking the Fabregas Flamini partnership was not the best of decisions that Arsene could have made. This had the double negative effect as such decisions often have in football.

First Arsenal’s midfield effectiveness was almost rendered non existent as Flamini couldn’t get the rhythm and passing that by now can produce with his eyes shut when Fabregas is there next to him to receive the ball.


It was not a surprise that Arsenal’s most effective and dangerous moments originated when the little maestro ventured in field to receive the ball and dictate play as only he knows how.

But in addition to missing Fabregas in the central areas of the pitch Gilberto’s impact was not up to standard. He is now a shadow of the player he used to be and more often than not chose to pass the ball backwards or sideways thus slowing the game up even more than the pitch was.

In my preview of the game I put forward the three options that were available for team selection due to the absence of enough wide midfielders.

I thought then that breaking up the Cesc and Flamini partnership was not the way to go but I did suspect that Wenger would play Cesc wide by bringing Gilberto into midfield.

He had after all got success the last time he had to make a similar decision, for the victorious game against Blackburn in the middle of February.

However this was a home game, the team was not coming off the back of an energy sapping performance away in the Champion’s League and more importantly a very early goal as early as the 4th minute was scored (by Senderos) which settled the players and caused the opponents heads to drop.

There was none of that at the JJB.

Yet there is hope after all for the run in for the title. Firstly Robin Van Persie’s return to action is a welcome relief which can prove crucial.


This is not only because he is a formidable forward and goal scorer but he would offer the much needed support that Adebayor needs in the most important areas of the pitch.

Adebayor and Bendtner don’t seem to play well together and it may not only have something to do with their personal differences. I rather suspect that it’s their style of play that doesn’t fit with each other.

They are both the tall and target type of centre forwards and these kind of partnerships are not usually that effective as the players often make the same runs and always need a shorter more agile sidekick next to them to feed off each other.

The return of RVP would add balance to the Arsenal shape and when the need arises for Wenger in future games to find another wide midfielder I hope that he will keep the dynamic duo together.

And I don’t think that we will face the same kind of pitch again!



Wenger’s three options available for team selection at the JJB


Sepp is right, Mourinho is looking for a job and Wenger is a baby snatcher?


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sepp is right, Mourinho is looking for a job and Wenger is a baby snatcher?

By 1970’s Gooner

There has been a lot of codswallop spouted out by Sepp Blatter, the outspoken FIFA President, on a lot of issues over the years.

And a lot of the English homophobic media have once again treated his recent comments on the Eduardo issue with not only disdain but ridicule.

I have to say however that on this (and the 39th game) issue he is talking a lot of sense. Regular readers of this site will not of course be very surprised to find myself and my co writer on this issue “The Coach” in such a total agreement with good old Sepp.


“Dangerous tackling is one of the most important issues in football at the moment,” Blatter said at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich. “Players who do this kind of thing intentionally should be banned from the game.”

Of course it’s pretty damn difficult to prove intention in such kind of circumstances but the sentiment behind what Mr Blatter is saying is correct. Players and their managers should be punished for such high studs tackles.

For if the punishment doesn’t fit the crime then, as many lawyers will testify, there will always be people that will work out that the odds may be worth taking a shot at.

Arsene Wenger was not wrong to retract his view that Taylor should be banned for life. That was slightly excessive.

However he should have demanded instead that Taylor should be banned for as long as Eduardo is out of the game, probably for a year or so. Now this punishment will have fitted the crime alright.

And then managers like McCleish and footballers like Taylor will not carry on their detestable tactics of kicking the opposition straight to the hospital beds and probably to an early retirement.

Because Wenger is right. When they can’t beat you at football they revert to kicking you out of football. Just like Manchester United did when they broke the Invincibles undefeated run by a dodgy penalty and a lenient referee.

But the crux of the matter is that this is the mentality that pervades throughout the football world in this country. It is embedded in the psyche of the nation.Taylor executed the act but the moral instigators of this crime are football managers, referees and the media.

As long as the powers to be allow football skills to be countered with brutal force and feel that “it’s just one of those things that happen on the football field” then there will never be any hope for English football.

And the English national team will more often than not stumble out of major tournaments at the quarter final stage…..

Mourinho on the other hand does not see this issue as interesting enough to comment upon.

He is of course more interested in himself and on how he would relish coming back to Stamford Bridge and slaying Chelsea.

You know like many a football manager who has been sacked and after spending enough time with the missus and the kids finally gets the ultimate sack; from his wife who probably has had enough of him lounging around the house feeling sorry for himself.

Once they decide that they need a job they start making the rounds on TV programmes and giving interviews to newspapers whereas a few months before their mobile number was a bigger secret than a NASA report on alien visitors to Connecticut, USA.

I have been linked with ten clubs, but it is all lies.” He said “Just because I am not working any more in English football, my feelings haven’t changed,” he said. “I don’t hide that I was deeply in love with English football and that I will be back — not the next step, but I want to be back one day.

My house is in London, my friends are there.”

What does this tell you?

And Mourinho has identified Wenger again as his choice of attack saying among other things that Wenger has not won anything and he is still in a job!

Whereas poor Mourinho has won league titles and FA Cups and still got the sack. I would tend to agree that Abramovic was very wrong to kick Mourinho out. I doubt whether Chelsea will emulate those achievements again.

Where Mourinho is very wrong however is to accuse Wenger of not developing any talent himself but snatching young talent from abroad. This is what he said:

“Their coach hasn’t won anything for years and is still an idol. There is no pressure at Arsenal. But do not say he is growing young players into talents. What he does is take young players who are jewels and polishes them.”

Now I ask you what has Mourinho done to develop young talent at Chelsea during his tenure there? Surely a club that bought almost all of their first team squad (and at the most exorbitant prices you would ever imagine) cannot turn round and accuse Wenger of stealing young players!

At least Wenger spends the time, energy and money to identify the youngsters.

Youngsters who at their impressionable years get the chance to be tutored by one of the best academies in the world and learn to play the beautiful football they way it should be played.

What does he expect Wenger to do then? Become a baby snatcher and steal young babies from their mother’s lap, whisk them to London Colney, keep them there under lock stock and barrel so that they then can be classified as genuine Arsenal academy home grown players?

Come to think about it what constitutes a home grown player? Someone like Charlie George who came to Arsenal at around 12?

This doesn’t happen anymore as all the promising kids find themselves affiliated to a local club most of the time anyway.

A lot of managers are jealous of Wenger who has achieved so much, developed so many world stars from nothing and all on a shoestring while making a huge profit on transfers.

Oh I almost forgot: and playing beautiful football in the process……

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wenger’s three options available for team selection at the JJB

By 1970’s Gooner

How unfortunate that Arsene Wenger will not be able to field the eleven that so comprehensively gave AC Milan a hell of a beating as the confidence and momentum that has gathered up has been enormous.

It has been enriched of course by wide acclaim from everywhere including the press, both from the grudgingly English and the more generous Italian. Even the Milan supporters applauded the young guns off the field.

However Diaby and Walcott played in a friendly at London Colney against Kroenke’s Colorado Rapids two days after that epic but energy sapping win.

How Wenger must be ruing that decision as they have become unavailable for the proper league game at Wigan’s beleaguered JJB stadium.

This is compounded by Eboue’s unavailability due to the red card he received at Old Trafford and Rosicky’s continuous and possibly chronic muscle problems which leave Arsene Wenger with restricted choices for the midfield and forward positions.

He now has three options open to him:

1. Bendtner up front and Denilson on the wing

Revert to 4 4 2 (instead of 4 4 1 1) and draft Bendtner in to partner Adebayor up front.

He will be hoping for more of what happened in the last seconds of the Villa game when their differences were put aside as Adebayor headed the ball towards Bendtner to slot home.


Although one visitor to this site suggested that Adebayor was trying to pass to Gallas rather than to Bendtner!

The Fabregas and Flamini partnership can under this scenario be kept intact by playing Hleb in his normal position on the left of midfield and bringing young Denilson to occupy the right side of midfield.

2. Gilberto in the middle and Fabregas on the wing

Another option under the 4 4 2 formation that Wenger has favoured this season is to draft Gilberto in central midfield alongside Flamini and push Fabregas on the right side. Bendtner and Adebayor will spearhead the attack.

Wenger has brought Gilberto in the midfield and pushed Fabregas to the right not so long ago against Blackburn.

This was only last month (11th february) at the Emirates where Arsenal ended as 2-0 winners with Senderos scoring early on with a header from a corner.

And you may remember that Fabregas was often played on the right of midfield in his “younger” days as part of his education, just as Diaby is deployed these days (although reasons of expediency also play a role in Diaby's case).

Under this option Arsene will rely on experience which is now assuming more importance as the vital run in for the title gathers pace. It does however mean that the Fabregas and Flamini partnership that served us so well is broken up.

3. Gilberto middle, Fabregas and Denilson on the wings

The third option is to keep the same formation (i.e 4 4 1 1) and as many of the players that started against Milan.

This means that Adebayor will be supported by Hleb up front. Gilberto will have to be drafted into the middle so as to release Fabregas to play on the right and young Denilson to fill in on the left of midfield.


This option contains the most chopping and changing with two players being played out of position as against only one player out of position in the other two scenarios.

My personal choice will be to draft Denilson on the wing and Bendtner up front. In this way changes are kept to minimum but more importantly the Fabregas Flamini partnership will be kept intact. I also have my doubts about Gilberto’s pace and match fitness.

It remains to be seen what Wenger will choose but he does tend to go with proven solutions. This means that he may choose the same formation he adopted against Blackburn at the Emirates.

He has to keep faith with Senderos though who had a pretty good game at the San Siro and give a chance for Toure to recover fully from his injury.


Almunia

Sagna Gallas Senderos Clichy

Denilson Fabregas Flamini Hleb

Bendtner Adebayor


Prediction: 0-3



Ancelotti, Maldini, Kaka, Gattuso, Berlusconi you took a hell of a beating! (plus player ratings)