Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Friday, February 29, 2008

For Eduardo read Rooney but don’t read the Daily Mail or listen to the BBC

By 1970’s Gooner

The real victim of the Eduardo incident is Martin Taylor.

This is what you would probably believe when reading the English press. Especially if you have just been released after a few years in captivity somewhere in a war torn region.

Heck he is!

First you have all the Birmingham and related crowd telling us that Taylor is a gentle giant.

Then you get all the English press feeling sorry for poor Taylor who has never hurt a fly in his life.

Then follows the BBC’s Radio Five Live eulogizing about the young Birmingham player and saying what an unfortunate incident it was.

There follows that idiot Gordon Taylor of the FA Professional Footballers' Association. He has written to Eduardo and Martin Taylor offering messages of support after their “ill-fated” clash at St Andrews on Saturday.

"I have written to Martin and I believe he has the strength of character to overcome this. He has shown remorse and he went to see the lad in hospital. He is a good lad and I know how badly he feels about it.

"The incident happened so quickly. It was one of those things. It happened early on in the game and Martin was late but, like I said, he is not a nasty player and wouldn't inflict an injury like that deliberately."

What he is really saying is :

“Yea it was an ill fated incident. Just a quirk of nature. Doesn’t often happen. How unfortunate that old chap Martin Taylor is. Chin up lad and get on with it”!

He in fact exonerates Taylor.

In the meantime the media, especially the BBC and The Daily Mail, have been running a campaign to show Taylor as the victim of this “unfortunate” incident.

They are depicting taylor as an unfortunate lad who has been wronged by the fans sending him threats and by Wenger who after all had the audacity to ask for a punishment that fitted the crime!

Mr Hatchett of the Daily Mail has been running a campaign almost single handedly to discredit Arsenal and Wenger.His fellow journalists at the same newspaper have also been prolific.

Here are some of the headlines from this newspaper in the last few days:

“LET'S get real, Taylor's tackle on Eduardo was an unfortunate mistake”

“Martin Taylor will regret his challenge on Eduardo for the rest of his career, but can the morons leave it alone now and go and play with the traffic on the M25, instead”

It was one tackle, one mistimed tackle from a bloke trying to do his job. He was clumsy and who hasn't been clumsy?

Unforgiving Wenger tells Taylor: Only you know if you meant to hurt my striker”

And to cap it all Mr Hatchett provides a list of all the red cards that Arsenal players received during Wenger’s reign:

“ARSENAL more sinned against than sinning? Don't make me laugh - and here's 72 reasons why for a start”

Yes of course I know that the young lad did not deliberately set out to break Eduardo’s leg. But like a negligent driver who doesn’t set out to kill or maim someone shouldn’t he be at all reprimanded for his bad driving?

And if he is reprimanded with a punishment that really is disproportionate with the severity of his “crime” doesn’t it mean that the deterrent nature of the punishment loses al its meaning?

And if all the powers to be come out and support the negligent driver saying things like he wouldn’t hurt a fly and it was just one of those incidents, doesn’t it give the message :

“carry on driving negligently chaps” or in our case “carry on kicking the hell out of skilled players that go past you using legitimate means playing beautiful football”

Doesn’t it mean that managers like McCleish and other footballers will 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.

Omar left this comment on this site which I think encapsulates the state of the media in England:

“This is just typical of an English Press. If this kind of foul was committed on Wayne Rooney the English Press would be in an uproar.

This kind of injury was a long time coming. Remember Abou Diaby about two years ago?

This is the second time in two years an Arsenal player have suffered such injury.

Arsene is correct when he said that there is a notion out there that to defeat Arsenal is to kick Arsenal. The Manager of Birmingham stated before the game that they would have to put steel to Arsenal and this is exactly what Matt Taylor did to Da Silva.

I don't think he intended to hurt the lad but when managers request of their players to be physical with another team, what do you expect to happen?

This is exactly why Jose Reyes left the Premiership; because of the brutality.

Sorry to say but this brand of Football is now close to Rugby”

Thanks Omar for those comments.

Media, coaches and referees are to blame for career threatening tackles

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Arsenal placed amongst the top supported clubs in Europe

By Aries

Keith Edelman has been telling us that Arsenal’s fan base has been increasing tremendously in recent years and he did not mean only in the UK.

Although it is true that there is an extremely long queue for a season ticket at the Emirates (figures mentioned are that it is as large as 45,000) no one really knows how popular Arsenal is outside the British shores.

Well now we have an idea thanks to German sports Marketing agency SPORT+MARKT. They surveyed around 9,600 football fans in 16 European markets with an average of 600 respondents per country.

Arsenal have been placed fourth most popular in a list of 20 European clubs.They estimate that about 23 million people support Arsene Wenger’s young gunners.

One would have expected Manchester United to be at the top of the pile due to the traditionally large image coverage that it enjoys. But it is lying in third place with 32.8 million fans.

Chelsea (19.7 million) are in seventh and Liverpool (19.4 million) in eighth. Chelsea in particular has increased its fan base by over five times while Real Madrid has lost 11 per cent support but is nevertheless second overall with 45.9 million.

“Top of the pops” however is another Spanish club, Barcelona with 50.3 million.

The Top 20 Most Popular European Clubs

1.Barcelona CF
2.Real Madrid
3.Manchester United
4.Arsenal London
5.AC Milan
6.FC Bayern Munich
7.Chelsea FC
8.Liverpool FC
9.Juventus Turin
10.Zenit St. Petersburg
11.FC Spartak Moscow
12.Inter Milan
13.Olympique Lyonnais
14.Olympique Marseille
15.ZSKA Moscow
16.Wisla Kraków
17.Ajax Amsterdam
18.Galatasaray Istanbul
19.AS Roma
20.Werder Bremen

Although English clubs have a larger domestic fan base Spanish clubs attract far more supporters from outside their country. They are supported by an estimated 103.5 million across Europe while English clubs by an estimated 99.2 million.

Hartmut Zastrow, Executive Director of SPORT+MARKT estimates that concentrating on Europe might pay more dividends:

“there is a booming market of over 225 million football fans right on clubs’ doorsteps” he said.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eduardo denied permission by Arsenal to spend his recovery in Zagreb

By Aries

The secretary of the Croatian Football Federation, Zorislav Srebric, is in London where, together with the president of the federation, Vlatko Markovic, visited Eduardo in hospital.

According to Srebric, Eduardo is very positive and, significantly, is not at all depressed.

“I saw a lot of strength and optimism in him. There is no sign of depression. He is the one who is holding his family together with his optimism. I have seen all sorts of injuries and the change of behaviour they cause, but a faith like Eduardo has, I have never seen” said Srebric for Hrvatski Radio.

This is also confirmed by Eduardo’s wife Andrea who said that Eduardo was calmer than them:

“He was quite calm. We still have not recovered from it all, the entire family is in stress. He is perhaps calmer than we were. He immediately asked for his daughter Lorena”

Srebric did reveal that it was Eduardo’s wish to spend his recuperating period back home in Zagreb with Stanislav Peharc as his doctor. Arsenal however will not allow such a thing and Dudu will spend the 9 months of his recovery in London.

“It is understandable that Arsenal does not want to let him go just like that. The most important thing is that Eduardo stays where he will have optimal conditions to recover” said Srebric.

However the President of the Croatian Football Association Vlatko Markovic said Eduardo and his family will be guests of the Croatian football team at the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland.

“Let me say right away that he and his family will be our honourary guests in the Austrian camp”

In the meantime, Andrea’s parents Zvonko and Jadranka will now stay in London to take care of Lorena so Andrea could spend as much time with Eduardo as possible.

Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea: Six factors that will affect the outcome of the title

Vela can score that cheeky goal for Arsenal as he did for Osasuna

By 1970’s Gooner

Carlos Vela had one of his most outstanding games so far for Osasuna last Sunday against Atletico Madrid where he scored and made another goal in his side’s 3-1 victory.

This is the third straight win at the Reyno de Navarra stadium for Osasuna, who climb up to the thirteenth spot two points clear of the relegation zone. There are thirteen games still to be played in the Spanish Liga.

Osasuna took an early lead after an electric start with two goals in the first five minutes. Kike Sola scored after only 50 seconds into the game and just four minutes later Carlos Vela doubled the advantage scoring with his left foot through the goalkeeper’s legs.

You can watch that goal and the rest of the action from that game in the video on the right hand side of this page.

Ex Manchester United player Diego Forlan reduced the deficit on the 26th minute but Osasuna continued to press and finally got a decisive third with 14 minutes to go.

Héctor Font was the scorer after receiving an assist from man of the match Kike Sola who superbly dribbled his way into the box.

Vela’s performance had everyone raving about him in Spain and commenting at what a find he has turned out to be for Arsene Wenger.

Spanish newspaper hails Arsène Wenger as a great discoverer of young talents like Cesc Fabregas.

Carlos himself, in his remarks to the same newspaper, considers this latest performance as one of his best but he has had better!

"Although this was one of my best performances I have liked others better! But I cannot really complain; I have scored a goal and gave an assist" said Vela yesterday.

Vela has been playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world and not only that he has been playing for a team which is fighting for its survival. This adds additional value and weight when assessing his ability and prospects.

Now that Eduardo is out for the season Arsene has been left with just three available forwards. It’s a pity that he will very likely allow Carlos Vela to finish the season at Osasuna.

Although there must be a clause in the loan agreement similar to Djourou’s when he went to Birmingham it will not be wise to recall the young lad to an environment in the Premiership that he never had the chance to taste.

Carlos Vela turns 19 next Saturday. Let’s hope that by the time he turns 20 he will be scoring similarly cheeky goals for Arsenal and be playing a key role in the run in on another title.

Vela is ready for the Premier League Walcott not yet

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kaka also complains of crunching tackles and is rated 50 50 for Arsenal

By 1970’s Gooner

“ I take too many hits” Kaka is reported to have said by the Italian sports paper La Gazzetta Dello Sport after the latest scare with his troublesome knee.

In an outburst against referees that comes right after the unfortunate Eduardo’s injury at Birmingham Kaka has complained that some of the tackles in Italy can be bone crunching.

"I am taking a lot of blows and I am not the only one. It’s something the referees should look out for”.

Kaka had to leave the field in last Sunday’s game against Palermo which Milan eventually won 2-1.

He had taken a blow on his left knee and is now rated as 50 50 to make it against Arsenal in the return leg of the Champions League game on Wednesday in Milan.

The story of Kakà and his left knee really originates from the start of the season when the initial injury is suspected to have occured. He had however carried on playing and so many games and so many battles against tough defenders have eventually taken their toll.

And in Florence, twenty days ago, the injury got worse.

“I have to stop, I can’t make it any more " kaka is reported to have said to some of his teammates after the game.

He duly took time out and returned for the League game against Parma but got injured again. He finally made it for the Champions League against Arsenal at the Emirates; but he was not at his best.

And now he is back to square one after the game at Palermo. "He took a blow that would have folded a normal person," said his coach Daniele Tognaccini.

Wenger: "Thanks Nastya for Hleb's resurgence"

Wenger’s three options for replacing Eduardo

By 1970’s Gooner

Obviously with Eduardo's injury Wenger cannot now go and buy another forward since the window is of course closed.

And I would not bank my money on it that he would have done so even if the window was open.

The fact remains however that Arsene’s options are now limited especially with the run in to the title gathering momentum with only a dozen or so games left.

It was also a great pity since Eduardo was beginning to put in some awesome performances showing that he has adjusted to the Premiership at double the pace that is normally expected for foreign players.

He was also very important as Robin Van Persie, the great hope for all of us Arsenal fans, became unavailable for so long.

So much so that Arsene Wenger would have had a real problem to leave any one of Adebayor, RVP and Eduardo out of the first eleven on RVP’s return.

Now he is left with only three recognised forwards in his squad one of which is near returning but probably a few more weeks away. As Wenger said:

"At the moment Robin is close to returning to the squad training next week. But he will be short for the second leg in Milan because he has not really played for five months”.

This means that RVP will most likely come back, if all goes well, for the game against Wigan away on Sunday 9th of March. He will miss the Aston Villa game next Saturday and the midweek Champions League game at Milan.

However it may prove to be rather risky to rush RVP back too soon especially when taking into account what happened only recently with his last comeback.

Indeed it may be wise for Wenger to choose to introduce him gradually into the fold which means that he may not be able to start games for another three to four weeks.

So Arsene Wenger has to make a decision as to who will partner Adebayor for the intervening period however long that will prove to be.

His options are somewhat limited but depending on what he chooses he will, by default, choose the formation and therefore the tactical way that Arsenal will play.

There are only three available options in Bendtner, Walcott and Hleb.

Bendtner is probably the more orthodox forward of the three.

He has been playing in that position recently either as a substitute or starting there in the Cup games.

He is however still learning his trade and more importantly is a very similar type of player to Adebayor.

Walcott has just started coming into form at the right time.

His five minutes at the end against Milan nearly gifted a goal to Adebayor.

He carried that form into the Birmingham game scoring his first Premiership goals for Arsenal.

The first, a real poacher’s goal taking advantage of a loose ball in the area and the second after a run at the Birmingham defense and a shot from outside the area.

Walcott, unlike Bendtner, is a more appropriate forward to play along side Adebayor.

He has a low centre of gravity and as such is quick and agile. He can also be more dangerous by taking advantage of any knock downs and interplay with a tall and strong centre forward.

Walcott however has shown that he has to improve his effectiveness when he is playing with his back to the defender marking him especially his ball control skills. And also what holds for Bendtner’s relative inexperience holds for Walcott.

Hleb is the more likely option for Wenger. He has been in excellent form this season and more importantly has played in that position for Arsenal at the beginning of the season with a lot of success.

This is not a surprise as that is where he was deployed in the German league for Stuttgart prior to his transfer to Arsenal.

His deployment as a forward just behind Adebayor will mean that Arsenal will likely revert from a 4 4 2 formation to the 4 4 1 1 come 4 5 1 formation. This is because Hleb is more of a playmaker than an attacking forward as RVP is for example.

What is also important is that Adebayor is not left isolated up front as tended to happen earlier in the season when Hleb was moved infield.

For more on this see my posting: Arsenal’s Formula One Car Cannot Run With The Handbreak On. A Critique

Hleb’s likely move into the more central areas of the pitch make it more imperative that Rosicky returns to full fitness so as to fill the gap left, especially now Eboue will be absent for another two league games ( he will however be available for the Milan fixture).

Wenger was looking forward to Rosicky and Diaby coming back even before Eduardo's injury as they would be important for the wide midfield positions. He recenly said:

“....I must say as well I would like Diaby back…….."And I would like Rosicky back too because, in games like Wednesday night (Ed: against Milan), he would have been important."

Now it is even more imperative they come back very quickly.

Media, coaches and referees are to blame for career threatening tackles

Monday, February 25, 2008

Media, coaches and referees are to blame for career threatening tackles

By The Coach

Managers as well as referees in the UK bear the responsibility for this horrible event. Last but not least the Media.

I just can't believe they sugar down what happened by comments such as: Taylor is not a vicious or malicious player or Wenger apologised for his initial comments, and so on.

For Christ sake what we saw on television was almost a crime. There is no other word about it.

And it is an act that is not that rare on the football pitches in England. This physical play usually takes the form of hard, vicious and dangerously sliding tackles.

They usually but not always take both the ball and player. Yet referees usually are loath to punish them as they are all considered part of the game. Yes, they are part of the English game. But not so much in those countries where they play the beautiful game.

This approach is taken advantage by a lot of teams as a means of stopping the more creative sides and elegant players from unfolding their skills on the field.

Also the so called football commentators use accepted slogans such as “football is a man’s game”, “it is shoulder to shoulder”, “good physical presence” and “use of upper body strength”.

These are just some of the clichés we hear almost every day.

Another one we hear very often, especially when they are commentating on games involving English teams abroad where there are foreign officials, is “that was never a foul”.

But 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 (which of course he probably regrets now) 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.

England will probably never be a world football power again

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Player analysis and ratings Vs Birmingham. Get well Eduardo

By 1970’s Gooner

This game reminded me of the home game draw against Birmingham. We had total domination but we got too complacent and started playing in a casual manner as though the game had been won.

And as happened in the home game we gave away a stupid goal and the two points.

In another way it reminded me of an away game at Spurs where Wenger made a substitution in the last minute of the game. Due to the obligatory additional 30 seconds that the referee put on we let a stupid goal in.

I think the same thing happened here where the game only warranted two at the most three minutes injury time. But the referee added another extra minute for the two substitutions the Wenger made in the 88th minute!

The other thing that annoyed me is that everyone was trying to set up Adebayor to get a goal. This is downright stupid at any time during a game but especially when you are only 2-1 up.

Adebayor himself was very guilty of being more interested to get on the scoresheet than pass the ball to a better positioned colleague.

Certainly if he had passed the ball square to Bendtner when he would only have tapped it in the goal we would have been celebrating being eight points ahead in the race for the title.

And I would have been watching the Manchester United game against Newcastle tonight in a far more relaxed manner and with a glass of wine in my hand. Alas it’s not to be.


I think he was at fault for the Birmingham goal. He reached the ball and to my mind he should have been able to push it out. Maybe if he had used his other hand he would have had a better chance to save it. 6


The most productive and best Arsenal player until the 93rd minute when a lapse of concentration resulted in the penalty.

Which was not a penalty in a million years since he first got the ball cleanly and then the Birmingham player fell over.

He is however guilty of allowing himself to get into that situation. This is difficult to mark because other than the penalty I would have given him 8 but now a 5.


Very consistent and strong. His outburst at the end is understandable to me. 7


He is getting better and better with more games under his belt. He was good in the air and on the ground but you have to take into account that he only had to face one man in attack. Nevertheless he is improving very well and hopefully he will deputise for Toure well. 7


Considering that he lost his father a few days ago this lad has shown tremendous character. He was very good today both defending and going forward. 7


His usual box to box performance. Very energetic and powerful. But he does tend to sometimes to give away a few rush fouls like the one outside the area which led to their first goal. 7


Was below his best in the first half probably affected by Eduardo’s injury. But he improved in the second half dictating play as only he knows how. Still overall is not at the high level he has been before his injury. Let’s hope he continues improving. 6


If only he would shoot instead of passing then his game will improve by at least 30%. There was one occasion when he was clean on goal with Taylor to beat but he elected to set up Adebayor instead! Stupid. Like many others he improved in the second half. 6


What a game Theo had. He showed us in the few minutes he came on against Milan on Wednesday night that he was getting back to form.

The two goals he got today especially the second one look like they will give him the confidence to go on from here. His crosses especially in the first half were off target and overhit. He has to improve on this. 8


I expected more from the young Dane but his control was off today and he found ot difficult to connect with those around him. I do not recollect many passes between him and Adebayor and this was not due to their well publicized spat but more to the fact that they have not played a lot of games together. 5


I was disappointed with Ade. He spent the game too much bent on getting a goal rather than being more of a team player. However he did set up Walcott for his first Premiership goal but other than that he was way below his best. 6

Man of the Match: Theo Walcott

Any chance of Manchester United slipping up tonight?

The images of Eduardo’s injury were sickening and Arsene Wenger has said that the player will be out for a long, long time.

“His injury is very bad. It is more than his season over.”

Let us pray that Eduardo recovers and is well again.

Wenger: "Thanks Nastya for Hleb's resurgence"

By 1970’s Gooner

Alexander Hleb’s performances this season have been an absolute revelation.

His fantastic skills and energetic commitment have been one of the most important reasons why Arsenal are top of the League.

This wasn’t the case last season where his form was at the lowest ebb since he came to the club with a lot of fans voicing their dismay at his inept performances.

We told you on this site back in December when everyone was reveling, but also trying to fathom out the reason for his newfound rigour and fantastic effectiveness on the football pitch.

Now his manager has also recognized that “Behind every successful man there is a woman”.

And Hleb has revealed that Arsene Wenger has asked him to say thanks to his wife Nastya (Anastasia Kosenkova).

Hleb said: “He even told me to pass on his gratitude to my wife! He told me he knew how she had helped me to regain my confidence.

“I was completely surprised he thinks about such details.

"And he was right, my wife has helped me a lot. I married a year ago and since she came over to live with me, everything seems easier to me. I’m not totally happy with my performances. But I have started to believe in myself again.

“Every goal, every decent pass gives me new power. Then, I feel easy and free, as if I could fly.”

Her name is Anastasia Kosenkova (Nastya) and sings for the pop group “Topless”

Alexander said: “For a long time I’ve been looking for the girl of my dreams and I have finally found her. Nastya is a very nice and pure person.”

Hleb’s mother should be pleased because at the time of his move to Arsenal she said:

"He doesn't have a girlfriend - he's so obsessed with his career that he has no time. I hope he meets someone nice soon."

Well it seems he has and us Arsenal fans have a lot to thank her for as Alexander’s performances this season have been from another planet.

Let’s hope this is carried over into the Birmingham game which will give us a very significant eight point lead.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Manchester United, Chelsea and Real copy Wenger’s youth transfer policy

By 1970’s Gooner

Arsene Wenger’s transfer strategy has began to bear fruits with the young guns stunning everyone with their beautiful football and their relentless pursuit of the Premiership title.

Arsene Wenger has for some time now abandoned buying established stars since paying huge sums of money for their signatures has proved no guarantee of success.

He has instead created a world wide network of scouts who scour the globe for emerging young talent which has the potential to be moulded into what Wenger considers football excellence.

He has undoubtedly been proved right as the Arsenal squad is now full of Academy players who have gone through Wenger’s tutelage in the art of playing the beautiful game.

As first reported by Arsenal Analysis one such player could have been with Arsenal since last season but his Brazilian club “Corinthians” refused to sell him.

Arsene Wenger was first to recognize Dentinho’s abilities and prospects who is regarded as one of South America’s hottest talents.

Now it seems that Spanish giants Real Madrid have seen the light and have decided to adopt Wenger’s approach to transfer policy by trying to attract young talent to their Academies and nurturing them into first team players.

The Spanish sports paper “Marca” reports that one such player is Brazilian wonderkid Dentinho.He is the one on the right of the photo.

It is reporting that Real Madrid’s technical Director, Miguel Angel Portugal, has shifted the emphasis away from the known “Galactico” approach.

The club was investing huge sums of money to buy world renowned stars such as David Becham and Ronaldo, whose contribution however was doubted by many in Spain.

He has now focused on finding young players who have the potential to become first team players with a budget of a few million euros.

Chelsea and Manchester United: Me too!

Now it seems that both Manchester United and Chelsea are also following Wenger’s strategy of buying young rather than breaking the bank every time they need to buy a player.

In Chelsea’s case it’s rather breaking Roman Abramovic’s pockets than the bank. But nevertheless Abramovic has so far spent 576 m on his pet team which is not an unsubstantial sum at all.

And they need to do it as their academy has not really produced any first team squad players of note yet. As a result they tend to pay through the nose to get the players they need.

Players like Schevschenko (31m), Drogba (24m), Philips (24m), Anelka (12m). Or if they get them on a free pay huge salaries to attract them.

If you look at Manchester United they have not produced any academy player of note since the excellent bunch of Beckham, the Neville brothers, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs.

Ok they have Wes Brown, O’ Shea, Fletcher and Piquet but they hardly can be compared to the ones above can they?

Ferguson tends to buy what he needs and like Chelsea he pays through the nose for it. Ronaldo (17m) Carrick (18m), Saha (12m), Nani (15m) Anderson (17m), Hargreaves (26m), Ferdinand (20m) and who knows how much Tevez has or will cost.

Now it seems that both Chelsea and Manchester United have been more quiet on the transfer front in the last window. Chelsea have only recruited Anelka and United Manucho from Angola for a few million pounds.

Indicatively Arsenal have only bought 15 year old Luke Freeman from Gillingham for a few hundred thousand pounds!

Now these two teams have been trying to snatch the latest Arsenal recruit to be, 15 year old Ignasio Miquel, who currently plays for Cornellà.

He is considered to be the next Spanish starlet to follow in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida and is recommended to Wenger by Francis Cagigao his scout in Spain.

He was the one that spotted these two youngsters but also recommended Lauren and Almunia.

Manchester United has even sent a letter to the Catalan club registering their interest in the player.

It seems however that the boy is sold to joining Arsenal especially after meeting Cesc Fabregas at London Colney when he visited there with his parents two weeks ago. He also shares the same agent in Joseba Diaz as Cesc’s.

But Manchester United are trying to find their own gems too.

According to Spanish newspaper “Marca” they have even sent Alec Ferguson’s brother and United scout Martin Ferguson to attend last weekend’s encounter between Sevilla and Espanyol in the Primera Division and also to watch a few youth games.

Chelsea are in fact one step ahead. Vincenzo Camilleri a 17 year old who plays for Regina’s youth team has been made a substantial offer to join Chelsea.

The boy refused to play a match with Regina’s youth to travel to London with his mother in search of an agreement with Chelsea. His club however have taken the case to the Italian Federation and they hope to UEFA and FIFA!

Chelsea are also after 15 year old Marc Muniesa who belongs to Barcelona and is captain of the Spanish national Sub-16. They have to fight Barcelona for his signature however.

It looks like where Wenger goes the others follow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Two factors worked against Arsenal’s youngsters facing experienced Milan

By 1970’s Gooner

I was very impressed with Milan’s defensive organisation and technique. They were always positioned correctly to defend the long balls from Arsenal’s back line and also the crosses to Adebayor.

They were also well drilled into defending their area when Arsenal went into that mode of passing the ball around probing for an opening, trying their one twos and generally trying to pass the other to team to death.

Milan’s average age was 29 and Arsenal’s was about 24. So I was expecting that Arsenal’s youth will in the end force Milan’s ageing team into submission. But this became evident only in the latter parts of each half were Arsenal gained almost total superiority.

But two factors worked against the young pretenders.

The first was the nervousness that seemed to engulf Arsenal’s players. They seemed a little bit overawed by their opponents, who are after all the Champions of Europe.

As such a lot of the first half performance was characterized by misplaced passes and snatching at shots. Arsenal could not find rhythm which is so important for teams who play a passing, patient game.

The second was the inadequate performance by Eduardo.

It has been said before of course.

You can’t carry passengers in the game of football.

And Eduardo’s input and effectiveness during the game was way below what we have come to expect of him lately.

The result was that tactically the team was slightly unbalanced.

There was hardly any decent play and penetration from the left side which Eduardo was detailed to occupy, especially as Hleb was venturing infield.

And of course Adebayor did not get as much support as his play deserved.

These two factors were corrected in the second half.

Adebayor somehow looked a lot more threatening when Bendtner replaced Eduardo. The nervousness also went along with the hand break which released the free flow football which the young guns know how to play well.

Fabregas along with Flamini and Hleb regained control of midfield and Eboue along with Sagna started to provide meaningful penetration from the right.

Most of Arsenal’s chances were created from that right side and Walcott who came on for Eboue in the closing minutes of the game provided the perfect cross for Adebayor to hit the bar.

Alas it nearly proved enough but it wasn’t to be.

The return leg is now very delicately poised. Obviously Milan have a slight advantage as they are playing home. But they will have to be a little bit more adventurous and this is where Arsenal have to be patient and wait for their chance.

If the forward line especially Eduardo and Adebayor are up for it then I can see Arsenal snatching a goal and a triumphant qualification.

But the focus now is the Premier League and the Birmingham game.

Wenger will come back at Old Trafford and win the league. Four reasons why

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Manchester United displayed weaknesses which augur well for the real battle in April

By Eros

Let me start by saying well done to Man Utd, they deserved the win and in all honesty 4-0 was kind of flattering for the Arsenal. It could have been much worse if Rooney had his shooting boots on.

Another point to make clear is that we did NOT have a reserve side out there, we had 11 players that a lot of us, including myself, thought that could give United a game.

Wenger played the best team available to him on the day so anybody believing that he went there to lose is deluded! If that was the case then Hleb and Cesc would simply have been saved for Wednesday!

I travelled with some friends all the way to Manchester to watch the game and we got the team news quite early on. When we saw the team line up we started breaking it down as follows:

1) Why are United playing 5 in the middle at home????? We thought if Gilberto and Cesc win the midfield we’ll win the game.

2) We have to press high up and make United by-pass their midfield by making them play the ball long. Without Flamini that is going to be difficult since we all knew Gilberto will not provide the necessary pressure.

Edy and Nicklas need to step up and make it difficult for Rio to get the ball to Carrick or Anderson, we need to frustrate them and be patient. Rio may do something silly!!!

3) Traore and Hoyte are in the team, It’s obvious that United are going to go for the diagonal ball over their heads and try and get behind the defence.

This was never going to happen if Sagna and Clichy were playing! We need to push Nani and Park back on to their fullbacks, force them to defend.

Sure enough most of the above were true! United played through Carrick – who had a wonderful game and was my MOTM – there was no pressure on him by the forwards however.

He was able to spread the game beautifully and give Anderson – another one that had an excellent game – time and space to play. We had no chance with 2 vs. 3 in the middle especially with Flamini on bench!

The first couple of goals came from good United play in the wings. It was almost like Traore and Hoyte were not prepared for the diagonal balls coming towards them and constantly seemed to loose the flight of the ball, the united wingers were having a field day!

Traore and Hoyte froze

They did not tackle, didn’t get close and certainly did not fight.

They just froze! I don’t know why but they did.

Hopefully this is going to be a reality check for both as to what is required to play at that level.

Gallas seemed to get agitated every time united got behind our defence, he lost concentration and that disorganised the whole unit.

Kolo Toure was not ready to play in this game; I hope he is a lot better on Wednesday when he comes up against AC Milan or we could be in for a long evening.

I pray that Cesc was ill on Saturday! He seemed exhausted, could not get any rhythm going. He gave the ball away too easily!

He has not looked right since he came back from injury, but there have been encouraging signs over the last few games. We need him to get back to his best for the run in if we want to stay top of the pile.

The game was disheartening! It’s the second time this year we got mauled in a cup tie and I have to admit it’s not a nice feeling!

Having said that, while watching the game I was never thinking how are going to beat his team? Or we have no chance against them in April!

On the contrary I saw a few things that were encouraging for the upcoming league game

Wes Brown was almost man marking Hleb, leaving a huge hole on the left when Hleb drifted in, that can never happen if Clichy or Sagna are on the pitch.

If it does, United will get murdered on the wings much like we were on Saturday. If Hleb gets more space then he will hurt them through the middle.

Carrick is not going to be allowed the same time and space again, Flamini will be all over him like a rash and even if Falmini does not make it I am sure that Wenger will get someone to do that job properly next time.

Arsenal are going to have a lot more attacking options in their arsenal for the league game. The best form of defence is to attack them; the less they have the ball the less they can hurt you.

Off the ball movement was non-existent on Saturday, first time I have seen Arsenal so static. I am sure that it won’t happen again any time soon.

A few issues have been strongly debated after the game:

1) Nani’s juggling: I didn’t think it was disrespectful, I think if you can keep the ball in any way then you do it. Having said that he should not get upset when he is fouled, what does he expect a free route to goal?

2) Gallas: Lucky boy should have been sent off.

3) Adebayor: I was embarrassed by the dive, so were most of people around me, please, please, please don’t do it again.

4) Eboue: High, reckless challenge I hope it was not intentional, not sure it wasn’t. Only seen one replay of it, united friends assured me however it was.

He needs to screw his head on straight and stop his histrionics or he is going to be looking for a new club very, very soon.

5) Evra: As dirty as they come, should have been booked twice in the first 10 minutes, His first challenge on, I think, Hleb was atrocious!

A special mention to all the Gooners that travelled up there who I though were in fantastic voice whatever the scoreline on the pitch was.

They did not deserve such a heartless performance! The team needs to repay them big time. Starting with tomorrow against AC Milan and hopefully a huge payback will be on offer on April the 12!!!

Cant wait….

Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea: Six factors that will affect the outcome of the title

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wenger to decide on trialist Dimitrov before the next transfer window

By Aries

Everything seemed to be going nicely for Levski’s winger Nicolay Dimitrov.

He was spotted by Arsene Wenger’s scouts and asked to travel to London Colney for a trial.

This took place last December and the player left Arsenal full of confidence believing that he had impressed Mr Wenger and his technical staff.

He even gave us some insights into the Arsenal dressing room revealing that most of the pranks and jokes were mainly carried out by Adebayor and Toure.

You can read up about this here: “Toure and Adebayor the big jokers in the Arsenal dressing room"

Dimitrov’s optimism was not unfounded as Arsene Wenger decided to send one of his trusted scouts, Bobby Bennet, to Levski’s winter training camp in Israel to watch the player under match conditions in a friendly against Dynamo Kiev.

Boby Bennet was also impressed as was apparently the “Independent” newspaper who run a headline in early January “Arsenal close in on Bulgarian wing Dimitrov” stating that “a decision on whether to buy him should be taken quite soon”.

It was nice to have a national newspaper like the Independent confirming the story that “Arsenal Analysis” broke to the Arsenal fans first as far back as the 15th of December!

However the January transfer window came and went without news of Dimitrov. His agent has said last week that the message he got from Arsenal is that they will keep watching Nicolay and make a decision come May or June.

“Arsenal obviously indicated that they are positive about the player and they will continue to watch him for the rest of the season. A decision will be made by them in May or June. We have agreed to keep in contact until then”.

It seems that Arsene Wenger will want to delay his decision so as to have a better picture of not only Dimitrov but of Carlos Vela, who is out on loan to Osasuna in Spain, since both are natural left footers and of Tresor Mputu who was also on trial at Arsenal last November.

On his part Dimitrov has exalted the benefits he accumulated during his trial period at Arsenal:

“I have gained a lot from my stay at Arsenal” he said to Bulgarian sports paper “Gong”

He has, since his stay at Arsenal, been called up for duty for the Bulgarian national team for their international friendly away against Northern Ireland which Bulgaria won 1-0. He played for the whole of the second half.

Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea: Six factors that will affect the outcome of the title

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wenger will come back at Old Trafford and win the league. Four reasons why

By 1970’s Gooner

Many have jumped on the band wagon predicting that the defeat inflicted on Arsenal by Manchester United in the FA Cup will have further ramifications for the rest of the campaign.

I consider however that this has no significant logical basis and that the four factors that are analysed below will play a significant role on the run in for the title.

1. The so called inadequacy of Arsenal’s squad

Certainly the choice of playing two young full backs and a midfield anchor man who is on his last legs did prove in the end too much against a rampant United side.

Hoyte and Traore looked out of sorts, not able to thwart the various opponents that chose to take them on.

Hoyte was culpable for United’s first, second and fourth goal and Traore played Nani on for the third goal while Lehmann would have saved Nani’s shot in better times.

The young full backs were so much out of it that even their own players would not pass the ball to them. And they themselves would often not make themselves available to accept the ball from Lehmann when he was looking for an outlet. He more often than not had to choose to kick the ball upfield.

Gilberto was nowhere, unable to mark opponents with any degree of efficiency. He no longer can hold that anchor role in midfield and he should be allowed to go in the summer.

But this performance does not really mean, as many analysts have been pointing out in the press, that Manchester United’s squad is deeper and better than Arsenal’s.

Arsene Wenger had to choose from the remaining players available to him, either through injury or otherwise. And his pool of available players on the day was much smaller than Ferguson’s.

Consider what Arsenal’s performance would have been had Diaby or Song been available instead of Gilberto. Or if Sagna could have played instead of Hoyte or Traore. Ferguson played his first choice in defense remember which is always a good place to start in games like this.

When Arsenal’s full compliment of players return to fitness or availability, which ever way you look at it, then Arsenal's squad will prove to be as strong and as capable of lasting the course.

2. Manchester United wanted this victory much more than Arsenal

This was blatantly evident during the game where Manchester United’s players were playing as though it was the FA Cup final.

The reason of course is that lying second with five points behind Arsenal may have alerted Ferguson to the need to keep their chances of winning something of note this year alive. Like Arsene Wenger did in 2005 by concentrating on and finally winning the FA Cup.

There was also another reason why Manchester United wanted this victory more. They had to bounce back from the woeful performances in the League where in the most crucial period of the unfolding marathon race for the title they surrendered five points to their bitter rivals.

Their last minute equaliser at White Hart Lane and that defeat at the hands of their local city rivals at Old Trafford has sent shivers down the spines of the supporters that it is their players and not the youngsters of Arsenal that might crumble under the pressure of a run in!

So win they had to do. But when the two sides meet again at the same venue in the League it will be a different Arsenal side that will line up and at the end it is Manchester United that will know that they have been in a game.

3. The possible psychological impact this defeat might have on Arsenal

This is cots wallop invented by those that are clinging onto anything that might shatter the self belief and confidence of this Arsenal team.

They are hoping for a repeat of the collapse of the “Invincibles” when their run was abruptly ended by Manchester United’s rough tactics and a weak referee who gave a soft penalty.

The chances of something similar happening are very remote.

For a start the team that lost to United last Saturday is nowhere remotely near the one that will line up is the next more important games coming up.

But there are more recent similar events with which to gauge the Arsenal players response.

Like the more humiliating 5-1 defeat at Tottenham for example. But did it result in the young guns spiraling out of control?

No, it was followed by two fantastic 3-0 wins against Newcastle and a commanding performance away at Manchester City inflicting on them their first home league defeat of the season. The same team that defeated Manchester United at Old Traford! Arsenal then followed that up with a hard-fought 2-0 win at home to Blackburn.

And to turn the same argument round, Arsenal won both encounters with Manchester United last year but it didn’t have much of an effect on United’s chances of winning the League did it?

4. Fixture congestion and fatigue

Arsene Wenger said last year that the one mistake he will not repeat will be to tire and subject his players to the possibility of injuries in the lesser competitions like the Carling Cup and the FA Cup. He has kept his promise (to himself).

This means that Arsenal can now concentrate on more important matters like the run in to the title (which I think if achieved will be his greatest triumph) and the Champions League.

Fixture congestion and tired players especially now that things are getting serious are the last thing any manager will want. But that is what Ferguson will have and I am sure it’s not something he would have chosen to do.

His hand was forced however by the fantastic quality and beautiful football the young guns have been producing and his own team’s faltering performances.

Would this rout make a difference? ''I hope so,'' said United's manager.

Keep on dreaming I say….

Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea: Six factors that will affect the outcome of the title

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Henry failing to cut it at Barca blaming Rijkaard. But there are other reasons

By 1970’s Gooner

Is the curse of the “Wenger reject” about to strike again?

Will Thierry Henry the greatest footballer to have graced the Premier League find out that once you leave Arsene Wenger’s tutelage you run a very great risk of “fading to grey”?

It wasn’t that long ago when the Barcelona doctors and medical team were questioning the wisdom of Henry’s transfer to Barca.

They have warned that the back injury which sidelined Henry for five months in his last season at Arsenal is a "chronic" condition, has no cure and tends to deteriorate with age.

Barcelona's former vice-president Sandro Rosell is reported to have said: "Whoever signed him deserves a clip round the ear". For more see my posting: Medical reports on Henry suggest Wenger was right to sell him

However Henry has managed to recover from his injury and has been starting games for Barca. The quality of his performances though has not been anywhere near the heights he reached for Arsenal.

In fact even Henry himself has acknowledged this saying that his level of play was currently fall short of expectations. "You can always do better and I am never satisfied with my performance” he said.

But he has put the blame on the fact that he is asked to play on the left wing rather than in the middle of the attack.

"I'm not used to playing on the wing after spending eight years at Arsenal as a striker. Now I play a different role," "It's the coach who decides the system and I don't have a problem with it."

But he has also shown his frustration of not being able to find an outlet for his efforts when he is on the ball. "When I move, I have no purpose in front of me” he said.

This is reminiscent of similar problems he faced in earlier years with the France national team when in a 4-2-3-1 formation adopted by Roger Lemerre, he was operating as a left winger, while David Trezeguet was the center forward.

And this brings us to the crux of the matter. In one of my postings back in June I had my doubts whether Henry will make it at Barcelona. You can read this posting here : Will Henry succeed at Barcelona?

The most obvious reason sited is the way Wenger sets up his teams and their style of play which is to always use the front man as the pivot of the attack. This invariably culminates in providing the scoring opportunity for the centre forward.

Frank Rijkaard has obviously not adjusted the team’s style and mentality to suit Henry’s way of playing so as to allow him to be the main man.

Especially when they have so many other stars in their line up all wanting the lime light and a piece of the action.

Wenger however grooms the players for the position that suits them best and they therefore have every chance of excelling.

Remember Henry was a winger when he arrived at Arsenal and wasn’t himself sure if he was cut out to be a forward. It was Wenger that transformed him into such an effective front man.

Henry left Arsenal as our all-time league goal scorer with 174 goals and all-time goal scorer in Europe with 42 goals.

He has scored six goals in 18 appearances for the Catalan club.

Wenger’s squad players good enough to face Manchester United

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Carlos Vela: “Arsenal is a great team and I dream of playing for them”

By 1970’s Gooner

Carlos Vela has been putting in some fine performances for Osasuna lately making everyone sit up and take notice of his potential.

So much so that they have been admiring once again Arsene Wenger’s ability to spot a talent when he sees one.

Vela has after all been playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world and not only that he has playing for a team which is fighting for its survival. This adds additional value and weight when assessing his ability and prospects.

Speaking recently on the difficult games facing Osasuna he has wisely urged calmness and concentration especially for the coming face off against Valencia this Sunday.

“We have to be focused and do what we know, because we showed that we can play well." He said to sports paper “Marca”

“We know where we are and where we do not want to be and for that we must work hard and go one hundred percent, because anyone can beat anyone else and there are no easy games "he said.

On a personal level, Vela is satisfied with his performances for the club.

"The level is very strong. I am very happy with everything that is happening to me at Osasuna and I am going to enjoy the time I have left" he noted.

He also expressed his desire to play for Arsenal.

“After two years I would like to go to the club which trusted in me. Arsenal is a great team and it would be a dream to play for them"

Vela finally attached significance to the fact that Jose Angel Ziganda plays him on the left side of midfield instead of positioning him infront.

"On the wing I have to do more running and help more in defense, but I am 18 years old and want to play. I have a lot to learn" he concluded.

Wenger’s squad players good enough to face Manchester United

By 1970’s Gooner

Arsene Wenger faces a difficult choice in deciding what team to select for the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

On the one hand he has to try and avoid a defeat like the one suffered at White Hart Lane where the young guns were humiliated with a 5-1 score line.

Clearly the psychological impact of another defeat especially in the hands of its fiercest and closest rival for the Premiership title may carry over in the next few games affecting the team’s performances in the all important League and Champions League fixtures coming up.

On the other hand it is obvious that the order of importance and hence priority places the Premiership title and the Champions League way ahead of the FA Cup.

Risking too many first team players in the FA Cup would therefore be considered reckless especially when taking into account that the squad is already depleted of as much as 11 players.

These include Almunia, Abou Diaby, Robin van Persie, Denilson and Johan Djourou who appear to be out. In addition there are others who are carrying injuries and as such Wenger would be loath to use them.

Tomas Rosicky has a hamstring strain (he has "a little chance" to play at Old Trafford according to Wenger).

Kolo Toure has suffered a groin strain at the Africa Cup of Nations and although rested for the third place game in Ghana Wenger may want to make sure that the groin is rested not risking a recurrence of the injury.

Philippe Senderos (knee) gritted his teeth and played through the pain barrier in the 2-0 win over Blackburn. With Johan Djourou still out Gallas is the only fit centre back at the moment.

Alexander Song who so impressed in the Africa Cup of Nations with his marvelous displays for Cameroon was substituted early in the first half in the Final with a muscle strain.

He probably would have been one of the first on Wenger’s team sheet for Old Trafford (see my earlier posting: Song shines for Cameroon)

Also Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) and Cesc Fabregas (illness) played against Blackburn despite their problems.

The period coming up could prove crucial in defining Arsenal’s season where success in every single of the remaining 12 games is of outmost importance as Manchester United is of course waiting to pounce on any slip up.

And there are of course the Champions League games against Kaka’s AC Milan the first of which follows the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford. The other is two weeks later after the home game against Aston Villa.

So logically it should be a “weakened”, almost a Carling Cup, side that should run out at Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Lehmann will continue and I think Gallas should start along with Senderos in central defence as it would be too risky to play Toure. If however Senderos is not passed fit then Hoyte should be the one to start.

The choice for left and right back would be interesting. Clichy is fit while Traore may prove too young to mark Ronaldo (if he plays).

However Clichy is irreplaceable for Arsenal both for his excellent defensive play but also for his offensive forays which are mostly enabled by Hleb’s meanderings into the middle of the pitch thus releasing space.

Arsenal’s penetration on the wings comes mainly from the full backs as Rosicky tends to do the same as Hleb with Sagna benefiting from the space created.

So Clichy and Sagna should in my opinion be “preserved” for more important battles to come with Traore and Hoyte deputising.

Traore especially will have a difficult game against Ronaldo but in my opinion it will have to do as Clichy is too important to risk.

However if Hoyte ends up playing in central defence then Wenger has two choices. One option is to reinstate Eboue at right back with Walcott coming in on the right wing.

If the latter is not passed fit (there are doubts about his fitness) then I don’t see anyone else being able to play in the right back position from the available players other than Kerrea Gilbert! He has been putting in good performances for the reserves lately and he is experienced enough.

Wenger should resist starting Walcott in the middle of the attack as his lack of control and physical presence proved inadequate against Spurs in that 5-1 defeat.

Fabregas has been ill and had to get out of bed to play against Blackburn. He has also looked tired in recent games and he needs to be rested.

Gilberto and Flamini therefore should continue their pairing in central midfield. Hleb should start on the left as his organizational play will be needed especially if Fabregas does not play.

Adebayor is in such prolific form he needs to be rapped up in cotton wool and released against Milan and the ensuing League games. Bendtner and Eduardo can resume the understanding forged between them in the Carling Cup games.

My starting 11 would therefore be the following:

Hoyte Senderos Gallas Traore
Eboue Gilberto Flamini Hleb
Eduardo Bendtner

The dilemmas facing Alec Ferguson are pretty much the same as those of Wenger’s. He also has to rest players in order to have them fit for the crucial games coming up in Europe and in the League.

But he has to take into account however of Manchester United’s “humiliating” defeat against their local rivals Manchester City.

The pressure will be onto him to field a strong eleven against Arsenal so as to get the team back to winning ways especially against their rivals for the title.

It will therefore be quite a tough game for the young guns but one where they have the chance not only to prove themselves but obtain valuable experience in one of the most hostile places they are likely to find in the League.

Ensuring in the process that Wenger’s conveyor belt of young exciting talent proves itself once more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Real Madrid poised to snatch Arsenal’s Brazilian target by copying Wenger’s transfer strategy

By 1970’s Gooner

Arsene Wenger’s transfer strategy has began to bear fruits with the young guns stunning everyone with their beautiful football and their relentless pursuit of the Premiership title.

Arsene Wenger has for some time now abandoned buying established stars since paying huge sums of money for their signatures has proved no guarantee of success.

He has instead created a world wide network of scouts who scour the globe for emerging young talent which has the potential to be moulded into what Wenger considers football excellence.

He has undoubtedly been proved right as the Arsenal squad is now full of Academy players who have gone through Wenger’s tutelage in the art of playing the beautiful game.

As first reported by Arsenal Analysis one such player could have been with Arsenal since last season but his Brazilian club “Corinthians” refused to sell him.

You can read up about it here:Brazilian wonder kid Dentinho: "Arsenal came in for me"

Arsene Wenger was first to recognize Dentinho’s abilities and prospects who is regarded as one of South America’s hottest talents.

“Arsenal made a proposal but Corinthians did not agree for them to negotiate. I was not bothered, I think that my moment is going to arrive” Dentinho said recently to Brazilian internet sports paper

Now it seems that Spanish giants Real Madrid have seen the light and have decided to adopt Wenger’s approach to transfer policy by trying to attract young talent to their Academies and nurturing them into first team players.

The Spanish sports paper “Marca” reports that one such player is Brazilian wonderkid Dentinho.

It is reporting that Real Madrid’s technical Director, Miguel Angel Portugal, has shifted the emphasis away from the known “Galactico” approach.

The club was investing huge sums of money to buy world renowned stars such as David Becham and Ronaldo, whose contribution however was doubted by many in Spain.

He has now focused on finding young players who have the potential to become first team players with a budget of a few million euros.

According to Marca”s sources close to the player, Real have already begun negotiations for his transfer.

It looks like where Wenger goes the others follow, but it remains to be seen whether Wenger will sit back and let Real snatch the player from under his nose.

Ed: The tattoos on Dentinho's hands are his parents names, Adonias and Nice!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Player analysis and ratings Vs Blackburn. The young guns can prove everyone wrong

By 1970’s Gooner

It was a rather nervy performance but it was understandable really considering how much was at stake. Yet these young guns have proved everyone wrong. Yes they can win the League and they can do it in style, which is not something that a lot of teams can do.

What these "Mr know it alls" underestimated of course (not here though) was the room for improvement and the speed with which these young players have been improving week by week.

Getting an early goal I felt should have helped settle the nerves, but it didn’t.

It rather had the usual effect an early goal has for this Arsenal team which is to relax them too much and lull the players into a false sense of security. But Blackburn were depleted and not at their best. They kept possession but had no threat up front as Arsenal’s back four played very well.

Sagna was very good once again bombing forward getting past Warnock with ease. He was also pretty good in his defensive duties not putting a foot wrong. 9

On the other hand Clichy, probably by design and under instructions, was not that forthcoming in his offensive duties. His brief was probably to look out first and foremost for Bentley who in the end had a pretty average game. He is after all in my opinion an average player anyway (he stands out in Blackburn’s team because a lot of his teammates are not even average). 8

Gallas was strong and forceful once again. Consistency is his game and he was also foraging forward trying to get that second goal which would have killed the game off. 8

But Senderos had one of his better games for Arsenal. The way he got his goal showed that he must have been practicing at London Colney how to get free of his marker from a corner. And he had to twist in mid air to get a proper header on target which hit the back of the net with force. 8.5

So good was Arsenal’s defensive play that Lehmann had hardly anything to do. But he was very safe coming out of his area to catch the ball and relieve the pressure from corner kicks. 8

Hleb was fantastic tonight returning to his best form. He was always looking for the ball and once he got it they found it difficult to get it off him. His contribution was even more important as Fabregas was wasted on the wing (especially in the first half) and Hleb, coming infield was able to direct play more than he normally would have.

He even had two very accurate shots on goal and was unfortunate to see the first hit the post and the other saved acrobatically by the impressive Friedel. 9

Fabregas I thought was rendered ineffective on the right wing but when he drifted infield in the second half he was much more influential and got into some very dangerous scoring positions.

His shots were nearly there and it looks to me that he will get amongst the goals soon. His passing was again not at its best and he did look very weary but Wenger has said that he was ill for the last three days and he got out of bed to play tonight. 7

I can understand why Wenger chose to keep Flamini in the middle and push Fabregas on the right. His energy and covering in front of the defence is second to none. But also Gilberto is not really up to playing that role these days. Another box to box from the Flamster. 8

Gilberto had a decent game but he has slowed down a lot and I don’t recollect any tackles that he made tonight. Wenger has to let him go in the summer so that room for growth is created for the younger gunners such as Diaby, Denilson and Song who proved to everyone in the Africa Cup of Nations that he has bright future. 6.5

Eduardo is now very used to the Premiership and its fast pace. His all round game has improved and it showed tonight. However I thought he was reluctant to release the ball when it was called for, especially in dangerous areas where Adebayor was in a far better position to do something with it. 7

Adebayor improved in the second half where the game required him to receive the ball and hold it up so as to relieve the pressure. But in the first half after the goal was scored he was playing as though we had won the game already.

He came close to scoring before he did but what a goal he scored. It was similar in a way to the second goal he scored at Tottenham in the 3-1 win. He was inside the area on this occasion when he allowed the ball to bounce off his foot before swiveling round to hit it first time in the air into Friedel’s bottom right hand corner. 2-0 game over! 8

Man of the Match: Alexander Hleb

Match Stats

Arsenal Blackburn

55% Possesion 45%
7 Shots on target 1
6 Shots off target 7
2 Offsides 5
7 Corners 5
12 Fouls 7
1 Yellow cards 0

Song chosen in Africa’s best eleven players

By 1970’s Gooner

Alexandre Song has been in fantastic form during the Africa Nations Cup. He put in an excellent performance last Thursday in the semi final of the Africa Nations Cup against Ghana.

He protected his defenders very well competing for every ball and when he came into possession he laid it off accurately to a team mate with that characteristic ease which typifies him.

He was, along with his cousin, Rigobert Song the outstanding player of that game.

He got a hard knock on the leg however and seemed unable to recover in time to make it for the final.

But he made it; only to pick up another injury, this time a muscle problem which forced Cameroon to make an early substitution in the 16th minute with Gilles Binya coming on.

And the injury which Eto’o was carrying proved too much for Cameroon in the end.

But despite the disappointment Alexandre will remember these last few weeks as the ones that really moved him into the forefront with everyone taking notice of his excellent performances.

So much so that the CAF has chosen him in the tournament’s best 11 players.

Yaya Toure has made it but not his brother! Not surprisingly Egypt have five players in the team.

Didier Drogba has been included but only on the bench!

The Best XI:

1. Essam Al-Hadari (Egypt)
2. Wael Gomaa (Egypt)
3. Geremi Njitap (Cameroon)
4. Hosni Abd-Rabou (Egypt)
5. Michael Essien (Ghana)
6. Sulley Muntari (Ghana)
7. Alexandre Song (Cameroon)
8. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
9. Mohammed Abou-Treika (Egypt)
10. Amr Zaki (Egypt)
11. Manucho (Angola)

1. Richard Kingson (Ghana)
2. Hani Saied (Egypt)
3. Ahmed Fathi (Egypt)
4. Saber Ben Fraj (Tunisia)
5. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
6. Abdelkader Keita (Ivory Coast)

Maybe playing well for the national team is the only way for Arsenal’s young stars to show Wenger what they can do because it’s more difficult to get into the Arsenal team than their national sides!

Alexandre has shown this season that he has really come on leaps and bounds and his performances in the Africa Nations Cup have paid testimony to that.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

City City Bang Bang and if Arsenal win on Monday it’s the Big Bang

By 1970’s Gooner

What a fantastic run of results this Sunday has bestowed upon us Gooners.

I have to admit I never expected Manchester City to deprive Manchester United of all three points! I had a feeling that they could get something out of the game though as the stats showed that Roonie’s absence always seems to derail United.

There was another reason that made me a bit more optimistic though and it isn’t what a lot of Manchester United sympathisers have been putting forward as an excuse.

The fact that there was a lot of emotion due to the 1958 air disaster was not in my opinion the real reason behind the defeat. Nor was the international break as Carlos Quiroz was suggesting!

Manchester United’s performance in their last game away at Tottenham, which I watched, left a lot to be desired. They got a very lucky point right at the death through that walking disaster Dawson who also gave them all three points at Old Trafford if you remember.

Manchester City played intelligently and stretched Manchester United on their weakest points which were their flanks. Wes Brown and O’Shea were run rugged by Petrov and the impressive Vassel.

But also where Manchester United faltered was in midfield where Scholes’s influence waned as the game wore on and Ireland’s influence begun to get immense. What a game he had.

Ronaldo, "the greatest player in the world", believed his own hype and was nowhere to be found. These are the games great players take control of and turn them round don’t they?

Chelsea as predicted in one of my earlier postings on the chances of the three contenders for the title have slipped one game too many. They were awful in an awful game where a draw was a fair result.

One more slip up and they will probably be out of it altogether. Their African players may be coming back a little bit too late to save the day.

Arsenal’s Africans, especially Toure and Eboue, look like they will make it back in time to face Blackburn on Monday. Their return will be significant as the alternatives in their respective positions (Hoyte/Gilberto in defence and Walcott on the wing) will in my opinion weaken the side.

And it is important to drive the advantage home and capitalize on this slip up. A win will put us five points ahead of Manchester United and eight ahead of Chelsea.

City went bang bang against United and a win on Monday will turn into the big bang for Arsenal’s title aspirations!

Ed: The bookies have now made Arsenal favourite for the title.

Latest betting on the Premiership Title (Paddy Power):

Arsenal 5/6
Manchester United 6/4
Chelsea 5/1
Liverpool 150/1

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Song’s chance to shine in jeopardy

By 1970’s Gooner

Alexander Song had a bad game against Fulham at Craven Cottage some time ago and a lot of frustrated fans got on his back since then. They seemed to ignore that in that defeat the whole team had a nightmare of a game with hardly anyone of the players playing above average.

I had watched him a few times while he was out on loan at Charlton and was quite impressed with his performances in midfield. He was very good in the tackle, kept possession well and could lay the ball accurately to his teammates.

Wenger’s faith in the youngster was again shown to be correct when Alex, although playing in central defence in the Carling Cup games recently, excelled proving that he is indeed worth to be part of this fantastic Arsenal squad.

The culmination of his return to form was the excellent performance last Thursday in the semi final of the Africa Nations Cup.

He protected his defenders very well competing for every ball and when he came into possession he laid it off accurately to a team mate with that characteristic ease which typifies him.

He was, along with his cousin, Rigobert Song the outstanding player of that game.

So it is a pity that reports coming out of Ghana indicate that his participation in the most important game of his life so far, The Africa Nations Cup Final, may not happen.

He got a hard knock on the leg during the semi final win against host nation Ghana and seems unable to recover in time to make it in the final.

It is reported that he did not take part in the important training session today which was the final dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s final. However according to tha coach of the Lions Otto Pfister, Alexandre Song may be "fit". The German explained that the absence of the midfielder from training on Saturday morning was out of "choice" without giving further details.

If Song does not take part he is expected to be in the stands along his teammate Bikey who got that famous red in the semi final for upending not an opponent but one of the stretcher carriers!

Let’s hope that he recovers quickly as Arsenal may have to call upon him now that the squad looks depleted by injuries (picked up on international duty)!