Early Season Casualties… Rosicky, Eduardo and Toure…

The season has just barely begun, we've had just the two friendlies, but already we're encountering a few casualties down at the Arsenal. The big news today is that Kolo Toure may have contracted Malaria whilst out in Africa this summer. Celestine Babayaro, who was supposed to have a trial at Portsmouth is currently in a hospital in Chelsea recovering from a bout of malaria himself.

Meanwhile, it has been understood that we've sent Kolo to a hospital in Vienna after he returned to pre-season training completely unknowing. The Arsenal club doctors had strange readings on his vitals and have sinced taken action. The effects of such a disease are normally treated well and the player should be back to his best within 2 to 4 weeks. Yakubu and Loman LuaLua are also two players who've contracted the disease in previous seasons, both being resolved early on.

So the casualties are mounting up and Tomas Rosicky has gone from being "definitely fit" for the start of the season to "maybe training in August" to "definitely out for the start of the season". It's a bit of a mystery of which is the injury jinx that the Czech midfielder has. It's obviously not a great for him but we've lost a player and we don't know when we'll get him back.

One player who could be his replacement until he is fit could Samir Nasri, who is very exciting. And Theo Walcott could be deployed on the right of midfield. Tomas is one of our experienced players, so losing him for a big amount of time would be quite detrimental to our cause.

On the Eduardo front, there has been a delay in his return to training, and he is a player that we definitely don't want to rush. Van Persie on the other hand, I believe is fit which means we could start the season with VP and Ade up front (if he stays!) and Nasri and Walcott on the wings...

Arsene has said that he is looking to bring in one player and the defensive midfield position is the obvious candidate. Diaby and Denilson are "in-house" options, but there is a lack of a ball winner / tackler in the squad. We've been linked with Veloso, Banega and Gaurin, but none of this seems to be too solid.

Arsene said about this position:

“We will need one more body in there. At the moment we do not have Alex Song who is going to the Olympic games, Abou Diaby was not here tonight and nor was Fabregas. If we find a reasonable target then we will do it. But there is no special name on the list.”

With Toure out of the start of the season and Alex Song away at the Olympics, could Arsene be forced to get in another centre back or will he put his trust in Senderos and Djourou? It’s an interesting time for Arsene, the next couple of signings could be crucial.

Speak soon…]]>

Match Report: Szombathelyi Haladás 1 – 1 Arsenal & Tuesday Round Up

The team that started was: Manuel Almunia, Justin Hoyte, Gavin Hoyte, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Jack Wilshere, Denilson, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela.

This was our first chance to see Vela and he had a decent game up front. It was obvious that he wasn't 100% match fit. He had some good moments, good touches, good runs, but lacked sharpness. I can't judge Vela on this game, but I'm sure there is more to come from him. He had a few good chances but failed to take advantage.

The game started with Bendtner and Vela up front which pushed out Walcott to the right. Bendtner looked good and has a big presence about himself. The one player who caught my eye for the second game running was the 16 year old Jack Wilshere. Deployed on the left hand side of midfield, his inventive play was years ahead of his age, his dummies, his dribbling and his creativity was a real ray of sunshine. Believe me, this kid will be the real deal.

In the centre we saw Denilson and Ramsey combine together for the second game in a row and Denilson is obviously a candidate for the defensive midfield position in Arsene's eyes. Ramsey was deployed in the centre and it's a position that Arsene says he sees him in long term. His play was good, tidy and effective. Again, a player that looks ahead of his age but still raw in some areas.

At the back we saw Sagna and Clichy on the wings. As they both missed the Euros, it was all about match fitness for them too. Gavin and brother Justin Hoyte were deployed in the centre of defence.

The game started well with Arsenal dominating the early exchanges. By the 15th minute though, the home side had started to get into it more and were showing that they posed a danger. As the hald went on, Szombathelyi became more confident and that's definitely a good thing to make these boys step it up a level. Good passing from Wilshere, Denilson and Ramsey created many chances. Walcott deployed on the right wing showing a few classy touches and bursts of pace.

It wasn't a real shock when Szombathelyi went ahead, albeit against the run of play, but a good move, a lob and despite young Hoyte's efforts of a goal line clearance, the goal stood and it was 1-0 to Szombathelyi.

Szombathelyi 1 – 0 Arsenal

The goal kicked us back into action and it wasn’t long before we scored our equaliser. The minutes ticked down and it looked like we’d go in 1-0, but then a moment of magic, combined with a longish ball and a good take down by Bendtner. The big dane took the ball down straight out of the air in one move and passed it in another move…. straight to the feet of the onrushing Walcott, who tucked it away Henryesque passed a defender and the goalkeeper.

Szombathelyi 1 - 1 Arsenal

Half time soon approached, and no doubt, a good half for the youngsters.

The second half saw the introduction of Vito Mannone, Armand Traore, Mark Randall, Henri Lansbury in place of Manuel Almunia, Gavin Hoyte, Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela.

The second half was more of the same, with the teams evenly matched, but Arsenal with more possession. Henri Lansbury played well throughout the second half and he can’t be too far away from the first team either. Francis Coquelin and Jay Simpson came on on the 62nd minute for Nicklas Bendtner and the impressive Jack Wilshere and both very good substitutes, with the young Frenchman particularly strong in midfield.

The game ended 1-1 and it was definitely a good run out for the team.

Nasri hails “immense club”

So, let’s take a look at a few other news stories floating around today. Young Samir Nasri has been busy being excited, which is awesome to hear. He’s been training with the team and has met his new team mates, albeit yet to make an appearance. He should make his debut against Stuttgart next Wednesday.

The Frenchman said:

“I’m so excited. I’m discovering my new team-mates. But I’m not lost at all, with all those Frenchmen. Today I’m very happy to be a Gunner. I have joined an immense club where there’s everything to achieve great things. I’m delighted to be part of this new adventure. Arsenal are a reference point.”

Not sure what he means about a reference point, maybe he means it’s indicative of his career and performances so far. He’s also taken some time out to praise Arsene Wenger:

“He’s been decisive. He represents stability and continuity. We understand we can work on the long term with him. I think he’s been at Arsenal for 13 years. It means the world. I was looking for that kind of guarantee to advance my career. I didn’t want to go to a club, even a legendary one, where everything could change from one day to another. I know Arsene Wenger’s going to help me improve. He has had a lot of success with other French players, especially youngsters he helped blossom.”

It’s called loyalty, and I hope Samir takes it on board. But he’s right, there is stability and ambition and I’m sure Samir will revel in his opportunity.

Productive day today.

Until tomorrow…]]>

Match Preview: Szombathelyi H v Arsenal

The confirm line up is:

Almunia
Goalkeeper
 
Sagna
Right Back
Gavin Hoyte
Centre Back
Justin Hoyte
Centre Back
Clichy
Left Back
 
Walcott
Right Wing
Ramsey
Midfielder
Denilson
Midfielder
Wilshere
Left Wing
 
  Bendtner
Stiker
Vela
Support Stiker
 

With the substitutes: Vito Mannone, Armand Traore, Mark Randall, Francis Coquelin, Henri Lansbury and Jay Simpson.

It’s an exciting time where we’ll be able to see Vela up front and Wishere on the wing. You may see Walcott and Vela rotate a bit during the game… okay, time to kick off…]]>

Monday Update (Just about, could Gallas be the next out of the door)

I'll leave you with a thought based on rumours, based on speculation, which is as the title says that William Gallas could be on his way to PSG or Juventus and news circulating is that they've both made bids of approximately £5m.

How do you feel? Part of me would be very happy but part of me will know that we'd be losing an experienced player. Who would you bring in? Players like Kompany, Baloy and Zapata have been linked and how will the departure of the club captain effect the club?

More tomorrow... zzzzzzz]]>

Sunday Round Up, Walcott, Hleb, Ade & Signings…

Where was I? The Barnet game has got many fans excited, with Aaron Ramsey particularly impressing. It's early days, but the young Welshman looks like a very decent acquisition. Of course, we know that Jack Wilshere, albeit very young, is highly rated by Arsene. The next friendly takes place this Tuesday against Szombathelyi H. (part of the Austrian tour) and it's live on Arsenal TV online... more on that later...

Now that Alex "Judas" Hleb had left, I've felt a sense of peace, a sense of cleanliness and a sense of "good riddance". Hleb managed to take all the years he's played for Arsenal and the love we've had for him and screw it all into a big ball, put it in his mouth and spit it out, on the floor next to some dog poop. And if that wasn't bad enough, he's forgotten everything we've done for him, the agony we endured when he refused to shoot when confronted with an open goal, kissed the badge of Barcelona and proclaimed his love for the club.

When Henry left, he emanated his "hard decision", his "love for Arsenal" and how there would only be one other club that he could move to, and that Arsenal would always be in his heart. A big difference between the two players and a key reason why we feel so disappointed with the Belarussian. What did we mean to him? Anything?

And just when on top of all that you would think it couldn't get any worse. Today Alex Hleb continued with Barcelona's long protracted tapping up campaign for none other than Cesc Fabregas - declaring Cesc "loves the club" and "hopes he will be back". Well, we all know that Cesc has a great affection for Barcelona and that he is Catalonian. Of course he has love for Barcelona. But why start talking about him moving away from Arsenal? Because Alex Hleb is a Judas. His comments don't justify repeating here, but in a weird way, I must share:

“He told me lots of things [about Barcelona], his time in the academy with players like Pique, Messi and so on. He loves this club, and though he’s at Arsenal, who knows, maybe one day he’ll come back here.”

Really Alex, is there need? Anyway, Nasri is better so you can just go down Las Ramblas and eat some Paella. Not the nice Paella, the one that messes you up for days…

Quick change of subject, and let’s talk about our young super star int he making, Theo Walcott. He’s been a revelation at the end of last season and we all hope he will be a big player for us this season. He’s been in the press and spoke about the new season. He expects more from himself and said:

“In five years’ time I want to be a regular for Arsenal and England, scoring 20 goals a season. That’s a lot, but you have to set your sights high. I want to win the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup. That’s the main thing, medals. People go on about money and contracts, but for me it’s always going to be about the football.”

It’s clear to see that his view differs from the likes of Flamini, Ade and Hleb. Is it down to his English roots? Who knows, but a remarkable kid and a super star in the making. Theo has been talking about his England call up too and how he thinks it was too early on.

“I didn’t expect the call-up. There was a lot of pressure on me straight away.  With most young players their development is not on the telly or spoken about, but with me it was different. The England call-up didn’t help my development, because everyone was expecting something straight away. In the end it was a good experience, but at the time it was like, ‘whoa’. Whereas before I hadn’t played in the Premier League, some players were probably thinking ‘What’s he doing here? He doesn’t deserve to be here’, now I’d been doing well. The players made me feel welcome, they trusted me on the ball – which was nice. I felt more part of the squad.”

I like hearing Theo as he’s got a sense of dignity and reality to what he says. If Theo can hit 20 goals this season that that would be really positive. If you look at the end of the season and saw his performances, you can potentially see that number achievable.

Before I go, Arsene spoke after the Barnet game about a few topics. Ade-bye-yawn was one of them, and Arsene has stated that he will be staying. He’s under contract and Arsene wants to keep him. Arsene goes on to speak about how it’s different than Hleb as he was in a stronger position and that Nasri was brought in as a direct replacement for Hleb. The comments from Arsene last week about being comfortable with this decision also vindicates the arrival of Nasri.

Finally, on new players, Arsene said that there is still one or two faces to join the squad and that is good news.

“Yes you can expect signings. I don’t know where and how many, but we’re in the market. If there’s a good opportunity we’ll take it.”

Although we’ve strengthened in the attacking department with the arrival of Nasri, Ramsey and Vela, but with the loss of Diarra, Gilberto and Flamini, we’ve got to look the defensive group of players and add to it.

Okay, adios, sleep tight, if you’re reading this on Monday then Good Morning!]]>

Barnet 1 – 2 Arsenal

The season has officially started and the first pre-season game of the season finished Barnet 1 - 2 Arsenal. It was a good run out for the boys.

The line up saw Ramsey and Denilson start in central midfield with Traore on the left and surprise starter Lansbury on the right. Henri Lansbury is highly rated by the Arsenal staff and Arsene has talked about his role in the reserves and how the player could break into the first team. He start today was a vindication of how high the esteem the player is held.

Up front saw Bendtner and Walcott start as Vela was earlier withdrawn. His replacement in the squad was Francis Coquelin, a new summer signing as revealed many months ago by us. Arsene has talked about how ultimately Walcott will be a striker, and today showed an idea of how he could be deployed. The back five consisted of first teamers Sagna, Clichy and Alumnia with Justin Hoyte and Harvard Nortveit starting in central defence.

The game was a good run out for the team, but the team obviously lacked cohesion as the mix of reserve, youth and first teamers may not have played too many games together. Arsenal went 1-0 down to Barnet when Kenny Gillet, a friend of Gael Clichy, won and scored a free kick outside the D. The first half finished 1-0 to Barnet and it was a good effort from the home team.

The second half saw a host of changes and the highlight of the changes was the introduction of Jack Wilshere, a very highly rated youngster “with the dribbling skills of Alex Hleb”. Jay Simpson was another youngster introduced and again he is a highly rated striker, the player was on loan Millwall. On the 63rd minute, Simpson scored his goal after some sublime play from Jack Wilshere and it wasn’t long after that Nacer Bazarite, a player who was the top scorer for the reserves last season, scored the winner.

Coquelin was comfortable in midfield during his second half outing and Mannone was solid in goal too.

A good game, a chance to see Denilson in defensive midfield and Ramsey in the attacking midfield role, albeit the young Welshman sometimes found himself defending whist Denilson moved forward.

For a full match report, detailed action by action, view the report by Gooner Talk.

Okay, it’s very very late… have a good Saturday night, a good Sunday and I’ll be back on Sunday evening in London to round up the news and events of the coming day…

Til tomorrow.]]>

Match Preview: Barnet vs Arsenal

In typical pre-season friendly manner, we'll most probably have two teams out, a stronger one for the first half and a few younger players in the second half...

First Half

Here’s the starting XI line up that I’d like to see play…

Almunia
Goalkeeper
 
Sagna
Right Back
Gavin Hoyte
Centre Back
Nordtveit
Centre Back
Clichy
Left Back
 
Walcott
Right Wing
Ramsey
Midfielder
Denilson
Midfielder
Traore
Left Wing
 
  Bendtner
Stiker
Vela
Support Stiker
 

It will be a good chance to see Vela up front along side Bendtner with Ramsey and Denilson deployed in central midfield. Arsene is still experimenting with Traore at left wing, something which the Frenchman discussed at the end of last season. I’d expect Hoyte Junoir and the rock Nordtveit given a run out too in the first half. Sagna will start too, coming back from injury.

Second Half

In the second half, I’d expect a few changes. We’ll probably see Jay Simpson up front with Randall, the highly rated Wilshere in midfield. But all in all, it should be a good run out for the kids.

Exciting times ahead… the Emirates cup is the following weekend with a few other friendlies dotted around.

Can’t wait. The match itself is live on Arsenal TV Online of course, and kick off is at 3pm!]]>

It's all change at the Emirates…

This summer it's all change at the Emirates and the Arsenal squad is changing. We've gone through the transition period which saw players like Fabregas, Ade, VP, Rosicky, Almunia, Toure, etc become better players, but this summer, maybe something envisaged by Arsene, it's time to change a few players around, refresh the squad and go full force into the new season.

Arsene, I believe, knew it would be hard to keep some of the team, as he did say that one of the main thing to do this summer was to "keep the team together". He's a man of consistency and would have liked to keep the squad together and add to it. I think we'd have signed Nasri even if Hleb had stayed as Arsene had talked about add one or two players of quality to the squad.

Of course, events have occurred and we've lost three of our players in Hleb, Flamini and Gilberto. I think Arsene was always going to let Gilberto go. Although there is a lot of ambiguity over the actual fee. Today's papers say the fee is £1m, but Sky Sports reported yesterday that the fee was £7.9m. Quite contrasting figures, with the latter being somewhere in the region that Juventus and Milan were talking about earlier this year.

With three "big names" leaving the squad, Arsene has to buy and of course he's started with Ramsey and Nasri. Two players whom I have high hopes for. Nasri in particular is a player of immense quality. Anyone who plays Football Manager or Championship Manager will know that he becomes a "top ten in the world" player... whether or not that is a gage, is up to you. But Nasri is highly regarded and Arsene has a genuine sense of excitement over the signing.

There will be a Barnet preview in the next blog, but there is a lot of hype surrounding Ramsey's appearance this weekend. It will be a prime opportunity to see the 17-year old who has been so widely talked about and featured in the tug of war between us and Man U (oh, and Everton). The new giggs? Let's wait and see. He'll feature in most of the pre-season activity, so by the start of the season we'll know much more about Aaron Ramsey.

The squad in full is: Manuel ALMUNIA (GK), Nacer BARAZITE, Nicklas BENDTNER, Gael CLICHY, DENILSON, James DUNNE, Rui FONTE, Gavin HOYTE, Justin HOYTE, Henri LANSBURY, Vito MANNONE (GK), Havard NORDTVEIT, Abu OGOGO, Aaron RAMSEY, Mark RANDALL, Paul RODGERS, Bacary SAGNA, Jay SIMPSON, Rene STEER, Wojciech SZCZESNY (GK), Armand TRAORE, Carlos VELA, Theo WALCOTT, Jack WILSHERE.

Not only will we get to see Ramsey, we'll also get to see Vela and hopefully a bit more of Walcott. Rising stars such as Jack Wilshere, Rui Fonte and Henri Lansbury are also planned to take part. I'm very excited about this game. It will be good to see Denilson in the defensive midfield position too as he may see himself deployed in that position more often this season...

Just before I go, I just want to talk about Gilberto. You can see how highly regarded he was by Arsene and Arsenal just by the way the website has attributed most of it's real estate to Gilberto pictures, stats, personal tributes and new articles. Compare that to the one post on Hleb and you can gage the difference. Of couse Gilberto will be greatly missed. Thank you GS for the years you've given us and I sincerely you go on win titles with Panathiakos... Arsenal said:

Everyone at Arsenal would like to thank Gilberto for his huge contribution to the Club both on and off the pitch, and wish him the very best for the future.

Here here.

And if you’re like me and one of those of you who enjoy football football football and of course anything Arsenal related, it’s the London Master’s tomorrow (Saturday)… and there is one hell of a line up in store… In goal will be Vince Bartram and the outfield players will be made up of Ray Parlour, Andy Linighan, Scott Marshall, Danny O’Shea, Eddie McGoldrick, Matthew Joseph and Steve Morrow. Steve’s travelling from Dallas back to the UK to take part, and there is another player TBC, so it’s looks like a very exciting night in store… Just in case you don’t know, the venue etc is London Masters – Wembley Arena – Saturday 19th July 2008, 7PM. You can buy tickets here: http://www.mastersfootball.com/ticket_reg/tickets.asp?id=20]]>

Hleb signs for Barcelona for £14.5m

It's a good deal considering that he could have invoked the Webster clause and move for about £6m. It's a deal that means we've made a slight profit on the player who has been indifferent in an Arsenal shirt. Sometimes mesmerising, sometimes awful.

We've signed Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey, two exciting young wingers, so it's maybe time the Belarussian moved on...

This is what the Barcelona site reported:

While Seydou Keita will become the first player from Mali to represent Barça, Hleb will be the first Belorussian to play for the club. In fact, there has only ever been one player from the former Soviet Union to play for the Blaugrana as Igor Korneiev appeared during the 1994-95 campaign.

And their article continued:

Hleb will bring versatility

Aleksandr Hleb will bring technique, strength and awareness to Barça in the 2008-09 season after perfecting his craft during successful spells with VfB Stuttgart and Arsenal.

The latest Blaugrana signing, who was born in Minsk 27 years ago on May 1, 1981, is the second midfielder to join this summer after the club bought Seydou Keita from Sevilla. Able to play with both feet, Hleb will give Pep Guardiola different options with his versatility.

Making a name

Hleb moved to the Bundesliga in 2000-01 when he left FC BATE Borisov to join VfB Stuttgart. That is where he began to make his name and spent five seasons with the club.

Growing with the Gunners

In 2005, Arsenal moved to sign him and he quickly became an integral part of the Gunners’ side. In 2007-08, he helped the team perform well as part of a midfield combination alongside Cesc Fàbregas and Mathieu Flamini. For two seasons at Arsenal, he played alongside Thierry Henry, who he will now team up with again at Camp Nou.

Playing in Paris

Alongside Henry in 2006, Hleb played for Arsenal in the Champions League final against Barcelona in Paris. After a game in which he stood out, the Belarussian was substituted for José Antonio Reyes in the 85th minute.

http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/english/noticies/futbol/temporada08-09/07/n080716104948.html

We wish Hleb all the luck at Barcelona, something similar to the demise of Thierry Henry… I mean performances of Henry, I mean…

With the “bad apples” gone or going, we’ll surely be stronger next season… More later…

Update: Interesting facts from Setanta:

This is how Hleb performed with us over the last three seasons..

Season Games Goals Assists
2005/06 25 3 0
2006/07 33 2 4
2007/08 31 2 6
Total 89 7 10

And we actually win more and score more with Hleb…

Arsenal in the league With Hleb Without Hleb
Win % 54% 60%
Goals/game 1.70 1.86

This is surely a very good deal for us!]]>

Sky Sports are going mad…

 According to them, we’ve signed Fernando Sava, ex Fulham player and shared the #9 shirt with Eduardo…

Of course Sava does play for Arsenal, but the one from Argentina…

Will Sky Sports fix their mistake, or will it mislead the public forever!?!?!!?]]>

Thanks Gilberto For The Service, We Wish You Luck…

He will be missed, no doubt, but I think we'll all agree that it's time for him to move on... He's 32 now and Arsene favours the younger generation, lower salary, greater enthusiasm... I can't think of a bad word to say about Gilberto. He's been a great player for us, a quiet player and a player who has earned the respect of the fans. In a day and age where money speaks and loyalty is no more, Gilberto has stayed with us through thick and thin, even last season when Juventus were in for him, he stuck to his "guns" and stayed with us.

According to the papers, Gilberto is travelling to Panathinaikos for his medical. It is presumed that the player has agreed a three year deal with the Greek side with Arsenal being paid £2m for his services.

Ken Friar, who has been active involved in our transfer dealings said:

“We have agreed to the transfer and signed the papers. It is now an official agreement. We had other offers but we respected Gilberto’s desire to sign for Panathinaikos.”

The other clubs were believed to be Sampadoria and Everton, but the length of contract, financial offer and Champions League football was enough to swing the player the Greek side’s way.

As discussed yesterday, Gilberto is off, Diarra and Flamini are out already, so I expected some activity in the defensive midfield position.

In other news, Martin Keown has lathed into Hleb for his likely departure. He’s basically outlined that Hleb has won nothing, but leaves without proving himself to the club. Remember, players like Henry, Vieira and Pires had won trophies with us. Anyway, Mr Keown said:

“From what I can see – from an outside perspective, I’m not involved with the club – Alex is trying to wriggle his way out of the club, instead of just coming out and saying that he wants to leave. It’s disappointing because I don’t remember him having won a trophy and I think players in the past, like Henry, Vieira, Pires and Anelka, they all left with trophies under their belt. I’d like Hleb to stay a little bit longer and win a trophy, then he can deserve the right to go and make his money somewhere else, because there is a lot left in him as a player, as there is in Adebayor. But as an ex-player, you can feel sure that Arsene Wenger will make the right decision for Arsenal Football Club.”

In Arsene we trust…?

Well, Peter Hill Wood certainly trusts Arsene as he commented on the new recruits…

“I don’t know a great deal but it doesn’t terribly matter what I think. The man who matters is Arsene Wenger and he has very high hopes for both of them. They are pretty young and Arsene believes they can be pretty fine players. Nasri is a bit more advanced than Ramsey, who is 17. Samir has played at the top level and is an established player already. They are two very exciting prospects and they will strengthen the squad in a big way.”

Definitely, both very exciting prospects… take a look at Three Players For Next Season: Nasri, Ramsey & Vela - a little guide on what the three players can bring to us…

When asked about the Ade-bye-yawn / Hleb transfers, PHW said…

“No, nothing new. But it is a long-running saga in both cases”

Okay, I really need to post this before it turns Wednesday… here’s to a suprise signing tomorrow…]]>