World Of Arsenal

Arsenal 1 – 1 Middlesborough: Have we blown it?

Yesterday’s predicted line-up including the bench was spot-on. It was exactly what I thought Arsene would do, but maybe it’s obvious considering who was available and the fact we were at home.

With both Man U and Chelsea winning earlier in the day, we had slipped to second in the league with all 3 teams having played 29 games.

Match Report: Full time, Arsenal 1 – 1 Middlesborough

The game started at pace with both team trying make an early impression.

A free flowing move between Ade, VP and Hleb saw George Boetang send the ball to Ade who snuck it under the advancing goalkeeper. 1-0 to Arsenal? Ruled offside by a linesman who really should check the rule book, if the ball comes off an opposing player, the offside rule doesn’t reply – remember England v France, Gerrard and Henry?

Anyway, the game continued and we were obviously in a good mood, with everyone working hard. Good work from the team, saw Eboue get the ball out on the right. His play was so bad that his cross actually swung along the byline and hit the bar. A long ball from Cesc saw Van Persie swipe at thin air, something a 100% fit VP would have volleyed home.

More good work from the team saw Schwarzer save well from a fierce Eboue shot from about 7 yards who made some space for himself (yes Eboue hit the target!). Not the time or place to talk about this, but I’d really like to see someone else come in for Eboue as he really doesn’t seem like he understands how important these games are. Having said, that, around the 20 min mark, good work from him and Ade teed up Cesc for a shot, although the pass was a little short, Cescy still managed to get the ball on target.

Cesc is something special and an 60 yard straight ball down the middle saw Ade have an attempt on goal. We started to dominate the game and Ade was tussling, fighting for everything. However, on the 24th minute he was wrongly awarded a freekick against him – and from that free kick a long ball down to Tuncay a cross on the ground saw Aliaidiere find the back of the net.

To the shock of the Emirates, Arsenal 0 – 1 Middlesborough.

By the way, it was offside, Aliaidiere was about 2 yards ahead of play, but then is there any worth moaning? 

A few minutes of nothing-ness followed until the 28th minute when Flamini & Fabregas set up VP on the edge of the box, who elected to shoot rather than pass and it went out for a throw in.

It had been raining before the game and a lot of players had been falling over, but Eboue’s run in the box was clearly a drag down and in the 32nd minute, surely a penalty to Arsenal. Not given. Arsenal 72% posession, Middlesborough 28%.

It was intiscing. From the 35th minute it was an onslaught, the play was awesome, we had shots from Ade, Eboue and Cesc. But for goodness sake, Mark Halsey, do you know what the hell a foul is? VP had been hacked down twice 15 yards nothing given.

Half time, one nil down.

The second half started well with a good amount of pressure, a stike wide from VP and a header over from Gallas. Hleb wasn’t in the game that much and Arsene had obviously told him to get into the game. For the first 10 mins everything went through him. But then strangely enough, nothing really happened for a while. Kolo heading wide from a corner.

There was a lack of urgency, the crowd were frustated. Walcott and Bendtner were warming up and surely the game needed this… on the 60th minute VP for Bendtner, Walcott for Sagna (instead of Eboue) which was a little strange…

Both made an immediate impact and both Theo mazing runs and Bendtner different approach saw crosses and an attempt on goal by Bendtner from an Eboue cross… But time was running out, 65th minute passes still one nil down.

An awesome ball from Hleb saw Fabregas through one on one with the keeper but Schwarzer saved well. The replays showed it was a golden opportunity and Cescy knew it.

The next chance didn’t come until the 73rd minute when a looping ball from Toure on the right saw Cescy’s header hit the post and go wide… 15 minutes to go? Would we salvage a draw? Or would we lose our 2nd league game of the season to the same opponents.

Well 10 mins passed and nothing happened, so it’s now the 85th minute and hold on….

A corner from Fabregas, Toure’s header it’s a goal, Arsenal 1 – 1 Middlesborough!

5 minutes to find a winner. It’s amazing how many times we’ve scored in the last 15 minutes of games?

Things got a bit crazy, Mido’s Karate kick moments later saw Mido sent off, Clichy stretchered off and Senderos come on for the last 5 minutes. 3-4-3 the formation. 4 minutes of stoppage time, quite an end to the game. We must have had about 10 chances, great play, an amazing last 5 minutes.

Why on earth couldn’t we play like this for the 90 minutes?

The title is looking more distant, but we’re still in the race.

More later…]]>

Wigan 0 – 0 Arsenal: Another point closer or two points dropped?

AdeWe had another bout of injuries, which saw Gilberto, Flamini and Fabregas all start. Fabregas was supposed to be on the right, but often drifted inside. Flamini then went out right, but again ended up inside. We therefore had no one on the right. As the game continued, it was clear to see we had no width. It was kind of weird to see as Hleb naturally goes inside and it left Clichy and Sagna to provide the width. Pre match positives were that Toure, Song and Van Persie all started on the bench. Bendtner and Adebayor started up front. It was the first time they had started a premiership game together. Bendtner had played up at Everton but he was red carded in that game and Ade came on for him.

Game Overview 

We started the game well, Cesc sending Ade through in the first minute, only to be saved by Kirkland. I thought he would have been better off trying to go round him, but Ade elected to try and squeeze it under his body. It was one of our most promising chances and it came so early on. The Wigan defence learnt from this and Sharner and Melchiot became much tighter. Melchiot blocking an Ade shot moments later. Wigan had a game plan of pressing up high up the pitch. They were content in letting us have possession in our own half, but as soon we crossed the white line, they pressed us. It was clear to see that they didn’t want us to have any time on the ball. We managed to play though, and Bendtner broke free and had a deflected shot wide.

Cesc sent Bendtner through on the 16th minute but the ball took a horrible bobble and he was unable to test the keeper. It was the first real sign of the pitch being a problem, but on the 15th minute mark, it really did start to cut up and by the half hour mark, it looked like we were playing on a farm after harvest (it’s the only way to explain it). Koumas had a free kick headed out by Gilberto shortly after, and Fabregas had a header saved by Kirland moments after.

The team were getting frustrated and Fabregas and Heskey had a small altercation on the sideline where Cescy felt that Heskey was being over physical, pushed him slightly and then Heskey retaliated with a light head butt. Cesc clutched his face but who really knows how strong Heskey really is? Both got away with just a talking too, but it was clear to see frustration in Cesc. The first half ended 0-0.

We started the second half well, and had a chance from a Clichy free kick a few minutes in, when a mix up between Kirkland and Sharner let him in, Kirkland saving well though. Moments later, Cesc was through and instead of shooting, he elected to pass to Bendtner which was intercepted. Heskey was soon subbed for Siberski and this through life into the Wigan team. They came forward with verve and Melchiot and Valencia exposed the space in front of Clichy, with Valencia having a cracking shot, which Almunia palmed over.

Van Persie replaced Bendtner on the 65th minute and couldn’t really get into the game. It was clear to see that he was lacking match practice but good to see him unscathed with minutes on the pitch. He had a chance in the final 10 minutes, but shot high from 20 yards. Fabregas had a chance in the final minutes, but it was an inevitable 0-0.

Team: Almunia, Sagna, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas, Flamini, Silva (Toure 65), Hleb, Adebayor, Bendtner (Van Persie 65).

The Pitch

Now, we have won “ground of the year” and “groundsman of the year” since I can remember the award began. But surely our standards aren’t too high. But this pitch was awful. I’ve never seen a worse pitch. After 15 minutes, it literally cut up and the ball never stayed flat. I can’t believe these pitches are allowed in the modern day of football. And yes, I know they were worse back in the day, but the game has changed. Arsene agrees.

“It is not a professional football pitch. The pitch is a disaster. It is disrespectful for the fans who come and pay money to see that.”

Another point closer or two points dropped?

Arsene spoke after the game:

“I am sure we will take-off again. We have to keep our calm, focus and belief. I don’t know, we shall see at the end of the season (whether it was two points dropped or a point gained). You go through a patch like that sometimes. The negative is that we have a deficit in points. The positive is that we didn’t lose a game. Overall, there was room for us to take more. Not against Aston Villa – the point was what we deserved – but against Birmingham and today we lost four points.”  

Most Arsenal fans will be disappointed with this result, myself included. It was a weekend of shocks which saw even lowly Barnsley beat Chelsea. With both United and Chelsea out of the cup now, it will be an intense final 9 games to the end of the season. It’s another two points dropped, but a week rest and a few players back should see us re-invigorated for the weekend clash. By the time we take on Middlesborough for a 5.15pm kick off, United will be one point clear of us after travelling to Derby – unless of course, Derby can really do something really special, but I doubt it.

FIFA to look into Taylor challenge

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been talking about Matt Taylor’s challenge and has asked the FA for the file. It’s a weird situation to be in and a confusing statement from the governing bodies. Either Blatter thinks that the punishment of a 3 game ban wasn’t enough or is aggrieved at the actual challenge. Will Blatter review all challenges in the Premiership? Will he reduce Aliaidiere’s ban? Or is this another twist to the idoicy which surrounds our judicial system?

Blatter speaks:

“We have the right to ask national associations to give us the file – and if we feel the suspension is not enough we will come back on that. And not only for three matches but temporarily banned or a life ban depending on the severity of the attack.  Why the hell should footballers demolish each other?”

Arsene challenges Cesc

Arsene has been speaking about Cesc’s performances in light of media speculation that we are preparing a new contract for him. His current contract runs out in 2014 and Arsene has challenged him to continue at this level and win a trophy.

“I don’t think this is the time to talk about contract situations, especially when a player is under a long contract. I believe let’s first win something, in Europe or domestically, then you are in that league.”

News Round Up

Eboue has suffered criticism from the press in respect to the challenge on Evra in the United game. He talks about this critism. Personally, I think his performances this season have been poor and he should be thinking about that.

Carlos Vela was in action this weekendand started for Osasuna in a 4-3-3 formation on the left striking role. Randall and Simpson also started today and here’s a round up from Young Guns. In other Primera Liga news Thierry Henry’s Barcelona took on Robert Pires’ Villareal and lost 2-1.

Arsene has registered his interest in signing Athletico Madrid’s Ignasio Camacho, who starred in Athletico Madrid’s 4-2 win over Barcelona last week. More on this on Arsenal Youth.]]>

Wigan vs Arsenal Preview: Team News, Line Ups

Wigan vs Arsenal

A trip to the JJB stadium has always been a good venue for us. We beat them 3-2 in their first season back in the premiership and 1-0 last season with a Cesc inspired last minute Adebayor effort.

It’s going to be an exciting trip, a game we have to win. If we do, we will be 4 points clear as United feature in the FA Cup today against Portsmouth. Wigan are currently 14th in the table, but only 2 points clear of the relegation zone. It is a very tight relegation battle with Reading currently in 18th on 25 points, Bolton 17th on 26 points, Birmingham, 16th on 26 points and Sunderland 15th on 27 points too. Wigan under Steve Bruce are a different side and have won 2 of their last 4 games.

One player that Arsene knows well is the Hondurian international Wilson Palacios who had a trial with Arsenal last summer before signing for Bruce’s Birmingham and then Bruce’s Wigan. I’ve kept an eye on this player and he’s a good all-rounder and a good addition to the Wigan squad…

Injuries

We’ve got injury problems (the story of our season) and we will be without Theo Walcott, who suffered a thigh strain against Colorado Rapids in a friendly on Thursday. Denilson also suffered from a recurrence of his hamstring injury. Abou Diaby is out after picking up a calf strain against Milan, but should be back in training next week. Kolo Toure and Alex Song will also both miss out after failing to recover from calf strains and a knee injury respectively. Finally, Rosicky is out for another 2 weeks and of course Eduardo misses out with his long term injury. The Cannon talks about our injuries further and the impact of the Rapids match.

Team News

Djourou and Van Persie both return to the squad having missed quite a few games between them. Van Persie lasted an hour against Rapids on Thursday and Djourou has been passed fit.

The squad for Sunday looks like:

Goalkeepers: Almunia, Lehmann

Defenders: Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Djourou, Hoyte

Midfielders: Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas, Gilberto

Strikers: Adebayor, Bendtner, Van Persie

Starting XI

We’ll surely revert to a 4-4-2 game today, simply because of the players we have available. We will start with a team as close to the Milan game as possible. At the back we will see the same 5 as Tuesday, but in midfield, we have both Walcott and Diaby out through injury and Eboue serves the final game of his suspension. I expect Fabregas to move to the right hand side for Walcott / Eboue and Gilberto to come in alongside Flamini.

Let’s take a look at the starting line up for tomorrow:

Almunia
Goalkeeper
Sagna
Right Back
Gallas
Centre Back
Senderos
Centre Back
Clichy
Left Back
Fabregas
Right Wing
Flamini
Defensive Midfielder
Gilberto
Defensive Midfielder
Hleb
Left Wing
Adebayor
Stiker
Bendtner
Support Stiker

Bendtner will be re-united with Adebayor up front with Van Persie on the bench. I’m sure we’re all glad to see VP back and also quite happy that he is coming back slowly, after his recent injury nightmare.

Gunners Live looks at the game and a quick run through the Wigan starting XI.

I’m off to Nice (en France) tomorrow for a two day break and will be desperately be in search of a pub to watch the Arsenal and an Internet cafe to write up my blog… if for any reason I don’t have access, here’s for a 4-0 win up north!

News Round Up (There’s a lot today!)

Bentley and Arsene exchange words

Young David Bentley now under the Mark Hughes wing school of annoying statements has urged Theo Walcott to leave Arsenal if he wants to prosper. Now, let’s take a look at this. Some Arsenal fans will be pleased that Bentley is having a good season. We all knew he had quality but his impatience and ego problem meant it was only a matter of time til he left Arsenal. He is a good player and is now an England international, but he’s not Arsenal class and it’s a shame that his bitterness comes out like this. If Bentley had an ounce of awareness, it would be clear to see that Theo is rated very highly by Arsene, has over 30 appearances in all competitions and has played in big games last season and this. It is very much in constrast to Bentley who obviously wasn’t in the same league at his age. Remember Theo is only 18.

Bentley said:

“Sometimes you need football, you need games to become better, to put your skills out on the football pitch. If he is not getting the minutes at Arsenal, he’s going to have to look elsewhere. Your career doesn’t start and end at Arsenal. It can flourish somewhere else. At the end of the day you want to make a career for yourself.”

There is no reason whatsoever that Bentley should speak about our player like this, I’m not a fan, although Arsene handles it better than I could possibly:

“Bentley is entitled to his opinion but it does not mean he is right. I don’t know why one player should incite another player to leave a club. It is not his job.”

Arsene goes on to talk about Theo’s contribution and that players should prosper by regular competition instead of a guaranteed fist place (hint, hint young David!):

“When you are in one of the biggest clubs in the world you have to accept competition. If you accept it, it makes you better, if you move down you are down, not at the top. I believe Theo can establish himself here. He is 18 and at that age to play in one of the biggest clubs in the world in a regular position is very difficult. When he comes on he makes a big impact, he’s not there completely yet when he starts a game.”

A Cultured Left foot agrees and talks about the idiocy of Bentley’s comments.

Ade praises Arsene

Ade moved to praise Arsene for his amazing ability to spot talent and the faith he shows in players. When Ade joined a lot of fans, including myself thought it was a bad signing but Arsene had faith in his abilities and now Ade is an integral part of our team and has scored 23 goals this season.

“To pay him back is going to be very difficult.At Monaco, from June to December I scored only one goal in 19 games. How come Arsene Wenger came and looked for me? It is something special. He is the one who gave me a chance to become who I am today. I want to keep on enjoying myself and listening to him.”

Here’s an interesting article from Gunners Live linking Ade with Milan.

Liam Brady becomes Ireland assistant manager 

Liam Brady was announced as Giovanni Trapattoni’s assistant manager. Although Arsene wouldn’t have been the happiest person about this, I’m sure he didn’t want to lose him and acknowledges the aspects it will be to Brady with international exposure.

“The board of directors and Arsene Wenger are quite happy for me to do this and to keep my job at Arsenal. Trapattoni needs to get to know the players and I can help him with that.”

It is debatable whether this new role will have an impact, but if it does, I’m sure Arsene will review.

We were [this close] to signing Robinho

Reports emerged yesterday that we were close to signing Robinho last season. We were in a tug of war for the player’s services the year before and in close contact with Madrid and his agent during the summer too. The player has been the inspiration behind Real Madrid’s good form and rise to the top of the liga. What an addition Robinho would have been to our squad this season. He’s a player in Arsene’s profile. He agent Ribeiro revealed:

“Last Summer I spoke to Pedrag Mijatovic and I told him that Robinho was not happy because Capello always kept him on the bench and he was not playing him. I told him that Robinho had an offer from Arsenal and that if he continued on the bench then he would move to London, but Mijatovic told me that my client would be the best in the world and that he would not be leaving.”

Maldini admits Arsenal deserved it

In a discussion starting by his team mate Kaka, Maldini admitted that it hurt him to be knocked out of the Champions League but also admitted that we completely deserved to knock them out. Maldini also said he will continue next year as he turns 40 and continue to play for Milan.

“We must accept this defeat. Analyzing the two games, we can see they were better than us. We created too few chances to bring home the qualification. I’m very sorry, it hurts, but we have to accept it.”

Blatter airs his opinions

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has commented on Eduardo’s horrific injury and calls for a crackdown on violent challenges int he league. He talks about the zero tolerance approach he would like to see adopted. It’s a dangerous avenue to go down as a lot of players do tackle without the intention of harming the opposition player and it could lead to a non-physical game which would ruin the game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bit absurd that Matt Taylor gets a shorter ban than Jeremie Aliaidiere for a worse challenge. Blatter said:

“Dangerous tackling is one of the most important issues in football at the moment. Players who do this kind of thing intentionally should be banned from the game.  Attacking somebody is criminal, whether it happens on a football pitch or elsewhere. It is a crime and should be treated as such.”

He also speaks about the national quota he wants to introduce next season in stage one. And also outlined plans for increasing this quota. There is a legal impact on how this could work as there is a freedom of trade act would be compromised. More on this later, but here’s what he had to say:

“Look at Arsenal – almost all the players are from outside England. There is no place for the young English players coming through because the clubs simply take players from the wider market. This is damaging to the identity and integrity of football.  The EU has not said it is impossible. The exemption for sport has already been established in the treaty. It has been said now that there is specificity of sport and its structures.”

Round Up of The Round Up

Here’s a round up of other news circulating at the moment. Young Guns reveals that we’re interested inHavant and Waterlooville’s young 12-year old striker Ryan Gates who has scored an incredible 95 goals in only 40 appearances this season. He also explores how Jay Simpson could be on his way out of Arsenal at the end of the season despite his match of the match performanceagainst Swansea.. I do like Jay and he is one of our young English players, and I’m sure Arsene wouldn’t let go of him unless he thought he ultimately wouldn’t be able to make it at Arsenal. The Arsenal Academy looks at under 16 player Jeffrey Monakana as his progress in the academy. 

Grimandi talks about Arsene’s signing policyand how we follow only the cream of Europe’s best players. He talks about how we follow players from 16 and 17 years onwards and continual monitor their progress. One 17 year we are currently looking to recruit is under 18 French international Pjanic. North London pride report on the possible signing of 17 year old French midfielder.

That’s a wrap!

That’s all for today, let’s see if Chelsea and United can be held to draws in the FA Cup to knacker them out a mid more this season and here’s to four points clear tomorrow!]]>

Arsenal 1 – 1 Aston Villa: Match Report, Analysis and Other Stuff

Match Report

The starting line up was the “alternative” version as discussed yesterday which saw Diaby start on the left and Walcott up front. Here’s the line up from yesterday: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby, Adebayor, Walcott.

We started brightly and showed a resolve to forget the events of last saturday. Walcott starting up front, looked dangerous and forced a save from Carson early on. The play was quick and precise, but Villa were always a threat. Agbonlahor and Young, on either wing, with freedom to roam, caused problems and it was the former who started to cause us problems.

It’s these types of games, against pacey forwards that Senderos is most suspect and he was continually caught out by the Villa front line. He and Gallas seemed nervous and their partnership didn’t look that great when under pressure. It was Agbonlahor who eventually “scored” when he broke free once more from our back line and with pace crossed through the middle. Senderos unfortunately was in the way, and his slide pushed the goal into his own net. 1-0 to Villa.

This seemed to bring confidence to the away team and it was a while before we got back into the groove. But when we did, we really did and started to build chances galore – not enough in the final third though, too many missed passes but to be honest, Villa’s defence was outstanding – as we knew they could be.

The game seemed to change with the introduction of Bendtner, to replace Diaby which saw Walcott go out on the right. It was a tactical game, with O’Neill playing the tactics to a tee. As the game reached the final third, we started to dominate and went forward with intent. We started to realise that we could actually lose this game. Senderos and Flamini were replaced with Denilson and Gilberto and we went with a kind of 2-5-3 formation. Also known as Gung-ho.

We literally threw the kitchen sink at Villa, with Cesc, Walcott & Ade testing the keeper. In actual fact, looking across the whole game, Walcott had a few chances, Cesc one golden opportunity in the first half, Hleb had chances, Flamini too and it was not for a matter of trying that we failed. We were about 1% off our game and Villa were 10% more on theirs (if that makes any sense), but our determination finally paid off.

Hleb and Cesc traded passes, rolled the ball back to Clichy who crossed to the far post. Ade knocked the ball down and Bendtner finished cooly and on the final minute of stoppage time, it was 1 – 1.

The Positives (Because I’m an optimist)

Today’s game has many positives. Although it was a draw, we played well, passed well in patches and looked dangerous. We were on the verge of losing this game, but remained resilient and eventually found the equaliser. Clichy and Sagna covered ground, looked good defending and good going forward. Walcott played well, struck the ball well, a few crosses aside and if he continues this improvement, he will surely gain more confidence. Ade played the “linking” role and held the ball up well. He didn’t manage to have that many chances, but his overall play was confident. And Bendtner scored yet another vital goal, which could prove very fruitful come the end of the season.

1 point gained, and we’re still top of the table.

The Negatives (Because some of you aren’t)

The Senderos / Gallas partnership seems to be inconsistent – they’ve had some good games together – but yesterdays wasn’t one of them. Both had goodish games, but both looked suspect in some areas. Will Kolo return for the clash against Milan? Or will Senderos have one of his better games next time? We looked tired and that’s not a good sign at this part of the season. We don’t look like we have the key, or va-va-voom to play well for 90 minutes. We need to find this again.

Summary

We can’t dwell on this result with the “big game” at the San Siro. Let’s look at this as a point gained and know that we’ve got Denilson, Diaby and Walcott back in the squad with Van Persie soon to return…

Arsene spoke:

“We had a hangover from last week definitely – you could see that in the first-half. We needed to dig deep to find the pace of the game. In the second-half we were a little bit better but lacked that spark. The reason we got a point today was the desire and the refusal to lose.”“Everyone goes through a bad spell, but every point gained is of vital importance. They were difficult opponents. They defended very well and were sharp on the break. We had to dig deep to get to the pace of the game and it was the desire and refusal to lose which got us a point.”With Man U and Chelsea winning, the gap is just one point. But we’re the ones in front and with 10 games to go, I’d rather be in front than anywhere else!

There was more to the game than I can report now… analysis on Villa’s stupid Eduardo chants, another more subjecive review of the game and a preview of the Milan game tomorrow.

Til then, happy Sunday!]]>

Thursday Round Up & Arsenal vs Aston Villa Preview

Evening all, it’s been a long day. That’s a funny expression because all days are the same length. Unless you base it on daylight vs  night in which case, every day is different and of course today was a longer day than yesterday and this will continue until mid July… then days will be shorter until mid Jan and so on and so on

Okay let’s start again.

Evening all, it’s been a action packed day!

Congratulations Arseblog.

First of all, let’s give a big round of applause to Arseblog which is 6 years old today. Arseblog has been an inspiration to all Arsenal bloggers out there and one of my many daily reads… well done, here’s for another six years!

The Judicial System 

Yesterday saw some real strange behaviour and highlighted the ludicrous judicial system it employs by giving former Arsenal striker, Jeremie Aliaidiere a 4 game ban for a slap on Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano.

Left Back says:

“So, let’s get this in context: Jeremie Aliadiere will miss 4 games because he ‘raised his hands’, not because of a punch, an elbow or anything that might really hurt a player. Martin Taylor gets 3 games after his brutal challenge put another player out of the game for 9 months.” – Read more here

It’s a strange symptom of a somewhat erratic governing body, which unfortunately “acts” as the law in football.

Eduardo Catch-Up 

The president of the Croatian FA flew into London yesterday to see Eduardo. Something we forget is the hero status that he has in Croatia. He is simply a wonderful player, someone who gels their team together and a nice guy in the process… Vlatko Markovic (the president) said:

“It is because of Eduardo I am here. It is a very worrying time. Not just as a player but as a person, he was close to our hearts. He came to Croatia when he was only 14. There have been thousands and thousands of text messages asking about him.”

When Markovic goes on to say “he is our superman“, you can understand how this tackle has affected a nation.

Good news, however, is that Eduardo has now been released from hospital, it was revealed on Arsenal.com. I hope he goes back home, had a good relaxing few days and then starts on the road to recovery.

He’s received over 21,500 messages and the support he’s had has been overwhelming!

For more information on how to contact Eduardo my post or via the Arsenal.com website and for a little tribute to what he is all about, click the bit of this sentence which is linked up!

Usmanov increases stake

In other news, The Fat Orange, also known as Mr Usmanov has been slowly but surely increasing his stake in Arsenal and has been again been commenting to the press about reaching a “blocking state”, which really means the biggest shareholder, but without full control. I.e. He can block any vote or action from the board.

“We have announced that our company will buy up to 25 percent. We do not have any other plans.”

To throw a spanner in the works, Metalloinvest, a company which Usmanov controls will sponsor Dynamo Moscow next year and what happens when if we gets Moscow in the Champions League next year?

I suppose the Emirates currently sponsor us, as well as at least 3 other teams, but this is slightly different as he is an owner – this kind of reminds me of Mr Chelski and his involvement in many clubs.

Aston Villa Preview

On Saturday an in-form Aston Villa travel to the Emirates in which will be a mouth watering clash. After the dropping points against their midlands rival Birmingham, it is vital that we win the game.

Adebayor - the key man this saturday

I did a peice on our attacking options yesterday, and highlighted the players who will fill the void left by Eduardo in the next few months.

At the Emirates and with a must win game, Emmanuel Adebayor could be the key man. I feel his is a little fatigued at the moment, he has been an ever present in our squad this season has has 19 goals to his name…

Almunia has been speaking ahead of the game and has been talking about our home form being vital if we are to win the league, and the blond haired goalkeeper has made a very good, if not obvious point. 3 points is a must at home, and possibly 3 points away is also a must in the run-in.

11 games to go boys!

“All the games we have at home must be won. Here we are so strong and that is what can help us win the title.

“What must not happen again is what happened in the League here against Birmingham where we dropped two points.”

“Our physical fitness is good and I think we are a young team that has everybody is in good shape. Mentally these young people have a lot of fantasy in their head and show that on the pitch.

“We have a good feeling in the dressing room and outside of football. That is the secret, the focus that we all have on what we want to do. That is what it is all about.”

Almunia will prove a vital player if he can perform like we know he can during the final games and can save us points with vital games against Man U, Chelsea and Spurs coming up.

“Young Theo” also spoke today and he could be a very important player. He scored two goals against Birmingham at the weekend and is more confident now. Let’s hope he goes on a goal scoring run and if he can hit 10 by the end of the season, we’ll have the league wrapped up. I know that that is a lot to ask as he has just got his first 2, but when he gets going, he really gets going… his pace and trickery (if he doesn’t out pace and out trick himself) will be a very useful weapon. Theo speaks:

“I feel upbeat, I feel confident. The goals helped and they gave me a boost so hopefully I can take that into Saturday. It was nice to get a poacher’s goal. My agents have told me I need more of those. Then the second was more about the kind of player I am. Left-foot too, which is something people have questioned me about. Now I just have to improve with every game and time will tell. After all, the boss picks the team so when I do play I will just do my best.”

Theo also talks about the Villa game and the danger men. He speaks about how Agbonlahor has come on this season and I’ve been watching the progress of both him and Ashley Young with avid “what if we had them” envious eyes. Both players play with Theo at England Under 21 level, so he has the insight…

“Gabby has been doing fantastically well and it’s such a shame he got injured just before going with England. He deserved the call-up, just like Ashley Young, because he’s worked so hard. He is consistent too, he does well in every game.”

More on that tomorrow.

More news sees a rallying call by Cesc Fabregas on himself. He knows that his role in the team is a very important one and that it’s not about winning man of the match or player of the month - it’s about winning the next game and then the league. More here.

Arsenal vs Aston Villa Squads

A interesting piece of news from last week was that we were Arsene was mulling whether to include Van Persie to be in the squad for the Birmingham game. I don’t expect him to be back just yet, but a place on the bench is surely his. With Eduardo a long term absentee, and both Rosicky and Diaby still out our squad of 16 will be from the following players:

Goalkeepers: Almunia, Lehmann
Defenders: Sagna, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy, Hoyte
Midfielders: Cesc, Flamini, Hleb, Walcott, Gilberto, Denilson
Strikers: Adebayor, Bendtner, Van Persie

It makes common sense to see Almunia, Sagna, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy, Cesc, Flamini, Walcott, Hleb, Adebayor & Bendtner start with Lehmann, Hoyte, Gilberto, Denilson and Van Persie on the bench.

Villa have left and right back problems, so it looks like Bouma may revert to right back and Barry slot in at left back with Maloney, Gardner, Reo-Coker and Young making up the midfield. With “Gabby” and Carew up front, it’s more a 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 formation.

The starting line up I expect for Villa is: Scott Carson, Wilfred Bouma, Martin Laursen, Curtis Davies, Gareth Barry, Shaun Maloney, Craig Gardner, Nigel Reo-Coker, John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young.

Okay, it’s been a long day and a long night and a big shout out to all those who read this every morning… the comments are pouring in even if they’re not in the comments tab!

In other blogs, Jeorge Bird reports on a supposed target for Arsenal, Per Ciljian Skjelbred, a replacement for Flamini - I hope not! Young Guns talks about Pedro Botelho, a exciting left winger and we could so do with one of those… A cultured Left Foot talks about how it’s time to refocus and something that we need to do immediately.

I’ll be back tomorrow evening with the Thursday round-up; until then, have a great day and let’s all hope we all win the lottery and can buy back a bit of Arsenal!

Til then!]]>

Birmingham 2 – 2 Arsenal: Match Report – A very bad day

It was my birthday dinner today with Friends and Family and it was the only positive of a very upsetting day this weekend. I went up to Birmingham on Friday and was up nice and early for the game. Our "reserved" parking space was rudely taken by Mr. Doug Ellis of Aston Villa and we had to park about an mile away from the stadium. And after a 10 minute walk to the stadium we were somewhat aggrieved to find out that we weren't allowed in because we were wearing denim and had to go back to the car to get changed... a really annoying start to the day and a glimpse into what was in store for today.

We eventually got in, had lunch and finally the game kick offed.

What happened was one of the worst games I've witnessed. And I don't hold anything against the Arsenal team for the performance. The one major thing that happened was the Eduardo injury and it's something that we never got over and obviously lingered with the team for the entire game. We were shocked, Cesc in particular was taken aback in a way in which I have never seen a player effected.

“I think this guy should never play football again. What’s he doing on the pitch?” fumed Wenger. “The injury is the result of a very bad tackle that is not forgivable. The first diagnosis is that the injury is very bad. He appears to have broken his shin and his fibula.

“I’ve gone along with the idea for a long time that to stop Arsenal, you have to kick Arsenal. I knew that was coming for a long time now.

“The season is over for him and it’s very, very bad. More than the season is over.”

The injury was the most horrific injury I have ever seen in my life. I agree with Arsene’s sentiments and it’s crazy. I’ve seen the injury several times now on YouTube and various other sources and it’s worse every time I’ve seen it. I just can’t get over it. Eduardo’s skin, leg and ankle have been broken and it’s just criminal to witness to see what happened.

Okay, enough about the injury, it’s 4am and I’m still in shock.

The game carried on and it was a weird game – I couldn’t forget what happened to Eduardo and I doubt the players could either. James McFadden played well today and was a continual menace to our team. He “won” the free kick, and realistically that should have never have been. But it was a good free kick and before we knew it Birmingham were 1-0 up. Alumnia wasn’t really to blame – most people thought he should of saved it – but I think it was a good free kick and in all adversity Birmingham were 1-0 up. We had nothing, we couldn’t concentrate and half time at 1-0 was inevitable.

The second half started, and whatever Arsene said got to the team. We came out all guns blazing and within about 15 mins, 1-0 turned into 2-1. Theo Wallcott, who I said would be our star man, scored two goals, one which was a poachers goal and the other which showed his true class.

We have chances galore to wrap it up but we just couldn’t find the 3rd goal and even though we have a stone cold penalty turned down with 5 mins to go, we really should have seen the game out. However, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, we conceded a penalty – Flamini lost the ball and Clichy made a brash challenge. Our three points turned into one point.

Dropped points.

I’m still in shock now and it’s been a crazy day.

Arsene said: “It affected us one hundred per cent in the first half but we also have to look at ourselves,” he continued.“We should have killed the game off earlier and scored the third goal. We didn’t do that.”

I have spent the last few hours reviewing the game and what’s happened, and I can’t get over it.

A press release from Birmingham City reads:

“The club are saddened that such a fantastic game of football has been marred by a serious injury sustained to Arsenal player Eduardo.

“But Martin Taylor is adamant there was no malicious intent in the tackle and he is deeply upset by the extent of Eduardo’s injury.

“Having reviewed the incident, this (no malicious intent) is clearly the case.

“The club and Martin Taylor would like to send their very best wishes to the player for a speedy recovery.”

All in all, I think I need to get some sleep and reflect on this in the morning. Arsene has more grace than me and he retracted his statement today in a statement on the Arsenal website.

“It was a highly emotional afternoon and we were all shocked by the injury to Eduardo,” said Wenger.“On reflection, I feel that my comments about Martin Taylor were excessive. I said what I did immediately after the game in the heat of the moment.”
Okay, more tomorrow, I think I’ve said enough today.

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