Archive for May, 2005

Edu gone, as Robinho rumours gather pace..

484 comments May 31st, 2005

It seemed certain that Edu would join Valencia in January, only for it to fall through at the last minute. After the spaniards did away with Claudio Ranieri, the Brazilian midfielder was linked with a succession of clubs, including Manchester United, Villareal, and Juventus.

But, after all that, he’s gone and joined Valencia. Good luck to you, Edu.

Meanwhile, word is spreading that chief scout Steve Rowley has been over in Brazil watching Santos star Robinho.

Right now, everyone at the club is on holiday for a couple of weeks, but after that I’d expect some sort of movement on the Brazilian front, as it were.

Also, I’ll bet you can’t wait for all the “Henry to Barcelona” stories that will doubtless follow the attached quotes.

Should be great fun.

Things to look forward to:

  • Tomorrow’s verdict on the Ashley Cole/Chelsea “tapping” scandal.
  • My forthcoming “Review of the Season”.

Till then.

Robinho – the next Reyes?

20 comments May 28th, 2005

Young, skillful, expensive, foreign, lightweight, and a target for Real Madrid.

And, it would seem, Arsenal.

Arseblogger chips in that he’s heard we had “some pretty senior representation at Sunday’s game between Santos and Athetico Mineiro”. Promising.

I don’t want to talk about this too much, because draining the drool from my keyboard can become quite a chore.

But let me just show this:

7 stepovers
. A worthy rival to Quincy if ever there was one.

In other news, Danny Karbasiyoon and Frankie Simek, our American youngsters, are among five players to be released this summer.

The Mirror, meanwhile, suggests that we will join Liverpool and Chelsea in a three way tug-of-war for Shaun Wright-Phillips. Poor little Shaun.

I’ve said all along that I’d like him to end up with us, but I just don’t know if it’s financially feasible. Stories like the Wright-Phillips and Robinho links, however, seem to suggest that the prime transfer targets are indeed attacking players, largely due to the excellent form of Philippe Senderos, who is to be rewarded with a new contract.

5-year-Phil? I like the sound of that.

Alliteration, you see.

Congratulations, Liverpool.

24 comments May 26th, 2005

That was quite astonishing, you jammy gits.

We should’ve known. I tipped them to have a big season back in September. Arsene tipped them just a few days ago. But nobody expected this.

This was to be the great reality check. Not just for Liverpool, but for European football. After Porto’s surprise triumph last season, Milan would once more ascend to the throne which they last occupied in 2003.

After just one minute of play, Paolo Maldini gave Milan the lead. Pundits across the globe nodded knowingly.

38 minutes later, and the game seemed safe. Shevchenko’s cut-back was tucked away by the Argentine Crespo, and with Milan’s famous defence holding strong, it looked bleak for Liverpool. The ironic identity of the goalscorer was not lost on Liverpool: Crespo’s registration is still held by the team Liverpool had squeezed past in the semi-final, Chelsea.

Shortly before half-time, and both Andy Gray and I pronounced it “game over” when Crespo clipped a brilliant second over the advancing Jerzy Dudek.

At this stage, it was an embarrassing exposé of Liverpool’s flaws. They looked very much like the fifth best side in the Premiership. And Milan were at their imperious best, with the audacious Kaka at the eye of the storm.

But then, in six minutes, it all changed.

Liverpool seemed propelled by something other than their half-time Lucozade. They were driven on in a way that the wise words of Rafa Benitez alone could never achieve.

One banner stood out strongest amidst the dejected Liverpool fans. “Tonight, this is Anfield”. And for a brief few minutes, it was.

53 minutes: John Arne Riise’s cross is met by a resurgent Steven Gerrard, who brilliantly heads the ball into the far top corner. 1-3.


55 minutes: A Dietmar Hamman pass falls to substitute Vladimir Smicer. In his final appearance for the club, Smicer drills the ball low and hard beyond Dida, and into the net. 2-3.

Just maybe.

59 minutes: A dramatic Steven Gerrard tumble is rewarded with a penalty. Xabi Alonso steps up, but Dida magnificently palms clear, only for Alonso to make amends, firing the ball into the top of the net to equalise: 3-3.

3-3. 20,000 travelling Liverpool fans seemed as stunned as me, and every other observer of one of the truly great European nights.

Before we could catch our collective breath, extra-time was upon us, and it soon became clear that whilst Milan were eager to go for the win, Liverpool knew they were riding a wave of such momentum that penalties was no longer a frightening prospect. A side that had seemed impelled towards this trophy, carried on the concerted virtues of Carragher, Gerrard, and the Kop sensed that their luck was in.

And when penalties arrived, they were proved correct. Serginho blasted high and wide. Dudek saved from from Pirlo and Shevchenko. Dida’s phenomenal stop to deny Riise was rendered irrelevant: Liverpool had done it.

Some may criticise the manner in which Dudek came off his line to narrow the angle. These people have very short-term memories. Just as the FA Cup Final seemed revenge for Rooney’s dive, the Champions League Final once more showed footballing karma in action. In 2003, Dida had helped Milan beat Juventus, on the very same date in the football calendar, using the very same tactics. These things, as they say, tend to even themselves out.

Liverpool have done something truly extraordinary. Coming back from 3-0 down against any side is almost impossible. But against Milan? Unthinkable.

Congratulations to them. They absolutely deserve it. Rafa Benitez has now matched Jose Mourinho’s feat of winning the UEFA Cup and then the Champions League in consecutive seasons. And yet, somehow, I don’t think we’ll see him calling himself “The Special One” anytime soon. He’s a good humble man, and he deserves his success.

And Liverpool are a good club, based on a solid foundation and a fantastic fanbase. I can happily say I’d rather see them be successful than the corporate machines of Manchester and Chelsea.

I won’t dwell on what little Arsenal-related news there is: this is Liverpool’s night. It is a night belonging to each and every one of their fans, including the very special boy who tonight had the honour of lifting their 5th European Cup: Steven Gerrard. This means more to him than anyone.

And luckily for Arsenal fans, he won’t be seen in the blue of Chelsea come next August.

He’ll walk on.

0-0 to the Arsenal…

1 comment May 23rd, 2005

…Still feels great, doesn’t it?

The fall out from our FA Cup triumph has brought with it some clarification over the future of several of our players. Going into the final, doubts remained over Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Reyes, and Ashley Cole.

Well, Dennis revealed in the post-match celebrations that he would be staying. Personally, I think this is probably the right decision. The squad does look a little thin upfront, and letting a player of Bergkamp’s undoubted quality go would not help that situation. I’m sure he’ll play less and less, but on his day he’s still superb, and a great influence on the younger players.

Ashley Cole has intimated that he won’t be leaving this summer, though many fear this means he’ll simply sit out his contract for the next two seasons. We’ll see, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Patrick Vieira has stated that he’d like both Cole and Jose Reyes to remain at the club.

So, as David Dein puts it, “No-one will be leaving the club”. Unless, presumably, there’s a £15m bid for Pascal Cygan.

He also adds that “two or three new players” might arrive. Promising.

I doubt, however, that after the emergence of Philippe Senderos, the club will look to find a new centre-back. When you can afford to leave Sol Campbell on the bench, you know you’ve got a very special player on your hands. And, I might suggest, a future captain. I don’t think it’ll be the last time we see this sight:

Keep enjoying it, Gooners.

Stolen: The FA Cup.

12 comments May 22nd, 2005

And don’t we love it.

Man U shat all over us yesterday. Apparently they had something like 23 attempts on goal. We had approximately 6, and 5 of those were penalties.

But we won.

They had a whole host of brilliant chances, hitting the post and bar, with Roy Keane having a shot cleared off the line by Patrick Vieira.

But we won.

We won. I still don’t really believe it.

We came into the game with a quite mental 4-5-1 formation, with Dennis Bergkamp upfront on his own, Jose Reyes inventing a new position for himself, and seemingly no right-midfielder. Nice.

Bergkamp had no chance of holding the ball up, when he recieved so little support from Reyes/Pires/Fabregas. It was a terrible, terrible decision. Arsene was so afraid of his losing that for the first time in a good 8 years, he sold out on his own footballing philosophy. He resorted to the “anti-football” he so despises. Hell, we even turned to kicking the shit out of them this time, not the other way around. I’m not sure what possessed Arsene to believe that the FA Cup Final was a good time to experiment with out formation, but then he is “Le Boss”.

Anyhow, this tactical ineptitude resulted in us getting thrashed. Except they couldn’t score. It was hilarious.

Not even Ashley Cole’s apparent confusion about just where the byline was, resulting in long balls being consistently knocked over his head;
Not even Lauren’s clown-like attempts to deal with the exuberant Ronaldo;
Not even substitute Freddie Ljungberg’s genuine confusion over where he was supposed to be playing, having to go over and ask Pat Rice;
Not even the late late sending off of Jose Reyes;

None of this was enough to give Man United the lead. And a huge degree of that is down to Jens Lehmann:

Since he came back into the side a few months ago, he was been consistently superb. Yesterday, he was nothing short of astonishing.

A sequence of extraordinary saves came to a tremendous climax when he kept out Paul Scholes’ penalty in the decisive shoot-out. Just perfect.

Arsenal’s takers, meanwhile, were an ocean of tranquillity and calm. Lauren, Ljungberg, Van Persie, Cole, and Vieira. All five dispatched their penalties with real aplomb, and meant that that final sprawling effort from Jens was enough.

Arsenal had won the FA Cup.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was perfect.

If footballing karma does exist, then this was it in action.

The scenes of Ferdinand and Ronaldo in tears at the end of the game will stay with me forever. Joyful, joyful memories.

There’s more to tell about the bizarre events of my afternoon in Cardiff. But that can wait for another day. For now let’s just savour the immortal words of some announcer guy:

The FA Cup Winners of 2005…


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