Archive for September, 2007

Carling Cup line-up revealed + Ones to Watch…

38 comments September 25th, 2007

A later-than-usual blog today.  Despite somehow managing to drag myself into work, I feel like the gorilla from the Cadbury’s ad is playing the drums to Phil Collins very very loudly inside my skull.

Cadbury aren’t paying me anything for that joke-shaped plug.  However, if they would like to donate vast amounts of chocolate to me, I would not (in principle) be adverse to that.

Probable team to face NewcastleArsene has revealed his sixteen for the Carling Cup tie with Newcastle.  The team is almost guaranteed to look very much like the one on the right here, with the only possible change being the inclusion of Emmanuel Eboue in place of Theo Walcott.  However, considering he has only just returned from injury, I imagine Eboue will be held back as an impact substitute. 

It’s a fairly strong side – the front six are certainly a match for Newcastle’s defence, but I do worry about the pairing of Song and Senderos against Viduka and Martins.

Next to Eboue on the bench will be teen Spanish sensation Fran Merida, aswell as bright English hopes Henri Lansbury and Justin Hoyte’s brother Gavin.

Tonight’s line-up contains three full debutants, all of whom are profiled below:

Lukasz Fabianski
Just 22 and already with 4 full international caps, Fabianski was signed this summer to provide a long-term challenge for the number 1 jersey currently occupied by Manuel Almunia.  From what I’ve seen of him, he is extremely agile for his height and, like Jens Lehmann, not afraid of charging out of his box to sweep up with his feet.  Solid performances in the Carling Cup should establish his credentials for a permanent place between the sticks.

Lassana Diarra
Signed from Chelsea on transfer deadline day night, Diarra becomes the latest young central midfielder to be added to Arsene’s collection.  Fortunately for the frenchman, he is not tall and lanky, so unlike Abou Diaby will avoid any comparisons with Patrick Vieira.  In fact, his quick feet and tidy tackling are more likely to remind fans of another French international: Claude Makelele.  Diarra is better than Makelele going forward, and his incisive passing can make a difference in the final third.  After an impressive outing as a substitute against Derby, I’m excited to see what Diarra can do from the start tonight.

Niklas Bendtner
Completing the trio of debutants tonight is teenage Danish striker Niklas Bendtner.  Arsene Wenger is in no doubt about his quality:

“Nicklas is strong, he’s quick, he’s an intelligent boy, he’s a good finisher, he’s good in the air and he’s a good team player.”

However, there remain questions over Bendtner’s application, and Wenger coupled his praise with a stark warning for the youngster:

“For me he has everything in his locker that needs to be in there. But it doesn’t mean because you have it in you that you have done it — it is all to do for him.”

Finally, a word for Alex Song, who Arsene feels has been “misjudged”. 

“I feel he was misjudged in the Fulham game last year where we had a nightmare first half. He was involved in it so everyone thought he was to blame but I didn’t think so. He moved out to Charlton where he had some great games.  We believe he is a quality player and I personally believe he can make it at centre back.”

Well, I saw Song play centre-back against lowly Barnet and I’m not as convinced by him as our manager.  But then, I haven’t got a proven track reckon of spotting and developing young talent.  Arsene has.  Whatever your feelings about Song, it’s important we remember that not every young player can be a Fabregas and flourish at sixteen.  The same must be remembered when judging Theo Walcott.

Arsene is a genius in this field, and if he has faith in these players then we ought to show patience with his judgement.  At the risk of jinxing everything, I’d be over the moon if Song could prove a few people (including myself) wrong tonight.

Come on Arsenal.

Fiszman: “If Arsene wanted to spend £100m, he could”

1 comment September 24th, 2007

Our financial results are out, and it’s bad news for Dein, Usmanov, and the rest of Europe.  After several years of enforced poverty, we’re booming.

We have a record turnover of over £200m.  Our profits (before transfer dealings) have increased by 274% to over £50m.  The rest of the results are available here but that should tell you everything you need to know.  We’re not in crisis.  We’re not in financial danger.  We are, quite remarkably, Britain’s richest football club.  Of course people want to buy us.

I know many fans are concerned about our resources when it comes to bringing in top players.  Look at this quote from Managing Director Keith Edelman:

“We secured all the players we wanted in the summer and manager Arsene Wenger did not spend his budget.  We had £73.9m cash at the year’s end and we are telling people today we’ve got increased cash balances at this juncture.”

Over £73.9m.  Cash.  As if you needed any futher confirmation that we’re absolutely minted, read this quote from Danny Fiszman at a supporters representatives’ meeting with the board:

“We are in a very strong financial situation and if he  [Arsene] wanted to spend £100m, he could. he decides whether a players fee and salary is worth it. It is his decision and his decision only.”

There are two further anecdotes that Fiszman relayed of quotes from Arsene Wenger, the first being:

“Can we say we are poor, because that perception helps me when buying players.”


“I did aspire to buy Eto’o – thank God I didn’t as his injuries are a problem.”

Would Arsene be aspiring to buy Eto’o if we couldn’t have afforded him?  Financially, there is almost no limit to what Wenger can spend.  As we have known for some time, it is his choice to take the path of youth development.

These developments are massive for Arsenal Football Club.  We’re at the top of the Football League, and now we’ve reached the summit of the financial table.  If there was anyone out there foolish enough to support a takeover bid, today they probably feel a little bit like they’ve wet themselves at school and everyone is pointing and laughing.  And believe me, I know how bad that feels.

I’m about to hit you with some quotes from Fiszman which will warm the cockles of any true Arsenal fan’s heart:

“No hostile takeover bid will be successful, but we recognise that the success of the Emirates has caused takeover problems and fears.

Regarding the comments of Mr Usmanov yesterday, having a so called ‘blocking’ vote is nonsense. Owning 25% of the shares will only allow you to block special resolutions. In the past 16 years Arsenal have had 2 special resolutions, one is the Emirates and the other a share issue to Granada. Therefore his share holding will not affect the running of Arsenal in any way.

It’s simple, in principle I am not a seller. The tax stuff being written [about Danny’s possible reasons for selling] is just nonsense. I am a non-resident and have been since 2004. That affects nothing, if I wanted to sell I would be paying tax at 10% after taper relief. There is a new agreement [not to sell shares] at the moment being written that will extend the agreement for a further 12 months. This will be announced so as to cause the least disruption on the Club.”

Like Danny says, “it’s simple”.

Red & White: The fans don’t want you, and the club don’t need you.

And Dein?  The game’s up.  Fiszman confirms:

“The public perception was that David did everything at the club, this was not the case at all. Arsene Wenger will finish his career at Arsenal, we always knew this was the case. With regards to transfers, only one guy decides – Arsene.”

If the club plays this right, this can be the beginning of the end of the takeover trouble.  We don’t have to have a billionaire to compete – only one glance at the Premier League table is needed to affirm that.  The palaver at Chelsea last week shows the dangers of becoming a rich man’s plaything.  In the current board and manager we have a stability that is unmatched anywhere in this league.  The Chelsea situation is one thing: they were in desperate financial need when Abrahmovich arrived.  But United and Liverpool were sold out by greedy board members on the promise of instant success.  We don’t need to do the same.  We’re The Arsenal.

All together now, to the tune of “We’ve got Cesc Fabregas”:

“We don’t need Usmanov,
We don’t need Usmanov,
We don’t need Usmanov,
We don’t need Usmanov…”

Arsenal 5 – 0 Derby: Absent friends can’t halt faultless Arsenal

Add comment September 23rd, 2007

Emmanuel Adebayor scored the first hatrick at the Emirates Stadium to fire Arsenal to a thrashing of lowly Derby County. His treble, characterised by awesome pace and power, was supplemented by two wonder strikes from Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas.

It was Diaby who opened the scoring.  Cutting in from the left-flank, he skipped past two challenges before hitting an absolute screamer into the far top corner.  Our own private Goal of the Month competition continues.

Before half-time, it was two nil.  Adebayor, who had earlier missed a good chance to sidefoot home a Gael Clichy cross, was released over the top by a stunning Cesc Fabregas ball.  As the hapless Stephen Bywater charged out, Adebayor skipped round him to walk the ball into an empty net.

Derby couldn’t handle our attacking players, particularly Adebayor, and it was no surprise when the third arrived.  Eduardo was tugged back in the area and the Togolese stroked home a penalty.  As Bywater later said after getting a hand to it, “He must have the strongest sidefoot in the country”.

As Arsene prepared to withdraw Cesc Fabregas, the Spaniard glanced at the stripped Denilson and Diarra on the sidelines, and knew it was his last chance to score.  He duly delivered, smashing in a sixth goal in consecutive games – his seventh of the season.  It’s jaw-dropping form, and makes him the early favourite for Footballer of the Year.

The rout was completed in the 79th minute.  Adebayor’s performance had meant a hatrick was always on the cards, and when Denilson launched a long ball towards the striker, he majestically chested it down before calmly side-footing past Bywater.

A fantastic win, achieved without Gallas, Gilberto, Hleb, Rosicky, and Van Persie.  It’s a list of absentees as impressive as the scoreline itself.

I’ve got to dash, but here are the goals and here’s Arsene’s reaction.  More tomorrow.

Eduardo could start today; Usmanov looking foolish

15 comments September 22nd, 2007

Today’s game against Derby sees Aleksandr Hleb join Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Eboue, Jens Lehmann, and William Gallas on the injury list.  Arsene has proclaimed he will rotate, though it’s hard to see how he has any other option.

“I will rotate a little bit and try to get the right mixture between stability and some fresh legs as well.  Gilberto will be back, maybe Theo Walcott will start, I do not know yet. Eduardo down the left can be a possibility as well.”

With Philippe Senderos fit, I’d imagine Gilberto will step into midfield, perhaps pushing Mathieu Flamini out to the right-hand side.  Diaby could fill the left-sided berth, though it’s possible that’s where Arsene envisages employing Eduardo or Walcott.

Arsene knows that it’s vital the team keep their concentration today:

“It is important to take the points at home against teams like Derby, who fight to play in the Premier League, if you want to be successful.  It is a big game because last season we dropped points against these teams. This year we want to take points against them and we have achieved that up to now.  We want to keep our home strength and it is a big weekend because it is one where we can stay in the position we are in.”

It’s true that knowing that a victory will keep us top of the table is a hell of an incentive.  Maybe it’s just because it’s a while since we were up there, but just looking at the table gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  Three points today and it’ll stay that way for a little while longer.

I can’t go without mentioning the fallout from the Alisher Usmanov/blog war.  Although I’ve currently escaped attention (by a combination of flying under the radar and not directly quoting Craig Murray), I really do think it’s appalling the way his legal representatives have been so heavy-handed in dealing with this matter.  Fortunately for us, it’s brought the matter to the attention of the national press and left Usmanov’s reputation even worse off.

Eduardo’s first Premier League goal today?  I’ve just got a feeling.

Fiery Flamini is undroppable at the moment

Add comment September 21st, 2007


This Summer, it was widely accepted that Mathieu Flamini was leaving Arsenal.  Unhappy at falling behind Abou Diaby and Denilson in the pecking order, the frenchman looked to exploit new UEFA rules to buy out his contract and make himself a free agent.  He was linked with clubs in Italy, Spain, and the Premier League, but as that transfer window swung shut it became increasingly apparent that the pitbull midfielder was not going anywhere.  Flamini says:

“It is true I was close to leaving because I did not play enough, so I spoke to the coach and we had a good discussion.  Now I am here and am very happy to be here. Arsenal is a big club with high ambitions, so the competition is here – but it will make you better. The manager told me he had confidence in me and I said, ‘All right I am going to stay and I will prove that I can play’.”

So far, he’s been good to his word.

With Gilberto still recovering from his Copa America adventures and Abou Diaby out injured, Flamini was handed a chance in the first Premiership game of the season against Fulham.  Since then, he’s started every game for the club.

Flamini is under no illusions about his role – to liberate Cesc Fabregas:

“I am doing an important job because I have to and I try to get the maximum of the ball.  I am trying to do the maximum for players like Cesc and Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky.   This season Cesc is a bit more free, playing a little bit higher than me and so he has more chance to score and more chance to give some passes and I think that is important.  It’s important for a player to have time to play because it gives you confidence and you can have an understanding with your partner.”

To be fair to Flamini, the way he is playing at the moment makes him far more than just Fabregas’ foil.  His boundless energy and tenacious tackling show why the squad have nicknamed him “Gattuso”, whilst his aerial ability and passing have improved considerably – against Sevilla Flamini launched one forty yard pass that the aforementioned Fabregas would be proud of.

Gilberto has now, of course, returned, though the need for Brazilian to fill in at the back has negated the neccessity for Arsene to make a decision between his two holding midfielders.  Certainly Fabregas is a guaranteed starter, and the battle is to establish who provides the more effective partner.

I’m a huge fan of Gilberto’s intelligent positional play, but in a team whose game is based on passing and movement, perhaps Flamini’s ability to get around the pitch might give him the edge in Arsene’s eyes.  It’s the kind of healthy competition that can only benefit the side.

With Philippe Senderos one of six potential absentees for the game with Derby, Gilberto could well be needed at centre-back yet again, allowing Flamini to continue in midfield.  Confidence is sky high in the squad at the moment, and for whatever reason that makes me feel very cautious.  What we need on Saturday is concentration and professionalism against a side who, in beating Newcastle, showed they’re not as far off the pace as everyone predicted.

Finally, I urge you to read this interview with Managing Director Keith Edelman.  For the most part it’s reassuring stuff, but I’m not sure about the following passage:

“When they (Red&White) made their first purchase of shares on August 30th, they publicly stated that they would not make an offer for shares in the Club.  This statement effectively precludes Red&White Holdings from making an offer for all the shares of the Company for a six month period (subject to certain exceptions).”

Now, it’s not for me to tell Keith Edelman how to do his job, but this “subject to certain exceptions” phrase is pretty important.  In fact, you can read those “certain exceptions” here, under “Note 1”.  As much as we would like to think this is effectively a dead story until March 2008, I very much doubt that is the case.

Arsene’s press conference today should tell us a lot more about team news for the weekend.  Until then, have a good day.

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