Archive for October, 2007

Gilberto to lead young guns in battle against Blades

Add comment October 31st, 2007

Reports of a bust-up over Gilberto refusing to play centre-back tonight are way wide of the mark, and the Brazilian is expected to captain a young Arsenal side as they face Sheffield United in tonight’s League Cup tie.  When confronted with the reports, Arsene Wenger was quick to respond:

“I deny that categorically, and I find this assessment disrespectful to a great professional like Gilberto.  He is 100 per cent professional and is in the squad for tomorrow. He will play.

I believe that as a manager and as a player you always have one thing in your mind and that is what is good for the club and the team. I cannot fault Gilberto on that since he arrived here. Recently he has played less, but his mentality has been superb.”

It’s good to hear.  I’ve got a funny feeling that Gilberto will win his place back before long: let’s not forget, the guy is a World Cup winner.  Granted, Flamini is playing well but as far as I’m concerned he’s not in the same class as Silva.

Tonight’s team will probably feature Wookash Fabianski behind a back four that includes Justin Hoyte and Alex Song.  Armand Traore is away on International duty, and so the left-back role could be taken by young Kieran Gibbs.  If Gilberto is not at centre-back, he’ll be in midfield with the likes of Diarra, Denilson, and possibly Abou Diaby.  Spanish sensation Fran Merida could well be on the bench, with Eduardo and Bendtner likely to begin the game upfront.  After his recent first-team exposure, it’s unclear whether or not Theo Walcott will start.

Although the fixture looks a tricky one at first glance, it’s worth remembering that Sheffield Untied are languishing in 19th in the Championship, and will be without key players Paddy Kenny, Phil Bardsley and Gary Cahill due to a combination of injury and cup ties.  When you look at some of the International stars we’ll have on show, we should be more than good enough to go through.

Come on Arsenal.

The Top Ten Cescy Strikes Of The Season

30 comments October 30th, 2007

Cesc’s toe-poked effort against Liverpool marked his tenth goal of an outstanding season.  Today, for your perusal (and potentially arousal), I’ll be counting down that top ten before revealing my favourite Cescy strike of the season thus far.

10 - vs. Portsmouth (2/9/07)

Every decent goalscorer needs to score scrappy goals, and Cesc is no different.  His finish on the spin showed a player finding touch with his predatory instinct.

9 – vs. Sevilla (19/9/07)

Perhaps Cesc’s luckiest goal of the season, this heftily deflected strike proved that you don’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.  It’s significance in overcoming a side as good as Sevilla is what lifts it into ninth place.

8 – vs. Sparta Prague (15/8/07)

Fabregas scored his first goal of the season in this Champions League Qualifier.  Although he owed plenty to Gael Clichy’s terrific interception and run, it was the kind of cool finish that was a sign of things to come.

7 – vs. Sparta Prague (29/8/07)

Collecting a pass from Eduardo, the Spaniard skipped inside and finished low into the near post – an assured piece of attacking play that put Prague’s hopes to an end.

6 – vs. Derby (22/9/07)

The game was fundamentally over, and Arsene Wenger was preparing to withdraw Cesc and replace him with Lassana Diarra.  With a momentous last touch, Fabregas blasted the ball beyond a hapless Stephen Bywater and into the top corner.  Not a bad way to depart the field. (ps. I couldn’t find the real goal. This’ll have to do.)

5 – vs. Slavia Prague (23/10/07)

A one-two with his pal Hleb and a finish Thierry Henry would’ve been proud of.  Very, very nice.

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4 – vs. Man City (25/8/07)

Not only was this a fantastic strike high into the net – it was a crucial winner in an extremely tight game.

3 – vs. Liverpool (28/10/07)

This weekend’s equaliser was another crucial goal, but furthermore it was an instinctive, intelligent finish.  Not many players would have the awareness or ability to go for the goal that early.  Fortunately, Fabregas has buckets of both.

2 – vs. Slavia Prague (23/10/07)

Cesc really seems to enjoy playing against teams from Prague. This goal is less about Cesc himself and more about the Cescy football the Arsenal team built around him plays.  Never mind the lung-bursting run and calm finish – this ball is all about breathtaking counter-attacking football.

1  – vs. Tottenham (15/9/07)

The best of a brilliant selection of goals is this wonderstrike at White Hart Lane.  That arena barely deserves to have been graced with such a magnificent strike, but the fact it came against our rivals just makes it all the sweeter.

Cheers for those, Cesc.  I’ll be back at the end of the season to do the Top Twenty.

Liverpool 1 – 1 Arsenal: Outpassing and outclassing our rivals

Add comment October 29th, 2007

Do not believe what the patently biased English press have said about yesterday’s game: it was not about the heroism of Jamie Carragher or the Roy of the Rovers impersonator “Stevie G”.  Yesterday was the day when Arsenal’s youngsters raised two proverbial fingers to Alan Hansen, Jamie Redknapp, and every other pundit whose wrongly claimed we’ll come unstuck when faced with the top teams.

Any Liverpool fan worth their salt will concede that they were lucky to escape with a draw yesterday.  At their precious Anfield they were played off the park by a side whose passing and movement is only matched by Manchester United at their very very best.  Next Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff should be enthralling to say the least.

Liverpool took an early lead when a Steven Gerrard free-kick powered through a shoddily erected wall.  As Cesc Fabregas charged the shot down, Mathieu Flamini inexplicably left his post in the wall and the shot flew through the newly-formed gap and into the net.

From then on, we upped our game.  Arsene called it “playing without the handbrake”, but it was far more precise than that.  If it wasn’t for the wastefulness of Emmanuel Eboue on the right and one of Adebayor’s less convincing performances we could easily have levelled before half-time.

At no point in the game did I believe we were out of it.  At no point did I think we would just have “one of those days” – not even when Eboue struck a post and Cesc Fabregas inexplicably skied the rebound.  This Arsenal side is maturing now, and as part of that process has developed the key attribute of patience – they just keep plugging away.

So it was no surprise when we finally equalised in the eightieth minute.  Aleksandr Hleb ignored the runs of Adebayor and substitute Bendtner and, as three defenders surrounded him, clipped a perfect ball into the path of Fabregas.  After one glance up, the diminutive Spaniard poked the ball towards the near post, catching his countryman Reina off-guard and finding the bottom corner.

It could’ve and perhaps should’ve been three points – a long-range effort from Cesc struck the inside of the post and Nicklas Bendtner mirrored Fabregas’ earlier effort by casually knocking the rebound over the bar.

When the final whistle went, there was a sense of relief as Liverpool escaped with a point.  Arsenal, meanwhile, had made their point.  They were not intimidated by the venue or the opposition – in fact, we turned in one of our best performances this season.  William Gallas and Kolo Toure were outstanding in front of an impressive Manuel Almunia, whilst the way in which Fabregas and Hleb are able to play off each other is almost telepathic.  Cesc now has ten goals this season, and last week the Daily Mail described both he and Hleb as early contenders for the Footballer of the Year Award.  With good reason.

Arsene was equally delighted, and whilst it does feel slightly like we’ve let two points slip, the quality of the performance is the bigger bonus going into the game with Man U on Saturday.

Before that it’s Sheffield United in the League Cup on Wednesday.  Whilst it’s hardly a priority for our high-flying side, keeping the club’s momentum going could prove vital.

For now, though, just enjoy the craft of this goal. 

Quick Liverpool Preview: My hopes for the next two league games

1 comment October 28th, 2007

Liverpool away, Manchester United at home.  It’s a sequence of fixtures that is potentially terrifying.  Unless, that is, you’ve won your last twelve games.

That’s not to say I expect our boys to roll through the two North-West teams without any hint of trouble.  Indeed, today I think the pace of Fernando Torres and the height of Peter Crouch could give us more defensive problems than any of our opponents thus far this season.   Hopefully though, Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott can give Carragher and Hyppia their fair share of trouble and outscore Liverpool.

For Walcott, a boyhood Liverpool fan, it could be a massive game.  However, in my opinion it’s far from guaranteed that he’ll start: it’s quite possible Aleksandr Hleb could partner Adebayor with Rosicky and Eboue on the flanks.

A draw would be a decent result.  Four points from the two games against Liverpool and United would be outstanding for such a young side, and keep our lead reasonably intact.

We’re very capable of victory, though to expect triumph would be unreasonable.  It should be an exciting day.

One hour to kickoff.  Come on Arsenal.

Spurs fan: “I wish my club could be more like yours”

Add comment October 26th, 2007

Last night, as the reality of more than half a season without a proper manager dawned on Spurs fans across the planet (and almost certainly in the depths of Hell), I recieved a text message from a Spud-supporting friend of mine:

The way our club’s board have behaved this season is an utter disgrace. Sometimes I wish our club could be more like yours.

They’ve cracked. The final crumb of dignity has been wiped from Tottenham’s table, and now one of their fans has gone and committed the greatest sin in their oh-so-dirty rulebook: admitting their inferiority.

(Granted, he didn’t know I’d then publish it for the eyes of thousands, but that really is his problem now.)

Stan Kroenke is playing it cool over what he calls his “long-term” investment in Arsenal. However, I’m not sure what I make of his latest newfangle scheme:

“It would be great to have Arsenal play in America and there’s a reasonable chance it could take place. If the Premier League agreed to it, you’d have it done.”

Somehow, I can’t see Arsene agreeing to fly half way round the world to play a Premier League game  when he could just as easily do it halfway round the M25.

You’ll notice I haven’t spoken much about the latest blows being traded between Arsene Wenger, Jens Lehmann, and Manuel Almunia. That’s because as far as I’m concerned, the case is closed on Jens: he’s going in January. Almunia is the new number one, and Fabianski will challenge him in the coming seasons.
Ahead of Sunday’s game with Liverpool there is no new injury news. In cases such as these, no news is very much good news.

What will today bring?  I don’t know.  Ask me tomorrow.

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