Archive for May, 2009

Celebrate Anfield ’89 with the U-18s

38 comments May 26th, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Scousers

We all dreamed of glory for the first-team to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our remarkable title win at Anfield, but for sheer symmetry you can’t knock the Youth Team’s efforts.  Tonight, twenty years to the day since Michael Thomas’s magic moment, they will take to the Anfield turf in a replica yellow jersey in an attempt to claim the most valuable prize in academy football: the FA Youth Cup.

After last week’s 4-1 victory at the Emirates in the first leg, it looks good for the Young Guns – so good, in fact, that Liverpool will need a comeback to match the drama of that night twenty years ago.  Hopefully this evening proves to be a lot more low key, and we manage to hold on to a prized victory.

Manager Steve Bould played that night, and he is interviewed here about both that legendary fixture and tonight’s game.

Most of the senior players will now head off to join up with their respective national teams, and Arsene Wenger is understandably frustrated by the fact that Theo Walcott is likely to be on duty at both senior and U-21 levels with England.  The fact remains, however, that the player wants to play and the rules are firmly in favour of the FA.

Arguably more of a worry than Theo is the participation of Cesc in the Confederations Cup, which means that come the start of the 2010/11 season he will have taken part in three consecutive Summer tournaments.  It is that kind of fixture congestion that makes the lay-offs Cesc and Theo were forced to have due to injuries blessings in disguise.

The FA Youth Cup game is on Setanta Sports tonight.  If it’s anything like the first leg, it ought to be very entertaining, so tune in.

Till tomorrow.

Signing Off In Style

Add comment May 25th, 2009

Fans outside The Armoury salute Arsene Wenger

Arsenal 4 – 1 Stoke City ( Beattie 10 (og), Van Persie 16 (pen), 41, Diaby 18 , Fuller 31 (pen) )
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

I said before the game I hoped that Stoke’s concentration would have already departed to some sunny Summer island.  Well, their attention to defensive detail was entirely absent in a calamitous first half that saw them three down inside twenty-one minutes.

We played well too, and looked determined to end the season on a relative high.  The first goal was a short corner routine between Cesc and Van Persie, which ended with the former crossing into the box for James Beattie to stab with unerring accuracy into his own net.

An Arshavin flick then set Van Persie clear in the box, and the Dutchman showed good persistence before being fouled to win a penalty that he converted himself.

Not content with that, he then provided a sumptuous free-kick into the box which Abou Diaby flicked home for a third.

Stoke grabbed a consolation when Ricardo Fuller’s tricky run was illegally interrupted by Denilson.  Fuller matched Van Persie by getting to his feet and netting from the spot himself.

However, it wasn’t long until our three goal advantage was restored, and Stoke were the main contributors to their own downfall – a Rory Delap header fell short of his goalkeeper, and Van Persie chested it down before expertly volleying in our fourth.  Robin also came close to a hatrick with a free-kick that thundered off the underside of the bar, and as the game progressed there were other chances to extend our lead: Theo Walcott missed a one-on-one, Abou Diaby headed wide when scoring seemed easier, and Van Persie failed to convert from just a couple of yards out.

The second half petered out and the crowd’s Mexican waves were more a product of ennui than the introduction of Carlos Vela.

There were some great showings.  Kieran Gibbs, relieved of any real attacking pressure by Stoke, was fantastic going forward, whilst in midfield Cesc and Arshavin were clearly enjoying themselves.  Vito Mannone had a quiet but solid debut in goal, and Robin van Persie played extremely well as the lone striker against a physical Stoke defence.  He finished the season with twenty goals – a total which is nothing to be sniffed at.  As we line up in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 with increasing regularity it’s going to be important for Robin to learn to play that role as the sole forward.

Whilst the performance was impressive, the game itself seemed to take a back-seat to the love-in between Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans.  From a march before the game to singing his name throughout, those in attendance made it clear that Arsene is still very much the man for us.  Arsene appreciated it, and is keen to repay the faith:

“It makes me feel appreciated and even more regretful that we couldn’t give them what they wanted this season. I am very respectful for their faith in me. It’s very warming and it makes me even more determined to pay them back.”

After the game the squad went on a lap of the pitch to show their appreciation to the fans.  Perhaps surprisingly, Emmanuel Adebayor was present, and limping conspicuously.  He looked a little sheepish but relaxed.  Is it the last time we’ll see him in Arsenal regalia at the Emirates?  Perhaps.

Time now to brace yourselves for twelve weeks of transfer speculation-based mayhem.  I’ll be here, stirring the pot of despair whilst you constantly refresh now in the hope that we fill our number six shirt with a talent deserving of its rich heritage.

Well guys, some good news: after yesterday’s events, Fabricio Coloccini and Afonso Alez might be available…

Sad the season is over but glad to see the back of it

Add comment May 24th, 2009

It’s an odd contradiction, I suppose.  I’m never glad to see the Premier League season come to a close, but at the same time I’d be lying if I said I was eager to cling on to what has been a disappointing campaign.  This is not, however, the time for recriminations, and I hope the team go out in style with a win over Stoke today.

Lukasz Fabianski is fit and will start in goal, with Sagna, Toure, Song and Gibbs likely to continue the defensive duties they performed well at Old Trafford.  In midfield, I expect Walcott and Arshavin to flank Denilson and Cesc, with Nicklas Bendtner auditioning for the lead striker role alongside Robin van Persie.

Stoke are a good physical side, as we found out to our cost in the reverse fixture, but with their survival assured we can hope that their minds may have already turned to the Summer holidays.

Seeing as today marks the start of the Summer, we might aswell throw around some transfer news.  Emmanuel Adebayor has been linked to Manchester City, which is undoubtedly a great thing as far as we’re concerned.  Adebayor and City are tailor-made for each other, and obviously they have the cash to make it a worthwhile sale.  After failing to sign Roque Santa Cruz, they need a target man, and Adebayor would be a viable alternative.  Even to have City sniffing around would push the price up by a couple of million, so let’s hope it’s true.

Arsene Wenger has not, however, made a bid to sign Marouane Chamakh as a potential replacement.  Chamakh is a skillful forward who impressed me in Bordeaux’s Champions League ties against Chelsea, but I’m not sure he has the power to make it in the Premier League.

That said, many had similar doubts about Andrey Arshavin, and he has disproved all of those.  After walking into the tax nightmare that is the Britain of 2009, he’s keen to renegotiate his contract.  It’s a bit early for that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is handed improved terms at some point in the next eight months or so.  Bringing him in represented a gamble, but so far you’d have to say it’s paid off.

Finally, The Daily Mail says Arsenal will make a bid for Ajax centre-back Thomas Vermaelen.  The Belgian international has also been linked with Aston Villa, who reportedly see him as a potential replacement for the now retired Martin Laursen.  I don’t know much about Vermaelen, but I know plenty about Laursen, and if he’s anything like the Dane he could be just what we need.

It’s a beautiful day.  I’m going to head down to the ground early and soak up as much of this as possible.

The Kids Are More Than Alright

1 comment May 23rd, 2009

At Arsenal we are consistently being sold the future.  It’s occasionally frustrating, but on nights like last night one understands why.

33,000 fans were at the Emirates Stadium to see the U-18s beat Liverpool 4-1 in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final, and I think they’d all admit to being privieged to watch a performance of such quality.  The goals are viewable over at 101greatgoals, but it was the overall class exhibited by the team that was so exciting.

Of course, as our Carling Cup exploits have demonstrated, the chances are that only one or two of these players will make the step up to the first team.  The obvious choice is Jack Wilshere, who was outstanding after an injury to Emmanuel Frimpong forced him to switch to central midfield.  I’m not sure of the reasons that led to Wilshere dropping out of first-team contention after Christmas, but I’d expect him to play a full part in pre-season once more.

There are some other very talented lads: Coquelin is progressing well into a tigrish holding midfielder, whilst captain Jay Emmanuel-Thomas has the physical strength and technique to be as good a player as his hunger permits.  They’re the three major prospects, but some other individuals were outstanding last night: Kyle Bartley looked like a young version of the kind of centre-back we need to sign this Summer, and Sanchez Watt’s pace was electrifying.

The Carling Cup next season should be very entertaining indeed.

Most fans thoughts, however, are understandably concerned with how we’ll manage in the league.  The feeling is that he’ll have to overcome any reluctance to spend money, and Arsene suggests that won’t be a problem:

“I don’t complain about the money I have and I am not afraid to spend the money when I find it.  It is not true  [that I am afraid to spend]. I cannot manipulate people’s brains unfortunately. And I don’t want to in fact.  We spent the money on Andrey Arshavin. In one day I decided to do it.”

Arsene also spoke about the criticism he received at the shareholders Q&A, saying:

“I was disappointed because I believe especially the shareholders cannot complain. You look at the share price when I arrived and the share price now. You check in October 1996 it must have been around £400 and now it is £10,000. Some would say between eight and 10. But it means that the Club has moved forward and not gone back. There are two things in our job. Criticism I accept with respect. Disrespect I don’t accept and don’t respect. I prefer the fans to complain rather than the shareholders. I could understand that more.”

From a business point of view, his argument is very sound.  However, many of the shareholders are fans too, and Arsene also moved yesterday to repair relations with the supporters.

Tomorrow’s game with Stoke is an opportunity to attempt to finish the season on a high.  Let’s go out with a win, and give the squad plenty of backing - not to celebrate this season, but to inspire them ahead of next.

Cesc clear of spitting; Show me the Mannone

Add comment May 22nd, 2009

For the past few days I’ve been meaning to ask if anyone knew where the verdict on spitting-gate had disappeared to.  My fear was that it’s taken so long to be decided that any ban would now spill into next season.

Well, it was needless fretting: Cesc Fabregas has been cleared of both charges.  It’s fantastic news, and extremely embarrassing for Phil Brown who pushed so hard for this hearing.  Indeed, it could still get better with Arsenal fans, with Brown set for a personal hearing on his own conduct next week.

The early team news for Sunday’s game with Stoke sees Samir Nasri out and Lukasz Fabianski a doubt, so Vito Mannone could be handed a first league start.  The availablity of Emmanuel Adebayor was not mentioned, and when asked yesterday by ArsenalTV whether or not he could guarantee Adebayor staying this Summer, Arsene was not decisive:

“Yes, but that depends as well… it’s very difficult to go into any individual assessment of that… the only thing I can say is that Adebayor is under contract and he is with us and that’s it.”

Rumours today link us with a £15m swoop for Brede Hangeland, which seems like an awful lot of money, but Arsene did say that he has a couple of players already in his sights:

“Yes, we have one or two targets, but we are analysing every position very well.”

He then went on to use Nicklas Bendtner’s improvement throughout the season as an example of the reasons not to buy and block the potential of his young squad, and it’s hard not to feel that comment was somehow relevant to Adebayor’s future too.

Very brief blog today because I’ve got to take my dog, Daisy, to the vet.  FA Youth Cup Final today – get down to the Emirates and cheer on the kids.

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