Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Vacation Notice

Just a quick note: I will be leaving for Vail, Colorado on the 26th of December and will not return until the 1st of January, just in time to see the West Ham match. I will not, therefore, be posting until my return on the first.

Until then, merry Christmas and happy new year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Almunia For England And Lehmann To Germany

Arsenal's current first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia could become England's national team keeper, as he has never been called up for Spain and is in the process of acquiring English citizenship.

The keeper proved his worth to Arsene Wenger this season, replacing long-time Arsenal and Germany number one Jens Lehmann as the club's first-choice keeper. However, he has yet to get a cap for a national team.

"They (Spain) have never, never called me," said Almunia.

"If other people want me, I have to study my situation and take a decision because it is good for me - I will not close myself to anything."

"I always say I have to wait to see what is happening at that moment, or which goalkeeper England has, or which goalkeeper Spain has, look at the situation and take a decision," he continued.

"It would be a big decision but I wouldn't care if I had two days to take it."

Meanwhile, the player he has replaced, Jens Lehmann, is pondering a move away from the North London giants.

"I would not leave this club just because I was on the bench. But if I am going to change clubs, I would have to make my decision by the beginning of January and I expect to do that in little over a week," said Lehmann.

"That is just a week away and I am not actively looking for another club.

"I have had offers, but I can say that for the moment there is nothing concrete.

"I have spoken with nobody at Manchester City, perhaps Arsene Wenger spoke with someone from Wolfsburg and my lawyer has spoken with people from other teams, but I can’t say which clubs."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wenger Won't Buy Any Defenders In January

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is reluctant to splash out cash during the January transfer window.

The Gunners will be without first-choice center back Kolo Toure for large parts of January and February due to the African Cup of Nations, and it was speculated that the Arsenal manager would purchase a short-term replacement for the Ivorian in January.

However, it now seems as though Wenger will recall Johann Djourou from a loan at Birmingham and settle for three central defenders - William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, and Djourou.

"Kolo Toure goes off to the African Nations Cup shortly and we may lose Alex Song for it as well," said the Arsenal boss.

"Even with Johan Djourou returning from Birmingham we would then be left with three specialist center-backs.

"If I signed another one we'd have too many after the African Nations. Sometimes you just have to suffer during the tournament and let your players play."

Philippe Senderos apparently thinks he is ready for the increased amount of playing time, but Arsenal fans who have become accustomed to his frequent errors will not feel the same way.

"It could be a big opportunity for me to go in there and show what I can do," said Senderos.

"I believe I've already shown what I'm capable of but this could be a big chance to come into the team for a while.

"It would be a good time to come in as well - we are playing great football, winning games, and I'm ready for the challenge."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Portsmouth vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

League leaders Arsenal are to take on 7th placed Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Boxing Day.

The Gunners, who sport a clean bill of health, will be looking for six points out of six in their next two matches to go into the new year as leaders, but they will have to work hard as they face quality opposition in Portsmouth and Everton.

Portsmouth are a bit short on confidence though, having begun to falter after a bright start to the season. They have gotten only four points out of four matches this month, and will be missing Noe Pamarot, Linvoy Primus, and Martin Cranie, although Sean Davis and former Arsenal defender Lauren should b back in time for the clash.

Arsenal on the other hand are high on morale, having won four games in a row since losing to Middlesbrough. The Gunners recently completed the double over rivals Tottenham Hotspur after winning their second London derby in two weeks (the other a 1-0 win over Chelsea).

Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie are the only doubts for the Gunners, although the former should recover from a virus soon enough to be fit to play at Fratton Park on Wednesday and the latter may also feature.

Manuel Almunia, who finished Saturday's game with a penalty kick save, will keep his place in goal behind Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, and Gael Clichy. These five will have their hands full with former Gunner Nwankwo Kanu and the brilliant Benjani.

In the midfield the brilliant quartet of Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas will try to boss around a Pompey midfield which includes the likes of Niko Kranjcar, Sulley Muntari and John Utaka. If van Persie isn't fit, they will most likely be joined by Emmanuel Eboue in a 4-5-1 with Hleb playing off of Emmanuel Adebayor.

Up front Emmanuel Adebayor may finally link up with Robin van Persie in the attack after the Dutchman missed the North London derby with a small knock. If he doesn't feature, Wenger will either play Eboue as a fifth midfielder, or play Nicklas Bendtner, who scored the match winner against Tottenham last weekend, up front with Adebayor. Eboue is the more likely option, but I would personally like to see Bendtner get a start alongside Adebayor.

Pompey are a bit short in confidence, and should fall prey to Arsene Wenger's brilliant Gunners. A nearly full-strength side should do away with Harry Redknapp's side, keeping Arsenal at the top of the table.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Match Review

Arsenal completed the double over arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur as they escaped from a nervy encounter with three points. The Gunners, who were heavy favorites to win the match despite Tottenham's recent resurgence, went a goal up just after halftime when Emmanuel Adebayor scored his tenth league goal of the season, but Dimitar Berbatov levelled in the 66th. Robbie Keane then saw a penalty fabulously saved by Manuel Almunia before substitute Nicklas Bendtner headed in with his first touch of the match to give Arsenal a 2-1 victory.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb, Tomas Rosicky; Emmanuel Adebayor

Tottenham: Paul Robinson; Young-Pyo Lee, Younes Kaboul, Pascal Chimbonda, Teemu Tainio; Kevin-Prince Boateng, Jamie O'Hara, Steed Malbranque, Aaron Lennon; Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov

Arsenal rushed out of the gates, with Mathieu Flamini hooking a volley just off target in the second minute.

Spurs were trying their best to contain Arsenal and play on the break, but Kolo Toure still managed to get onto a Cesc Fabregas free kick, but the ball fell tamely to Paul Robinson.

Tottenham were playing their game well though, and chances were hard to come by for both sides.

Robinson finally made his first real save in the 33rd minute when Emmanuel Eboue took a shot at the England stopper's right goalpost.

The game began to liven up as half time approached with Almunia saving a free kick from Dimitar Berbatov and Kevin-Prince Boateng curling an effort just over the Spaniard's crossbar.

Toure once again got on the end of a Fabregas free kick just before half time, but Paul Robinson was equal to his effort again, and the half time whistle sounded with the teams level.

The second half was much more lively.

Cesc Fabregas' cheeky backheel met Emmanuel Adebayor in the penalty area only minutes after the second half started, and the tall Togo striker finished well, curling the ball past Robinson, putting him on top of the Premier League's scoring chart this season.

Robbie Keane volleyed into the crossbar after meeting a cross from Aaron Lennon in the 65th minute, as Tottenham looked to equalize.

The equalizer came only a minute later after Keane backheeled to Berbatov who finished neatly past Mathieu Flamini and Kolo Toure at the near post.

Berbatov was involved again when Kolo Toure brought the Bulgarian down in the penalty area. Keane stepped up, but Almunia dove the right way to brilliantly deny Tottenham a second goal.

Arsene Wenger then sent Nicklas Bendtner on for Emmanuel Eboue and Arsenal were immediately rewarded.

In the 74th minute Nicklas Bendtner rose unmarked in the box to head past Paul Robinson with his first touch in the game. There could be no better way to endear oneself to Arsenal fans than scoring the winner in the North London derby, and the 19 year-old Dane seems like he may have himself quite a future at the Emirates.

Bendtner nearly set up Adebayor for a third, but the striker was muscled off of the ball.

Adel Taraabt then had a penalty shout dismissed by referee Rob Styles who blew the final whistle soon after.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Arsenal To Face Holders Milan In Champions League

Arsenal will face last season's champions of Europe, AC Milan, in the first knockout round of the Champions League. The Gunners, who finished second in their group, arguably drew the toughest team in the competition.

The other teams who Arsenal could have been matched with were Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Porto.

Arsenal will take on the holders at home on Wednesday February 20th, and at the San Siro on Tuesday March 4th, as Arsene Wenger's youngsters square up against one of Europe's biggest powers.

Last season, Arsenal was knocked out in this round after losing to PSV Eindhoven in a disappointing show. The Gunners will be hoping they show more class against a Milan side that is flourishing in Europe but stuttering in the Serie A.

Arsene Wenger was optimistic despite the tough draw.

"The draw is interesting and exciting," he said. "But do I believe that we can do it? Yes. AC can be really average in the championship but can raise their game on big occasions. That is something that is really surprising. They look invincible in Europe but beatable in Italy. They had an average championship last year and have again this year. We have to analyze what gets them there on the special occasion.

"Still I believe we can knock AC Milan out and why should we reduce our ambitions? As well, I believe my squad can improve until the end of February and beginning of March.

"What I would like my squad to do now is to focus on the Premier League and be in a comfortable position when we play Milan, so that, at that time, we can focus completely on the Champions League during these 15 days."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Match Preview

League leaders Arsenal take on 12th place Tottenham in the second North London derby of the season as the Gunners try to stay clear of Manchester United.

Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 at White Heart Lane after coming back from a goal deficit. Tottenham will be trying to get revenge this time around at the Emirates, but will have a tough time, with the Gunners on a fine run of form.

Arsene Wenger's team beat Chelsea last weekend and Blackburn midweek, capping off a remarkable run of games after having initially struggled following a loss to Sevilla. The Gunners, who are still undefeated at home, are also sporting a virtually clean bill of health, with Theo Walcott the only doubt.

Tottenham have also been playing well though, defeating Manchester City twice and Portsmouth once in their past three games. It seems that Juande Ramos' appointment may finally be having the correct effect.

Spurs are missing Gareth Bale, their goalscorer in the 3-1 loss at White Heart Lane, as well as Benoit Essou-Ekotto, but Anthony Gardner should be fit in time for Saturday. Ledley King could also see his first action in the Premier League after a long injury layoff.

Arsenal will field their full-strength lineup for the first time in quite a while this Saturday, and the team picks itself.

Manuel Almunia will start in goal, high on confidence after an impressive performance against Chelsea last week.

In front of him Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy will try to stop the likes of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov.

The Arsenal midfield, which should boss around Spurs in the center of the park, will include Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, and Alex Hleb.

Up front lanky Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor will be joined by his preferred strike partner Robin van Persie for the first time since the Dutchman picked up an injury on international duty with the Netherlands. The pair were prolific before van Persie's injury, and will be hoping to reach their prior form again on Saturday.

Although the return of Ledley King could plug a leaky Tottenham defense, a full-strength Arsenal side will be tough to deal with at home, and I can't see Spurs going home with any points. I say 2-0 to Arsenal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Arsenal To Face Tottenham In Carling Cup Semifinals

Arsenal will face North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the semifinals of the Carling Cup for the second season running. The other semifinal will be a tough contest between Everton and Chelsea.

Arsenal made it through to the semifinals after a thrilling 3-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers, while Tottenham barely had to fight to defeat Manchester City, despite playing 70 minutes with 10 men after the sending off of Didier Zokora.

The Gunners defeated their bitter rivals 5-3 on aggregate last season, drawing the away leg 2-2 before defeating Spurs 3-1 at the Emirates after two extra time goals from Jeremie Aliadiere and Tomas Rosicky. They crashed out of the cup in the finals after losing to Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.

Arsenal have already defeated Tottenham once this season, and face them again in only three days.

The last Premier League fixture between the two sides was an emphatic Arsenal victory at White Heart Lane. The Gunners were trailing early after a Gareth Bale free kick, but pulled back to take home three points thanks to a double from Emmanuel Adebayor and a goal from Cesc Fabregas.

The home and away fixtures mean that Arsenal will be playing Tottenham three times over the span of the month.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blackburn vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Ten-man Arsenal defeated Blackburn 3-2 in extra time, after a tense 120 minutes at Ewood Park. The Gunners gained an early lead thanks to Abou Diaby and Eduardo, but Blackburn came back through a Roque Santa Cruz brace. Neves Denilson was sent off during second half stoppage time, but Arsenal's youngsters showed great character as Eduardo bagged his second during the first half of extra time to propel the Gunners to victory after a titanic clash.

Arsenal will now have to face either Tottenham, Everton, or the winner of Chelsea and Liverpool as Arsene Wenger's fringe players try to reach the finals of the competition for the second year running.

Blackburn: Brad Friedel; Ryan Nelsen, Christopher Samba, Steven Warnock, Steven Reid; David Bentley, David Dunn, Morten Gamst Pederson, Robbie Savage; Matt Derbyshire, Roque Santa Cruz

Arsenal: Lukasz Fabianski; Justin Hoyte, Alex Song, Philippe Senderos, Armand Traore; Neves Denilson, Lassana Diarra, Abou Diaby, Mark Randall ;Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo

The away team looked like a full senior squad, rather than a group of youngsters. A brilliant interplay of passes saw Arsenal on top after only 6 minutes when Abou Diaby's first-touch shot beat Brad Friedel at close range.

The traveling fans almost had more to cheer for only 3 minutes later when Nicklas Bendtner, who made a good case for his inclusion in Arsenal's senior side today, saw a shot rattle off the crossbar after a neat one-two with Diaby.

After a long period of Arsenal domination, Blackburn rallied back and twice tested 22 year-old Lukasz Fabianski in goal. The Pole made two good looking saves before Arsenal doubled their lead in the 29th minute.

Christopher Samba should have cleared away Neves Denilson's smart pass, but completely missed the ball instead. The Blackburn defender could only watch on in horror as Eduardo latched on to the pass and calmly slotted home to give Arsenal a two goal lead.

Blackburn rallied back though, giving Arsenal a tough time towards the end of the first half, and grabbed their first goal through Roque Santa Cruz in the 42nd minute, when the Paraguayan striker met Matt Derbyshire's cross in the penalty box.

The strike set the tone for the second half, which saw some desperate Arsenal defending.

With Blackburn on the ascendancy, it looked to be only a matter of time before the Rovers came up with an equalizer.

Mark Randall was booked for a tackle on Stephen Warnock around the hour mark, as David Bentley set up a free kick. The former Arsenal boy's ball was once again met by Santa Cruz who scored his second of the night with his head.

With half an hour left to play, the game could have gone either way, but despite a large number of chances on both sides, neither could break the deadlock, and to the pleasure of the onlookers the game looked destined for extra time.

Neves Denilson was sent off on the stroke of full time after a two-footed tackle on David Dunn, leaving a dejected Arsenal squad happy to hear the whistle.

Extra time started badly for Arsenal as substitute Nacer Barazite fell awkwardly and had to be taken off in a stretcher with a dislocated shoulder. The Dutchman was replaced by the much-hyped Fran Merida in the 100th minute.

Arsenal's luck got better soon after.

In the 104th minute of extra time a brilliant pass from an unlikely source reached Eduardo in the penalty box. Despite being fatigued, the Croatian striker beat Brad Friedel from 16 yards out, giving Arsenal scapegoat Alex Song an unlikely assist to top off an excellent performance from the center back.

Soon after Eduardo's goal, the former Dinamo Zagreb man was taken off after both of his legs cramped up at once. It was a good move, as he was so tired he could barely celebrate after his goal.

Kieran Gibbs played the last 20 minutes of the match, but nothing mattered any more, as Arsenal once again weathered a flurry of Blackburn attacks before finally hearing the final whistle.

The match was one of the most entertaining games I've seen in quite a while, and bodes well for Arsenal's future. These kids could well beat Chelsea or Liverpool to the Carling Cup title.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wenger Sticks With Youngsters For Blackburn Clash

Arsene Wenger will continue to blood his youngsters in the Carling Cup, even against the tough opposition of Blackburn. The Arsenal coach feels that playing a young squad will not only increase the experience of Arsenal's fringe players, but also allow the Gunners' senior squad a chance to rest during period congested with fixtures.

"The Carling Cup is more of a squad game, because we decided as a squad to go for every single trophy. Many players that didn't play against Chelsea will play at Blackburn on Tuesday night," the coach told

"My expectation is to qualify and go into the semi-finals, because we want to come back as well as we did last year and as well it is a good opportunity for my squad to show how strong the players who didn't play against Chelsea are.

"I believe in them, and it is good (for the fringe players) to show me 'we knock at the door and we want to play in the first team'.

"We use the competition for our players to grow up - but not only to grow up. It is also to show they are good enough to play in the Champions League and the Premier League.

"I believe as well what is fantastic is to see these players respond under the pressure of Premier League teams, and you can detect who is ready and who is not ready."

Wenger has named the following squad for Tuesday's clash:

Lukasz Fabianksi, Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos, Alex Song, Armand Traore, Abou Diaby, Gilberto, Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo, Vito Mannone, Gavin Hoyte, Lassana Diarra, Neves Denilson, Henri Lansbury, Fran Merida, Nacer Barazite, William Gallas

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blackburn vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Only two days after defeating Chelsea in the Premier League Arsenal travel to Ewood Park to face Blackburn in the Carling Cup quarterfinals.

The team is likely to be hugely different from the near-full-strength squad that beat the blues to keep Arsenal on top of the Premier League, as Arsene Wenger always tries to field his kids during cup ties.

Robin van Persie is the only player who featured on Sunday that I see as likely to play on Tuesday, and the striker is only likely to play at Ewood because he is struggling to recover match fitness after a long spell on the sidelines due to injury.

Lukasz Fabianksi will probably start in goal, behind a young defense of Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos, Alex Song, and Armand Traore.

In midfield, Neves Denilson, Abou Diaby, Lassana Diarra, and Theo Walcott are the most obvious choices, although after Diarra's declaration that he will leave the club I'm not sure if I'd put him in, even for a Carling Cup game.

Up front I would like to see Robin van Persie partnering the impressive Nicklas Bendtner, although Eduardo could play instead of either of the two.

Van Persie needs to reach match fitness soon, and I believe that Bendtner has more of a future at Arsenal than Eduardo, so I hope to see him rather than the Croat.

Although Blackburn are a very good side, our youngsters have proven again and again that they can play with the best, so I expect a tough 2-1 win to propel the Gunners into the semifinals.

Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Match Review

Arsenal stayed at the top of the Premier League after defeating Chelsea 1-0 at the Emirates.

The Premier League return of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, and Robin van Persie saw a dynamic Arsenal team boss possession in the high tension game which saw 10 yellow cards awarded. The Blues put up a good fight, but a mistake from Chelsea keeper Petr Cech led to the only goal of the match in first-half stoppage time.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor

Chelsea: Petr Cech; Paolo Ferreira, John Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole; Mikel John Obi, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips; Joe Cole, Andriy Shevchenko

Arsenal started with a 4-5-1 formation, with Alex Hleb playing just off of lone striker Emmanuel Adebayor as a not-yet-match-fit Robin van Persie watched from the bench until the 70th minute.

Chelsea, unlike the Gunners, were missing top scorer Didier Drogba and fellow African Michael Essien, and therefore played with Joe Cole partnering Andriy Shevchenko in an offensive 4-4-2 which Avram Grant had hoped would bring some beautiful flowing football to Chelsea's game.

The first quarter of an hour was frenetic, as both teams maniacally attempted to draw first blood. However, Arsenal's best chance came from a Chelsea player.

Emmanuel Adebayor pressured defender Alex into heading the ball towards Petr Cech, but the Brazilian's header was far too high for the keeper. Chelsea fans breathed a sigh of relief when the ball fell wide, but the chance suggested that the encounter could just as likely be won on a mistake as a moment of brilliance.

A deflected shot from Shaun Wright-Phillips found Manuel Almunia forced into a tight spot minutes later, but a diving save just about summed up the Arsenal keeper's night: brilliant.

Arsenal were beginning to find their passing form, but did little to trouble Petr Cech, only coming close through a free kick from Cesc Fabregas that flew over the bar.

Almunia on the other hand was being constantly tested, and did well to deny a long-range drive from Andriy Shevchenko.

The game began to change after John Terry limped off to be replaced by Tal Ben-Haim following a tackle from Emmanuel Eboue.

On the stroke of half-time former Chelsea defender William Gallas scored the winner. A flailing arm from Petr Cech completely missed the ball, and the Arsenal captain calmly headed the loose ball home, giving Arsenal a lead going into the second half. The keeping mistake looked more characteristic of Paul Robinson than Petr Cech.

Chelsea came out strongly in the second half, but their overly offense only invited lightning-fast counterattacks from the young Gunners.

Almunia once again made a fabulous save as a shot from Mikel John Obi flew towards the corner of the net.

It was then Arsenal's turn for an injury as Emmanuel Eboue was stretchered off after a nasty tackle from Joe Cole. Robin van Persie's entrance made an immediate impact.

After placing a teasing cross across the face of goal, and then stinging Petr Cech's hands, van Persie missed a brilliant chance following some good work from Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Adebayor and Alex Hleb.

The Duthchman then found the back of the net, but had his goal ruled out for an offsides on Rosicky during the buildup.

As Arsenal began to look the stronger side again, Petr Cech made up for his previous error by making a fabulous double save when Cesc Fabregas had looked sure to score.

Emmanuel Adebayor than found the back of the net, but once again had a goal ruled out after having been harshly adjudged to have fouled his marker.

Arsenal fans were relieved when Almunia made yet another amazing save, this time from a Shevchenko free-kick, but were then disappointed as Cesc Fabregas missed a simple chance after being set up by substitute Nicklas Bendtner.

It didn't matter though, as the final whistle blew second later, ending a tense second half which kept Arsenal at the top of the Premiership, and once again proved that the Gunners can contend for the crown.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nikolay Dimitrov Goes On Trial At Arsenal

Levski Sofia forward Nikolay Dimitrov has long been rumored to be coming to the Emirates.

The Bulgarian club's official website has now reported that the 20 year-old left-winger will be training in London with Arsenal on a week-long trial, on the invitation of Arsene Wenger. Arsenal's official site has yet to post an article regarding the news.

The Bulgarian forward made his debut for Levski Sofia when he was only 16 years old, and has since featured 32 times for the Bulgarian Champions, scoring 9 times.

A talented, young left-footed winger, Dimitrov could be a great asset to an Arsenal squad which has abundant talent, but not a single out-and-out winger. The general consensus amongst Arsenal fans during the summer was that the club needed a left winger, and while the rise of Alex Hleb has seen the clamoring quiet down, many would still be pleased to finally see Wenger investing in a winger if Dimitrov does make it to Arsenal.

The move could also solve the problem of Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric who has been heavily linked to Arsenal, but could be the subject of a bidding war between the Gunners and cross-town rivals Chelsea.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Signs Look Good For Fabregas, Hleb, and Flamini

Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb and Mathieu Flamini could all return from injury in time for Arsenal's pivotal clash against Chelsea.

The three have arguably been Arsenal's best performers so far this season, so it will come as good news that all three are back in training.

Arsene Wenger had already stated that he would take a gamble on one or two of his players if they are were not fit, but it seems the Arsenal manager will not have to make a tough decision, as all three could be ready by Sunday.

The news will be welcome amongst Arsenal fans, as their team will have to deal with a dangerous midfield lineup which includes Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Florent Malouda.

Not all was well at the Emirates though, as English youngster Theo Walcott has been ruled out of the match after picking up a small knock against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday.

"Who will make it, I don’t know?" said Arsene Wenger. "We know Robin van Persie will be available. As for Mathieu Flamini, Cesc and Alex Hleb, the signs look quite good but we have to make a decision."

"Theo Walcott is out with a little knee problem," the Frenchman added. "That is a question of days and we feel he should be OK for Tuesday maybe."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Match Preview

Avram Grant's Chelsea travel to the Emirates to face cross-town rivals Arsenal this Sunday. The day's fixtures, which also see Manchester United face off against Liverpool, could very well decide which team is at the top of the table at the halfway point of the season.

Arsenal are in a bit of a rough patch of form right now, but a win over Steaua Bucharest in the midweek, in conjunction with the return of Abou Diaby and Robin van Persie, will ensure that the Gunners are confident coming in to this match.

The opposite is true of Chelsea. The Blues have won four of their last five Premier League matches, but an injury to last season's top scorer Didier Drogba, and a poor home draw against Valencia on Tuesday won't be doing much to boost morale over at the Stamford Bridge.

Both teams could see many players return from injury for the big London derby though, with Petr Cech, Florent Malouda, Ricardo Carvalho, and Paulo Ferreira all back in contention for the Blues. Didier Drogba will be sorely missed though, regardless of other players coming back.

Arsenal's van Persie and Diaby both came back into action in the midweek, and the squad could be further boosted by Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, and Mathieu Flamini, all of whom Arsene Wenger could be willing to gamble on.

After resting some key players on Wednesday, Arsene Wenger will field a rejuvenated full-strength squad against Chelsea.

Manuel Almunia is likely to return in goal, after Jens Lehmann had a decent, but not spectacular, game against Steaua Bucharest.

In front of the Spaniard, Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy look set to deal with the blunted front line of Chelsea. They will still have their hands full in spite of Drogba's absence, as their London rivals can rely on Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Anriy Shevchenko and many more of their players for goals.

If all three of Arsenal's midfielders are judged to be fit for the match Arsene Wenger's most likely lineup would include Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb. However, Abou Diaby will most likely feature if Fabregas or Hleb are out, although Neves Denilson could also see some time in the place of Fabregas. Either Gilberto or Lassana Diarra could deputize for Flamini.

Up front Arsenal will see their first-choice strikers in action together for the first time in months. Emmanuel Adebayor, who is currently tied with Cristiano Ronaldo as the Premier League's top scorer, will be especially dangerous in combination with the incredible Robin van Persie.

The two will have trouble breaking down a tough Chelsea defense though, but hopefully some spirited jeering will steer former Gunner Ashley Cole off-course. If Hleb and Fabregas are fit, our strikers should also be able to latch on to a large number of defense splitting passes.

Arsenal are in for a real challenge, but Chelsea are far less potent without Drogba, and I think the Gunners can win this one 2-1 to stay at the top of the Premiership regardless of other results.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arsenal vs. Steaua Bucharest: Match Review

Arsenal defeated Steaua Bucharest 2-1 at the Emirates, returning to their winning ways before a tough fixture against Chelsea on Sunday.

The victory, which saw the return from injury of Robin van Persie, was not enough to put the Gunners at the top of their group, meaning that they will have to face Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, or Porto in the knockout stages.

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Armand Traore; Abou Diaby, Alex Song, Neves Denilson, Theo Walcott; Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner

Steaua Bucharest: Robinson Zapata; Ifeany Emeghara, Dorin Goian, Mihai Nesu, Ionut Rada; Vasilica Cristocea, Nicolae Dica, Florin Lovin, Ovidiu Petre; Valentin Badea, Adrian Neaga

Arsenal started brightly, with Theo Walcott in particular showing some of his promise.

The 18 year-old was on the receiving end of a beautiful pass from the fit-again Robin van Persie, but shot just wide after only two minutes of play.

A few minutes later he had his second chance of the game this time created by his own guile. Walcott skipped past two challenges, and into the box, but could only fire over the bar.

Arsenal's actions paid off soon enough though, as Abou Diaby returned from injury to score the Gunners' first goal.

Walcott was once again in the fray, passing to Bacary Sagna, who centered the ball with a low cross. Countryman Diaby took a touch to control, and then sent a powerful shot into the back of the net, giving Arsenal an early lead.

The tempo wound down a bit as the half wore on, with Steaua looked well beaten despite being only one goal behind. Jens Lehmann's return saw the German keeper as more of a spectator than anything else.

Arsenal had another chance around the 35 minute mark when Robin van Persie took a shot from near the penalty spot but saw his effort curl wide of the post.

The English team still looked the more likely team to score though, and it came as no surprise when Nicklas Bendtner stepped up to claim Arsenal's second of the night.

A perceptive pass from van Persie met Bendtner in the area, and the big Dane stepped over a challenge before coolly slotting home.

Arsenal were cruising in the second half, and still looked the more likely team to score. Bendtner almost grabbed a second, only for Steaua keeper Robinson Zapata to rush out of goal.

It was Steaua who found the back of the net last though, soon after van Persie made way for Eduardo.

A looping header from Dorel Zaharia beat Jens Lehmann to give the Romanian team a consolation goal.

They never looked like they could come back level with Arsenal though, and only wastefulness kept the Gunners only a goal ahead, as both Theo Walcott and Eduardo went clear in stoppage time.

The squad will have to show better composure in front of goal if they hope to beat Chelsea this Sunday.

Faltering Arsenal Need van Persie To Shine Against Chelsea

Arsenal went 21 games unbeaten this season before finally losing 3-1 to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. The Gunners’ fine run of form included draws with both Manchester United and Liverpool, and victories over Sevilla and arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

However, Arsene Wenger’s young squad have only managed to pick up four points in their last three Premier League matches since losing top spot in Group H of the Champions League to the Sevillistas.

The loss to Middlesbrough has dampened the Gunners early-season hopes of winning the title and brought the depth of the Arsenal squad into question. It seems that Arsenal will need some impetus to get back to their winning ways.

That impetus could be the return of Robin van Persie.

The news of his return has rejuvenated Arsenal fans, who believe that the Dutch striker could be what Arsenal need to get back to the top of their game.

Although Emmanuel Adebayor is the Premier League’s joint top scorer this season, along with Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the big Togolese striker has, at times, looked separated from the team as a lone striker.

Van Persie and Adebayor had been forming a special bond prior to the Dutchman’s injury on international duty, and the lanky African has often stated his desire to play alongside him since the injury.

While Arsenal aren’t exactly short in the goals department having scored more goals than any other team so far this season, Van Persie can bring a lot to the table when Arsenal face Chelsea on Sunday.

While Didier Drogba was last season’s top scorer in the Premier League, his goals-to-games ratio was slightly lower than that of the injury-prone van Persie, who managed to score 11 goals despite starting in only 17 league games. His form continued into the current campaign, seeing him score five times in only seven games before injury struck.

All know about his goal-scoring abilities though. What people often forget is that Van Persie is more of a Dennis Bergkamp-esque player than an out-and-out striker.

The 24 year-old forward follows in the steps of his countryman and former team-mate, adding assists to goals, making him the complete forward. Last season van Persie tallied up seven assists in his 17 Premier League starts, an impressive number.

If you think Arsenal have been in top gear lately, just wait until you see them with a fully fit squad.

Van Persie is the man to watch as Arsenal prepare to face a Drogba-less Chelsea team (the Ivorian underwent knee surgery earlier this week), and could quite possibly be Arsenal’s top scorer this season even in spite of his injury troubles.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Arsenal Can Be Champions Despite Middlesbrough Defeat

Talk of invincibility has been thrown out the window. Gareth Southgate's lowly Middlesbrough have inflicted a first league defeat on Arsene Wenger's Arsenal side.

And so the naysayers once again begin to doubt the young Gunners. Eleven wins, four draws and one defeat place Arsenal a point ahead of last season's champions Manchester United, deservedly at the top of the Premier League table. Why, then, do the so-called pundits, players and fans alike, begin to question the squad?

An Arsenal side missing four of their best players in Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Robin van Persie and Mathieu Flamini did indeed fall to a team hovering too close to the relegation zone. But look at any of the top four teams and imagine how they would do without four of their best players.

Chelsea would be nothing without Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Essien. Manchester United are far less potent without Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Even Rafa Benitez's crazy rotation policies couldn't save a Liverpool side without Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.

Those who claim that Arsenal's loss to Middlesbrough is a portent of bad times to come would do well to remember some of the bad results the Gunners' rivals have been through this season. Only a day before Arsenal lost to Boro, a nearly full-strength Liverpool were defeated 3-1 by struggling Reading, and a Rooney and Ronaldo-less Manchester United were beaten by second-from-bottom Bolton at the Reebok only a few weeks ago.

Although Chelsea's two league defeats have come at the hands of United and Aston Villa, one need only look as far as a 1-1 draw with minnows Rosenborg to see that even Roman Abramovich's money cannot buy safety from injuries.

The Premier League is long and arduous. Just as critics warned Arsenal fans that the first 16 games do not decide the winners, I would like to remind the opposition that while a game may prove to be a turning point in a team's fortunes, it takes a full 38 games to crown the champions.

Arsenal are at the top of the table, and anything could happen over the next 22 games, but I see the Gunners as favourites to lift the Premier League crown when the dust settles. Don't write them off just yet.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Arsenal vs. Steaua Bucharest: Match Preview

Steaua Bucharest travel to London this Wednesday as English giants Arsenal try to regain their winning form on home soil.

The Gunners lost their first match of the season in their last Champions League match away to Sevilla. Soon after, the squad lost their first Premier League game in a shock 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough.

While Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League knockout stages, Arsene Wenger will be looking for a win to boost his side's confidence ahead of a tough Premier League clash against Chelsea.

The North London club could also go first in the group if they defeat Steaua and Sevilla falter in Prague.

Steaua have nothing to play for, as they are four points adrift of third-placed Slavia Prague, meaning that the Romanian team will be knocked out of European competition no matter Wednesday's results.

Arsene Wenger's young side will still have a tough time defeating Steaua though, especially considering the large number of injuries.

Arsenal will still be missing Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, although Abou Diaby and Robin van Persie will be in the squad for the first time in quite a while.

This leaves Arsene Wenger without too much choice, although he would likely want to change his squad from the one that lost at Middlesbrough.

Jens Lehmann is set to start his first game in goal for Arsenal since his high profile error at Blackburn on August 19.

Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy are the manager's undisputed first-choice back four. However, Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore, and maybe even Philippe Senderos could see some action as Wenger rest's his top players ahead of a congested fixture list.

In the midfield, Tomas Rosicky was the only player who had a decent game against Middlesbrough on Sunday, and he is likely to stay in the squad as the team's driving creative force.

The other positions are more difficult to place, but I would like to see Lassana Diarra and Neves Denilson alongside Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Eboue in a five man midfield.

If Abou Diaby is fully fit for the game, he would likely start in a more creative position instead of Denilson. However, he is more likely to come off of the bench like Robin van Persie, as he is unlikely to be match-fit.

This would leave space for Emmanuel Adebayor or Nicklas Bendtner to play alone up front, depending on how much Arsene Wenger is willing to risk.

Robin van Persie is going to be in the squad for the Steaua game, but he is unlikely to start, probably coming off the bench towards the end of the match.

Arsenal have already beaten Steaua Bucharest at home and I would be surprised (and disappointed) if we were to lose a home game against such relatively weak opponents.

I predict a 2-0 win for Arsenal, giving the team at least a small amount of momentum before the Chelsea challenge.

Lowly Middlesbrough End Arsenal's Unbeaten Record

I went skiing this weekend, thinking that it was a good batch of matches to miss.

Villa vs. Portsmouth looked to be an exciting match, but the Gunners would have an easy win away to Middlesbrough, and we wouldn't be gaining any ground on our nearest rivals, as Manchester United faced lowly Derby.

I was confident of an Arsenal win, but I had a friend of mine call me to tell me the final score. You could imagine the shock when he told me the names of the scorers.

Downing, Sanli, and Rosicky.

That meant 2-1 to Middlesbrough.

It seems I chose a good weekend to go away. I would not have been too thrilled watching Arsenal's unbeaten run in the Premier League being ended by a team in the bottom three.

We had better win on Wednesday when we host Steaua Bucharest, or else we might be lacking confidence for the big match with Chelsea on Sunday.

What I've heard of today's game sure does make me hope that Fabregas, Hleb, and van Persie make it back before Sunday.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Middlesbrough vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

High-flying Arsenal travel to the Riverside to face Gareth Southgate's struggling Middlesbrough this Sunday.

Arsenal drew 1-1 with Newcastle midweek, and will face a stiffer challenge this weekend due to the absence of many key players.

However, a Middlesbrough team sitting in the relegation zone shouldn't trouble the Gunners too much. Boro haven't won a game since September first at home to Birmingham, and sit in 18th with only 11 points from 15 games.

Middlesbrough will be missing goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer as well as Mido, Brad Jones, and Matthew Bates. However, Boro will be boosted with Andrew Taylor's return.

Arsenal are still missing four midfield players and last season's top striker Robin van Persie. The midfield casualties are Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, and Abou Diaby. All five look like they may return to fitness in time for next weekends clash against Chelsea though.

Arsene Wenger will likely stick with his first-choice defensive lineup, even against a team which has only scored 13 goals this season. That means that Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy are probably going to feature in the Arsenal starting XI.

Wenger could give a break to some of his players though, possibly playing the error-prone Philippe Senderos to give William Gallas a break before a congested series of fixtures.

Arsenal's midfield will likely be unchanged from Wednesday's game with Newcastle, with Lassana Diarra and Gilberto in holding roles and Emmanuel Eboue and Eduardo on the right and left respectively. This would leave Tomas Rosicky playing in his favored central attacking midfield role.

Up front Emmanuel Adebayor, the Premier League's top scorer with 9 goals, will look to add more to his tally against Middlesbrough's weak defense.

Games are rarely as easy in real life as they are on paper, but this mismatched tie should give Arsenal an easy three points. I say 3-0 to the Arsenal.

Arsenal Table Offer For Tresor Mputu

Congo striker Tresor Mputu's agent claims that Arsenal have made a concrete offer for the 21 year-old TP Mazembe star.

Mputu, who has scored 34 goals in 30 league games for his team, was in London on a 10 day trial which Arsene Wenger and Bajo Bujani, the player's agent, both considered to be successful.

Arsene Wenger's bid is reported to be around the £500,000 range, a great price for a player who has been called better than Cameroon and Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o. Bujani says that TP Mazembe have until Monday to respond.

Mputu also seems to be attracting interest from Spanish side Sevilla, but Bujani believes that Arsenal are leading the race to sign the Congo forward, and could snatch his signature by this weekend.

"While Seville have also shown great interest, I believe Tresor will end up in England," said the agent.

"Arsenal have given TP Mazembe until Monday to respond to their offer.

"I'm convinced that the deal will be completed after the weekend."

If he does come, Mputu might be sent on loan, rather than forced to compete for a first-team spot with the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Eduardo, Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Newcastle vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Newcastle came back from an early goal down to win a point against Premier League leaders Arsenal, who failed to capitalize on a game in hand but nonetheless went four points clear of second-placed Manchester United.

Arsenal were 1-0 up after only four minutes, after Emmanuel Adebayor drilled a fabulous volley into the back of Shay Given's net. Despite having lost their last four matches, though, Sam Allardyce's Newcastle showed some spirit, and got a point out of the match when Steven Taylor's 60th minute strike went in off of the post.

Newcastle: Shay Given; Habib Beye, David Rozenhal, Steven Taylor; Joey Barton, Nicky Butt, James Milner, Charles N'zogbia, Geremi; Obafemi Martins, Alan Smith

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Gilberto Silva, Lassana Diarra, Tomas Rosicky, Eduardo da Silva; Emmanuel Adebayor

Arsenal started off with a bang after a brilliant piece of work from Emmanuel Adebayor silenced the Tyneside crowd only four minutes into the game.

The lanky Togolese striker chested down a cross from Emmanuel Eboue, and drilled an unstoppable volley between Steven Taylor and David Rozenhal before the ball touched the ground.

The goal will certainly be a contender for goal of the month.

Newcastle almost responded only a few seconds after Adebayor's strike when Geremi sent a header just wide with Almunia beaten.

The Magpies skipper then saw a free kick well saved by a fully stretched Almunia in the 28th minute.

The Arsenal goalkeeper played brilliantly, and made yet another save as the game approached half-time, throwing up a hand to deflect Steven Taylor's header onto the post. The save was so unexpected that the Newcastle players appealed for a handball, assuming that an Arsenal outfielder had touched the ball, rather than the brilliant keeper.

It was a warning for Arsenal, though, as Newcastle continued to press the Gunners in the second half.

Charles N'Zogbia powered a shot towards the well-worked Arsenal keeper soon after the break, but the ball only stung the Almunia's hands from distance.

The visitors showed some of their promise soon after, as Tomas Rosicky played Eboue in down the right. Unfortunately the Ivorian crossed straight to Shay Given, wasting a gilt-edged opportunity.

Geremi saw a shot blocked by Gilberto in the 53rd minute, before an Arsenal fast-break started.
Adebayor and Rosicky played off of each other, but the Togo striker raced ahead into an offside position, as the Czech Republic captain had the ball stripped away.

It was a chance that the Gunners would rue, as Newcastle equalized in the 60th minute.

Bacary Sagna was kept away from Habib Beye's cross by a strong Obafemi Martins, and the ball fell perfectly for Steven Taylor. Sagna tried to recover, but his block came a fraction of a second too late, as Taylor's shot ricocheted home off of the bottom of Almunia's post, giving the keeper no chance.

Newcastle continued to play strongly, as a shell-shocked Arsenal side backed down.

Even Nicklas Bendtner coming on for Eduardo could do little, as Arsenal settled for a point at St. James' Park.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Flamini and Hleb to miss Newcastle clash

Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb have joined Arsenal's lengthy injury list for tomorrow's game at St. James' Park. The pair join fellow midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby, as well as long-term casualty Robin van Persie.

Hleb picked up a hamstring injury during Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Aston Villa over the weekend after a nasty tackle.

Flamini, who has also been on great form this season, will miss the game at Newcastle due to a recurrence of a thigh injury.

However, Arsene Wenger was upbeat, confident in the Arsenal midfield with Neves Denilson returning to the squad.

"We have lost Alex Hleb and Mathieu Flamini from Saturday at Villa," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online.

"We have no-one back so that's Diaby, Van Persie, Hleb, Flamini and Fabregas out for this game.

"At one stage we thought it was congested in midfield but now it looks bare," he added. "But we still have quality players coming in there. We have Gilberto while Denilson is back after an injury. He is travelling with us. So we are very confident that we are still strong in the midfield."

Wenger shouldn't be too worried, as Arsenal's Carling Cup side already beat Newcastle 2-0 in the cup this season.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Arsenal's January Transfer Window Intentions

Arsene Wenger has announced his intentions for the January transfer window, implying that the Gunners' midfield lineup is adequate, but he would like to bolster Arsenal's defense.

The Gunners boss had early stated that he would not be looking for anyone during the transfer season, saying: "I don’t think I will get anybody in but if I get one opportunity in one area then I will not neglect it."

However, Wenger seems to have changed his stance, cryptically suggesting that he might be in the market for a central defender.

"In midfield we have plenty of players," he said. "The only area we might be a bit short is at the back because we have Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue going to the African Nations Cup.

"We might have Johann Djourou back though. We have the option to recall him."

Currently Arsenal's third choice center back is the error-prone Philippe Senderos, so injuries to Kolo Toure and William Gallas automatically mean a shaky defense.

While I expect Djourou to be an improvement on Senderos while Toure is at the African Cup of Nations, I think that searching for another quality central defender would be wise.

Although it would cost a small fortune to acquire his services, a certain Micah Richards seems to fit the bill.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Newcastle vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to St. James' Park this Wednesday as they finally play their game in hand against Newcastle United. Depending on Manchester United's result tomorrow, a win at Newcastle could see Arsenal go as many as eight points clear of their nearest competition.

A Gunners win could also see Sam Allardyce fired from his new club.

Arsene Wenger's boys will be high in confidence after bouncing back from their loss against Sevilla to beat Aston Villa 2-1 over the weekend.

However, a large number of injury absences could make the job a fair bit harder.

Arsenal's two best playmakers, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb, are both unlikely to feature against Newcastle, and Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby are definitely out.

Newcastle have some injuries of their own as well, and after losing their last four games in a row they will have a tough time defeating the Gunners. Steven Taylor and Cacapa may return against Arsenal, but Stephen Carr, Abdoulaye Faye, Michael Owen, Celestine Babayaro, Peter Ramage, and Damien Duff will all miss the clash.

The Arsenal lineup will likely look very similar to that which played Aston Villa on the weekend.

Manuel Almunia will start in goal behind the tough back line of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy.

The midfield could see some changes depending on the fitness of Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas.

If both are out, Wenger will probably play Emmanuel Eboue on the right with Lassana Diarra and Mathieu Flamini in the middle and Theo Walcott or Eduardo on the left. Tomas Rosicky would play either in a creative midfield role, or a more advanced position behind a lone striker.

However, if one of the two is able to play, Rosicky will most likely be moved out to the left wing, with Walcott and Eduardo being relegated to the bench.

Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor looks set to once again start up front alone. The Togo striker has been in great form this season, scoring 8 goals in the Premier League to become joint top-scorer.

Even with a weakened Arsenal lineup, I think that Newcastle's confidence and injury problems should lead to an emphatic Arsenal victory. I say 3-1 to the Arsenal.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Aston Villa vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal jumped back from a 3-1 midweek loss at Sevilla and a 1-0 deficit to beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park. The Gunners, who are still undefeated in the Premier League, allowed an early goal, but came back with two of their own before halftime to go five points clear of Chelsea with a game in hand, and six clear of last season's champions Manchester United.

Aston Villa: Scott Carson; Wilfred Bouma, Zat Knight, Olof Mellberg, Martin Laursen; Ashley Young, Gareth Barry, Craig Gardner, Stiliyan Petrov; Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Lassana Diarra, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor

Both sides started brightly, and Scott Carson was forced to turn a low drive from Emmanuel Adebayor around the post soon after the first whistle.

Alex Hleb passed a late fitness test and had a good chance as well, breaking into Villa's 18 yard box only for Carson to tackle the ball away.

Aston Villa did much better with their first real chance of the game.

A cross from John Carew deflected off of two Arsenal defenders before falling to Craig Gardner, who left Manuel Almunia no chance with his 14th minute half-volley.

The goal brought Arsenal to life, and the Gunners were immediately rewarded with a few chances after some good build-up play.

Martin Laursen made two blocks from shots from Hleb and Adebayor, but could do nothing to stop Mathieu Flamini from scoring in the 23rd minute.

A cross from Emmanuel Eboue flicked off of Hleb's boot to find Flamini on the edge of the box. The French holding midfielder struck the ball beautifully, leaving a hapless Carson to pick the ball out of his net with Arsenal level.

At this point Arsenal looked for a second, with Laursen blocking another effort from Flamini. Scott Carson was forced to make a save from Hleb as well, but all the defending in the world could not keep Arsenal at bay.

Bacary Sagna made a nice cross in to Adebayor, who managed to beat both Olof Mellberg and Zat Knight in the air to head past Carson and give Arsenal a 2-1 lead.

It would prove to be the match winner as Arsenal's strength tapered off going in to the second half.

Villa were the better side in the second half, and Martin Laursen, who had already made some key defensive plays for his team, could've equalized early on, only to poke a shot wide.

The Villians came close again when John Carew saw his header come off of Almunia's post, but it was the closest they would get as Arsenal kept their unbeaten run going in the league.

The win over Aston Villa was a great victory for the Arsenal, but an injury to Alex Hleb (which saw the midfielder walk off in the 60th minute) soured the experience.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Vela Not Coming To Arsenal Until Next Season

Arsenal prodigy Carlos Vela will not return from a loan at Osasuna until next Summer, said Arsene Wenger.

Many fans were expecting to see the 18 year-old meet up with the squad in London in January, but it now seems that he will not even be cleared to play in England until March.

Arsene Wenger said that Arsenal scouts watch every game he plays, and that upon joining up with the Gunners in England he will immediately be part of the first-team squad.

Unfortunately, though, Arsenal fans will have to wait until the 2008/09 season to see the future Henry in action.

Wenger told "He can apply for a passport in March and normally he will start with us next summer.

"He will straight away be with the first-team and after that it is up to him to get a place in the side.

"I sent him to Spain because he comes from a Mexican culture and it is easier to adapt in Europe. He has what we like here at Arsenal. He is a good passer of the ball and a finisher. He has that intelligent movement with very good technique and great pace."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Aston Villa vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to Villa Park this Saturday to face Martin O'Neill's on-form Aston Villa.

The Gunners will be looking to get back on track after losing to Sevilla on Tuesday, their first loss in any competition since April. Still, Arsene Wenger's squad will be confident, as the loss came on foreign soil with a depleted squad. An Arsenal win would keep the Gunners at least 3 points clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

Aston Villa are one of the few team's whose recent form can match Arsenal's, though, having won their last four games. Villa, who are currently placed 6th in the Premier League, could move within three points of Arsenal were they to win on home soil.

Their cause will be strengthened by a long Arsenal injury list, and not a single injury of their own (although Nigel Reo-Coker misses the game due to suspension).

Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, and Gael Clichy are all very doubtful, and Robin van Persie is still out injured. Arsenal will, however, welcome Mathieu Flamini back into the squad, after the Frenchman picked up a knock while playing for his country.

Manuel Almunia will start in the away goal. Arsenal's defense will most likely be missing Gael Clichy, so Armand Traore may start in his place. Kolo Toure and William Gallas will start in the heart of the Arsenal back line, while Bacary Sagna slots in at right back.

Alternatively, Sagna could be switched to the left, with Emmanuel Eboue defending the right. However, Arsene Wenger enjoys fielding his youngsters so he may give 18 year-old Traore another chance to shine.

Arsenal will likely field a five man midfield with Robin van Persie still missing. Mathieu Flamini and either Lassana Diarra or Gilberto are likely to play in defensive roles, while Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue track along the left and right wings respectively (unless the Ivorian is played at right-back). Neves Denilson is likely to start again in the center, but Wenger could also play Rosicky as a central attacking midfielder and Eduardo or Theo Walcott on the left wing.

Personally, I would like to see Rosicky in a central midfield role with Walcott's pace terrorizing the Villa defense. Unfortunately, I think that Wenger will be more conservative, placing the Czech Republic captain on the left.

Up front Emmanuel Adebayor will start alone, still missing his prolific Dutch striking partner.

Arsenal will face a tough challenge against a strong Aston Villa side. O'Neill's squad has scored more goals than any other Premier League team other than Arsenal and Everton, and Gabriel Agbonlahor and the tall John Carew will be a tough test for our defense.

Gareth Barry and Ashley Young will also be quite a handful for our back line, but hopefully Gilberto and Flamini will provide enough cover to keep Villa out of our net.

Even with some big names missing, Arsenal's midfield should be able to boss around the possession, but even the lanky Emmanuel Adebayor will find it difficult to win a header against a huge Aston Villa back four.

I expect that we will find a way to goal through some intricate passing though, and I therefore think we can win the game 2-1. Nonetheless, I wouldn't be too disappointed at coming away from Villa park with a point.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fabregas, Van Persie, Hleb and Clichy out for Villa Clash

Arsenal are still fighting an injury plague as Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, and Gael Clichy all face fitness tests ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Aston Villa. Robin van Persie is also set to miss the match, still struggling to recover from an injury he picked up in the an international fixture for the Netherlands.

There is some good news too: Mathieu Flamini will be fit for the late game at Villa park as Arsenal try to stay clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger is hopeful that Hleb and Clichy will fit in time for Villa, but Cesc Fabregas is almost sure to miss the match.

"I don’t know how long it will be for Cesc," Wenger told Arsenal TV. "We hope it will be very, very, very short maybe he’ll even be OK for Saturday. But the medical staff are not optimistic about that. The worst case for him realistically is 10 days.

"We have a slight chance to get Gael Clichy and Alexander Hleb back. Mathieu Flamini will be available. Of course Van Persie is still out."

This means that Arsenal will face a tough game on Saturday, especially coming off of a midweek Champions League loss in Sevilla.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sevilla vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal stuttered to their first defeat since April as a solid Sevilla side outplayed the Gunners to register a 3-1 win. This means that Sevilla are likely to top Champions League Group H after the final matchday. Arsenal will therefore have to face much tougher competition in the first knockout stage.

The news got worse too, as yet another Arsenal midfielder limped off the pitch soon after half time. Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal's undisputed best player so far this campaign, has been added to an injury list which already include midfielders Alex Hleb, Abou Diaby, and Mathieu Flamini.

Sevilla: Andres Palop; Dani Alves, Ivica Dragutinovic, Federico Fazio, Jose Angel Rincon; Adriano Correia, Jesus Navas, Seydou Keita, Christian Poulsen; Freddi Kanoute, Luis Fabiano

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos, Kolo Toure, Armand Traore; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Neves Denilson, Gilberto Silva, Eduardo da Silva; Nicklas Bendtner

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger took a big risk in resting many of his team's big names, and the gamble did not pay off. The defense looked weak from the start (with only Kolo Toure a regular member of the starting XI) and a lone Nicklas Bendtner up front was quite a risk, even with Eduardo prowling the left wing.

Nonetheless, Arsenal fans were looking forwards to another good show of the Gunners' strength in youth, and they thought they had it when Eduardo scored after only 11 minutes.

A Nicklas Bendtner cross met Eduardo in the penalty box, and the Croatian chested the ball down as Andres Palop rushed out of his goal. The Arsenal striker looked to have lost his chance by taking the ball too wide, but slotted home neatly from a very difficult angle, giving the away side the lead.

The bright lead didn't last too long, though, and Sevilla equalized in the 24th minute.

Philippe Senderos, who was in the squad in place of Arsenal's rested captain William Gallas, botched a clearance which fell to Jesus Navas. The Sevilla midfielder's cross was acrobatically cleared by Gilberto, but fell to Seydou Keita, who struck magnificently into the roof of Almunia's net as the keeper hopelessly tried to reach the ball.

The goal left Arsenal stunned, and as Sevilla started to gain more possession the Londoners conceded a second.

The on-form Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano neatly placed a glancing header into the corner of Almunia's net after a neat cross from countryman Dani Alves.

At 2-1 up, the Sevillistas were looking for revenge after their 3-0 loss at the Emirates earlier this season, but it was Arsenal who nearly drew level.

Bendtner laid a ball back to Eduardo, but his shot was deflected over the bar with goalkeeper Palop already out of the picture.

It was Sevilla's chance next, as Freddy Kanoute latched on to the rebound after a Fabiano shot was saved by Almunia. Fortunately for the Gunners the former Tottenham man hit his shot wide, letting Arsene Wenger's side go into halftime down 2-1.

Wenger must have given quite a half-time speech as a rejuvenated Arsenal side once again started brightly in the second half.

In the 50th minute Emmanuel Eboue looked to have won a penalty after a tough tackle from Christian Poulsen in the 18 yard box, but the referee waved play on.

It went downhill from there, as and injured Cesc Fabregas hobbled off the field five minutes later, replaced by Tomas Rosicky.

The referee gave Arsenal something back after a second Senderos error led to what may have been a handball in the box. The official pointed to the penalty spot only to reverse his decision seconds later in a moment of confusion which ended in a drop ball.

Sevilla couldn't be denied a penalty forever though, and they finally won one when Kolo Toure and substitute Bacary Sagna took Kanoute down in the box.

The Mali striker took sent the Arsenal keeper the wrong way, putting the match out of Arsenal's reach in the 89th minute.

It meant an end to Arsenal's club record unbeaten streak.

It couldn't be complained about though, as, for the first time this season, Arsenal were clearly outplayed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tottenham Eat Veggies To Plug Leaky Defense

Anyone who read the papers over the summer knew the outcome of this Premier League season.

Derby were to be relegated along with two of your choices out of Fulham, Middlesbrough, Wigan, Sunderland or Birmingham. Manchester United were to pip the title with Liverpool and Chelsea fighting for second.

Dishearteningly to Arsenal fans, Tottenham were to take fourth, claiming England's final Champions League spot and relegating the Gunners to the UEFA Cup if they could beat off teams like Newcastle, Aston Villa, and Manchester City.

That tells you how much the pundits know.

After beating Wigan last weekend Arsenal are now three points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand against their nearest rivals, Manchester United. Chelsea and Liverpool are in fourth and fifth respectively, both behind Manchester City.

And Tottenham?

They've peaked at fourteenth. After spending much of the early season in the relegation zone, new boss Juande Ramos has brought them within one point of Fulham and Reading. It's not quite the season Spurs fans had envisioned.

The poor Tottenham defense has conceded 25 goals in 14 games, more than any other team in the Premiership other than Reading, Wigan, Middlesbrough, and Derby.

In fact, Tottenham have kept only five clean sheets in 20 games this season, holding ground only against the impressive opposition of Derby, Middlesbrough, Wigan, Blackpool, and Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

Perhaps best of all for Arsenal fans, Spurs kept up their losing streak against our brilliant young Gunners with a 1-3 loss to Arsenal at White Heart Lane.

You would think that the solution to Tottenhams problems would be to sell £16.5 million signing Darren Bent and go buy some defenders, a decent midfielder, and spend the rest on anybody they could pick up off the streets to replace Paul Robinson.

Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy didn't hire Juande Ramos to come up with conventional solutions though, and it seems that the board's trust is about to be repaid.

The former Sevilla manager (who has already had the experience of losing to Arsene Wenger's side at his old club) has come up with a brilliant solution to Tottenham's problems: vegetables.

That's right. Spurs will be implementing the newest form of team bonding, the diet.

Antonio Escribano has been hired by Tottenham to help enforce the diet, which is meant to improve the player's fitness levels.

I guess the diet isn't too bad of an idea either. I wouldn't mind seeing Tom Huddlestone take up a little less room on the pitch.

So what do you think, is Tottenham a football club or a cheerleading outfit?

Sevilla vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Update: William Gallas, Gael Clichy, and Emmanuel Adebayor did not travel to Spain with the Arsenal squad.

Premier League leaders Arsenal travel to Spain this Tuesday to face off against struggling Sevilla. The two teams lead Champions League Group H after four games, with Arsenal already qualified on ten points and Sevilla one point behind. Slavia Prague and Steaua Bucharest close up the group with four and zero points respectively.

With Arsenal already qualified and Sevilla virtually assured of qualification this game may determine which of the two clubs finishes first in the group.

Arsenal will be confident going into the match, following a fine run of form which has seen the Gunners unbeaten this season. Arsene Wenger's squad drew Slavia Prague 0-0 in their last Champions League match, but followed up with wins against Reading and Wigan before and after the international break. The Gunners know they can beat Sevilla (the home game against Sevilla was a 3-0 win) and will be looking to do it again in Spain.

Sevilla will not be nearly as confident, as their form in the Spanish Primera Liga has been poor this season. The Spanish giants were defeated by Mallorca this weekend, and their two games before that were a draw at minnows Denia and and a loss at Villareal.

Supporters of the Spanish club will take some solace in the injury plague at Arsenal though.

Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Robin van Persie, and Abou Diaby will all miss the match due to injury. Arsene Wenger is also unwilling to risk some of his key players, with Gael Clichy, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor not making the trip to Spain since Arsenal have already qualified..

Arsenal's back line will be somewhat changed, with Bacary Sagna and Kolo Toure the only regular defensive starters still in the squad. Philippe Senderos will likely start alongside Toure in central defense, with talented youngster Armand Traore filling in for Clichy at left-back.

A depleted midfield lineup will probably see the return of Gilberto Silva, after missing many games due to the incredible form of Mathieu Flamini. Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue will probably prowl the wings, while Cesc Fabregas will almost certainly start at the heart of the midfield.

Of course, Theo Walcott could also be played over Eboue, with Rosicky switching to the right.

Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor and strike partner Robin van Persie will both be missing. Eduardo is likely to start up front, alongside either Walcott or Nicklas Bendtner.

I feel that Bendtner may be given a rare start after making a major impact upon coming in against Wigan, especially considering that Walcott picked up a minor knock against Wigan.

While I would have been afraid to face Sevilla with a depleted squad last season, the Spanish side have stuttered recently, and with Dani Alves' loss of form, I feel we should once again be able to win.

I predict a 2-1 victory for Arsenal, placing the Gunners firmly at the top of group H.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Arsenal vs Wigan: Match Review

Match Preview

An undermanned Arsenal side managed to break down a resolute Wigan in the last ten minutes to go clear at the top of the Premier League table as Manchester United faltered at Bolton.

Wigan showed some real character in their compact defense, but a goal from William Gallas opened the game up in the 83rd minute and Tomas Rosicky insured the win with a second only two minutes later.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Neves Denilson, Lassana Diarra, Tomas Rosicky; Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor

Wigan: Michael Pollitt; Emerson Boyce, Titus Bramble, Andreas Granqvist, Salomon Olembe, Paul Scharner; Kevin Kilbane, Michael Brown, Jason Koumas, Denny Landzaat; Marcus Bent

Arsene Wenger was forced to field a makeshift midfield lineup due to injuries to Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, and Abou Diaby. Gilberto was also out due to fatigue, and Cesc Fabregas missed the match due to suspension after picking up his 5th yellow card of the season against Reading. Theo Walcott started alongside Emmanuel Adebayor as Robin van Persie was still not fit to play, although the Dutch international has returned to training.

Both sides started brightly, with Theo Walcott warning Wigan of his talent with some mazy runs into Latics territory.

Wigan had the first clear-cut chance of the match though, as Marcus Bent fired past Manuel Almunia before being correctly flagged offsides.

Arsenal were having a tough time finding their usual passing rhythm without Fabregas and Hleb, but the showed some of their style in a fine exchange of passes after about 20 minutes of play. The move resulted in a through ball from Theo Walcott to Emmanuel Adebayor near the penalty spot. The Togo striker drilled in a shot, but a fine reaction save from Michael Pollitt, who was already a few yards off his line, kept Wigan level with the Gunners.

In the 36th minute Arsenal had another great chance, as some unselfish play from Adebayor set up the dangerous Walcott who saw his shot blocked by a last-ditch tackle from Salomon Olembe.

It was close, but not enough, and Arsenal began to get frustrated as a wall of eleven Wigan defenders stopped the Gunners' free flowing football.

Just after the hour mark Emmanuel Adebayor was released in the box, only for Emerson Boyce to make a beautifully timed tackle to deny the lanky forward a shot.

Wigan then had a rare chance as a mix-up between Kolo Toure and William Gallas saw the ball fall to Marcus Bent just outside Arsenal's 18 yard box. Unfortunately for the Latics, Bent's shot went wide of the post.

It was Arsenal's chance again, as a free-kick from Denilson was nearly deflected into Pollitt's net at the other end of the pitch. The Wigan keeper showed some fine reactions to keep the ball out at his near post.

Denilson and Bent were in the center of the action again as the Brazilian suffered a bad tackle from the Wigan striker. Tempers flared and William Gallas got involved with substitute Emile Heskey, resulting in yellow cards for the Arsenal captain and both of the involved Wigan players.

It wasn't the last bad tackle though, as a sliding tackle from Bent crumpled Theo Walcott, who was stretchered off as Nicklas Bendtner came on.

As if in response to the reckless tackles, Arsenal went on a sudden and ferocious offensive, finally breaking down the Wigan defense.

A wonderfully placed cross from Bacary Sagna met countryman William Gallas who headed in at the near post.

The goal opened up the game for the final few minutes, but Arsenal were finally assured a victory when Tomas Rosicky grabbed a second. Substitute Nicklas Bendtner fed the Czech Republic captain on the edge of the box. Rosicky finished well, firing in with a low shot off of Pollitt's left post.

It was a great day for Arsenal as they lengthened their lead on last season's champions Manchester United to three points.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Most Unlikely Situation At Arsenal

Arsenal have what is arguably the best midfield lineup in the Premier League (and maybe even all of Europe).

A 20 year-old Cesc Fabregas leads a midfield which is so strong that even Brazil captain Gilberto Silva cannot break in to the lineup this season. Alex Hleb and Mathieu Flamini have undergone incredible changes this season to become two of the best in the Premiership and Tomas Rosicky can be brilliant on his day.

Behind this first-choice four the incredible Gilberto has to fight for a spot with young talents Neves Denilson and Lassana Diarra. Abou Diaby can also play in any offensive spot across the midfield, and even Alex Song has been getting better this season even though he is not Arsenal quality yet and his best game came in the center of defense.

With such a talented and deep midfield lineup, one would think that Arsenal would dominate the middle of the park against any team in the Premiership.

Football, though, is a game of many variables, and it seems that Arsenal's luck has run out.

First, Cesc Fabregas picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in a 3-1 victory over Reading. No big deal. We're playing against Wigan at home.

Then the French senior and U21 sides played. Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby were ruled out for the Wigan match due to injury. Diaby was likely to deputize as Fabregas served out his suspension, but with Tomas Rosicky and Alex Hleb in the side, we wouldn't be lacking in creativity. Gilberto, of course, is the perfect like-for-like substitute for Flamini, and as a Brazil international with almost 60 caps his quality is undeniable.

But the stream of injuries did not stop there. Belarus played the Netherlands in a European Qualifier in which the outcome meant nothing (the Netherlands had already qualified and Belarus was already out) and Alex Hleb was substituted out at half-time due to injury.

Now that was bad news. Hleb has undergone an incredible transformation since last season, and has been one of the best, if not the best, player at the club during this campaign. We could deal with it though. It is Wigan we're playing.

Then the news comes that Gilberto won't be playing due to fatigue. Not due to arrive until Friday evening, the Brazilian would be too fatigued to play the next afternoon.

So, it seems that a most unlikely situation has ocurred at Arsenal - a midfield crisis.

But will a Carling Cup midfield be enough to defeat a Premiership side?

19 year-old Neves Denilson and 22 year-old Lassana Diarra will have to answer that question for us on Saturday, as they are likely to start at the Emirates. It will be Diarra's first Premier League start since moving to Arsenal. It will be Denilson's 16th appearance.

But this is not how Arsene Wenger likes to expose his youngsters to first-team football. Fans will be expecting an emphatic win against a manager-less side, and the team may have trouble conjuring up enough offensive firepower without Fabregas, Hleb, Diaby, and Robin van Persie.

It shouldn't be too difficult to win three points though, especially considering the Latics abysmal form (one point in the last six games). However, staying on top of the table will be far more challenging.

Manchester United play third-from-bottom Bolton Wanderers and are almost surely going to improve their goal differential and pick up a full three points. Even against a second-from-bottom Wigan side, a depleted Arsenal squad will have difficulty winning by the same margin that United are likely to defeat Bolton by.

Arsenal fans are expecting a major trophy this season, but before we get too carried away let's get real. More than two-thirds of the Premiership season are yet to be played. The knockout rounds of the Champions league have yet to start. Winning a trophy is quite possible given the incredible talent of our team, but the lesson to be learned from this all this madness is quite simple: nothing in football can be taken for granted.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Arsenal vs. Wigan: Match Preview

Match Review

This Saturday a depleted Arsenal side face off against second from bottom Wigan as the Gunners look to retain the top spot in the Premier League.

After three straight draws (against Liverpool, Manchester United, and Slavia Prague), the Gunners were just beginning to regain their form with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Reading before the international break.

However, the international games didn't do much good for the Gunners, as Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, and Alex Hleb all picked up injuries.

There are no injuries in the defense, with Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy all fit and ready to play.

However, with Cesc Fabregas already suspended for the match, it seems that Arsenal are facing what seemed impossible - something of a midfield crisis.

Tomas Rosicky looks sure to start, although he may be pushed out onto the left with Emmanuel Eboue patrolling the right. Otherwise, Rosicky could start on the right with Eduardo or Theo Walcott used as a left winger.

It is more difficult, though, to choose players for the central midfield positions. Arsene Wenger has ruled Gilberto out since he doesn't get back from international duty with Brazil until Friday evening, and Fabregas, Flamini, and Diaby are all unavailable. Neves Denilson and Lassana Diarra are likely to start in a light midfield due to a very strange injury crisis.

Up front, Arsenal will not see the return of Robin van Persie. The Dutchman, who was expected to return against Wigan, will not be fit for the weekend nor for the midweek Champions League game against Sevilla. Emmanuel Adebayor will, of course, start up front, but he needs a partner, as the midfield crisis will eliminate the chance of playing a 4-5-1. Personally I would choose Nicklas Bendtner, but Theo Walcott or Eduardo could start as well.

Wenger has stated that he won't play Bendtner with Adebayor, but the young Dane scored two goals in two games for his country over the international break and will be brimming with confidence.

The team itself should be brimming with confidence as well, as a Wigan side that has lost its last seven games and not won in ten shouldn't trouble a light Arsenal team too much.

I say 2-0 to the Arsenal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Injury Woes for Wenger

Arsene Wenger said before the international break that he feared that the international break might result in injuries to key members of his Arsenal squad, and he couldn't have been more right.

We learned that Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby had been hurt during their international matches for France and the French U21 team respectively, after Saturday's matches.

Today, more bad news came, as Alex Hleb hobbled out of his country's game at half time and although Belarus went on beat the Netherlands 2-1, he looks to be out for two weeks.

This means that Wenger will be unable to start three of his four first choice midfielders against Wigan on Saturday, with Cesc Fabregas out due to suspension. Lassana Diarra, Neves Denilson, and Gilberto should all get a chance to break back into the side.

In other news, Robin van Persie's recovery is coming along nicely and he has returned to training. He may not start at Wigan but he will most likely feature at some point during the match.

As for the other international matches, Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner scored Denmark's first goal in a victory over Iceland.

Eduardo's Croatia also defeated an England side which once again fielded no Arsenal players. The 3-2 victory meant that England did not qualify for the 2008 European Championships - a huge blow for such a powerful footballing nation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Flamini and Diaby Injured in Internationals

Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby both picked up minor injuries while on international duty with France.

Flamini, who has started every Premier League game Arsenal have played this season, has returned to London after picking up a knock. The 23 year-old made his France debut on Saturday, but will be missing out on his country's final qualifying match against Ukraine. France coach Raymond Domenech will not be too worried, as France has already qualified for the tournament, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will miss the Frenchman.

With Cesc Fabregas suspended after picking up his 5th yellow of the season in Arsenal's 3-1 victory over reading, the Flamini injury means that the Gunners will be missing both of their first-choice central midfielders.

This should come as great news to Gilberto who has been missing games due to Flamini's recent form, and to Abou Diaby who should replace Fabregas in the creative spot. Oh wait, he's injured too. It seems like Lassana Diarra may finally get his chance to start a Premier League match at Arsenal, although Neves Denilson may steal the spot from the Frenchman.

In any case, Gilberto should be good cover for Flamini and Fabregas' goalscoring shouldn't be missed too much with Robin van Persie likely to return after a lengthy injury spell. We will miss the brilliant Spaniard pulling the strings in midfield, but its always nice to see some of the younger players getting a chance and we shouldn't be relying on Fabregas too heavily against a team like Wigan anyways.

Watch out for a preview of the Arsenal vs. Wigan game coming tomorrow or Thursday

Monday, November 19, 2007

Could Carlos Vela be Arsenal's Next Henry?

Arsenal are, without a doubt, one of the offensive powerhouses of English football despite having lost talismanic striker Thierry Henry to Barcelona during the summer.

The Gunners are currently on top of the Premier League and its goalscoring charts, having notched up 27 goals in 12 league matches. Outside of the Premier League, Arsenal have scored 19 goals in seven outings, including a 7-0 drubbing of Slavia Prague at the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger has three quality forwards (Theo Walcott, Eduardo, and Nicklas Bendtner) at his disposal in addition to the impressive first-choice strike force of Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor. Nonetheless, the Arsenal manager is reportedly bringing young Mexican striker Carlos Vela back from a loan spell at Osasuna this January, now that the youngster has cleared up issues with his work permits.

What could another eighteen year-old possibly add to Arsenal’s game?

To answer that question, let’s look back to the 2003/04 season. Arsenal fans will remember the season as the one in which the Gunners went undefeated in the Premiership, finishing 11 points clear of their nearest rivals, Chelsea. Anyone remember the name of our top scorer?

The great Thierry Henry scored 30 Premier League goals that season. That’s one and a half times as many as Didier Drogba scored last year to win last season’s golden boot. Last season the injury-ridden Frenchman only managed 10 goals, one behind Arsenal’s top-scorer, another injury-plagued player, Robin van Persie.

Now don’t get me wrong, Van Persie is a great player. He has a powerful left foot, and his finishing is excellent. He could feasibly win this season’s golden boot and, at 24, the Dutchman still has quite a future ahead of him.

But can he fill the void left by Henry’s departure? The unfortunate truth is that it’s unlikely.

That’s where Vela comes in. The Mexican wunderkind is one of the most prodigious talents in Europe. Vela won the golden boot and player of the tournament at the U17 World Cup, and has already spent a full season playing first team football, making 31 starts (and scoring eight times) with UD Salamanca in the Spanish Segunda Division. He has also featured twice for the senior Mexican national team, scoring in a 3-2 loss to Guatemala.

Clearly he has quite a pedigree for a youngster. But what makes him stand out from the rest and why might he become the next Henry?

First of all, he has the talent. His intelligence and pace are unrivaled by anyone his age and his first touch, dribbling ability and finishing technique are all excellent. He also has a huge amount of first-team experience for such a young player, which will only add to his usefulness once he arrives in Britain.

What’s most important though, is that he fits right in to the Arsenal mould. His first goal for Osasuna saw the young Mexican play the ball to a teammate before running into space to pick it up again a few yards outside the penalty box. Upon receiving the return pass he seamlessly integrated the ball into his stride, showing excellent close control before finishing with his left foot on the edge of the 18 yard box. The finish was Henry-esque, flying past the keeper into the roof of the net. The way Vela’s qualities were tailor-made to Arsenal was uncanny.

We will have to wait quite a while until we see Vela nail down a first-team spot under Arsene Wenger, and Arsenal will continue scoring goals with the current form of Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas complementing our forwards, perhaps eventually winning the Premier League or Champions League.

But when Vela does come of age, which may be sooner than most people think, he might provide 20 or 30 goals a season. And when that rings true, we might have on our hands a repeat of the unthinkable - a second undefeated season.