Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sheffield United vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal's youngsters came out 3-0 winners at Bramall Lane, following an impressive performance from the club's up-and-coming stars. A brace from Eduardo and a goal from Neves Denilson wrapped up a Carling Cup game which had been completely one-sided.

Arsenal had sixteen shots to United's six, and had an equally lopsided share of possession, controlling the ball for no less than 68% of the game.

The Gunners have booked themselves a berth in the next round of the competition where they could end up playing the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton, or cross-town rivals Tottenham.

Arsenal: Lukasz Fabianski; Justin Hoyte, Alex Song, Kieran Gibbs, Lassana Diarra; Neves Denilson, Gilberto Silva, Abou Diaby; Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo da Silva, Theo Walcott

Sheffield United: Ian Bennett; Chris Armstrong, Leigh Bromby, Chris Lucketti, Chris Morgan; David Carney, Nick Montgomery, Steven Quinn, Michael Tonge; Billy Sharp, Jonathan Stead

The first five minutes of the game started relatively slowly, with neither side troubling the other's goalkeeper. That all changed, though, as Nicklas Bendtner played Eduardo into the box in the eighth minute.

The Croatian goal machine launched an unstoppable drive into Bennett's top left corner, showing some of the finishing that prompted Arsene Wenger to pick him up in the Summer.

Arsenal almost picked up a second soon after when Theo Walcott passed to Nicklas Bendtner who teed up the ball for Denilson. The Brazilian midfielder completely botched his shot though, sending the ball into the stands.

Lukasz Fabianski was rarely troubled in goal, but the young Polish keeper looked less than convincing as he punched at a ball that it seemed he could easily have caught. Nonetheless, the Blades couldn't put one past the Pole, and it was once again Arsenal who were the biggest threat in the second half.

Some slack defending was taken advantage of by the young Kieran Gibbs who's splitting pass fell perfectly into the path of Eduardo. The Croatian striker once again finished clinically, putting Arsenal 2-0 ahead after fifty minutes.

Theo Walcott almost grabbed a goal when his pace took him around Bennett, but the young England international could only hit the post from a tight angle.

It wouldn't be too long before Arsenal's third though, as Denilson made up for his earlier mistake, scoring from 25 yards out. The shot took a deflection and looped over the head of Bennett who could only look on in horror as Arsenal hit the back of the net for the last time of the night in the sixty-ninth minute.

Arsenal still pressed forwards and Eduardo was denied a hattrick by Bennett before being taken off in favor of Nacer Barazite. Henri Lansbury and Fran Merida also came on as late substitutes but the game was already over as the current table-toppers put away Sheffield United's Carling Cup hopes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Will Gilberto Leave Arsenal in January?

Gilberto Silva, one of Arsenal's vice-captains, has been strongly linked with a move to Italian giants Juventus. The holding midfielder, who is one of the few Arsenal players left from the club's 'invincible' season, has been kept out of the team for a large part of this season due to the recent form of 23 year-old Frenchman Mathieu Flamini.

The Brazil captain has been linked to both Juventus and Valencia, and was Arsene Wenger recently stated that he would be playing in Wednesday's Carling Cup clash with Sheffield United, further inciting departure rumors.

The competition is generally used by Premiership managers as a training ground for fringe, youth, and squad players, and Gilberto will be disappointed to fit into any of those categories. The Brazilian was Arsenal's interim captain while Thierry Henry was injured, and looked a strong candidate to receive the captains armband this year with the prolific Frenchman's departure to Barcelona.

However, the captaincy was given to William Gallas, and a loss of form after international duty with Brazil at the Copa America saw Gilberto miss the first few games. During those games, Mathieu Flamini asserted himself, registering some impressive performances, and although Gilberto did feature in Arsenal's side after his return, his performances were not of the caliber normally associated with the Brazil captain.

At 31 years of age, the player is far older than most of the players in the Arsenal squad and he must be getting nervous about Arsene Wenger's policy of phasing out older players.

While Gilberto will be looking to pick up one last Premier League medal with Arsenal this season, he may leave in favor of guaranteed playing time if offered a decent deal in January.

Personally, while I know that Gilberto has quality and experience, he is on his way out and I'd hate to see him spend a fruitless season and then sell for less (like Henry did before him). If Flamini can keep up his form, we won't need Gilberto any more, especially considering that we have Neves Denilson and Lassana Diarra, two up-and-coming holding midfielders.

I hate to say it since he has served our club so well, but if we get a good offer I'd like to see Gilberto gone sooner rather than later.

Gilberto in for Carling Cup Match

Brazil Captain Gilberto Silva will be in Arsene Wenger's starting line up for Wednesday's game against Sheffield United. The media had claimed that Arsenal's defensive midfielder would not be playing following a bust-up with the Arsenal manager were denied by Wenger.

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

"I believe that as a manager and as a player you always have one thing in your mind and that is what is good for the club and the team. I cannot fault Gilberto on that since he arrived here.

"Recently he has played less, but his mentality has been superb. It is important to win every single competition and in this one I use younger players because traditionally it has always been like that. It has helped us a lot to develop the players."

Arsenal's vice-captain, who has been linked with a move away from the Emirates, will be pleased to get some playing time, but will be disappointed that he can only play in the Carling Cup - a cup usually reserved for squad players and youngsters.

Other players who may feature tomorrow at Bramall Lane include Justin Hoyte, Alex Song, Theo Walcott, and Eduardo da Silva. Personally I would rather see Walcott rested for a start against Manchester United on Saturday, but I'm not the manager, and we'll see how Wenger handles the situation. For now, the Arsenal manager has only provisionally mentioned a few players who may feature.

"You could see Justin Hoyte and Song," he said. "Walcott maybe and Eduardo will play. We will need a strong squad up there."

Click here for a full preview of the Sheffield United vs. Arsenal match

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sheffield United vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Premier League leaders Arsenal take on the Championships nineteenth placed team, Sheffield United, this Wednesday in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. The Premiership giants were lucky to avoid drawing against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, but the Blades will not be nearly so happy to have to face Arsenal.

Arsenal played twice against United during the Blades brief one season stint in the Premiership, and while Arsenal demolished United 3-0 at the Emirates, the Blades will take some solace in the fact that they were able to defeat Arsenal 1-0 at Bramall Lane - the locale of Wednesday's fixture.

On current form though, Arsenal are far superior. Arsenal's first team is on a run of unbeaten games dating back to last April against West Ham. This season, Arsene Wenger's young guns went on a streak of twelve straight wins which was broken on Sunday in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield. Arsenal are at the head of the Premiership table with eight wins, two draws, and no losses so far this season.

Sheffield are not faring nearly as well in their return to the Championship. The Blades have won only three of their thirteen games this season, the other ten consisting of five draws and an equal number of losses. United have conceded twenty-one goals this season, the second highest in the Championship, and will have to play extremely well to defeat Arsenal's young side.

Sheffield United will be given some encouragement by the fact that Arsene Wenger always plays young sides in the Carling Cup, but Arsenal's youngsters are as good as any team outside the top four, as seen in 3-1 and 6-3 victories over Liverpool last season.

This season, Arsenal's young players have managed to defeat Newcastle 2-0 in the Carling Cup third round, following impressive periods of dominance from the young gunners.

Wenger will most likely field a lineup completely different from the one which played against Newcastle, due to injuries to Philippe Senderos and Eduardo da Silva. Emmanuel Eboue is also unlikely to play on Wednesday, although he may be injected into Arsenal's depleted defense.

Lukasz Fabianksi will almost surely start in goal, as Arsene Wenger is keen on giving the promising youngster a few starts this season.

In front of the Pole will most likely be Justin Hoyte, Alex Song, Armand Traore, and Kolo Toure. Toure may have to feature in the place of the injured Philippe Senderos, although Arsene Wenger may choose to play Lassana Diarra in the defense as well. Because of the Senderos injury, Wenger may even choose to give promising young Norwegian Havard Nordtveit his senior Arsenal debut.

In the midfield Neves Denilson will likely play alongside Abou Diaby. Depending on how much Arsene Wenger trusts his youth, these two could be complimented by any number of their peers. I would love to see Kieran Gibbs and Fran Merida or even Henri Lansbury or Mark Randall feature, but I feel that Wenger will be keen on making it through to the next round so his young players can get some more experience. For that reason, the likes of Mathieu Flamini or even Gilberto may be brought in to add some experience to the young Arsenal side.

Up front, Arsene Wenger's obvious choice would be to start Nicklas Bendtner alongside the electric Theo Walcott. Walcott could soon break into the Arsenal first team following his impressive performance in the 7-0 drubbing of Slavia Prague. If he can play well on Wednesday he may even start against Manchester United next Saturday instead of leaving Emmanuel Adebayor as the lone striker.

With an impressive midfield and attacking lineup, I can't see Arsenal losing this game. I'm not going to predict any scores because they could vary greatly depending on the team that Arsene Wenger decides to field, but I think it is safe to say that Arsenal are heavy favorites in this fixture and it would be very disheartening to see them drop out at this stage of the competition.

I would be disappointed by anything less than a comprehensive victory.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Match Preview

Liverpool brought an end to Arsenal's 12 game winning streak today, as the Gunners came back from a 1-0 deficit to draw 1-1. Cesc Fabregas' eightieth minute equalizer was enough to put Arsenal back on top of the Premier League with a game in hand, but next Saturday's fixture with Manchester United could see them fall off the top.

Rafa Benitez started with a rather unorthodox lineup which included three forwards, with the not yet match-fit Fernando Torres in the center and Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin on the wings.

Arsene Wenger also played a different lineup than usual with Emmanuel Adebayor alone up front and Alex Hleb in the hole behind the Togo striker.

Liverpool: Jose Reina; Jamie Carragher, Steve Finnan, Sami Hyypia; Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, John Arne Riise; Dirk Kuyt, Andriy voronin, Fernando Torres

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

The game started with a clash between Cesc Fabregas and Andriy Voronin, resulting in the Ukraine striker picking up a yellow card. Arsenal's free kick was poor though, ending up at the feet of Xabi Alonso who raced towards Arsenal's 18-yard box. Once again, Fabregas was involved, tripping up his fellow Spaniard and resulting in a Steven Gerrard free kick.

The brilliant English midfielder made no mistakes in putting the ball through a hole in the Arsenal wall to put Liverpool ahead in the seventh minute.

Arsene Wenger will not be pleased by the way in which the goal was scored though. Arsenal's wall disintegrated in the face of Gerrard's free kick, leaving Manuel Almunia completely helpless to stop what should have been a blocked shot.

The Arsenal squad showed strength though, and kept fighting, showing great mental strength to muster up a dominating performance which left us unlucky not to have taken away a full three points.

Arsenal pressured Liverpool throughout the first half, with Liverpool lucky to make it into the second still ahead by a goal.

In the seventeenth minute Pepe Reina rushed out to deny Adebayor after a clever move down the right flank.

Liverpool still had their own chances as well, as Steven Gerrard saw a pacy long range shot palmed over the bar spectacularly by Manuel Almunia. The Spanish keeper played wonderfully today making 6 saves, a few of which were of the quality to be expected from a first-choice Arsenal goalkeeper. While I was strongly against using him ahead of Jens Lehmann, I am finally starting to gain some faith.

Arsenal had one more good chance before the end of the first half, as a deflected shot from Emmanuel Adebayor looked as though it would sneak past a wrong-footed Reina. Unfortunately for the Gunners, the keeper recovered just in time to stop the lanky front man from scoring.

Fernando Torres was taken off at the beginning of the second half, as the young striker had looked short of match-fitness all night, following his return from injury. In came Peter Crouch, who, along with Gerrard, seemed like the only one who might be capable of scoring an insurance goal for the Merseysiders.

The tall English striker nearly fired Liverpool further ahead soon after the break, but once again a fine save from Manuel Almunia kept Arsenal in the running.

It was Arsenal who then came close to going ahead. Emmanuel Eboue (who had once again been almost invisible for most of the game) took a shot which ricocheted off Reina's right post. The rebound fell to Fabregas who miraculously fired off target in front of an open goal.

In the sixty-fourth minute Arsenal supporters suffered a scare as a Xabi Alonso header flew goalwards following another Gerrard free kick. Fortunately, the ball had little power behind it, and Kolo Toure managed to clear it off the line.

Liverpool had another chance ten minutes later as Dirk Kuyt saw his dipping volley go just inches above the crossbar.

It was getting late in the game, but Arsenal continued to play passionately, and Cesc Fabregas made up for his earlier miss by netting in the eightieth minute. A picture-perfect pass from Alex Hleb reached the 20 year-old midfielder in the box and he stretched to toe-poke the ball past the onrushing Reina, saving Arsenal a well-deserved point.

The goal gave Arsenal hope, and the Gunners came close to claiming a full three points when Fabregas hit the same post that Eboue had hit earlier in the half. Once again, the rebound fell to an Arsenal player, but this time substitute Nicklas Bendtner made a disgraceful miss.

Liverpool had one final chance to answer, as Peter Crouch sent countryman Steven Gerrard into the box. A last-minute tackle from William Gallas saved what would almost surely have been a goal though, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Arsenal fans will be a bit disappointed that they weren't able to leave Anfield with the full three points after hitting the post twice. However, the way we played was enough to put us back on top of the Premiership and should give our squad some confidence before hosting an injury-stricken Manchester United next weekend.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Match Review

Here it is, Arsenal's first real testing match of the Premier League season. We are currently on top of the league following a run of great form. With only two points dropped this season (at home to Blackburn after a Jens Lehmann clanger) we will be going to Anfield with plenty of confidence. Rafa Benitez's Liverpool side will not have the same morale though.

Whereas the Arsenal squad find themselves on a run of twelve straight victories, and come off of a 7-0 midweek win over Slavia Prague, Liverpool come into this match with only one victory in the month of October. The Merseyside team, which is currently in fourth in the Premiership, suffered a humiliating 2-1 defeat at Besiktas on Wednesday, and have also drawn with Tottenham (who Arsenal defeated 3-1) and lost to Marseillie 1-0 this month. Their only win of October came against their arch-rivals Everton, and even that came only after many favorable calls (a doubtable penalty, as well as two penalty shouts for Everton).

In terms of injuries Liverpool are also slightly worse off. Missing out will be Harry Kewell, Daniel Agger, and most importantly new signing Fernando Torres. Liverpool will find it tough to crack a thus far watertight Arsenal defense without the young Spaniard.

Arsenal are also missing their top striker, Robin van Persie, who was injured on international duty with the Netherlands. The only other injury to Arsene Wenger's squad is Philippe Senderos, who was unlikely to start anyway.

Wenger's lineup will almost certainly feature Manuel Almunia in goal again, and I have to say, I am starting to gain some confidence in the man.

In front of Almunia will be Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy. Our back line has been solid so far this season (conceding only 6 goals in all competitions, with two being Lehmann blunders) so I don't think that we should concede many goals, even against a quality Liverpool side.

The midfield will once again be a bit tough to predict, but I once again suspect that Arsene Wenger may drop Emmanuel Eboue in favor of Tomas Rosicky. On the other wing will be Alex Hleb (who was instrumental in the 7-0 dismantling of Slavia) and in the center will be the effective partnership of Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini. While Liverpool have an impressive midfield lineup (especially Steven Gerrard) I think that Arsenal should be in control for most of the action in the middle of the pitch. Fabregas and Hleb are masterful passers, and Flamini's tough tackling will keep pressure on the Merseysiders. Fabregas, Hleb, and Rosicky will all be potent goal threats, and Hleb, if he plays again like he did against Slavia, will wreak havoc on the Liverpool defense.

Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor will partner either Theo Walcott or Eduardo. Walcott would be my preferred choice, as he was electrifying on Tuesday. However, Eduardo is also a threat, and with goals hopefully coming from midfield I don't know how much help we'll need up front.

Arsenal's offensive players can run rings around even the likes of Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, and Steven Finnan. For that reason, we should be able to create lots of chances, and if Adebayor manages to take a few of his shots well, he should be able to score at least once. With goals also coming from midfield, I think that we will be able to get two past a tough Liverpool defense.

The Liverpool attack has also looked decidedly blunt without Fernando Torres. I think the Reds will step up against the quality opposition provided by our youngsters though, so we will have to look out for Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, and Andrei Voronin.

This game (and next weekend's game against Manchester United) will be the defining point of our season, and if we manage to win, we can finally silence the pessimists among football pundits. Liverpool will be a stern test, but I believe we can win this one 2-1, with Liverpool's goal coming from a Steven Gerrard set piece.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let's All Laugh At Tottenham

Martin Jol, the manager who brought Arsenal's cross-town rivals Tottenham Hotspur to two consecutive fifth place finishes in the Premier League quit today, following a home defeat to Getafe in the UEFA Cup.

Straight from the start, the Dutchman's future was in danger, with Spurs allegedly contacting Sevilla boss Juande Ramos to replace Jol. Tottenham's poor performances did little to alleviate the tension between him and Chairman Daniel Levy.

The club now finds itself in eighteenth place, in the relegation zone along with newly promoted Derby and Bolton Wanderers, another team to have recently sacked a boss. The boys from White Heart Lane have collected a rather pathetic seven points from ten games, continuing a poor run of form following their opening day loss to newly promoted Sunderland.

Tottenham also started off its UEFA Cup campaign on the wrong foot after losing 2-1 to Getafe at White Heart Lane.

However, of all of Tottenham's losses this season (and there have been a fair many) the one which would be most appreciated by Arsenal fans is the 3-1 loss suffered at the hands of our very own London-based team.

For those of you who don't remember the game, I'll give you a quick recap: Gareth Bale scored an early free kick goal after a nasty foul from Gilberto on the edge of the box, bringing the White Heart Lane faithful to their feet. Arsene Wenger's Arsenal side refused to give up of course, and after half time, a Fabregas double and a goal from Emmanuel Adebayor sealed an Arsenal victory.

And here's how the two teams stand now:

Arsenal: 1st in the league, 25 points from 9 games, 12 straight wins
Tottenham: 18th in the league, 7 points from 10 games, winless for 7 games

I'd have to say that the irony in the situation is bordering on hysterical. So-called football pundits proclaimed the downfall of the big four in British football, claiming that Tottenham would take the final Champions League spot out from the noses of last season's underachieving Gunners. Arsene Wenger was supposed to be the first coach to leave a club in the Premier League.

Nope. Arsene Wenger is firmly at the helm of an Arsenal team that is first in both the Premier League and the Champions League group. Spurs on the other hand are manager-less and in the relegation zone.

So, if you're having a bad day, have a little laugh at the expense of Tottenham.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Juventus want Gallas and Gilberto

Juventus director Alessio Secco has added William Gallas to his already long wishlist of London-based players. Juventus were already reportedly interested in Arsenal's out-of-favor defensive midfielder Gilberto Silva, as well as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard from cross-town rivals, Chelsea.

The Brazilian captain, at 31 and the French defender, at 30, are the two oldest outfield players in Arsene Wenger's squad. Gilberto is also the longest serving player at Arsenal, having joined the club from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro for £4.5 million in 2002.

Gilberto's experience is valuable to a side which features a spine of young players including Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, and Mathieu Flamini - Gilberto's replacement. However, the defensive midfielder will find it difficult to stay at Arsenal if he doesn't reclaim his starting berth soon. While he will want to stay at least long enough to win another Premiership title with Arsenal this year, he may be forced away from the club by up-and-coming playerss like Mathieu Flamini and Summer-signing Lassana Diarra. Unfortunately, I can definitely see this transfer materializing, maybe even as soon as this January.

William Gallas, on the other hand, is Arsenal's first choice partner to Kolo Toure at center-back, and with only Philippe Senderos and a host of midfielders competing for the spot, it doesn't look likely that he will soon lose his spot. However, while the French defender has stated that he is happy at the club, he has also made it clear that he will not stay for another season without silverware. While Arsenal are strong title-contenders (topping the league with a game in hand against our nearest rivals) nothing is certain in football, and I do believe the Frenchman would seek a way out if we fail to win anything this season.

Gallas must also be wondering how long he can last under Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal boss shows a clear affinity for young players, and has an inflexible policy of offering only one-year contracts to players over 30 years old. With legends such as Freddy Ljunbgerg, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Robert Pires being allowed to leave the Arsenal captain must be afraid that he will be the next to go, despite the fact that he was signed from Chelsea just last season.

I can't see Gallas' transfer happening any time before the Summer at the earliest, and if he is happy at the club, I would be happy to see him stay for a few more seasons (providing he is able to stay fit).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Arsenal vs. Slavia Prague: Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal gave manager Arsene Wenger a late birthday gift of seven goals, tying the club's record for biggest victory in the Champions League. Theo Walcott's first two goals in Europe for Arsenal, as well as braces from Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb and a goal from substitute Nicklas Bendtner lead Arsenal to a 7-0 victory over Czech league leaders Slavia Prague.

The Gunners will go into next Sunday's game at Anfield with lots of confidence following a run of 12 straight victories which sees the club at the top of Champions League Group H and the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger started with nearly the same lineup as he had in the 2-0 win over Bolton on Saturday, the only change being Theo Walcott in place of Eduardo da Silva. I was surprised to see Emmanuel Eboue starting over Tomas Rosicky after he failed to have much impact on Saturday, and he had problems again today.

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

Slavia Prague: Martin Vaniak; David Hubacek, David Kalivoda, Matej Krajcik, Daniel Pudil, Marek Suchy; Michal Svec, Mikael Tavares; Milan Ivana, Zdenek Senkerik, Stanislav Vlcek

Arsenal once again rushed out of the gates, with Cesc Fabregas scoring his first goal in the fifth minute. A pass from Alex Hleb met the Spaniard in the box, and the 20 year-old beautifully curled a shot around Martin Vaniak from a tough angle.

Nineteen minutes later Alex Hleb got his first goal of the night, after a scuffed shot from the Belorussian midfielder took a wicked deflection past Vaniak in what could have been considered an own goal from David Hubacek.

Emmanuel Adebayor then missed his first of the night, as the Togolese international had a header brilliantly saved by the feet of Vaniak. The African striker, who also struggled to find the back of the net against Bolton, could have scored a hat-trick of headers, but somehow managed not to score on any occasion.

Vaniak, who had just made a smart save from Adebayor, was involved for the wrong reasons in the 41st minute, botching a clearance and gifting Theo Walcott a possession just outside the penalty box. The young striker still had a lot to do, but managed to get past tackles from Vaniak and two Slavia defenders to score his first European goal in an Arsenal shirt.

Arsenal came into the second half confidently after their impressive start to the match, and it wasn't long before Alex Hleb grabbed his second of the day. The tricky Belorussian latched onto a pass from Fabregas just outside the box, faked a shot with his left, and then slotted past Vaniak with his right for his second goal of the night.

Hleb added to his impressive performance by getting a second assist by putting Theo Walcott through. The young England forward then danced past two challenges before prodding the ball past the Slavia keeper and in off the far post.

Arsenal's next goal was wonderfully worked, with Fabregas getting the final touch past Vaniak. Alex Hleb once again masterminded the move, passing the ball to Emmanuel Adebayor, who found Theo Walcott in the box. The 18 year-old made a fabulous first-touch pass to Cesc Fabregas who calmly finished for his second goal.

With the game in Arsenal's hands, Arsene Wenger made a triple substitution, with Rosicky, Gilberto, and Bendtner coming on for Hleb, Flamini, and Adebayor. Personally, I would have wanted to see Emmanuel Eboue taken out, as he had been invisible for nearly the entire second half.

Slavia Prague then had their first real chance of the game, finally testing Manuel Almunia. The Spanish keeper, who was once again started over Jens Lehmann, made to superb saves to keep Arsenal's clean sheet.

Slavia couldn't keep up the pressure for long, and Theo Walcott nearly got a hat-trick, only for Vaniak to make an amazing reflex save to keep out the promising young forward. Arsenal's seventh nearly came through Tomas Rosicky just after Vaniak's save. The Czech captain barely failed to score, his shot deflecting out of bounds off of Vaniak's goalpost.

The night was not over yet though, as Arsenal's seventh goal finally came in the final few minutes of regular time. Nicklas Bendtner refused to give up on a backheel from Eboue, and he managed to tap in his first European goal for Arsenal.

A fabulous seven-goal win for Arsenal will be a great boost ahead of Sunday's Premiership fixture against Liverpool. Theo Walcott finally began to show the kind of talent that made Sven Goran Eriksson choose him for England's world cup squad, Alex Hleb had two key contributions two goals and scored two himself, Nicklas Bendtner scored his first goal in Europe, and Cesc Fabregas got a brace. Arsenal's potential is finally turning into pure talent, and we can really be title contenders this year if we can continue to work this well together.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Diarra Sets Christmas Ultimatum

When I polled this blog's readers in September, regarding this Summer's best signing, Arsene Wenger was (unsurprisingly) the winner. I was shocked, though, to see that Lassana Diarra came in second, with Eduardo in third, and Bacary Sagna in a distant fourth.

Well maybe that will have changed by now. Sagna has been solid at right-back, while Eduardo has only featured occasionally, and Diarra has yet to start a league game in an Arsenal shirt.

Diarra was brought in to cover for Gilberto and Mathieu Flamini as a defensive midfielder, but so far Flamini's impressive form has managed to keep both the Brazil captain and the promising 22 year-old out of the Arsenal squad.

Diarra, who moved from Chelsea because he wasn't getting enough first-team chances under Jose Mourinho, is receiving even fewer chances under Arsene Wenger. The young Frenchman is tired of waiting, and has publicly stated that he will try to leave Arsenal during the January transfer window if he doesn't start nailing down a first-team place by December.

"For the moment, everything is going fine and I'm learning, but I cannot stay like this for ever," Diarra told The Times.

"I'm not going to wait for a year because I changed clubs in order to play.

"I'm not stupid. If I come to Arsenal and my situation is the same as at Chelsea, then I should have stayed at Chelsea. If I come to Arsenal, it's to play. In a few months, I'll have to decide what I want to do.

He added: "I've played more games for my country than for my club, which is ridiculous.

"When I came to Chelsea, I was 19, so to wait for a year is OK, but when I'm playing for the French national team with the European Championship coming, I need to play regular football.

"When Wenger signed me, he knew the player I am. I've been in this kind of situation before, so it's not new to me. I've waited for a long time, but I'm 22 and cannot wait as I have in the past.

"I know Arsenal are a very good team, playing good football and top of the league, but I want to play.

"If I'm not playing by Christmas I may have to go somewhere else."

Personally, I feel as though Gilberto may leave Arsenal in January, seeing as how he isn't getting much playing time at the club, and there is interest from Italy and Spain. If Gilberto does leave, Diarra would have to stay, as we would need back up for Flamini.

Gilberto will be on his way out soon enough (especially after missing out on the captain's armband) so Diarra should stay at Arsenal. The real question is, will he get any playing time?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Arsenal vs. Slavia Prague: Match Preview

Match Review

Group H leaders Arsenal take on third-placed Slavia Prague at the Emirates this coming Tuesday. Arsenal will be confident coming into this match, having won eleven straight games in all competitions. A 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers this past Saturday will do nothing to ruin their morale.

Arsenal would do well not to underestimate the Czech team though. Slavia currently top the table in the Czech league, having collected 25 points out of a possible 30 this season. Slavia are 9 points ahead of Sparta Prague, the team that Arsenal defeated 3-0 to qualify for the Champions League group stage. While they may have lost their last Champions League game (a 4-2 defeat at Sevilla) Slavia do have a bit of pedigree as giant-killers. The Prague team defeated Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam home and away to qualify for the tournament.

However, the Czechs will have to play very well to defeat a nearly full-strength Arsenal squad. Arsenal's only missing players will be Phillipe Senderos and Robin van Persie, and while the loss of the Dutch striker will be lamented, Senderos was unlikely to start anyways, due to the return of William Gallas.

Arsene Wenger's lineup is likely to be nearly the same as that which played Bolton, with only one switch likely - Tomas Rosicky may start over Emmanuel Eboue.

That means that Manuel Almunia will probably start in goal, with the benched goalie being either Jens Lehmann or Lukasz Fabianski.

In front of Almunia will be Arsenal's starting backline of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy. I can't foresee our defense having any difficulty in keeping the Slavia strikers at bay, and if Kolo Toure can strike a free kick against Slavia the same way he did against Bolton, we may not even miss Robin van Persie.

The most likely midfield lineup (and the best in my opinion) would be Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini in the middle, with Tomas Rosicky and Alex Hleb on the flanks. The Czech national team captain is likely to start over Emmanuel Eboue who struggled to have an impact on Saturday and seems to be losing his place in the Arsenal side. Other options in the midfield include Abou Diaby, Gilberto, and Lassana Diarra; but while Diaby and Gilberto may get some time as substitutes I don't see either of them starting.

Arsenal's impressive midfield lineup should boss around Slavia's midfielders, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some goals coming from the midfield. More likely to score though, would be our front line.

Up front Arsene Wenger still has many options despite the loss of Robin van Persie due to injury. Emmanuel Adebayor and Eduardo started against Bolton on Saturday, and are the most likely candidates to start on Tuesday as well. However, Arsenal's young starlet Theo Walcott has been pushing for a starting berth as a striker, and Nicklas Bendtner will be looking for some action up front as well. No matter who plays, if Sevilla was able to put four past them, we should be able to score a few of our own...

While I urge Arsenal fans not to be too overconfident in this fixture, I do feel that we are heavy favorites both to win this game, and head the group in qualifying for the knockout stages. I'd guess we win this one 2-0.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Carlos Vela: Coming Soon

Carlos Vela will be cleared to play for Arsenal in January following loan moves to Celta de Vigo, Salamanca, and Osasuna. The prodigious Mexican striker joined Arsenal in 2005 for a fee of £2.5 million, but was unable to join the club due to work permit restrictions.

It is rumored that Arsene Wenger will recall the forward from his most recent loan at Osasuna during January's transfer window.

The 18 year-old was signed from Chivas de Guadalajara after winning the golden boot in the 2005 U-17 World Cup. He is a promising young striker who can also play as a winger, and his ability is already seeing him being likened to Kaka and Ronaldinho.

The Mexican whizkid has already scored his first international goal for his country's senior side, having scored in Los Angeles in a 3-2 defeat to Guatemala.

Click here to see a video of some of what Vela has to offer - take a look at the pace he shows in the second goal... seems like we've got a kid who can mix the speed of Theo Walcott with the opportunism of Eduardo.

Arsenal vs. Bolton: Match Review

Match Preview

Archie Knox lost his first match as Bolton's caretaker as his side fell 2-0 to Arsene Wenger's first-placed team. The result keeps Arsenal at least two points clear of Manchester United (who play Aston Villa later today) with a game in hand. Bolton are not faring nearly as well, as the loss puts them rock-bottom in the Premiership, after Derby held Fulham to a goalless draw today.

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

Bolton: Jussi Jaakskelainen; Abdoulaye Meite, Andrew O'Brien, Ivan Campo, Ricardo Gardner; Danny Guthrie, Gavin McCann, Kevin Nolan, Joey O'Brien; Kevin Davies, El Hadji Diouf

Arsenal started brightly despite the battling spirit of the opposition, and it wasn't long before Alex Hleb cut back a ball for Emmanuel Adebayor only for the Togo striker to fail to make good contact, the ball eventually being cleared away.

The move was a sign of the two players fortunes to come. For a large part of the first half, Alex Hleb was the only player willing to take on defenders. Hleb's dribbling was one of the bright spots in a frustrating first half for Arsenal. On the other hand, Adebayor played poorly and missed many chances.

Bacary Sagna came up the flank to provide a cross to the tall striker, only to see the ball headed well wide.

At the twenty minute mark, Sagna was on the receiving end of a harsh tackle from Gavin McCann, which resulted in a yellow card for the Bolton player. Tempers flared, and Cesc Fabregas and El Hadji Diouf were both shown yellow cards.

Arsenal had a penalty shout soon after, when McCann took Emmanuel Adebayor down in the box, but he got the ball first and the referee waved play on.

Diouf got involved in the game again, as he took down Sagna on the touchline, and was very fortunate not to have been shown a second yellow for his tough tackle.

Adebayor got the last chance in a tough half as a cross from Eduardo found him in the box. The Togo player once again did badly though, heading softly behind before the half-time whistle blew.

Bolton had kept Arsenal in check for the first half, taming the usually dynamic Cesc Fabregas. Arsenal warned that they were still fighting though, as they once again raced out of the gates in the second half.

Gavin McCann mistakenly played the ball into the path of Emmanuel Eboue, who hacked his shot into the stands when he should easily have scored.

Fabregas then tried from far out, but his shot was powered into the safe hands of Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Arsene Wenger noted that Eboue and Sagna weren't providing much attacking flair up the right flank, and decided to make a double substitution to inject some pace into the game. Eboue and Eduardo (who had both been fairly quiet all game) were taken out for Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott in what turned out to be yet another brilliant move from the Frenchman.

William Gallas nearly scored on his return from injury, as he headed goalwards from a corner. However, Jaaskelainen made a fine reaction save to stop the Arsenal captain from point blank range.

The Finnish keeper could do nothing to keep Kolo Toure out in the 68th minute though. Cesc Fabregas stood over a dead ball after being taken down by Ivan Campo. The Spaniard tapped the ball to Toure who drilled his shot into the bottom left corner of Jaaskelainen's goal.

Bolton, who didn't force Almunia (who was chosen over Jens Lehmann) into a single save all game, looked sure to be defeated, but Arsenal wanted more.

Adebayor nearly grabbed a second after rounding Jaaskelainen, but he inexplicably fell to the ground instead of stroking the ball into the goal.

The second couldn't be held off for too long though, as Tomas Rosicky met Theo Walcott's low cross with his foot, ensuring Arsenal the full three points.

This match will be a good confidence booster going into Tuesday's game against Sparta Prague, and I believe that we could make it 12 straight wins before facing Liverpool next weekend.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lehmann out, Eduardo in for Bolton Clash

Arsene Wenger has announced that he will stick with Manuel Almunia in goal for tomorrow's game against Bolton despite the return of Arsenal's former first-choice keeper Jens Lehmann from injury. Fans are beginning to question whether Lehmann has a place at the club any more, as Wenger has completely left him out of the squad, keeping Lukasz Fabianski as the second choice goalkeeper.

"Jens Lehmann played very well for Germany," Wenger told "But Almunia will play against Bolton. He must be patient and fight for his place.

"Patience is not his best quality and Jens will fight every day to be back in the team but I have three world class keepers here now.

"In our job you must always fight hard and be able to cope with any situation that you deal with.

"At the moment he must be strong enough to deal with it."

Eduardo da Silva, arguably Arsenal's biggest Summer signing, is set to take Robin van Persie's place for the Bolton clash, after the Dutchman was injured in the Netherland's midweek win over Slovenia.

The Brazilian-born Croat will have to play well to keep his spot when van Persie returns, as Emmanuel Adebayor and van Persie have both been in fine form of late. Theo Walcott is also slated to get a chance as a central striker, but Nicklas Bendtner will be disappointed to find that he will not play alongside Adebayor in van Persie's absence.

"Eduardo, it could be time for him,” said Wenger at a Friday press conference. “He has started very well.

"He is certainly intelligent enough to fit into the side, Walcott will too. Walcott will get a chance in this position because I feel now he is ready to play through the middle.

"We are in October and Theo has already played a part. He made a big impact last time he came on and you know things change quickly. In football you have always to be ready, and it’s a good opportunity for him as well, not only for Eduardo. If he is strong, he will play.

"Bendtner will [play] as well, but he is more in Adebayor’s position than someone to play with Adebayor."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Arsenal vs. Bolton: Match Preview

Click here for the Match Review

First-placed Arsenal will take on struggling Bolton Wanderers this Saturday, only three days after Sammy Lee parted ways with the second-from-bottom club. Bolton, who finished sixth in the Premiership last season, find themselves in an early relegation battle, having picked up only five points from nine games this season. Arsenal on the other hand are riding a wave of ten consecutive wins in all competitions and will hope that their brilliant form continues despite the international break last weekend.

With former Gunner Nicolas Anelka (who has been Bolton's only bright spot this season) searching for an exit, the future looks grim for Sam Allardyce's future side. Under Big Sam the club played a brand of football which contrasted starkly with Arsene Wenger's quick passing game. The long balls and crosses from the wings seemed to work against most teams and caused quite a bit of trouble for Arsenal last season. However, under Sammy Lee (and now in the care of Archie Knox) the club have become much less of a threat.

Arsenal nearly have a full-strength squad for the clash with Robin van Persie the only major player missing due to injury. The Dutchman picked up a knee injury in the Netherlands midweek win over Slovenia. Philippe Senderos also picked up a back injury and is likely to be back in two weeks. However, with the return of William Gallas, he probably would've missed the match anyways. Other returning players include Jens Lehmann, Tomas Rosicky, and Eduardo.

The return of Lehmann may cause a selection headache for Arsene Wenger. Manuel Almunia deputized well during Lehmann's absence, picking up five clean sheets prior to the 3-2 win over Sunderland. However, Lehmann put in a good performance for Germany during the inernational break, and will be pushing for the number one spot. Personally, I think that Lehmann should start the game, because he is far better at dealing with crosses than Almunia. I have written before that I always support Lehmann over Almunia, but in this case in particular we need someone who can make good decisions. Unfortunately, I'm thinking that Wenger may opt to play Almunia.

In front of goal we see the return of William Gallas, bolstering our back line. He should start alongside the familiar triplet of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, and Gael Clichy. Let's hope our returning captain can keep fellow Frenchman Anelka in check.

Wenger will have more headaches in the midfield, with Cesc Fabregas the only sure starter. Mathieu Flamini's form makes it likely that he will be chosen over Gilberto in the holding midfield spot, despite the Brazilian's international play this week. Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky are the most likely players to complete Arsenal's four man midfield, but other options could include Abou Diaby, Lassana Diarra, Emmanuel Eboue, or even Theo Walcott.

An interesting option would be to play a 4-5-1 with Alex Hleb playing in the hole as he did (to great effect) in Arsenal's pre-season games. However, it is more likely that Eduardo will start up front alongside in-form Emmanuel Adebayor. Nicklas Bendnter will also be looking to get in on the action now that van Persie is out of the picture. He will probably start on the bench and look to grab some minutes towards the end of the match.

Arsenal shouldn't have too much trouble beating a down-in-the-dumps Bolton side, but we will have to watch out for Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman has scored five goals this season already and will be looking for more against his former club. However, Arsenal's central defense pair of William Gallas and Kolo Toure should be able to handle the sulk, even in the air.

I predict a 2-0 win for the Gunners, extending our winning streak to eleven games and keeping us at the top of the table. I'm not too worried about this game... it's Robin van Persie's injury that troubles me. We need the Dutchman for next Sunday's clash against Liverpool, but he is unlikely to be fit by then. For now though, let's just win this game and keep up our brilliant start to the season.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Arsenal Rumors: Fabregas, Gilberto, Song, Fernandez, Mollo, and Ben Arfa

Well in the absence of real news due to the International break, I've decided to write about some of the rumors that have recently been circling the internet.

First, only a day after Barcelona said that they wouldn't break the bank for Cesc Fabregas, Real Madrid have been linked with the young midfielder. It is unlikely that Arsenal's 20 year-old prodigy would join Los Blancos, due to the fact that he began his career with Catalan arch-rivals Barcelona. This rumor circulated during the Summer as well, but I think we can safely (and fortunately) assume that Fabregas will be with Arsenal for a while to come.

Gilberto is another Arsenal player to be linked with Spain, with Valencia allegedly preparing for a January bid for the Brazilian captain. Juventus are also suspected to be interested in the holding midfielder, and this transfer seems more likely to happen than that of Cesc Fabregas. With stiff competition from the vastly improved Mathieu Flamini, Lassana Diarra, Alex Song, Abou Diaby, and Neves Denilson in the central midfield, Arsene Wenger may allow Gilberto to leave Arsenal. His departure may have a great effect on our title chances though, as he is by far our oldest outfield player, and his experience as Brazil captain should prove invaluable.

Alex Song has also been linked with a move away from Arsenal, with the reported target being Charlton. Alan Pardew is interested in either a loan or a permanent deal, and with the limited options in midfield, Song may indeed be taken away on loan. However, if Gilberto leaves Arsenal in January, Song is likely to be kept in case of an emergency in central defense. With Kolo Toure leaving for the African Cup of Nations, we would be left with only William Gallas, Philippe Senderos and Johann Djourou in the center-back position, so Wenger will be cautious about loaning out Song, who can play well in the heart of defense.

Arsenal have been linked with River Plate winger Augusto Fernandez. The right-footed winger was linked with Barcelona during the Summer transfer window, but a deal failed to materialize. Now it seems as though Arsene Wenger is set to swoop for the £10 million rated 21 year-old.

Another possible Arsenal acquisition is Yohan Mollo, an 18 year-old defender playing for Monaco B. The youngster, who has yet to make his senior appearance for Monaco, is reportedly very highly rated by Arsene Wenger, although there seems to be very little information about the reserve player.

The last player to be linked with Arsenal recently is Hatem Ben Arfa. The 20 year-old Olympique Lyonnais striker grabbed his first international goal on Saturday as the French beat the Faroe Islands 6-0. Arsene Wenger was present at the game and was very impressed by the forwards talent.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Barca Won't Overpay For Arsenal's Fabregas

Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain has stated that the Catalan giants won't break the bank for Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas.

The Spanish sensation has been one of the most influential players at Arsenal over the past few seasons, marshaling the midfield at the tender age of 20. Fabregas had never kept it a secret that he would like to return to Spain at some time in his career, but it now seems as though he may have to wait seven years for his contract to expire.

"He is a great player but the circumstances of his exit make things very difficult," said.

"We cannot pay a great amount for a homegrown player that decided to leave us.”

Arsene Wenger's club only paid Barcelona £700,000 of compensation for the young midfielder , as he left Barcelona at 16 years of age, before players are allowed to become professionals in Spain.

Barcelona have made it clear that they will not chase after the coveted Arsenal star, with Begiristain adding:

"To start with he would have to show his desire to return."

This is great news to Arsenal fans, as Fabregas is integral to our team's success. If I were to choose one player at Arsenal who could not be replaced, it would without a doubt be Cesc Fabregas. We may have a talented roster of midfielders but the majestic way in which Cesc controls the game can be equaled by none.

Arsenal would be sure to command a huge transfer fee from such a talented young player, but no amount of money would be worth losing Cesc's genius.

Let us hope that Barca stay true to their word, and Cesc stays true to his club. I could see the boy playing at Arsenal for another ten or fifteen years, and I can only hope that he will stay at the club for that long.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lehmann Registers Impressive Germany Performance

Under-fire Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann made some fine stops to register a clean-sheet, making Germany the first team to qualify for the 2008 European Championships after a 0-0 draw with Ireland.

The German keeper needed to play well this week to even be considered for Arsenal's clash with Bolton on the 20th, and his performance will certainly make Arsene Wenger do some thinking. Unfortunately, the yellow card he picked up for time wasting means that he will miss Wednesday's game against the Czech Republic - and a second chance to prove himself.

However, Lehmann and the German national team coaching staff are both confident that his performance against Ireland was enough to ensure that he will start for the club next week.

"Why would Arsene Wenger not have reason to play me?," Lehmann said. "I played well and on that fact I am ready to play for Arsenal again."

German manager, Joachim Löw was full of praise for the veteran shot-stopper.

"Jens was flawless and he was a solid backbone" Löw said.

"The way he dominated his area was excellent and he picked up a few balls for us off the line.

"Even when he is under discussion he has nerves of steel, looks positive and can concentrate when needed."

Former Germany striker Oliver Bierhoff also backed Lehmann for a club start.

After the game he said, "If anyone saw how well he played, I can't imagine he will sit on the bench at Arsenal for much longer, he played like he has never been injured this season"

I hope that Wenger follows the advice of the Germans, because as I've said before, I don't trust Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adebayor to stay at Arsenal during ACN

The 2008 African Cup of Nations will last from January 20 until February 10, calling up African players from all over the Premiership. Arsenal looked set to lose Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, and Emmanuel Adebayor for that period of time, and there were some concerns that we would be light both up front and in central defense.

However, the effects of the ACN have been dampened by the fact that Togo has failed to qualify. This means that prolific Arsenal striker Adebayor will be staying with his club. It comes as a blow to Togo (and to Adebayor who I'm sure was looking forward to representing his country in the ACN) but Togo's pain is Arsenal's pleasure, and Adebayor staying is a major lift.

We will still struggle in the center of defense without Kolo Toure, though. The Ivorian defender has been incredibly solid at center back, whether partnered with Philippe Senderos or William Gallas. Even with the return of Johann Djourou, Arsenal will be in some serious trouble if Gallas gets injured (as he has managed to do quite often since his transfer from Chelsea) so I hope that the Micah Richards rumors are true.

We will be playing Newcastle, Manchester City, and Blackburn while the African Cup of Nations is going on, and if we can weather the storm, we have a great chance of winning the title.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Arsenal Internationals: Who's Playing Where

Gael Clichy, Abou Diaby, Mathieu Flamini, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna - Five Arsenal players have been selected to play for France in important qualifying fixtures against the Faroe Islands on October 13th and Lithuania on October 17th. Flamini received his first call-up to the national side, thanks in large part to his impressive club form of late. This is also Clichy's first call-up to the senior national team, but the young left-back is unlikely to feature. Gallas and Sagna both missed the last round of internationals due to injury, but Sagna has been playing for the club recently and Gallas has also returned to club training, making it likely that both will play during the international break.

Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure - Arsenal center-back Kolo Toure and right-back Emmanuel Eboue have both been called up to play in the Ivory Coast's October 17th friendly against Austria.

Emmanuel Adebayor - Prolific striker Emmanuel Adebayor will travel to play with Togo against Mali on October 12th. Togo's hopes may rest on the head of Adebayor, who is currently the Premier League's top scorer.

Nicklas Bendtner - The 19 year-old Dane has been selected to represent his country against teammate Cesc Fabregas' Spain on the 13th and Latvia on the 17th.

Eduardo - The Brazilian-born Croat has been selected to play for Croatia against Israel and Slovakia on the 13th and 16th respectively. However, he is unlikely to feature due to a groin strain. He is, though, likely to be back in time for Arsenal's Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers next weekend.

Cesc Fabregas - Arsenal's in-form midfield maestro will take on teammate Nicklas Bendtner in Spain's match against Denmark on October 13, after which he will travel to Finland to take on the Finnish national team.

Gilberto - Arsenal's out-of-favor holding midfielder was still called up to Dunga's Brazil team for their matches against Colombia and Ecuador on the 14th and 17th of this month. The Brazil captain is likely to start for his home country, despite the fact that he has been sitting on the bench lately at the club.

Alex Hleb - Balarussian midfielder Alex Hleb will feature for his country against Luxembourg and Israel on the 13th and 17th, and will hope that his recent scoring touch with Arsenal will break through into his national game.

Jens Lehmann - Under pressure goalkeeper Jens Lehmann will make his return from injury for Germany against the Republic of Ireland on October 13th, before facing Tomas Rosicky's Czech side on the 17th. The goalie will be hoping for two impressive performances to keep Manuel Almunia out of the Arsenal goal.

Tomas Rosicky - Tomas Rosicky will do his best to prevent Jens Lehmann from registering a clean sheet as he plays for the Czech Republic against Germany on the 17th.

Phillipe Senderos - The Swiss defender, who has been standing in for the injured William Gallas at Arsenal lately, has been called up to face Austria and the USA in two friendlies on the 13th and 17th of October.

Robin van Persie - Robin van Persie is set to return to Romania and play against Slovenia as the Netherlands attempt to qualify for the 2008 European Championships. The Dutchman, who has been forming a great partnership with Emmanuel Adebayor will hope to aid his country in the qualification process.

Theo Walcott - Arsenal's only British player was called up to represent the England U21's, who are set to face Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland on October 12 and 16 respectively.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Arsenal Rumors: Bendtner On His Way Out

Arsenal's young Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner could be on his way out of the club. The 6 ft. 4 in. front man performed admirably in Arsenal's preseason fixtures after returning from a season long loan to Birmingham.

The few games that he played during the Summer prompted me to write an article comparing the talents of Bendtner and the prodigal Englishman Theo Walcott. In that article, I stated that Bendtner could be an even more prolific striker than Walcott has been slated to become. Bendtner is good in the air, towering over most defenders; but he also has strength and skill on the ball.

With his great size comes a great amount of strength, and his dribbling in the preseason fixture against PSG was what really caught my eye. As he is one of our greatest talents, I would be heartbroken to see him playing for any other team.

However, the incredible form of Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie has kept him out of any first team action so far this season. Due to this lack of first team chances, he has stated that he may seek to play for another club.

"It's obvious that I don't want to sit on the bench for two years.

"There might be problems with my form in a few months, but I might also get more playing time.

"I will stay at Arsenal to fight for my chance and in case it doesn't work, I will join a different club permanently."

Let's hope that he is given some chances, so he stays at Arsenal. Let's also hope that Arsene Wenger was right when he said that Bendtner would not be leaving the club.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Arsenal Rumors: Micah Richards

Micah Richards has stated that he would join Arsenal if he were given the chance. The 19 year-old Manchester City defender says that he was an Arsenal supporter when he was younger and that he wouldn't mind joining the ranks of brilliant young gunners.

"I was a big Ian Wright fan when I was younger, so I supported Arsenal," Richards said. "Wright and Patrick Vieira were my idols so yeah, if the opportunity came to play for them one day I'd take it.

"But right now I'm concentrating on trying to keep City in the top half, and we've got the players to do it."

Center back is one of the few positions in which I feel Arsenal need improvement, and Micah Richards would be the perfect candidate to shore up our defense.

At the tender age of 19 Micah Richards has already played fifty games for City, and has seven England caps. He is a strong, versatile defender, and his team spirit is evidenced by the fact that he has already captained the Manchester City side in the absence of Richard Dunne.

Richards would cost a fine sum to bring to Arsenal, but he would be a great replacement for Kolo Toure when the Ivorian leaves for the African Cup of Nations. Without Richards, we would be stuck with only William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, and Johann Djourou at center back. Of these Gallas is the only player deserving of a starting spot, and Richards would therefore be a great addition. Richards would make a great partner for any of our central defenders, thanks to his strength and spirit.

The Manchester City defender has the talent to become one of the best in the world. I say that with Arsenal being the second richest club in the world, and Arsene Wenger's reportedly huge warchest, we would do well to pick up Micah Richards in January no matter his price.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Almunia vs. Lehmann: Round Two

In a previous article I argued that Jens Lehmann should be Arsenal's first choice goalkeeper. Other than his early blunders this season Lehmann has always been a sound 'keeper for Arsenal, and two errors are not enough to forget about a man who has spent four years with our club. When I polled the readers of this blog, however, the results differed from my beliefs - 58% of readers claimed that Manuel Almunia was the better keeper.

Nonetheless, with Lehmann on the verge of a return from injury, I maintain that the German hothead should be Arsene Wenger's number one. Almunia is a great backup, and he has produced some good performances in Lehmanns absence, even holding clean sheets for 5 consecutive games prior to last Sunday's clash with newly promoted Sunderland.

However, a clean sheet does not verify the skills of a goalkeeper. Our defending has been very solid this season, and many of the teams we played against were admittedly wasteful with their chances. The truth of the matter is, Almunia has not been forced to make many saves - and he has not made any saves of the caliber of a world-class keeper like Crazy Jens.

In fact, Sunderland's second goal was very stoppable, and in my match review I even mentioned that I thought Lehmann would have made the save. Our defense was partially at fault for letting up the pressure on Kenwyne Jones, but I still feel that Almunia should have at least gotten fingers to Jones' header.

Not only does Jens have the better reactions, but the German is also more experienced and is better at dealing with crosses and long balls. While he may be a bit volatile, Lehmann is by far the oldest and most experienced player on a young Arsenal team which needs a backbone. Also, whereas Almunia is often seen completely missing punches, Arsenal fans could always feel assured when Lehmann went up for a ball in the box.

As the best of Arsenal's keepers, Jens Lehmann deserves the starting berth against Bolton after the international break. At the very least, doubters should watch to see how he plays for Germany over the weekend before shastily tossing him out in favor of Almunia.

Whomever is chosen to play against Bolton, they better play well, as rumors state that Arsene Wenger is looking into buying Robert Green or Almenning Jarsteina in January.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal went back on top of the Premier League table, beating Sunderland 3-0 to make it 10 straight wins. A Robin van Persie double inspired the hosts to a late victory over Roy Keane's stubborn Sunderland side.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Alex Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby; Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie

Sunderland: Craig Gordon; Danny Higginbotham, Paul McShane, Nyron Nosworthy, Danny Collins; Grant Leadbitter, Liam Miller, Ross Wallace, Michael Chopra, Dwight Yorke; Kenwyne Jones

The hosts started the game brightly, with Robin van Persie feeding Emmanuel Adebayor through in the first minute. The Togolese striker, who is the top scorer in the Premier League with 6 goals, shot over the bar in what was a warning of the Arsenal onslaught to come.

In the 7th minute, Cesc Fabregas was taken down just outside the 18 yard box, and Abou Diaby's strike (the first of 5 Arsenal balls to hit the back of the Sunderland net) was ruled out because the referee had already blown his whistle. Amends were made though when van Persie powered the resulting free kick into Craig Gordon's goal. It was a true Robin van Persie strike, a powerful left-footed shot, which couldn't be kept out of the net.

Only 7 minutes later, Arsenal added a second after a badly cleared corner kick fell to Philippe Senderos, who made no mistake from close range. Roy Keane was (rightly) furious with his team's defending, but his fury wouldn't last too long.

In the 20th minute, Arsenal looked to have added a third when Abou Diaby shot into the roof of the net, but the referee's assistant flagged for a dubious offsides call.

Five minutes later Sunderland got a break from the previously tight Arsenal defense. A long ball to Kenwyne Jones who outpowered Gael Clichy and got off a shot. Almunia saved well, but the rebound fell to Ross Wallace who calmly slotted home.

Arsenal had two great chances to go two goals up again before the halftime whistle, but a good save from Robin van Persie's 25 yard screamer kept the margin to one. Philippe Senderos had the last clear chance of the game, as he headed wide from three or four yards out after losing his marker.

It was Sunderland who made the best of their chances after the break though. Liam Miller crossed the ball to Kenwyne Jones, who headed it past Manuel Almunia. The keeper did not react well, and I would have thought that Jens Lehmann would have saved the shot. I can't wait for Crazy Jens to get back.

Arsenal nearly took the lead after an incredibly powerful 30 yard shot from Kolo Toure came off of Gordon's goalpost.

Theo Walcott, who had come on for Diaby in the 57th minute, then missed his kick from 4 yards after a cut back from Alex Hleb. He did better in the 80th minute though, as he played in van Persie who controlled the ball well and slotted home with his second touch, granting Arsenal the full 3 points.

Paul McShane was shown a straight red card just before stoppage time for a nasty tackle on Alex Hleb, and the man advantage showed immediately.

Theo Walcott once again did well with an angled drive, but his shot hit Gordon's post in injury time. It didn't matter though, as Arsene Wenger's young side had already claimed their 10th straight victory.

Although they didn't look as assured in this match, I am proud of our side. They are showing the spirit of champions, and if they continue to play like this on their bad days, Arsenal will surely win the title.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Does Eboue Have A Place At Arsenal?

Emmanuel Eboue played 35 games for Arsenal last season, taking the first-choice right-back position from Lauren (who transferred to Portsmouth due to his lack of first-team play). The Ivorian was criticized for his defending, but put in some brilliant crosses, prompting some to propose playing him on the right wing.

During the Summer transfer window, Arsene Wenger brought in the fabulous Frenchman Bacary Sagna. Sagna has been a rock at right-back, defending and attacking well. Along with Gael Clichy he provided width in an otherwise narrow Arsenal side, and his defending has been as good as any right-back at Arsenal.

Having lost his place at right-back, Arsene Wenger (and many Arsenal fans) thought that now was a good time to test him out in the midfield. He played a few pre-season games at right-mid, and failed to have much influence. Following an injury, he came back to play against Newcastle in our 2-0 Carling Cup victory over Big Sam's side. He featured again in the 1-0 victory over West Ham after Alex Hleb was taken off, and then started in the 1-0 defeat of Steaua Bucharest. However, he once again failed to have much impact in any of these games, making it unlikely for him to start tomorrow against Sunderland.

If he is second choice to Hleb and Diaby in the midfield, and to Sagna in the defense, do we really need him at the club? We have another capable right-back in 22 year-old Justin Hoyte, which means that Eboue will have limited chances in any competition other than the Carling Cup. Will he even want to stay under these conditions?

Of all of our players, Emmanuel Eboue is the only one that I would not mind selling in the January transfer window. He is surplus to Arsenal's requirements, and would likely command a fair sum of cash. Let's not hang on to him for too long.

Poll Results: Fabregas is the best midfielder in the Premiership

Well, poll results are in, and 68% of you Arsenal fans thought that Cesc Fabregas was the best midfielder in the Premiership right now. It's good to see our young Spaniard topping the list over some stiff competitors like last seasons player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, and England legend Steven Gerrard.

Cesc Fabregas - 68%
Cristiano Ronaldo - 9%
Frank Lampard - 6%
Steven Gerrard - 14%
Mikel Arteta - 3%

I'm not surprised to see Fabregas winning this one, considering that he has scored four Premier League goals already this season. The midfield maestro has contributed an additional 5 league assists, helping Arsenal to their first place spot.

Unsurprisingly, the 20 year-old also helped himself to a second Player of the Month award over at, scooping up the honor with 48% of the votes, far ahead of second placed Emmanuel Adebayor with just under 29%.

In his current form, the young Spaniard could be the best player in the world. He is one of the few irreplaceable members of the Arsenal squad, and I look forward to a good game from him on Sunday against Sunderland.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Arsene Wenger: Quota Will Kill Premier League

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is firmly opposed to Sepp Blatter's proposed player quota. The FIFA President's plan would limit each team to only five foreign players, decimating the Arsenal squad.

Wenger, who's team is often criticized for its lack of English players believes that the quota would destroy the EPL's reputation as the best footballing Premier League in the world.

"It would kill the Premier League at the moment for being the best league in the world, certainly," said Wenger. "Why? Because you can see a massive reduction in the quality. If you have the choice between 200 million players or 50 million players, it is less good. It is as simple as that.

"It will protect the bad players, or those who are not good enough. Also, if the best English players play with the best world-class players, then they will be even better and develop quicker." The Arsenal boss also feels that it is not his job to look out for nationality, but rather to search for the best players he can find. Even at a British football club, that could mean anyone from anywhere in the world.

Wenger told “I would not be very happy [if it happened] because I feel sport is linked with quality. Our purpose is to push the level of the game as high as we can to give people entertainment. If one day you say 'sorry, you cannot play. I know you are better but you are not from the right place', then I would not be happy."

There's another reason Wenger would be unhappy: Arsenal's last starting XI was made up entirely of foreign players. If FIFA were to implement their plan, Theo Walcott (our only British player) would stay alongside 5 foreign players, leaving Arsene Wenger to find an entirely new football team.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Match Preview

Match Review

Arsenal will look to extend their 9 game winning streak even further this Sunday as they take on newly-promoted Sunderland at the Emirates. Roy Keane's fifteenth place team will be lucky to get any points out of this game, and will likely play with many men behind the ball.

Arsenal's physio room had a nice day on Wednesday as nobody was injured in the 1-0 win over Steau Bucharest, and only the long term injury sufferers are still out. Alex Hleb and Emmanuel Eboue returned in the midweek, and Jens Lehmann, William Gallas, Tomas Rosicky, and Alex Song have all returned to training, although none of them are match-fit yet, and they are therefore unlikely to feature on Sunday. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has only one injured player this match. Eduardo, who is out with an ankle injury, would have been unlikely to feature anyways thanks to the fine form of Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie.

The back line will probably be the same that we have seen in the past few games, with Manuel Almunia in goal behind Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, and Gael Clichy. I can't see our defenders having any real problems against Kenwyne Jones and Michael Chopra, although they will have to watch out for Sunderland's promising young attacking midfielder, Grant Leadbitter.

In the center of the field, Wenger will likely opt to play Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini in the central midfield positions, despite Gilberto fighting for a place. The in-form midfielders will probably be assisted by Alex Hleb, although the last spot is more contested. Wenger may choose Emmanuel Eboue as he did against Steaua Bucharest, but he might also opt to play Abou Diaby or Theo Walcott. Even against the likes of Leadbitter, I expect our midfield to boss around the Black Cats, and we are likely to see most of the possession.

Up front, Wenger will not want to tamper with his fine striking pair of Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie. The Togo and Netherlands internationals will be expected to find the back of the net in what may end up being a high scoring game for Arsenal.

I have been predicting high scorelines recently (and I was wrong about West Ham and Steaua) but I'm going to have to go high again and say that we will win this game 3-0. Down with Roy Keane, up with Arsenal!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Usmanov Still Interested in Arsenal Takeover

Alisher Usmanov, the disliked Russian billionaire who has been linked with Arsenal takeover talks, has finally admitted that he is interested in taking over the club.

The Metalloinvest and Red and White owner had previously stated that he only wanted to raise his stake to 25% of the club (he currently owns 23%), but he has now admitted that he would jump at the chance to launch a takeover bid.

Any takeover would likely be hostile, seeing as how the clubs board of directors (who together own 45% of the club) has stated that they will not sell their shares for at least one year. However, Usmanov says that he would only buy at a reasonable price, and if Arsenal's top shareholders agree to sell.

Having already bought David Dein's shares at market price, and other shares at far over their value, it seems as though the Russian businessman may be planning a takeover quite soon.

He is unlikely to succeed though, as Arsenal are currently the second biggest earners in club football, thanks in large part to the new Emirates Stadium. Without a need for Dein's money, and with a frugal manager Arsenal don't seem to be in any danger of becoming the next Chelski.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Steaua Bucharest vs. Arsenal: Champions League Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal became the first team to beat Steaua Bucharest in Romania today, thanks to a left-footed goal from Robin van Persie. The gunners kept their top spot in Group H on six points, three points ahead of nearest rivals Sevilla (who we beat 3-0 at the Emirates) and Slavia Prague. Steaua are on the bottom now, having yet to win any points.

The victory was hard-fought, and it seemed at points as though a goal would never come. Steaua defended brilliantly, with Eugen Baciu performing especially well. Nonetheless, a pull-back from Emmanuel Adebayor (who had been a doubt for the game) resulted in a Robin van Persie goal, securing three points for Arsene Wenger's boys.

Steaua Bucharest: Robinson Zapata; Eugen Baciu, Ifeany Emeghara, Petre Marin, Ionut Rada; Nicolae Dica, Banel Nicolita, Petre Ovidiu; Valentin Badea, Adrian Neaga, Romeo Surdu

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Alex Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Eboue; Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie

Both teams started well, and after only five minutes, Badea headed off-target after meeting a cross from Romeo Surdu. Three minutes later, Surdu offered up another great cross, which was headed into the back of the net by Badea, but ruled out for offsides.

Arsenal heeded this warning, and almost immediately scored a goal following the restart. Alex Hleb found Cesc Fabregas with a cut-back, but the in-form midfielder shot over Zapata's crossbar with a disappointing effort.

Emmanuel Adebayor put a lot of pressure on Steaua's backline, cutting the ball across Steau's six-yard box, only to find that nobody was there. However, while Arsenal were putting pressure on the Romanians, they could be accused of once again trying to walk the ball into the back of the net.

In the 31st minute Robin van Persie found Emmanuel Adebayor in the box, but the Togolese striker opted to cross rather than shoot when he had plenty of space.

Arsenal nearly had their first goal when a deflected cross from Gael Clichy was acrobatically kept out by Zapata. The Colombian was adjudged to have kept the ball out of the net, although it was a close call. I couldn't quite tell even from the replays, but at least 90% of the ball was over the line.

Zapata followed this up with another great save, as he silenced Mathieu Flamini to end the first half.

Manuel Almunia almost proved to be Arsenal's downfall when he made yet another poor decision in racing outside of his 18 yard box to clear with a header. The ball fell to the dangerous Nicolae Dica who chipped it goalwards from forty yards out only to see it cleared off the line by the heroic Kolo Toure.

Arsenal were struggling, and at times it seemed as though Arsene Wenger would have to settle for a point.

Steaua substitute Constantin Iacob nearly put the home side in the lead when he beat Arsenal's offside trap to find himself alone with Manuel Almunia. The Spanish keeper wasn't even forced to make a save though, as Iacob wasted the best chance of the game, smashing it high over the bar.

Arsenal finally got their goal though, as Emmanuel Adebayor cut the ball back for Cesc Fabregas. The young Spaniard failed to latch on to the ball, but it fell nicely for Robin van Persie who promptly struck the ball into the net from 12 yards out.

The visitors nearly got a second when Adebayor turned well, only to fire just over the crossbar. One goal was all they needed though, as they played keep ball for the rest of the game, limiting Steaua's chances.

Arsene Wenger should be happy with the resilience and skill of his youngsters, and the Arsenal board should be happy with the victory. 1-0 may not be the most flattering scoreline, but 3 points are 3 points, and Arsenal now sit comfortably on the verge of the knockout stages after only two games played.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Flamini Is Finally Stepping Up

Arsene Wenger's undeniable genius was enough to earn him a contract extension until the 2010/11 season, and it's not hard to see why the Arsenal board were happy to keep him at the club. Under Wenger's tutelage, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Robert Pires were all transformed from struggling players into terrifying French wonders.

However, Wenger doesn't do everything right, and many Arsenal fans thought that Mathieu Flamini was one of his few mistakes. When Arsenal signed the 20 year-old midfielder from Marseille, he had only featured in 14 games for the team, and while he was unproven, the club had faith in Wenger, and expected great things of his new signings.

Fast forward two years to last season. Flamini was still seeing some time on the field, but many criticized his performances, applauding only his incredible work-rate. Flamini was a good squad player, but no more, and many were disappointed by him.

This season, however, it seems that Flamini is finally stepping up. Maybe it's that he's no longer under the shadow of Henry. Maybe he is trying to prove to the naysayers that Arsenal can indeed challenge for the title. Perhaps he has simply seen that Gilberto's place isn't set in stone.

Whatever the reason, Flamini is finally coming of age, and in recent games he has been chosen over Gilberto to partner Cesc Fabregas in the central midfield. It's not hard to see why, as his work-rate, tough-tackling, and team spirit are all great qualities for a defensive midfielder.

His inclusion has also given him great confidence, and he even tried a few long range shots against Robert Green in last Saturday's game against West Ham.

Mathieu Flamini has been consistently underrated by Arsenal fans, but that was unsurprising seeing as how he hadn't been performing as well as he could have until now. I still expect improvement from his current form, but even the way that he is playing now, I'm starting to think that selling Gilberto may not be a horrible idea.

I look forwards to this lad's next few years at the club.

Four Players Doubts For Arsenal Champions League Clash

Arsenal have four players who are doubts for tomorrow's Champions League game against Steaua Bucharest.

Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, and Emmanuel Adebayor are awaiting late fitness tests before Arsene Wenger names his squad for the away tie. All four have made the trip to Romania, but it is yet to be seen if any or all of them will play tomorrow.

"Alex Hleb will travel," Wenger told "We tested him for a check on his bone and a decision will be made tomorrow over whether he will play or not.

"Emmanuel Adebayor will travel but we will make a decision on him as well. It looks a little less good than it did. Mathieu Flamini has a knock on his groin. Abou Diaby has a knock on his ankle so we need to check on them.

The injuries to Hleb, Flamini, and Diaby will leave Arsenal light in the midfield, with Cesc Fabregas and Gilberto the only fit midfielders who usually receive spots in the starting 11. If none of the three are fit for tomorrow's game, Wenger may be forced to start Eboue and Denilson alongside Fabregas and Gilberto.

Walcott could be another option on the wing, but with Eduardo and Adebayor out he may start the game up front with Robin van Persie. Another option (since )it is unlikely that Nicklas Bendtner will start) would be to play van Persie as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 including Walcott on the flank.

The 1-0 win over West Ham had quite a toll on our players, but I am optimistic about winning this match even with a depleted squad.