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 Arsenal.com: "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."
Friday, November 30, 2007
Arsenal prodigy Carlos Vela will not return from a loan at Osasuna until next Summer, said Arsene Wenger.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
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
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
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
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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Goals number eight and six are pure Arsenal class, while Adebayor's cracker for number one is probably the finest strike ever by the lanky Togolese striker.
Another thing to note is that last season a similar video would have been dominated by Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry. Now, though, we have Fabregas, Toure, van Persie, Walcott, Diaby, Denilson, Eduardo, and Adebayor all making the list. 10 goals, 8 players.
That's the new Arsenal. The goals come from everywhere. That's the Arsenal that can challenge for the Premiership.
Arsenal star Tomas Rosicky has denied any possibility of a January switch to Inter Milan.
The Czech Repulic captain, who scored yesterday as his country qualified for the 2008 European Championships, has been linked with Inter Milan since the Summer, when the Italian champions proposed a loan switch for Adriano.
Inter also reportedly tried to sign Rosicky in 2005 and 2006, before Arsenal pried him away from former club Borussia Dortmund.
However, Inter don't look to be getting any luckier this time around, with Pavel Paska, the player's agent, rubbishing the link.
"I am ruling out this option," his agent told Sport.
"Inter wanted Tomas two years ago, something happened also a year ago.
"But to say now, this winter he could move there? No, that is absolutely untrue."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
German international goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has stated his intention to stay with Arsenal through the end of this season.
The 38 year-old shot-stopper has been the subject of intense transfer speculation following his dip in form, and the loss of a first team spot to Manuel Almunia. Reports also implied that the Arsenal number one had fallen out with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger after his criticism of the Frenchman's choice to play Manuel Almunia.
However, Arsene Wenger recently stated that Lehmann was '200% professional' and declared that he still had plenty of time to win his place back before the January transfer window.
It now seems that the German keeper will not leave the team during the window, despite having allegedly received offers from other clubs.
Lehmann said: "I want to stay with Arsenal until the end of the season.
"I have a responsibility with regard to my family and for my children, even if I were not to regain my place.
"I cannot just leave like that before the season ends."This will come as a disappointment to some Gooners who hoped that Jussi Jaaskelainen would join the club, but I think we need to give the angry German another chance. He has, after all, served the club faithfully since 2003.
Despite having scored the most goals of any team in the Premiership so far this season, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger seems to be in hot pursuit of another striker or two.
21 year-old Congo striker Tresor Mputu is currently on trial with the Gunners, and Wenger looks set upon recalling teenage striking sensation Carlos Vela from his loan at Osasuna now that work permit restrictions have been worked out. Adding these two to an already impressive forward contingent of Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo, Theo Walcott, and Nicklas Bendtner would form quite an impressive front line. But Arsene Wenger wants more.
New rumors state that the Arsenal coach may look to sign out of favor Inter Milan striker Adriano on loan in January. The 25 year-old has only started four games for the Italian champions this season, and his club will be looking to escape paying his high wages by sending him out on loan.
I doubt the move will materialize though, especially considering that Wenger rejected a similar move in the summer.
At that point in time Wenger told reporters: "He [Adriano] is not needed. I was not out there [in the market] to take a striker on loan."
The next rumor could be more plausible though.
Arsenal could be looking to sign 21 year-old Gabriel Agbonlahor from Aston Villa. The move would be good for Arsenal's image with the British media, as the young striker is one of England's top prospects. Agbonlahor scored 9 league goals last season and looks like he will score many more this time around, already having scored five in his first twelve league games.
The England U21 player would be great as an impact substitute, or even starting alongside Robin van Persie. However, he would be tough to pry away from Aston Villa, who are currently trying to break in to the top-four cartel.
The striker would cost a reported £15 million, which I think would be a fair price for such a great talent.
Arsene Wenger always surprises in the transfer window though, and he's already stated that he only wants to strengthen one position in January, so we'll see what actually happens then.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is set to offer Congo striker Tresor Mputu a 10 day trial with the North London giants.
The 21 year-old forward currently plays for TP Mazembe in the Congo, but with interest from teams across Europe, it seems like he will be leaving Africa soon.
Salomon Idi Kalonda, director of Mputu's current club, has gone public on the trial.
"We've received an invitation from Arsenal for Mputu," he told News of the World.
"Talks began a long time ago but we didn't want to say anything before an agreement was reached.
"We ruled out a number of clubs before choosing Arsenal."
The fact that Mputu chose to trial at Arsenal comes as a great success for the club, especially considering the promise that the youngster shows.
Former Cameroon coach Claude le Roy, a man famous for his 'discovery' of Samuel Eto'o, has stated that Tresor Mputu is better than the Cameroonian Barcelona legend.
The reported price of £500,000 could become the crown jewel in Arsene Wenger's already impressive crown if Mputu were to become as great as Eto'o.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Arsene Wenger has revealed that he does not yet have any particular transfer targets, although he would like to strengthen one of his squad's positions.
However, the Arsenal manager refused to say which position he would splash cash in.
"It is not impossible," he said in response to a question asking if he would spend in January. "I don’t think I will get anybody in but if I get one opportunity in one area then I will not neglect it."
The fact that Wenger will not spend a large part of his allegedly huge transfer window allotment will come as a disappointment to some Arsenal fans, but Arsenal's position at the top of the Premier League would imply they don't need to spend too much.
One piece of evidence that particularly defends Arsene Wenger's decision not to spend big in January is Arsenal's current success.
Despite signing only five players and losing talismanic striker Thierry Henry last summary (read a summary of all the ins and outs of the transfer window here) Arsenal's youngsters have helped the club to an undefeated run of twenty games, including 16 wins and only 4 draws, this season.
Arsene Wenger always seems to have some tricks up his sleeve in the transfer window though, so we'll see what happens come January.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger fears that the international break this week may result in injuries for his high-flying Gunners.
The break comes at the worst of times for Arsenal who are just beginning to reclaim their form after beating Reading 3-1 at the Madejski, after drawing three times in a row.
Now, however, Arsenal will have to wait until November 24th to play their next game, a home game against Wigan. With Cesc Fabregas suspended, but Robin van Persie looking to return, Arsene Wenger will be hoping not to pick up any injuries during the week's internationals.
"We wanted to get back in charge of this league. We have a game in hand, and so at the moment it is going well," said Wenger.
"Now everybody goes on a break and then we play Wigan at home.
"The international program of the players is quite heavy for some of them.
"We lost Fabregas with suspension now for Wigan, so let's hope everybody comes back without injury because we lost van Persie during the last break and he still has not played yet."
The Arsenal boss refused to comment on his team's title chances, but did speak about the squad's strong bond.
"Let's see how far we can go," said the manager.
"At the moment, this team is a pleasure to work with on a daily basis.
"They have a fantastic attitude every day in training. They are hungry, they want to improve always.
"There is a great bonding in the team and when you have these ingredients plus the talents we have, you can be very hopeful for the future."
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Arsenal wrapped up a 3-1 victory at Reading yesterday on a bit of a sour note.
Cesc Fabregas, undoubtedly Arsenal's most influential player this season, was booked for the fifth time this season, resulting in a one match suspension.
Could it have been done on purpose?
To answer that question we should look at Arsenal's next few Premiership fixtures:
11/24 vs Wigan
12/1 @ Aston Villa
12/5 @ Newcastle
12/9 @ Middlesbrough
12/16 vs Chelsea
12/22 vs Tottenham
12/26 @ Portsmouth
12/29 @ Everton
1/1 vs West Ham
Of these eight fixtures, one stands out as by far the easiest: at home to Wigan. Of the remaining seven, only three are home fixtures (Chelsea and West Ham are nothing to laugh at), and only three (Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and Tottenham) are against bottom half teams. Of those three teams, Middlesbrough is the only team likely to face a relegation battle this season, with Newcastle and Tottenham both looking to challenge for European spots.
As a midfielder on four yellows, Fabregas was likely to get suspended eventually, and there would be no better game to lose him for than Wigan.
But would Fabregas stoop so low as to purposely get suspended?
The manner in which the yellow card occurred would lead me to venture a guess that he would.
My first reaction to the yellow was disappointment - how could our midfield maestro be so immature?
Truth be told, it may have just been another brilliant execution by Cesc Fabregas.
The midfielder held onto Fae's shirt for a good couple of seconds, so blatantly that even a blind refferree would be forced to book him. Nobody expects to get away with that.
Still, though, I was unsure.
The look on the player's face said it all though. No disappointment, no real argument... he had done it on purpose.
All he did was earn himself a well-deserved break...
Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has lost his starting place at Arsenal due to two mistakes in the first two games of the season, and an early-season injury.
Since then Manuel Almunia has started every Premier League game, with Lehmann, the former first-choice keeper, relegated to the bench.
The German keeper has been incredibly critical of manager Arsene Wenger and Manuel Almunia, going public on his feelings that he is by far the better keeper at Arsenal.
Nonetheless, Arsene Wenger claims that he has a chance to break back into the team before January.
"If the situation is still like this in January we will see. We are still in November. November and December is plenty of time to win his place back," said Wenger.
"He is up for the challenge because he is 200% professional."
I don't think too many people would agree that Lehmann is professional, but it's not too hard to understand his frustration.
Germany coach Joachim Loew has told Lehmann that he needs to regain a starting spot before Christmas if he wants to continue to be Germany's number one. Lehmann will therefore look for a way out of Arsenal if he hasn't regained his spot by January.
"Given what the Germany coach says, I will have to see how things are in December," said Lehmann.
"I definitely want to play at Euro 2008. Playing there has always been my aim.
"The Bundesliga is always attractive and is an option, and maybe the German second division is too," he added.
However, he still hopes to dislodge Almunia before the transfer window.
"The situation is as it is. It is only important what the manager decides and I am using this phase to train intensively every day.
"The manager knows I am highly motivated. I would like to play again soon and expect that I will do.
"I would be very surprised if that was not the case."
Personally, I'd be very surprised if he did get his place back. As far as I'm concerned I'd rather see him leave.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Arsenal won away at Reading to reclaim the top spot in the Premiership on goals scored.
Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Alex Hleb made it 3-0 to the Gunners before Nicky Shorey pulled one back for Reading near the end of normal time to wrap up a comfortable win for Arsenal.
Reading: Marcus Hahnemann; Nicky Shorey, Ivar Ingimarsson, Graeme Murty, Ibrahima Sonko; Bobby Convey, Brynjar Gunnarsson, James Harper, Stephen Hunt; Kevin Doyle, Dave Kitson
Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor
Arsenal started brightly, with Adebayor hitting the post in the fourth minute of play. This drew comparisons to Arsenal's 4-0 victory over Reading at the Madejski last season, in which they scored in the first minute.
Cesc Fabregas hit a brilliant through ball to the lanky Togolese striker. Adebayor rolled the ball calmly past the onrushing Marcus Hahnemann, only to see it roll out of play off of the base of the American keeper's right-hand post.
The near-miss showed Arsenal's attacking intent, but a Reading defense which placed ten men behind the ball proved difficult to break down, even for the defense-cutting Gunners.
Manuel Almunia was tested for the first time just after the 30 minute mark after a clearing header fell to Brynjar Gunnarsson. The Reading veteran made good contact with the ball but Almunia was equal to his effort, turning the ball past the post.
Six minutes later Arsenal were granted a great opportunity when Gunnarsson pushed Fabregas down just outside the penalty arc. Fabregas teed the ball up for Kolo Toure, but the center-back shot horribly wide.
Reading couldn't hold Arsenal back for too long though, and the Gunners finally got the goal they deserved just before the stroke of half time.
Adebayor found Hleb on an overlapping run, and the Belorussian midfielder unselfishly pulled the ball back to Mathieu Flamini who tapped the ball into the back of the net for his first goal of the season, bringing Arsenal into half time 1-0 up.
The young Gunners wanted to win by a two goal margin though, as they needed goal differential to go into the international break ahead of Manchester United.
It was Adebayor's chance to shine this time, finishing brilliantly after Cesc Fabregas (in his 100th Premiership start for the club) laid the ball back to the striker. It was Arsenal's 1,000th goal in the Premiership, and Adebayor's seventh of the season.
The big frontman got a second only minutes later, but was denied by a bad offsides flag. It was a well-worked goal, so it was a shame to see it go to waste.
Arsenal wouldn't be denied a third though, and it was Alex Hleb who would strike next after picking up a loose ball from a misplaced kick. The master-dribbler skipped past a challenge before coming face-to-face with Marcus Hahnemann. The Reading goalie dove to his right as Hleb faked him out, using his quick feet to pull the ball back onto his right foot before smashing a shot into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, there were still more than ten minutes to play.
Cesc Fabregas was booked for a foul on Emerson Fae, meaning that the Spaniard will face a one match ban for his fifth yellow card of the season.
Nicky Shorey, who has been called up to play for the England national team, then hit a free kick against Almunia's left upright.
The full-back got his consolation goal three minutes before the end of regular time, after a moment of chaos in the Arsenal defense. Shorey pounced on the mistake, and made none of his own, pulling one back for a sorry Reading.
It made no difference though, as Arsenal won their 27th game in all competitions to climb back to the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand.
Reading's Ibrahima Sonko will meet his cousin Bacary Sagna for the first time tonight when the Royals take on Arsenal at the Madejski.
Sonko was unaware that the brilliant Arsenal right-back was his cousin until his mother recently told him.
"Sagna is my cousin, apparently," said Sonko to the Reading Evening Post. "My mum told me he was, but I have never met him. The first time I will ever meet him will be Monday when we play against each other.
"I knew I had some cousins called Sagna, one of them is at Crawley and went on trial to Barnet, but I didn’t know the one at Arsenal was my cousin.
"I will say hello when I see him. Apparently he knows [that we are cousins] so it will be funny to see him. He’s doing well and he looks a very good player."
Sonko also spoke of some of his other cousins before the match though, controversially stating that he will kick Emmanuel Adebayor.
Daniel Bocande, Adebayor's teammate at Metz, apparently warned Sonko that Adebayor was too quick to be handled by anything other thank kicking.
"My cousin Daniel Bocande said to me ‘be careful because he is so quick'," said Sonko.
"When he has the ball at his feet he can be really fast. I think he is the complete player, but apparently he doesn’t like to be kicked.
"I’m not really like that, but if I have to kick him then I will do it. My cousin told me kicking him is the only way to stop him playing. If you do it early in the game it puts him off.
"When he starts smiling on the pitch you know he is going to play well, so hopefully he won’t be smiling."Sounds like another case of less teams thinking they can boss Arsenal around by getting a bit physical. Well, they're wrong. With Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas enforcing the midfield, I don't think that we'll need to worry too much about getting bossed around by Reading.
All that this kicking talk will result in is a bad name for Sagna's poor cousin.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas rubbished rumors of a move away from Ashburton Grove despite having visited Barcelona last Wednesday.
The player, who started his career at the Barcelona youth academy, has been heavily linked with a move back to the Camp Nou. He was rested for Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague, but surprised many by spending his break with Alex Hleb in Barcelona, watching the Spanish giants defeat Rangers, courtesy of a goal from former Arsenal talisman Thierry Henry.
Arsene Wenger was the first person to play down the Barcelona link, completely dismissing the reports.
"This is no story," he said. "Fabregas is under contract with us. If Barcelona want to buy any player under contract then I’ll give them my phone number. But I think they have it because they just bought Thierry Henry."
When asked if he would consider an offer, the reply was simple: "No chance."
But there's only so much a coach can do to keep a player at a club, and Cesc Fabregas had always said that he would move back to Spain at some point in his career. For the first time though, he has now stated that he would consider spending the rest of his career with Arsenal.
"When I first came to England I always thought I would return to Spain one day," he said.
"But the truth is that the longer I'm here, the more I like it. I love the city, the club, the people. Every day I get to know more people, I feel closer to the fans and to the team.
"To tell the truth, I feel I will stay here for a long time, even for my whole career.
"I don't know which league is better as I haven't had the opportunity to play in Spain.
"But I feel closer to the Premier League because it's very passionate, fast, direct and vibrant and it's the football that I like. Sometimes I watch Spanish league games and they don't do anything for me."
This is great news for an Arsenal side that has already lost Thierry Henry and Freddy Ljungberg. Fabregas has scored 11 goals this season, and at only 20 years of age, he still has time on his side.
Imagine, if he's already this good now, how amazing he'll be when he peaks at 27 or 28... let's just hope he'll still be at Arsenal in that time.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has suggested that it was the Arsenal youth academy which kept Reading in the Premiership last season.
Reading currently have three former Arsenal youth academy players in their squad, one who is eligible to play against Arsenal tomorrow (James Harper) and two out on loan (Graham Stack and John Halls).
Last season, the Royals were reliant upon Harper and another former Gunner, Steve Sidwell, in the heart of their midfield.
Wenger, who has recently come under fire due to the lack of English players in his squad, has struck back at his detractors, claiming that while Theo Walcott may be the only English player at Arsenal, the club has strengthened the English national team by helping smaller teams along.
"The rule for success," he said, "is just live around Arsenal and pick off the players who do not make it completely and I promise you will have a very good team.
"There are very good players who will not all make it here but when they drop out they will still make a good team.
"Harper and Sidwell did not get in here because they had Petit and Viera and Edu in front of them. I think to force the clubs in England to have only English players in the side would be detrimental to the smaller clubs."He went on to discuss Sidwell personally: "I am happy if they have a good life. Sidwell was an important player for them because he had a good partnership with Harper.
"Sidwell's aim was to become a professional football player at a top team. He is. "If we have just contributed a little bit we are happy with that. We take the criticism, no problem.
"As a manager you want to have a positive influence on the life of your football players."
Personally, I feel like Arsene Wenger's job is to make Arsenal the best team it can be, not to strengthen the English national team. However, it must be noted that Arsenal's academy has brought through some bright young English talents.
Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, Blackburn midfielder David Bentley, West Ham defender Matthew Upson and Sunderland striker Anthony Stokes all graduated from the Arsenal youth academy.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Brazilian holding midfielder Gilberto Silva wants to finish his career at Arsenal despite spending most of this season on the bench.
At 31, the Brazil captain is well past the age at which Arsene Wenger usually encourages players to move on, but Gilberto would like to lengthen his Arsenal contract (which still has more than a year to go).
"It is not just down to me, but it would be great if I extended my contract with the club and finish my career here," Gilberto said. "We will see if the club has the same feeling.
"I am not thinking about leaving the club now. I prefer to think that I have the condition to get back in the team. I will do my job; do my best to achieve that. This is what I have in mind."Gilberto was one of the brightest spots in Arsenal's disappointing fourth place finish last year, but he has spent much of this season on the sidelines following the impressive form of Mathieu Flamini.
Because of this, the Arsenal vice-captain has been linked with a move away from the Emirates, with Juventus and Valencia both wooing the player. These links to Spain and Italy were compounded by media reports that Gilberto had fallen out with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Gilberto rubbished these reports.
"This is not true. If I have said something to Arsene, it would never come out in the papers," Gilberto said. "I would go to him and speak to him face-to-face; we have great respect for each other.
"Everyone knows I am not 100 percent happy to be on the bench, that's normal but I am being professional and doing my job.
"I respect everybody in the squad, I respect him and I respect his decision. It's the only thing I can do."Gilberto is a great professional, and Jens Lehmann could certainly learn something from the Brazilian. I hope that he stays true to our club, as his experience could prove to be invaluable in what seems sure to be a tough title challenge.
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce wants Arsenal's 19 year-old striker Nicklas Bendtner, but realizes that the promising striker is out of Birmingham's reach.
Bendtner has featured only four times for the North London giants this season, and has made it clear that he would like to receive more playing time, resulting in rumors linking him to many clubs. However, Arsene Wenger has stated that he will not allow the promising young Dane to leave the club. Bruce has taken this to heart and openly admitted that he has little chance of taking Bendtner back to Birmingham.
"If you look at us compared to last season then, for me, in a crucial area of the pitch up front, we are not as good as we were last year in the Championship because we are without Nicklas Bendtner," said Bruce.
"Strengthening in that area remains a priority and I've got to try and identify some people, that's for sure. But I really don't think there is any chance of us getting Bendtner back on loan. I really don't think there is any chance of that happening.
"I don't think that they would let him out for a start and there has been no conversation with Mr Wenger. It would be on my wish list but it is not going to happen."
The Arsenal youngster did enough with Birmingham last season to prove that he could soon become a force to be reckoned with in the near future, and the fact that Wenger will not let him leave on loan makes it clear that Wenger believes he is slated for great things.
Hopefully we'll see more of Bendtner on the pitch rather than in the news in the future, but for now let's just be happy he's staying with Arsenal.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Arsene Wenger's top of the table Gunners will take on Steve Coppell's 12th placed Royals in the English Premier League this Monday.
Arsenal are unbeaten in 26 games, but their progress has been halted recently thanks to a 1-1 draw at Liverpool, a 2-2 draw with Manchester United, and a 0-0 draw at Slavia Prague. The Gunners will be looking to get back on track with a win at the Madejski.
Last season's Premiership newcomers are not to be taken lightly though, and although Reading is currently placed 12th, they nearly qualified for a UEFA Cup spot last season, and have European aspirations again this year despite the large influx of foreign players amongst their competition. They will be lacking some confidence though, having lost two of their three latest games (Blackburn 4-2 Reading, Reading 2-1 Newcastle, Fulham 3-1 Reading).
However, the Royals should take heart in the fact that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may not be fielding a full-strength side.
"I will change things around," said Wenger. "I don’t know by how much though. I left out eight players at Slavia and they are all capable to play again.
"We have just Van Persie injured now. Senderos is back in full training but we will not use him on Monday because he has not played at all. Rosicky is back and Toure is back. They had a good session today."
The team I would most like to see would have Manuel Almunia in goal behind Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy.
In the midfield Tomas Rosicky (who recently returned from injury) and Alex Hleb would play out on the wings while Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini would dictate play in the center of the pitch.
Up front Theo Walcott would partner Emmanuel Adebayor in the place of the injured Robin van Persie, making for a tough combination of pace and size.
Depending on the team we field the scoreline could vary greatly. I think that if Manchester United win against Blackburn on Sunday, Arsene Wenger will field a full-strength side, resulting in a 3-1 win. However, a less experienced side could result in a more closed game (like the midweek game in Prague) with Arsenal sneaking a 1-0 win. Either way, I expect Arsenal to win and stay at the top of the Premier League.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Arsenal's leading goalscorer last season Robin van Persie should return to fitness in time for the Gunner's match against Wigan on November 24th. Philippe Senderos, an Arsenal center-back, should also be back in time for the match, although he is unlikely to start ahead of the likes of William Gallas and Kolo Toure.
Van Persie's return is a great boost for the Gunners, as we have lacked a confident striker in the past few matches, despite Emmanuel Adebayor's early brilliance this season.
The Togo international was guilty of missing lots of chances against both Liverpool and Manchester United, and could have - but didn't - score the winner in the 0-0 game against Slavia Prague on Wednesday after having been brought on as a substitute.
The lanky African has formed an impressive striking partnership with Robin van Persie though, and the Dutchman's return should spark a return to goalscoring for both of the strikers.
Unfortunately for Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, and Eduardo, the return of Arsene WEnger's first-choice striker should mean that Arsenal's other strikers will get fewer chances in upcoming months.
They will still have a chance to prove themselves against Reading though, in what should be the last game before van Persie returns. No performance would see one of the players replace van Persie, but if any of the three are able to significantly impact the game they might be in for some playing time coming off the subsitute's bench.
Kolo Toure and Tomas Rosicky, who both missed Wednesday's 0-0 Champions League draw with Slavia Prague due to injury should be fit to play against Reading on Monday.
Toure, one of Arsenal's first choice center-backs, picked up a minor calf injury in Sunday's 2-2 draw against Manchester United but both he and Rosicky who was out with a groin injury will be fit to travel to the Madejski to face the Royals.
“It looks like Kolo and Tomas will recover,” Arsene Wenger told Arsenal.com.
Toure will almost certainly replace Alex Song (who started against Slavia) alongside William Gallas in the heart of Arsenal's defense.
However, Wenger will have a difficult time deciding whether or not to start Rosicky.
The French manager has lately opted to play Emmanuel Eboue on the right in the place of the Czech Republic captain, but the converted right-back hasn't had too much of an impact lately, and may find himself lose his place to Rosicky.
In any case, the return of both players will be a great boost as the Premier League leaders attempt to stay top against Steve Coppel's 12th placed team.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League today, despite a disappointingly boring show against Slavia Prague in the Czech capitol.
An undermanned Arsenal squad failed to hit the heights of their 7-0 drubbing of Slavia Prague two weeks ago at the Emirates in what proved to be by far the least entertaining of Arsenal's games this season. It was also the first goalless match played by the as yet undefeated Gunners - but the rest of their displays this season were in a completely different league than today's.
Slavia Prague: Michal Vorel; Erich Brabec, Frantisek Drizdal, David Hubacek, Marek Suchy, Matej Krajcik; Daniel Pudil, Vladimir Smicer, Michal Svec, Mikael Tavares; Zdenek Senkerik
Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Lassana Diarra, William Gallas, Alex Song, Gael Clichy; Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Gilberto, Denilson, Eduardo; Bendtner
As you can see, Arsene Wenger opted to play what was essentially a Carling Cup side, with Manuel Almunia, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy the only players who remained from the weekend's 2-2 draw with English giants Manchester United.
The Arsenal manager also chose an unorthodox 4-5-1, despite the fact that neither of Arsenal's top two strikers were playing. Eduardo and Theo Walcott, who both regularly play as strikers, were played on the left and right wing respectively, where both failed to have much of an impact.
This was the gaffer's 100th Champions League game at Arsenal, but the play was far from the usual flowing football Arsenal fans have been spoiled by during the Frenchman's tenure at the head of the club.
The first chance of the night fell to the home side after 15 minutes, when Mickael Tavares met a corner in the box, but failed to steer the ball on target. It would foreshadow the rest of the night - a night during which the Arsenal and Slavia goalies were forced into action only once and twice, respectively.
After 36 minutes the hosts got their second chance of the match, and their first shot on target as Zdenek Senkerik forced Almunia to tip his shot acrobatically over the bar.
The rain was pouring down in Prague as the teams went into the tunnel after a disappointing half and neither the downpour nor the low level of play changed for the better after the break.
Slavia had a penalty appeal in the 50th minute when Lassana Diarra hauled down Senkerik in the box, but the diminutive Frenchman got away with what TV replays showed to be a clear penalty.
The Czech team once again had the next chance, as a pass from substitute David Kalivoda appeared to catch the entire Arsenal defense wrong-footed. Almunia rushed out of his goal to make another crucial save though, denying Slavia a win at home.
Arsene Wenger brought on Emmanuel Adebayor and Emmanuel Eboue in the 77th and 81st minutes but it was too little, too late. Adebayor latched onto a corner soon after his introduction, but his tame header was easily saved by Michal Vorel as Arsenal undeservedly extended their undefeated streak to 26 games.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Kolo Toure and a trio of Arsenal's midfielders did not travel to the Czech Republic for Wednesday's match against Slavia Prague.
Arsene Wenger explained to Arsenal.com that Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb were being rested while Kolo Toure and Tomas Rosicky were recovering from minor injuries picked up in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Saturday.
"I wanted to take Tomas Rosicky, but he has a slight problem with his groin," said Wenger.
"Kolo Toure got a kick on his calf [against Manchester United on Saturday]. He will be OK for Reading on Monday. Rosicky, we don’t know yet.
"Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas are rested."The Toure injury (thankfully) sounds very minor, and comes at a time when we are not facing any really tough fixtures, so I'm not too worried there. Rosicky though has been struggling for fitness this season, and I would be disappointed to see him losing his place to Emmanuel Eboue permanently as the Czech Republic captain is a valuable player.
However, we are unlikely to need either player to defeat Reading on Monday, and our next fixture is Wigan on November 24th, so we should be able to cope without the pair.
Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas have arguably been Arsenal's two best players this season so the team will miss them, but with the Champions League knockout round almost a sure bet, the two midfielders won't be too necessary against Slavia.
In fact, it should mean that Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott get some playing time, which will benefit the youngsters greatly. I applaud Wenger's decision to keep the two in London for some well-deserved rest.
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is undoubtedly one of the best talent spotters in football.
During his tenure as manager in London, the Frenchman has signed relative unknowns such Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Robert Pires, assembling the first unbeaten team in the top tier of English football since Preston North End in 1889.
Since then the Arsenal coach has continued to buy fabulous talents at low prices. Robin van Persie cost Arsenal around £3. Gael Clichy was signed for £250,000. Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal's linchpin in midfield, came the Gunners for free from Barcelona at the tender age of 16.
Arsenal also has some bright talents on the verge of breaking into the first team squad. Mathieu Flamini, who has recently been chosen ahead of Gilberto Silva as Arsenal's defensive midfielder came for free, as did Nicklas Bendtner. In fact, of Arsenal's young stars, only Theo Walcott was expensive, costing Arsene Wenger £5 million which could raise to a a possible £12 million, still a deal for one of the greatest young talents in English football.
Along with all of the big names, youth and reserve squad players such as Fran Merida, Henri Lansbury, and Kieran Gibbs are all expected to do great things at Arsenal, and Lukasz Fabianski is looked at as one of the brightest goalkeeping talents in history.
So how does Wenger do it?
Does he just have a keen eye for talent? His history most assuredly proves this to be true.
But there must be something more. That something is the Arsenal scouting program.
In recent days Alex Ferguson has admitted that he had never even heard of Cesc Fabregas before the midfield maestro joined the Gunners. By the time he was aware of the talent, Fabregas had already signed for Arsenal, because of Arsenal's scouts.
Around the same time that Ferguson admitted this, Arsenal revealed that they were interested in signing Lionel Messi before he became a star at Barcelona.
Steve Rowley, Arsenal's chief scout, is a relatively unknown name even amongst the Arsenal faithful, but he could be one of the key figures in Arsenal's recent success, so the next time that you see Cesc Fabregas dribble by a defender, the next time you see Robin van Persie hit the back of the net, thank Arsene Wenger, but don't forget to give some love to the men working behind the scenes.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Following Saturday's 2-2 draw between the Premiership's two top teams, Owen Hargreaves, who had been a long term Manchester United target prior to his transfer to the Reds in the Summer, believes that his new employers play a more exciting, attractive brand of football than Arsenal.
"Arsenal kept the ball and had a lot of possession, but they were never really threatening. Football is about scoring goals and winning games," said the former Bayern Munich player.
"I do not think they had a clear-cut chance created in the first half, apart from the header by Gallas, and that was a set piece.
"Defensively, we did a good job and tried to control their so-called beautiful football."
Well I'd just like to clear some things up for Mr. Hargreaves.
Secondly, William Gallas' effort was far from Arsenal's only chance of the half. In fact, Emmanuel Adebayor had a brilliant chance in the 10th minute before he mistimed his jump.
It was, rather, Manchester United who lacked chances. The shot from Rooney could have been stopped by Manuel Almunia if not for a lucky diversion via Gallas. Other than that chance, United had virtually no sniff of goal in the first half. Statistics prove this as well, with Arsenal managing 17 shots (6 on target) and United testing Almunia only 4 times from 10 shots.
Hargreaves dug himself a bit deeper, adding: "They keep the ball and try to play that way, but when a team is as good defensively as ours, you can keep them at bay because we played very tight together.
"You do not get to the top by conceding a lot of goals, but it is difficult when there is so much offensive power on the pitch.
"When you win the ball back against a team like Arsenal, who take a lot of risks going forwards, is vital that you attack.
"We have a lot of quality going forwards to catch them.
"Both of our goals were from really beautiful pieces of play and theirs were a bit more scrappy."
That last one really caught my eye. Both of their goals were from beautiful pieces of play and both of ours were scrappy? Let's go over the goals.
First, Manchester United scores off of a deflection, already discussed above.
Arsenal scores back after only three minutes of the second half when van der Sar is unable to control a volley from Adebayor. The loose ball falls to Bacary Sagna who sets up Cesc Fabregas who finishes magnificently.Then United score again. Almunia rushes out of his net to stop Patrice Evra on the edge of the 18 yard box. The United defender, unsurprisingly, passes to Cristiano Ronaldo who pops the ball into an open net.
Arsenal's second looked a bit scrappy, with the ball bouncing around like a pinball machine. However, all of the bouncing was moot - the goal had already been scored after the first volley by William Gallas. The scrappy part of the goal came from Edwin van der Sar who knocked the ball out after it had already crossed the line.
So let's go over that again. United score one goal due to luck and one due to goalie error. Arsenal score two goals from straight play. Which is the scrappy team again?
Hargreaves, stop sucking up to your new employers and face the facts. Manchester are not scrappy, but Arsenal are even less so. United play beautiful football, but Arsenal play even more beautifully. United score lots of goals, but thus far, Arsenal has scored more.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
High-flying Arsenal travel to the capital of the Czech Republic this Wednesday to face the Gambrinus Liga leaders Slavia Prague. Arsenal beat Slavia 7-0 in the home fixture, but the Eastern European side has developed a reputation as one of the most difficult clubs to beat at home.
Arsenal will be looking to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds of the Champions League by coming home with a full three points, but Slavia, who are three points behind second-placed Sevilla, will be looking to deny them.
The Gunners will be confident of a victory following their draws against two of the biggest English teams in the Premier League and their incredible unbeaten record which stretches all the way back to April of 2006. Slavia have also been on a good run of form though, and they will be hoping to slay the British giants.
Arsene Wenger chose a 4-5-1 formation for both this weekend's 2-2 draw with Manchester United and last weekend's 1-1 draw at Liverpool. However, I feel like he will go with a 4-4-2 in Prague on Wednesday.
Almunia will most likely start in goal again, despite his decision making costing Arsenal a goal against United on the weekend.
In front of him will be Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy, who formed a tough defensive line against United and Liverpool.
Update: Kolo Toure did not travel to Prague, meaning that Gilberto is likely to start in central defense alongside Gallas.
The midfield against Liverpool and Manchester United consisted of Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini in the center of the pitch with Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue on the wings. Alex Hleb was played in his favored position, in the hole between a lone Emmanuel Adebayor and Arsenal's other four midfielders.
Update: Tomas Rosicky, Alex Hleb, and Cesc Fabregas did not travel to Prague
However, Emmanuel Adebayor looked very unstable alone up front, and was once again guilty of missing chances. For that reason, Arsene Wenger may opt to play Theo Walcott or Eduardo da Silva up front alongside the lanky Togo striker, dropping Hleb to one of the wings and taking out either Eboue or Rosicky.
Whether we play a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, Arsenal's midfield will be instrumental in creating goals. Alex Hleb's brilliant close control and laser targeted passing makes him a likely candidate to contribute assists or even goals, and Cesc Fabregas has already scored eleven goals in sixteen games this season. Tomas Rosicky also has a strong shot, and Emmanuel Eboue could provide Arsenal with another dimension by crossing balls across the face of goal for Emmanuel Adebayor.
Slavia will put up a fight and will be very physical, but I don't think they have what it takes to handle Arsenal's free-flowing style of play. Arsenal will boss around the midfield and should retain most of the possession, thereby creating lots of chances.
I predict a 3-0 win and an automatic spot in the knockout rounds.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Arsenal came from behind twice to secure a vital point at home to Manchester United in one of the most dramatic finishes of this Premier League season.
A Wayne Rooney goal in first half added-time (deflected in by William Gallas) gave United the lead going into half time, but Cesc Fabregas equalized after only three minutes in the forty-eighth. Cristiano Ronaldo then put the Reds ahead for the second time of the night in the 82nd minute, but just as United looked to have secured a win William Gallas scored Arsenal's second to keep the Gunners unbeaten record intact.
Arsene Wenger's squad maintains its position at the top of the Premiership by only the narrowest of margins, tied with United on points and goal differential. Only goals scored separates the two sides, although Arsenal have a game in hand.
Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor
Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar; Wes Brown, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic; Oliveira Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves, Cristiano Ronaldo; Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney
Despite a first half nearly devoid of shots on target, the match started brightly (as is to be expected in a top-of-the-table clash).
Wenger's Gunners displayed some of their excellent one-touch football while Ferguson's United gave them little space.
United had the first good chance of the half on eight minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo saw a header come off the post. The goal would have been disallowed either way though, as referee Howard Webb called him for a push on Tomas Rosicky.
Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor then had a chance from a similar position in the other half of the field, but completely mistimed his jump after a perfectly timed run met a cross from Gael Clichy. His disappointing header soared well over van der Sar's crossbar.
Ryan Giggs had a great chance following a fast break in the sixteenth minute, but the veteran midfielder could only stab the ball wide from a yard out, keeping the game level.
With ten minutes to go until half time, Arsenal finally tested Edwin van der Sar for the first time. A well taken free kick from Cesc Fabregas was headed downward by William Gallas only to be impressively saved by the trailing legs of the Manchester United goalie.
It was United who managed to grab the first goal though, when Wayne Rooney's shot deflected of of William Gallas into the goal from a few yards out after a low cross from Cristiano Ronaldo.
United were not ahead for long. Only three minutes into the second half, Fabregas grabbed his sixth league goal of the season to bring Arsenal level. A volley from Adebayor was saved by Edwin van der Sar, but the loose ball fell to Bacary Sagna who teed up the Spaniard who fired home from twelve yards.
The goal gave Arsenal some impetus, and for the first time in the game a team was able to sustain pressure for a fairly long period of time. However, the Gunners were only able to test van der Sar once before a United counterattack, as Cesc Fabregas hit a free kick under the wall, only for the United goalie to make a comfortable save.
Ryan Giggs then found Rooney in the box, but the forward's powered header went well off target.
Alex Hleb was the next man to miss the target. Emmanuel Eboue fed the Belarus international, but the Arsenal midfielder took one too many touches before sending the ball wide with his left foot.
Ronaldo then scored United's second, following some poor decision making from Manuel Almunia. The keeper came out to dispossess Patrice Evra on the side of the eighteen yard box, only for the French defender to unsurprisingly cut the ball back to the center. Cristiano Ronaldo easily swept the ball up into the empty net, leaving the Arsenal players dejected.
The fans got behind their team though, and their patience almost paid off when Evra botched a clearance, hitting his own post before nervously laughing off his mistake with Edwin van der Sar.
The Gunner's spirit prevailed though, and Arsenal were able to bring one back during stoppage time to stay undefeated league leaders. William Gallas shot at a congested goal, and Edwin van der Sar palmed the ball away - from behind the goal line. The ball was correctly ruled a goal as Arsenal made a dramatic comeback.
If this game doesn't prove that Arsenal have a title chance, I don't know what could.