Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Manchester City vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Second-placed Arsenal take on sixth-placed Manchester City this Saturday in the day's early fixture. Arsene Wenger will be hoping to become the first manager to win at the City of Manchester Stadium this season, as City look to break back into the European spots.

The stadium has become a fortress for City this season, seeing the Citizens drop only 6 points in 12 home games. Sven-Göran Eriksson's side has yet to lose at home, but could be facing their toughest test of the season against a determined Arsenal side.

Traveling to a stadium in which the home team is undefeated is always a tough task, but an Arsenal team full of belief will still be full of confidence. The team are also provided continuity by the fact that Arsene Wenger's squad on Saturday will be the same as the squad that defeated Newcastle 3-0 on Tuesday.

Robin van Persie has returned to training but will not be fit in time for the match. Tomas Rosicky is expected to be back in contention before next weekend's game against Blackburn, and Johan Djourou is expected to be out for three more weeks. Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, and Alex Song are all on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.

Manchester City are relatively injury free with only Danny Mills, Michael Johnson, and loanee Nery Castillo likely to miss the match due to injury. Eriksson's side will be low on confidence though, having dropped two points to Premier League whipping boys Derby on Wednesday.

Arsene Wenger will likely field the starting XI from the Newcastle game again, with Manuel Almunia in goal. Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Gael Clichy, and the vastly improving Philippe Senderos will make up the back four.

In the midfield Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, and Abou Diaby will try to provide for their forwards. Mathieu Flamini will have a tough time bossing around Blumer Elano and Martin Petrov, but after an incredible performance on Tuesday, the Frenchman will feel up to anything.

Emmanuel Adebayor will most likely start alongside Eduardo again, although Nicklas Bendtner may feature due to his height. Even Adebayor won't be winning too many headers against the huge backline of Manchester City which includes giants Richard Dunne and Vedran Corluka.

Although Micah Richards and the City defense have done an impressive job this season, Arsenal always seem to find a way through, and are likely to do so again this Saturday. Eriksson's squad lacks attacking power up front, and Arsenal's impressive midfield lineup should be able to stifle the contributions of City's top scorer Blumer Elano. This advantage should be enough to keep Arsenal at least level on points with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table. I predict a 2-0 win for the visitors.

Flamini Wants To Stay At Arsenal

Mathieu Flamini has made it clear that he wants to stay at Arsenal.

The Frenchman's contract runs out this summer but Arsene Wenger will be looking to extend Flamini's time at the club. An impressive goal from 25 yards out was a fine addition to the string of excellent performances that has seen the 23 year-old keep Brazil captain Gilberto Silva out of the starting XI.

Flamini's strength and athleticism have won over admirers both at the club and away, attracting Juventus and a few other suitors.

However, Flamini has publicly stated that he would like to stay at the club, and assured fans that contract talks are continuing.

"My priority is to stay here," he said. "I'm very happy here. I'm happy to play in the team and everything is good. My representatives are talking with the Club and I hope everything will be good. I want to play game after game. The rest, we will see later."

After almost leaving last summer, Flamini has secured his place as one of the most important figures in the red and white of Arsenal this season. Part of this is because he protects the back four while Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas forays forwards. The two seem to have established a close partnership both on the pitch and off.

"We are very close on and off the pitch," said Flamini of Fabregas. "We chill with each other off the pitch. That is important. But when we have to speak on the pitch we are doing it and finding a solution.

"I'm bit more defensive than him. He goes forward more so I cover Cesc, Alex [Hleb] and Tomas [Rosicky] in the midfield. I'm trying be the insurance policy and be a little bit bossy. That's my role. But I'm also trying to help the players up front and help Cesc as well because he is going forward.

"Sometimes he's tired and I try to help. Sometimes it's him and sometimes it's me. But I think we are a very good complement for each other."

The pair form one of the strongest central midfield partnerships in the Premier League, and it comes as great news that Flamini will be staying with Arsenal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Match Review

Arsenal will be at the top of the Premier League for at least 24 hours after defeating Newcastle United 3-0 for the second successive time in only four days. The Gunners, who also beat Newcastle 3-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday, are now three points ahead of Manchester United, who face Portsmouth at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Arsenal went ahead in the 40th minute when Emmanuel Adebayor scored his 9th goal in 7 games to go within one goal of Cristiano Ronaldo's total of 17. Mathieu Flamini bagged Arsenal's second with a fabulous strike from 25 yards out and Cesc Fabregas put the game beyond doubt with a goal in the 80th.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Gael Clichy, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Bacary Sagna; Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo

Newcastle: Shay Given; Claudio Cacapa, Stephen Carr, Steven Taylor, David Rozenhal; Nicky Butt, James Milner, Charles N'Zogbia, Damien Duff; Michael Owen, Alan Smith

Arsenal were in control right from the start and almost got an early lead when a quick exchange between Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas was halted on the edge of the penalty box by a fine tackle from Steven Taylor.

In the 17th minute Arsenal had another great chance when Abou Diaby got his head to a cross from Alex Hleb. Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, Diaby was put off just enough by a challenge from Nicky Butt, and his diving header went far off the mark.

Shay Given nearly scored an own goal a few minutes later as Adebayor pressured the keeper into a cheeky backheel from only a few yards in front of his own goal. Kevin Keegan was irate, but Given got away with it, controlling the ball well enough to give away a corner rather than a goal.

Arsenal finally got on the scoreboard in the 40th minute when Adebayor got his head onto a cross from Mathieu Flamini. The perfectly weighted cross was turned into the net by the prolific Togolese striker, as déjà vu began to hit the Newcastle fans.

The goal ensured that Arsenal went into halftime with a lead, and Kevin Keegan's side seemed well-beaten after having only managed one shot on goal in the first half.

Newcastle came out far stronger in the second half though, refusing to die down despite being a goal behind at the Emirates. Good work up the flanks was undone by a failure to find the correct final pass, and all of Newcastle's early possession in the second half barely even won the Magpies a shot on goal.

Given was tested again in the 66th minute when he showed fine reactions to get down to the ground and save a low drive from Flamini.

A few minutes later, Nicklas Bendtner came on for Eduardo, pairing the young Dane with Adebayor for the first time since their argument at White Heart Lane. There was no conflict between the two players though, as the bust-up seems to have been worked out.

A strong performance by Flamini was rewarded only minutes after the substitution when the Frenchman released an incredible drive from 25 yards out to double Arsenal's lead. The 72nd minute strike was even better than Flamini's cross for the first goal, and cemented the 23 year-old as the man of the match.

Cesc Fabregas provided a third for Arsenal after reaching a centering pass from Nicklas Bendtner. The midfield maestro looks to be getting back into the form that he showed in the beginning of the season.

Newcastle almost got a late consolation goal when Nicky Butt crashed a free-kick onto Almunia's crossbar, but the game was already lost for the Magpies as Arsenal hit the top of the Premiership.

Monday, January 28, 2008

FA Cup Draw: Manchester United To Host Arsenal

Arsenal will travel to Old Trafford in February to face their title-rivals Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The draw was as tough as it could get for the two sides, who sit at the top of the Premier League with only goal differential separating Alex Ferguson's squad from Arsene Wenger's.

Only six Premier League sides are left in the last sixteen of the FA Cup, and the other four managed to avoid drawing each other, with Chelsea facing Huddersfield Town and Liverpool clashing with Barnsley. Portsmouth and Middlesbrough will travel to Preston North End and Sheffield United respectively.

Arsene Wenger will no doubt be disappointed to have drawn the toughest team in the competition but neutrals' mouths will be watering with the prospect of another clash between this season's top Premier League title challengers.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, the clash comes only four days before the Gunners host Italian giants AC Milan in the Champions League, meaning that Arsene Wenger may face some tough player decisions or risk having fatigue lessen the effectiveness of his players.

Nevertheless, the game should be one of the highlights of the season.

The FA Cup Fifth Round Draw

Bristol Rovers vs. Southampton
Cardiff City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Sheffield United vs. Middlesbrough
Liverpool vs. Barnsley
Manchester United vs. Arsenal
Preston North End vs. Portsmouth
Coventry City vs. West Bromwich Albion
Chelsea vs. Huddersfield Town

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Match Preview

Arsenal face off against Newcastle for the second time in four days this Tuesday as they look to record yet another win against the Magpies.

The Gunners have already defeated the Magpies twice this season, although they were held to a 1-1 draw in the league in early December. The latest match between the two sides was a 3-0 home win for Arsenal as the Gunners progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Arsenal's FA Cup win, which saw Newcastle defeated by an under-strength Arsenal side, will instill the young Gunners with confidence. Kolo Toure, Alex Song, and Emmanuel Eboue are all on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. Arsene Wenger will also be missing Johan Djourou, Neves Denilson, and Robin van Persie due to injury, but a nearly full-strength Arsenal side should be able to handle the off-color Magpies.

Newcastle on the other hand have not won in their last six Premier League outings, and although manager Kevin Keegan will be looking to improve on that record, he openly admits that his players are low on confidence. Injuries to Tim Krul and Peter Ramage will do nothing to help Keegan's cause, although the absences Nigeria's Obafemi Martins, Cameroon's Geremi, and Sengal duo Habib Beye and Abdoulaye Faye will be more conspicuous.

Manuel Almunia will return in Arsenal's goal after Jens Lehmann took up the gloves in the FA Cup.

The back four is likely to see only one change from the side which faced Newcastle on Saturday, with Justin Hoyte likely to be replaced by the more experienced Bacary Sagna. Captain William Gallas, the vastly improved Philippe Senderos, and the ever-impressive Gael Clichy will complete an Arsenal defense that will be happy with no less than a clean sheet.

Tomas Rosicky looks to have recovered from the injury which saw him limp off of the field in the FA Cup, so he should rejoin Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini in the midfield. Alex Hleb, who made a late substitute appearance on Saturday should take the place of ball-hog Abou Diaby for the more important League fixture.

Up front Emmanuel Adebayor is a sure-shot starter, after bagging 8 goals in his last 6 games, including a brace against Newcastle. Eduardo is the most likely candidate to join the tall Togolese striker, although Nicklas Bendtner could feature if, as Adebayor has suggested, the two have reconciled from an argument at White Heart Lane.

Kevin Keegan may do a great job at Newcastle, but I doubt that he will start winning at the Emirates, a ground where Arsenal have only lost once. I predict a 2-0 victory for the Gunners.

Arsenal Chase Everton's Joleon Lescott

Rumor has it that Everton defender Joleon Lescott is on Arsene Wenger's radar. However, the Arsenal manager has stated that he is unlikely to splash out any cash in the January transfer window.

Arsenal are without defenders Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue for much of January and February due to the African Cup of Nations and a recent injury to Toure may rule the central defender out for a longer period of time. Swiss defender Johan Djourou has also been injured, leaving Arsenal with only two fit central defenders in William Gallas and the injury-prone Philippe Senderos.

Wenger does not want to overload his squad with unnecessary players, and considers holding midfielder Gilberto a candidate for a spot in the center of defense if the need arises. However, With Manchester United also reportedly interested in bagging the England international defender a transfer to Arsenal looks extremely unlikely.

Nonetheless, Lescott would be a great addition to the Arsenal squad. A versatile defender, he has often been deployed at left back although his natural position is center back. This means that he could cover for Gallas, Toure, and Gael Clichy, making him a great squad player.

Lescott's hight would make him useful in defending set pieces, which has been one of Arsenal's major weak points over the last few seasons. In addition, the 25 year-old's goalscoring prowess would add yet another dimension to Arsenal's impressive offensive capabilities. Lescott has scored 5 league goals for the Toffees in 24 starts this season, a great return for a defender.

Lescott would be a great signing for Arsenal, although he would cost a tidy sum of cash considering that Everton manager David Moyes would be unwilling to part with one of his key players. I can't see the transfer going through, but I can always hope!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Match Review

Arsenal emphatically defeated Kevin Keegan's Newcastle in the FA Cup Fourth Round to dim memories of an embarrassing defeat at White Hear Lane. The Gunners won 3-0 at the Emirates thanks to a second half brace from Emmanuel Adebayor and a late own goal from Nicky Butt. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that his team can repeat the victory when Newcastle travel to London to face Arsenal in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann, Gael Clichy, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Justin Hoyte; Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Emmanuel Adebayor, Theo Walcott

Newcastle: Shay Given; Claudio Cacapa, Steven Taylor, Jose Enrique, Stephen Carr; Nicky Butt, James Milner, Charles N'Zogbia, Damien Duff; Michael Owen, Alan Smith

Arsenal started brightly, nearly snatching a fifth minute lead after a long ball from central defender Philippe Senderos. The ball fell just ahead of Cesc Fabregas who was unable to generate enough power at full stretch to beat Shay Given.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was then forced into an early substitution as Czech Republic captain Tomas Rosicky limped off the field in the 9th minute to be replaced by Croatian striker Eduardo.

The highly offensive lineup left Arsenal susceptible to counterattacks, and Newcastle nearly grabbed the lead after a quarter of an hour when Alan Smith saw his shot cleared off the line by the head of Gael Clichy.

The French left-back was active at the other end soon after, forcing a save out of Shay Given after curling a goalbound effort from the corner of the Newcastle penalty box.

Given, who was kept busy all night, was forced into a near post save from Eduardo after a defensive error Stephen Taylor let the goal poacher into the 18 yard box.

Arsenal were beginning to pressure the Newcastle defense, with Emmanuel Adebayor heading just wide and Abou Diaby forcing an acrobatic save out of Given before half time. The Magpies managed to hold the game level at 0-0 until half time and looked a far better side under Kevin Keegan's management.

They could do nothing to stop Adebayor's first goal in the 51st minute, though. Eduardo made himself some space on the edge of the penalty box and sent a curling shot against Given's post with the keeper well beaten. Newcastle's defenders failed to clear the ball and Adebayor powered the ball into the left corner to grab Arsenal's 100th goal at the Emirates.

Newcastle were not yet beaten though, and Michael Owen thought he had won his side a penalty when the ball looked to have been flicked up onto Senderos' arm in the box. Referee Martin Atkinson waved play on though, and it was Arsenal who would once again score as the game began to open up.

Adebayor showed a huge amount of class to hold off two defenders and draw Shay Given out of goal. The Togo striker, who has already scored 16 league goals for Arsenal this season, finished brilliantly with a low shot past last man Steven Taylor.

Arsenal were already in the fifth round with a 2-0 lead, but Nicky Butt granted the Gunners a third goal when he headed into his own net after a Cesc Fabregas free-kick. The third goal was harsh, and Newcastle fans will feel that the scoreline did not accurately depict the nature of the game.

Nonetheless, Arsenal will be high on confidence going into Tuesday's important league fixture against Newcastle, and look to be getting back on track after a disappointing loss to Tottenham last week.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kolo Toure Injured In Ivory Coast Match

Arsenal and Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure may have picked up a long term injury on international duty with his country. The center back was stretchered off on the stroke of half time as his country defeated Benin 4-1 in the African Cup of Nations.

Toure set up a goal for his brother, Barcelona's Yaya Toure, in the 44th minute, but was stretchered off holding his groin minutes later. The injury is suspected to be a groin strain, which could keep the defender out for two to three weeks.

With the African Cup of Nations due to end on February 10th, Kolo Toure is unlikely to feature again for the Ivory Coast in this tournament. Due to the nature of his injury, Toure could be out for as long as six or more weeks, making him a major doubt for the Gunners February 11th fixture against Blackburn even in the unlikely situation that his country fails to make it far into the tournament.

More importantly, Toure could miss Arsenal's Champions League knockout stage match against AC Milan at the Emirates on February 20th.

The central defender, one of the most important figures in the Arsenal squad, has already been sorely missed during his Cup of Nations absence. His presence could be one of the key factors in Arsenal's chances of progression to the next round.

Although Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has Johan Djourou, Philippe Senderos, and Alex Song to replace Toure at center back, Gunners fans will feel far more secure as soon as their first-choice central defensive pairing is ready to play.

Wenger will be hoping that Toure's injury is not as serious as expected, as the defender's injury could, in part, decide this season's Premier League winners.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Flamini Seeks New Deal At Arsenal

Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini, who almost left the Gunners in the summer, is hopeful that the club will extend his contract. The Frenchman's current contract runs out this summer, and although he has been in talks with the club, the two parties have yet to agree to a new deal.

Flamini's contract situation has seen the holding midfielder linked with Italian giants Juventus and Spanish team Valencia. However, Flamini insists that he would like to stay at Arsenal.

"I'm talking with the club. I am very happy and have some close friends here," said Flamini.

"I really hope that I will be staying and I'm very optimistic about it.

"Arsenal is my priority and I hope that everything gets sorted out because I love this club - the atmosphere is amazing, the new stadium, the supporters, everything.

"We are creating a new story here and I want to be part of that story."

Flamini was frustrated by a lack of first-team chances last season, but his impressive form this term has seen him take the place of Brazil captain Gilberto Silva. A virtual ever-present in the heart of the Arsenal squad alongside Cesc Fabregas, Flamini would be very difficult to replace.

Arsenal fans will be hoping that a new contract deal comes through before too many offers begin to come in.

Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Match Preview

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United will travel to the Emirates this Saturday to face Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The 12th placed Magpies will be hopeful of pulling off an unlikely victory after Arsenal crashed out of the Carling Cup in a 6-2 aggregate loss to Tottenham Hotspur.

Keegan would like to get his second managerial spell at Newcastle off to a winning start, but he faces tough opposition in the Gunners who will see the returns from injury of Gael Clichy and Philippe Senderos. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will still be missing Robin van Persie and Johan Djourou, and Neves Denilson, who featured against Tottenham midweek, is a late addition to the injury list after straining his muscle in the 5-1 loss.

Newcastle will have nearly their full complement of players available, with only Mark Viduka and Peter Ramage likely to be absent. The Magpies will also be full of energy, trying to prove themselves to their new manager.

Arsenal will also be looking to prove themselves after the embarassment at White Heart Lane a few nights ago, but the Gunners will also be facing some tough conditions after reports of a bust-up between strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner.

Arsene Wenger has assured Arsenal fans that he will rotate the squad from the one which faced Tottenham on Tuesday, although the manager is likely to rest some of his key players ahead of a Premier League game against Newcastle only three days after this match.

Jens Lehmann may start in goal as he did in the third round of the FA Cup against Burnley as Manuel Almunia gets a deserved rest.

In the defense, Armand Traore, Philippe Senderos, William Gallas, and Justin Hoyte are likely to feature as Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna rest for the more important league fixture.

In the midfield, Gilberto Silva and Abou Diaby should be the only survivors from the side that started against Tottenham on Tuesday. The pair will most likely be joined by Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas who will bring some creative impetus into the side. The battle may be won or lost in the center of the pitch, as an impressive force of Charles N'Zogbia, Damien Duff, James Milner and Nicky Butt is likely to line up against the Gunners.

Up front Nicklas Bendtner may start up front alongside Eduardo, although Emmanuel Adebayor may also feature if he has sorted out his episode with the Danish youngster.

This game is not too important in and of itself, but Wenger would like to continue blooding his youngsters in the cup, and the winners will have a decisive advantage in the Premier League game between the two next Tuesday.

A mixed Arsenal side will face a tough challenge against Newcastle, but the players will want to prove themselves after a huge defeat, and should manage to win even against a full strength Newcastle side. I predict a 2-1 win for the home side.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

FA Investigate Adebayor-Bendtner Clash

Arsenal fell apart in yesterday's thrashing by Tottenham. Already down 4-1 and with the game already lost, two Arsenal players were involved in an altercation which saw Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Adebayor forced apart by Gunners captain William Gallas.

Adebayor allegedly headbutted the young Dane, who proceeded to confront the peacemaker, Gallas. Referee Howard Webb was called in to restore order, and managed to do so without producing a card of any color.

Webb has since revealed that he did not witness the spat in its entirety and the English Football Association will therefore be asking television broadcasters to provide the FA with any relevant footage they might have. If Webb decides that he would have brandished a red card for violence, the FA will retrospectively issue the card and its resulting ban.

The infighting was quite possibly the single worst moment of the 5-1 defeat to our most bitter rivals, and should it result in a retrospective dismissal, it would not be completely unfair. As much as our team would miss Adebayor and Bendtner, their actions were inexcusable and I would be very surprised if either player escaped punishment at the hands of Arsene Wenger.

The fight was a disgrace and an embarrassment to both of the players and to Arsenal. Realizing this, Adebayor has apologized and claimed that the loss will only spur Arsenal on to greater victories.

"We are a strong unit and what happened last night against Spurs will strengthen our desire and determination to compete for other targets," he said.

"Overall I think that we should have been more calm during the game and although I was pleased to get a goal back for the team when I came on, I am sorry for the disagreement with my team-mate Nicklas.

"We are both passionate about this Club and sometimes that can be projected in the wrong way. It was a mistake. We want to focus on the games ahead and rely on our squad’s great togetherness to achieve a fantastic season."

I hope that Bendtner follows a similar approach to the issue and that the players sort out their problems. Arsenal has no room for feuding teammates.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tottenham vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Tottenham as the Spurs broke a 9 year winless streak against their bitter enemies in an emphatic fashion. The deserved 5-1 win was the first time in 21 matches that the Gunners lost to their North London rivals, and was enough to propel Juande Ramos' rejuvenated side into the finals of the Carling Cup where they will face the winner of tomorrow's match between Chelsea and Everton.

Jermaine Jenas opened the scoring in the third minute and an own goal from Nicklas Bendtner cemented a two goal lead for Tottenham in the 27th. Spurs came out strong in the second half, with Robbie Keane scoring in the 48th minute and Aaron Lennon putting away a fourth in the 60th. Emmanuel Adebayor pulled back a consolation goal in the 70th minute, but a stoppage time strike from Steed Malbranque capped a formidable Tottenham performance.

Tottenham: Radek Cerny; Lee Young-Pyo, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Pascal Chimbonda; Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Jenas, Steed Malbranque, Teemu Tainio; Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov

Arsenal: Lukasz Fabianksi; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore; Alex Hleb, Neves Denilson, Gilberto Silva, Abou Diaby; Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner

Injuries to some of Arsenal's younger stars meant that the experienced William Gallas, Bacary Sagna, and Alex Hleb all featured in a cup competition which usually sports Arsene Wenger's reserves and fringe players. However, the injection of experience did nothing to stop Jermaine Jenas from powering in a shot from just outside the box after just three minutes.

Dimitar Berbatov flicked the ball into the path of Jenas who side-stepped past Justin Hoyte and found himself with enough time to take a well placed shot which went in off of Fabianski's post. The Tottenham man should have been closed down much sooner, but no credit should be taken away from the perfectly placed finish.

Nicklas Bendtner took a shot over the bar after some good work around the Tottenham box, but he found the back of his own net fifteen minutes later. A free-kick from Jermaine Jenas saw the tall Dane under pressure from Michael Dawson, and the unfortunate youngster beat his own goalie from a few yards out to double Tottenham's lead in the 27th minute.

Berbatov should have made it three for the home side only a few minutes later. A busy Jenas put the Bulgarian striker clean through on Fabianski's goal, but he could only hit the post.

Bacary Sagna nearly scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt soon after, but his goal-bound header was brilliantly saved by the quick reflexes of Radek Cerny, keeping Tottenham up 2-0 at half-time.

The scoreline wouldn't stand for long though, as Robbie Keane nabbed a third just after the restart. An excellent pass from Aaron Lennon put the Republic of Ireland international in front of Fabianksi who could do nothing to stop Keane's half-volley from reaching the back of the net.

Arsenal could have pulled one back straight away, but an acrobatic effort from Bendtner hit the post and Fabregas, on for the injured Denilson, hit his follow-up directly to Cerny.

Steed Malbranque could have made it 4-0 to Tottenham, but he could not beat Fabianski in a one-on-one. The young Arsenal keeper got a hand to Malbranque's shot and quickly recovered the loose ball.

The Polish keeper could not hold Tottenham at bay on their next attempt though, as Lennon slotted home through Fabianski's legs after receiving a pass from Keane.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Eduardo came on for Arsenal as Keane and Berbatov came off for Tottenham, and the substitutions had an immediate impact. Adebayor scored his 16th goal of the season with 20 minutes left, giving the Gunners some hope of an unlikely comeback.

Nothing transpired in the next few minutes though, and the Tottenham got the last laugh after Malbranque put the icing on the cake by scoring a fifth in stoppage time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tottenham vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to White Heart Lane this Tuesday to face Tottenham in the return leg of the Carling Cup semifinals. The Gunners have faced their London rivals three times this season, resulting in two wins in the Premier League and a 1-1 draw in the first leg of this fixture.

The Gunners will be high on confidence after emphatically defeating Fulham 3-0 on the weekend. However, Arsene Wenger will be missing Kolo Toure, Alex Song, and Emmanuel Eboue on African Cup of Nations duty, while Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie are out with injuries. Philippe Senderos is also out after taking a blow to the nose against Fulham. The lack of central defenders means that Wenger will resort to risking players from the first-team in a League Cup clash.

Tottenham will be hoping they can finally overcome a 21 match winless streak against their arch-rivals, although injuries to Gareth Bale, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Darren Bent, Younes Kaboul, Ricardo Rocha, and Anthony Gardner may restrict their chances against the Premier League leaders.

As usual, Lukasz Fabianski is likely to start in goal for the Gunners. However, Wenger is likely to play some first-teamers in the defense.

"The players who were on the bench at Fulham will play," he said. "But I will have to play one or two who played on Saturday because we are short in numbers."

With Senderos out, Wenger will have to play William Gallas in the heart of defense, alongside either Gilberto, or Justin Hoyte. If Hoyte partners Gallas in the center, then Bacary Sagna and Armand Traore are likely to complete the defensive lineup.

In the midfield Abou Diaby, Neves Denilson, Gilberto and Theo Walcott should all keep their place from the first leg of the match.

Nicklas Bendtner will probably be partnered with the on form Eduardo in van Persie's absence, and Wenger might keep Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench as an option in case the going gets tough.

It will be tough for a young Arsenal team distracted by the FA Cup, the Champions League, and the Premier League to defeat Tottenham's first-team squad, but we have the talent and the ability to come through to the finals as we did last year. I predict a 2-1 win for the Gunners, with extra time a distinct possibility.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fulham vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal returned to their winning ways today after an impressive 3-0 victory over London rivals Fulham. The victory completed the double over their London rivals, and kept up pressure on league leaders Manchester United, who sit above Arsenal on goal differential after defeating Reading 2-0 at the Madejski.

Two first half goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and a late goal from Tomas Rosicky ensured that Arsenal would celebrate a victory on the short ride back from Craven Cottage. The Gunners dominated possession and shots with a far better performance than last week's home draw with Birmingham.

Fulham: Antti Niemi; Carlos Bocanegra, Aaron Hughes, Moritz Volz, Dejan Stefanovic; Seol Ki-Hyeon, Simon Davies, Steven Davis, Danny Murphy, Alexi Smertin; Clint Dempsey

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb; Eduardo, Emmanuel Adebayor

Fulham started the brighter of the two sides, with Korean international Seol Ki-Hyeon getting inside of Gael Clichy within five minutes. The move ended in a shot from Danny Murphy, who was unable to steer the ball on target.

The home fans were delighted by their team's effort, and it took quite a while for Arsenal to take a hold on the game.

As Arsenal began to find their form, Cesc Fabregas dragged two shots off target to warn Fulham of the Gunners' intent. It wasn't long before Arsenal grabbed the lead when Emmanuel Adebayor rose to meet Gael Clichy's cross in the penalty box. The Togolese striker's 19th-minute header caught Antti Niemi wrong-footed and the Finland keeper could only watch as Arsenal went a goal ahead.

Danny Murphy took a hopeful shot off target only a minute later, but it was Adebayor who would score once again to bring his season Premier League tally to 15, only two behind Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo's record. Mathieu Flamini had won the ball just outside of the Fulham box, and Alex Hleb did some good work to put in a well-weighted cross which was once again met by the tall African striker. The 38th minute strike all but ended the game, but Arsenal continued to press in an attempt to rescue some credibility after last weekend's disappointing result.

Fulham's best chance of the match came just four minutes later, as Murphy sidefooted over the bar after arriving in time to meet Steven Davis' low cross.

Arsenal started the second half in style when Eduardo, a player sometimes criticized for being unable to create his own chances, created a brilliant chance for Tomas Rosicky after weaving through three Fulham players to reach the penalty box. The Czech Republic international was unlucky to see his shot come back off of the near post.

Their was a moment of worry for the Gunners when Philippe Senderos, one of only two fit central defenders with William Gallas, required medical attention after getting a bloody nose from the misplaced elbow of Clint Dempsey. To the relief of Arsenal fans, the Swiss international was able to carry on, and put in another solid display in the center of defense.

Dempsey then hit the back of the net for Fulham, but his goal was disallowed as he was one of three Fulham players caught offside as Bacary Sagna managed to run forwards just in time to catch the Fulham players in the offside trap.

Niemi was the next player to require treatment, but the Fulham keeper managed to carry on after being caught in the face by the trailing boot of Emmanuel Adebayor.

Arsenal nearly grabbed a third in the 78th after a brilliant interplay between Hleb, Rosicky, and Fabregas, but the Spaniard uncharacteristically shot wide.

The Gunners would not be held back though, and Tomas Rosicky grabbed his 6th of the season in the 81st minute to take the game beyond any doubt. Eduardo broke down the left wing and got to the goal line just in time to pull the ball back near the six-yard-box. Rosicky made no mistake this time, sliding in just quickly enough to get a toe onto the ball for Arsenal's third goal of the match.

The win should instill the Arsenal squad with confidence ahead of next week's Carling Cup semifinal clash with Tottenham. The victory was well-deserved, and proved that Arsenal are still capable of overtaking Manchester United.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fulham vs. Arsenal: Team News

Arsenal travel to the Craven Cottage tomorrow to face Fulham. The reverse fixture at the Emirates, the first game of the season, ended up a 2-1 win for the Gunners after conceding an early goal to David Healy through a Jens Lehmann blunder. Arsenal will be looking to keep a clean sheet this time around, while Fulham, a team mired in the relegation zone, would be happy to take a valuable point out of the match.


Arsene Wenger will be without injured duo Robin van Persie and Johan Djourou. The club's three African players, Kolo Toure, Alex Song, and Emmanuel Eboue, will also miss the match on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. Lassana Diarra is also out, after transferring to Portsmouth earlier this week. However, Tomas Rosicky could return in the place of Theo Walcott after missing last week's disappointing draw against Birmingham with a virus.

Van Persie will be out for an estimated two to three weeks, and will be flying back to his native country of Holland to rehabilitate. The Dutchman has only featured in 8 Premier League games this season, but still sports an impressive 5 league goals. Djourou, who featured in the Carling Cup match against Tottenham, is also out for a few weeks.

Recently instated Cottagers manager Roy Hodgson will be without new signing Brede Hangeland, who has not yet received clearance to feature for Fulham. Impressive full-back Paul Konchesky is also out due to suspension, but Jimmy Bullard could make his return for the Cottagers in the place of Moritz Volz.

Paul Konchesky will be sorely missed as the defender has been one of the few bright spots in a defense that has already allowed 39 goals this season. Hangeland's ineligibility could also play a key factor in the match as Hodgson is hoping that the 6 ft 5 in central defender will finally plug Fulham's leaky back-line.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lassana Diarra Leaves For Portsmouth

After weeks of transfer speculation, it has finally been confirmed that Lassana Diarra has joined a colony of former Gunners at Portsmouth. The French international had made only 13 appearances with Arsenal since signing from Chelsea last Summer. Despite some impressive performances, the magnificent form of Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas has kept the 22 year-old out of Arsenal's starting lineup.

Arsenal are reported to have made an impressive profit during the player's short tenure at the club, with the latest transfer fee believed to be in the range of £5 million, £3 million more than what he arrived for.

Diarra is sure to get more playing time at Portsmouth, where the absences of Papa Bouba Diop, John Utaka, Sulley Muntari, and former Arsenal forward Kanu are likely to immediately throw the midfielder into the fray. However, the Frenchman admits that he has left two big clubs and would like to move to a bigger club some time in the future.

"My choice could shock and surprise people, I am conscious of that," Diarra said.

"It isn't Arsenal, it isn't Chelsea - but I know the Portsmouth manager, I know he is going to play me.

"Some are already saying that in going to Portsmouth, I am making a mistake regarding my chances with France.

"But I don't think so. I have thought about it.

"I need to play. I really want to think about myself, about those who appreciate me, who want to see me a little more on the pitch."

He continued by saying that he will not spend his career at Portsmouth.

"The people at Portsmouth know I will not spend my life at this club.

"If I shine, if a really big club wants me, I know already that everything will go well.

"I am 22 and the most important thing for me is football - my job, my passion."

In response to hearing that Arsene Wenger had wanted to keep him at the club, Diarra responded with an attitude which screamed "sell me!"

"I read that the club wanted to keep me - but when you want to keep someone, you do it by playing them. This hasn't been the case."

Having already expressed that he felt he should have started more for Arsenal, Diarra left Arsenal bitter about a lack of playing time. Not good enough to displace Flamini, Fabregas, or Sagna and not mature enough to wait for his time to come, I say good riddance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fulham vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal will try to produce an impressive performance at the Craven Cottage this Saturday to make up for a poor show against Birmingham last weekend. The Gunners fell to second place on goal differential last week after Manchester United routed a manager-less Newcastle side 6-0. Arsenal, who drew 1-1 with relegation-threatened Birmingham at the Emirates, will be looking for a full three points at Fulham and hoping that United slip up at Reading.

Fulham could be the perfect rebound team for the Gunners, as the Cottagers are winless in 10 Premier League games. Although new Fulham manager Roy Hodgson will be desperately hoping to take home his first Premier League point since taking over, even a draw may be elusive against what should be a fully fit Arsenal team.

The Cottagers, who will be missing American internationals Kasey Keller and Brian McBride, could find themselves overwhelmed by the returns of Tomas Rosicky and Robin van Persie to the Arsenal side. Low morale, coupled with additional injuries to Hameur Bouzza and Ian Pearce could mean that Hodgson will be facing an exercise in damage reduction.

On the other hand, Arsenal players hoping to prove themselves after the disappointing show against Birmingham will be looking to display some of the fine flowing football that placed them at the top of the table. The possible return of the prolific van Persie will also boost the Gunners confidence ahead of the clash.

Arsene Wenger will likely start with a similar lineup to the one that faced Birmingham, although Theo Walcott and Eduardo could see themselves ousted in favor of Czech Republic captain Tomas Rosicky and injury-prone striker Robin van Persie.

This means that Manuel Almunia will start in goal behind Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Gael Clichy, and the vastly improved Philippe Senderos. Senderos, standing in for Kolo Toure who is away at the African Cup of Nations, played what may have been his best game in the red and white of Arsenal against Birmingham. Normally error-prone and out of position, this time the Swiss defender managed to use his height to get onto a few headers, and even came close to scoring a winner for the Gunners.

The Arsenal midfield was complacent against Birmingham, but hopeful the return of Rosicky will add some creativity to the already ingenious lineup of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, and holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini. Rosicky should register a performance far better than last week's woeful appearance from Theo Walcott.

Up front Robin van Persie may finally link up with the squad after falling victim to bone and muscle injuries as well as a recent virus. Emmanuel Adebayor, the second highest scorer in the Premier League, will be looking to bag a few goals to inch closer to United's Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot.

We learned last season that no game can be taken for granted. Arsene Wenger learned that lesson a second time against Birmingham last week, and his entire squad will be looking to rebound from the draw with an emphatic win at Fulham. I predict a 3-0 victory.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Arsenal Transfer Rumors

As a big club with a big transfer kitty, Arsenal are constantly linked with talent from across the globe. During the transfer season, these rumors tend to increase in volume but decrease in validity. Nonetheless, on yet another slow news day, I will bring you some of the latest transfer "news" to circulate around the web.

A few news outlets are reporting that Torpedo Moscow defender Vyacheslav Dmitriev has signed for Arsenal. The Russian teenager should be coming to the Emirates during the Summer. A highly rated 17 year-old, Dmitriev could grow to become a feared Premier League defender. It remains to be seen if his signing is fact or fiction though, as the club's official website have yet to report the news.

Arsenal have also reportedly completed a transfer for Andre "Dede" Ayew from Marseille. The 18 year-old Ghanian can play either on the left wing or up front. A reported fee of £5 million coupled once again with a lack of mention on Arsenal's official site mean that this rumor should be taken with a grain of salt.

Other possible transfer targets include Spanish U20 and Deportivo La Coruna B goalkeeper Fabricio. 23 year-old keeper Carlos Kameni, a regular for Espanyol and Cameroon, is also on the list of future Jens Lehmann replacements.

In terms of exit news, Lassana Diarra could be leaving for Portsmouth on a £5.5 million deal which would see the holding midfielder getting a sizable paycheck of £60,000/week. Seems a bit much for a player who can't even deal with not breaking into the Arsenal first team within months of his arrival.

Elsewhere, Theo Walcott could move to West Ham on loan in what would be a beneficial deal for both of the clubs involved. West Ham, a club which always seems to have injured strikers, would do better with Walcott up front than with Carleton Cole, and it would be good for the 18 year-old to get some regular playing time in a Premier League side. I doubt Arsene Wenger would let it go through, though.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Arsenal Close In On Freeman Transfer

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has stated that the North London giants are close to signing 15 year-old Gillingham starlet Luke Freeman. The English striker is the youngest player ever to have featured in the FA Cup after coming on against Barnet in the first round of the competition at the tender age of 15 years and 233 days.

Wenger, who has been criticized for relying too heavily on foreign players, emphasized that most of his current youth crop are English, and that he would continue to spend on young English talent.

"Yes, we will be pushing [the Freeman deal] through," said the Arsenal boss.

"I met the boy and I like him. He has personality and he looks alert. He's a striker and to play in a first team at 15 years of age is something special.

"We were quite well on the case and we are very positive that we will find an agreement with the club without going to compensation. We will pay them a transfer."

Wenger, who is renowned for his talent-spotting ability, is well aware of the risk taken in signing such young players.

"The more you go down [in ages] the greater the margin of error," he said. "Sometimes you see a player at 13 and you think 'absolutely amazing' then two years later he has disappeared.

"But our target is to produce good players and I believe we are on the right road with the way we want to work throughout the Club.

"I know how much the English national team means here to people. To contribute to that would be a big pride as well. At the moment it is not my first responsibility.

"But I have been accused of only buying foreign players and I would like to contribute to the quality of English football."

"I want to buy English," he added.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Arsenal vs. Birmingham: Match Review

Barclay's English Premier League leaders Arsenal may lose their top spot to Manchester United today when the Red Devils host Newcastle United at Old Trafford. The Gunners went into the weekend two points ahead of their nearest rivals, but dropped two unlikely points at home against lowly Birmingham.

The Blues were outplayed throughout most of the 90 minutes, and Arsenal looked sure to win after taking an early lead thanks to an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty kick. However, Garry O'Connor struck back at the beginning of the second half to tie up the game. Despite constant pressure from the Gunners, Birmingham managed to hold on to take a valuable point back to St. Andrew's.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb; Eduardo, Emmanuel Adebayor

Birmingham: Maik Taylor; Stephen Kelly, Franck Quedrue, Liam Ridgewell, Rafael Schmitz; Damien Johnson, Olivier Kapo, Sebastian Larsson, Fabrice Muamba; Cameron Jerome, Garry O'Connor

Birmingham city started on the wrong foot, with Eduardo heading a shot off target after just two minutes of play. A number of early Arsenal chances went unrewarded, but the tone was set for the match as Arsenal pressured Maik Taylor and the Birmingham defense.

The visitors had the best chance of the opening exchanges though, almost taking a surprise lead when Cameron Jerome latched on to a through ball only for Manuel Almunia to produce a great one-handed save at full-stretch. A goal would've been against the run of play and undeserved.

Maik Taylor made a save soon after, when Eduardo latched on to a cross from Alex Hleb. The striker, who has better heading ability than most of the Arsenal players, had looked sure to score but could only steer the ball straight into the chest of the Birmingham keeper.

Taylor could do nothing to stop Arsenal's 21st minute goal though. Stephen Kelly took Eduardo down inside the box and referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. Emmanuel Adebayor stpped up and placed a well-struck penalty into the bottom right corner of the net. Taylor dove the right way but the ball was out of his reach. The Northern Ireland keeper almost got his fingertips to it, but could not stop Arsenal from taking a well-deserved lead.

Birmingham had their own penalty shout turned down just a few minutes later, but Arsenal looked the better team and as the half-time came it seemed as though the Blues would be going through a damage limitation exercise.

Unfortunately for the home fans, the Blues struck a surprise equalizer out of nothing only three minutes after the restart. Former Arsenal player Sebastian Larsson took a corner which was headed goalwards by Garry O'Connor. Almunia looked ready to save the ball, but a nasty deflection off of Cesc Fabregas caught the keeper wrong-footed and he could only watch on as O'Connor raced away in celebration.

The Gunners still looked like they would go on to win the game though, with Adebayor having a shot well-blocked by Liam Ridgewell and Senderos seeing a header turned away by a great save from the busy Maik Taylor.

Frustrated Arsenal midfielder Alex Hleb had a small spat with Ridgewell, resulting in bookings for both men.

Former Birmingham loanee Nicklas Bendtner soon joined the fray as a replacement for Theo Walcott, but even the great Dane could not find a winner for the Gunners, despite consistently dominating in possession.

A fierce shot from Gael Clichy went straight into the outstretched arms of Taylor, and Bendtner shot wide following a nice move involving Hleb and Fabregas. A low strike from Mathieu Flamini forced the Birmingham keeper into action once again as Arsenal failed to regain the lead.

It was a disappointing game for Gunners fans who would never have thought their team could drop points at home to a relegation threatened side.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lehmann's Dortmund Move Falls Through

Contrary to earlier reports, Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann will be staying at Arsenal until the Summer. I reported on Wednesday that the keeper had all but signed a deal with Borussia Dortmund with only minor details to be sorted out. However, Lehmann has decided to stay in the Premier League, promising to fight for a starting spot rather than be ensured regular first-team football in the Bundesliga.

The decision may affect whether or not Lehmann keeps his international place, as Germany coach Joachim Low warned that he may not feature in Euro 2008 if he isn't his club's number one goalkeeper.

Lehmann apologized for having inconvenienced Dortmund fans, and stated that the deal fell through due to 'personal reasons.'

"Although it would have been a very attractive challenge to play for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga once again, I have decided against taking this step due to personal reasons," he said.

"I am sorry, particularly to disappoint the people responsible at Borussia Dortmund, who have tried very professionally to convince me to move and gave me sufficient time for consideration."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was pleased that the 38 year-old had chosen to stay with the Gunners and has promised to continue using Lehmann as a squad player.

"Lehmann will be on the bench [against Birmingham]," said the Frenchman.

"The indication I can give is that I am happy if he stays because he is an important player in the squad, like Gilberto also.

"We have such a young squad that these players have a big weight in the dressing room and a big input in the team. I am happy if they stay."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Arsenal vs. Birmingham: Match Preview

League leaders Arsenal host 16th-placed Birmingham on Saturday as the London giants look to stay clear ahead of Manchester United at the top of the table.

The Gunners are unbeaten in their last nine games in all competitions, having won seven and drawn two. They have not lost a game in the Premier League since early December, and have every reason to believe that their recent unbeaten run will continue on Saturday.

The Blues would be happy to scrape any points off of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal squad, but will be downtrodden after falling out of the FA Cup last weekend following a loss to Huddersfield. Birmingham's cause will be helped by the injury sheet, though, with only Damien Johnson and Borja Oubina likely to miss the game due to injury.

Arsenal on the other hand will be without Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, and Alex Song due to the African Cup of Nations. Johan Djourou, Philippe Senderos, Theo Walcott, and Robin van Persie all picked up knocks and all four are doubts for this Saturday's game, meaning that captain William Gallas may be Arsenal's only fit center-back.

When asked about who would play in the center of defense, Wenger joked, "Me, at this rate. It's very difficult for us. We've effectively lost seven players in two days, given that three have gone to Ghana, and we have a problem in central defence. We don't know yet how long they will be out."

Bacary Sagna, Justin Hoyte, and Gilberto can all play at center-back if called upon to do so, so the situation is not as dire as it might look. However, Wenger will be hoping that at least one of his specialized central defenders returns from injury in time for the game.

Manuel Almunia will start in goal, hopefully behind a defensive quartet of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, and Gael Clichy.

In the midfield Alex Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, and Mathieu Flamini should boss around Olivier Kapo and company.

Up front either Nicklas Bendtner or Eduardo should start with Emmanuel Adebayor as Arsenal fans wait yet another week for Robin van Persie's Premiership return.

Despite an injury-ravaged squad the Gunners will be expecting to get a full three points out of Saturday's fixture, and barring an abhorrent performance they should be able to do so against a relegation-threatened Birmingham. I say 2-0 to Arsenal.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Match Review

Both final spots in this year's Carling Cup are still up for grabs, as neither Arsenal nor Tottenham grabbed a decisive victory at the Emirates today. Chelsea are up 2-1 against Everton in the other semifinal, but will still face a tough away game at Goodison park before advancing to the finals.

Tottenham looked set to win today's entertaining encounter against their greatest rivals for the first time in eight years, after going up 1-0 in the first half thanks to Jermaine Jenas. However, Theo Walcott equalized for the Gunners with just over ten minutes to go to ensure that the return leg at White Heart Lane will not be a mere formality.

Arsenal: Lukasz Fabianksi; Justin Hotye, Johan Djourou, Philippe Senderos, Armand Traore; Abou Diaby, Neves Denilson, Gilberto Silva, Theo Walcott; Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie

Tottenham: Radek Cerny; Pascal Chimbonda, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Lee Young-Pyo; Jermaine Jenas, Steed Malbranque, Aaron Lennon, Jamie O'Hara; Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane

As we have become accustomed to seeing, Arsenal flew out of the gates, with a blistering pace being set for the match.

Nicklas Bendtner had the Gunners best chance of the first half after a superb reverse pass from fit-again Robin van Persie resulted in a cross from Justin Hoyte. The Danish striker, who had scored a header against Tottenham in the Premier League, had his strong header brilliantly saved at full-stretch by Tottenham number two Radek Cerny.

The end of the opening exchanges saw Spurs on the ascendancy, slowly taking control of the game as the inexperience of Arsenal's cup squad began to show.

The visitors should have scored around the half-hour mark when a fine saving tackle from captain Philippe Senderos (didn't think you'd ever hear that did you?) saw the ball fall to Steed Malbranque about 12 yards from goal. The midfielder had a great chance with Lukasz Fabianski out of position, but shot well wide of the keeper's right-hand post.

The Polish keeper then proved his worth, saving a well-struck 20-yared shot from Dimitar Berbatov.

It wouldn't take long for Tottenham to find the back of the net though, as a poor header from Johan Djourou eventually led to a first half lead for Juande Ramos' side. Berbatov picked up the loose ball and chipped the ball to Robbie Keane who was helped to a two on one against Fabianski by the well-timed run of Jermaine Jenas. Keane squared the ball to the midfielder, who struck past Fabianski's outstretched leg to give Tottenham an invaluable away goal.

Arsene Wenger brought on some of his more experienced players for the second half, with Sagna on for Djourou (and Hoyte switching to center back) and Eduardo on for the not-yet match-fit van Persie.

Nonetheless, Arsenal failed to find a good chance before the hour mark. The young side were wasteful in possession and found it hard to even threaten in the attacking third.

They began to find their form in the final fifteen minutes though, as Sagna's overlapping runs on the right gave the team some width and the midfielders began to find their passing rhythm.

The equalizer finally came in the 79th minute when Eduardo slipped a perfectly weighted ball through two Tottenham defenders to reach Theo Walcott. Young-Pyo Lee tried to tackle the ball away, but could only deflect it onto the 18 year-old's chest. The England U21 international slotted home past a hapless Cerny to level the game.

The goal brought Arsenal fans and players into high spirits, and the Emirates faithful began hoping for a win, with their side pressing forwards.

It was Tottenham who came closer to a second goal though, when Jermaine Defoe shot over the crossbar after an excellent cross from Aaron Lennon.

The miss was a huge let-off for an Arsenal side who undeservedly held on to go into the return leg on equal terms.

Arsenal - Lehmann Out, Diarra To Follow

Arsenal outcast Jens Lehmann has agreed to switch the Gunners with his former club Borussia Dortmund. The 38 year-old goalkeeper has only a few small details to sort out before his transfer is officially announced.

The Germany number one was first-choice keeper at Arsenal until earlier this season when two early-season errors saw him lose his place to longtime backup goalie Manuel Almunia. Almunia's form has seen Lehmann relegated to the bench for most of the season, although the German international did feature last weekend in an FA Cup victory over Burnley.

Lehmann has not been gracious about his second-choice place, openly criticizing Almunia and even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Already past his peak, Lehmann would not have lasted much longer in London. His transfer is a good move for both clubs, the player, and the Arsenal fans.

22 year-old Lassana Diarra is also likely to leave the club soon, after being left out of both of Arsenal's cup games this week. The French international regularly features for his country, but has found it difficult to displace any of the members of an Arsenal midfield already laden with young talent.

The holding midfielder joined Arsenal from Chelsea this summer, hoping to find regular first-team football, but has failed to break into the mold. Diarra is still highly rated and many Premiership clubs, as well as French champions Lyon are reportedly interested in the Arsenal midfielder. Among the Premiership clubs seeking his signature are Newcastle, Portsmouth, Manchester City, and Arsenal's North London rivals, Tottenham.

Diarra has publicly stated that he would like to leave Arsenal, and it seems that it will be only a matter of time before he leaves the Emirates.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Benzema, Ben Arfa, Diarra, Merida - Arsenal Transfer Rumors

Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra has publicly stated that he wants to leave the club after failing to secure a regular starting berth in a congested midfield. The 22 year-old arrived in North London on the final day of the Summer transfer window after Chelsea agreed to a last-minute deal with Arsene Wenger.

It now seems that the diminutive midfielder may join Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, or Lyon for a price rumored to be as high as £9 million - quite a fee for a player with so little Premiership experience.

Gunners fans are hoping that Lyon's liking for Diarra could lead to a deal for either Karim Benzema or Hatem Ben Arfa to come to London. The French champions are unlikely to part willingly with either player, but the lure of a top Premier League side could be too much for the 20 year-old pair.

Benzema, a 6 foot tall striker, has started this season brilliantly, scoring 12 goals in 19 games for Lyon. His impressive record has seen him branded as the future of French football, and the already-capped player could follow in the footsteps of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry by becoming an incredible power in the Premier League. Unfortunately, the youngster would cost a small fortune to bring to Arsenal.

Hatem Ben Arfa is a more likely prospect, and has already stated that he is pleased with the London giant's interest. The young forward has started 10 games for Lyon, scoring 4 times and assisting his teammates in scoring an additional 4. Although he is of Tunisian descent, Ben Arfa was picked over prolific Juventus striker David Trezeguet to represent France in European Championship qualifying. He scored his first international goal against the Faroe Islands as a substitute for Franck Ribery.

In other news, Fran Merida, a 17 year-old who is seen as the successor to Cesc Fabregas, is expecting to be sent away on loan to Real Sociedad. The move would be great for the youngster who is currently seeing little playing time with Arsenal's first team.

Robin van Persie To Return For Tottenham

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie is set to return for the club tomorrow after a long injury layoff. The Dutchman injured his knee on international duty in late October and has played a mere 85 minutes since then, picking up a muscular injury soon after his long awaited return.

Arsene Wenger has stated that the 24 year-old striker is back in the squad for tomorrow's Carling Cup game against Tottenham, along with Theo Walcott.

The Gunners coach also declared that both Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos would feature in tomorrow's defense, meaning that Djourou will get his first game at Arsenal since returning from a loan spell at Birmingham. His display against Spurs could decide whether it will be Djourou or fellow Swiss defender Senderos who fills in for Kolo Toure who is away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.

"Yes Robin van Persie is back in the squad," said Wenger. "He had a little set-back coming back from his knee injury, it was a muscle problem. But the positive side of it is that he could forget about his knee and work on his fitness."

He added: "Lukasz Fabianski will play in goal again, Theo Walcott is available while Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos will play at the back.

"Apart from that it will be the players who played in the last [Carling Cup] game. Basically it will be a young side maybe with one or two experienced players."

Monday, January 7, 2008

FA Cup Draw: Arsenal To Play Newcastle

Arsenal avoided an FA Cup meeting with one of the big four, but will still face a Premier League side in the form of 11th placed Newcastle United, if the Magpies manage to beat Stoke City in their third round replay.

The Gunners have already faced Newcastle twice this season, drawing in the league and winning in the Carling Cup. If the Magpies defeat Stoke City on the 16th, it means that they will have to travel to the Emirates twice in one week, as the FA Cup fourth round is meant to be played on the 26th, and Arsenal are to face Newcastle in the Premier League on the 29th.

The draw is fairly favorable for Arsenal as they won't have to face any of the big four, although Newcastle are one of the better sides still in the competition.

The FA Cup draw:
Arsenal v Stoke City/Newcastle
Coventry v Walsall/Millwall
Oldham v Huddersfield Town
Swindon/Barnet v Fulham/Bristol Rovers
Wigan v Chelsea
Luton/Liverpool v Swansea/Havant & Waterlooville
Southend v Barnsley
Southampton v Norwich/Bury
Man Utd v Tottenham/Reading
Portsmouth v Plymouth
Derby/Sheff Wed v Preston
Watford v Wolves
Peterborough v Charlton/West Brom
Sheff Utd v West Ham/Man City
Mansfield v Middlesbrough
Tranmere/Hereford v Cardiff

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Match Preview

Arsenal's arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur travel to the Emirates for the first leg of the Carling Cup semifinals on Wednesday to face the mighty Gunners for the third time this season.

Arsene Wenger has already defeated two of Juande Ramos' sides this season, including Sevilla in the Champions League before the Spaniard made the switch to North London. Arsenal have also completed the league double over their London rivals, winning 3-1 at White Heart Lane and 2-1 at the Emirates.

Spurs fans will take solace from the fact that Wenger always fields a younger lineup in the Carling Cup, but a 3-2 extra time win over Blackburn in the last round proved that even Arsenal's youngsters are a force to be reckoned with.

The game promises to be high scoring, as Tottenham fans have seen 23 goals in their last four matches and Arsenal have failed to hit the back of the net in only one of their 33 games this season.

This could prove to be a problem for both teams as a leaky Spurs backline and an inexperienced Gunners backline may mean that the game is decided on an error rather than a moment of brilliance.

However, the likes of Abou Diaby, Eduardo, and Nicklas Bendtner could win the game for Arsenal and Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane could do the same for Tottenham.

Arsenal are likely to field a lineup similar to the one that faced Blackburn last month, although Alex Song will miss the match on international duty with Cameroon.

Lukasz Fabianski will probably start in goal as the last line of defense behind Justin Hoyte, Philippe Senderos, Johan Djourou, and Armand Traore.

In the midfield Abou Diaby, Lassana Diarra, Neves Denilson may be joined by the more experienced Gilberto, although 18 year-olds Kieran Gibbs or Mark Randall.

Up front Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner are likely to complete one of the most potent second-string lineups in the world. Both scored against Burnley on Sunday, and will be looking to prove their worth as Robin van Persie looks set to return against Birmingham on the weekend.

Any game against a Premier League side is tough, and Spurs will be looking to record a win over Arsenal this season after losing twice, but a gritty and determined young Arsenal squad should be able to pull out a 2-1 win, giving the team an advantage going into the second leg.

Burnley vs. Arsenal: Match Review

A young Arsenal side reached the fourth round of the FA Cup after defeating a resilient Burnley 2-0 at the Turf Moor in front of a crowd of 16,000.

Eduardo continued his great run of form by scoring the Gunners' first after 9 minutes and supplying the pass for Nicklas Bendtner's first and Arsenal's second in the 75th.

The Croat and the Dane were two bright spots in an off-color Arsenal squad that would not have found such a favorable result against a Premier League team with the same display.

Burnley: Gabor Kiraly; Graham Alexander, Steven Caldwell, John Harley, Stanislav Varga; Wade Elliot, Chris McCann, James O'Connor, Robbie Blake; Andy Gray, Kyle Lafferty

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Armand Traore; Neves Denilson, Gilberto Silva, Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue; Eduardo, Nicklas Bendtner

Arsenal put some pressure on Burnley for the first few minutes, but it was the Clarets who had the first chance of the game, nearly stunning the London giants through Kyle Lafferty after 5 minutes. Andy Gray had made a surging run down the right flank, and crossed the ball into the penalty area where it was met by Lafferty who hit Lehmann's crossbar with the German already looking beaten.

The chance lifted the crowd at the Turf Moor and for a few moments it looked as though Burnley could truly be giant-killers. Unfortunately for the home fans, though, it was the Gunners who took the lead only four minutes later.

Kolo Toure chipped a long ball up the field to Eduardo, who finished coolly to make it 6 goals in the last 4 games. The Croatian is finally beginning to look like he could challenge for a spot even when Robin van Persie returns.

Burnley did not falter under the pressure, and continued to attack Arsenal. Gray had a shot blocked by Bacary Sagna and Robbie Blake fired just over, but it was Arsenal who would come closest to scoring again in the first half. Gilberto, who has yet to score a goal for the club this season, rose to meet a corner, but saw his header cleared off the line by a well positioned Graham Alexander.

The Clarets had their own chance before 45 minutes were up though, when the inexperienced Armand Traore had trouble clearing the ball out of the penalty area. The ball was stolen and Jens Lehmann was completely out of position, but Chris McCann granted the Gunners a needed lifeline by shooting well over the bar.

Arsenal's final chance of the half saw Nicklas Bendtner attempt a bicycle kick after a cross from Denilson. Unfortunately for the tall Dane, his shot fell straight to the Burnley keeper, and the half ended with a lackluster Arsenal one goal up.

The Gunners came out strongly after the restart, with a clever one-two setting Eduardo free. The Croatian uncharacteristically misplaced his finish, firing just left of the post.

Burnley were still hoping to earn a replay, but lost their chance when Lafferty was somewhat contentiously sent off in the 60th minute. The Burnley forward's tackle had not looked malicious, and although his studs were up, the red card was very harsh. Referee Alan Wiley had no question though, brandishing the red without any hesitation at all.

Arsenal had the upper hand now, and should have scored soon after. Emmanuel Eboue couldn't decide whether to cross or shoot and his ball into the box came nowhere near to doing anything.

The goal came soon enough though, when Eduardo turned supplier with a perfect pass to Bendtner. The 19 year-old rounded Gabor Kiraly easily and slotted home to announce his return from suspension after two yellow cards at Everton. The goal ended Burnley's hopes of FA Cup glory.

The scoreline was flattering for Arsenal and tough on Burnley, but the Gunners were still happy to be in to the next round. However, they will have to play better to defeat stronger opposition in the future.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Jens Lehmann Free To Leave Arsenal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has stated that Jens Lehmann is free to leave the Gunners during the transfer window, but maintains that the veteran stopper has not yet decided on his future.

Rumors had it that Borussia Dortmund, the player's former club, were set to announce Lehmann's signing yesterday, but the day passed with little transfer movement of note, and Lehmann still at Arsenal.

"When I extended the contract for Jens, I opened the door that if he does not play [for us] and has a chance to play in the European Championships, then I would not stop him from leaving in January," said Wenger. "If he does not play, that means somebody else can get in front of him.

"I have heard that Dortmund made a press conference and they did not announce Jens but they are hopeful. The door is not closed for Jens, but at the moment we have not reached any agreement. I do not even believe he has made his mind up.

"He still thinks he should play, and I respect that. On one side you cannot want a player to give 100 per cent every day to be the best and then accept he is not the best. They do not work together.

"But what I respect the most is he is a player who comes in and does his job 100 per cent and does not talk too much. That is what he does at the moment."

Personally, I'm not too sure about that last part. Lehmann lost his first-choice place in large part due to the fact that he could not stop criticizing Manuel Almunia, and even at times Wenger himself.

I am keen to see the club cash in on the German. He performed well for Arsenal in past seasons, and I commend him for that, but his recent dip of form, in conjunction with his volatile personality makes me hope that he leaves sooner rather than later.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Wenger Cautious About Arsenal Exit Rumors

Key squad members at Arsenal such as Gilberto, Mathieu Flamini, Lassana Diarra, Abou Diaby and Jens Lehmann have all been linked with moves away from the Emirates during the January transfer window. However, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has admitted to being cautious over allowing anyone to leave.

The Gunners will be missing first-choice center back Kolo Toure, as well as Emmanuel Eboue and Alex Song for much of January and February as they fight for glory in the African Cup Of Nations. This means that Arsenal will be facing a shortage of defenders during these months.

Wenger feels that although Arsenal have a fairly large squad, due to the volume of competitions the Gunners are still fighting for, there is no need to unload any players.

"At the moment, I have to take care of the season," he declared. "We are in a good position and want to win every competition.

"You need a big squad and what looks a big squad can quickly look very short.

"At the moment we have not too many injuries, but with the number of games we play and the intensity of the games we play, I have to be cautious not to let too many players go."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Burnley vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to the Turf Moor on Sunday to face Championship side Burnley in the third round of the FA Cup.

The Pride of Lancashire, who have been under the management of former Falkirk boss Owen Coyle since late November, will likely face an understrength Arsenal side, as Gunners boss Arsene Wenger tends to blood young players in England's cup competitions.

Burnley, though, will be well aware of the threat, especially after an impressive young Arsenal side defeated Blackburn 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the Carling Cup last month. The Arsenal squad, who's average age was under 20, showed some impressive determination to beat Blackburn in overtime.

Wenger has stated that the squad to face Burnley will be a mix between the fringe players of the Carling Cup and the full squad which are currently in first place in the Premier League.

Jens Lehmann, who has long been linked with a move away from Arsenal, has been tipped by Wenger to be involved in the clash.

Arsene Wenger was tight lipped about the rest of his squad, although Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, who will leave soon after the match for the African Cup of Nations, are set to feature along with Bacary Sagna.

"I can’t really tell you too much about the team at the moment because I have to check my players," said Wenger.

"I think Jens Lehmann will be involved. But Kolo Toure, Eboue and Sagna will all play. A few of the players who featured all over Christmas will be rested and a few will come in. It will be a mixture.

"We do have a little problem with Adebayor on his hamstring but, if really needed, he could play. Robin van Persie is still injured and will not be involved. But it is very short for him now. The next deadline could be Birmingham or just after."

No matter who is involved, Arsenal will be confident of a victory, keeping the Gunners in the competition so they can continue to blood their pool of up and coming talent.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Toure, Eboue, and Song Leave For ACN

Three Arsenal players have temporarily left Arsenal for the African Cup of Nations, which will take place between January 20th and February 10th.

Alex Song earned a call-up to the Cameroon national team after some impressive Carling Cup performances as a center back. The 20 year-old, who has made 10 appearances this season, has not yet earned his first cap, but will be hoping to do so during the Cup of Nations this January and February.

Emmanuel Eboue has been called up to the Ivory Coast's national side, along with virtual ever-present, Kolo Toure. Eboue, who has appeared 22 times for Arsenal this season, including 15 in the Premiership, will be missed, but can be replaced by a large array of midfield talent. The Ivorian would have been unlikely to feature after the return of Robin van Persie anyway.

Kolo Toure on the other hand, has played the full ninety minutes in 27 games for the club this season, and has been hugely important in the center of defense. One of the candidates for club captaincy last summer, King Kolo has formed a formidable partnership with captain William Gallas, and will be sorely missed.

Although Philippe Senderos is likely to be joined by fellow Switzerland international Johan Djourou, Gallas may well have to step up his game to keep Arsenal's defense watertight, as the former has been error-prone and the latter has yet to reach his best.

Depending on how far their respective teams get into the competition, the three may miss the following games:

January 9..............Carling Cup............Tottenham (h)
January 12............Premier League....Birmingham (h)
January 19............Premier League....Fulham (a)
January 23............Carling Cup............Tottenham (a)
January 26/27......FA Cup Fourth Round (if Arsenal defeat Burnley)
January 29............Premier League....Newcastle United (h)
February 2............Premier League....Manchester City (a)
February 9............Premier League....Blackburn (h)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Arsenal vs. West Ham: Match Review

Arsenal stayed at the top of the Premier League after defeating London rivals West Ham 2-0 at the Emirates. Early goals from Eduardo and Emmanuel Adebayor sealed the victory for the Gunners.

Elsewhere, Manchester United and Chelsea both won, with the Reds keeping pace only two points behind the Gunners.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Justin Hoyte, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Eduardo, Emmanuel Adebayor

West Ham: Robert Green; Anton Ferdinand, George McCartney, Lucas Neill, Matt Upson; John Pantsil, Jonathan Spector, Freddy Ljungberg, Hayden Mullins; Mark Noble, Carlton Cole

Arsenal got off to a bright start against a confident West Ham side. The Hammers, who had defeated Manchester United the week before, were looking to beat a young Arsenal side which was missing Alex Hleb, Bacary Sagna, and Robin van Persie. Unfortunately for them, it took only two minutes for Arsenal to score.

Cesc Fabregas lobbed a ball to Eduardo in the box, and the Croatian chested the ball to his feet before volleying past Robert Green to give Arsenal an early lead.

West Ham were clearly shaken by conceding the early goal, but still looked for a quick equalizer.

Anton Ferdinand saw an effort cleared off of the line by Arsenal's Gael Clichy after a corner, and Manuel Almunia had to make a clutch save to deny former Gunner Freddy Ljungberg from close range.

The visitors couldn't hold up the pressure though, and Arsenal doubled their lead in the 18th minute thanks to a brilliant strike from Emmanuel Adebayor.

A long ball from Clichy met the Togo striker near Green's penalty box, and the African skillfully rounded the keeper. It looked as though the angle would stop Adebayor from slotting home, but the striker somehow managed to hit the back of the net via the far post.

West Ham tried to come back again, with John Pantsil coming close with a spectacular overhead kick.

Things began to go badly for the Hammers a few minutes later when Ljungberg was taken off in the 37th minute after he appeared to pick up a hamstring injury.

Soon after, Arsenal appeared to have won a penalty when Emmanuel Eboue's cross was blocked by Jonathan Spector's arm, but referee Chris Foy waved play on.

The second half began as the first had ended, with Foy once again denying Arsenal what looked to be a penalty. Lucas Neill appeared to have held Eduardo in the box, but Foy did not point to the spot as play continued.

It made little difference though, as Arsenal went on to win the match despite failing to find a third goal.

The victory ensures that Arsenal will end New Year's Day at the top of the Premier League, despite having inferior goal differential to Manchester United.