Friday, March 31, 2006

Hubris or confidence: A new team is born?

Heartening comments from Thierry Henry today in the mirror about the current team. He feels that the Real game has been a true turning point; a moment from which a second invincibles can be borne.

Well, maybe. It's great to see the confidence, belief, and desire back in the team, which seemed to be almost completely absent between November to February. But we've still got a long way to go this season. The game against Villa tomorrow is a must win, and I'm sure the usual cliches about this being as big a match as the Juve game will come out. Cliches aside, we do all need to recognise that all the league matches remaining for the rest of the season are all vitally important. As I've consisitently maintained, the only league game we have any justification in dropping points in, from now until the end of the season, is the match at Old Trafford. Going up there is always a big ask, and United always raise their game for the big teams. But, perhaps with a 4-5-1 system that actually works, or with an Adebayor-Henry partnership that gives us more options up front, we could even take points from that. I think this squad now has the desire to make a sprint finish to the end of the season which will guarantee 4th place.

What I also found heartening about Th's comments, were they seemed to be in the tone of someone who envisaged his future at the club. I found this story interesting as well. As Giuly points out, does TH really want to go from being the centrepoint of a team, and a club were he is universally loved, to a Barca team where he will have to fight for his position, and may not start every week? I think Henry may be realising the full potential of the youngsters, and that we have as much chance of pushing for Euro silverware as any other team in Europe. Something that could perhaps, ironically, not be said last year when we were doing better in the league, and no one really thought the club was in that bad a shape. What we've seen in the Juve and Madrid matches, and in a smattering league matches, especially of late, is a new team. One which has had the half of the spine of the invincibles -Vieira and Campbell- ripped out. One in which Hleb and Eboue gives us options on the right as well as left. One in which the form of Fabregas and Senderos, as much as Henry, dictates the strength of the team.

It remains to be seen whether Henry's statement is one of hubris or confidence; whether this team will develop into the great side it is so clearly capable of becoming. And I think Henry, increasingly, wants to be around to find out.

Having said all that read this bizarre/worrying piece. It seems having lots of friends = having lots of speculation.

Elsewhere, Martin Jol is getting a bit worried about us getting into the CL via winning it, and then denying spurs their place if they finish in fourth.

Bobby keeps on being linked to a number of clubs, including, today, Benfica and Villareal. Personally, if I was Wenger, I'd have run onto the pitch with a two year deal after that tackle. I've also heard that lawyers are sniffing around the club, well even more so, given that we only offer 1 year deals to the over 30s, which, potentially, could be construed as an ageist, and illegal, employment policy.

On that note of legal insanity, I'll bid you adieu.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Juve fall out continues; Sympathy for Vieira

I hoped you all enjoyed yesterday. There wasn't so much a wave as a flood of praise from all around Europe, regarding not only our defeat of Juve, but the manner in which we defeated them. This appeared in one Italian paper:

This, people, is how football is played in paradise. Movement, dribbling, interchanges of passes - delicious. It is football "Made in England" from an Arsenal which didn't feature a single Englishman.

Comment, Elvira Erbi

Damn Straight. We are a continental team playing in the Premiership. Success in Europe is way, way overdue. We combine the finesse of European football, with the pace and,increasingly, the aggression of English football. As Hleb puts it, its taken him about 6 months to get used to the speed of the premiership. Why we haven't capitalised on this more in Europe I don't know.

The above quote comes from a selection tagged on to the end of a James Lawton piece in the Independent. James hasn't always been our biggest fan, but even he seems quite taken with us now. I thinks he's right: that defeat against Bayern last season wasn't just another European defeat for Wenger, it was possibly the moment he opened himself to the suggestion that Paddy might have to go, and that a complete re-fit was in order.

A re-fit with a certain young Spaniard at its centre. The European press has exploded into a paroxysm of praise for Fab yesterday. I was slightly bemused to be honest - you could see last season he would be capable of a performance like that very soon. I think to most Gooners this is just a vindication of the belief we've held in him since he first burst into the team last season. What this will mean, unfortunately, and even with his long-term contract, that there will be a never ending amount of speculation regarding him and potential moves elsewhere, every summer for, probably, the rest of his Arsenal career. We'll just have to grin and bear it I suppose.

It was great to see Cesc come out with such mature comments yesterday, regarding how the game is only at half time, and there's still a lot to do. Absolutely right. Cesc is a prodigious young talent, who is well on his way to becoming the best central midfielder in the world. But, he needs to keep his feet on the ground, not get arrogant, and not let himself burn out. I'm extremely confident he will go on to become one of the greatest players in the club's history, but he's still oh so young, and he will need our support to ensure he matures into a player that fully realises his astonding potential.

Juve were hammered in the press at home. The fall out has extended to Camoranesi being, basically, told to pack his bags, and Nedved, entering into psychological mind games to try and create a sense of hubris in our team before next Wednesday. Not gonna happen Pav me old mate. I was also a little disappointed by Cappello's comments that we were 'lucky'. We were not lucky - we comprehensively out played you. It's a shame to see these words coming from such a great manager.

Finally, a word on Paddy. I think the fans reaction during the game to him was absolutely correct: clapping at the start, then the gloves coming off once the game began. However, there has been a fair deal of gloating on a number of Arsenal sites about Vieira being put in his place by this game, which I feel has been unfair.

To me, Vieira's transfer has to be understood in the terms of a divorce or the break up of a relationship. After openly flirting with suitors for the last few seasons, Paddy had finally decided to stay with us. I can only imagine his shock when the club, as it were, 'dumped' him. It's a shock I still don't think he has got over. As we saw on Tuesday, it was, in footballing terms a justified transfer. He's gone. He's still a good player, but not a great one, and, critically, not one you want a team to be built around. Due to the shock of us gettng rid of him, I think he talked about the transfer in a way to make it seem he had chosen to leave us. He did not. Once Arsene had declared 'neutrality' over the offer, he knew he had to go. In football, you want your boss to be 100% behind you, or you leave. All Paddy's talk about his choice to leave to join a club who could win the CL, was just that, talk, He wishes he was still at Arsenal, and his heart is firmly with us.

Given the great years of service he gave us, I would hope that this gloating is constrained. He was the core of a team that won three league titles and two doubles. He was one of the greatest players in the history of the club. His recent comments against us are the words of an upset man, struggling to know why we, in his view, betrayed him. So no gloating please, he deserves more from us. Even if he should never have flirted so openly with Madrid.

'Til Tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Arsenal were young, hungry and imperious; Juve were a disgrace.

Title says it all doesn't it?

Tonight, in North London, Juventus were comprehensively outplayed by Arsenal. The final 2-0 scoreline flattered Juve, who should have lost by 3 or 4.

Arsenal were Imperious.Yet it took a moment of sublime inspiration by 2 Frenchmen and a Spaniard to get us there.

For the first 35 minutes the game resembled a chessmatch. Arsenal applied more pressure than Juve, but neither side seemed to want to give too much away. Both teams probed for a weakness, drawing back when they became exposed. But Arsenal already seemed more likely to score. Halfway through the second half Pires, in a moment of brilliance, back-healed the ball to Cesc who hooked his shot wide. In that moment Juve had been ruthlessly exposed for what they were tonight: a tight, professional team who, quite simply, were not up for the game. A team, it seemed, devoid of hunger.

On 39 minutes Bobby executed the greatest tackle of his Arsenal career, disposessing Paddy of the ball in one fluid movement. He layed it off to TH who held the ball up momentarily before threading it through to Cesc. Cesc shaped to shoot right, and then pulled the ball into the left hand corner, leaving Buffon rooted to the spot. For a moment I, and I think even Cesc, was unsure whether it had gone in, but, oh yes, it had.

After that moment it all became about nerve. We deserved to win, and win well, but Juve, at first, seemed to be a professional enough team to keep pressing forward and maybe take their chance when it came. But Toure was a gladiator, performing several incredible tackles to keep Juve at bay. As a whole, the back 5 (including Jens) were outstanding. With every game he plays with Kolo, Phil grows, and there is no reason for me why Sol deserves to take his place. Phil and Kolo were rocks tonight. They did Tony, Steve and Martin proud. Flamini defies belief at Left-back, Eboue was awesome.

In the second half Arsenal continued to surge forward. My main concern now was that Arsenal wouldn't score the second goal they deserved, and that the second leg would remain unjustifiably tight. Some of the team seemed afraid to shoot, but, eventually, Hleb, Fab, and T forced quality saves from Buffon. The goal when it came was, again, a thing of beauty. Hleb pushed the ball throught to Fabregas, taking out around 4-5 Juve players in the process. Cesc took it out to the edge of the box, drawing out Buffon. He then knocked back to TH who, with a great deal of composure, slotted the ball in.

As we pushed for our third goal Juve imploded. Paddy picked up a yellow card for a petulant challenge on Jose. He was a shadow of the competitor that once graced our ground. I really think the emotions got to him, because it was at best a functionary performance from him. The yellow card rules him out of the next leg - a great boon to us, but I can only imagine whats going through his head at the moment. If ever Arsene's decision to sell Paddy is again questioned, he should sit down his doubters and run a video of tonight's performance. Cesc ran the show: an 18 year old controlled the game. I felt sorry for Paddy by the end,an Arsenal legend who showed why he was considered surplus to requirements.

As we continued to run riot over Juve Camoranesi violently hacked at RvP in a ridiculously pointless challenge. He was rightly sent off. For once I found myself agreeing with David Pleat - shudder - as Camoranesi trudged off. Here was a man who thought he was bigger than his club, and who cared for no one but himself. That challenge was an offence to all the Juve fans who travelled from Italy to see this game. Zebina was also rightly sent off for a second bookable offence, although there was considerably less malice in his challenge, and also notheatrics as he left the field.

What must Capello have thought after the game? His team started competently, then dissolved into a performance of a, to be frank, disgraceful nature. We were hungry. We chased every ball. Toure and Phil sprinted up for every corner then sprinted back. TH Tackled back. Bobby made challenges. Our midfield pinged the ball between them at a dizzying speed. We worked as a team, passing fast, breaking fast, denying Juve time and space, making the game come to us. Juve, by the end, trudged around the pitch, wildly hacking away at our players. We deserved a third, and Juve got what they deserved from this game: no goals and suspensions.

Yet again, in this increasingly beautiful ride through Europe this season, Arsenal football club not only won, but won in a way which gave credit to the beautiful game. We played fluent, passionate football against flabby, cynical opponents. My only concern is that we deserved three, if not four, goals tonight. Hopefully, next week, we will get what we deserve.

M.O.M has to be Fab, but I really can't fault a player tonight. Everyone was superb. We played as a team, and we played the game in the right spirit. We deserved it, and we deserve more.

Keep the faith.

Game on. Round 1.

Right, I have so much work to do this will be what we bloggers call a 5 minute post.

Basically, the big news is that Sol will definitely not be playing. May I congratulate the Mirror on their 'scoop' yesterday, where they reported news to the contrary. Who knows, they might have been right, but it seems Sol has picked up a '48 hour injury' according to Le boss. Smells a little fishy to me. Freddie is also out which is more of a blow. We could really have done with his combative nature, and Juve have bad memories of him.

Elsewhere, Paddy is clearly feeling emotional about his return to Highbury, giving a monosyllabic pressconference yesterday in which he pretended that this game had no emotional level for him. Can't blame him for trying to be professional I suppose. I think, in a way, it would put him off more if everyone did clap and applaud him for a bit, because he'd remember that he loves our club and that he wishes he was still here. Although I wouldn't want him to start crying on the pitch. Finally, on The Times website, someone finally defends Arsene's decision to sell Paddy, and put faith in the youngsters. Whether he'll be saying the same tomorrow remains to be seen.

We've also, perhaps comically?, been linked with Gallas today. Great defender, bad attitude. We should buy him! I can't really see us and Chelsea wanting to do business together, and Chelsea would be fools to let him go, but stranger things have happened. Might be a bit of a death knell for Sol's career at AFC though.

My predicted line up for us

Eboue kolo phil flam
Hleb diaby/pires gilbs fab reyes

Just realised that without Freddie it gives us abit of a conundrum as to who to play in Central midfield with fab and Gilberto. I'll leave that one to Arsene. I'm pretty sure we'll play 4-5-1 though, even with RvP back.

In the course of writing this I've realised how nervous I am about tonight. Ahhhh! Still, come on boys. We can do it!

Monday, March 27, 2006

The countdown to Juve begins in earnest.

Around 36 hours to go before one of the biggest games in the history of Arsenal Football Club. Normally I try to restrain myself from hyperbole, but this is the real-deal. A good result tomorrow, and Gooners around the land will begin to worry about taking time off work in May... For an informative overview of our opponents, see here. I find it incredible that Juve are decreasing the size of the ground. To me that says a lot about Italian football.

Lots and lots of hype about. Not one, but two Myles articles this morning on ANR, both great. The second is actually largely written by a Chelsea fan, ranting against the influence of G14(18) in European football. Some fairly incredible statistics in there about the domestic and European dominance of the G14. Myles think our Youtful spirit will prevail and I agree. Also Juve have Del Piero and Nedved out - two great players who they are going to miss. Indeed it seems Del Piero has been in better form of late than I gave him credit for yesterday, breaking Juve's scoring record earlier this season. Vieira's form has also been criticised of late. Indeed I think we should all remember that most of us were with Arsene when he was sold. I don't even think Arsene was wrong in not buying a replacement,because, quite frankly, Paddy, in his peak, was one of a kind. I think what we've seen this season, and what will continue next season, is the growth of a new team, with a new style that doesn't rely on a player like Paddy. This is why i feel it's so important to keep TH, because this would, basically, set the process of this new team's growth back, significantly. All of us are too impatient nowadays. We need to put a little more faith in Arsene.

If you haven't seen it, here's the Juve squad for tomorrow.

According to The Mirror, Sol is going to start tomorrow. Hmm. Not sure about this, I think this is pure speculation, because they would have no way of knowing who's going to play. I, personally, would be very surprised to see Phil and Kolo summarily displaced at this juncture. For Arsene not to even include Sol in the Portsmouth squad and then throw him back in against Juve would seem odd to me.

Now work time. By tomorrow's post I expect you all to be quivering wrecks with me. I will post all the speculation I can in a frenzied attempt to calm my nerves.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

We wanted to play. Portstmouth should get a better pitch.

Incredibly, it seems certain websites are speculating that pressure from Arsene and David Dein led to the game being called off. Rubbish. We wanted to play just as much as Pompey. It's their fault their pitch can't drain water properly. Frankly, I'm with Arseblogger on this one: If pompey have a ground which can't deal with rain then I think we should be awarded the three points. Old 'arry banged on about how much he wanted to play the match: well, you should improve the ground then mate. Having a fixture pile-up at the end of the season affects us as much as you, and if your ground isn't premiership quality we shouldn't have to be the ones to suffer.

Aside from that, the build up to Juve has begun in earnest. Paddy really seems to have taken to the role of the jilted lover, now claiming that we've apparently lost our 'hunger' and that's why he left. No Paddy, you left as you were told you wern't good enough for the club. Del Piero may also be out for the game at Highbury but, given how much he's aged, it might have been better if he'd been playing. I still think our youthful zest will prevail in this one.

Great interview with Ally Hleb on the Graudain website. He was never meant to be a replacement for Vieira and I was slightly annoyed that some fans were so quick to write him off after he came back from injury. I really think he will be a great player at the club. The comparison with the Pires period of acclimatisation is informative.

Congratulations to Reading on their promotion yesterday; time for work.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pompey will have to await a little longer!

Yes. We are in the early twentieth-first century, and there are still grounds in the premiership that can't handle rain.

So no game today. Boo!

Pompey awaits!

On a ground where we usually do well, I wouldn't be surprised if a few gooners are still a bit nervous today. Pompey seem to be on a bit of a run at the moment - although hammering West Ham's reserves isn't that great an achievement. Mendes in particular has been really dangerous of late, and he certainly talks a good game here. I would be very surprised if he doesn't have at least 10 or 12 long range shots, possibly from his own goal line. I'm sure Jen's will be up to the challenge.

The team news for us is interesting. After a lot of debate this week on Arsenal sites as to whether he should play, Sol has not even made the squad. The injury news can be found here. I think Arsene's comments about the defence playing well are telling - he's not going to displace anyone immediately even if Sol is 100%. Reyes isn't back either, but i suspect that is a case of resting before the game on Tuesday. Indeed, while Arsene is right to say this game is as big as Juve, I think even he has, understandably, one eye on Tuesday night. So I expect the same team to play that hammered Charlton last week. Maybe RvP coming into contention, but i think he's now going to find it hard to break the Henry-Adey relationship. It's officially love between those two.

Fairly simple today - nothing less than a win will do. I expect Spurs and Blackburn to win, as they have fairly straightforward games against the Baggies and Sunderland respectively. It could be one of those weekends, like last Saturday, where even though we win, we won't actually make up that much ground. We shouldn't get discouraged though. We just need to stay in the running and then beat the Spuds at Highbury. As I've said before, we need to win every remaining game now, except, perhaps, the one at ManU which may be an ask too far. If we do that - 4th place is ours.

Actually quite a lot of interesting news about today. Arsene has been expressing his views on wages and diving. His tongue must have actually slighlty torn through his cheek when he made the diving comments. Wages - well, we all know they're paid too much, but it's not going to change is it? As long as the give their all every week, they're trying to justify their wads which is as much as we can ask. In the wages link there's also a cheeky jibe at Chelsea regarding the, basically, done-deal for Ballack. 'Blue suits him much better'. Subtle Arsene, subtle. More talks on the TH contract have happened, but i really think they're futile. At this rate the club are going to resort to getting him drunk and then pushing his hand across the page. Really can't see Th doing anythin before the end of the season - but i suppose the club have to keep letting him know that they love him. I'm growing more confident he will sign but he's clearly going to do it on his, and no one elses, terms. An interesting article by Alan Smith on Jose is here. I think he's about right.

Ok - that's all. Come on boys! A loss would just not be bearable.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ronaldinho wants TH; so do I. Who will he choose?

Yes the buck-toothed Brazillian has been expressing his undying love for our TH in a clear attempt to try and push him towards Barcelona.

For a hilarious account of this story read the 'ever reliable' FcBarcelonaBlog. If we were to take this site completely seriously one might wonder why TH hasn't been in the starting line up for Barca over the last couple of weeks, as he has clearly already joined them. Apparently TH met Ronnie in Barca yesterday for a Nike advert. FCBblog speculates, FC Barcelona Blog does not know what the two star players had to say to each other in private but it can be assumed that brazilian magician Ronaldinho has urged Henry to join Frank Rijkaard's Spanish champions rather than to extend his existing contract with the Highbury outfit who´s current campaign is a disappointment this year.

It could also be assumed they didn't say anything re: a possible move to Barca, but hey!

While we're speculating, my version of their conversation:

'Hi Ronnie', (T)
'Hey Titi', (R)
'You're quite a good player aren't you', (T)
'not so bad yourself Terry me old mate'. (R)
'well i would say fancy a pint, but, you know, we can't being professional football players and all. It's a faux pas nowadays innit'. (R)
'yeah, shame, maybe we can go for a jug in Bavaria after the World Cup' (T)
'Sounds good. Say, do you fancy joining Barca?' (R)
'Nah, it's alright.' (T)
'K, cool, see you later Terry'
'Yeah see you later Ronnie, take it easy'

Well maybe not the bits about the pints.

Elsewhere, Becks now loves us, and will be cheering us on in the CL. Quite the turnaround from the player who used to openly admit to hating Arsenal. I'm beginning to feel his move to us is gaining an air of inevitabilty.

Good article, as per usual, by Myles on ANR this morning. Spot on about Sol. I don't think Arsene will humiliate him in the way Ferguson is currently doing so with Van Nistelrooy, but I can't see Sol walking back into the 1st team. I think Phil is here to say, which I personally feel is a good thing. Following Arseblog, I think the key word in this story is 'compete'. Not walk back into the 1st team: 'compete' for a position in it. Sounds ominous.

Interview with the Flamster on Arsenal Tv. One of the few times I wish I had it.

An interesting story about how hard it was for Arsene to get rid of Paddy. Also a rather touching part about how he was summarily dropped from his first team when he was 32 and a half:
"When I was a player-manager at the age of 32, I said to one of my directors: 'The day you think I am too old, come and tell me straight after the match'. One day when I was 32 and a half, he said to me: 'Arsene you are too old'. I never played again.
Aw! poor Arsene! We love you! You'll never be too old for us!

C'est tout, pour maintenant. I will do a pre-Portsmouth review tomorrow morning - well pre- 3'o clock - so make sure you read me nice and early tomorrow.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Send TH a postcard!

Ye gods! what a slow week.

Interesting ANR post by Ian Grant this morning. Apparently we have a Masai fan-club now. I really love the fact we have supporters all over the world - it can only be a good thing. And I'm sure the diversity of our players' backgrounds contributes to this.

Arsene is remaining cagey over whether Sol will walk back into the first team or not. I would have to say - no. Phil and Kolo are builiding a relationship and should be left in - even if it is Juve. Well, given Sol's performances before this whole debacle, especially if it's Juve. I hope he gets back to the player he was, but I really think we should be trying to build something new at the back.

We've been linked to another French 'keeper: Pele from Le Mans. I think Arsene may buy a goalie this summer, but I wouldn't like to speculate on who yet. Like I've said before I think Juskalainen or Shay Given would be excellent options - but we all know Arsene. It's likely to be someone we haven't heard of before.

Finally - Arsenal World is encouraging a scheme wherby we all send TH a postcard to let him know how much we all love him. Not sure about this. It might work or it might annoy him. Knowing TH - well, as well as any of us 'know' him - he might like it. Perhaps you could drop one in with your mother's day card.

Right, must work. I have an unquantifiable amount of envy for Arseblogger today. Living in Barcelona, hosting a pro-evo 5 tournament. Sounds alright to me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The mid-week blues

Do you have it? I'm sure Birmingham do. What a defeat! I always thought Birmingham had the quality to stay up: I'm not so sure now, and there'll be quite the car-boot sale if they go down. The thought of Heskey trying to find a new club borders somewhere between comedy and tragedy.

As for us, this week seems to be even slower than last week, but there are some interesting tit-bits floating about. I've waited until mid-afternoon to get enough info together to make a decent post.

Clubcall reckons that the Diop deal is conclusively off, if it was ever on. He's a good player, but hardly a Vieira replacement, and with Diaby now at the club we have someone who'll be twice as good as him by, hmm, the end of this season maybe. Although, knowing clubcall, we'll probably sign him next week - especially as other sites are running stories that we/Man U are interested in him due to his contract 'stalling'. Ah, the fetid air of speculation.

A more plausible story
clubcall are running is that Arturo Lupoli, our young Italian 'sniper' (as Arsene called him) is not going out on loan anymore as he's out for the rest of the season. I think this boy could be quite special, so it's a shame that he's injured and that he can't go out somewhere and get some experience. I would say he's got two more years before Wenger will make the stay on or ship out decision with him.

I think we may finally be closing in on the TH contract as well. Inter have given up trying to sign him as their president reckons T wil definitely be signing a new deal with us. This deal was never going to happen - T wouldn't go back to Italy, and if he was forced to it would only ever be to Juve/Ac - so I'm unsure how much we should read into his comments. More on contracts and injuries here.

A very amusing TH photo is here. Where is Lehmann? has this photo been altered? could TH have beaten Charlton on his own? Just some of the questions it raises.

There's an interesting piece on our African legion on the official site. I'm planning on getting a Togo shirt with Adebayor on the back; provided they don't beat us. The Cote d'Ivoire shirts are just too Orange. Also, I already love Ade.

Finally the moment in which we, hopefully, remind Spurs just who's boss of North London has, thankfully, been changed so as to be live on Sky Sports. Note the hilarious shirts on this Spuds site. Jol as the Godfather!! As this hack has said this is now the biggest London derby game ever. We cannot lose to the Spuds in their final game at the library. We just Can't!!

On that moment of panic, I shall leave you. Until tomorrow, ta ta.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wenger takes the blame

Arsene seems to have accepted partial responsibility for what has happened this season. Worryingly he seems to suggest at the end of this article that he needs to maintain some form of reputation in international job-market. No! You're not going anywhere Arsene. He says 'his dream' is to re-construct another great side, and to win the CL this year. I'd happily take both. The Match Report in the Independent yesterday, also seemed to focus on Wenger's future at the club, especially after it claimed that he was almost definitely approached recently for the Madrid job.

Far more than TH we need to tie Arsene down to a long-term future at the club. The thought of him with the extra financial resources that the new stadium will offer is mouthwatering. His contract runs out in 2008, so expect there to be some angst-ridden period in the forthcoming months about him extending his contract.

TH has been lavishing praise on the Togolese goal machine that is Manu Adebayor. I think even TH may have realised that beating the ground in anguish isn't the best way to build a rapport between you and new teammates. He may have also noted that scowling at Reyes for about 2 years probably did dent his confidence somewhat. T rightly points out that Ade gives us a new dimension in the team: one that can hold the ball up, lead play, and carve out moves for him. Ade leads the line, unlike when RvP is playing or when Dennis is playing and TH moves to the fore. I think T will really grow to like Ade and RvP may have a job on his hands to try and push his way back into the first team. As long as Ade keeps up a reasonable scoring rate, his overall team work may keep Robin out.

Bobby is remaining ambiguous about his new deal. The latest is that he will sign the 1 year deal but he wants to be assured of a reasonable amount of playing time. Sounds fair enough.

The Becks situation could also go either way. He was dropped for their game this weekend, which seems remarkable given that he has clearly been Real's best player this season. However, Real have moved to give him a new contract, so we're in for a couple of interesting months, re his supposed move to us.

At this rate i predict another slow week of news. There. that should jinx things sufficiently for laods of Arsenews to happen.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lazy and tired

I'm following Arseblog today - minimum effort. I won't make the stream of consciousness belching though.

Bobby might be going to Rangers. Could see it happening myself. Shame, he's been good of late, but Le Guen might prise him away with talk of a three year deal. Qui Sait.

til tomorrow

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Did you bask in those two hours?

When we were in the top four? Ah, they were gorgeous. And with the Spuds still goal-less at h-t everything seemed to be coming up roses. Malheureusement, they fought back to pull off a 2-0 win at the, frankly, dire Birmingham, and put themselves back into 4th spot.

So it's eight games left and we're still two points behind. That's ok. We just need to keep on winning, and hope the Spuds drop points. Like I said before, they should drop more points than us on the run in. Our match versus Pompey next week could be quite tough though, given their recent resrugance of form, and TH's embarrassing love for them.

In a way it's all quite nice. Unlike the last, say, decade, the match versus them at Highbury will actually mean more than us merely completing our humiliating dominance over Spurs. This season it has the potential to decide who get's the opportunity to play in the CL. A truly massive game. And this is, I hate to say it, a decent spurs team. We're still better, but they've really done well to put themselves in the position they have this season. We just need to remind them that it's not the done thing for them to actually finish above us.

So it was a good day yesterday rather than a great one. We won, but so did Blackburn, Bolton and Spuds. I don't think Blackburn have enough to really push themselves into fourth, but big Sam's bruisers could still certainly do so given their games in hand. How Kevin Nolan isn't in the England squad, as usual, only Sven knows.

Our game against Charlton was one of the joyous, embarassingly one-sided affairs where the team seems to think it's still on the pre-season tour of Austria. Henry has really returned to his all-destroying, unstoppable, force-of-nature self. How TH didn't score, only Adebayor knows. To be fair to our Togolese goal machine, he did score a great poachers goal, and he seems to be doing better than my original prediction of a 1-in-4 scoring rate, although he actually should have scored a hat-trick yesterday. Hleb was superb. He looks best when he's running forward at defenders, taking them on, and threading final balls through. I really think Henry will grow to love Hleb if he continues in this vein of form, and it was great to see him get on the score-sheet. Hopefully he won't be overly affected by the fairly tumultuous events in his native Belarus at the moment. Some world affairs for you there.

The defence looked solid, Fabregas continues to grow in each game, Dennis showed a few touches which brought back fond memories, RvP was back, and Bobby got on the score-sheet. Let the good times roll eh? Gilberto even tried a long distance shot which i think may have actually hit the corner flag. And no-one seemed to care, as they were all so happy.

If we'd been in this form all season we'd be coasting in second or third. As it is, we'll have to make up for our rubbish form from, well, November to February to struggle into fourth. We can do it, and we're finally looking like we deserve it. We just need to keep it together, and maintain this form and belief that's grown in the team.

In other news, there's an excellent article on the Observer website by Amy Lawrence about the appaling state of Juve's fans. The NOTW is running some rubbish about us already listening to offers for TH from Inter.

The Mail has us linked with Joey Barton (Yes please) and The Star says we've practically signed Nikola Zigic from Red Star Belgrade. He dwarfs Peter Crouch in height - 6' 10" - and scoring - 55 goals in 77 games. All sounds interesting but will proabably come to nothing. As long as bloody Baptista isn't mentioned, I don't care.

C'est tout - have a relaxing Sunday.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Finally FIFA does something about racism; pre-Charlton.

Yes - FIFA finally seems to have done something which may actually deter racism. Link here. Clearly fines are no deterrent to clubs, so it's great to see a point docking system being introduced. Even relegation can, supposedly, occur for persistent offenders. I think closed door matches would have also been a great penalty as well.

Of course the whole scheme hinges on enforcement. Laws and legal systems are based around theory and practice. It's all very well having these news penalties, but FIFA have to ensure that local FAs enforce them when racism occurs. The test will come when a big La Liga or Serie A club is clearly guilty of racist offences, and the local FAs do nothing. If FIFA doesn't step in to ensure the laws enforecement, these new guidelines will be just words on paper.

Alan Curbishley, our opposing manager today, is, seemingly, currently leading the way for the England manager's job. Hmm. Not sure about that. Curbishley has never even managed at a Champions League level. He's done a good job at Charlton, but: we don't need an English manager. For me it's between Scolari, Hiddink, or possibly O'Neill. And please don't mention McClaren or Pearce. Not good enough.

As for us - injuries stay the same as they've been all week. No: RVP, Cole, Sol, Freddie, Diaby, or Jose among others.

So the team I think I think Arsene will start:

Eboue Toure Phil Flam
Hleb Fab Gilbs Pires
Adebayor Henry

And I think Walcott will get his debut today.

We should win this one. If we're serious about CL qualification it should be a given, especially as we even managed to beat them away earlier in the season! We need to keep this great momentum we have at the moment and we could be in the top 4 by 5 o'clock.

Keep the faith! Have a great saturday.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Will this week never end!

Really! What a rubbish week! Illness, boredom, despair. Well maybe not the last one.

Hacks are continuing to peddle, seemingly, whatever thoughts come into their minds. So we have the Baptista story, round 4983720, in which our Ash is to be used as a makeweight in a deal for him according to The Star. That's right: Ash as the makeweight. I don't think so. Maybe if Baptista crawled from Madrid to Islington, and then, on his knees, begged Arsene for forgiveness for spurning the glorious opportunity we gave him in the summer, and Real are prepared to accept some Highbury memorabilia for him, a deal could be arranged.

Re: TH's supposed transfer read this and laugh/cry.

More plausibly we've been linked with Nantes' keeper Mikael Landreau. I say more plausibly merely on the basis that he's French, clearly half-decent and I've never heard of him before: satisfying the usual criteria of a Wenger gem.

We've also been linked with Joseph Yobo of Everton.Eh?

As for tomorrow's game, the injury list is now so long that players are recovering before Arsene finishes reading it. Significant new additions include: Freddie, who'll probably be out for another week; Diaby - I'm assuming it's not serious, but no real word on it; Jose, who might be out until week saturday, if not the Juve game.

Happy St. Patrick's day. The patron saint of Ireland and Drinking. I remember once having to drink Green tinted lager with breakfast with 3 Irish people on a St Paddy's day. Got to love it. Hopefully a happy end to this week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The slow news week continues

Journos around Europe seem to be seizing this week as an opportunity to really go crazy with their ideas of who should be playing where next season.

Top of the list is, naturally, our TH and his supposed move to Barca. According to many sources this morning, this is a supposedly done and dusted deal. Due to small print in TH's contract and FIFA regulations Barca reckon they can get him for £10m. Sources 'close to Laporta' (the sea? hahaha - little Spanish joke for you there) claim a 'verbal deal' has been struck. Now, I'm sure we all remember those terrible old anti-piracy ads that used to come with rented vids. Some idiot would try and return a bootleg vid to a market trader who'd promptly say, in a painfully hackneyed faux-cockney accent, 'verbal contract mate, ain't worth the paper it's printed on.' Well, quite. Even if this has occurred, which I'm 99.9% sure it hasn't, so what? I'm actually becoming more and more convinced TH will stay, even if for only one more season. He's really looked a far happier player of late: I'm convinced that he's beginning to realise the kid's potential, and he'll stay to see it through. I'm also sure he wants to be the guy to lead the team out for the first time at the Emirates.

A lot of transfer speculation is engineered to create moves; not to actually report moves that are meant to be on the verge of occuring. I'm sure what Barca are trying to do is continually spread stories about TH coming to them, in the hope it'll create some form of critical momentum to the transfer which no one can resist. Perhaps they are even trying to turn us all against TH - I know the support of the fans has been a major reason in T's desire to stay: we should not turn against him due to some rubbish being purposely strewn to get him at a different club. We know what type of a guy TH is: he's not the type to do underhand, behind the club's back deals. So, ignore the speculation. If he goes, he'll go in the summer. If he doesn't, he'll sign in the summer. It's his decision, and given how much he has given to this club we should all respect it and wish him well. Although: PLEASE STAY THIERRY, PLEASE STAY!!!! Sorry, the thought of him being elsewhere does pain me somewhat.

In other news, well done to Boro for getting through to the UEFA 1/4s. After the, frankly, horrific stabbings that occurred before the game, I'm tempted to write a piece about the state of fans in Italy. Racism, Political extremism, violence, hooliganism: welcome to Serie A. I know not all fans are like this, but there are major problems in the Italian fan base at the moment, that, surprise, surprise, UEFA, the Italian FA, FIFA are doing nothing about.

Elsewhere, the express reckons Robben might be going to the Spuds if Ballack arrives; the Star runs a cute piece on how Theo is going to spend his increased pocket mo, I mean wages, when he turns 17. Newcastle are now in the hunt for every striker going when Shearer hangs up his boots: Van Nistelrooy and Torres especially. The thought of VN and Owen teaming up would be so comical it would be hard to know whether to describe it as tragedy or farce. You can imagine them both trying to toe-poke the same balls in while standing rooted in the six yard box. Torres won't go to Newcastle. If he comes to a Premiership team it'll be us or Chelsea. Although I wouldn't put it past Benitez to perhaps put a cheeky bid in for him. Despite their rout of Fulham last night they need a new striker, and Benitez does like his Spanish players.

Oh and apparently we're on the verge of getting another 16 year old from Barca, named Fran Merida, after Barca forgot to counter sign his contract. A new Fabregas already? Or a new Pennant? Only time will tell.

As for me, possibly slightly worse than yesterday somehow. I've clearly been rushed back to the first team too early and suffered a relapse. Never again will I laugh at the expression, 'well, at least you've got your health'.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

No news to report: let's make some up!

Yes, in the time honoured fashion of dilligent journalism, when you can't find any news to report: go and make some up!

So we now have the Ashley Cole to Chelsea move resurfacing. No matter how desperate Mourinho is for old Ash, or how much cash he'd give him, I really can't see Ash doing this to us. I'm actually fairly confident he'll stay in the summer, but if he does go I think it'll be to a European, not English team. The essence of this story seems to be: Chelsea want a left back; Ash is a good left back; Chelsea want Ash. So far, so plausible. Next step: Ash leaves for the Chavs, hmm, don't think so. Anyway, read the article in that paragon of adroit journalism, the Sun, here. This isn't mindless speculation. no. oh no.

Thierry is also meant to be going to Barcelona zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry i fell asleep. This is according to FCBarcelona blog, who also writes an Arsenal blog which then accepts his suggestions wholesale. This was exposed by another Arsenal blog a while ago, but I've forgotten which one it was.

Aside from this, a slow news day. RVP and Sol are making steady progress back from injury, and came through a special match for them unscathed. According to Sky Sports, Freddie will be out for 2 weeks, which is a blow. No real news on Jose, or the defensive colossus that is Pascal Cygan's injuries.

Watched some of the Ajax-Inter game last night which was pretty dire. If we can get through to the semis, I'm fairly confident we could beat Villa or Inter, who looked very ordinary last night, despite a wonder goal. Samaras, an old transfer target of ours, is also going well at Man City. His goal helped them through to the 1/4s of the FA cup last night.

As for me: slightly better now. Still not 100%. If I played for Arsenal, they'd probably be conducting a closed doors game for me to get me back to full fitness. The dream eh?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Goonerboy will not be in the office today due to sickness

I woke up this morning to find that, yes I do indeed have tonsillitis. I am in a world of pain which is only briefly tempered - such as at present - by the wonders of modern painkillers.

Not much to write about anyway, but there may not be many posts for the next few days, while I lie about in agony.

Only thing i saw of note was that Sol and RVP should be back from injury quite soon. Also, the Mirror shrewdly pointed out that TH must be beginning to realise the future potential of the team Arsene is building. 'Emigrate or Emirates' was the fairly amusing headline.

Must rest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1.

We have a very ill Goonerboy today. I'm hoping its just a one day thing - but i feel very nasty.

I missed the opening twenty minutes of the game, although i did subsequently see T's opening goal. What a finish! And what a pass from Cesc! It seemed to split the entire Liverpool team in two, and TH finished from his favourite position, left channel, beautifully flighting the ball past Reina. After that we should have scored several more. Liverpool were pretty dire in the first half and we didn't capitalise on it. Had it not been for Crouch's appalling miss it it could have even been level at the end of the first half. Two other incidents of the half were a cause of concern. Freddie suffered a relapse of his calf injury and was forced to come off after 10 minutes. Hopefully it's not serious, given his recent resurgance of form is taken into account. Kolo also went down heavily, and for an awful moment, it appeared he might have to come off. Thankfully he ran the injury off.

Liverpool were far brighter in the second half - Kewell and Fowler came on and they suddenly looked like much more of a threat. I had hoped that the replacement of Hamann with Fowler would open up their midfield more - instead Liverpool began to really push us back. Gerrard, who'd had a rather middling game up to this point suddenly sent a stinging drive at Jens from some 35 yards. Jens panicked a bit and blocked the ball instead of catching it, despite the fact his entire body was behind the shot. He couldn't get enough distance on his punchl and Garcia was quickest to react. 1-1. Given his superb performances of late, and the end result, I think Jens can be slightly absolved of blame. It was a difficult shot to deal with, and our defence were very slow to react.

Typical, I thought: we dominate the game, but are going to come out of it with 1 point. Worse, in the next few minutes Liverpool looked the more likely to score. But, unlike some other performances this season, we dug in, held on, and began to regain the advantage. Then Xabi Alonso was rightly sent off. He'd been booked only a few minutes earlier, and the ref had clearly had a word with him then - he then went and threw himself at the Flamster in a dreafully late challenge and was given a second yellow card. He took an age to leave the field and it was good to see Phil giving him what for! Then, on 84 minutes Stevie G gave us a lovely little piece of help. He turned and, almost absent mindedly, stroked the ball back to Reina. Cue TH intercepting the ball and scoring. Should Stevie be credited with an assist? In the final few minutes we could have got another: Bobby hit the post when he perhaps should have scored; T had a superb free-kick wonderfully saved by Reina.

A great win then, which really puts us in a excellent position from which to get bloody 4th place. We have a decent run in ahead of us now. I can see us dropping points at Old Trafford, as United always raise their game for the big teams, but aside from that we should not be dropping any points from now on. If we do this, we will qualify for the CL. We've really turned a corner recently, and we should now power home.

Man of the Match: Cesc. I am sorely tempted to give it to TH, who was awesome and really looked like a captain today, but Cesc ran a midfield which included Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso. Indeed he had to put up with some pretty cynical hacking from Alonso all game, which no doubt contributed to his sending off. Maybe Alonso is worried about his WC place? Fab's pass to Henry was awe inspiring, and he was great all game. Is there any way we can naturalise him!!

Player ratings:

Jens: one slight mistake aside, which admittedly contributed to the goal, was solid. 6
Eboue: great game, but had a chance to score which he should have taken. 7.
Toure: Possibly at fault for the goal, a warrior apart from that. 7
Phil: Good game, and great to see he's taking Keown's advice about letting the opposition know who's boss! 7
The Flamster: Ashley who? Just joking, but he's really grown into the LB position, against my expectations. If Arsene has any sense he won't put Cygan in for him when he returns from injury. 7.5.
Freddie -N/R went off too early. Bobby: ok, but he's not the player he was. 5.
Fab. Fab. 9.
Gilberto. Better than usual, and helped with the tackling more. 6.5.
Hleb. Ranged from the infuriating to the sublime. Gave the ball away a few times, but then also produced some great passes. Will get better. 7.
TH. Superb, looked a captain, and got us the goals. Looks happier at the moment. 9
Adebayor. Some nice touches; needs to improve his finishing. Again, will improve. 6
Dennis. I know he has one last great moment in him -showed his age today. 6

Two last things:
does anyone know how i change the background/ header of my blog to a picture? And, why wasn't Diaby even on the bench? Injury?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

By God that Pardew's wrong! Arsenal and Foreign players.

Yes, the oh so Englishman with the French surname - Pardew is clearly a corruption of Par Dieu 'by God' as East Lower pointed out - deigns himself fit to critique Le Boss.

Wenger's staunch rebuttal made me proud to be a gooner. It also made me laugh when he pointed out that Pardew wasn't too concerned about nationality when he took out Aliadiere on loan. Perhaps the reason he then refused to play him was because he realised he was French when he turned up. Or maybe he saw him play....

Arsene posited a sharply informed view of the problems of European integration as a whole. We can't have rules that are supposedly there to work towards greater European unity and freedom of trade, and then complain when Europeans come here and work.

In many ways the whole issue of European players in English football mirrors the affirmative action problems in the US: should Arsene pick the best players he can, or should he favour English players for purely nationalistic reasons? Arsene's answer is simple and correct: he only ever picks the best players he can for the team, regardless of their passport. It seems ludicrous to suggest that we should judge whether a player should play for our club on the basis of their nationality. Is Pardew et al. suggesting we should play weakened teams to help out the national team? How will it really help English players develop if they are given an unwarranted leg up? The current national team is the best I've seen since 1990. If anything, I would suggest, the increased competition for places from foreigners has meant that the calibre of English players playing for top level clubs has improved. For instance, I'm sure Joe Cole has vastly improved due to the standard of players around him - mostly foreign- and the coaching of his present manager - Portugese. How will it help top level English players if their domestic team mates are there primarily by virtue of nationality, not ability? The increase in foreign players in the premiership has, therefore, improved the standard of our national team.

Arsene doesn't have - contrary to what the insinuation of the attacks on him seem to be - some form of evil masterplan to drive English players out of the club and/or destroy the national team. If Arsene feels a player an English player is good enough for the club he plays them. If fit Ash would have played against Madrid; if not for his plethora of problems so would have Sol. Now imagine if Chelsea had Terry and Lampard injured: they would probably have only Joe Cole starting, and that's not a given. I wonder if they would they have been criticised in a similar manner. Arsene has just paid up to £12m for a 16 year old Englishman? Why? because he recognises him as a great talent. That Walcott is English is inconsequential.

Also, one can perhaps forgive Arsene for not trusting English players. He took a gamble on a young Jermaine Pennant: he refused to act in a professional manner and was hence sold. Did you see Senderos mouthing off in the press, drinking, and generally causing trouble when he was dropped? No. He took it like a professional and he's beginning to become a rock again. David Bentley? Good, but I agree with the sale - he never showed enough to covince me he was Arsenal quality. That Arsene took a similar decision with Quincy at the same time was glossed over by Arsene's detractors, who chose to mould the Bentley decision into this ridiculous anti-English agenda Arsene supposedly has. Also - remember Franny Jeffers?

I see Pardew has backtracked a bit this morning, which I'm pleased about. Maybe he'll choose his words a bit more carefully next time. I have a lot of respect for what he's done at West Ham, but he should not criticise a fellow manager in this way.

The Arsenal Football Club is not England, does not field mainly English players, but it is an English club. It is based in London. It has overwhelmingly English supporters. At a board level, it is run mainly by Englishmen. It has recently pumped money into the redevelopment of Islington, and has built a new ground that will significantly bolster the London, and hence national, economy. It has a superb youth academy which produces swathes of English players. Some we keep; some we don't. But, last time i looked, David Bentley did not cease to exist when we sold him. Only he, Pennant, and the other young English players we let go can show whether Arsene did the right thing. Arsene did not let these players go because they were English - he let them go because he felt they were not good enough for the club.

English footballers will always arrive at our club of sufficient quality to make it as first team regulars, who will also hopefully go on to play for England. The hightened standard of play they will enjoy due to the foreign influence in the club will improve the standard of their game, benefitting English football .

I'm proud to support a multi-national team that is based in London. We are an English club with players of diverse origins. Consequently we have fans all over the world. Why is that a bad thing?

In future, I would hope individuals choose their words more carefully, and put more thought into their comments, before they try to belittle the achievements of our club.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ok, the Liverpool comparison is just getting weird now.

So, like Liverpool last year, we have drawn Juve in the 1/4s. The rest of the comparison to Liverpool last season and us this season has been done to death, but you have to admit this is starting to get a bit odd.

No one gave Liverpool much of a chance last year, yet they beat Juve at Anfield and held out in Italy to send themselves through.

We can do the same, but lets not delude ourselves here - this is going to be a far tougher game than Real. We're not going to be playing a bunch of flabby old Galacticos: Juve are the, pun intended, Real deal. They have been unstoppable this year in Italy, and have a superb, strong team, capable of defending staunchly and breaking quickly.

And, bien sur, a certain Monsieur Vieira will be appearing - bar injury. Paddy deserves a warm welcome at Highbury and anyone who boos his name when its called out is an idiot. But make no mistake, for those 180, or possibly more, minutes, we have to forget he was ever part of Arsenal Football Club. I know he didn't want to go last summer and I've no doubt he'll feel a pang of nostalgia (or even confusion?!?) when he runs onto the field without the canon on his chest, but if we as a club are serious about this trophy he has to be given no quarter. We can clap him off afterwards: during the game he must become merely another opposition player. And don't forget - he'll be treating us in exactly the same way.

Indeed, many of the key battles of the game, as ever, will be fought in midfield. Frankly, its going to be a huge ask for Cesc and Gilbs to shackle and dominate Paddy and Emerson. They can do it - but we will have to play 5 in midfield again. Having Freddie as a wandering link between midfield and attack could be the key if he continues in this new energetic form. Even if RVP is fit I don't think playing 4-4-2 would be wise. Same team that started the Real game - but with Ash back if possible.

It will be a tremendously tough game. Personally I think Juve are the team to beat this year. They would certainly beat Barca. We can win though. A key factor in the first leg will be away goals: we cannot concede any. We need to really push to win the first leg. If we go to Turin with enough of a lead we can win the game. However I would even fancy us to win if we went out there at 0-0. We need to keep it tight, play fast, not give the ball away cheaply away in midfield, and bide our time. When the chances come - we have to take them. We won't be able to afford the near misses we had in the opening 10 minutes in Madrid, or Jose's at Highbury.

Speed, accuracy, and clinical finishing. Not too much to ask!!!

Having thought about this while writing my post, I've realised this is what the CL is all about. You fear the big names in the draw - but, this year especially, it's a type of nervous excitement, not anxiety or dread. It's excitement because we have shown that we have the quality, ability, and the belief to win this cup.

Now let's go and show Juve.

P.S. Wenger's reply to Pardew, which makes me even prouder to be a gooner:

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has shrugged off criticism from West Ham counterpart Alan Pardew.

When Arsenal knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League Pardew said: "I saw a headline saying Arsenal are flying the flag for Britain.

"I kind of wondered where that British involvement actually was when I looked at their team."

But Wenger responded: "We represent a football club which is about values and not about passports."

Ok, the Liverpool comparison is just getting weird now.

So, like Liverpool last year, we have drawn Juve in the 1/4s. The rest of the comparison to Liverpool last season and us this season has been done to death, but you have to admit this is starting to get a bit odd.

No one gave Liverpool much of a chance last year, yet they beat Juve at Anfield and held out in Italy to send themselves through.

We can do the same, but lets not delude ourselves here - this is going to be a far tougher game than Real. We're not going to be playing a bunch of flabby old Galacticos: Juve are the, pun intended, Real deal. They have been unstoppable this year in Italy, and have a superb, strong team, capable of defending staunchly and breaking quickly.

And, bien sur, a certain Monsieur Vieira will be appearing - bar injury. Paddy deserves a warm welcome at Highbury and anyone who boos his name when its called out is an idiot. But make no mistake, for those 180, or possibly more, minutes, we have to forget he was ever part of Arsenal Football Club. I know he didn't want to go last summer and I've no doubt he'll feel a pang of nostalgia (or even confusion?!?) when he runs onto the field without the canon on his chest, but if we as a club are serious about this trophy he has to be given no quarter. We can clap him off afterwards: during the game he must become merely another opposition player. And don't forget - he'll be treating us in exactly the same way.

Indeed, many of the key battles of the game, as ever, will be fought in midfield. Frankly, its going to be a huge ask for Cesc and Gilbs to shackle and dominate Paddy and Emerson. They can do it - but we will have to play 5 in midfield again. Having Freddie as a wandering link between midfield and attack could be the key if he continues in this new energetic form. Even if RVP is fit I don't think playing 4-4-2 would be wise. Same team that started the Real game - but with Ash back if possible.

It will be a tremendously tough game. Personally I think Juve are the team to beat this year. They would certainly beat Barca. We can win though. A key factor in the first leg will be away goals: we cannot concede any. We need to really push to win the first leg. If we go to Turin with enough of a lead we can win the game. However I would even fancy us to win if we went out there at 0-0. We need to keep it tight, play fast, not give the ball away cheaply away in midfield, and bide our time. When the chances come - we have to take them. We won't be able to afford the near misses we had in the opening 10 minutes in Madrid, or Jose's at Highbury.

Speed, accuracy, and clinical finishing. Not too much to ask!!!

Having thought about this while writing my post, I've realised this is what the CL is all about. You fear the big names in the draw - but, this year especially, it's a type of nervous excitement, not anxiety or dread. It's excitement because we have shown that we have the quality, ability, and the belief to win this cup.

Now let's go and show Juve.

P.S. Wenger's reply to Pardew, which makes me even prouder to be a gooner:

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has shrugged off criticism from West Ham counterpart Alan Pardew.

When Arsenal knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League Pardew said: "I saw a headline saying Arsenal are flying the flag for Britain.

"I kind of wondered where that British involvement actually was when I looked at their team."

But Wenger responded: "We represent a football club which is about values and not about passports."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Are you starting to believe?

Apologies for the late posting, but we have a very tired/worse for wear Goonerboy today, for obvious reasons. Given the plethora of info/opinions about last night's game, I'm sure you made do.

Well - are you beginning to believe? Is this our season? Finally I'm seeing things I've never seen in Arsenal CL performances before: luck, players raising their game, and tactical flexibility. It was great to put one over Robinhio, Baptista, and Guti - all of whom had written off Arsenal in their decisions to stay at/join Madrid. Imagine: Arsenal winning the CL, and moving into Ashburton. We would go from medium-big European club, into the top 5 (?) in Europe.

Of course, much will depend on the draw tomorrow. In a way, I'd prefer a big team to the supposedly 'easy' ones. I think if we get, say, Barcelona, the entire team will raise their game perhaps more than if we got Villareal/Lyon/Benfica, who might catch us napping through over confidence. Whoever we get, the most important thing is we have a team who our truly hungry for the CL this year. The difference between our almost rabid enthuasiasm to win, and Chelsea's sterile submission was striking. Whoever we play will be tough but we are capable of winning this trophy, which I only ever thought before in the unbeaten season. There's something about the team this years that favours continental football and we need to make the most of it.

As for the game itself: the most exciting 0-0 ever? Quite possibly. The game immediately flew into 5th gear and the pace did not relent - which I think favoured us. None of our usual problems in the premiership of teams sitting back and waiting for us to make mistakes. Playing 5 in the middle, allowed Gilbs to cover the defence more effectively than usual, letting Fab, Freddie, and Hleb run the midfield. Reyes had a good game, but he wasn't as sizzling as he was in the 1st leg. He probably should have scored when he hit the bar, but, to be fair to him, Henry slighlty over-delayed his pass. If he'd played it a moment earier, Jose could have hit it first time and would have scored. After the unfair, and almost ridiculous, stick Hleb has been receiving, it was great to see him put in a performance which shows he is a world class player. Hleb has had to recover from a nasty injury this season, which retarded his progress in getting used to the Premiership. I think he will be good this season and great next year. He certainly should be starting ahead of Bobby. If Hleb could, perhaps, just learn to take a shot more often, he'd be the complete midfield playmaker. As it was, he was awesome last night. And Cesc - what can you say: stay with us for ever?! Please!

Everyone was superb. Phil seems to be getting a ridiculous amount of criticism for one sliced kick: he was immense apart from that and I don't see why Sol should replace him when he's fit. The Toure-Senderos partnership is one we should build on - with Djourou - as the core of our future defence. Flamini beggered belief. I'm not convinced that he'll become an automatic starter, but what a utility player to have! Becks only exposed him once all night, and his general energy and determination more than made up for his difficulties in an unfamiliar position. Eboue has been so good since the ACoN that I really don't know who 1st choice RB is now. I'm a fan of Ralph, but i think Gilbert looked really promising also: we have 3 RBs who can all hold their own in the 1st team. A pleasing selection dilemma.

Henry also had a great game, rubbishing his critics who say he doesn't turn up for big games. He had the Madrid defence in the palm of his hands for most of the match.

However, my man of the match has to be Jens, or 'Safe Hans' as some hack has dubbed him. The difference between a good/solid keeper and a great one is whether they make saves they should not make. Jens save to prevent Raul scoring was the greatest save I've ever seen by an Arsenal keeper [1991-present that is]. Perhaps the Seaman penalty saves in the CWC runs were good, and his save against Sheff utd was certainly brilliant - but given the moment and given the game, Jens save almost brought a tear to my eye. That save was as important to the victory as T's goal in the first leg. That save was the equivalent of Henry jinking past 4 players in the Bearnabeu. He was a rock throughout, and is certainly my player of the season thusfar.

The style of the match was almost like an adult schoolyard game - players flying from one end to another in desperate sorties, neither being able to break the deadlock. Both teams had their chances, and Casillas had to pull off a great save to tip a shot by T round the post. Still, we held on, with Pires almost scoring from inside his half at the death. Little bit more power next time Bobby!

At the end, after my pulse rate had risen to a clearly unhealthy BPM, the ref's whistle first brought relief, then pure, unadulterated joy.

This season is all about belief. Even if we finish 5th or don't win the CL, we have to keep believing. We have turned a corner and we are on the up. We have to keep this team together because it will be capable of great things. For now we have to believe that we can win this damn trophy at last; even if we don't, last night showed why we should always keep the faith.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Are you nervous?

I am!

This is our game to lose now. We're 1-0 up at h-t, and we should go onto win it. We need to marshal the midfield and make sure Real don't score an early goal. Mind you, if we score an early goal, it could turn into a repetition of that Chelsea game....

In terms of news, there isn't much. Cesc continues, allegedly, to make weird statements about his future. Great. Wenger says he might put on Theo if goals are really needed tonight, which does make sense, but would be an incredible debut for a 16 year old who might struggle to make an impact. Bobby may/may not sign his new contract - I think he'll stay personally. Although AW's policy of only giving one year deals to our over-30s does make sense, I think it does provoe a kind of midlife crisis in them which usually delays the deals signing. And Freddie seems to be regaining his confidence, which is something we really need for tonight.

Team i think Arsene will play tonight,

Eboue Toure Senderos Flamini
Ljunberg Fabregas Gilberto Hleb Reyes

with possibly either Hleb or Ljunberg pushing forward a bit to play just behind TH. I don't think he'll start Bergkamp, and as he's our only fit/eligible player who'd really want to play up front, I think Wenger will revert to the, pre-victory in Madrid, dreaded 4-5-1. I think there will be a certain, slightly delicious, irony if we win with 4-5-1, with Chelsea losing with 4-4-2.
The only question for me is whether you start Diaby or not. I don't think AW will - if he was planing to play him against Madrid from the start he would have started him in the Bearnabau.

More fall out from Catalonia: it seems Chelsea were playing 4-4-2 yesterday. I'm sorry: Robben's near total anonymity blinkered my view of what was actually going on. I still can't get over Mourinho taking off Drogba and then being forced to put on Huth as a makeshift longball recipient. I would lol, but it might be bad karma for tonight. Seeing the way Barca play, i really think it could disrupt their team if TH went there. Eto'o seemed to play in a very similar area to him. Yet more reasons for TH to stay.

All together now: Come on Arsenal!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Chelsea crash in Catalonia; hands off Wenger!

In a disappointing game in the Nou Camp, Chelsea's post-Abramovich dreams of Champions League success ended yet again. For a team who needed to score twice to go through, they were abhorrently defensive. It seems, against the highest of opposition, who didn't even really go into second gear, Chelsea's long-ball, packed midfield game was finally exposed. While Joe Cole at least seemed to be present and pushing for the win, sometimes even sparkling with invention, too many Chelsea players just didn't put in a performance. John Terry was ruthlessly mugged for Ronaldinho's superbly taken goal. Lampard, aside from stepping up for the last-kick-of the-game penalty, might well have not turned up. I suspect he may have been rushed back from injury. I know Chelsea are capable of knocking quite a few goals past teams using their 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation, but tonight having Drogba ploughing a lonely furrow up front smacked of desperation, and an inability to change an essentially defensive system to one that could have got goals.
Barca were the better team over two legs, regardless of refereeing decisions. For Mourinhio to state that the best team didn't win was at best wishful thinking, and, at worst, hubristic, ungentlemenly, and unbecoming of a manger of his position. But then what did you really expect him to say - winners don't like losing.

In other European matches... Rangers put in a gutsy performance in Villareal, drawing 1-1 after leading, which knocked them out on away goals. Juve scraped through against Bremen, a last minute goalkeeping mistake costing Werder the game. Without wanting to get too much ahead of myself, imagine Paddy coming back in the next round. It would be intense.

Provided the electricity in my house is fully back on tomorrow, I'll do a pre-Real post tomorrow. Needless to say: I'm still worried. This game is far from over - an early goal from Real and its more than game-on. We need to score, and then run the midfield again. Come on Arsenal!

A worrying piece in the times today/tomorrow also knocked me off kilter a bit. Can't see it happening myself - I do worry a lot though.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Woodgate, Israel and Arsenal

Funny story in the sun today about old Woodgate. Seems he wants to get back together with his ex, BB3 winner Kate Lawler. The couple had originally split up a year after Woody had moved out to Spain due to the strain of a long-distance relationship. It seems Kate may have told him that if he were to move back to England things could be back the amusing last paragraph. Personally, I'd be in favour of him coming here. He's a world class centre back. It would all depend on whether Mr Lewin & co. reckon they could fix him up, or whether he'll be a permanent 'sick note'.

Elsewhere in the Sun, a group of Barca fans gave Chelsea, and especially Mourinhio, a warm welcome. I'm not a fan of Mourinhio, but spitting is a bit much.

As usual Gilberto is talking a better game than playing; Kahn, erroneously, believes he should still be Germany's no.1; and we're on the verge of signing a 15 year old. Ah, good to see we're bringing some more experience to the squad.

Highbury1913.blogspot also seems to have opened up a can of worms with a link to a pro-Palestinian website. It was pretty strong stuff, which seemed to suggest that Arsenal were, essentially aiding and abbeting terrorism through our new links to the Israeli tourist board.

Still, I felt that some of the people who left comments on Highbury1913's page were unnecessarily harsh. He took the link down very quickly: I very much doubt he is a racist merely because he publishes a link in which he, validly, informs his readers of the ridiculous insults and insinuations being thrown at our club by certain organisations.

I'm not someone who thinks that sport and politics can be divided, but I would like to keep football boards about football. I don't think an Arsenal blog is really a place to discuss the nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, I am considering writing a piece about racism and football after the disgraceful incident involving Samuel Eto'o at Zaragoza at the weekend, as I feel this is a political issue that, still, nothing is being done about by Uefa and Fifa, and which is an issue that directly influences football. It is shaming our sport and producing playing conditions in which players can't and should never have to play in. We have to somehow bring more pressure on the F.A.s of countries in which these incidents continue to occur to make them stamp out racism. While I support Eto'o's decision to want to walk off, it did give an awful view of the future: one in which players, not racists are driven out of football. We cannot let this happen.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Not a huge amount I can add to discussions about the game yesterday as I've only seen the goals.

Henry' were classic - left channel, burst of speed, b.o.t.n. Adebayor took his goal well - apparently he could have had even more. Wenger reckons Freddies back with it again. I hope so. If he could somehow re-find his shooting boots and knock a few in before the end of the season, it could be the difference between 4th,5th or 6th.

In other news: Cesc has admitted he wants to play in La Liga one day. As he's only 18 that's probably fair enough to say, but it's still a bit worrying. Read his exact words here.

Also, Becks gives us a few compliments here. A 'come and get me' call?

My predictions for the summer. Aside from a painful wait before seeing if TH goes or not there will be a bewildering array of part-exchange deals mooted. Expect complete fantasy headlines: Cole +TH+ Fab for Baptista, Ronaldo, Becks and an 'undisclosed fee'. Or Fab for Becks plus £7m etc. None of which will occur. The only major player who has any chance of leaving the club this summer is TH. Cole and Fab will definitely stay. I hope TH will stay, but I think it will all depend on CL football. Which, if we play like we did yesterday, shouldn't be a problem.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

4-0 to the Arsenal


Against my gloomy expectations of this morning, we played fantastically this afternoon, gaining a much needed three points, and, by all accounts, totally outplaying Fulham.

Takes you back a few years...Hopefully a sign for the future. As ever, King TH was on the scoresheet; it was heartening to see Fab and crazy haired Ade get goals as well. Although, by the commentary i heard, it sounds like Ade should have had a hat-trick. Good to see Hleb and Diaby starting and playing well; sounds like Freddie also had a scorcher, even if I'm beginning to think his goals may just not come in the league this season.

So, anyway, I had written a post before the match in which i almost guessed the team right. Unfortunately seemed to have some form of server breakdown and I couldn't get it published, so none of you will believe me if I post it.

I'll try and watch highlights somehow even though i'm going out tonight. May have to fight for control of the telly from the cricket nuts tomorrow to watch goals on Sunday. Either that or it will be merely the briefest of brief tomorrow on MOTD2. Why have I always planned to go out on the days Arsenal win? Damn.

New chant I've just made up in honour of our crazy haired Togolese goal machine - to I love you baby:

I love you Adey
and with your crazy fringe,
I love you Adey,
You play for Togo's team,
I love you Adey,
You've scored some goals for us now.

Diabolical I know, but something to work from?

Friday, March 03, 2006


Ash is launching a fairly unprecedented libel action against the sun and the NOTW. Despite not being officially named, as his lawyer puts it: '"The newspapers knew there was no basis to name Ashley but arranged the articles and pictures in such a way that readers would identify him.'

It should be, like his tapping up case, a pretty landmark ruling, potentially deciding on a precedent for whether these types of stories - involving 'unnamed', but clearly identifiable persons - are still libellous. If they are, the NOTW is screwed. Who'd have thought our Ash would become such a leading figure in the practice of British Jurisprudence? For links see here or here.

I like the bit about 'false privacy': 'you have breeched my privacy, by saying things about my private life which are not true'. Ah, The Law. Still, I'm tempted to get behind Ash. Unless it affects his performance, or seriously damages the life/wellbeing of another individual, surely he should be free to lead his life without it being exposed on a daily basis? And also, although it clearly is Ash in the pictures in the NOTW, that doesn't mean the story is true.

Inter apparently want TH: NEVER going to happen with all the racism in Italian football, and the fact Inter aren't that much better than us. Ballack turned down a move to them by saying he was more likely to win the CL with Bayern than Inter, and the reason he was movin was to win the CL. Ouch. Real are still banging on about Cesc. Go Away!

As for tomorrow, we have Dennis and Freddie back. Hopefully Arsene won't play his suicide tactics of Fred and Bobby on the wings. I like to think Dennis could rustle up some form of vintage performance , but, unfortunately, I think his legs might just be too far gone.

RVP should be back for the Real game which is good news.

A scurrilous rumour I heard yesterday was that Arsene wants Yakubu. He fits the bill for Arsene: big, strong, powerful, scores goals - but is he a truly top level player? Obviously there's only one way to find out, but i'd rather we didn't pay up to £15m (the reported price) to find out first.

Finally, go to the official Arsenal website and watch the second video on Jens's page. Quote (something like) 'I don't know if i'm a maniac, but i do work very hard'. Yes Jens. You are a maniac: but that's why we all love you!! I wish he was about 5 years younger so we could have him for a few more years and not just, possibly, one.

Have a great weekend; try not to stress about the Fulham game!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

News and International games

News first....

Rumours linking us to Curtis Davies keep surfacing. He seems like a good player, but, again, he's young. As a long term replacement for Sol, I think he'd be great - but I'd rather we broke the bank and stole Ledley King from Spurs. I think defence is one of the areas that a team really needs experience, and we've really paid this season by, basically, not having any there. It would be nice to have a few new english players though.

Fulham are justifiably excited about our visit on Saturday. We must seem like lambs to the slaughter to every team we play away from home at the moment; especially to Fulham who have an excellent home record this season. I went to our 4-1 win over them back in August; this now seems like a long, long time ago, almost like last season. I'd say a win on Saturday is imperative if we want to take anything positive from this season. I'd suggest giving Theo a run about at some point. Given the way we're playing at the moment I really don't see what harm it could do.

As for the Internationals (particularly those featuring our boys)....

England struggled against a poor Uruguyan side, who took the lead through an incredible volley in the first half. There are still highlights on the BBC website if you haven't seen it. After having no chance with the goal, Robinson seemed determined to make an impact in the game, and did so by accidently scything down Wayne Bridge in the area. Poor old Wayne sustained ankle ligament damage, so he could be out for a while. Carragher came on and did ok at left back, but i should imagine that, even more so, we're all praying Ash gets fit soon, if Bridge now looks like a doubt for the world cup as well.

I didn't see much of the game, but Joe Cole was meant to be outstanding throughout. Could this have been due to the presence of a defensive midfielder - Carrick - and not Lampard, at his side? I think playing Cole-Gerrard-Lampard-Beckham actually constrains them all by not having a more defensively minded midfielder playing. Still, this will be, bar injury, the midfield Sven plays in the world cup though, so I don't know why its even being debated in the press. Sven is always about a year behind everyone else on the uptake of what changes should be made in the side. I wish we'd had Hiddink for the last year.

Although credit to Sven for giving Peter Crouch a chance, who continues to defy belief. Personally, I laughed when i saw Liverpool had paid £7m for him in the summer. But, considering we've now done exactly the same - Adebayor - maybe we should have gone after Crouchy as well? As soon as he comes on, his sheer presence unnerves defences. He can score, he's good with his feet, and his link up play is great. I think he's gone from a fringe player to one that's 'on the plane to Germany'. I wish Sven had played him and Rooney together though: it would have been really interesting to see how they combined. I have a feeling Rooney would much prefer to play with Crouch than Owen, much like he prefers to play with Saha than Van Nistelrooy. Few strikers of Rooney's calibre like playing with pouchers. I should imagine Owen would also love someone like Crouch to play with.

That England battled through from behind is very encouraging. I wish Arsenal could show the fight that England have shown recently. However, this should have been a game England won more comfortably, and if they regularly have last minute victories in the world cup Valium sales in the UK will probably exceed those of lager.

Wales did well to get a draw against Paraguay, who are a considerably better team than Uruguay. I would be amazed if Arsene, and other Premiership bosses, aren't scouting Lewin Nyatanga, who looks like a real prospect. Scotland crashed to a depressing 3-1 defeat to Switzerland in which big Phil played most of the match, and Djourou came on at h-t.

France were beaten 2-1 at home by Solvakia with ex-gooner Slyvain Wiltord scoring. Despite this TH reckons France are still 'on the up'.Hmm. So that's why you had to call several players out of retirement to earn qualification to the world cup... Their new away kit looks naff as well.

Spain beat the Ivory Coast 2-1 in a match which little cesc and Jose both played. Indeed Jose not just played, but scored. Um, do you think you could possibly find your way to doing this for Arsenal as well? If it's not too much trouble.

Finally Germany were hammered 4-1 by the Azzuri. Poor Jens. That could do for his starting place which he richly deserves.

Finally, can someone explain to me why its meant to be the second day of spring, and yet it has been snowing for the last two days? This country.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Firstly: happy St. Davids day.

Theo scored for England under 19s last night. It was a penalty which he initially missed, but a re-take was ordered from which he slotted home. With our current form, surely it can't be long before he's given a start?

Sol's injury has lengthened and he'll be out for another month at least; The entire case against RVP has been dropped; Jens is convinced he's going to get a year long extension to his current deal.

I am beginning to wonder whether we'll ever see Sol in an Arsenal shirt again. He might see this world cup as the swansong for his entire career, not just his England one. The way he's been playing for Arsenal this season, I find it amazing he can still, basically, expect to be selected by Sven. If he could go more than two games without picking up an injury, I'd take Woodgate ahead of Sol. I know he's shy, but it would be nice to hear Sol being a bit more vocal about his desire to play for Arsenal again. Ash has exactly the right attitude in this, admittedly propaganda-ish, article from the official website. Get well soon both of you!

We're not the only ones suffering from Ash's current injury problems. England face Uruguay tonight with Wayne Bridge at left back. Bridge is an OK player, and will probably do an adequate job; of course, he will be remembered by most gooners as the player who knocked us out of the CL in the year we should have won it. I should imagine most England fans will want a fit Ashley Cole back for the world cup though, as he is clearly a better player than Bridge. Carrick and Bent are also making their debuts. Despite being a Spud, I do have a reluctant admiration for Carrick and I think he's England quality. Wish Arsene had signed him, and Robinson, when he had the chance. Bent has done really well this year at Charlton, but I don't think we should expect too much from him. I'd be surprised if he's used as anything more than an emergency option in the world cup, and with Owen fit I can't see him breaking into the Owen-Rooney-Crouch-Defoe combination we'll be taking. Still, can't hurt to give him a go, and given the topsy-turvy season Defoe's had, there is a chance that Sven might gamble and take Bent instead. Although it took him about three years to drop Heskey, so i'm not overly hopeful.

Oh, and we're being linked with a teenage French midfield player. Surprisingly. He could be good but i haven't heard of him before. It would be nice if we bought an established player in the summer, sigh. Preferably one who could score/tackle or, shock horror, both!