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Ramsey And Song Hit The Right Notes In Arsenal Cruise

Portsmouth 1 – 4 Arsenal

0 – 1 Eduardo (28)
0 – 3 Nasri (42)
0 – 3 Ramsey (68)
1 – 3 Belhadj (73)
1 – 4 Song (81)

2009 finished in the same manner as 2008 with a comfortable victory over Portsmouth, this time the scoreline reflecting Arsenal’s dominance. The hosts had received a winding-up order from HM Revenue and Customs, informing the Premier League of their financial plight beforehand. Little wonder that Richard Scudamore was supportive for on this showing, Portsmouth will cease to be members of the top flight at the season’s end.

Arsenal aspire to greater things. Temporarily elevated to second place ahead of the final whistle at Old Trafford, a permanent opportunity to that placing presents itself next week when Bolton visit The Emirates. By then, the calls for a striker will probably have reached a crescendo despite the squad passing the half century of goals in the Premier League last night.

The sixth game without defeat since Chelsea, the third by a three goal margin. Previous failings of being unable to put ‘smaller’ sides to the sword have been corrected thus far, a run that needs to continue in 2010 for silverware to be nestling on the sideboard in May.

Arsene observed afterwards that his team should be taken seriously as title contenders, mental strength the key to success:

I’m proud of the team because the belief is there and we played like a real team. It was a big game for us tonight. We knew, to keep chasing, it was important to win here.

This win was not the only boost with Cesc a borderline returnee for the home fixture against Everton a week on Sunday, possibly the following week against Bolton, Theo Walcott likewise. It is a similar schedule for Nicklas Bendtner whilst Tomas Rosicky appears to have come through his 20 minute workout unscathed. A shard of sunshine starting to emerge through the injury gloom.

Performance wise, there is little to be critical of last night and much to celebrate. Aside from the goal, Gallas and Vermaelen were excellent, afforded much protection by Diaby, Ramsey and Song. Key to this win though was the team defending as a unit; Portsmouth were unable to replicate the constant pressurising of the Arsenal midfield and attack when the opposition had the ball. Slack defending will be punished when facing the top teams and last night it was received its due reward.

Portsmouth’s opportunities were few and far between. In the opening quarter of an hour, Piquionne forced a save from Almunia, the Spaniard turning the shot aside. Pressure mounted on the home defence through set plays with a number of half chances being shunned. Diaby had a shot saved by Begovic before the stalemate was broken, a fortuitous intervention by Kaboul sent Eduardo’s freekick flying into the corner.

Arsenal controlled the game and the question became not if a win could be achieved but by what margin? Part of the answer arrived three minutes before half-time. Eduardo was allowed time and space, passed calmly to Ramsey whose equally composed pass was despatched into net by Samir Nasri, a deserved reward for his recent performances.

The second half was pretty much as you were. Arsenal controlled, Portsmouth huffed and puffed but rarely looked by blowing the visitors defence in. The third came, a testament to the progress Aaron Ramsey is making. He was outstanding last night and in my view, Man of the Match. He collected the ball midway in the Portsmouth half, moved in field past lax challenges before coming back onto his left foot and burying the shot from 20 yards.

A brief ray of sunshine shone through for the hosts with fifteen minutes to go. A break down the right found Gallas and Vermaelen drawn too close to the goal, ball watching rather than paying attention to the forwards as Belhadj dropped back to fire home via the Belgian’s outstretched leg. A moment of rare slackness that will no doubt be seized upon by those who believe that this team will drop away.

The rout was completed as once more Arsenal were given too much time and space in possession. Song tried to dribble his way through the home defence thwarted as Diaby had been moments earlier. The ball fell kindly to Nasri who with time and space, crossed exactly where Song demanded the ball be put, the Cameroon international leaving the ball in the net with an excellent header, a perfect parting gift.

The win was crucial, dismissing for a while the claims that Arsenal do not have the firepower to win the title. A new striker would allow Arshavin to drop back into his natural position but the Russian is working hard for the team despite not getting his due reward in front of goal as often as his play deserves. Arsene refused to rule out new faces after the match but crucially stressed that he will not panic, looking at all of the options he already has before deciding on whom to spend his money.

A gap is opening to fourth place and below, slowly putting to bed the lie propagated at the start of the season that Arsenal were vulnerable to the new money, the new kids on the block. The gap to the top is closing, putting to bed the lie propagated one month ago that Chelsea were champions, leading a procession to their crown. Time to ensure that doubters are silenced.

Finally, congratulations to Vic Akers on receiving the OBE, richly deserved for his efforts for the Arsenal Ladies and women’s football in general.

’til Tomorrow.

Portsmouth Preview: Keep The Pressure On

The last league fixture of 2009 for Arsenal arrives in the shape of a visit to Fratton Park. Portsmouth currently prop up the Premier League and if the first half of the season is anything to go by, the mismanagement of the club will see them start next season in the Championship.

As is always the case, injury news dominates pre-match. The luscious passing of Fabregas and Denilson will be missing this evening as Arsene will be seeking to utilise his squad in the midst of a run of two games per week. Replacing the pair will no doubt be one reason for Wenger to content with Alex Song remaining until the finish of the FA Cup tie at Upton Park this weekend; Abou Diaby’s rich vein of form another.

Responsibility is resting on his shoulders as one of the more experienced, fit midfielders in the squad. It is not often that we have been able to use that phrase during his time at the club but his form this season, on a consistent basis, shows that Wenger’s perserverance with him has not been misplaced. Alex Song is in the same boat and we must hope that he does not suffer adversely following his international exertions, in a similar fashion to the loss of form and injury which afflicted Kolo Toure two seasons ago.

Brighter news is that Tomas Rosicky is going to be fit and raring to go either tonight or on Sunday. If there is any doubt, it should be the latter when he returns to the fold given the previous false starts we have had with players returning too quickly after absences. Nicklas Bendtner, meanwhile, will continue to occupy the minds of the medical staff for the best part of January, his hernia cleared but a groin problem grounding him.

Portsmouth have enjoyed a mini-reversal in their form on the pitch, not being defeated at home since Manchester United trounced them 4-1 at Fratton Park in November. Indeed it is the only time they have not emerged with at least a point since Tottenham walked away with all three in October. There is a theme here; top four sides should win this fixture.

Arsenal tend to enjoy their visits to this part of the south coast, not tasting defeat since March 1958 in 5-4 defeat. Of the eight matches since then, 5 have been drawn with Arsenal winning the others. At this time of the year, Arsenal have never lost either, winning twice and drawing three. Last season saw a much changed Arsenal trounce the hosts 3-0, a scoreline which was not at all flattering. A repeat of that performance would go down very nicely in these parts.

With the injuries, I would expect Arsene to rotate one or two with Sunday in mind. Defensively, no change is necessary but with Eboue going post match, I wonder if Wenger will give Sagna one more rest before a busy January kicks in. In midfield I hope Ramsey is given the time to shine, him being the most logical replacement, adding guile to the directness of Diaby. Up front though, I would be inclined to ring the changes, Walcott coming in on the right and Vela on the left to support Arshavin. This would allow Eduardo to play centrally in upcoming FA Cup tie. Nasri likewise could do with a rest, having played pretty much full-on since his return from injury. Absentees tonight are a chilling reminder of what can wrong with overplaying.

Those changes would leave the line-up:

Almunia; Eboue, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Ramsey, Song, Diaby; Walcott, Arshavin, Vela

Whichever side Arsene fields, they should be good enough to win this match. They have to be in order that the pressure placed on the top two can be maintained. Next week, the game in hand disappears so the squad need to be in a position to take full advantage of that.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.

Portsmouth All At Sea As Arsenal Cruise

Arsenal 4 – 1 Portsmouth

1 – 0 Diaby (18)
2 – 0 Diaby (21)
2 – 1 Kaboul (37)
3 – 1 Gallas (53)
4 – 1 Ramsey (68)

The confidence Arsene has in his squad is gradually being repaid. An unblemished start to the season, including probable progress to the Champions League, has a small grey to black cloud hanging over its’ head in the shape of a possible hamstring injury to his captain but other than that, Wenger will be extremely satisfied.

A quickfire brace from Abou Diaby has rightly been given prominence but even chopping and changing his back four has not disturbed the flow of goals. Previous seasons have seen complaints about a lack of goals from midfield; not so in this campaign. Only one of the twelve goals scored in the last week have come from the boot or head of a recognised striker with van Persie, Bendtner and Arshavin yet to break their ducks.

Not that this bothers their manager unduly. Wenger observed in his post match interview:

It tells me that we have a game where we attack from everywhere. Robin van Persie plays central because he can create space, he has a very quick brain and a very sure technique, that means he can give the ball. He gave the ball today to Ramsey. Our strikers at the moment are providers.

Eduardo did provide a goal for Diaby as well. For me, in a good team everybody can score and a good striker scores and provides. At the moment they provide more than they score but I know that Eduardo and Robin van Persie will score so I am very happy that at the moment they don’t score and we still score goals.

It is something that is not of immediate concern but that may change if the situation remains the same in October. Well, actually, no it won’t because if Arsenal are still undefeated and averaging five goals a game, I would expect Wenger and Pat Rice to don their boots to give the rest of the division a chance.

The first real test comes this Saturday when the team visits Old Trafford to face a Manchester United side which is apparently scaring the living bejesus out of all other Premier League teams having lost at Burnley and scored five at Wigan. Portsmouth were not expected to provide much stubborn resistance and set about proving everyone right.

Diaby broke the deadlock in the eighteenth minute, gobbling up the chance created by a blistering turn of pace from Eduardo on the right. Coming back into a side brimming with confidence will have helped the Croat no end but his natural ability and footballing brain shone through. Leaving his defender for dead, he approached the bye-line to pull the ball back for Diaby’s chargrilled finish.

Minutes later, Portsmouth succumbed to a devastating counter-attack. The ball was cleared from a Portsmouth corner to Arshavin who released Fabregas’ vision. The Spaniard weighted his pass over the top of the visitors defence for Eboue to sprint onto, a cool head led to a square pass to Diaby, executing the required finish. The Ivorian’s run rolled back two seasons when as a marauding right back he left everyone wondering, “Lauren? Who?”. More please, sir.

A lull then ensued. Portsmouth responded. Given lattitude to do so, they created some chances, mostly wasted through lax finishing but requiring some excellent covering by Eboue to intercept in the area. Their goal will no doubt bring about a slew of complaints about a lack of height in the defence. The truth is Kaboul followed the ball rather than the whistle and outjumped and outmanouvered Almunia. A half-time lead halved.

The second half began with controvesy. In real time it was not hard to see why Gallas appeared lucky to stay on the pitch. We thought so at the time but it was only seeing the incident in slow motion and from a different angle that the referee was proved correct and Utaka clipped his own heels. A very good decision especially since shortly afterwards Gallas proved he had a nose for goal, bundling Vermaelen’s effort over the line. Lucky? Undoubtedly but given the two centre backs are a potent threat at corners, entirely deserved.

Aaron Ramsey finished off the scoring with an excellent finish following good work from van Persie, giving the scoreline a more accurate reflection. Whilst it was a satisfying result and in the circumstances, a good performance which conserved energy for the coming week, more reassuring for Wenger will have been the performances of those rotated into the squad. Gibbs and Eboue kept the flanks well patrolled but centrally, Diaby and in the second half, Ramsey both played well, defending diligently and attacking with measured verve. Merida gave an encouraging cameo for just short of twenty minutes and if Eduardo has come through unscathed, strong steps will have been taken towards a complete rehabilitation.

Wenger normally avoids comparisons but has played up the Vieira / Diaby link. One game does not change opinions but we have long known that he was capable of the performance he put in yesterday. Consistency is the key but to do that Diaby needs to stay fit and be given a run in the side to do so. Omitting anyone who has played at Everton and Celtic is harsh since neither of Song or Denilson has warranted making way for the Frenchman. I suspect at Old Trafford, providing Cesc is fit, it may be the latter who does. That is a week and another fixture away, a long time in football.

As it is, sitting atop the Premier League after two games with a goal difference of 8, is a very pleasing start to the season. More please Gentlemen. ’til Tomorrow.

Wenger’s Adds Sour Feeling Over Walcott & Pompey Preview

Coming to a TV screen near you in the near future will be “Arsene Wenger’s Masterchef“. How long it will take him to turn into a rabid, swearing, gibbering wreck is to be decided by a series of 37 weekend performances, arrangements are in place for another 30 midweek slots, culminating in Wengerpalooza at the end of May next year. Batting away questions about any signings, Arsene declared himself happy with the ‘ingredients‘ of his squad without denying that he might need to pop down to the transfer supermarket to replenish his larder.

He will not be buying any Hangeland‘s for in his eyes shopping in Harrods does not provide any better value than nipping over to Bordeaux and searching the vineyards for any grapes of the Chamakh variety. He has been put off this by the constant whining that such trips tend to bring about. In fact, despite finding a broken stick of Vela and Nasri, a Walcott that is showing signs that he has ripened too quickly in the summer and a Rosicky that has been battered and bruised, Arsene is not intending to dip into the shelves stocking attacking options, feeling he can spice it up from within.

Wenger saved his ire for the situation with his Walcott. Having harvested him from his South Coast environment, the Frenchman has found that his prize has showed a troublesome tendency for growing pains, exacerbated by the constant attention of an Italian chef looking for ingredients to make his national dish the envy of the world. The problem, according to Wenger, is not so much Capello but his kitchen-hand, Stuart Pearce, trainee chef and likely to make the biggest pigs ear of the lot.

Picking Walcott for two World Cup qualifiers and the Under 21 championships was, in hindsight, folly. Walcott looked tired for the Juniors in their first game, relegated to the bench for the subsequent outing. He did not live up to his billing but the rationale for taking him to Sweden is totally understandable – he qualifies through age and is one of the best of his generation. With that in mind, Capello should not have picked him for the two senior fixtures. He did and now the benefits of that are being reaped.

It highlights the antagonistic relationship between club and country, a situation exacerbated by the players. According to Wenger, Walcott did not advise him of his injury, it was the England medical staff. The inference is that the player was advised that the medics would take care of the situation. They did by denying him the chance to be treated by his club, dragging him off to Holland for a meaningless friendly, possibly extending his absence in the process. Little wonder that international friendlies are viewed with contempt by Premier League fans generally.

The upshot of it all is that Walcott is now expected to be out until 12th September, missing games for club and country at a busy time of the season. Frustrated by this, Wenger launched some offensive charm:

I know how it works. The player comes back later than everybody else, he doesn’t have decent preparation, you are under pressure to rush him back, you play him earlier than you should, he gets an injury and you see him again in October

If that is the situation with Walcott, then Wenger must accept his share of the blame. Perhaps the injuries to Nasri and Rosicky were playing on his mind but he knew how he wanted the team to line-up, he knew Walcott was coming back later so why rush him? The squad is well-stocked up front and in midfield so if Walcott was not ready, why play him in Valencia? It is bemusing, as is the contradictory nature of the comments from the manager a couple of days ago that Walcott could be available for the trip to United.

This afternoon’s fixture against Portsmouth is likewise affected. There is not much scope for squad rotation with the injuries, leaving the spine of the team that has started so well intact. Either of the full backs might be rested, with Gibbs or Eboue to come in. Likewise, Diaby could slot in for Song or Denilson. With the week ahead, any major tinkering is likely to take place this afternoon. The Champions League tie is not yet over but could conceivably be so by the time the interval comes on Wednesday after which Bendtner, Cesc and Arshavin might make way.

I do not see a place for Eduardo today other than on the bench. He is still recovering from his lengthy lay-off and with Wenger insisting that his focus in on the defensive third in any transfer dealings, rushing Eduardo back would be folly. To that end, I suspect the line-up today will be:

Almunia, Eboue, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas, Diaby, Bendtner, van Persie, Arshavin

There will no doubt be some early substitutions but my feeling is that Wenger will want a two-goal cushion before worrying about how tired players will be for Wednesday. Portsmouth might have been narrowly beaten in both their games – unlucky might be a more apt description for their midweek defeat – but this type of game where the focus needs to be evident from the beginning. Two good wins will be undermined by a failure to emerge victorious this afternoon. There is no evidence to suggest any alternative outcome but football is played on grass over 90 minutes (plus a tad more) not on paper.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.

Stella Performance From Carling XI Brushes Pompey Aside

Portsmouth 0 – 3 Arsenal

0 – 1 Bendtner (13)
0 – 2 Bendtner (41 pen)
0 – 3 Vela (56)

Pamarot sent off (78)

Arsene may well have prioritised Tuesday’s Champions League semi final but he left Fratton Park with the media well in tune with the mantra of potential. Ringing eight changes from the midweek defeat at Old Trafford, Wenger was rewarded with an accomplished performance from the squad that secured participation in the Champions League Qualifiers at least.

A brace from Nicklas Bendtner and a deserved second half strike from Carlos Vela sank the hosts, who despite some decent opportunities only troubled Lukasz Fabianski a handful of times. The Pole, standing in for England’s new Number One, produced one excellent second half save, parrying a point-blank effort. That it followed from a corner where Fabianski flapped and missed the ball is a reminder of the step up he has still to take. That he walked away from the match with a clean sheet is evidence that he is making great strides in that direction. First team action on a regular basis may yet be out of his grasp for next season but I suspect that in 2010/11, he will be challenging Almunia very strongly indeed.

Captain for the day, Andrei Arshavin proved that responsibility need not be given to the exclusion of talent. He had an outstanding game, picking passes with unerring accuracy and deputising at left back whilst Eboue received treatment. The second minute saw the Russian serve notice of what was to come, freeing Walcott on the right with a magnificent pass. The final product never arrived from the youngster but that merely served as a warning to the hosts.

Ten minutes later, an afternoon that brought its just rewards began for Bendtner. Arshavin’s corner was cleared comfortably by the defence but when the ball returned, Bendtner attacked the flight of the ball, met it with a powerful header straight at James. The Portsmouth goalkeeper proved that the nickname ‘Calamity’ is not easily lost by fumbling the ball over the line. Derision from managers aside, if James really is the best goalkeeper that England has to offer, selecting Almunia is not such a bad idea for the national team.

The lead established, Arsenal controlled the game. Portsmouth had chances but they were either snatched at, over the bar or perhaps most criminally from their point of view, Crouch played himself into a good position with a neat exchange of passes but skewed the ball wide as Fabianski advanced to cut down the angle. It was the best that the home side could muster as the Arsenal midfield strangled the life out of the game, imposing their passing and movement on the game.

Vela had a cast-iron penalty turned down when more of his shirt that was attached to his body ended up in the hands of a defender as the Mexican was hauled to the ground. Amends were made to a degree by the officials when they awarded a penalty incorrectly as it happens, Davis’ tackle seemed good on the TV highlights. However, the referee and his assistants have but an instant to make decisions, the folly of making a tackle that can be misinterpreted highlighted most acutely. Bendtner dispatched the spot-kick with unerring accuracy, the interval beckoned with a safe two-goal cushion.

Portsmouth started in a more attacking vein in the second half yet could have found themselves trailing to a deficit double that at half-time. Eboue dribbled his way through the Portsmouth defence in a manner that a taxi driver picks his way through London’s streets – including taking the same detour twice – before being crowded out. Vela and Arshavin found a similar roadblock before the Russian’s shot fell to Vela, his drive out of reach of James and inside the far post to get his just reward for a strong performance.

It was time for the ‘kids’ to come on, Merida and Randall showing for the teenagers whilst Bischoff replaced Walcott, more effective than on Wednesday yet not at his best. Over the ninety minutes, it was Nicklas Bendtner who proved the star man for the day. His movement was good, troubling the Portsmouth defence, dropping out of the centre to either flank well. Two goals was the least that he deserved for his efforts, a hat-trick would perhaps have been more fitting.

Overall, the team played well. Denilson and Ramsey went about their midfield work quietly and with a minimum of fuss whilst Alex Song showed his importance to the squad, partnering the fit-again Djourou in the centre of defence. Special credit to Eboue for slotting comfortably in at left back. It shows the paucity of Portsmouth’s performance that they did not ‘target’ a man whose left foot is only for standing on and attack more frequently down their right hand side.

A mixed bag in the weekend’s media for Arsenal. Stan Kroenke’s purchase of more shares in the club has been interpreted as a stepping stone to a full-blown takeover.

The Takeover Panel have confirmed that whilst no impropriety has taken place in the sale of the shares, the body is scrutinising a deal that has apparently raised the suggestion that he is receiving preferential treatment in purchasing shares. Of course he is. Kroenke is a Board member and thus acceptable as a buyer. Far be it for me to cast aspersions but others outside of the Board are there for a reason: the Board do not deem them at this moment to be suitable.

The implications for the major shareholders at the club given that it takes the American close to the threshold where a bid will be required. The Carr family would no doubt have informed Lady Nina of their intention to sell the shares to Kroenke and it will be interesting to see if there is any moves by others to purchase her holdings, in either entirety or part.

One summer story has been nipped in the bud with Arsene apparently following his ‘nein’ to Bayern – little surprise in Rummenigge’s juvenile and capricious outburst – with a firm rebuttal to Real Madrid. According to reports, the Board want Wenger to sign a new contract this summer, possibly as much to secure key personnel’s future as that of the manager. The now hardy perennial transfer speculation over Emmanuel Adebayor’s future is starting, AC Milan apparently set to offer £30m this summer for the Togolese striker. Wenger has admitted the detrimental impact of the fiasco last summer and I wonder if there were to be a repeat this time around, would he have the same inclination to keep Adebayor, perhaps preferring a swift exit to a prolonged bout of media interference? We shall see.

An exciting couple of days ahead so I’m off to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend or what remains of it anyway. ‘til Tomorrow.

Play Up Arsenal – Portsmouth Preview

Fratton Park beckons this afternoon with Arsene chasing third place in the Premier League, a race that may yet be won but requiring Chelsea to drop points against the unlikeliest of opposition in the remaining games. Oh, and for Arsenal to win all of theirs, entirely possible given that twenty games have passed since the last defeat in the Premier League. A delightful scenario that I would like to see is for United to go into the last game of the season at Hull needing a win to have any chance of the title. A win that would send Phil Brown into the cesspit of oblivion that is relegation. I digress.

This afternoon is going to be a ‘shuffle your pack‘ match with injuries and the second leg against Manchester United looming, a chance for Arsene to give some playing time to the younger members of the squad. At the time of writing, Arsene has not announced who is in or out. It would be no surprise if Bendtner and Arshavin start as the strike partnership.

If Wenger decides to prioritise the Champions League ahead of this fixture, the midfield will see the biggest number of changes. Eboue is the natural replacement for Walcott. Personally, I would like to see Ramsey and Vela get some first team action with Eboue dropping into right back to cover for Sagna. The defence needs a certain amount of cotton wool wrapping around it.

Central midfield would see Denilson and Diaby replacing Fabregas and Nasri. Diaby needs matches to regain his sharpness ahead of a potential place on Tuesday. Denilson’s absence, to the chagrin of some, was sorely missed at Old Trafford. Rather like Gilberto, he is a player who will take time to win people over but it is becoming apparent that when he is not in the side, particularly away from home, his presence is missed.

Mocked for taking the easy pass sideways, those who criticise miss the point. The short passes retain possession, setting free those with more creative abilities to strut their funky stuff, something that players such as Cesc and Nasri appreciate.

With Silvestre missing, much depends on the fitness of Johan Djourou. If he too cannot make the match, Alex Song will be the obvious choice to slot in alongside Kolo Toure. Both are decent in the air, compensating for Toure in this department, something that will be needed against Peter Crouch’s height advantage.

Portsmouth should not be taken lightly and I am not suggesting that they will be. However, with the way Arsenal’s luck is running, key players should not be risked, especially since there are other chances to seal a Champions League spot for next season. With the South Coast team virtually safe from relegation, this has the hallmarks of a comfortable draw for both sides, the hosts and visitors alike happy to take a point and an injury-free afternoon.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.

Mischief Galore and Is Anyone Fit?

The Premier League is the focus of attention now with the result at Old Trafford history until Tuesday. The right noises have been coming from the players, notably Fabregas and Toure, rightly so given their positions as Captain and Vice-Captain. The time for proving that these words have weight and substance will come, right now there are more important matters to focus on.

The curse of the injury has struck once more. Whilst a few were happy that Rio Ferdinand appeared to have been on the receiving end, the United defender delivered a swift knee to Eduardo’s groin and the Croat is now missing for Saturday’s trip to Fratton Park. Following on from his lengthy spell on the sidelines, Eduardo is approaching Rosicky-esque proportions in terms of his stop-start recovery.

If you are going to that game, it might be worth taking your boots with you as the squad is looking a bit threadbare with RvP and Gael Clichy definitely out for Saturday with Tuesday apparently pushing the Dutchman to the limit, the Frenchman is starting to look as if he may not play again this season although I suspect that reaching the Champions League final may prove to be quite a motivator in recovery. Mikael Silvestre is also going to be missing, presumably his place being taken by Johan Djourou or Alex Song.

Arsene has had to defend himself against some scurrilous words in the media in the past but usually these are the vituperative thoughts of hacks. For Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to join that illustrious list of lowlifes is no surprise. A key mover in the integration of the G14 into the UEFA family, he is another Platini in the making, equally classless and hypocritical. Given the language used, a charge of bringing the game into disrepute would be least he should expect. It is a charge that is unlikely to be brought by either the DFB or UEFA.

One curiousity that he overlooks is that the current Bayern Youth Team has four Italian-(ahem)German’s in it. Previous luminaries of the youth set-up include well-known German internationals Owen Hargreaves and Jose Pablo Guerrero. Arsene’s comment about Roque Santa Cruz is unfortunately wide of the mark, the Paraguyan already a first team player at his previous club before joining the Germans. Mind you, Rummenigge was so far off the mark, why should any accuracy be worried about when responding to crass comments.

Whilst it is easy to lay the charge of hypocrisy at FC Bayern’s door, it is hard to defend themselves since as part of their training complex, thirteen rooms specifically built for overseas youngsters to stay in. Still, it will be interesting when he analyses the Ajax Scouting Network….

More mischief making this week from the media though with Dennis Lachter being forced to deny the comments attributed to him regarding Andrei Arshavin:

All this stuff is made up

OK by me then and I would suggest those wound up by it, ignore anything ‘attributed’ to any agent linked to Arsenal players. Unless of course they are confirming the signing of new contracts.

’til Tomorrow.

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