News From The Grove

Cesc Out For Four Months, No Bid For Toure

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on December 25, 2008

ars-v-liv1The situation is going from bad to worse for Arsenal. Eight points behind the leaders, without Eduardo, Rosicky and depth in the squad, the last thing we wanted was another injury. But skipper Cesc Fabregas  went for a 50-50 ball against Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso and injured his knee in the process. What was initially thought to be a slight knock that would keep him out for three weeks has turned out to be a serious enough injury to keep him out for four months.  Following consultations with his doctor, Fabregas had this to say:

“After consulting with the best doctor possible, we’ve decided not to operate. If it would have been necessary it would have been the first thing I would have done, but the doctor recommended to me not to do it because I’m young and the meniscus is not damaged. Although we cannot be certain because the injury only happened a few days ago, but I will be out for more or less four months. My intention is to return as soon as possible to help my team-mates. I will endeavour to return as soon as possible to do what I like most, to play football.”

The game where he sustained the injury was a ‘must-not-lose’ game for us, where dropping three points would have meant trailing by eleven points. It was a nervy start for us and Liverpool dominated possession quite a bit in the first half. However, in the 24th minute, Samir Nasri floated one in the box, which Robin van Persie controlled on his chest, turned his marker and thumped the ball with his ‘chocolate’ leg, all in one motion. Liverpool were pegged back and were limited to playing the long ball to the lone striker ahead. In the 42nd minute, another defensive clearance caught our defenders and Robbie Keane sprinted forward to finish the chance. The referee blew the whistle with the scored tied at 1-1. With Cesc unavailable for rest of the play, Wenger put Diaby in the central role. However, the formation was soon changed as Liverpool increased pressure. Denilson partnered Song in the middle, while Samir Nasri moved to the right flank and Diaby filled in at the left.  Emmanuel Adebayor had been shown the yellow card by Howard Webb in the first half for a foul on Emiliano Insua seven minutes before the break. And in the in the 62nd minute, Adebayor was sent off for a second yellow card after he was adjudged to have fould Arbeloa. Howard Webb’s decision was a joke, because all Adebayor was doing was protecting the ball. The Liverpool player made the most out of the situation and helped Adebayor get the red card.  Howard Webb’s decision was a joke because Lucas Leiva kicked at least 6 times before Webb reluctantly produced a yellow card.  emmanuel-adebayor-arsenal-liverpool-premier-l_1663705

Adebayor’s departure brought the best out of the players and I haven’t seen such display of grit and determination from the players for a long long time. Diaby, Denilson, Song, RvP, Nasri..every single player chased down the ball, held possession and kept up the pressure on Liverpool. Although it ended 1-1, we took more satisfaction from the result.

Following Cesc’s long layoff, Wenger has said that the possibility of dipping in the transfer marke has increased. However, he hinted that it may not be Arshavin he is going after. He said:

“Yes [I am more likely to buy], but we also have internal solutions so we are not desperate because of that,” said Wenger. “Now we have a big game in front of us and before January anyway I believe it is more important to focus on our games.  At the moment no one is going out and no one is coming in. That gives you a perfect answer! And I don’t feel any need to speak about that [the Arshavin speculation] because at the moment that is not a realistic solution.”

There are some reports that suggest that Wenger would bid for Xabi Alonso. However,  he is cup tied for Champions League, therefore it is unlikely that he would go for the Spaniard.  Meanwhile, Wenger has denied reports of receiving bids for Kolo Toure and Nicklas Bendtner. It was reported that Manchester City came for Kolo Toure and Spartak Moscow wanted Bendtner. However, Wenger has dismissed the reports and said:

“We go into a period where many people will be creative about what will be happening,” he added. “I think you have to be realistic as well. We have a short squad. You want everyone to focus on the Club and on helping us do as well as we can.”

Tomorrow we play Villa in Villa Park. A must win game for us to stay in the hunt. Without Cesc, Adebayor and Bendtner, it would be very tough. But not impossible. Here’s to 3 points!!

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Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on December 20, 2008

ars-v-liv1With an unexpected but thoroughly deserved draw against Middlesbrough, we are now five points behind Manchester United, seven points behind Chelsea and eight points behind league leaders Liverpool. And it is Liverpool we play tomorrow in a game that could either keep us in the hunt this season or end our season tomorrow. With five losses already and that too against such teams as Fulham, Stoke and Hull, the situation we find ourselves in is totally our fault. At times we struggled to find our groove (against Manchester City and Villa) and at times we were defensively very poor (against Hull City and Stoke) and at times we were over confident (against Spurs).  Although we have beaten both United and Chelsea this season, Liverpool will not be an easy game. And if that wasn’t worrying enough, we have these developments at the boardroom level that is bound to create some doubts and uncertanities on the players’ mind. Arsene Wenger, however, disagrees. He insisted that the boardroom won’t have any effects on the players’ performance tomorrow, as the players would be discussing ways of trapping Liverpool and gaining on the leaders.  He said:

What is happening there has no impact on me,” said the manager. “I do not know really what is behind that. It is a bit like what is happening inside the dressing room – you talk as little as you can about it.

“What is important in a football club is the directors do not speak about footballing technique and that I do not speak about shares.  I do not think [the changes will have an impact on the Club]. I know Nina Bracewell-Smith and she did a good job when she was on the Board. But I do not really know [why she left].”

Now, you don’t have to believe everything Wenger says. And him saying that he is not aware of the reasons behind Lady Nina’s departure is certainly not true. But you can see what the man is trying to do here. By saying that the players have not discussed the matter, he is relaying a message across that more than anything else, the team is focussed on the game tomorrow.

Wenger further said that the team knows that it is eight points behind, but it has not lost hoped and it could even surprise those who have written them off.

“Some people say it is a three-horse race but let them talk all they want. Let us show they are wrong. Last weekend when we made the draw against Middlesbrough, it was a disaster. But Chelsea drew later and so did Liverpool – and they were at home.  Manchester United played a draw at Tottenham, so overall that is why our result is not as bad as you would expect it to be. We were the first to play, and were away from home as well, and were maybe the ones who deserved more than any others to win their game.”

What he said is true. When we dropped 2 points against Middlesbrough, the other three teams did the same, so it wasn’t a very bad result for us. However, what are the chances of that happening again, when all three of our main rivals drop points on the same week? Whatever one says, it was a golden opportunity for us to close the gap with our rivals.

“We are highly motivated to beat another of the so-called top four and I am convinced we have the quality to do it,” Wenger says.

With Samir Nasri back in the side for tomorrow’s game, Arsenal do look to have the ability to do it. Whatever the result, it will be one cracking game for sure.

Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith Explains Her Exit

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on December 20, 2008

lady-ninaFollowing the last report about changes in the Arsenal board brought about by the exit of Richard Carr and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, rumours were circulating that the exit was not amicable and Lady Nina was unceremoniously dumped.  Now, Lady Nina has come out and gave the press her side of the story. According to her, the Arsenal board didn’t give her the respect she deserved, consdering the 70 years of family ties with the club.  She said:

“I’m in total shock and very upset about the appalling way I have been treated. The board have no manners whatsoever and my views were ignored on many occassions. I can’t understand why I have been removed in such a ruthless fashion. I have had no proper explanation as to why they wanted me out so much. It is very difficult to accept especially after what my family has done for Arsenal for so many years.”

It is now believed that she would go ahead and cash in her 15.9% stake in the club, although she said:

“I’ve never had a thought of selling my Arsenal shares and I still don’t.”

Although it is made out to be that she had way too much ego and her increasing frustration led the board to ask her to leave, there is also a section that is asking question of the current remaining members of the board, especially Chairman Peter Hill-Wood and Danny Fiszman.

David Dein, who was instrumental in getting some brilliant deals for Arsenal in terms of signing players and bringing in Arsene Wenger, was thrown out by this board. Dein promptly went ahead and sold his shares to Alisher Usmanov. This is the same board that critised Stan Kroenke, before allowing him to be a part of them. And this is the same board that has now sidelined Lady Nina and chances are high that she might sell her shares to Usmanov.

Amidst all the uncertainities, Danny Fiszman, who currently lives as a tax exile in Switzerland, has declared that Arsene Wenger would be provided with a big enough transfer kitty to battle other clubs in the January window.

Image courtesy : Telegraph.co.uk

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Changes In Arsenal Board, Lady Nina Holds The Key – Update

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on December 18, 2008

crst Arsenal have announced certain changes in their board, which may seem a little worrying for the Arsenal fans. Ivan Gazidis will be joining as the Chief Executive with effect from January 1 and given that he has the understanding of football and how the transfer market works, it is positive news. However, the worrying fact is that Richard Carr and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith have decided to quit the board with immediate effect. Lady Nina owns 15.9% of the shares and with her leaving the board, she no longer has to abide by the lockdown agreement. With Uzbeki oligarch Alisher Usmanov in the radar and his Red&White Holdings making it known that they would buy up more shares to get controlling rights, this is a bad news for the club. We have a rich history, tradition and a unique way of functioning. With a businessman as the owner of the club, the entire set-up would go haywire. Chairman Peter Hill-Wood‘s comments were also not very encouraging. When asked if Lady Nina could go ahead and sell her shares to Usmanov, he said,

“We hope that she would remain a shareholder but she has not spoken to me about it lately.”

When asked if a board member would buy her shares if she does decide to sell, Hill-Wood said,

“A number of the Board have indicated in the past that they are interested in buying more shares so the future stability of the Club is secure. The Board is very keen to retain control of the Club to ensure that its values and traditions are upheld and live on for many years to come.”

What prompted Lady Nina to end 70 years of family ties with the club is not known yet. If she did it because of a fallout with other board members, then it could very well be the opportunity Usmanov was looking for. She was instrumental in keeping out the Uzbeki by signing the lockdown agreement. However, she could sell her shares to him now. Another candidate who could buy her shares is Stan Kroenke, who is part of the Arsenal board now. If it is a choice between two evils, Kroenke is surely the lesser evil. As Arsenal fans, we need to understand that it would be very hard to resist these investors (buyers). But we wouldn’t want a Manchester United supporter to buy up our club.
The developments in the next few weeks would be interesting. If it tilts towards Kroenke, that would still be okay. However, if it were the Uzbeki, make no mistake,  Gooners would make their feelings known and do everything possible to resist that fat man.

Read the entire interview with Peter Hill-Wood here

Update: As was feared, the exit of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith from Arsenal board was not amicable. Infact, far from it. If reports are to be believed,over the years she felt that the board was marginalising her. The disagreement is nothing new, as it is believed that she felt sidelined from a commercial deal in India, which she, through her Indian connections, brought before the board. Also, she was part of the club’s committee to appoint the chief executive, but her choice was overlooked and with Stan Kroenke’s recommendation, Ivan Gazidis was appointed.  It is understood that she was offered the role of  life president, but she refused.

The fact that would worry Arsenal fans most is that Alisher Usmanov, who has a 24.9%  stake, would try and seize this opportunity.  Although under normal market rules, if Usmanov’s stake rises above 30%, he would be obliged to make an offer for the rest of the shares , but it is quite possible that he may be able to obtain a waiver from this.

As already mentioned, interesting few weeks coming ahead for Arsenal fans.