News From The Grove

Bendtner Bursts Bolton Bubble

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on January 11, 2009
nicbendtnerSeven games unbeaten, yet very unconvincing. That’s how the performance against Bolton was yesterday. Although we did manage to take the precious three points, which helped us stay close to United and Villa, there were dangers of dropping points in that game. It took us 84 minutes to break down the stubborn defence of the Trotters. Arsene Wenger admitted that
the players found it difficult to breach the wall of Bolton, who showed no attacking instinct whatsoever. Wenger said:

“We gave absolutely everything to win the game and they gave absolutely everything to play for 0-0. In the end, in the last 20 minutes, you could see that we started to create chances. You can only say that they gave a lot and defended very well, they were physically strong. But we gave a lot as well and it was a bit of quality, which made the difference. If you don’t score it is difficult, because you have to go forward and take a gamble. You hope not to make a mistake defensively and keep the balance right, and that’s never easy. So, overall, I think we did that well. We looked stable defensively and we know we can score goals.”

Although Arsenal are out of this year’s race to the league title, Wenger believes that there is still an outside chance of holding aloft the title in May. (In his first full season, Gunners overturned a 12-point deficit to take the title). According to him, the team would try and win every game and finish as high as possible on the table. He said:

“We are focused, we are resilient and we are strong. We are ready for a fight and let’s hope to be consistent. We will take it game by game and see where we go. I just hope to look back in May and say between January and May that we have done as well as we could. As long as we can be proud of what we have achieved, that is the best attitude. We will then see where we stand.”

However, if the team performs like it did yesterday, there are high chances that we could end up losing the 4th spot to Villa. Bolton were depleted due to injuries and suspensions and had only four outfield players as substitutes, yet we couldn’t carve them open. The performance showed that we need a creative midfielder urgently. Samir Nasri was given the central role, with Diaby, who was later replaced by the talented Vela, on the left.

Robin van Persie saw his shot hit the post and his volley flying just over the cross bar. Adebayor received an inch-perfect pass from Nasri, however, a moment’s hesitation allowed Andy O’Brien to race across and block the shot.

Nicklas Bendtner, who replaced Emmanuel Eboue in the 75th minute, had a disastrous start. The boo-boys were in action when Bendtner twice passed to the opponents and he was rewarded with an ironic cheer when he laid a short pass to a teammate. Bendtner soon redeemed himself, when Clichy dodged a couple of Bolton players before passing it to Van Persie. The Dutchman’s cross found the big Dane at the far post, who edged ahead of Samuel before smacking a delightful volley between Jussi Jaaskelainen’s legs.

Commenting on Bendtner’s problems initially, Wenger said:

“It was so cold and Nicklas, coming on late in the game, had no time to warm up. We had to finish up with good old-fashioned 4-2-4 to get a result. “

How long we have to play the ‘old-fashioned 4-2-4’ to get results is anybody’s guess. Wenger still refuses to confirm our interest in Arshavin or any other player. There are no confirmed news of transfer activities within the club.

There are reports however that Arsenal have decided to increase their bid for the Russian playmaker to GBP 12 million, after Zenit St Petersburg rejected their initial GBP 10 million offer. Zenit spokesman Alexei Petrov said:

“I can confirm that Zenit did get an official offer from Arsenal about Andrei Arshavin. It was rejected as insufficient. They offered about GBP 10 million. No new offers have arrived from them since. At the moment, Arsenal are the only club to have approached us about the player.”

It is reported that Arsenal may well break the club’s transfer record of GBP 13 million paid for Sylvain Wiltord more than eight years ago. Whether it is enough to land Arshavin remains to be seen.

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Zenith Trying To Inflate Arshavin’s Price, Claims Agent

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on January 7, 2009

arshavinZenit St. Petersburg is trying to use the media to inflate the price of star playmaker Andrei Arshavin, according to the player’s agent Dennis Lachter. When asked to comment on the reports that Arshavin is on the verge of signing a three year deal with the club, Lachter had this to say:

“There is no news, no negotiations yet. I represent the player and I can assure you I would know if something had been discussed. It is the people of Zenit trying to initiate some kind of interest. They are trying to use the media to make the price of Arshavin £20million – I would not take it seriously.”

Meanwhile, Zenit have confirmed that Arsenal is the only club they are talking to about a deal for Arshavin. Maxim Mitrofanov, the club’s General Director, said that a deal could be reached within the next two weeks. However, he wasn’t willing to name a price for the player. He said:

“It’s very difficult to discuss the Arshavin value. We want to get an adequate payment. We also need to see what player will be coming to us to replace Andrei.”

Emmanuel Eboue, who said that the Emirates boo boys made him a stronger person, has now revealed that Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan are interested in him. He went on to say that although he is happy at the Emirates at the minute, the decision lies with the manager. He said:

“I have been linked with Inter before, but at the moment I am happy at Arsenal. I am fighting to reach the level I was at in 2006. I have been the victim of many injuries and that is why I have not been consistent enough. But I will fight and prove my worth to the fans. I am happy at the club. Inter are a great club as well, but I don’t know what will happen. Let’s wait and see.”

Jack Wilshere has signed professional terms with the club.  Jack turned 17 on New Year’s day, which allowed him to sign his first professional contract. Speaking about the boy’s qualities, Arsene Wenger said:

“We are delighted that Jack has signed a professional contract with us. Jack is a player with great potential, with an ability to find the final ball and also score goals.  Jack is a passionate and committed young player, he is not afraid of tackles and I am convinced he will have tremendous penetrative power in a few years.  We have already seen Jack’s qualities in both his first team performances and in training on a regular basis, and we look forward to Jack being an important part of our first team for years to come.”


Arteta On Arsene’s Radar

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on January 2, 2009
arteta1The first half of the 2008/2009 season has been somewhat disappointing for Arsenal. Arsenal lost games that everybody expected the team to win. Defeats to Fulham, Stoke, Manchester City and Hull City. Also, the team dropped crucial points, with draw against Sunderland, Aston Villa and that horrific 4-4 against Spurs. Add to that the injuries to Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas, all seems lost. Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the team must make a couple of signings in order to maintain at least 4th place in the league and ensure Champions League qualification. However, the manager stressed on ‘experience’, somebody that can adapt to the English way of playing from the word go. That would mean a player who is not cup-tied and plays for a Premier League team. The first name to be linked with us is Everton’s Mikel Arteta. He definitely would be a good buy. He is creative, has a few tricks up his sleeve and most importantly, he scores a lot of goals. The other name doing the rounds is Mathew Upson. With reports that the Hammers are planning to sell a few players to finance their purchases, Upson could be a good bargain. The ex-Arsenal man has matured into a solid central defender and could become a good addition to the squad. We have also been linked with Andrei Arshavin. He was supposed to join us in the summer, however, he priced himself out of the deal. Now, his agent has confirmed that his client is ready to take a paycut to join us. I’m not sure if we require his service though. As far as players going out of the team, Arsene had already declared that he wouldn’t allow anyone to leave the team. And the big news is that the team rejected Kolo Toure’s transfer request. Kolo has not been in his prime for the last several months and he is unable to hold a regular starting place in the side. There were reports that Manchester City were planning to pay GBP 10 million for him. However, with a small squad, Arsenal can ill afford to let any players go. Also linked to other clubs are William Gallas (GBP 5 million – AC Milan) and Arsene Wenger and Cesc Fabregas (Unknown – Real Madrid). At the minute, the possibility of that happening seems very unlikely. What we require now is an aggressive bid for Mikel Arteta. That could really give an edge to the side. 

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!!