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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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. 

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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