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.


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!!


Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on September 27, 2008

It is a disaster. Period. Arsenal suffered their second defeat in 60 games at the Emirates Stadium. This was the first League meeting between the two sides for 93 years. What was predicted as a sound trashing of the new boys, turned out to be a lesson in efficiency and never-say-die attitude for the Gunners. I’m too disappointed/ depressed to write a big match report and review. Here’s a quick round-up of what happened:

The boss made two changes to the team that beat Bolton last week, with Theo Walcott and Van Persie coming in place of Alex Song and Nicklas Bendtner respectively. We started the game very slowly and it took us a good 20 minute to find our rhythm. An Adebayor header was disallowed by the referee as he was adjudged to have climbed on McShane before heading the ball in. Fabregas had a quite game, which reflected on our performance. Our defence must improve considerably, as it was Gallas’ mistake that led to the winner scored by them. Today’s loss means we drop down to 4th place. Next we play FC Porto in a UEFA Champions League First Round tie. Hoping for a much better display by the team. C’monn you Reddss!!

Platini Gets Scolded By His Father, Clichy And Silvestre Ready

Posted in Arsenal by Our Correspondent on September 26, 2008

Tomorrow we play Hull City, who have done quite well for themselves so far. Eight points from five games for a team that is playing in the Premier League for the very first time, it is a remarkable achievement. They are a good side and in Phil Brown, they have a very good manager. However, given our form of late, the game shouldn’t be too tough for us. The Tigers will come with a different strategy to the Grove and try and crowd the midfield and hurry on to our players in order to give them less time to play the passing game. We should be able to take care of that, however, we must ensure that we don’t concede first. Easy as it may seem, but I have a feeling that if we concede first, they are going to make it very very difficult for us. The boss thinks that our defence has been very good so far. It is true that we have conceded just 3 goals so far, against Fulham, Bolton and Dynamo Kyiv, But I feel that we have been lucky. Kevin Davies was winning the long balls ahead of Gallas and Toure in the game against Bolton and that is where we are the most vulnerable. Credit to Almunia for keeping the clean sheets because many a times the Toure-Gallas wall was breached. Lesser sides couldn’t capitalise maybe, but the top teams will definitely punish us, make no mistake about it. The good thing is that our attack has improved tremendously. Last season there weren’t many goals coming from the midfield, except for Fabregas. This season, we already have 3 from Adebayor, 3 from Robin van Persie, 2 from Denilson, and 1 each from Bendtner, Eboue and Nasri. Which means, we are not too dependent on any single player to get us the goals. Which is good news.

Moving on, Gael Clichy is fit to face Hull, after recovering from that sick tackle by Davies. However, Samir Nasri is not available, as he has failed to recover from the knee problem. Also ready for the first time is Silvestre. Song should be available as well, as there were reports that he has recovered from his hip injury. Given the awesome partnership displayed by Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner, there is a possibility that the boss might start with the same pairing upfront. Nicklas Bendtner, who was one of the older players to play in that match against Sheffield United, says that there is more to come from him. He says:

“This season I want to push on, to play more regularly and show people what I really can do, because so far what people have seen is far from everything.”

I have said before that I like this guy’s confidence, which sometimes people mistake as arrogance. He is very sure about his own abilities and says that openly. If he thinks he is better than you, he will tell you straight on your face. It’s this confidence that the boss likes in him. Bendtner, when he was a reserve player, once went up to Wenger and told him that he is good enough to play in the first team and if he doesn’t get to start, he should at least be amongst the substitutes. Walking up to Arsene Wenger and telling him that, no matter who you are, takes courage. And this fellow has lots of it, along with a steady head on his shoulders.

Another young but very mature fellow is Cesc Fabregas. Following the drubbing of Sheffied Utd by a very young Arsenal team, Fabregas said that it was a warning for him, and he cannot afford to take his place in Arsenal’s midfield for granted. That, coming from a player who is considered one of the best midfielders in the world, tells you two things. One, the quality of our reserve team and two, Fabregas never gets ahead of himself. He says:

“Sometimes when the players are so young you can feel your place is too secure and so it’s fantastic to have some kind of competition, that they wake you up a little and they can make you a better player.”

How very true. If you have competition, someone constantly breathing down your neck, then you work that extra bid, go that extra mile, which in turn shows in your performance on the pitch. And it’s that kind of a performance that we hope from the team when we take on Hull tomorrow. Hoping for a goal fest. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Before ending today’s post, here is a funny story. Yesterday I told you about Platini’s comments, where he said that Wenger is more concerned about the business side of football than helping develop the game. Wenger wasn’t happy with his comments, nor was the LMA. Now, Platini’s father has scolded him, saying that what he said was stupid and that he should get his head checked. My advise to Platini is that he should seriously listen to his father and take his friend Bald Blatter to see a shrink. Before it is too late.

More tomorrow..