More on Thierry's injury from yesterday's regular Friday press conference. The boss rates his chances of playing in the final at 30-70 at the moment and has said if things don't improve he'll send him on his holidays so he can rest up and get proper rest before the new season. Freddie will also miss Monday's game against West Brom and next weekend's game against Liverpool with his hip injury.
And speaking of Liverpool AW was happy to talk about Liverpool winning the Champions League and not getting into the competition next season. He says "If a championship gives access to the Champions League, you have to respect the championship. The Champions League is a complete cup competition now. I don’t know why suddenly everyone wants to change the rules."
That's why second place in the league is so important, according to AW. He says "When you finish second you can say 'we are in the Champions League. When you are third you cannot."
Chelsea can win the league today if they beat Bolton at the Reebok stadium. Having resigned myself to them being champions for quite a while now, and having rooted for Liverpool midweek, I just don't have it in me to wish anything approaching good luck to Bolton today. Que sera, sera and all that.
And that's about it. Saturdays without Arsenal are strangely empty, like a bulimic's stomach.
*boilk to the max*
It's going to be another quiet weekend for Arsenal as our game against West Brom isn't until Monday night. That kind of fixture scheduling is all right once in a while for a big game like Sp*rs but two weeks in a row is pretty crap. Anyway, let's round up the news with as little noise as possibe.
Gilberto wants to stay at the club and sign a new deal. He says "We haven't started talking yet but I want to stay at this club. I like it here very much. I also like my life in England. If you are happy, then you don't want to move."
Arsene Wenger says Thierry Henry is more likely to miss the final than play it. He says "At the moment I would say there is more chance he will not appear in the Final than appear." Whether that's some kind of a bluff or not we just can't tell but you'd have to think his injury must be pretty bad for him not to get picked. The Sun says Henry is winning the fitness battle.
Sam Allardyce, the Jabba the Hut of football managers, taunts Jose Mourinho by saying Arsene Wenger should be called the 'special one' because of his record in English football. I have to say I find it fairly distasteful, although not in the least bit surprising, that Allardyce would use a man he's spent his time slagging off previously to try and wind up his next opponent. I'm sure Mourinho couldn't give a fish's tit either way. Alan Smith talks about Arsenal's consitency under Arsene Wenger and young Icelandic midfield, Olafur Skibalogoglog Skulason is being released by the club when his contract runs out. Young Dutch striker Quincy has been cleared of any wrong doing after being arrested the other night. Arseweb has more.
And that's about all there is to tell you. In more important football news my cracked ribs have finally healed and I go straight back onto the bench for my team's game this weekend. I just need to sweat some of the beer out of me so I'm going to go sit in the park because the weather here is fab. Till tomorrow.
Patrick Vieira spoke yesterday about how pleased he was with his recent improved form citing injuries that have hampered his season thus far and took a bit of a swipe at Chelsea when he said the FA Cup final would be contested between "the best two footballing teams in the country."
I'm not sure I agree with him to be honest and I don't think the stats or the matches we've seen this season back him up. I agree Chelsea can be quite defensive but they've scored enough goals this season to dispel the myth they're a negative side. Manchester United on the other hand have just about scored 50 goals in the league. As well as that the two games we've had with Chelsea have seen two sides try and play their football whereas when we play United their first tactic is to try and kick the fuck out of us and football comes a distant second. So for Vieira to suggest that the final is between the two best footballing teams is wrong. It's between the best footballing team and a team of thuggish wankbag cunts. I have no great time for what's happening at Chelsea off the pitch, Kenyon is despicable and I'm no fan of Mourinho but if we're not going to be champions I'd rather see Chelsea win the league than that other lot any day of the week. They might be a bit sneaky and have the deflection Gods on their side but they always play football. Except for Drogba. He's a diving, cheating, no good, waste of £24.5m cunt. The cunt.
Vieira does say though that "The game against United is the best final that people could have hoped for." - and I can't argue with that. The rivalry, hatred and niggle between the two sets of players and the two managers will ensure it's going to be a a very interesting game for the neutrals while we all know how much it means to us.
After first being linked with us in May 2003 Udinese keeper Morgan di Sanctis is again in the club's sights. Apparently somebody or something exploded and the deal which was set to take him to Roma is now off. A fee of €10m has been mentioned by the ever reliable goal.com. And staying in Italy it seems Juventus are after soon to be out of contract Edu. He was strongly linked with Valencia but then they canned Ranieri so that move is a bit up in the air.
The Sun reports Chelsea don't want to sign Ashley Cole any more and also reveals that all the Arsenal players and officials are supplied with Samsung mobile phones. Samsung this week were announced as Chelsea's new sponsors. Of course their current sponsor, Emirates, will become our new sponsor soon. It's all a bit incestuous really with clubs trading sloppy seconds all over the place.
Arsenal's reserves beat Leicester's reserves 4-2 last night with two more goals for Arturo Lupoli bringing his total this season to a million and 3.
And that's your lot this Thursday.
Ok, the first thing I want to do this morning is clear up something from yesterday. It turns out that when AW said "He knows I'd love him to stay but I fear he will go." - he was talking Edu and not about José Antonio Reyes. That's not to say José's future is definitely at Highbury but that would surely have been all the confirmation we needed. Sadly it does look as if Edu will be leaving which is a shame because he's one of my favourite players and he showed last night what we've missed during his absence.
Speaking about our poor run of results the boss thought it might have been something to do with the pitches being not as good in the winter. He said "I feel that you cannot play with the same quality of passing as you can in March or April as the grass and pitches are not as good. You need perfect pitches to play how we did against Spurs. Otherwise, you lose a fraction of a second and the opponents can get recover in time."
Now some people might have a little snigger at that but I think he's got a point. One thing I've noticed about Arsenal over the years is quite how hard the players pass the ball to each other. They rarely tap it, they fizz the ball at each other which gives them that extra bit of time before being closed down by an opponent. That can mean that if the passing is just a touch slower then maybe we lose that advantage that is part of our game. Now, I'm not suggesting that's the main reason for our poor results when we had them, and the boss himself is quicker to point at the defensive stability we now have, but it's not just a throwaway comment.
Some pretty unfounded transfer speculation has us linked with Parma's Italian striker Gilardino who has scored a billion goals this month alone. With Parma struggling 2nd from bottom of Serie A they certainly wouldn't be in any position to hold onto him if they did get relegated. Anyway, it's just made up stuff at this stage anyway.
News of youngsters - Frankie Simek's loan at Bournmouth is being extended for until the end of May while young Swede, Sebastian Larsson, has signed a new two year deal with the club. He told a Swedish newspaper, "It is very fun. It is a real contract this time, that feels better."
Very fun indeed. I hope he took much photos of himself signing the new deal. Those crazy Swedes! And speaking of crazy, for those of you confused about UEFA's new rules about homegrown players and the like you can find an explanation over at Ashburton Grove. Not the building site, the website. I have to say this made me laugh - I'd be happy to donate an Arseblog t-shirt for you to give away...heh. And speaking of prizes we may have a cool, funky mobile phone to give away in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more.
Thanks for all your nice comments about the new look site. They made me all warm and tingly like Kylie's hotpants. And just on emails - if anyone has sent me an email about anything over the last while and I haven't replied it's because I hate you. Well, really it's because I get a lot of mail and sometimes stuff just gets lost in my box. I do try and reply to everything but sometimes I just forget. Sorry.
Finally for today, come on Liverpool. Ooooh, I feel all dirty. Like Angelina Jolie's hotpants.
Lots of fun last night as Arsenal beat Sp*rs 1-0 at Highbury, ensured Chelsea didn't win the title yet (much to the annoyance of everyone at SKY it seemed) and kept the gap between ourselves and United to 4 points.
How nice was it to see the winner scored by José? After suffering a miserable run of form you thought it was going to another one of those games for him especially after his miss in the first minute. But in the 22nd he was put through beautifully by Cesc and he slammed it past Paul Robinson for the only goal of the game. After that he looked far more confident and that, chums, is good.
We had lots of chances in the game. Robin van Persie was unlucky with another lovely turn and shot that went just wide, Vieira headed just wide, José fired a shot just wide after wonderful build-up play in the second half, Senderos (again outstanding at the back) headed over, Edu hit the post and Dennis Bergkamp curled a fine shot just wide as well.
Sp*rs didn't really threaten until right at the very end apart from a Defoe shot which Lehmann saved well early enough in the first half. Late on they launched high balls into the box and caused a few problems. Robbie Keane somehow missed the ball with his giant head and shouldered it wide and then got all stroppy when he felt Ashley Cole had handled it in the area right at the death. But then he's a wanker so who cares about him?
Overall it was a good performance, we created lots and kept another clean sheet. A word about Jens though. As well as he's playing, and he is playing very well at the moment, he could have caused us problems when he bundled Defoe over in the box. There really was no need for it and he must have a goldfish memory if he can't remember what happened at White Hart Lane last year when he did something similar to Keane.
Afterwards the boss praised our defensive rebirth, saying "Our confidence is high, we have a good defensive stability and that's where, between October and January, we lost the championship because we couldn't win 1-0. We have stabilised that and our draw at Chelsea strengthened our belief that we can compete again."
He was happy for José but let slip that the Spaniard may not have long left in his Arsenal career, saying "He knows I'd love him to stay but I fear he will go."
In other news, and we're talking troublesome and talented here, we've finally got rid of Jermaine Penannt to Birmingham who will pay us around £3m for the drunk-driving winger, while young Dutch striker Quincy was arrested (pic here) after the Professional Footballers’ Association Player Awards on Sunday night. Quite what he was doing there is anybody's guess and for now we don't have too much information other than he was released on bail and is due back to the police sometime in June. Arsenal have declined to comment so we'll just have to wait and see what happens with him now. Thierry Henry's injury is still causing problems but is not as bad as was feared. According to Arsene Wenger the scan was 'positive' but the player is still in pain. With the Cup final still around 4 weeks away though there's plenty of time for him to recover.
And you'll have noticed things have changed around here a bit. Because of the various design changes over the years the archives were a mix and match of different styles so I've been working on making everything look the same. We've got a whole bunch of new top images as well and the only thing left to do is get the columnists pages up to date which I hope to complete before the end of the week. Hope you like it because it took me fucking ages. You'll notice there's no time stamp for each day's entry - that's because of my increasing superstition which meant on a match day the numbers had to add up to make a total of seven. For example, 11.05 was good because 1+1+5=7. Also, 08.08 was good because 8+8=16 and 1+6=7. So before I descended into a world of obsessive compulsive disorders I thought I'd get rid of it. Anyway, if you notice anything strange or missing or wish to recommend some psychiatric help please leave a message in the arses or drop me a mail via this page.
Monday and I've just spent the entire weekend updating the archive pages on the site ahead of a new look which should, all things going well, be introduced tomorrow.
Tonight of course sees the North London derby, a big game at the best of times but this season Sp*rs actually have a European place to play for and we need to win to open up the 4 gap on United for second place after their win yesterday. That's without mentioning the fact the murderous Russians win the title if we don't beat them. Sol Campbell is likely to remain on the bench as the boss keeps faith the with Toure - Senderos partnership in defence and AW also reveals how he rejected the chance to sign Sp*rs keeper Paul Robinson. He also says "It’s a big match for me because it’s a way of showing Chelsea they have not secured the title. As long as we can keep the race going, we will do so."
There's an interesting article with Robin van Persie, who I hope starts tonight, here. He likes AW's style of coaching, saying "If I'm messing it up he will say so. And now I am doing well and he says it also, and I respect that. If the manager says you are doing well when you are not, then it is worthless."
Two Arsenal players, Thierry Henry and Ashley Cole, made the PFA players team of the year at the awards last night. John Terry was named player of the season while that fat cunt from Liverpool was named young player of the year. Some Chelsea twat reveals that mega-rich boss Roman Abramovich is a cry-baby. Poor little cry-baby with only his billions of pounds to wipe up his cry-baby tears. Boo-hoo.
Right, that's it. An early start this morning. I'm off the airport to wave off Mrs Blogs as she goes back to Ireland for a couple of days. That means I can sit around in my underwear all day. So, no change really.
A brief Sunday round-up of the couple of stories that exist this early on a Sunday morning.
The boss has spoken about transfers this summer and has said that although he'd like to buy Steven Gerrard we can't compete with Chelsea if they wnt to buy him too. He gave some hints about the type of player he'd like to sign when he said "I have an under-21s team from one to 11. Then we have some exceptional players aged over 30 – like Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Sol Campbell. But we need a few more in the bracket from 24 to 27, who are established players."
Chelsea have denied they bought the title this season. While I have to applaud the way they've played football this season and played against us without the malice and brutality of Manchester United there can be no doubt cold hard cash has played a huge part in Chelsea's succes. When you consider how close they were to going bankrupt, with debts of £80m+, for them to have been saved by the bell by Abramovich was perhaps the most fortuitous thing that has ever happened to them. Of course it's not all down to money. They've got a squad of excellent players and a talented coach who seems to have made a pact with the devil himself (the real one, not Roman) but you just cannot dismiss the impact the money has had on the club.
They will win the league if we fail to beat Sp*rs on Monday night. It'll probably be the first time ever that Chelsea fans will be cheering for the Lily White cunts. The People reports this morning that Chelsea will be hit with a record fine over the Ashley Cole affair with a figure of £200,000 being mentioned. What difference does that make to Chelsea, really? I've spoken before about the system of fines as punishments being next to useless these days. Players and clubs make so much money for it to be meaningless unless we're talking massive amounts of money. The whole thing needs to be reassessed so that punishments actually hurt wrongdoers and act as an deterrent from others who might try the same thing. If Chelsea end up signing Ashley Cole does an extra £200,000 hurt them once they get their man?
And that's it. It's off for the newspapers, a beer or two and a tortilla sandwich. Oh yes.
Let us begin this Wengrtastic Saturday with the news that Thierry Henry is likely to be out for the next 3 or 4 weeks with a groin problem and is in a race to be fit for the cup final. According to the boss "His injury is a sign that he has pushed his body far, so it's more of an alert than a bad injury. I think it's more that he has been over-used by the France national team between the seasons. At some stage, you have to slow down."
Freddie Ljungberg's hip injury means he'll also miss Monday's North London derby. AW also spoke about the Ashley Cole situation and warned that his pathetic defence for his Chelsea meeting could cause chaos in football. He said "If they go to the civil courts in this case it would create huge chaos. When you register with the league you accept the football rules. Part of those rules is that you accept the legislation of football and don't go outside football unless it is an exceptional case. What they are arguing for is completely illegitimate."
He, being the fine man he is, prefers to point the finger of blame at the lawyers and Cole's agent while absolving Ashley but I think that's just a manager protecting his player. Cole has played a big part in all of this and could go down a different road if he so desired.
Speaking about Dennis Bergkamp and the possibility of him staying another year he said "It depends on who will come in, how he will take that situation and how much he wants to go on." - and on Sol Campbell's return he said "Ideally I want Sol back as quickly as possible and the opportunity will come for him again. But Philippe Senderos has done extremely well and you have to be practical."
With regards to Dennis I think it's time now. On his day he's still got some touches and passes that nobody else can bring off but his contribution is lessening all the time and I think we'd all like to remember the great Dennis and not somebody struggling to reach the very high standards he's always set for himself.
And that's about the size of it. Till tomorrow, arsemates.
With our next match not until Monday against the wanky Sp*rs there's not a huge amount going on today.
Some Cup final news sees Arsenal fans get the North end of the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff and the team gets the 'lucky' North dressing room where they will be greeted by Col Oliver North and watch 'North by Northwest' before being led onto the pitch by a Scandinavian with a lisp. As I'm sure you already know we'll be playing in red and white.
Andy Todd has been cleared of violent conduct by the FA. No fucking surprise there and he must be having a good laugh right now. I think the problem was that van Persie turned into him making it more difficult for them to judge whether it was deliberate or not. Perhaps the fact that he clattered into our player long atfer the ball had hit the net might have been a clue that it was his intention to make contact with van Persie. Anyway, the FA are cunts, Todd is a cunt and Robin van Persie is a two goal hero.
All week I've been running a competition to give away DVD copies of the 1971, 1979, 1993 and 1998 FA Cup finals thanks to ILC Sport. The answer to the question 'Who scored Arsenal's winner in the 79 final?' was, of course, Alan Sunderland. The random number generator did its thing and the 3 lucky winners are: Paul Hagen, Scot Symmons and Mark James. I'll be in touch with you to get address details and so on. Thanks to everyone who entered and hopefully we'll have something similar to do when we get closer to the cup final.
For those who didn't win here's the picture of Alan Sunderland having just scored the winner for you to put on your desktops.
Over and out, cap'n.
So any slight doubt that the title was still a contest was put to bed once and for all with a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge last night.
We started very brightly and Robert Pires crashed a volley against the bar with Cech well beaten. A couple of minutes later the ball broke to him after a corner. It was the sort of chance you'd put your house on him scoring but this time he fired it just wide.
Chelsea were playing their customary 4-5-1 and made a couple of chances through Lampard and Drogba, Jens saving well from both of them.
In the second half Chelsea had a couple more chances, Drogba showed why Chelsea spent £24.5m on him when he fired wide with Jens beaten, Lampard too shot wide and that was about it really. There wasn't any real niggle in the game and both teams were out to play football although it was obvious from the start that Chelsea were quite happy to play for a point and who can blame them?
I have to say I thought AW left it a little late to make changes. Neither Dennis or José caused the Chelsea defence any real problems - and sadly on their current form I don't think we really expected them to.
I would have liked to see van Persie and Aliadiere brought on a bit sooner. Maybe they wouldn't have got any change out of Terry and Carvalho either but I'm not sure 10 minutes at the end is giving them a fair chance. At the back Philippe Senderos put in another excellent performance and he's going a long way to prove he's the centre half we've needed for some time now. And a word for Jens Lehmann whose form has been excellent in the last couple of months and as much as anyone should take some of the credit for our clean sheets and unbeaten run.
Arsene Wenger promised Arsenal would bounce back after conceding the title to the Russians and pointed to the emergence of young players like Cesc, Senderos, Flamini and Clichy as positives for the future. Senderos himself had something to say about next season assuring fans that even though Chelsea have all the money in the world that doesn't mean they're going to win everything in sight again. He said "Money doesn't play football. You have to show it on the pitch. They can buy how many players they want next season, there may be another team for Chelsea. Chelsea have been consistent and you have to congratulate them. As for next season, we are going to continue to work hard and show that we are one of the best teams in England - if not the best."
Elsewere Manchester United got beaten 1-0 by Everton to give us a 4 point cushion in second place. They ended up with 9 men and Ferguson sent his assistant, Carlos Quieroz, to do the media thing afterwards, as did Jose Mourinho, sending brick-headed number 2 Steve Clarke out to do his bidding. I just made me think that whatever people might say about Arsene he's always available to do his job. If we lose in horrific circumstances he's always there to talk about it. He never throws a huff and sends Pat Rice out. Just thought it was worth mentioning.
David Trezeguet has revealed he'd like to play in the Premiership with Arsenal his preferred destination so he could play with Thierry Henry. With Arsenal in the market for a striker this summer he's likely to the be the first of a very long list between now and the day we sign somebody.
Last but not least your final chance to win copies of the 71, 79. 93 and 98 FA Cup finals on DVD with thanks to ILC Sport. Just answer the following question: Who scored Arsenal's winner in the 1979 Cup Final against Manchester United? Answers on a postcard or an email to : firstname.lastname@example.org. The winners will be chosen by our old friend, RNG (Random Number Generator), and announced in tomorrow morning's blog. Oh, the excitement. Till then.
Yesterday it was announced that the commission put in place to look at the Colegate affair will sit on the 17th and 18th of May having been due to start their proceedings next week. According to the commission '"the nature and complexity of the defence put forward by the parties has necessitated the gathering of more evidence and witness statements."
It's believed that Ashley Cole's defence will be that the Premier League rules represent a restraint of trade and he should be allowed talk to other employers like in any other position. I was afraid it would go down this road. It's quite sad that it has because it's just typical of football, and society in general, these days. Nobody is willing to take any responsibility for their actions, always looking to shift the blame elsewhere or chip away at fine print to get away with whatever it is they did to break the rules in the first place.
Cole and Barnett's complaint this it's a restraint of trade may, on paper, be valid but the bottom line is they knew the rules. You don't have to be fucking Einstein to know that you don't go and meet another club on the eve of a big game to talk about a transfer when you're already under contract. You don't do it because the rules say you're not allowed. You don't do it to the club you've supported since you were a boy because morally it's just not the right thing to do. You certainly don't do it in a London hotel where the people you're going to meet are well known and anyone who sees you together doesn't need to be a genius to put 1 and 1 together and figure out what you're doing there. And Christ give me strength you don't do it when you've been offered a raise from £27,000 to £60,000 a week, turn it down and then leak stories about how Arsenal only offered £5,000 more or all of a sudden took £5,000 off the agreed salary because nobody believes you Jonathan Barnett. Ashley Cole was offered a contract which doubled his money but he and his money-grabbing agent went looking for more from Chelsea knowing fine well they'd get it. Chelsea's money pot is endless, Arsenal's is not. Then again Peter Hill-Wood hasn't ammassed a fortune from taking advantage of millions of poor people, having his rivals mysteriously 'disappear' and plundering Britain's natural resources. At least I think he hasn't.
This bullshit about football being the same as any other job gives me a pain in my hole as well. As much as you'd like to try and say so, it just isn't. It's a job, yes, but it's a sport and sport needs rules and regulations to protect what's left of the integrity of the game because sportsmen these days seem few and far between. You just can't say the guy earning £60,000 a week needs the same rights as a bloke earning £20,000 a year. They just don't. This restraint of trade defence is, to my mind, the end of Ashley Cole as an Arsenal player. The manager said yesterday that he was '100% certain' Cole would stay and sign a new contract. Even though he's a fantastic player you'll excuse me if I don't greet that news with anything more than a Roger Moore style raised eyebrow.
Ashley Cole knew fine well who he was going to meet, in my opinion. For him to actually be at the meeting means there must have been previous contact with his agent who would have told him what was going on. He knew he wasn't going to meet some European team, and even if he was that's no defence. He was prepared, a couple of days before the Manchester United game which had a big impact on our season, to go and meet one of our closest rivals to discuss a transfer even though Arsenal had offered him a fantastic contract. Now that he's been caught he's prepared to drag football through the courts to minimise the punishments handed out to him and his agent rather than accept responsibility for what he did.
If he'd stood up and said "Yes, I went to meet them, sorry," I'd have some respect for him, however, from what I'm told he still seems to think it was all about getting the best deal for himself. As it is we've got the club on tenterhooks as this meeting takes place just days before the FA Cup final. Not ideal preparation and strange symmetry from the last United game, eh? You'll excuse me if I wave aside those people who say Cole is professional enough to put it out of his mind and not let it affect him. If he was professional he wouldn't be in this mess in the first place and the club deserves better than having this shit impact on the build up to the biggest game of the season. And all this is leaving aside Chelea's behaviour in the whole thing but then should we expect anything better from a club run by who it's run by? Exactly.
Anyway, as far as I'm concerned Chelsea and Cole and Barnett and Mourinho and Kenyon are welcome to each other. A shower of feckless, mendacious, villainous cunts, the lot of them.
In other news ahead of tonight's game Thierry Henry is definitely out but Sol Campbell is back. Who he replaces at centre-half will be interesting. No news yet on Freddie so Cesc could start on the right, and who will he play up top? I'd like to see Reyes and van Persie start although I think he'll go with Dennis and one of the youngsters.
Andy Todd has been charged with violent conduct after trying to remove Robin van Persie's head at the Millenium Stadium last weekend. Naturally Blackburn say they're going to appeal. No word on whether the FA are going to do anything about this though.
Finally, don't forget the DVD competition. See yesterday's or Monday's blog for more details on how to enter and thanks to ILC Sport for kindly providing the prizes.
We'll start with some injury news ahead of tomorrow night's game against Chelsea. Despite Arsene Wenger saying Theirry Henry was likely to miss the game there's some talk that he might just have a chance to prove his fitness. Henry and van Persie would cause Chelsea's defence more problems than any combination including José or Dennis given how patch their form is. Freddie is also doubtful after a recurrence of his hip problem while the boss will make a late decision over Sol Campbell.
If Sol is deemed fit enough to go back into the team it'll be interesting to see who makes way for him. Will it be Kolo or will it be Philippe Senderos. The young Swiss showed he's got his head screwed firmly on as he commented "That is the boss' decision, I have to make it hard."
José and Lauren want payback tomorrow night. Lauren says "We want to make Chelsea suffer as they chase the title" while José says "We want to win at Stamford Bridge for many reasons, the main one being that it will increase our morale going in to the FA Cup final. But a victory at Stamford Bridge will also postpone their celebrations and please our fans."
Ashley Cole has tried to clarify his comments made yesterday about whether or not he'll be at Arsenal next season saying, "I find it frustrating to say the least that some of today's newspapers are second guessing my thoughts and stating that I have indicated to them any future plans I may have. I totally understand that the fans want to know more about my situation but, with a Premier League inquiry underway, it is hard for me to talk as freely as I would like right now."
He's going to need to have a seriously good game against Chelsea or tongues will start wagging. He's looked a little lacklustre recently and it'd be too easy for people to whisper and point if his performance against the Russians was not as fully committed as it might be. You have to wonder if he'd have played at all if Clichy had been fit.
I wonder if the FA are going to investigate the Robbie Savage incident in last Saturday's game. If José Reyes and Dennis Bergkamp can get three match bans each for violent conduct after a bit of slap and tickle against Sheffield United then why should Savage not get brought to task for this assault on Cesc (see if you can spot the ball. No? I couldn't either) - picture 1, picture 2. I've said before the FA have their priorities wrong when it comes to stuff like this. They're now so quick to punish the slightest thing that might look like a slap or a push or a dive but they consistently fail to punish proper, dangerous violent tackles the way they should. Even if the ref had seen it he might only have given a yellow card and the case would be closed. 'Tackles' like that, where there is no attempt to play the ball and only intent to cause injury to a fellow professional, need to be punished more severely. As it is the FA should be questioning why the referee didn't give so much as a free kick to Arsenal for the incident and Robbie Savage should count himself lucky that he didn't cause serious damage to Cesc because if he had I'd hunt the fucker down myself and kick his bollocks out through his mouth.
The FA Cup final referee has been decided and it's Rob Styles. The best thing I can say about him is that I've never really noticed him when we've had a game. Long may that continue. There's still no word on who's wearing what kit but the campaign against blue will begin in earnest as soon as necessary. Henry Winter talks about the 1979 cup final, probably my first real football memory, and speaking of the 79 cup final you could win a copy of it, along with the finals of 71, 93 and 98 by telling me who scored Arsenal's winner that day against Manchester United. Just email the answer to email@example.com and the prizes come courtesy of ILC Sport. Winners will be announced on Friday.
Well, it's the cup final that everybody wanted. The United in red outclassed the Geordie United and now we face a team that has beaten us three times already this season. Twice in the league and once in the Carling Cup so Arsenal fans will be more than a little eager for victory in this one.
Considering the goings-on between the two clubs this season, the pizza throwing, the diving, the dodgy penalties, the manager's bitching and sniping, this is going to be the biggest grudge final I can remember. The hype will build relentlessly, we'll get FA Cup fact after FA Cup fact, overblown promos on Sky about it being some kind of 'epic battle' and for once they'll be right. This is a game we can't lose. We can't be bullied or kicked around by them. They can't possibly want it more than us. It's going to be nerve-wracking, nail biting, shit your pants stuff. Can't wait.
One small note of caution though. I don't know when they make the decision about who plays in what kit but if United are playing in red we have to ensure that we don't go out on the pitch in Cardiff in that blue piece of shit they try and pass off as an Arsenal kit. Given the kit we were wearing in 1979 it just has to be the yellow away kit which we have worn this season in some games. Say no to blue.
And speaking of FA Cup finals to get you in the mood I've got a rather nice DVD collection to give you thanks to the people at ILC Sport. They've released a range of cup final DVDs and naturally Arsenal feature in that. I've got three packs to give away which include a copy of the finals from 1971, 1979, 1993 and 1998. All you have to do to win is answer the following question: Who scored Arsenal's winning goal in the 1979 Cup final? Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, the competition will run all week and I'll announce the winners on Friday.
Freddie talks about the cup final, Wednesday's game with Chelsea and the Blackburn game.
Robin van Persie has spoken about Andy Todd's challenge saying he's unsure if it was deliberate or not. For those still undecided this picture scanned from yesterday's Sunday Times might help you make your mind up. And as for Jimmy Hill who decided to use van Persie as a scapegoat for all the foreign divers in the game and said he was making a meal of it - it's time to retire now you giant chinned twat. RvP has also spoken about how he's learned a lot from Robert Pires and the way he plays, saying "After the Southampton game the manager sat me down and had a chat to me about being more calm and thinking more on the pitch about what I'm doing. After that, I started to watch Robert Pires in training. He is such a great player - someone who scores goals, links play and makes it easier for team-mates. He's been a real inspiration for me."
Meanwhile Ashley Cole says it's 'hard to say' if he'll be playing at Arsenal next season. It's not that hard Ashley. If you want to stay just sign the contract. If you don't want to stay make some kind of non-commital statement about your intentions and that'll just clear everything up. Oh...
And that's about it for now. How was your weekend then?
Well, as I'm sure you all know by now Arsenal are through to the FA Cup final next month after a 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers and their 8 fans yesterday.
It was a fairly bitty first half with Blackburn employing the now favoured 4-5-1 formation which is popular with teams who like to spoil and prevent the opposition playing rather than play football themselves. It's anti-football. As expected they were very physical and picked up a number of bookings in the first half, most of them for challenges on Patrick Vieira (who, according to Robert Pires, Rovers were out 'to destroy'). Not long before half-time though we opened the scoring. Nice work from Kolo Toure in their box saw him square the ball across the 6 yard line and who else but the master poacher himself, Robert Pires, was on hand to make it 1-0 Arsenal.
The second half saw Blackburn change to 4-4-2 to try and actually create something and they did have one or two spells where they had some decent possession if not any real chances.
They brought Robbie Savage on whose first action of any note was a disgusting, over the ball 'tackle' to the knee of Cesc Fabregas. Incredibly referee Steve Dunn didn't even book him. Actually, it's not that incredible as Dunn was ridiculously poor all day. Luckily there was no lasting damage to Cesc but Savage really is a spiteful, emminently hateable, kicker of a talentless cunt. I'd love Toshack to pick him for Wales again then sub him in the first minute of the game. And a word for former Gunner Paul Dickov - I'm glad he's a former Gunner. As he stood sneering at Cesc after that challenge, adding to his afternoon of moaning and whining, I wouldn't have been upset if he'd had a stroke and dropped dead on the pitch the little shitbag.
Then came the best 10 minutes of the game. Dennis Bergkamp, who had been pretty ineffectual most of the game, came off and Robin van Persie came on. I was hoping he'd cream Savage and Dickov in one tackle but he did something even better. Collecting a Vieira pass he turned one defender inside out, left another on his arse and rolled a beautiful left foot shot past Brad Friedel to make it 2-0. The kind of goal Dennis used to score. There was a poignant moment when the TV cameras cut to Dennis just afterwards. The future is wearing number 11.
With just a couple of minutes of injury time to go Pires then broke down the left, played the ball into van Persie who finished in some style into the top corner to make it 3-0. Sadly he was unable to celebrate the goal as Blackburn's Andy Todd decided to shoulder the young Dutchman right in the face leaving him prostrate on the ground. To me it looked totally deliberate and the FA should be looking at that incident along with the Savage one. Todd's 'challenge' on van Persie was totally unnecessary and the TV cameras showed him looking rather mournful like he knew what he'd done was out of order.
At the end the players, led by van Persie, ended up celebrating by throwing their shirts to the crowd. Afterwards the boss was criticial of Blackburn's physical approach but full of praise for van Persie who must now be beginning to win over some of the doubters. To me he's always looked like a very talented player and he's got an eye for goal which sadly Dennis doesn't possess anymore. He's surely played himself into contention for a start on Wednesday even if Thierry is fit. José had another quiet game and never looked like scoring either.
A word too for Patrick Vieira. I've been not entirely impressed by him at times this season but yesterday he got stuck in, challenged for things, won headers and looked more like the Vieira we're used to. I hope he keeps it up because when he plays like that we're a better team. However, the News of the World are reporting this morning that Real Madrid are back on his trail so perhaps the more cynical might suggest that had something to do with his improved performance.
Yesterday saw another excellent performance from Philippe Senderos as well. As a no-nonsense centre-half myself he's my new favourite player (although I'm not as good on the ball, or off the ball, or in the air but I foul better) and you should take some time to read this fantastic interview with him in the Observer. He comes across as a very intelligent, level-headed young man and we're now seeing why all the big clubs wanted to sign him. Comparisons with Tony Adams are inevitable but he shrugs them off "That's crazy. He accomplished so much in his career, he was a legend. I'm just at the beginning of my journey."
And that's about it for this Sunday morning. Enjoy your lazy day, the sun is out here so I think it's newspapers and a beer and sandwich outside. Till tomorrow.