April 16th

Well, three points were the order of the day yesterday and we got them but not without making life difficult for ourselves and on the back of a performance which clearly showed the players had one eye on Wednesday night.

The first half was pretty dull stuff, a seriously off-colour Thierry had the best chance but he skewed the ball wide after racing clear of the defence and with only the keeper to beat and it was jsut before half-time that we took the lead. Some neat passing in and around the area saw Alexander Hleb make just enough space for himself to crack in an excellent left foot shot. The second half had to be better you thought.

Not so, it was even worse than the first. Thierry came off after about 15 minutes to rest him before Villarreal and Adebayor came on. Nothing much happened. Then Pires came on for Hleb and to a massive roar Dennis Bergkamp came on for Robin van Persie.

Within 30 seconds West Brom were level when an unusually sloppy Emmnuel Eboue made a horrendous mistake on the edge of the box and gifted the ball to Nigel Quashie who finished smartly. "Oh bollocks", you thought.

Not to worry though, the script was written for Dennis. First he set up Robert Pires who eventually stabbed the ball into the net to put us back in front, then Eboue went some way to make amends by charging his way upfield and giving the ball to Bergkamp on the edge of the box. You just knew what he was going to do. The kind of curling shot that has been his trademark at Arsenal down the years and on 'Bergkamp Day' at Highbury it was fitting that his goal made the game and the points safe.

Afterwards the boss admitted that there was a lack of focus with the Champions League semi-final upcoming. He said "We had all a bit one eye on the game on Wednesday already. That is why I am very pleased we have got the three points and did the job in a professional way. I feel we deserved to win the game today."

In terms of chances we probably did but at 1-1 West Brom looked to have a decent penalty shout when the impressive Curtis Davies (strongly linked with a summer to us and based on his display yesterday somebody worth keeping an eye on) went down when Eboue seemed to hang out a leg. It's all academic now though and the three points were absolutely vital with Sp*rs winning at Everton.

However, we are going to have to perform a lot better against Villarreal on Wednesday but I'll talk more about them and that game during the week. For now though a quick round-up of the Sunday papers.

New boy Adebayor talks to the News of the World about how important Champions League success will be in keeping Thierry Henry, The People says we're after Sp*rs midfielder Michael Carrick as he delays talks on a new deal at Wh*te Ha*t La*e and the same paper says Barcelona will blow their entire £30m transfer budget to try and bring Thierry Henry to the Nou Camp. It's getting close to the summer, the speculation grows, transfer rumours become more ridiculous.

Ok, that's it for today. Have a very happy Easter, see you tomorrow.

April 15th

Gah, bloody *boilk*. Morning all.

Team news for today sees Cesc and Campbell out. Cesc has had a recurrence of his foot injury which makes him a big doubt for the Champions League semi-final against Villarreal (who lost 1-0 to Barcelona last night) while Campbell has had surgery on his broken nose but the manager expects him to be out for 'a week at most'. Some whispers that Kolo Toure will be rested today which means we'll probably have a double Swiss central defence as Djourou moves across from right back and Eboue comes back in. Adebayor should continue up top with Henry as he's cup tied for Europe and we'll be hoping he can put his horror night on the south coast behind him and knock in a goal. Or eight. With Cesc out it'll be Diaby in midfield with Gilberto and if you think that his injury had happened before Christmas we'd have had to play Song then it's such a good job we spent money in January. Reyes is likely to play as he's suspended for Europe and he's another one who needs a good performance.

As Goodplaya points out this is the first of three vital home games in a week. Nothing less than three points today will do then we can start looking ahead to Villarreal and then onwards to Sp*rs at home next Saturday. We all know the situation in terms of points and possibilities.

With Cesc and Thierry Henry both nominated for Player of the Year awards Arsene Wenger may be slightly biased when he reveals his picks. "My list is very short. It is Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, by miles. You cannot see anybody coming close to them."

The Sun suggests we're trying to add some height to our forward line as we're linked again with 6'10 striker Nikola Zigic. As AW dismissed Peter Crouch as a 'basketball player' it might be a hint that he doesn't want that kind of player in his team but you'd have to think we'd score a few more headers if he was playing. Naturally that's assuming we learn to hit a corner beyond the near post.

Former Gunner Kevin Campbell, due to return today with West Brom, says young players today have it easy - "We had to clean Highbury from top to bottom. Shovelling snow off the terraces, putting down the salt so the game could be played and the supporters could get in the North Bank, cleaning the changing rooms, the coach, the manager's car, and the tiles in the laundry room. You name it, I have done it at Highbury. That was a good grounding. Now they don't do the duties that we had to do. It is too easy for them now."

He's probably right, I remember when Highbury was nothing but fields and my Dad would make me get up at 3 o'clock in the morning, 2 hours before I went to bed, give us a great lump of freezing cold posion and we'd have to go work 32 hours a day down't mill. And so on.

Breakfast. Grocery shopping, then the game is on live here today so I will sit on the couch and watch that. Three points will help my hangover. Come on, lads, you do want to help my hangover, don't you?

April 14th

Good Friday to you all and if your name is Jesús watch out for Romans. Not a huge amount happening, I have to say. We had confirmation from the club that Sol Campbell's nose is broken and he now faces the dilemma of having surgery now or at the end of the season. If he waits his World Cup place is surely in jeapordy, if he has it now his Arsenal future is set to be very limited. Personally I think he should have the operation now, he can swan off to the World Cup and maybe a decent performance or two, if he gets a game, will add a few quid to his value when he gets sold this summer.

I'm not sure how we're going to line up tomorrow against West Brom but Villarreal play Barcelona tonight and they've made their intentions clear by resting Riquelme, Forlan, Sorin and Tacchinardi ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final. Where they have an advantage, if you can call it that, is that they're 9 points behind the 4th place side Osasuna and the chances of catching them are slim so they are going to be 100% focussed on the European game. We still have a battle on our hands for the 4th which does complicate things a bit. The only thing I will say is that we're not really a team of veterans and with most of our best performers this season young players their recovery time will be much quicker.

There's not much point in me saying how vital three points are tomorrow. We all know already. Expect team news to break during the day - check out NewsNow to keep up to date.

Congratulations to Arsenal Ladies who have won the Nationwide Women's Premier League for the 5th time in 6 seasons.

Ok, the moment you've all been waiting for. The Football Manager 2006 competition for Sony PSP and xBox360. I asked you: If in 2006 PV = Patrick Vieira who is the PV that in 1980 connected Arsenal and Juventus?

You would be amazed how many people answered 'Liam Brady'. I said "PV" which would make it Pliam Vbrady. Doesn't work, does it? The answer I was looking for was Paul Vaessen who, as an 18 year old, scored the last minute winner against Juventus which put us into the Cup Winners Cup final in 1980. .

So the RNG did its thing this morning and the winners are as follows: For PSP - John McGahon and Michael Birchall and for xBox360 - Bob Davis and Chris Wright. I'll be in touch with you guys for addresses and so forth. Thank you all for your entries and amusing comments. More prizes to give away soon. Lots of you also mentioned how tragic Vaessen's story was. The highlight of his career was that night, a knee injury forced him out of the game at 21 and at 39 he was dead from a heroin overdose. It's not all flash cars and pop star girlfriends. You can read more here.

Finally for today those of you who subscribe to Arseblog via RSS (if you don't know what it is it's not important) please note the feed URL has changed, so if you could all update your subscriptions to: http://feeds.feedburner.com/arseblog - that would be just super. Ok, till tomorrow.

April 13th

Didn't get to see the game last night so can't really comment other than to say it was definitely two points dropped. With reports saying Emmanuel Adebayor missed two sitters and an equaliser conceded from a set piece conceded by Campbell I'd imagine it wasn't a happy bus back to London last night. The Guardian describes Adebayor's touch in front of goal as 'laughably poor'. I haven't seen any highlights but from what I've read we should have won the game and better finishing would have done that. As, I think it was my chum at Gunnerblog, suggested on the forums to miss one sitter can happen to anyone, to miss two and you have to question the quality of the player. Adebayor has looked decent so far but I would prefer to see van Persie play more as he is much more clinical in front of goal.

Yesterday afternoon there were rumours that Alex Song and Abou Diaby would be starting in midfield which worried me. Diaby is a talented player but very raw still while Song remains so far out of his depth at this level it beggars belief that he would be handed a start in a game we really had to win. I know we have to rotate and I know Cesc was out injured but Gilberto should have played, or even Seb Larsson. Alex Song is not good enough to play for Arsenal at this level and it makes me wonder why we can't give any playing time Theo Walcott when we can start Song. The excuse that the games are too important just doesn't wash when you pick a team with Rigobert Jr in it.

The manager refused to blame the dropped points on squad rotation though, saying "If you look at our programme you can't play the same 11 every game. We play every three days and you have to make changes and we did not drop points because of that. There were a lot of positives from the match, but the negative is that we should have won the game by five, and in the end we finish 1-1."

Story of our season, really, and it makes swings the balance in favour of Sp*rs for the fourth place as it's no longer in our hands. We need to win every game and for them to slip up along the way. Sol Campbell was in the wars and picked up a cut head and a broken nose which may put him out for a while. Again, we have to pick ourselves up after a disappointing result and get ourselves back on track. I'm not sure about all this rotation either, at this stage of the season we should be picking our best XI each game and worrying about tiredness afterwards. With West Brom also fighting for their lives this Saturday it's going to be another testing game and injuries aside we need our best players out there - although quite what our best 11 is and what formation they play in is up for debate. More to come about that tomorrow.

In other news we're being linked again with Atletico Madrid star Fernando Torres which apparently has the Sp*rs manager, John Goodman, absolutely steaming as they thought they'd reached an agreement with the player's representatives. According to JAR "He is very important to Atletico and for Spain and would have no problems adapting to England. I would be delighted if he joins Arsenal.”

Jens Lehmann reckons him being chosen as Germany's number 1 will be good for Arsenal. And don't forget your chance to win Football Manager for PSP or xBox 360. Just answer the following question:

If in 2006 PV = Patrick Vieira who is the PV that in 1980 connected Arsenal and Juventus?

Answers to footballmanager@arseblog.com (don't forget to specify which platform you want the game on) - the Random Number Generator will do its thing and I'll announce the winners tomorrow morning. Ok, a busy day of talking about last night ahead. Till tomorrow.

April 12th

Well, the big story this morning is the return of Sol Campbell to the team after his prolonged absence through injury and him being a fucking twat. With so many games coming up the boss has decided to rest Philippe Senderos and bring back Johnny Walkout. He said "I'll play him because I feel he's ready for us. We have to change the team and I'm happy we have Sol Campbell back. After that I will go from game to game and make my decisions when I have to."

He might be happy to have him back but I'm not. I know we have lots of games but Campbell doesn't deserve any part of them, in my opinion, and to me it looked like Kolo was the one who needed the rest after the United game, not big Phil. I'm not one to express discontent at the manager's decisions lightly but I don't like this one at all. Still, he's the boss and I'm just the chump who writes a website about Arsenal.

However, despite the nausea Campbell's return has caused I have to be fair to the manager because he's handled it well. There was some fear that dropping/resting Senderos might knock his confidence but Arsene Wenger has been quick to praise him, saying "The only thing I can say is I do not take Senderos out because I am not happy with him. I'm very happy with him. Philippe is completely focused and completely dedicated to the game. You have to consider that he is only 22. But he is not scared to play and wants the ball. He has quite an efficient technique with both feet and is very keen to learn always. He's good in the air and has a strong physique. He is suited to English football."

I think 'dedicated' is a telling choice of word because the player he's bringing back has been far from that this season and in recent weeks has shown quite clearly that his motivation for playing again is to ensure a World Cup place and nothing else. What's more, in all the time Campbell has had free since his walkout it hasn't once occurred to him to apologise to the Arsenal fans for his half-time escape during the West Ham game, which again speaks volumes about him. Arsenal fans are an understanding bunch - we've had a captain go to jail for drink driving, we've had a cocaine addict gambloholic and we stood by them all because they appreciate what the club and the fans do for them and said as much. So when you have an experienced player commit the cardinal sin of walking out on his team-mates, mid match, and then he doesn't so much as say a word about it and accuses people of playing 'silly little games' then it's no wonder his stock with some Arsenal fans is about as low as it was when he was captain of Sp*rs. An apology would have gone a long way with the fans, the lack of one should go a long way to ensuring we try harder to sell him this summer than we did last.

Anyway, as the manager has said he'll go game to game I can only hope that when it comes to the important games he stays with the Kolo - Senderos partnership that has served us so well and doesn't choose to rely on somebody who might get a bee in his bonnet at any time and fuck off to Belgium for the weekend. Senderos has earned the faith of manager, not thrown it all away. He's shown that the partnership between himself and Kolo has real long-term potential and when his form suffered a bit he got his head down, worked hard and improved without going AWOL. Needs must, I suppose, and Campbell has to play because he and Senderos don't work as a duo so if AW wants to rest a defender it has to be the Swiss. I trust it will only be short-term though and that what we do get from Campbell is at least 100% effort. This time.

Also out for tonight's game is Cesc Fabregas who is still feeling the effects of his sore foot while Freddie Ljungberg and José Antonio Reyes are both set to start. Harry Redknapp says Portsmouth will have to stop Thierry Henry although he has no idea how to do it and as an Arsenal fan as a boy he talked about the kind of thing that makes this club so classy, saying "When my dad died a couple of months ago, Arsenal sent a wreath to his funeral. I'll never forget that and could hardly believe that. I didn't tell anyone at Arsenal. Somebody must have picked up on it. Fantastic."

Jens Lehmann on being picked to be Germany's number one of the World Cup - "If you know the coach had to make a difficult decision, you want to do everything to fulfil his confidence, and that is my aim for the next weeks. My first priority is to do everything I can with Arsenal."

Ashley Cole is set to quit Arsenal according to The Sun. Apparently he feels there's an important principle at stake. It seems going to meet other clubs just before important games, for which your agent is charged by the FA, then lying about it, getting found out and dragging the whole thing through the courts to avoid paying a fine you more than deserve is an important principle. The mind boggles. When you're trying to deal with obstinate stupidity on that level then you probably have to let say 'goodbye' no matter how good a player he is. Again, even if he is fit for the last few games of the season does he deserve to play if his mind is made up to leave?

AW says despite the 'hundreds' of rules in place at the club there isn't one about gambling which may be something to do with it being quite an English thing. Thierry Henry has interestingly quit his sponsorship deal with Nike and after the World Cup will be moving to the Reebok stable. I'm not sure if this has any bearing on his future but Barcelona and Nike have very strong ties.

Finally, don't forget the competition to win a copy of Football Manager for PSP (which is the handheld Sony thingy NOT a Playstation 2) and for xBox360. See yesterday's blog for the question and you have until tomorrow night to enter. The winners will be announced on Friday.

Ok, here's hoping we get back on track tonight as nothing less than three points will do. Come on you Gunners!

April 11th

It's a fairly quiet morning ahead of tomorrow's game against Portsmouth. There's no real team news yet although I'm sure we will see some players rested after their recent efforts.

Ashley Cole returned to training yesterday but Arsene Wenger says he's still two weeks away from making a first team return and Sol Campbell will find out today if he has a future with Arsenal and England according to The Sun. Despite being fit and available he wasn't even on the bench for the United game and with Kolo Toure looking the most in need of a rest it may well be double Swiss in the centre of defence tomorrow with Johann Djourou coming in. We've seen that the Campbell - Senderos partnership doesn't work, for various reasons, and Djourou plays more on the right hand side of the defence and isn't a big, fat, walkabout cunt which is an important factor.

No doubt we'll get more news as the day goes on. It will be interesting to see if José Antonio Reyes is back in the frame. The manager explained his decision not to play Henry but there was no explanation as to why Reyes wasn't even in the 16 at Old Trafford.

Gilberto reckons we have to forget about the defeat on Sunday and look forward to the hectic schedule ahead. He says "We have Portsmouth, West Brom, Villarreal and Tottenham. All these will be important games for us. It is very important to keep our concentration very high. Each game is like a final now."

It is going to be a busy time in the next couple of weeks and hopefully we can pick up the momentum we had been carrying into the United game as that confidence and belief will certainly help us dig out results should that kind of scrapping be required. And when your upcoming games include two teams fighting for their lives at the foot of the table, two Champions League semi-finals and a last ever Highbury game against your local rivals with whom you're battling for fourth place then it is going to be intense.

IN other news Jens Lehmann has been given the backing of Oliver Kahn ahead of the World Cup. There was some talk he would retire and Bayern Munich have been highly critical of Jurgen Klinnsman's decision (although their ire would be best directed at their team who are doing their best to choke the league - COME ON HAMBURG!!) but the Albino Gorilla says he'll give his full support to the team and to Jens.

Last night saw the reserves drew 1-1 last night with Watford reserves. Nicklas Bendtner with the goal.

Finally for today my good old chums at Sega have given some Football Manager games to give away. It's now out on Sony's PSP and for XBox 360 so I have two copies to give away for each platform and a t-shirt for each winner too. To enter just answer the following question:

If in 2006 PV = Patrick Vieira who is the PV that in 1980 connected Arsenal and Juventus?

Email: footballmanager@arseblog.com. Winners announced Friday.

Update: Please note whether you would like to win PSP or xBox.

Thanks. Ok, that's it. Till tomorrow, Arsefans.

April 10th

Well, at some point we were going to pay the price for our recent exertions and yesterday was that day. Despite starting very brightly and looking quite dangerous for the first 15 minutes once United got into the game we were never quite able to change the momentum.

The main talking point pre-game was the fact that Thierry Henry started on the bench as AW felt he hadn't recovered sufficiently from Wednesday to start the game. There was no place in the 16 for José Antonio either nor, tellingly, for Sol Campbell. We started with Adebayor and van Persie up front in a 4-4-2 and had we been going for the draw we'd definitely have started with the 4-5-1.

We had a couple of half chances, van der Sar made a good save from van Persie after Jens had made two great stops from Rooney but the big incident of the first half was when Rooney got in behind Kolo Toure, Jens got a touch on the ball but with Senderos on the post waiting Rooney's shot was wonderfully and hilariously saved by ...er... Kolo Toure.

In the end it didn't really matter but it could very easily have been a penalty. The only reason I can think why it wasn't given is because Rooney's shot was so hard and Kolo's hands were so near his head Graham Poll didn't see it. Early in the second half United went one up when Vidic tackled van Persie near halfway, Silvestre dropped a great cross over Senderos and although he nearly got back Rooney smacked it home to make it 1-0. Henry and Diaby came on for van Persie and Cesc and not long after that they went 2-0. Rooney was played in and he squared the ball for Park to put the game out of reach. No chance after that and it was a matter of playing out time then although Senderos was forced into some excellent defending as we pressed forward.

A disappointing result and performance but if we're going to win as a team like we have done in recent weeks then we lose as a team yesterday. Certainly it looked as if the exploits of the last few weeks caught up with us and there were some tired legs out there. I don't think I've ever seen Kolo look so tired and had he kept running then he might well have stopped the second goal. Maybe though he's suffering a bit now after the ACN because Eboue was not his normal self either. Cesc and Hleb also looked quite jaded and we probably could have done with the extra man in midfield to begin with but once you're a goal down that becomes impossible. A word for Gilberto who was excellent though.

Anyway, we have to accept the rough with the smooth, especially this season, and the lads have given everything in the last few weeks. They've worked so hard and given us great nights and afternoons of football but today wasn't our day. We can talk about the team selection but I'm sure the manager had his reasons for picking the team he did. I'm convinced Henry had to be carrying a knock, José too, and van Persie and Adebayor are capable of goals. We just lacked the freshness to play the way we needed to. Still, our destiny is in our own hands despite the loss. We may be five points behind Sp*rs but we have a game in hand, they have to come to Highbury and they have to play United as well. It's not all doom and gloom and the defeat yesterday has to be put in perspective. It's never nice to lose but of all the games we have coming up if you had to choose one to have an off day this would be it. Now it's a matter of getting behind the lads and for them to start it up again on Wednesday against Portsmouth.

Afterwards AW put defeat down to tiredness and missed chances. He said "Physically I thought Man Utd were sharper than we were. We looked a bit jaded in the final half-hour, and that's why I think Man Utd maybe deserved to
win the game. At 1-0 down we missed two great chances - one for Van Persie and one for Adebayor. Then their second goal on the break killed the game."

So that's it. Time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back on track at Portsmouth on Wednesday.

April 9th

So United this afternoon in what is really a massive domestic challenge for us. With Sp*rs winning yesterday 3 points are vital in the race for fourth place but a draw wouldn't be the end of the world either. We're in good form and full of confidence after the European success and I'm much happier about going to Old Trafford today than I would have been 2 months ago.

However, United are also in excellent form and they have their sights very firmly set on Chelsea hoping that if they keep up the pressure the Russians will crack and allow them to sneak the title. So it's going to be all guns blazing on both sides today. With a full squad to choose from the boss is going to have to leave a couple of players out altogether and it will be interesting to see how we play. I suspect the 4-5-1 might be in place again today although 4-4-2 with Adebayor has worked well in the league. Certainly he'd give Ferdinand and Co a few problems.

There's no secret formula to beat United though but what we need is the same level of commitment and energy that we've put into the games against Madrid and Juventus. Everybody pulling together, knowing their job, not shirking their responsibilities and even with 4-5-1 we've been creating chances so it's vital we take them when they come along. That means Gilberto tackling, Henry chasing and harrying the centre-halves and the defence being as solid and confident as they have been. Beyond that it's probably going to be a very tight game and with two sides so highly motivated it's going to be full-blooded. Which will be fun.

In a round-up of the Sunday papers José Antonio Reyes says he's ready for any rough stuff United might throw his way. His new titanium based shin-pads will take a battering, no doubt. He says "I go all out now for every ball and I fear absolutely nothing."

Philippe Senderos says United are probably jealous of our European run and that "We really have to concentrate in order to take another step towards fourth place and Champions League qualification."

Arsene Wenger has doffed his cap at the success today's opponents have had with young players and says he wants this current crop of young Gunners to emulate that - "The intention is there to produce young stars like Manchester United did with the Busby Babes and the likes of Beckham and Giggs later with Ferguson. They have the potential to be as good as the young players that came through at United, but they have to be able to keep performing at the top level."

The News of the World says Arsene Wenger will be offered a new contract and a £46m (the People says only £26m) warchest to buy new players. Names mentioned already are Rennes midfielder Yoann Gourcuff, who we've mentioned before on Arseblog, and Le Mans' improbably named keeper Yohann Pele as the long term replacement for Jens Lehmann.

Finally the People says Sol Campbell will be told, if he hasn't already noticed, that he is surplus to requirements at Arsenal with Everton and and Newcastle both interested in signing him.

And that's it. I'm off for the Sunday papers, breakfast and then an afternoon of football. Till tomorrow and come on the lads!

April 8th

What a beautiful Saturday morning it is and with Man United tomorrow lots going on so consider this a quick round-up.

Starting with team the boss has practically a full squad to choose from, there are no new injuries after Wednesday night and he says he's not inclined to change too much from the Juventus game. Whether we bring in Adebayor or van Persie and go 4-4-2 remains to be seen but the manager is keen to win the game as the pain of losing the unbeaten run at Old Trafford is still fresh in the mind. He says "It was difficult to take because it stops the [run] and the way it happened was very difficult to take as well."

With Demento urging his men on and suggesting that a win would see them win the title, despite Chelsea's 7 point lead, and AW also admitting the title race was not over, there's no doubt both teams are going to be right up for this one and it could be as intense a match as we've seen for quite some time. There'll be no Keane or no Vieira but there's still plenty of personal rivalry and though our aims are very different this year both sets of fans will want the 3 points as badly as ever.

In other news Jens Lehmann has agreed a one year deal with the club and has apparently won the race to be Germany's number 1 for the World Cup. Certainly his performances merit it, he's been absolutely outstanding this season and he's become one of my favourite players. Despite his oddness (which could be just him being German) I like him a lot more than I ever did Seaman.

In other news Ashley Cole's agent, Jonathan Barnett, has been charged by the FA for his role in the Colegate scandal when he and Ashley went to meet Chelsea and Mourinho, everyone blatantly lied about it and they all got caught red-handed. He faces losing his licence. And, on a very serious level, I would like to say "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Alexander Hleb has been given some kind of player of the month award by some kind of ex-Russian thingymajig ahead of Shevchenko. Hleb is very happy and talking about our upturn in form, says "This is exactly why I came to Arsenal. I came here to learn and develop, and to play in a team that plays beautiful football. My dream is now coming true. This is to the credit of the manager, and all my teammates."

Fair play to him, he was probably unlucky that he came into a team which struggled and he struggled to adapt to English football looked a far worse player than he actually is. If he keeps improving then I think we can all admit he'll have been a decent addition to the squad.

Robert Pires on being dropped for the Juventus game - "I would have liked to have had an explanation. I did not get one. It’s not for me to go into the office and ask why I am not playing. I reckon it’s for the manager to talk to you and enlighten you a little bit. I was very, very disappointed. My representative has been in contact with Villarreal, as he has with other clubs. But no decision has been taken."

You have to wonder if he's doing himself any favours talking like that, especially when Villarreal are on the calendar. He's a seasoned professional and as much as he might have wanted an explanation he knows how things work in football and at the moment the last thing we need is one of the senior players mouthing off in public, especially when the manager's decision to play Ljungberg was vindicated by the result. Poor form, Bobby.

And finally Arsene has ruled out a move for Fulham's Curtis Davies saying he's not looking to buy a centre-half but if anyone needs one he's got one spare, slightly damaged goods but can fill a goal with his massive arse.

Ok, more tomorrow. Till then enjoy your Saturday.

April 7th

Ok, where to start this morning?

With Freddie expressing his delight about the performance in Turin? Or with Cesc showing how confident he is of making it the final in Paris? Or with Thierry talking about Paris and what it would mean to him to be in the final in his hometown but warning that there's plenty of hard work still ahead? Or Robert Pires hinting he might accept the one year deal beign offered to him despite some slight criticism of the manager? Or José talking about Villarreal? Or with a Guardian piece featuring Nigel Winterburn talking about how Arsene's third great team has arrived ahead of schedule? Or Terry Venables talking about how Arsenal can 'rule Europe'?

I tell you what, I can't make up my mind, you choose. Let's talk about Sol Campbell though. He was happy to talk to the press yesterday for the first time since his walkout during the West Ham game. Asked if it was his toughest season, he responded "My toughest season? I would say it was frustrating. I am just a little bit tired of people carrying on in their stupid little ways. Just let me play football."

See, we were letting him play football, despite some fairly atrocious and insipid performances, until he decided he'd abandon his club and team-mates after a shocking 45 minutes against West Ham. I wonder is criticism of that part of people going on their silly, little ways? Since his departure Senderos and Toure have forged a fantastic partnership in the centre of defence. One that is built on trust, one that is built on teamwork and doesn't have anythign other than the team's best interests at heart. You listen to Campbell and it's hard to believe he wants to come back and play for Arsenal more than he wants to put himself in the frame for the World Cup. I don't believe Arsenal is his motivation anymore and although I've said it before I'll say it again. I would be just as happy never to see him play for us again. If we have an injury then we use him, if we're picking the team on merit then he really shouldn't be doing anything but warming the bench between now and the end of the season where I believe we should offload him onto whoever will pay a decent price for him.

I'm not a big fan of Matt Hughes in the Times but this quote sums it up perfectly - "As a man who went Awol during the half-time interval of a Barclays Premiership match against West Ham United two months ago, Campbell, 31, has not always been blessed with the best sense of timing, a problem that appears to be repeating itself. He has returned to mental and physical health when his club and country need him least."

Yesterday's PR guff was nothing more than that, a desperate, slowing 31 year old overshadowed by his younger, more dedicated contemporaries trying to make sure people don't forget about him. He's been fantastic for us in the past but his West Ham escapology act was unforgivable in my opinion. Let's hope if he is required at any stage he remembers he's playing for a team and not just for the 'mysterious Sol Campbell Ltd'. Anyway, since he's been gone we haven't exactly missed him and that tells its own story.

Finally, let's compare and contrast a little. We've spoken about Campbell now let's hear from 18 year old Cesc Fabregas who had this to say after the Juventus game - "At a big club like Arsenal with a big manager, it is always difficult to believe in young players. But he did and we have to thank him for what he is giving us. We are really grateful to him because he is giving us the opportunity that we did not expect before."

Gotta love the lad and his attitude, don't you? No game tomorrow because it's a trip to Manchester on Sunday to play a resurgent United. They're in form, we're in form and although there's no title to play for from our point of view the game is as important as ever. A full preview and team news etc tomorrow. Until then have a good day and take it easy in work today. Tell your boss I said it was ok.

April 6th

In the cold light of day the match last night seemed to fly by but watching it seemed to take ages, if that makes any sense. However, also in the cold light of day is the fact we put in a magnificent team performance and have made it through to our very first Champions League semi-final where we'll play Vilarreal. And like all of you I am absolutely chuffed.

Juventus started brightly and looked like they might be dangerous but that was until we realised their plan of action was to pump long balls to Ibrahimovic or Trezeguet and that was meat and drink to Kolo and Phil at the centre of the defence. They had one decent effort through Zambrotta in the first half and that was it. At the other end a beautiful pass from Cesc and a sublime touch from Henry created and opening but Thierry's shot was too close to Buffon who was by far their best player. The only slight downside to the first half was a Flamini booking for not touching a Juve player and a yellow for Reyes for time-wasting in the 35th minute. It looked like the ref was going to be a bit pernickity but I thought he was pretty good all night and didn't fall for every single one of their little tricks.

In the second half Thierry had a great chance early on but he overran the ball and did the same thing a little while later, crashing into the Italian keeper who looked like he might have cracked a couple of ribs. There were one or two moments when Juvimbledon troubled us. One a great save from Jens when Ibrahimovic's shot deflected off Gilberto and another fine save from Nedved as he ran onto the only header the Swede won all night. It got worse for him then as he picked up a booking for a crude challenge on Eboue and a second yellow for an even worse challenge. His pathetic attempts to fool the ref by pretending to be injured himself were laughable. He had to contend with Jens standing over him and there's a great picture of 18 year old Cesc pushing our keeper away.

Late on we had chances when twice Cesc put Freddie clear. Once he should have cut back and squared it for the incoming Pires and the other his final touch was too heavy and again Buffon saved bravely. In the end though there was no doubt that Arsenal deserved to win the game despite the 0-0 scoreline and Juve were booed off by their own fans - a beaten and jaded team having been run ragged by the young Gunners. How they must feel sick that they let Thierry Henry go. Oh well, serves the cunts right for stealing Liam Brady.

It's hard to single out anyone as man of the match because it was a nearly perfect team performance. It seems unfair to single out any one player above the other so I'm going to give it to a group. The back four plus Jens were just outstanding. At times it was like watching the legendary back 4. The way they moved together as a unit had me asking if Keown had been roping them together like George Graham did. They caught Juve offside time and time again and it was like watching synchronised swimmers. They kept a perfect line every time. They won almost every header, every tackle, the read the game brilliantly - Senderos in particular seemed to have some kind of magnetic connection with the ball - and they have set a new record in the Champions League for the longest time without conceding a goal. This so-called 'makeshift' back four has now played twice against Real Madrid and twice against Juventus without conceding and that is a serious achievement.

They're so good together that you have to start thinking they should stay together no matter who comes back from injury. Is there any reason why Sol Campbell merits a place ahead of Senderos? No way. Does Mathieu Flamini deserve to lose his place just because Ashley Cole is fit again? No chance. Can Lauren really expect to replace the pacey, energetic and enthusiastic Eboue? It's hard to see it. They might have been cobbled together temporarily because of injuries and suspensions but they have taken their chance and they deserve recognition for the way they have performed. Add to them a goalkeeper in the best form he's probably ever been in and you have a solid base on which to play your football.

We can't just laud the defence without acknowleding the contribution the midfield gives them. They ran and tackled and covered and although I felt we were sitting too deep too early in the second half they didn't give Juventus the time to play football which is what forced them to resort to the long ball tactics Jack Charlton would even have squirmed at. And up front we've got the best player in the world, in my opinion, and a player who is now growing into the captain's role which did look like a burden to him earlier in the season. I would also like to add a word or two about the manager. If Rafa Benitez or Jose Mourinho had beaten Madrid in one round and Juventus in the next without conceding a goal we wouldn't hear the end of their 'tactical genius' and so on, so I hope people will take the time to give Arsene Wenger the credit he deserves for these great victories.

Post match reaction from Henry: "I'm really proud but I'm a winner and this is not the kind of history I'm looking to make. We're trying to go all the way and that means winning it. It's a good day for the club but let's extend it."

Post match reaction from AW: "We are very proud. Overall I feel we have become better and better over the past three or four months and that's why we're in the last four."

Nice of Sky's chief gobshite Geoff Shreeves to his best to dampen things by asking the manager about a bust-up with Robert Pires but no matter. We're in the semi-finals and with the greatest respect to Vilarreal, because they are a very good side, we have a great chance to to make it all the way to the final. I love the lads!

April 5th

Good morning, everyone. It's seemed a long time since the Villa game as the build up and chatter about tonight's game has been rather intense. The boss named a 19 man squad yesterday as there were injury doubts over Cesc and Eboue. As mentioned yesterday it seems Cesc is likely to play with Eboue the major doubt. The boss rated his chances at 30% yesterday but also said "Eboue will have a final test tomorrow, because we don't want to take any chances - but we are certain he will be okay."

This morning's Sun however is reporting that Eboue is set to miss out and that Robert Pires is 'fuming' after being told he's being dropped for a fit again Freddie Ljungberg. It seems there's no question we'll be playing the 4-5-1 formation that has served us well in Europe and as good as Pires was at home last week the boss obviously feels Freddie has got a bit more work rate and energy. I'm not sure what more Pires could have done last week to convince AW but maybe the boss is basing his decision on more than one game. The only worry would be Freddie's injury which forced him out of the last game he played after just 5 minutes.

If Eboue is not fit then there's an even bigger decision to be made. The most experienced defender in the squad is Sol Campbell but bringing him back means breaking up the Senderos - Kolo partnership which has done so well. Kolo could play at right back but we'd be doing ourselves a disservice taking away his energy and pace from the centre. The other option is to bring in Djourou at right back and given the fact Nedved is back and we might need to be a touch more defensive down that side then it's probably the best option as he won't be as inclined to go forward as Eboue. Ideally though a fit Eboue would make everyone feel a bit more comfortable.

I know the boss has been telling the players all week that the job is only half done and that there's still a lot of work to do. A 2 goal lead is nice but in no way insurmountable and there's no way we can sit back. He says "We need to defend well as a team but not to hide. We have to be positive and try to win the game."

Again it means a lot of work for the midfield and we have to put everything into this game like we did the first leg and the two Madrid games. We have found our form again, which is great, but there is a pressure on us tonight that there hasn't previously been. In Madrid nobody really thought we'd do it and even at Highbury there were suggestions that their strike power would be too much for us. Then the runaway leaders of Serie A and again we had nothing to lose being big underdogs. Tonight we're expected to go through to reach our first European cup semi-final but make no mistake the same press that have been building us up for weeks will take great pleasure in letting everyone know we choked under the pressure should the worst happen tonight. I think that pressure will sit more with the senior players than the youngsters to be honest but the stakes are high. Jens Lehmann reveals that the players have been angry with their domestic form this season and that it's acting as motivation for the European run.

I did like Arsene's quote about our season and how we were written off not so long ago - "I'm very realistic because two months ago everybody considered us a joke and now suddenly we are favourites to win the European Cup. The truth is somewhere in between. We can make it, but we need to play at our best against Juventus to get through into the semi-final."

If we perform like we have done in the previous games then I think we've got a fantastic chance of going through but Juventus have a great deal of experience, they have a canny manager and I suppose they're a bit wounded at the moment so that can be dangerous. That said I've got tremendous belief in the team's motivation and ability and I know they're capable of getting the result we all so desperately want.

Today is going to be a long day, isn't it? Right, I'm away to get some breakfast, ponder over possible team selections and then I might go to the gym. Let the fun begin and come on the lads!

April 4th

Good news to the start the morning is that Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue have been declared fit enough to travel with the team to Turin today. According to the Guardian it's the Spaniard that's most likely to play as his swollen foot is not as serious as Eboue's groin injury. How the manager chooses to replace him should he not make it is a far more difficult decision than replacing Cesc with Diaby who drew praise from Gilberto after his performance on Saturday. The Brazilian said "Abou is a very talented player. If Cesc does not play on Wednesday, Abou is a good player who can do a good job."

Arsene Wenger is under no illusions about the task that lies ahead. While we have a good lead it's not all over by any stretch and the players know that too. The boss says "The players are not stupid, they are intelligent boys. We have to attack and try to win the game. We cannot just defend. We will try to defend well, of course, but we have to fix our targets to play well and try to win."

Similarly the captain says "Juventus at home are a completely different proposition to the team we played at Highbury. They will do everything to make it as difficult as possible for us, and our players need to know that."

With Alessandro del Piero warning that there's still a lot of football left to be played you can be sure the lads will not be approaching this game thinking they've already got one foot in the semi-finals. Former Arsenal and Juventus star David 'Platipus' Platt thinks Arsenal will be too strong for the Italians however and playing at the Stadio Delle Alpi won't intimidate the players one bit. There's no doubt the Italian side will use all their experience, in good ways and bad, but Gilberto insists Arsenal won't be put off if they choose to play a physical game.

In the Guardian Richard Williams writes about the difference between Arsenal and Chelsea. Basically he says everyone will be rooting for Arsenal because we play nice football and aren't cunts whereas everyone hates Chelsea because they play shite football and are cunts. It's a little bit OTT to suggest the whole of England wants to see Arsenal win against Juventus but I suppose if you asked them if they wanted us to win or Chelsea to win they'd pick us. However, that's like asking somebody if they'd like a ham sandwich or a poo sandwich.

And that's it. There'll be a proper match preview tomorrow. Till then, my friends...

April 3rd

Not too much happening at the moment, hope you all had a good weekend and are now revitalised and filled with vim and vigour for the week ahead. Up and at 'em, get and and go, and such. Not me though, I'm fucking knackered.

Anyway, it's a big week coming up. We've got Juventus on Wednesday and then an in-form Manchester United at the weekend. Obviously we have to concentrate on Juventus first then we can start to think about United and the Italians didn't have a good time this weekend. They were held to a 0-0 draw and bottom side Treviso and their form and confidence is not high compared to ours. However, it's Wednesday night that counts and remember how nobody was giving us a chance when we went to Madrid? There's still a lot of work to do.

No news yet about the injuries to Cesc or Eboue. As funny as it might sound Cesc is probably the easiest to replace. Diaby played very well on Saturday and will be full of confidence if needed and while we'll certainly miss Cesc because of his exceptional ability and form it would be the break up of the back four that would worry me most. As a unit they've been outstanding and we don't really have an obvious option there. Kerrea Gilbert is back from his injury but he really does lack the experience for such a big game. The other options would be to bring in Campbell but he'd have to play in the centre and I don't want to see Kolo and Phil broken up. If that happened I suppose Phil would play right back. The other option is to play Djourou and right back and leave the other three alone. Anyway, fingers crossed both of them come through and we should get some news on that today.

In a quick round-up of the other stories Gilberto wants Thierry Henry to stay at Arsenal forever, Jens Lehmann's chances of being Germany's number 1 for the World Cup increase after the albino gorilla made two horrendous mistakes this weekend prompting Bayern's management to blame Jurgen Klinnsman's waiting game and former Gunner Edu made his debut for Valencia this weekend after spending 7 months out with a cruciate ligament injury. Good for him.

Ok, keep an eye on the news feeds for injury updates. Catch ya later.

April 2nd

Let me begin, my friends, by saying *boilk*. I'm sorry, it had to be said. Now, 5-0 yesterday against Aston Villa and i really could have been more.

1-0 : Another goal for Adebayor and another scrambly, poacher's goal. He followed in an Henry shot that was cleared off the line and nodded it in to open the scoring

2-0 : A wonderful pass from Reyes put Henry through and he lifted it over the oncoming keeper.

3-0 : Henry got the ball on the edge of the box and curled a fantastic shot into the top corner. You could see him thinking about where to put it. The keeper had no chance.

4-0 : Substitute Robin van Persie showed he hasn't lost any of his confidence as his quick feet bamboozled the Villa defence and keeper before he slammed it home.

5-0 : Abou Diaby scored his first goal for the club having been played in by Adebayor. His finish just made the comparisons with Vieira more accurate. It's almost uncanny at times.

So 5 goals, could have been more and a great performance. Can't ask for more than that, but...

...there are injury worries ahead of the game against Juventus. Cesc went off early with a foot injury while Emmanuel Eboue has done his groin. According to Arsene Wenger "Cesc's foot has blown up, that's not a good sign. It can be a vein that has exploded or it's coming from a bone. Eboue did his groin because he played like Garrincha on the right side and didn't stop going forward. Both are rated 40-60 for Wednesday night."

Hopefully both will manage to shake off their knocks ahead of the Juventus game and no doubt we'll hear more about that tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed because both of them have played a big part in the recent run of good form which has seen us keep 7 clean sheets in the last 11 games.

The boss spoke afterwards of how well the team is developing, the progress of Adebayor and Diaby and he had something to say about Thierry too - "If you asked me to buy a better one I would have a big problem. He's the best. When you have the best, why do you replace him? I'm confident he will stay, 100 percent confident."

Make of that what you will. Now, a quick round-up of the tabloids then I need to inject myself with take some painkillers. In the People Jens Lehmann calls Chelsea an 'artificial product', he also talks about the physical approach we've encountered this season particularly away from home, José Antonio talks about the game against Juventus, in the Observer Amy Lawrence examines Thierry Henry's situation, The Mirror says we've nearly sold all the most expensive seats at The Grove while the News of the World reports that Arsenal and Newcastle will go before an appeals tribunal to challenge tax demands made of them.

And there you go. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to have breakfast and then possibly collapse. Till tomorrow.

April 1st

As regular readers will know April 1st is a day when I try and play a prank of some kind. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. However, because I am Jonny Superstitious I am unwilling to play a prank on match day so it will have to come at a later stage. I don't know exactly when. Whenever the mood takes me, I suppose. So without further ado here's today's Arseblog.

The main news yesterday was Thierry Henry's declaration that his future would be sorted out once and for all before the World Cup. That still leaves us over 2 months of not knowing if he's staying or going but there you go. Really, the best thing is just to forget about it now because as he says himself we have got more important things to focus on. I like the headline of this Mirror article though (those outside the UK and Ireland won't get it, but still).

Arsene Wenger has told him to sign when he's ready and also talked about his future at the club in the light of more speculation about Real Madrid, saying "If I left this club I would feel a deserter - like the guy who walks away from the army once there is a war. I am highly committed to this club. I love what I do here and love the spirit of the team. I feel committed to the players and the club. I don't consider for a second that I'll change my mind. I've started to build a new team again and want to see the job through."

He also talks about the domestic goal for the rest of the season and that is to win all 8 remaining games to ensure the fourth Champions League spot as we hear someone admit for the first time that not only would it have sporting implications but financial ones too. The boss said "Missing the Champions League would have serious financial restrictions, especially with the move to the new stadium. But it would not threaten the future or the financial balance of the club and this is not a team that would be dead if we did not achieve success next season.”

According to the Sun a Vilarreal spokesman has said that Robert Pires will be joining them on a two year deal for next season. He said "It was incredible to us that a brilliant talent like Pires was being allowed to go out of contract."

I would be surprised if he's signed any pre-contract deal without having informed the manager first who is still hopeful that the player will accept the one year offer on the table. If he does he'll join Jens Lehmann who Arsene Wenger said will extend his current contract by one year.

AW on David Rocastle. Also, find a David Rocastle wallpaper here. And don't forget the David Rocastle Trust, if you can spare a few bob....

Team news for today sees Dennis Bergkamp out with a groin strain and it's still too soon for Campbell but Adebayor returns to the squad and Walcott could be involved as well. Three points today vital. My team are playing in the cup but I am sadly suspended due to too many yellow cards. However, I will be there to support them and to shout things at the opposition who are, naturally, a pack of cunts. Till tomorrow and come on the lads!





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