december 16th

If you had to write something every morning for almost three years would you be tempted to pay somebody else to do it for you whose style was so similar that nobody would ever know the difference? Not me, that's for sure. Oh no.

Various things related to Arsenal are happening which makes it easier for me, the real Arseblogger and not some fake, to bring you the latest news with that special touch of whatever it is I normally do. Valencia are confident they'll sign Edu unless Real Madrid offer some money during the transfer window at which point they'll be fucked (see, blatant use of foul language proves it's the real me). Meanwhile Arsene Wenger awaits the FA's verdict over claims that he called that cheating Dutch cheat, Ruud van Nistelrooy, a cheat.

Jens Lehmann, the Germanist goalkeeper we've ever had, has threatened to quit or to fight for his place depending on which place you read the things that he said. With the World Championship of Association Football taking place in Bavaria next summer the curly chap will want to be playing somewhere though, that's for sure. The Daily Mirror claims that to sort the problem of which keeper to choose, Almunia or Lehmann, Arsene Wenger has taken the easy way out and will sign Francesco Toldo from Inter Milan. Another long rumoured transfer target, Shaun Wright-Bartholemew-Dinstable-Phillips has been valued at £25m by Manchester City. At 3'7" that must make him the most expensive player per square inch in football history.

Tomorrow sees the draw for the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Arsenal will play on the Iberian peninsula or the land where David Hasselhoff is a singing star. José Antonio Reyes, ever the optimist, reckons Arsenal can win it, along with the league title.

So that's it. Being Irish and being the real Arseblog and not a second rate stand-in I'm now off for me breakfast of potatos covered in Guinness washed down with a steaming hot mug of poteen. Slán.


december 15th

Today is a very special Arseblog birthday. December 15th 2002 saw the very first column by Leopold Mendacious. Since then he's provided us with his quite unique stylings on a semi-regular (therapies, obsessions, bomb shelters and Phoebe Cates letter writing campaigns aside). I bet he doesn't even know it's his Arseblog birthday but I hope he gets the opium pipe and freshly ground Afghan poppies I sent by DHL. You can check him out on the real ANR.

Freddie Ljungberg is to see a neurologist because he has something wrong with neurols, I believe. Edu has apparently confirmed that Barcelona, Valencia and Real Madrid want to sign him. He says "I am satisfied that the three biggest clubs in Spain have an eye on me." According to one of his agents Arsenal have made an offer but they want "...much more." I'm a big fan of Edu but I can't help feeling he's being manipulated by money on this one. Shame. Arsene Wenger is quoted in AS today and he says "If he wants to stay he has to fight for his place. If he's thinking of signing for another club we have no problem letting him go. The door is open."

Jens Lehmann has spoken about his current situation at the club and is being quite pragmatic about the whole thing. He's 35 and he's been around the block a bit. He's also played down rumours that he and Almunia don't get on even though they don't talk much, saying "He is a nice guy and we get on well. But we never speak very much with each other. He could not speak English when he arrived and he is still learning. And I don't speak Spanish."

The Standard reports that there's a High Court challenge today over the compulsory purchase orders made in relation to Ashburton Grove. And that's about it so far. Just to give you a bit of a heads up later in the week a 'top gooner' will be trying to flog off some unique number plates 'R1P 0FF' and '5H1T' will be up for grabs even though they'd fail their MOT. Check back soon!!!!


december 14th

We don't have a game until Sunday so it'll probably be a quiet enough week. We'll start this morning with the news that Thierry Henry was overlooked for the Ballon D'or as Andriy Shevchenko was voted European player of the year. I like Shevchenko, he's a top, top player but I don't know what he did that made him deserve the award ahead of Henry. Even more difficult to fathom is the fact that Thierry finished fourth behind Ronaldinho and Deco. Deco?! For fucks sake. There's the world player of the year award to come on December 20th and if he doesn't get that then there's something wrong. The guy is amazing. Ask any manager to choose one player in the world for his team and I bet most of them would choose him.

Peter Cech, still smarting about Arsenal's second, claims that Graham Poll must be an Arsenal fan. The funny thing is he's a Chelsea fan and used to go to the ramshackle old kip of a ground when he was a younger man. Doesn't Jose have the most lovable face in football, and did anyone else notice his fetching lipstick on Sunday? Arsene Wenger is worried about Freddie Ljunberg whose migraine is likely to keep him out of Sunday's game against Portsmouth. Irish keeper Shay Given has put Arsenal and Manchester United on alert by deciding to leave Newcastle, according to The Sun. Arsenal's reserves drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace last night. And that aside there's not much else going on at this early stage of the day.

Did you know it's almost impossible to find greaseproof paper in the supermarkets here? I bet you didn't.


december 13th

I have to say the feeling after our 2-2 draw with Chelsea was one of disappoinment. Not because of our performance but I really felt like that was a game we should have, and could have, won.

Flamini, Pires and Henry...

It started so well for Arsenal. A long Fabregas pass was nodded on by Henry and headed back to him by José. Henry's first touch was exquisite and with his left foot he put it past a stranded Cech in the Chelsea goal. Another amazing goal to add to his collection.

After the initial shock Chelsea came out and started playing a bit. Robben looked quite dangerous, without producing much, and they passed the ball around like you'd expect a team with their confidence and ability to do. One slick passing move saw Lampard fire in a shot from the edge of the box but Manuel Almunia made a fantastic save. Sadly from the corner nobody saw fit to keep an eye on John Terry and he stole in to score with a fine header. I can't pay him any higher compliment than that he reminds me of Tony Adams a lot.

For most of the first half Chelsea looked the slightly better side, their experience in midfield gave them the edge, but when we got a free kick about 25 yards out some quick thinking by Thierry put us 2-1 up. Graham Poll told Gudjohnsen to move aside and the minute he did Henry took the kick and with a slight deflection it went in.

Chelsea's players went mental, Robben got booked for mouthing and afterwards José Mourinho was spewing. Not that he said anything because he was being diplomatic but it was obvious he was very unhappy about it. Boo fucking hoo, that's what I say. We've had them go against us, Ian Harte got one a couple of seasons back for Leeds, we've had them go for us. It's the circle of life.

Chelsea made two changes at half time. Bridges and Drogba came on for Carvalho and Tiago and within a couple of minutes it was 2-2. Another set piece saw Gallas win the knock down and the Gudjohnsen's opportunist header crept in at the far post. After that though Arsenal got more into the game. Flamini and Cesc grew in stature in midfield and got really stuck in. They weren't outlcassed in any way by Lampard or Makelele. Apart from one dazzling Robben dribble the only way Chelsea were a threat was through set-pieces. Lampard had a free header from one and in general we looked suspect from corners and free kicks.

We had our chances too. With about 15 minutes to go some slick passing between Cesc, Flamini and Pires saw Henry with a gilt-edged chance from about 7 yards. No keeper, two defenders on the line but with his left foot he somehow managed to scoop it over the bar. With not long left Scott Parker bundled Flamini over in the box and I've seen penalties given for less. In the end though a point was ok but we should have had three.

Positives for me were Cesc and Flamini in midfield. The two youngsters worked really hard and Flamini has impressed me in the last two games. Almunia looked good in goal today, he repaid the manager's faith in him with a solid performance, he made a number of good saves, he swept up well and his kicking was flawless (something you can't always say about Jens). And what can you say about Thierry? In his post match interview he looked a bit deflated, no doubt he was thinking about his miss, but he's something special and I love him. I had a chuckle at his comment about how he doesn't score in big games so this must have been a small game. What I would like to see is Robin van Persie get a start. I said it after the Rosenborg game that he looked a threat when he came on and the same wastrue yesterday. I understand erring on the side of experience with Dennis but van Persie deserves more than 9 minutes at the end of the game. I'd like to see him start ahead of Dennis now because he looks like he's got goals in him whereas his elder doesn't. What was obvious though was that despite showing Chelsea some healthy respect in the first half in the second we realised they weren't as good as everyone seems to think. At the end they were the ones making defensive substitions. They have good players and Mourinho is building a decent team but we shouldn't be afraid of them.

Something we obviously need to work on though is set-piece defending and again our corners were pretty poor. Too many of them didn't make it past the near post and that's really not good enough. We need to find a corner taker, make him practice like a fox and get it sorted out. As for the defensive side of things people are talking all the time about this zonal marking thing. If that is the way we're playing it then wouldn't it just be easier to go man for man at corners and sort it that way? Anyway, it's something to work on. The boss spoke afterwards about how we lack a bit of height at the moment. Maybe a solution would be to bring Senderos into the centre of defence moving Kolo out to right back. Anyway the gap remains 5 points and we stay in third position after Everton's merseyside heroics put them in second place.

In other news Arsene Wenger believes Thierry deserves to win at least one of the European/World Player of the Year awards saying it would be a "scandal" if he was overlooked. Edu is off to Valencia apparently, well so say the News of the World. And that's about it. So how was your weekend then?


december 12th

You would think with all the science and technology at our disposal that hangovers would be a thing of the past, but no. You drink some beers, a glass or two of wine, a glass of cava, some shots of whiskey and some coffees with rum and you feel a bit shit the next day. I'm tired of it but I'm just going to have to keep drinking till they invent some hangover free booze. It's the only solution.

The big story this morning is that Manuel Almunia will start in goal while Freddie Ljungberg is still missing because of his migraine. That means it'll be the same team that beat Rosenborg but with Lauren at right back instead of Hoyte. Rumours still abound about a falling out between Jens Lehmann and Arsene Wenger over the German's desire to go on his national squad's training camp to Dubai. Let's hope that Almunia can respond to the faith shown in him by the boss by putting in an error free performance today.

Lauren has played down reports linking him with Real Madrid by saying he wants to stay at Arsenal and would like a new deal. Kolo says we should sign his brother Yaya, currently playing in the Ukraine. José Reyes has to be more like Olivia Newton John and get physical, says Arsene, Robin van Persie talks about life at Arsenal, while some Liverpool site says some papers are reporting that Arsenal will battle with Chelsea to sign Steven Gerrard.

Right, that's all I can manage. Will have to have some coffee (sin booze) to try and recover. Till later.


december 11th

Lots of build up to tomorrow's game, as you might expect.

Wenger says this, Mourninho says that. Wenger says Chelsea have more money, Mourinho asks if Henry was free, sycophantic hacks laugh but fans of good comedy remain stone faced. Henry says we're ready, José Antonio Reyes backs AW in the battle of the coaches which seems to have overshadowed the fact that it'll be the battle between the 11 on the pitch.

And it will be a battle, especially in midfield where Chelsea have much more experience than the two youngsters we'll have in there. No doubt they'll play 3 in the centre of midfield to try and squeeze the play. We need big performances from our big players. It's not necessarily a game we have to win but it's definitely a game we can't really afford to lose. 5 points is nothing in December, 8 points is a healthy gap at any stage of the season, even though we know how quickly larger gaps can be overturned from both sides of the coin.

The Mirror is reporting that Jens will be back in goal.

The Sun says Lauren has signed for Real Madrid. They quote Real president Floretino Perez saying “Lauren will play for Real Madrid next season because his contract will expire. We have him signed.”

This story also appears in AS, the Spanish sports daily who say that Barcelona are also interested in our right back. What's more both Barcelona and Real Madrid are interested in signing Edu if, as seems more and more likely, he fails to sign an extension to his contract leaving him free to listen to offers from January onwards. Adding some substance to the Lauren story is the fact we're bringing in Manu Eboué from Beveren after failing to sign Trabelsi in the summer. Add to that the stories that Mrs Lauren really fancies moving back to Spain and there's more to this one than the normal speculation.

As for Edu I still believe we're a stronger squad with him in it. I watched him last night on some programme on Bravo and was struck again by what a nice guy he is. He said he'd be fully commited to Arsenal whenever he played and was looking forward to getting back from injury. There aren't too many players - especially a Brazilian - who wouldn't have a think about it when Barcelona or Madrid came calling (right, Paddy?). Anyway, whatever he decides I'm sure the boss has a plan to cope, whether he leaves in January for a nominal fee or if he goes in the summer.

Right, that's it. Off to the market. Till tomorrow.


december 10th

We'll start this morning with José who feared he was about to be given a little time off from the first team, only Freddie's migraine saved him from the chop the other night, and a good job too as he got his first goal in an age and it'll have given his confidence a boost ahead of Sunday's game. He's got a good scoring record against Chelsea and I fully expect him to put at least 5 past Petr Cech in our 15-0 victory.

Didier Dogbag reckons everyone is now scared of Chelsea because they win games and that José Mourinho has a lot to do with it. I'm not going to go down the road of talking about the millions that Championshipmanovich has spunked on new players but with no disrespect to the moany old Porto coach I reckon Chelsea could rehire Dave Webb and they'd still be a threat. Yes, I know there's more to building a team than spending money and Chelsea are a better side under Mourino than they were under Ranieri. That'll make our 27-0 victory all the sweeter.

Sol Campbell, set to sign a new deal, has put a little perspective on things by reminding Chelsea there's still a long way to go in the title race - “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And who knows if they can last the pace?" - while Dennis Bergkamp is confident the Gunners have turned a corner and put their poor form behind them, saying "With the two results we have had against Birmingham and Rosenborg hopefully we are back at our best."

Also interesting to hear Dennis say that it was important not to panic and that they did a lot of positional work during training to try and put things right again. People are quick to write off Wenger as a tactician and a coach when we have a relatively poor spell but you don't achieve what he has without having a vague idea of how to coach a team, don't you think?

According to the Mirror Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia are not the best of friends anymore. Word is that the Spaniard could keep his place for Sunday. That'll be a 27-26 victory for us then. However, I'm not saying it's 100%. Jens could be back. In which case it'll be 27-20.

Finally for today I've freshened up some of the top images a bit. There are new ones of Cesc, Robin van Persie and a few others. How exciting.


december 9th

So all the Champions League qualifiers are sorted, Madrid going through as they arranged a comfortable 3-0 win with Roma, while Liverpool have Steven Gerrard stopping them being total cack and they made it through to the knock-out stages as well.

With all the jiggery-pokery of not playing a team from your own country, the group you just came from and group positions Arsenal will play one of the following: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Porto, Werder Bremen or Bryan Munich. Madrid for me, please. The draw takes place next Friday, December 17th.

Manuel Almunia says he's not suffering from nerves and he'd be more than ready to add to his catalogue of mistakes play against Chelsea. In a most unscientific poll on the forums I asked who people would prefer to play on Sunday. The results were as follows:

  • Lehmann - 87%
  • Almunia - 13%

Pretty conclusive, I have to say. Ok, in the short/medium term we've got to be looking at bringing in a top keeper to the club. The main problem, as I see it, is that there is no outstanding goalkeeping talent in the game at the moment. Ideally we want to sign somebody in their mid-twenties who can do a job for us for the next 10 years. But ask yourself this, even if you had an unlimited amount of money to spend on a keeper, realistically who would you, and could you, buy? Who is out there that's so good everyone is talking about them? One for the manager and his scouts to sort out, but at the moment I'm 100% positive that Lehmann is the best keeper we've got, he was extremely consistent and important last season and he's as good as most in the Premiership, therefore he should play. Bob Wilson agrees.

In other news Robert Pires has warned Chelsea that Arsenal will be ready for them on Sunday, Freddie Ljungberg's migraine may keep him out of Sunday's top of the table clash and I bought some new shinpads.

Finally for today, Leopold has some thoughts about Arsenal's current form on the real ANR.


december 8th

Yet another disappoint....erm, no, wait. That was quite good, wasn't it?

An early goal from José Antonio Reyes (his first since 1875) settled the nerves and Thierry Henry scored his 17th goal in 23 games this season when he got to a looping Flamini block before the defender. We went 3-0 up when Robert Pires played in Cesc, who calmly knocked the ball back over the defender before finishing beautifully with his left foot. I know he's scored before but a tap in at the end of a 5-0 against Wolves can be considered just a warm up compared to this. He nearly scored another when he dribbled his way into the box but was foiled at the last minute. This boy is something else.

That was just after Rosenborg had scored. Manuel Almunia dropped a clanger allowing their attacker to hook in. It was a bread and butter catch for the keeper but he gave Arsene Wenger something to think about with his mistake. This came after he made a very smart save to deny Rosenborg when we were just 1-0 up. He may have been nervous but to me he doesn't look significantly better than Jens (being polite here) and if I had to choose between the two for Sunday's game against Chelsea the Spaniard would not be keeping goal.

Cesc, legend...

Not long after they scored we got a fairly generous penalty and Robert Pires expertly tucked it away to make it 4-1 at half-time. The second half was predictably slow, even we were never going to throw away that kind of a lead. It was dull stuff until Robin van Persie came on with about 15 minutes to go. Immediately he showed his class and had a couple of decent chances to score which he didn't take until José played him in and he finished cheekily to make the final score 5-1. He's got to be really pushing for a start now and as much as I love Dennis the new Dutchling on the block looks to really have something more than the old guy now. We looked much more threatening when he came on. Hoyte looked pretty assured at right back while Flamini was busy and much, much better than he was at Old Trafford.

So Arsenal finish the group unbeaten and thanks to Panathinaikos' 4-1 win over PSV we ended up top of the group. That means that we play our first leg away in the second round. So lots to think about for the manager, whatever his problem with Lehmann is it's pretty clear than Almunia is not the answer. I think it's fair to say he's no better than Graham Stack or Stuart Taylor and in each of his three recent first team appearances he's made a pretty large mistake, two of them resulting in goals. I think the goalkeeping situation is something that could play a large part in our season now. I expect Jens to come back for the Chelsea game and maybe playing Almunia will have given him more focus and improve his performances (which were not that bad to begin with). However, there is the possibility that he's now feeling the pressure which may make him nervous and cause mistakes at which point we end up with two extremely dodgy keepers. I hope AW knows what he's doing with this one.

Afterwards the boss declared himself happy but stressed that the team had only achieved two of the three targets he set them. First was to beat Birmingham, second to beat Rosenborg and qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League, the third is to beat Chelsea on Sunday. With Chelsea losing to Porto does that mean they're in crisis now?

Anyway, everything looks a lot better than it did a week ago. Credit to the boss and the team. Keep it up, lads.


december 7th

Arsene Wenger was very forthcoming with his team news yesterday, revealing that Mathieu Flamini would partner Cesc in midfield and that Justin Hoyte would replace Lauren at right back. Initially he was a bit more circumspect when it came to who would keep goal, tapping his nose and telling reporters to wait and see, but late last night it was reported that Spaniard Manuel Almunia would continue in place of Jens Lehmann.

The boss said "You don't think I would take out one goalkeeper for just one game, do you? I don't do that. I have to give him a run for a few games. It's just that I don't want to make this story bigger than it is."

There are rumours that Lehmann wants to go on the German national squad's three week tour to Dubai because rival Oliver Khan is going and this has caused a bit of a bust-up between himself and the boss. It's no problem for the German based keeper because of their winter break but maybe Wenger has visions of Seaman (who feels Lehmann should play) and sees a keeper more interested in playing for his country than his club. Whatever the truth of it is we're going into a vital week with a relatively inexperienced keeper and it's a strange decision from a boss who usually errs on the side of experience when choosing his side.

Good news yesterday, and nicely timed as always, came from Sol Campbell who revealed he's agreed to a new Arsenal deal. It's not signed yet as the Ts and Is have yet to be crossed and dotted but it's great to know he's going to be on board for the forseeable future. Arsenal's reserves beat S*rs reserves 2-1 last night. Goals from Anthony Stokes and Patrick Cregg gave Arsenal a Dublin powered win.

So it's all go for tonight and I have to say happy birthday to the most understanding and lovliest wife I've ever had. Mrs Blogs will enjoy a fine birthday lunch with the family then accompany her husband to see the game in the pub later on. She's all right, so she is.


december 6th

A happier Monday morning than in recent weeks although my aching torso might disagree with you.

It's a big week ahead for the lads, tomorrow sees the make or break game against Rosenborg in the Champions League while the weekend brings Chelsea to Highbury for probably the most important league game of the season so far.

Big decision of the week has to be who's going to play in goal. The Standard reports that AW has been very impressed with Manuel Almunia in training while Jens Lehmann has declared himself 'surprised' at being dropped for the Birmingham game. Nobody doubts Lehmann's professionalism but it would be easy to get a bit complacent when you start every single game. Even the best professionals need a bit of extra motivation from time to time and perhaps seeing Almunia take his place will do that for Jens. Anyway, that's one for the boss and making decisions like that is why he's paid lots of money and I'm not.

It was reported yesterday that last week Arsene Wenger called all the players (Ljungberg and Cesc apart) into his office to tell them performances had to improve. It seemed to do the trick on Saturday. Thierry Henry meanwhile has hit back at the critics who say he's been poor in recent games, taking a swipe at Alan Hansen who gave him a lot of stick for his performance at Anfield. "People should look at how many games I play during the season and how many of them are bad."

Patrick Vieira is sad that he's going to miss out on the games this week and another reason for the boss to get his thinking cap on is the loss of Vieira and Lauren for tomorrow's game. If it were up to me I think I'd bring Senderos in the centre of defence and move Kolo to right back. Midfield is going to be a problem though but Flamini and Cesc are our only options unless someone like Pires is moved infield. Much as I love Bob he's not exactly a grafter so that's another one for the boss to earn his corn with.

Freddie Ljungberg is confident ahead of the Rosenborg game while fellow Swede Sebastian Larsson is hoping to win a new deal at the club. Finally the draw for the third round of the FA Cup was made yesterday and Arsenal will play Stoke City at Highbury.

So that's that. How was your weekend then?


december 5th

See, told you we'd win yesterday. I was only 70 goals out with my final prediction, but hey, who's counting?

It wasn't exactly a return to the free flowing football of weeks ago but no matter. Three points was the most important thing and you could see the difference in the way the team played from the previous game at Anfield. Freddie Ljungberg was outstanding, Ashley Cole too, and two goals from Henry and one from a much improved Robert Pires gave us the points. I have to say the moment of the match was when Robert Pires booted the ball straight into the face of Robbie Savage. The funniest part was when he started to bleed and everyone in the pub started laughing, even the normally grumpy boss of the bar. Funniest thing this season so far.

Afterwards the boss explained why he chose Manuel Aluminium ahead of Jens Lehmann and I suppose he now has a decision to make ahead of Tuesday's game against Rosenborg.

Anyhow, I'd love to chat some more except I have a most fearsome hangover (drinking Mojitos all night with Mrs Blogs and three chaps whose names begin with C - never a good idea you know) and I need coffee and medication right away. Till tomorrow.


december 4th

Morning chums, a brief round-up this Saturday before we get back to winning ways against Birmingham. 24-0 is my prediction.

The big story this morning is that Jens Lehmann will be missing from the side for the first time since he joined the club. Reports suggest that Spaniard Manuel Almunia will take over in goal despite his clanger at Old Trafford the other night. Maybe our current weakness at set pieces has something to do with it, so it'll be interesting to see how he gets on and how Jens responds. We've also invited Norwegian keeper Knut (heh) Borch to the club to have a look at him.

Arsenal have offered Edu a deal which 'shows we want to keep him', according to Arsene Wenger. He's also reminded the player that before he came to Arsenal he was unknown and that the club waited patiently for him while he bought sorted out his passport. If he does leave it's likely we'll buy somebody straight away, perhaps a mystery player (probably Marco Né from Beveren but the Mirror mentions Javier Mascherano from River Plate who we were linked with in the summer) but the boss has ruled out a move for Emmanuel Petit who he says is training with the club and nothing more.

In an incredible pot/kettle/black situation Alex Ferguson has accused Arsenal of lacking grace in defeat. Mediawatch on football365 says it all really. Robert Pires says José Mourinho is well known in Portugal for being provocactive and stirring things up. Hmmm, so he's a sexy cook then.

Right, I'm off to do some shopping before the game. 54-0 to the Arsenal. You know it. Also, if you're going to the game today please be aware there's likely to be a plethora of Arseblog readers there. Be afraid, and EWAers have a good day. And night. Enjoy the 73-0 win.


december 3rd

Only 21 shopping days till Christmas. That's so much easier to work out these days when shops are open 7 days a week, 26 hours a day. This year I hope to get some kind of box. Then I can pretend it's a fire engine. Or a box.

You might have felt a slight warming of the air yesterday and it's been reported there was a sudden melting at the polar ice caps. That was the steam coming out of Demento's ears when it was revealed Robin van Persie can't be dealt with any further by the FA because the referee saw and dealt with the incident at the time. So stick it. We owe these fuckers when they come to Highbury in the new year.

Those of us hoping to see the first team get a little of bit of youthful exuberance will be disappointed as the most likely candidates Robin van Persie and Jermaine Pennant look set to miss the game through injury. Add to them Edu, Gilberto, Berkgamp and Cygan and there's not much room for manoeuvre. According to the boss "It means there is not a lot of possibility for innovation. But at the same time it is a good way for the same 15 or 16 players to say to themselves 'Come on let's get back strongly'."

One option being considered to bolster our midfield is a short term deal for Emmanuel Petit who has been training with the club. "Maybe he could help us for a few months. I haven't ruled it out," says AW. It's also been rumoured that Marco Né could join the club along with his Beveren team-mate in the January transfer window but at this stage there's nothing definite.

Anyway, I fancy us to win tomorrow. 12-0, at least. What are your plans for the weekend then?


december 2nd

So the Carling Cup adventure finished in largely disappointing fashion for the kids last night. In one part because of the manner of the goal they conceded but mostly because they didn't quite click like they did in other rounds, and particularly like they did against Everton.

We couldn't have got off to a worse start, conceding after just 20 seconds. Justin Hoyte played the ball to Johann Djourou who slipped which let David Bellion gain possession. He ran towards the box, Clichy came flying across and slipped as well and his low shot looked harmless enough but somehow Manuel Almunia misjudged it and it went in.

The keeper made up for it with a fantastic save from a Richardson half-volley later in the half but it certainly gave them an uphill task right from the off. Our best chance of the first half came from a Jermaine Pennant free kick and Tim Howard (who looks like the new Taibi/Bosnich) made a decent enough save down to his right.

The second half had barely kicked off when it all kicked off. Robin van Persie got involved on our right with Richardson and both players got booked. He didn't make himself very popular with the United fans but it was nice to see one of our players putting it about a bit. In terms of possession we had the lion's share in the second half but our young forwards had a very hard time against United's extremely experienced back four. Ryan Smith came on for Lupoli (who is so Italian it's funny) and young Dubliner Patrick Cregg made his first team debut when he came on for Sebastian Larsson. We never managed to really trouble them but I thought we should have had a penalty in the last minute when their substitute Rossi had a handful of Hoyte's (I think) shirt. Nothing given but no matter. Despite the fact they didn't play as well as they have done that was good experience for our lads. A full Old Trafford, playing against a lot of experience with Neville, Brown, O'Shea, Fortune, DumbandDumba, Kleberson and a handful of youths.

It's hard to go through the performances of each Arsenal player but stand outs for me were Philippe Senderos at the back who, one uncomfortable back header apart, looked like a proper centre-half. Strong in the air, tough in the tackle and good on the ball. Sebastian Larsson looks like he's got something about him in midfield too. Clichy we know all about already and I would really like to see van Persie get a start with the likes of Henry, Pires et al around him. He looks a very talented player and I like his attitude.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger was happy with the showing from his young charges, Demento, typically spiteful, wants Robin van Persie charged by the FA for elbowing his own player even though the referee saw and dealt with the incident, while that one little altercation sent our old friend James Lawton into spasms of prolix bollix. He's gone beyond the point where another spoof would be worth doing.

Some Edu news - he's nearly better. According to the player "I've undergone all the tests and they've reported I'm completely recovered, as the bone is already mended."

He could be back in contention for the Chelsea game. So December kicks off with another defeat. When will this terrible, life-draining crisis end?

Finally, and having forgotten completely about it, the winners of the brand new official Arseblog t-shirt, available now from goalhanger.com (what a fine Christmas present it would make, eh?!) are Larry Hall and Nick Carpenter. The Random Number Generator Gods were smiling on you this morning. The answer to the question was, of course, Freddie Ljungberg. I'll be in touch.


december 1st 2004

Welcome to a brand new month on Arseblog. And good fucking riddance to the last one. No doubt this one will be filled with proper football and games in which Arsenal win by scoring ridiculous amounts of goals.

Tonight sees our kids take on Man Utd's urchins at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup. The boss says this is a great opportunity for our youngsters to show they've got what it takes to make the step up the first team. With big spending looking unlikely in the transfer window it appears the only way we're going to freshen up the team between now and next summer is with this lot so it's going to be very interesting to see how they get on this evening. Robin van Persie has impressed the boss since his move from Feyenoord. AW says "He's very close to our first XI and has been in my mind for a long time. I am very impressed by his attitude and his talent."

Young defender Justin Hoyte is looking forward to tonight's game and he knows that good showing against United could put him firmly in the boss's plans for Rosenborg with Lauren suspended. He says "Rosenborg? That is up to the boss. Yes, it could be a good six days but I am just looking to have a good Wednesday night first. Then we will see what happens."

Dangerous Davy Dein has scoffed at suggestions Arsenal are in crisis reminding everyone 'there's a long way to go yet.' He also talks about the possibility of Arsenal seeking a full share listing on the London Stock Exchange in the future and talks about Arsenal 'The Product®'. Obviously it's something that has to be considered I suppose but I do hope it's something that never happens, despite the obvious financial benefits for the club.

Get your hands on the brand new official Arseblog t-shirt with thanks to goalhanger.com. Just email tshirt@arseblog.com and tell me who gave Arseblog its tagline by saying 'It's fuckin' excellent' live on Sky Sports after the 2002 FA Cup final. The answer is on the site, you know. Winners announced tomorrow.

That's it. Come on the kids tonight.


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