This season really is fucking sickening. Another away defeat, another limp away performance and another late, late goal sealing the points for Liverpool. I'm not really going to go into a blow by blow account of the match as there's not much point in me relating to you all the things Liverpool did. In the first half we really didn't do anything but Jens Lehmann made two fantastic saves. One from a Senderos clearance which was looping in and the second from a penalty which our old friend Graham Poll decided to give to Liverpool for precisely fuck all.
||There was one nice little interchance which saw Emmanuel Adebayor go through but he was given offside. I'm not convinced though but Sky fairly much glossed over it. From the replays they did show at the time I think we were unlucky as he looked just about level. In the second half Dudek made a save from Henry and Lehmann made another great save from Fowler. He saved from Kewell late on before making another fantastic save from Hamann but Luis Garcia was on hand to score even though again Lehmann nearly got to it. To my mind he's been the best keeper in the Premiership all season and he certainly deserves the new contract that's on offer. We had a late corner and that was it. Another away loss and another vital three points down the toilet.
Now, before I get to the next part let me just say that, despite harsh words sometimes, I love all our players. I love them because they're Arsenal players. They're wearing our shirt and I desperately want each one of them to do well in every game. No matter how badly they've played previously I want them to do well because they're Arsenal players. It makes me feel bad when they don't do well. Unfortunately some of players went missing, yet again, last night.
I realise we have injuries to players who can make a difference. That would certainly have been a different game if we'd have Lauren, Cole, van Persie, Reyes and even a fit and in form Sol Campbell available. That's beside the point though. When we have those players missing there's a bigger responsibility on the players who are there to perform and to give a little bit extra. For me the game was lost in midfield. Basically we only played with two midfielders and I'm being a bit generous there.
First we had Cesc who always wants the ball, who is always looking for a pass, always looking to keep the play moving. He worked hard, tackled and tried to create but suffered for the sins of the others. Then there was Freddie who, in the second half, worked hard, won some headers and put himself about after being a bit sloppy and lazy first half. There just doesn't seem to be any end product to him anymore though and it's mid February and he still hasn't scored a goal in the league. For a player who was never the most creative that's making life hard for us. You take the goals out of his game and he becomes a very average player.
The other two though were just horrible to watch. It makes me sad to see Robert Pires now. As poor as he was in the first half he was totally anonymous in the second and if all he can do when he gets the ball now is cut inside and play a square pass then we really have to question his worth to the team. I know he misses Cole bombing on ahead of him but there was one time last night he could have knocked the ball past Finnan, use the element of surprise as the Liverpool player - like us - certainly wouldn't have been expecting it. Instead he cut inside, played it square and we lost the ball. I think the one year deal he's been offered is about 12 months too long. It says so much about how bad he was that Hleb, who hasn't exactly set the world on fire himself, looked far, far better in the short time he was on the pitch after replacing him.
Then we come to Gilberto again. So much of our play breaks down with him. He wasn't as spectacularly bad as he has been but when we need performances, when we need someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck he's hiding behind the sofa with a pillow over his eyes. He is a huge weakness in our team now. He gives the ball away so often I'm beginning to wonder if he isn't some kind of double-agent. He can talk all he wants about stepping up and helping the young players and how we have to play to win in Madrid but his mouth does all the talking and his feet, which should be doing the talking, are wearing ballet shoes and he's Swan Laking around the pitch. I know Diaby isn't experienced but I'd love to see what he and Cesc could do in the middle. With two players so totally anonymous against such an experienced Liverpool midfield it was always going to be difficult. In this league you cannot afford to carry passengers. You'll get found out and you'll get beaten. Midfield has been weak all season long, it's cost us games and it will continue to do so as long as the manager plays players whose contribution to the game is always minimal at best. It's worth repeating that all of us can deal with a player playing badly when we know they've given their all for the cause. It's when the play badly with such an obvious lack of fight that it becomes frustrating. And when they do it more than once it makes me want to pull what's left of my hair out.
Then we come to the captain. Can you call it an off night? Once he was put through by Cesc but couldn't control it. Once by Freddie but he couldn't control it. There was another time a ball came from our left (can't remember who played it) and he sidefooted it out of the ground nearly. I love Thierry. I love what he's done for the club. I love the goals he's scored, the way he's scored them and the way he's loved scoring them for Arsenal but as long as the contract remains unsigned there's a nagging doubt that his heart isn't in it and when you're like that you can't perform and he isn't performing. Maybe the captaincy doesn't suit him but how do you take it off him now? I want him to stay and I want him to sign a new deal because I think that will make a difference to his game. He's not 100% focussed. I don't want to say he's not 100% committed because, although that's partly true, it can be interpreted the wrong way. What I do think though is that at a time when we're looking for leadership from our captain he's dilly-dallying over whether or not to sign a new deal with us. When things are going well and the team is performing maybe that's not such a big deal but when things are going as badly as they are at the moment I think it's fairly obvious that it's having a negative impact on things.
And even amongst all this hard to take stuff there's some positives to be taken from the defeats and the late goals. I've said all season the young players will learn from this and I'm still convinced they will. This is going to hurt them, certainly more than a player who is deciding whether or not to go play in the sun for a year or two like Bobby, and that hurt creates desire and a hunger to win. They're suffering from not being supported properly by the experienced players but they - and we - will see the benefits of it soon. Maybe not soon enough though.
Afterwards the manager trotted out the usual public phrases about the lads giving everything and sticking together but also said "We lost the ball tonight in some locations where we should not lose the ball and put ourselves in trouble because of that."
Let's hope he sees the reasons behind that and does something about it. Our next match is in 7 days. Against Real Madrid.
Let's start this morning with team news ahead of tonight's big match against Liverpool. We are without Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie, José Antonio Reyes (whose bruised foot was confirmed as such but it's still too early to know if he'll be fit for Madrid), Cygan, Clichy, Cole, Campbell, Lauren, Gilbert and Walcott.
However, we do get Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure back which means we can actually play four defenders in the back four. Eboue will go to right back, Djourou and Toure in the centre and Philippe Senderos will move over to left back. Midfield we have options but without Bergkamp, Reyes and RvP Thierry and Adebayor are the only recognised strikers. Liverpool have stumbled a bit after a great run but it's going to take our best away performance of the season to get the three points we so badly need. The game will be won and lost in midfield, I reckon, and it's going to mean we need big performances from whoever plays in there. Certainly we need Gilberto to be strong and to tackle because Gerrard, Alonso and Sissoko all like to get stuck in. I wonder will we see the midfield 5 again with Diaby brought in to add some physicality and maybe Thierry as the lone striker.
Speaking of Thierry, Barcelona have denied fresh claims by Catalan daily 'Sport' that a deal has been done to bring him to Camp Nou this summer. Barcelona vice-president Jordi Dourface said "We have made no contact with Thierry Henry and no contract has been agreed with him."
Which is pretty much what you'd expect him to say, I suppose. Gilberto is already talking about the Madrid game, which is a bit strange as the focus should really be on tonight's game.
Arsenal reserves drew 0-0 with Chelsea reserves last night. The profilic partnership of Lupoli and Bendtner couldn't find the net for once against a Chelsea side sporting the likes of Ferreira, Maniche, Carlton Cole and Lasanna Diarra.
The FA want Jens Lehmann to explain his comments about referee Howard Webb. He made reference to comments made to Bolton player Kevin Nolan suggesting that the official was telling him he only had 5 minutes to hang on for the win. He also said the referee was bald and shit and that he liked to eat his own shit in the company of Liberal MPs. What's to explain?
Right, not much else. Let's hope tonight is a famous Anfield night and that the mug smashers do not prevail, the mug smashing baaaaaaaaaastids. Laters, all.
The usual quiet Monday to begin the week despite the game tomorrow. It's just too early for there to be much news around.
Tony Adams says he'll help Sol Campbell if Sol gives him a ring on the phone. He says Campbell is very shy and insular and reveals that Arsenal haven't been interested in using his Sporting Chance charity. He says "I don’t know what support Sol’s getting, but Arsenal refused an education seminar from Sporting Chance, whereas we’ve been welcomed by other clubs such as Bolton and Everton.”
Maybe Arsenal just don't have anyone, even Sol, as mental as Duncan Ferguson and Spitmaster Diouf.
Jens Lehmann questions Saturday's referee while Gilberto, talking about some other stuff, thinks he generally did very well.
News on José Antonio is good. He hasn't broken anything and has just suffered bruising after the horrible tackle on him on Saturday. He still faces a race to be fit for Real Madrid but he's going to do his best, saying "It's going to be treated as a bad knock and I'll do everything possible to be ready for the game against Real Madrid. I wouldn't miss that game for anything in the world."
And that's it. Another week begins. I'm exhausted after the worst night's sleep I've had in ages. Must see if I can get 40 winks at work. I said 'winks', you sickos.
I haven't seen anything but the briefest highlights of the Bolton game but given the circumstances we have to be happy with a point. A late, late Gilberto goal cancelled out Kevin Nolan's opener but we lost José Antonio Reyes with what Arsene Wenger fears might be a broken leg.
Bolton's Abdoulaye Faye launched himself two footed at the ball and it seems that he caught José as he kicked the ball. It was a nasty challenge and Faye was lucky to only get a yellow. Afterwards Arsene Wenger was pleased with the point but was critical of Bolton's tactics, gamesmanship and timewasting. He said "I think the boys have shown character and an outstanding performance until the last minute. It would have been a shame to lose again because it is a game that we could have won by three or four goals."
On Bolton - "You would like the referees to show a little bit more authority to make the game respected. You know now that when you are 1-0 down the players will dive, at every change the player takes two minutes, at every goal-kick you have to shout to the referee to get the keeper to take it."
Again, when you consider how makeshift the defence was there are positives to be taken and it's something to build on ahead of Tuesday's trip to Anfield. Hopefully we'll have Kolo Toure and Emnanuel Eboue back by then.
Patrick Vieira astounds us all with his deep knowledge of the game by saying Thierry Henry could still leave the club. This is in a News of the World exclusive. The former captain says "Thierry will make the best decision for his career at the end of the season. I know he has not yet made up his mind but I don't know what he will do. He may stay or he may go."
Brilliant stuff that, Paddy. Cheers. He'll stay or he won't. He might have chicken for lunch or he might have fish.
Safety has been very quiet of late but something has been festering inside him as his new column 'Dear Hammers' will reveal. You can check out the columnists archive here.
Right, that's yer lot. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Let me start this morning with a gaseous *boilk*. Mmmmmm, that's the stuff.
A quick Arsene says round up for you this morning.
Arsene says said he turned down the England job. Can't say I blame him, it's football's most poisoned chalice.
Arsene says we'll probably be without Ashley Cole for the Real Madrid game - "I would not say Ashley has zero chance, but it is very, very little. To go into that type of intensity will be very difficult."
Arsene says some stuff about the Alexander Hleb ... erm ... it's not quite an affair, he's not important enough for that ... erm... thing - "There are three parties interested in a transfer - the player and the two clubs. After the story, Arsenal came out saying 'we do not want to sell Hleb'. Hleb came out saying he does not want to go and Hamburg came out saying they are not interested in Hleb. What else can I say? End of story."
Arsene says he's not thinking about the Madrid game yet and that his focus is on the league and getting us into the Champions League, he also says Sol Campbell's injury is real.
Arsene Robert Pires says he's thinking about leaving as the club are only offering him a one year deal and he would like a two year deal. At the age of 32 the weather, and not money, has become a factor in his decision making. He says "The fact of having the sun all the time is an important asset. I will take everything into consideration.”
Heartbreak for Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue as the Ivory Coast lost the African Cup of Nations final on penalties. From a selfish point of view I suppose it's good for us because they can come back sooner and not have to parade the trophy and from another point of view it's hilarious that the world's most hideous cunt missed one of the vital penalties. Stick that up your hole, Drogba.
And that's about it. Have a good weekend. Three points from our old friends Bolton would be quite the tonic. Come on you reds.
Injury news to start us off this Friday and it's good news all around. Firstly Gael Clichy is on his way back after suffering a broken foot. He says "I hope that I can be back in the next week, or maybe two weeks' time. I am looking forward to playing again and helping the team."
There's no real news about Ashley Cole who picked a thigh strain when he made his comeback from the same injury. AS well as that Sol Campbell is going to be out for 2 or 3 weeks with an ankle injury, ruling him out of the Madrid game. I can't say I'm upset although any hopes of getting him fit between now and the end of the season get slimmer and slimmer, unlike his waistline. Hopefully though we'll have Kolo back soon and if Gilbert and the left backs can get themselves fit then we've got enough quality to cope in his absence. And even if he was fit you have to question if his head is right to play for us at the moment.
I did like Hamburg's admission that they met Alexander Hleb by accident and that 'it was only for a drink'. Sort of like a man going to meet his mistress getting spotted by his wife's sister or best friend and claiming the same when he got home. "Honest, love, it was just a drink. We were discussing work related matters and Excel spreadsheet formulas. I promise."
Not much else happening this morning. The usual Friday press conference should provide some stories post lunch and with our good friends Bolton on this weekend's agenda there'll be plenty to talk about.
Last day of the week, first full week in the new office, probably calls for a pint or two after work, don't you think?
Ahhh, Thursday, what a day. We'll start with Alexander Hleb who was quite literally shocked to hear reports that he had secret meetings with ze Germans and was planning a return to ze Bundesliga. He said "I am very happy at Arsenal. I love playing Premier League football, this is an exciting opportunity for me and I am determined to do well here. The Arsenal fans are great and I love playing in their team."
His agent, on the other hand, said "In football anything is possible, but I do not want to get involved in speculation."
Let me tell you this Hleb's agent, in football it's not possible that Dennis Bergkamp can give oral sex to a cougar on the halfway line, so there's that fallacy blown (no pun intended) right out of the water. However, it is possible that a player who a club spends a lot of money to discover he is unable to pass the ball to his teammates more than once every eight goes might just well find himself sold back to where he came from. So there.
Arsene Wenger spoke about Sol Campbell's chances of playing against Bolton on Saturday, saying "Sol has regrouped, he was away but has come back refreshed and willing to do well for us. I will see how he is in training. If he is OK he will play."
Whispers suggest though that Sol is injured, his ankles unable to take the stress of that great frame, and won't take part in this weekend's game which is only right and proper in my opinion. Maybe some of you think it's harsh but I thought Cascarino's article yesterday was bang on and really the only reason Sol should even have been considered for the Bolton game is because we're missing so many defenders. With everyone fit and healthy I'd only play Sol if everyone suddenly became unfit or paralysed for some reason.
For the last two home games of the season - the last two games at THOF - the tickets are going to be allocated by a ballot based on how many home games you have attended. There's been no official word but I'm told you need to have attended a minimum of 10 games to be considered and the more games you've been to the more chance you have of getting a ticket. No doubt there'll be some announcement by the club soon.
Looks like we have already made some enemies in the new office. War is brewing. Viva la revolución.
Well, it may not be yesterday's Sun exclusive but we got Arsene Wenger's thoughts on Thierry Henry by lunchtime as I thought. The manager is confident in him staying, saying "I think he will stay. This is my opinion, what I truly believe deep inside. Rebuilding a team, going as far as possible and winning the Champions League with this club will have more meaning (for Henry) than with any other side. He will have achieved his sporting aims and marked Arsenal's history like no other player ever has."
There's no doubt the manager and the player have talked, AW knows Henry's ambitions and what it's going to take to help him achieve them. We have a fantastic group of young players who have enormous potential but need experience to help them reach the highest level. We've seen more than one senior player shirk that responsibility this season and I wouldn't be surprised if summer transfer targets have already been discussed. It's not the money - he hardly needs his wages on top of the £9m boot deal he signed with Nike a couple of years ago. Arsenal will pay him handsomely, or more handsomely than they're already doing. It's all about the football and if the manager convinces him he can win what he wants to win at Arsenal then he'll stay. I'm sure it takes a bit more convincing than this time last year but that's AW's job. If a deal is close I wonder how important the timing of any announcement might be?
Abou Diaby has played down talk of him being the new Vieira, saying "He played nine years at Arsenal and is a legend here. As for me, I still have lots to prove. Patrick is the example to follow, but I have proved nothing yet."
Doesn't he know that all our problems this year are solely down to the fact we sold Vieira and that unless we get a new Vieira soon it's the end of Arsenal Football Club as we know it? The boy needs to take more responsibility. We might as well sell him now if that's the case.
Theo Walcott scored on his debut for Arsenal reserves but the team went down 3-2 to Portsmouth last night. It was their first defeat in a hundred years and obviously Walcott is a jinx. Sell him and Diaby in a package deal, that's what I say.
Wenger on Campbell - "We will help Sol to bounce back quickly, to focus and concentrate on the game of football, which is the best cure."
Tony Cascarino on Campbell - "What Campbell did was professional negligence, for which he should have been fined. Deserting your team-mates during a match should result in you being packed off to the reserves, not given a holiday. To be blunt, a man who finishes work at 2pm every day has plenty of opportunity to sort out his problems on his own time."
The Mirror is reporting that Alexander Hleb met with Hamburg director Michael Schroeder to engineer a move back to the Bundesliga after failing to impress at Arsenal since his summer move. I'm not sure too many people would really care if he left but if he is actively trying to get away he could at least wait until the summer which is the Arsenal tradition as set down by our former captain.
Mailing list folk, I think everything is working again and your email should arrive first thing in the morning. For those of you who wish to join the mailing list because Arseblog is blocked by evil corporate firewall types just click here and subscribe. You'll get a freshly made Arseblog in your box each morning.
Right, work. HURRAH!
A very quick one this morning. Home late last night, up early this morning. This 7 day a week blogging is not easy sometimes.
Not much happening anyway. PFA Chief Gordon Taylor has offered his full support to Sol Campbell saying the player had a 'Beam me up Scotty' moment. I am biting my tongue.
Kolo Toure has urged Arsene Wenger to sign his brother Yaya who he says is a better player than him and is the new Vieira. With Abou Diaby also the new Vieira having two the new Vieira's might not be a bad thing until they both try to leave every summer for Madrid. Double the pleasure but double the pain.
The Sun is running a hard copy exclusive about Thierry Henry being on the point of signing a new 4 year deal. The online version urges you to buy the newspaper to read the full story but, you know, fuck that. By midday it'll be all over the web so we can see what it says then. Great news if it's true though.
And that's it. I have to go catch a metro. Then a train. Then walk for a bit. Then sit down and work till 5. Life, along with those fuckers who chose the wrong Euro Millions numbers again, is so cruel.
Another Monday, Arsefans and due to a move to a new office I have to get up even earlier which is a pain in the hoop, let me tell you.
The usual Monday slowness abounds. We had a story yesterday in which Alexander Hleb said how disappointed he was with his first season at the club. He said "Of course, I am disappointed about the results of our team and also the fact that I cannot convince my coach Arsene Wenger on the field."
I suppose we can interpret the last part of his sentence to mean that he's been unhappy with his own performances rather than it being any 'blast' at the coach. If that's the case I don't think there'd be too many people who'd disagree with him at the moment. The early promise he showed has long gone and maybe it's a case it's hard to find your feet and stand out in a struggling team but his inability to find a team-mate with a simple pass is uncanny. We're disappointed too as he was our only real summer signing. Let's hope he can pick it up but it's hard to see where he fits into the team. He's not really a wide player and not really a central midfield player in the system we play. I remain unconvinced.
Abou Diaby has impressed though, not only the manager and the fans, but the captain as well. After the Birmingham game Thierry was fullsome in his praise of the young Frenchster, saying "I told people what Abou Diaby was all about before he came to us. He can hold the ball and he will do us an amazing job away from home. If you look at the first goal, with his overlapping run and cross, that is what we have been lacking sometimes. What he is doing at the moment is amazing and very good for him. I just hope he can be the same player as Patrick Vieira."
Don't we all. David Beckham says that any suggesting of Sol Campbell suffering from a mental illness is 'not on' while George Graham says Campbell should play 4 or 5 reserve games before coming back into the first team as he needs to get fit again. It's hard to argue with that as he does look like he's carrying too much weight. Perhaps if he got properly fit he might be able to find something approaching acceptable form.
Anyway, no doubt we'll get a picture special on Arsenal.com - 'Sol's first day back!!!', or similar, with some nicely staged pictures of him (taken from his good side, of course). He's had a nice little holiday while we've had two fit defenders so everything is hunky-dory again. Word is he's already booked a couple of days in Seville starting at half-time in the Real Madrid game.
Dennis Bergkamp on our season - "It is OK to take one step back and two steps forward but we are not really sure if it is just one step back at the moment. It seems more. Somehow we got into a transitional year and it wasn’t necessary."
To those of you subscribed to the mailing list it doesn't seem to be working properly. The mails are being queued but there's some delay in sending them. I'll try and sort that out this week and get your Arseblog in your box early rather than late afternoon. Not sure what's wrong though.
Right, off to work I go. Have a good day. Till tomorrow.
Something of a revolution yesterday as a very young Arsenal side won 2-0 at Birmingham. Without the drama queen that is Sol Campbell the boss rested Ljungberg, Pires and Bergkamp. Gilberto and Henry provided the only real outfield experience to speak of.
Flamini and Larsson were the emergency full backs as expected, we had double Swiss in the centre of defence while Cesc and Reyes came back into midfield.
We had a debut goal to put us in front from Emmanuel Adebayor. Hardly a thing of beauty but perhaps the scrappy, in the box kind of goal he was brought in to score. He could have had a second but for a very weak finish. Jens Lehmann had made a great save from Jarosik and the makeshift defence did well against the experience, power and slyness of Sutton and Heskey.
In the second half Birmingham continued their aerial bombardment and again the defence stood firm despite some hairy moments. Then Cesc released Thierry Henry and his left foot drive made it 2-0 and gave him his 200th Arsenal goal. Another fine landmark for the captain. Emile Heskey then tried to impale Senderos on his boots before picking up a second yellow for trying to elbow Flamini's throat off. Red card for the lumbering buffoon he made a right twat of himself moaning to anyone who'd listen. Which was nobody, the cunt.
Afterwards the manager declared himself pleased with a rare away win and an rare clean sheet away from Highbury. He said "We showed a lot of character in a very difficult game and there were some performances that are very encouraging. We also had a lot of quality and effiecency as well so I am very pleased."
Considering the young age of the team it's a great result and show that these lads can do it and will do it in the future. Finding the consistency is going to be the hard part. Cesc showed how his game is so much better when he's got someone fighting alongside him. The hard-working and increasingly impressive Abou Diaby will allow him to play the football we need him to play, his pass for Henry was a perfect example. Playing alongside Gilberto, who has been weak and insipid all season, does not allow us to get the best from the young Spaniard.
There's a great article in today's Observer by Amy Lawrence which says what I've been saying all season long. The young players aren't the ones who have let us down, it's the senior players - Gilberto, Pires, Ljungberg, Campbell and even Henry to an extent - who have caused the problems. As she points out only Lauren and Kolo (and I would include Jens Lehmann) can look back on what's happened so far and not feel embarassed. The rest have been found wanting in various ways and while I think the vast majority of Arsenal fans have great regard for Arsene Wenger it's fair to say he's gambled a bit this season and made a mistake or two. What is encouraging though is the fact we can play without both regular wingers and Bergkamp and even though Gilberto was his usual terrible self yesterday we managed an away win with such a young team. If the kids are hungry and willing to fight for the cause I'll be quite happy not to see some of the senior players again. With Kolo and Ashley cole soon to return (sadly Kolo won't be back as soon as we hope after the Ivory Coast beat Cameroon 12-11 on penalties after 120 minutes - good for his stamina, I suppose) they'll add the experience to compliment the youngsters.
And finally we come to Sol Campbell. The News of the World 'exclusive' wasn't the one that people had been whispering about since Friday. A friend says he's suffering from severe depression but Sol insists that there's nothing wrong with him at all and that he'll be back in training on Monday or Tuesday. At half-time during the West Ham game he told the manager he wouldn't come out for the second half and apparently told team-mates 'That's it. I'm finished with football, I'm finished with this club. You are never going to see me again'.
He then stormed out the club which pays his wages, which has only two fit defenders at the moment and was incommunicado until the boss managed a quick conversation with him on Friday night. Then yesterday his solicitor released a statement saying "Sol is absolutely fine. I have been in continuous contact with him since Wednesday evening. He needed time and space to gather his thoughts. He has no personal problems whatsoever. He will be back in training next week. He just felt that he needed to take time out and take stock of the situation."
Fantastic, isn't it? You'll forgive me if I have no sympathy for him whatsoever. He walked out on his club when we needed him, put us through a massive drama and it seems it's because he's a bit confused about his love life and three women he's been seeing. Fucking hell. I suppose if he works hard, loses all the extra weight he's carrying, finds some form again and we have another massive injury crisis then he might be useful but I'd be happy enough if he got nowhere near the first team again once everyone is fit. He doesn't deserve it. He'd certainly be right at the top of the list of the summer clearout.
Anyway, hopefully we can draw a line under a line under the whole mess now. Enjoy your Sunday Arsenal fans.
Still the Sol Campbell situation dominates the headlines with Arsene Wenger offering support despite the fact he hasn't seen or heard from him since Wednesday. He said "I haven't seen him since Wednesday night and I have no news from him at the moment. He is in a difficult period at the moment. And you can only help people if they are in touch. Will a few days to clear his head be sufficient? I think so. I do not know what the problem is. Frankly, really and sincerely I don't know."
Despite Robert Pires saying Sol had a big worry in his private life it seems nobody has been able to get in touch with him. Kolo Toure has even tried from the ACN but said "I have tried to phone him but it was hard to get him."
The internet was awash with rumours about Sunday tabloid exclusives yesterday. Those stories certainly aren't worth repeating because they are just rumours at the moment. If it turns out that there's something to talk about on Sunday then we'll talk about but until then there's little point engaging in idle speculation.
Today's Sun hints that Sol's love life and a fling with designer Karen Millen (whoever she is) might the problem. The ubiquitous 'worried pal' saying last night "Sol’s head is messed up by what’s happening in his personal life. He’s emotionally involved with three women and is struggling to cope. He’s in a bad way and has obviously decided to go off the radar while he straightens himself out."
Maybe it's tangled love life, maybe it's more serious as Goodplaya suggests, maybe it's a little from column A and a little from column B, the bottom line is that we're without one of senior players and a player, when on form, who has done great things for us. However, we haven't really seen that player for a while but when the chips were down we needed him and he wasn't there. Whatever it is that's bothering him I think all Arsenal fans hope that he sorts it out and feels better. Where there's a dividing between us is how this affects his Arsenal future and while a fit, healty and in-from Sol Campbell is a huge (no pun intended) asset to the squad it's hard to imagine we're ever going to see that again and whether, despite his personal problems, he deserves the trust of the manager again.
Certainly no amount of money can prevent personal problems but the kind of money that he's paid brings with it certain responsibilities. If he wasn't well enough to play maybe he should have said so before the game. Whatever is bothering him he should not have walked out of the club on Wednesday night. He has friends there, he has a manager and team-mates who will always support him because that's what football clubs do and he has/had huge support amongst Arsenal fans but he's made things difficult for himself by walking away and leaving behind the people who could help him and help him through whatever this problem is.
Anyway, what this has done is totally distract from the football side of things. Maybe that was good this week after the defeat to West Ham but we play Birmingham today with two defenders. It seems the manager will start with the back four that finished the West Ham game - Larsson and Flamini as emergency full backs. Robin van Persie is still struggling with a toe injury and is rested along with Freddie Ljungberg. New signings Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott are included in the squad though with the manager quick to praise the 16 year old, saying "Theo has looked lively and alert in training. He is playing with belief and he deserves to be involved based on his performances, not just on the supposed amount of his transfer."
Which is exciting stuff and while one Arsenal career perhaps comes to an end a brand new one seems just about to start. Here's hoping he can make the impact we all believe he can make.
After a couple of weeks without a game my team plays at 2 today and a win is vital to keep up the pressure on the league leaders. Till tomorrow, chums.
Well, the Sol thing rumbles on. Opinions have been divided. Some people think we should cut him some slack, others think his behaviour was extremely poor and that he's let his manager, the young team-mates he's supposed to giving an example to and the fans down.
Steve Stammers reported in the Evening Standard that Arsenal were discussing tactics during the half-time break when Campbell asked to speak to Wenger. They spent 5 minutes away from the rest of the players who were then stunned as the manager told Seb Larsson he was going on. Previously there had been no mention of making any changes and with defenders as thin on the ground as hair on Bobby Charlton's head it beggars belief that no matter how badly he was playing the manager would take him off to replace him with a debutant right footed midfielder to play at left back.
That leaves us with the simple fact that Sol told the manager he didn't want to, or couldn't, play on. Some whispers said he'd told the manager he was never going to play again. A 31 year old veteran of two World Cups, a title winner, an FA Cup winner, absolutely bottled it. A player we pay a huge amount of money to each week refused to play for our club. Then he turned his back on everyone and went home before the end of the game. The manager is publicly playing down the incident but it's a serious a breach of discipline as we've ever had really and if it's causing shockwaves amongst the fans it must be doing the same in the squad. Obviously there's something very wrong with him, Robert Pires says he has a big personal worry, and while I hope he gets better the bottom line is his behaviour was totally unacceptable. We all have personal worries, we don't all storm out of work half-way through the day when something goes wrong. Although we're completely down the bare bones in terms of defensive players, we have two fit, I don't want him anywhere near the team at the moment.
Not that he's going to be as Arsene Wenger spoke about the squad ahead of the Birmingham game and said "Sol Campbell won't play." - and reports say he's been given 5 days off to clear his head.
That does leave us short at the back as Djourou and Senderos are the only two fit defenders we have without dipping right into the youth teams. The boss revealed that Lauren could well miss the rest of the season - which is a very big blow - while Kerrea Gilbert's back injury will keep him out. Add them to Cygan, Cole, Clichy, Toure, Eboue and the bottler and it's asking a lot of the squad to cope. I thought Larsson did well at left back the other night so I'd be happy for him to continue there while Mathieu Flamini did not look at all out of place at right back. The manager is considering using Gilberto there or in central defence but I hope that doesn't happen. Whatever side he picks the back four is going to be seriously makeshift.
More positively José and Cesc are back while new boy Adebayor could be involved. No mention of Walcott though. Must be saving him for Madrid.
Thank fuck it's Friday though, eh?
What a game. Our home record went as West Ham won 3-2 but, although in some ways it was almost masochistic, it was entertaining.
We started really well, moved the ball well, passed it around and made some chances. Thierry had a goalbound effort deflected out of play by Freddie Ljungberg of all people while Robin van Persie started really brightly and hit the post after turning a West Ham defender inside out. After 20 minutes you felt a goal just had to come. After 24 minutes it did come except it wasn't for Arsenal. The ball broke towards our goal in midfield and to call Sol Campbell's effort at tackle or clearance half-hearted would be understating it by about 345,000,000%. It was the challenge of a player who doesn't really care anymore. He swung a leg at it with no committment, West Ham captain Nigel Reo Coker went clean through and finished smartly past Jens Lehmann.
To add to his own, and our misery, a few minutes later Campbell was comprehensively muscled off the ball by Bobby Zamora who actually did nothing but stand his ground. Zamora then curled a fine shot over Jens Lehmann to make it 2-0 to West Ham. Unbelievable but given the way our season has gone nothing is a surprise. In between the goals we lost right back Kerrea Gilbert to a back injury meaning Mathieu Flamini was brought on to play in an unfamilar role. We gave ourselves a lifeline and a boost before half-time when Thierry touched in a Robert Pires shot to make it 2-1.
When the teams emerged for the second half out came Sebastian Larsson and Sol Campbell was nowhere to be seen. The TV said he had an 'injury' but there's no doubt he was hauled off and rightly so, in my opinion. Senderos moved to centre-half and Larsson went to right back meaning the back four consisted of two midfielders as full backs and an 19 and 20 year old all Swiss centre-half combination. Midway through the half Thierry had a chance to make it 2-2 as he curled one just wide and although we were playing well we weren't really making clear cut chances. Then the manager brought on Dennis Bergkamp for Abou Diaby.
For me this was the wrong decision. Diaby grew as the game went on, he looked dynamic, got forward, challenged well and won tackles. Gilberto had another very poor game, gave the ball away a lot, didn't tackle much and really slowed things down in midfield. It seems to take him so long to get the ball under control that our attacking play broke down when it should have flowed from midfield. Then without about 10 minutes to go Seb Larsson, who otherwise did really well I thought, got caught in possession on the touchline, West Ham crossed it to Etherington whose shot would easily have been saved by Jens Lehmann but it clipped Flamini's heels, looped over him and Robert Pires couldn't get there in time to stop it going in. Two former Sp*rs players scoring for West Ham against us, Grrrrrreeeat.
We pressed forward again, Hislop made a great save from Pires who eventually brought it back to 3-2 with a neat finish after a Bergkamp drive had been saved. Despite 4 minutes of injury time being signalled the ref blew up as we were attacking with still about 40 seconds to go. So three defensive mistakes and three points lost. Very disappointing but strangely exciting. Those mistakes apart we played well and would have won the game but it's those kind of mistakes that have been costing us all season long.
Let's come back to Sol Campbell though. Maybe he's been injury hit but for a player of his stature to have played the way he's played this season is just not good enough. When we needed the experienced heads to stand up and be counted he's gone missing, shirked the responsibility and performed badly more than once. Last night he reached his nadir. Those two mistakes cost us the game. You gift two goals to any Premiership side and you are going to struggle to get them back. Sky reported, about 15 minutes into the second half, that Campbell had showered, changed and left Highbury by the front door.
Perhaps there were some harsh words said in the dressing room at half-time but if that's the kind of response we get from one of our senior players then you'll forgive me if I have little time for him. He deserved the harsh words.
Maybe it would have been hard to come back to the bench but he showed his committment again by simply walking out. Not good enough by any standards, let alone Arsenal's. Afterwards the manager denied a bust-up, saying "I took Sol Campbell off at half-time because he was very down and feeling guilty that he'd made some mistakes and I felt it was better for him to stop. But there was no row when he came off, Sol was just showing his frustration. He did not have permission (to leave) but he did not mean it to be disrespectful to the club or the team."
I have a feeling the manager is keeping things in-house, which is probably the right thing to do, but for someone who normally errs on the side of conservative when it comes to substitions it's hard to imagine him putting on a midfielder to make his Premiership debut at left without there being something more to it. It's all well and good for Sol to be frustrated but the Arsenal fans are frustrated too. We don't go storming out the front door. We might kick the cat a little bit and have a bitch and a moan now and then but those kind of histrionics just aren't acceptable.
With Sp*rs losing yesterday 3 points last night would have put us in a good position to kick on for the 4th Champions League place but we're really making hard work of it now. We have Sp*rs and Bolton to play before the end of the season but we also have Liverpool home and away and Manchester United away so there are some really tough games on the horizon. The way things are going at the moment it's hard to be too optimistic but often things can turn around as quickly as the went bad. On a night like last night I'm sure the last thing the manager expected was his senior defender to hand West Ham two goals because he didn't concentrate and didn't care enough to do simple things, things he's done his whole career. With Sven watching it'll be a surprise if he makes England's World Cup squad which will no doubt hurt him more than costing Arsenal any three points. The bottom line is we are missing Lauren (who could be out for the rest of the season as it's feared his knee injury needs surgery), Cole, Clichy, Eboue, Kolo, Cygan and now Gilbert. We don't have time for people who are feeling sorry for themselves. We need people to fight for the team, not primadonnas whose first thought is to leave it all behind when things go wrong.
The manager must be hoping the Ivory Coast get beaten in their next ACN game so we can have Kolo and Eboue back. We've really missed Kolo in the last while, his drive and energy is so hard to replace and he's a very good defender. Once he is back I'd like to see him and Senderos reforge the partnership that was so solid at the end of last season. Djourou looks an excellent prospect as well. In midfield I really can't wait to see Diaby and Cesc together and I'd have Flamini as back. Gilberto and Sol can play Cluedo in the dressing room for all I care.
Plenty to talk about though, eh?
Well, transfer deadline day was yesterday and there was a bit of Arsenal involvement. Not that we brought anyone in. No last minute suprises despite Arsene Wenger saying he 'admired' Joey Barton who, for some unknown reason, put in a transfer request to Manchester City who had stood by him through more than most clubs would have.
However, we did move a couple of players on. David Bentley, predictably, moved to Blackburn Rovers permanently for an undisclosed fee. Despite a wonderful debut goal for the club he did not much else, had a poor loan spell with Norwich and you'd have to think Blackburn is about his level. No doubt we'll get some more guff from him about how he was never given a chance at Arsenal as opposed to him never doing enough to warrant a real chance.
Also on the way out was Quincy Owusu-Abeyie who moved to Spartak Moscow, also for an undisclosed fee but some reports put it around the €3m mark which is good business by anybody's standards. With Adebayor and Walcott signed the other week and Lupoli and Bendtner looking far more likely to make an impact in the first team the stepover kid won't be missed. I never really understood what people saw in him anyway so there are no tears here let me tell you.
As well as that Jeremie Aliadiere returned from his second unsuccessful loan spell since August and promptly went straight out on loan again to Wolves. Third time lucky perhaps? You'd have to think his long term future is away from Highbury too and I don't mean the new stadium.
Ahead of tonight's game against West Ham there was bad news with regards to Lauren who has a knee problem which could keep him out for a month. Without him, as well as Cole, Clichy, Toure, Eboue and Cygan that's rather a fair chunk of our defensive options. I'd imagine the same back four of Gilbert - Djourou - Campbell - Senderos will start but if any of those should pick up a knock our options are extremely limited, to say the least. Perhaps recalling Justin Hoyte might be on the cards. As well as all the missing defenders we'll be without suspended Spaniards Reyes and Fabregas. Gilberto, Pires, Henry and Bergkamp are all back in the squad though. A win would move us to within a point of Sp*rs, with a game in hand, after they lost 1-0 to Fulham last night.
With all the focus now on finishing in at least 4th place Arsene Wenger has called on Thierry Henry to show his committment and sign the new deal that has been offered to him. The boss says "I think he knows the best way is to sign first and qualify after. I think that's the only way you can do it because you need to be committed to qualify. He did not promise me face to face that he would sign, but he told me he wants to stay. For me that is basically the same."
Certainly knowing the captain was staying for sure would be a big boost and would give a big lift to in the final months of the season. I don't think he's going to be rushed by anybody though.
And that's that. Don't have time to update the archives this morning, will sort that out later on. Welcome to February.