january 16th

I'm writing this in a lot of pain having played 90 minutes of footbal yesterday, drank the bar dry of Mojitos and having watched Arsenal play Bolton. 1200mgs of some of -buprofen should help with the pain in my limbs and head but they won't do much for the pain of seeing Arsenal's title slip away so early in the season. I know there are still 15 games to go and Chelsea still have to play us, United and Liverpool but I don't see them slipping up in Newcastle fashion.

Bolton scored late in the first half, unusually sloppy defending from Sol allowed Jonny Spitalot to get a cross in, Almunia flapped and missed and the Bolton player beat our defender to the ball to head home from close range.

We had some chances through Robin van Persie and only Robert Pires will know how he managed to head wide from 6 feet after some good work from Henry and a decent save from Jaaskelainen rebounded to him. Thierry also had a chance, the kind he normally puts away in his sleep, but he seemed to take it a bit early when maybe he could have gone on with it. You knew then, if you didn't already, that it wasn't going to be our day.

Overall it was a pretty poor performance but these things happen over a season. However, in my opinion there are some fundamental weaknesses in the side this season and it's not anything to do with young players or lack of signings. If anything typified what I'm talking about it came very late in the second half, almost into injury time. We were putting some serious pressure on Bolton and they headed clear from their area. Vieira was waiting for the ball with a Bolton player, it was about midway between the centre circle and their penalty box and our captain, the man who talks all the time about how he's going to lead by example with his football, didn't even challenge for the ball. He didn't jump, he didn't make it in any way difficult for the Bolton player, and they took possession.

We lack leadership on the pitch. Vieira quite obviously can't provide that. I expressed the opinion here in the summer that should he stay after batting his eyelids and dropping his pants at Madrid he shouldn't be captain of the team. I stand by that and honestly I think we'd have been better off if he'd gone. We'd have had £20m and time to buy a quality replacement. His performances this season have been so far below what's expected from him to be laughable but anyone can have a run of poor form. What I can't abide is a lack of effort and I'm now very tired of seeing Vieira with his hands on his hips ahead of the ball leaving a 17 year old to cover for him in central midfield. I'm tired of reading newspapers about how he's going to get going, how he's going to lead this Arsenal side by example then see him stroll back watching the opposition charge towards our penalty area. It's no wonder we lost yesterday if that's the kind of example he's setting. He's not Zidane, he's not creative really, but he seems to think he's the guy who should stand and wait for the ball to come to him so he can do some magic. What he is, or maybe what he was, is a fantastic defensive midfielder and the sooner somebody tells him to do that job the better. We can't afford to suffer his vanities any more.

Ashely Cole or Thierry Henry should be made captain.

I also think we're weak in goals. I know we've had a decent enough run with Almunia in goal and he seems like a nice guy and all but he's not the kind of keeper top teams have. We need to find somebody who's going to play for us long-term. We need to find a good young talent and bring him in as soon as possible. We don't need someone like Edwin van der Sar who is 34 years old and as error prone as Lehmann or Almunia. Maybe we need to wait until the summer to do this but I'd prefer to coninue with what we have than make a panic signing like van der Sar. Finding a new keeper has to be a priority though. In the meantime I'd like to see Lehmann back in the team.

Now, as negative as all that is there's still a lot to play for this season. There is the slight chance that Chelsea will buckle like a French airport terminal and we've got to keep the pressure up as much as possible and just hope. There's the Champions League and the FA Cup so it's not all doom and gloom but there's a funny air around the club at the moment and I hope the boss can sort it out as soon possible.

Now, I have to go and eat some more tablets and drink more orange juice before I collapse. Have a good Sunday.


january 15th

Quite a bit went on yesterday as Arsene Wenger sort-of denied any rift with Jens Lehmann and also stated that the keeper would not be leaving the club. The boss said "I do not want to sell the story that Lehmann is happy but there is no problem in our relationship. We need two good keepers to have a successful season."

Last season we only needed one keeper to have a successful season though.The boss has confirmed that Gilberto is lilkely to be missing for at least another two months and has given Edu a week to make his mind up once and for all. From what I'm told nobody should be in the least bit surprised to see Edu sign for somebody else and see the season out in the reserves. I was also told yesterday that there was no movement inside the club in terms of signings and AW made it fairly clear what's going to happen in January ruling out any move for Michael Essien and saying "It's quite simple mathematically, quite even. Coming in zero, going out zero."

He's definitely placing a huge amount of faith in the young players at the club if that is the case. If Edu is out of the equation then that does leave us light in midfield should anything happen to one of the three available players, but the boss is happy that the youngsters can do the job. "I believe that, until the end of the season, we will be stronger and stronger."

There's no doubt this is a very talented group of young players and perhaps they'll never fulfill their potential if we go out and buy players. Maybe this season is one we have to look at as an investment for the future. They need to play games to get better, that goes for Cesc, Senderos, Flamini (who won't be going back to Marseille according to the boss), Clichy, Hoyte (who has just signed a new three and a half year deal), Eboue, van Persie et al - and we've seen what regular first team football has done for the likes of Cole, Kolo and this season with Cesc. We cannot compete financially with Chelsea, nobody can, but we can invest in the future of our club and ensure a solidity within the squad and the benefits of having a group of players who know each other very well. As well as that there don't appear to be any outstanding targets for the positions we might need to strengthen. ANR are talking about Edwin van der Sar but I don't see the point of signing a 34 year old goalkeeper who really is no better than Lehmann. Maybe we could do with a midfielder but that's only because of Gilberto's injury so it doesn't make sense to sign someone there.

On the other hand though there's this typically Arsenal thing going on whereby we're the defending champions and we don't seem to have improved the squad enough. I'm not writing them off or anything like it, it just feels a bit like '90 and '92 and '99 and so on, but if the boss is convinced that the kids are the way to go then I'm happy to go along with him. He's quite cautious in that he won't play young players unless he thinks they're ready and I'm quite sure there's money to spend if he really wanted so let's get behind the kids who need support and encouragement not just from the manager and staff but from the fans as well.

So it's those evil fuckers from Bolton and their walrus faced manager later this evening. Will we get revenge for that game a couple of seasons ago? Can Spurs do Arsenal a favour against Chelsea? Will Liverpool take points off United? Answers to these questions, and more, on tomorrow's hungover edition of Arseblog.


january 14th

Let's start the morning with some good news. Sol Campbell is likely to return to the Arsenal side for Saturday's game against those evil fuckers from Bolton. Better news is that Freddie Ljungberg and Ashley Cole are also back in contention after missing the FA Cup game against Stoke with injury.

Ian Dowie has said that there's no chance of goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly leaving Crystal Palace for Arsenal. I did enjoy my chum on East Lower's description of the Hungarian keeper as 'the one who always seems to have turned up to PE without his proper kit, and is forced to run out wearing trackies and a sweatshirt from somewhere probably called something like Cool & Casual.' Just perfect. Anyway, everyone knows that once Chelsea sign Scott Carson they'll let Carlo Cuducini go to AC Milan who will sell Christian Abiatti to Parma which means we'll be signing Sebastian Frey. Oh yes.

The Sun reports this morning that AW was less than impressed with Jens Lehmann's recent mouthing off and told the German he was as welcome at Highbury as Prince Harry at a rabbi's fancy dress party. There aren't too many details on the website, maybe more will emerge during the day, but FA Cup and injury apart it seems Lehmann's time as number 1 is well and truly over.

That's about all there is this early on a Friday morning. I feel the need for some mojitos this weekend. What are you up to then?


january 13th

Well, normal service is just about resumed, I think. I have to say a big thanks to Tom for keeping things going in my absence during what has been a difficult time. I shall buy him a pint. Of whiskey. Thanks, Tom!

So it's been a bit of a weird time for Arsenal while I've been away. Results have been as good as you'd expect (Man City apart) but there seems to be a strange atmosphere around the club at the moment. Last season there was a very obvious togetherness within the squad, this season we're still waiting for Sol to sign, Edu still hasn't decided what he's going to do and despite being a very popular member of the squad he's out in the cold until he does (and if he's off then he's likely to stay out in the cold), Jens is full of fighting talk about his situation but it seems obvious the boss has made his mind up about the German's future if his unusually barbed comments are anything to go by, while Lauren is understandably a little peeved after only being offered a one year contract at the age of 27.

The Lehmann situation in particular seems strange. I was told before Christmas that there may well have been a bust-up between manager and keeper and all the evidence points to this having more than a grain of truth. We know how cautious Wenger can be when it comes to important positions, especially goalkeeper. We know how long he chose Seaman ahead of Manninger, Taylor, Wright et al, preferring experience over raw talent but now we see him choose a Spaniard, who's had about as much first team football as I've had Brazilian supermodels, over his vastly more experienced counterpart. Something has gone on, Jens has been quite outspoken in recent days, he's got the World Cup on his mind, there have been reports that he's been warming up on his own and whatever has happened it's not good for the team or the moral of the squad to have somebody so obviously isolated and unhappy. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jens move in the transfer window and another keeper get signed. That's not based on any information just a hunch. Anyway, there's a bit going on at the club at the moment and to be honest I think the sooner we get it all sorted the better, but I'm sure the boss knows what he's doing.

In today's news a move for Michael Essien might be on the cards as reports suggest Gilberto is likely to be out until April and Edu won't sign a new deal. As Tom reported yesterday he comes with the Grimster's seal of approval so that's good enough for me. David Bentley's great season continues as he's done ligaments in his knee and now Norwich want to send him back because he's faulty. Emmanuel Eboue made his debut against Stoke and he talks about how he came to join Arsenal and other stuff while Ipswich want to keep on loan Danny Karbootsale for a bit longer.

Finally for today I must share the heartwarming tale of my new Arsenal mug. Having been reminded of his foolhardy and reckless ways on this very site my brother presented me with a brand new Arsenal mug on Christmas day and he still hasn't managed to smash it into little bits. What a good and smelly brother I have. If anyone else needs me to name and shame crockery breaking relatives just slip €20 into a card and send to the usual address.

How are all you lot then?


january 12th

I'm either tired, grumpy and hungover and the rain is coming down sideways outside this morning, or I'm fit, fine and dandy and enthralled by the prospect of the day of meetings I have ahead. Guess which it is.

There's really not very much Arsenal-related of interest this morning again. Jermaine Pennant has been talking about how he hopes to earn a new deal at Arsenal: "I've had some great advice from the boss, so I think I've progressed a lot really." A nice comment and in contrast to what Jens Lehmann was reported as having said yesterday, especially coming from Pennant, who Arsene Wenger has been critical of in the past. Hopefully he'll do enough between now and the end of the season to earn a new contract offer.

Finally, Ronaldinho knows real class when he sees it, and ex-player Gilles Grimandi wants us to buy Mickael Essien from Lyon. I didn't know Gilles was working for the club as a scout.

That's it from me. Arseblogger should be back tomorrow, so normal service will shortly be resumed. I bet you we sign someone exciting as soon as he comes back. Just watch.


january 11th

Not much news today which is lucky because I'm late for work.

In the FA Cup draw, Arsenal got a home tie against Wolves. In probably the tie of the round, Southampton drew Portsmouth at home, giving Portsmouth fans an early chance to call Harry Redknapp a cunt.

Jens Lehmann has said he will stick it out at Arsenal and earn his first team place back. He reckons he's going to see out his contract but if he wants to succeed in ousting Oliver Kahn for the World Cup, he's going to need first team football by next season at least, and it's hard to see how comments like "At this club every goal is blamed on the goalkeeper" are going to make him very popular. He also suggested he knows why Arsene Wenger would say he thinks Lehmann might leave, presumably meaning that the boss is effectively putting him in the shop window.

And that's your lot.


january 10th

A smart, right-footed volley from Jose Reyes and a winner from Robin van Persie, both in the second half, were needed to see off Stoke in yesterday's 2-1 win at Highbury. Stoke scored in first half injury time to give us a few nerves but there was no upset in the end.

Once again I couldn't watch the game and had to listen to BBC Radio Stoke online (thanks to Seriera for finding the link) after the BBC bizarrely decided to televise the Newcastle game as well as cover it on Radio 5, so again it's difficult to pass much comment having only seen highlights. Arsene Wenger thought we were lucky, particularly after referee Neale Barry ruled out an Ade Akinbiyi effort for a push on Philippe Senderos: "I have seen it again and, for me, there was not a lot wrong in there. It was a bit of a strong shoulder charge but that's acceptable. But Senderos stopped because the referee had blown early, so I don't know if he would still have scored. What would have happened if it had been against us though? I wouldn't have seen it!" I doubt Stoke see the funny side because it did look fair enough, but fair play to the boss, it's nice to see him mock the criticism he gets for his myopia.

Eboue had a solid debut and Reyes looked lively and scored a good goal. Apparently van Persie had ten attempts before scoring but it's all part of him settling in. At least he's in the right place to have a go. I'm not sure what Senderos starting with Cygan on the bench says about Cygan - maybe he wasn't fit enough to start after his injury but it could be that Senderos has moved ahead of him. Lehmann only came charging out of his area the once but I don't think he did enough to get back ahead of Almunia. Fabregas was class, yet again. For Stoke, Gerry Taggart was a fat bastard.

For those that don't know already, Arseblogger will hopefully be back sometime this week so you won't have to put up with my nonsense for much longer.

Back to work for me today - gah!


january 9th

Team news ahead of today's game against Stoke sees new signing Emmanuel Eboue on the bench. Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and Ashley Cole all get a well deserved rest but Jens Lehmann and Jose Reyes will play.

The club officially announced the signing of Emmanuel Eboue from Beveren yesterday. He's mainly a right-back, will wear number 27, and has seemingly been bought to provide cover / competition for Lauren. That says something about the future of either Justin Hoyte or Lauren.

Arsene Wenger has been talking about Sol Campbell's contract situation but not really saying anything more than he has done in the past. It's a slight worry that his new contract is still unsigned but the boss seems confident enough about the situation: "Sol will stay, that's a 100% certainty. When will we announce it? I don't know. But there is no question-mark about it for me." He's also pretty much confirmed that Edu will not play for the club again if he doesn't sign a new contract: "If he doesn't sign, why should he waste time? If he says the offer is not good enough, I would say 'go somewhere else now'." Unfortunately, of course, its unlikely he'll go somewhere else now since he's available on free transfer at the end of the season.

And that's about it.


january 7th

My hangover has receeded sufficiently for me to be arsed providing an arse update.

There's not much happening today anyway. Arsene Wenger has pretty much stuck 2 fingers up at Jens Lehmann by recalling him for the Stoke game and then insisting he always plays his number 2 goalie in the Cup. Its difficult to see how Jens is going to return to favour after that kind of public snub. In other team news, Reyes should return but it looks like Gilberto, Edu, Cygan, Dennis, Flamini, Lauren and Sol are still out.

Exciting stuff!


january 6th

In an article with an overly dramatic headline, Edu has been talking about his contract situation and says he's not sure if he wants to stay or go. His contract expires at the end of the season and he's free to talk to other clubs. He said: "If they had really wanted to sign they should have come up with an offer six months before indicating they wanted to sign me and that's made me think." Can't really argue with that. I like Edu and I'd like him to stay but 5 central midfielders does seem like quite a few and its bound to be hard keeping at least one of them happy.

Thierry Henry has been talking about the gap between Arsenal and Chelsea and is blaming it on the relative budgets of the sides and their strengths in depth. We were without Sol Campbell, Cygan, Lauren, Edu, Gilberto, Dennis Bergkamp and José Reyes because of injury and the players that came in were all about 16 (almost). A lot of people wanted to see more of the youngsters that have done so well in the League Cup in recent seasons, so when they get a game and perhaps don't beat everything in sight, its a bit churlish to complain. Thierry's right - we clearly don't have the strength in depth of Chelsea - but that's just the way it is. They've spent £300m odd and are 7 points ahead. We're 4 points ahead of our next nearest rivals - take Chelsea out of the equation and we'd be pretty happy. I know Chelsea are also playing well but you have to accept that with the budget they've got they bloody well ought to be. Freddie points out that they've had a few lucky breaks as well which always helps.

The Guardian also reports that Jermaine Pennant has still not been offered a new contract which seems unfortunate because he did make a difference when he came on against City. It seems his card has perhaps been marked and his time at Arsenal is winding down.

In today's other news, regular columnist Safety has written a new piece for the new year. Read New Year, New You and learn why you shouldn't give up on the title race just yet.


january 5th

A Shaun Wright-Phillips screamer and a Freddie Ljungberg header meant a 1-1 draw at Highbury last night. SWP shot across Almunia into the far top corner from 25 yards after Patrick Vieira was caught in possession after half an hour. Thierry Henry's overhead kick back into the area found Freddie being played onside by Jon Macken on the far side in the second half.

Admittedly I only watched the game on a patchy internet feed and saw the highlights on Match of the Day but I don't think we played too badly and to City's credit they played well - as they did against Chelsea. They've had a draw at Old Trafford this season as well. We were a bit unlucky - we could have won if van Pershie had got his shot across James instead of straight at him or his free-kick had gone in and not hit the bar/post, Pires had put his half-volley either side of the goal or Thierry had managed to get slightly less on his header at the end. The result is hardly the end of the world - its obviously not ideal - but seven points at this stage of the season is far from the end.

Positives from last night - Senderos showed promise, Pennant made a difference when he came on, Almunia made a couple of good saves and Fabregas was great - again - until he was taken off, knackered. I thought Hoyte did okay as well, despite the criticism he's been getting over on the forums.

In other news, Sp*rs missed out on one of the most obvious goals in history after the linesman refused to give this at Old Trafford.

Absolutely incredible.


january 4th

So after some good results in the festive programme so far, its Citeh tonight at Highbury. We've got a couple of injury problems with Sol Campbell out for 2 weeks after twisting his ankle against Charlton, and with Cygan also injured Phillipe Senderos will get his first Premiership start since joining the club in June 2003. Jose Reyes and Dennish Bergkamp are also unavailable so Robin van Persie should again partner Thierry Henry. Justin Hoyte will continue at right-back in place of Lauren so half our back four is going to be pretty inexperienced. Time to step up and show what you can do, lads.

You have my sympathy if you're back at work today. I've had an excellent Christmas and New Year but luckily for me I've still got the rest of this week off to recover. I think I shall spend it doing very little.


january 2nd 2005

Happy New Year! Hope your celebrations went well. My hangover from last night's efforts is receeding nicely with the tasty alcohol I'm now drinking.

You're stuck with me (Tom) for a bit since I've just got an email from Blogger in which he's asked me to post the following message:

Hello all,

just a quick message to wish you all a happy new year and to let you know that for the time-being I won't be updating the site due to personal reasons. I hope you all understand.

There will be updates very kindly provided by Tom. Be nice to him.

Talk to you soon.

blogger


Note the key part - you have to be nice to me.


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