There's been so much silly, depressing news recently it'll be nice to start with a positive quotation from José Reyes' agent although we're not sure we're believe it too much. Yesterday the Spanish press reported that Reyes' agent met with David Dein to find out how much Arsenal would accept for him should an offer come in but talking to BBC sport Jesus Rodriguez de Moya said "These reports coming out of Spain are simply not true. Jose Antonio is happy at Arsenal and he has a contract with the club for a very long time to come. This speculation is going to have to stop."
He might just need to tell José to stop telling Marca he'd like to play for Madrid then. Earlier reports suggested de Moya had met with Dein so negotiations with Real Madrid could begin in earnest. Robert Pires wants to finish his career at Arsenal and sign a new deal. He says "If I can stay with Arsenal to the end, I will do so."
Transfer speculation sees us linked with Inter Milan's Turkish Turk Emre and some Italian bloke who plays for Genoa called Valon Behrami.
Finally I would just like to mention the 2005 bloggies - The blog awards - who consistently ignore sports blogs because they're big retard nerds who never got picked for football. At least this year they had a 'best topical weblog' section into which sports blogs could go, I suppose, but when you consider the nominations closed in mid-January and one of them was the fucking Tsunami Blog then I don't need to say much more. Sports blogging is shamefully overlooked by the mainstream bloggers because they're too busy figuring out ways of posting to their blogs using their iPods to connect to their fucking mobile phones to connect to their Blackberries then posting a picture of themselves posting using their iPods to connect to their mobile phones to connect to their fucking Blackberries on Flickr. Message to the Bloggie owners: add a sports blog category or fuck off and die, you cunts.
And that's that.
The draw for the semi-finals of the FA Cup was made yesterday and some hot balls ensured that the final the FA really want is on the cards as we avoided our Manchester rivals. We'll play Blackburn while the two Uniteds will battle it out amongst themselves. Both semi-finals will take place at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, which is a bit shit really. I've always though the final venue should be kept for the final itself and there are other good grounds in the country which could have held the games just as well. Some reports say that Manchester United supporters groups are urging fans to boycott Cardiff for the semi-finals because they can't afford to go. Maybe if they hadn't spent all their money on shares and heroin though...
Jose Mourinho and Ashley Cole (up a tree - Tee Ay Pee Pee Eye En Gee) gave evidence at the Colegate investigation yesterday. We're told that Mourinho has said it was Cole's agent who initiated the meeting meaning the case will have to be referred to an independent commission to decide what punishment is necessary. However Ashley Cole claims that he was conned into meeting Mourinho believing he was going to meet a club from Italy or Spain after contract talks with Arsenal broke down. He said it was to his 'complete surprise' that Mourinho walked in and offered him £110,000 a week and told him that they had already secured Steven Gerrard for next season. Ever gallant, young Ashley told Mourinho and Kenyon "Thanks but no thanks. I want to go abroad. If I'm not playing for Arsenal, I don't want to play for another English club."
It is farcical now. With the greatest of respect Cole's story doesn't stand up to much scrutiny and it looks like his evidence is designed to cause as much trouble to Chelsea as possible while making him look as loyal to Arsenal as he can under the circumstances. Not that I have a huge problem with that, you understand, but are we really to believe that Cole and Barnett had no idea they were meeting Chelsea? It seems unlikely. The Gerrard revelations are hardly a surprise but it does open up another can of worms for Chelsea - Mourinho has said they've secured him meaning they've had contact with him and his agent without Liverpool's knowledge. Whatever the truth of it now we can almost certainly rule out Cole moving to Chelsea in the summer after that evidence and whether or not he'll at Arsenal is very much in question. I guess we just have to wait and see what this commission decides and what the summer brings for our left back who has, via his agent and his poor advice, lost a huge amount of the goodwill and support he so earned and richly deserved from Arsenal fans. It's quite sad really.
Arsenal did get one over on Chelsea though with a 3-2 reserve win last night. Jeremie Aliadiere scored a hat-trick, playing himself right back into first team contention, while Gilberto played 65 minutes and we glad to be back on the pitch again. Afterwards he said "I am back now and this game felt good. I hope now that I can help the team in the rest of the season."
Now, I'm going to tap myself up (stop it) to see if I'll give myself a pay rise. If not I'm moving to Spain. Oh....
After the FA Cup game against Bolton José Antonio Reyes flew back to Spain having been given some time off by the club. He'll return to Arsenal on Thursday. To fly to Seville he had to stop off in Madrid and change plane. At Madrid airport a Marca journalist pressed him for a few words about Real Madrid's interest in him. At first he politely refused with Marca speculating that he was under instruction from Arsene Wenger. Eventually though José said something. This is what Marca reports that he said "Of course, it would be an honour if Real Madrid were interested in me. Anyone would want to play for a club as big as that - but for that to happen the directors must speak. They are the people who must agree. Madrid have to speak to Arsenal."
Perhaps we'll get another denial from José tomorrow but it's clear to almost everyone that he really is struggling to adapt to life in England. It's made more difficult that his parents, with whom he's staying, are also finding it very difficult to live in England and make no secret of their desire to return to Spain. I realise very well that Marca is the mouthpiece of Real Madrid but I think we might be pissing in the wind a bit with José. It's a shame because he's a very likeable young man who plays with a smile and when he's on form he can be quite dazzling but it's been some time since we've seen that side of his game. With the pressure at home is he ever going to feel relaxed and comfortable enough to recapture his form fully? Can he do something about the pressure and sort his parents out with a nice house in Seville while he continues to play for Arsenal? I doubt it, somehow. As much as I'd like him to stay and become a great Arsenal player I think we have to seriously consider his future at the club this summer.
Ashley Cole is set to give evidence today to the enquiry into the Colegate affair from which nobody looks set to come out whiter than white (sorry). José Mourinho could also be appearing to give his side of the story. Arsene Wenger continues to slam Chelsea and possibly Cole and Barnett for their behaviour saying "Why did they not do it in the middle of a roundabout on the M25, then everyone would have known about it? When the story first came out, I couldn’t believe it was true. How can people be so arrogant and naive?"
Alan Smith writes a nice piece about Philippe Senderos who has had a particularly good last seven days. The boss reckons the Bolton game will have done him good, saying "There is no better education for Phillipe Senderos than to come to Bolton and get that kind of game." Quite why Smith then suggests a swap deal for Jonathan Woodgate involving José is quite beyond me. He might be a fine defender when he's fit but he's never fit. He's hardly played in the last 12 months and in his entire career he's never played more than 7 consecutive games. If Real Madrid offered us Woodgate for £9.99 I'd still tell them to shove it.
The draw for the semi-finals of the FA Cup takes place this afternoon at 1.30pm GMT.
And that's quite enough this early on a Monday morning. Things to do. Places to go. People to see. Sort of. How was your weekend then?
So Arsenal are through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup after a 1-0 victory over Bolton who are going to become famous for their anti-football. We scored after three minutes when Robert Pires put Freddie Ljungberg through then Bolton were reduced to 10 men after ElHadji Diouf, without doubt one of the most odious cretins to ever 'grace' the Premiership, dived in the box looking for a penalty then elbowed Jens Lehmann in the face. It says everything about Bolton that their fat cunt of a manager looked to lay the blame on Jens and said Diouf should have made sure he pushed him in the chest. Real class that.
I only saw the first half hour but reports suggest Bolton played their usual game but found this time they couldn't intimidate Arsenal with their physical/dirty (delete where appropriate) game.
Ashley Cole was on the bench because of a hamstring problem and not because of any other reason according to the boss but there's more on the Chelsea story. We said yesterday that only a strenuous denial from Cole or his agent would be good enough and that's what we've got. Jonathan Barnett said yesterday described claims that he and Cole had set up the meeting with Kenyon, Mourinho and Pini Colada as "Ludicrous."
He went on to say "Unsubstantiated accusations have been made against my client, which are totally wrong. As a result, he has been subjected to an intolerable level of pressure I find unacceptable. I am happy to confirm that the accusations levelled at Ashley are entirely false. Not only that, they are both appalling and offensive."
So there you have it. There's no denial that the meeting took place but a serious counter to Chelsea's claim that they didn't initiate proceedings.
Arsene Wenger has also spoken about how he believes the meeting took place (the papers are full of headlines like 'LIARS' even though that word wasn't used by the boss) and how he wants Ashley to stay and be captain of Arsenal one day.
What we have now though is a very serious situation for Chelsea. Firstly it seems beyond any doubt that they're guilty of tapping up Cole and now, if Barnett's rebuttal is the truth, they've falsified the evidence they've given to the investigation - which is hardly upstanding behaviour (not that you'd expect much from a club run by Abramovich and Kenyon). When the FA decide what sort of punishment to hand out I'm sure it will be much harsher than it would have been if Chelsea had just put their hands up and admitted what had happened in the first place. Maybe this is part of a strategy by Chelsea to colour the water and make it difficult for anyone to prove what went on but there can't be too many people out there who can't see that Chelsea have got caught red-handed. It will be interesting to see what develops over the next few days as Chelsea's puppets in Fleet Street try and soften the blow.
As for Ashley he didn't play yesterday, as we said earlier Arsene Wenger said it was because of a hamstring problem, but he's got to consider his part in this. He's a young guy earning good money playing for the club he supports. I don't think anyone will deny he deserves a decent pay rise because of his standing in the game and how much he's improved but to go door to door with his agent as part of a bargaining tool was silly. He should remember why it is he's one of the most coveted left backs in the world, who it was that gave him the chance and the training that improved him so much. He might be naive and swayed by the figures his agent is throwing at him but he's got to have more common sense when it comes to his future and how to sort it out.
And that's about all there is this Sunday morning. Enjoy the rest of your day while I rest my bruised ribs (and I wasn't even playing against Bolton yesterday).
The ususal quick round-up for a Saturday morning begins with the news that Chelsea have submitted their evidence to the FA's inquiry into the Ashley Cole tap-up affair. After denying any meeting ever took place Chelsea are now saying that it was Ashley Cole, via his agent, who tapped them up. Pini Zahavi then arranged the meeting in the London hotel where Cole and his agent, Jonathan Barnett, are said to have expressed their frustration at the contract negotiations with Arsenal.
So there are obviously some serious implications regarding all this. Firstly, atfer denying it for so long, we have an admission from Chelsea that a meeting did take place and secondly, if Chelsea's story is true it has to have some repercussions in terms of Ashley's position at the club. Maybe it's Chelsea putting some Kenyonesque spin on it to try and deflect the blame, that's not beyond the realms of possibility, but if Ashley Cole has instructed his agent to arrange a meeting with one of our biggest rivals just days before one of the most important games of the season then we have to consider Ashley's future, both in the long term and in the short term. Maybe it was the news of the this that weighed on his mind during his limp performance against Bayern on Wednesday. The ball is obviously now in the court of Cole and Barnett. Nothing less than a strenuous denial of these claims will be good enough. Silence will tell us everything we need to know about the veracity of Chelsea's story.
In other news Thierry Henry has denied criticising the board with his comments about transfers. He says his words were 'manipulated' by the press. Arsene Wenger meanwhile has said that maybe he wrong not to buy in January or last summer but not being a seer he was unable to predict the long term injuries to Edu, Gilberto, Sol Campbell and others. However he's positive about the contribution from the young players who will have gained valuable experience.
And that's it for this morning. Here's hoping the lads can put their Bolton hoodoo behind them and win 14-0.
We start this morning with the fantastic news that Thierry Henry is set to miss the next two or three weeks with a calf strain. That means he definitely misses tomorrow's FA Cup game against Bolton and it could mean Robin van Persie getting another chance up front. Opinion seems to be divided on the young Dutchman. I like him, I have to say. I think he's got bags of talent and just needs a proper run of games in the team to prove his worth. He's keen to make up for his red card against Southampton which some people were too quick to castigate him for having previously forgiven far worse indiscretions from other young players. He talks about it all here and lauds his fellow Dutchling Quincy.
Bolton will be looking to expose tired legs and minds after our Champions League exploits but with the FA Cup the only chance of silverware this season big fat Walrus looking cunt and his cunty team might get more than they bargained for. Robert Pires describes Bolton as his 'bete noire' but is confident the Gunners can do it. I don't have any team news as yet but I'd like to see Cesc start in midfield. He's not afraid of the physical side of the game and adds some vision. Philippe Senderos, who Arsene Wenger tentatively compares to Tony Adams, will continue in defence and this will another big test for him against a very physical side like Bolton.
Euro hangover reaction: Thierry Henry says we've been hampered in the transfer market by the new stadium saying we're not even in the same league as Spurs or Birmingham when it comes to spending. If there weren't funds available before now then the board will be checking down the sofa for loose change to add to Arsene's 'war chest' this summer. Patrick Vieira says defeat in Europe again is disappointing and says we're not the best team in Europe (at least he's not stating the obvious just for somehting to say....oh) while Ashley Cole says we've got to change our style of play to be more successful in the Champions League. The boss isn't worried about losing any of his star players - a problem that seems to be unique to Arsenal when we go out of Europe. You don't hear a word about Manchester United or Barcelona or Madrid players wanting to leave because they went out at exactly the same time. It's just an easy story for mischevious journos.
Anyway, that's about all there is so far. We have an early kick-off tomorrow which I'm going to miss because I have to play a match myself at the same time. I'm going to pretend the opposition are Bolton and kick their strikers up and down the place. Hurrah!
Well I know it was YANDNIEFA®™ but I don't really feel like breaking out the YADNIEFA®™ template. We're out of the Champions League yet again but I didn't find last night's exit as hard to swallow as some of the others. We paid for the two mistakes in the first leg, end of story.
The first half was pretty much all Bayern as they pressed and harried and pushed and pressured us all over the pitch and looked to exploit our defensive frailties from set-pieces. They didn't count on Philippe Senderos though who was absolutely fantastic from the word go. He won headers and tackles, made blocks and defended like a guy who'd been playing at this level for years and not someone who was making his first Champions League start.
So for the first 40 minutes it was Bayern who looked most likely break the deadlock. Arsenal's only effort on goal was a long range volley from Vieira after a goalmouth scramble. Then we put together a decent bit of play in the last 5 minutes of the half, Thierry went through down the left and Oliver Kahn made a decent save to deny him. It boded well for the second half though.
And in the second half it was mostly Arsenal. Bayern had run themselves ragged in the first 40 minutes and couldn't keep it up. We had more of the ball but we didn't really create a huge amount. Fabregas came on for the excellent Flamini to add some craft to the midfield while Robert Pires came on for José Antonio Reyes who was quite awful. People talk, wrongly in my opinion, about Thierry Henry going missing in big games well they should look at the Spaniard first. Time and time again we expect and hope for a big performance from him and each time he disappoints. I love the little guy as much as the next man but maybe we have to accept that English culture and English football just doesn't suit him.
Then we scored. The lifeline we were looking for. An long ball by Ashley Cole was controlled brilliantly by Thierry Henry and he fired a left footed shot past the albino gorilla in the Bayern goal. All we needed was one more goal and I really thought we'd get it. Robin van Persie came on for Freddie, Kolo had a header saved and in the last 10 minutes I wanted us to throw men forward and lump the ball into the Bayern box but we didn't, Bayern held on and we went out. Over the course of the two legs I suppose they deserved it but as I said earlier we paid for two silly mistakes and a poor performance in the first leg.
There were positives from last night. Senderos has shown he's more than up to the task with one of the finest central defensive performances I've seen for ages. He's got to stay in the team now until the end of the season and let him build his experience. I am extremely impressed with him and he's the kind of defender we've needed for some time. No-nonsense, strong and unafraid. Well done, Sir. Mathieu Flamini was very good in midfield too. He just never stops and his enthusiasm and running coupled with his willingness to get stuck in will make him a very important squad member in the future.
What about the negatives though? A number of the 'big name' players underperformed last night. That was possibly the worst game I've ever seen Ashley Cole play, José, as mentioned above, was brutal and Dennis Bergkamp just didn't get into the game at all. If we were to have had any chance to go through we needed those guys to step up and they didn't. Tactically I thought we were fine but when it came to the last 10 minutes I thought we could have crowded their box and just tried to pressure them more. I know it's difficult when you only need one goal, you have to try and keep playing your normal football, but lots of sideways passing will never amount to a goal. A long ball into the box just might.
Anyway, we join Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United as Champions League spectators for the rest of the season. All in all though I'm not as disappointed as I was last season against Chelsea when I felt we had a real chance to win the thing. Or as in previous seasons, especially Valencia away. It's not the disaster some people seem to think it is and some journos are only too happy to try and make it seem worse than it is. Have we really fallen below expectations this time around given how much experience we lost from the squad in the summer and how much we've had to rely on the kids?
We won last night and there's no question that this season has been transitional in a way. We've blooded a lot of young and inexperienced players who will be better next season. That's not making excuses, that's just the truth of the matter. We've seen the emergence of Fabregas, Flamini and Senderos and although van Persie hasn't convinced anyone yet I think there's lots of potential there. Some judicious signings in the summer in the right places and I think our squad next season is going to be very, very good.
Post match reaction: Thierry Henry (who says we have to make ourselves busy in the transfer market this summer), Arsene Wenger, Jens Lehmann.
Next up it's Bolton in the FA Cup so there's no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. This is our last chance at silverware so we really have to go for it. Finally I have to wish good luck to my mate Chris who's going back to -20C in Sweden today. That means I have to drink his share of the mojitos each weekend. Oh the humanity. Good luck, you cunt.
So tonight's the night. If you hadn't already been told or read it here it's the night we're going to beat Bayern 3-0 to go into the next round of the Champions League where we'll be drawn against Chelsea. How do I know this? Despite the rumours and whispers it's certainly nothing to do with a traveller from the future called Biff who had a sports almanac. Nothing at all.
Thierry Henry, who doesn't normally say much before games, has been talking about how some people think he's a bit cranky on the pitch during games. He says it's because he wants to win so much that he expects perfection from his team-mates but it's not something that's taken off the pitch. TH says "I know sometimes it comes across like I'm not happy but the most important thing for me is to thank my team-mates."
Of course Thierry doesn't know yet that he's going to score two tonight against the Germans so that should put a smile on his face at the end of the game. In team news Dennis Bergkamp returns while the manager will decide today about Edu and Robert Pires as they come back from injuries. Manuel Almunia is also out after picking up a groin strain meaning Stuart Taylor will be on the bench.
The boss wants us to play a high tempo game and I think that's exactly what's required to ensure the 3-0 win. Every single player has to run his pretty little socks off and that means defending all over the park when needed, tracking back, tackling and not jumping out of the way of tackles. If there's a 50-50 there then go for it. We need the lads to break out every football cliché there is. They need to give 110%, don't let their heads drop and remember it's not over until Irish politician Mary Harney sings. As for the crowd, well, those of you going already know you're going to witness a glorious 3-0 win for Arsenal but that doesn't mean you don't have a part to play. Get those Strepsils out and lubricate your vocal cords for a night of singing. And as my chum Goodplaya points out our most famous 2-0 win ever was 0-0 at half-time.
There's one story not really related to tonight's game - and that's the £30m cash injection the club received yesterday as ITV bought up 5% of Arsenal. The deal was done in relation to the new stadium and a fixed price was set for the shares even though the deal was done a number of years ago. That means that ITV have paid about twice as much as they should have for that stake in the club. You have to laugh. Good work by the board that.
So that's it. The day will seem long and tiresome - as will tomorrow with the celebratory hangover to endure - but grin and bear it. 3-0 Arsenal. Oh yeah....
We shall start this morning, the day before Arsenal's glorious 3-0 victory over Bayern Munich, with a small illustration of what utter cunts Telefonica are here in Spain. Last night, on my way to football training, I saw an advertisement on one of those advertisement things they have just as you go into the metro station. It was for Movistar, Telefonica's mobile arm, said "Talk free all weekend - for only €5". Perhaps I have a different idea of what free is but paying €5 for it sort of negates the freeness. Anyway, they are bastards. That's all you need to know.
On to football then and Robert Pires is confident he will be fit ahead of tomorrow's 3-0 win. He says "I am confident I will be fit." It would be good news if he was but tomorrow's 3-0 is no place for jumping out of tackles if you've got a sore ankle. Every man needs to get stuck in to ensure the 3-0 scoreline. Edu faces a late fitness test but we should have a refreshed Dennis Bergkamp and José Reyes after their spell on the sidelines after they tried to kill a Sheffield United player in the face.
The boss is confident that the defence can keep a clean sheet despite the absence of Sol Campbell and Pascal Cygan and Kolo's struggle with form. He's got faith in the big Swiss, Philippe Senderos. He says "I have complete confidence in Senderos, he's grown from game to game recently. I feel he's confident, but we can help him by defending well as a team."
Sky Sports have picked up on the story Arseblog brought to you ages ago - well, on Sunday - letting all and sundry know about our interest in Espanyol duo Carlos Kameni and Albert Lopo while the Swedish press last week reported our interest in goalkeeper Andreas Isaakson.
And at this early stage there's not much else going on. Lots of football tonight though as Chelsea and Manchester United both crash out of the Champions League. Should be fun to watch.
And a happy Monday to you all.
We start with mixed injury news ahead of our upcoming 3-0 win against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Robert Pires looks like he might make the game while Pascal Cygan is definitely out with the zombie virus mutating through his system at an alarming rate. That'll mean it'll be Kolo and Philippe Senderos in central defence while Pires will add badly needed experience to the side - but he's got to produce a much better performance than in the first leg.
Ahead of their 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at Highbury on Wednesday Bixente Lizarazu says Bayern aren't afraid of losing 3-0. The miniature Frenchman says "We have no fears about the return because we are just as strong away as at home.”
Thierry Henry is confident the lads can do the business saying "It's not as if we've given them [Bayern] a ring and said `Stay over there, you've already won'. We have to be confident and make sure we can change the flow of the tie."
There's a very interesting interview with former Arsenal youngster Steven Sidwell, now rather successfully playing his trade at Reading. He seems a very sensible young man and he's always impressed me when I saw him play. He talks about how he could have signed a contract with Arsenal but he wanted to play first team football which he knew was some time away at Arsenal. Compare his attitude to some of the other youngsters we've seen. I especially like this part when he recalls leaving Arsene Wenger's office - "As I walked to the door, he said something I’ve never forgotten. ‘We might buy you back one day,’ he said. That phrase is driving me on.” Good for him.
Finally for today the huddled masses from Arsenal World's message board have put together a book to commemorate the great Scouse slaying of 1989 and former Gunner David Rocastle. It's called 'It's up for grabs now' and all the proceeds will go to the 'Marc Fisher Trust' which raises money to finance research into Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, the disease from which Rocky, and Marc Fisher, both died. It's a great cause and who could get tired of reading about that night? It's a mere £12, includes contributions from Michael Thomas and Alan Smith, so do your bit today and order a copy.
That's it then. More build up to Arsenal's 3-0 Champions League win tomorrow. How was your weekend then?
Shhhhhh, my head. It hurts. Oh God, it hurts. Actually, it doesn't really. I think I might have destroyed the part that manages pain with rum based cocktails. Oh well.
Good stuff yesterday from the boys. Saw the game - was impressed. Arsenal were good without ever being spectacular. Portsmouth without Yakubu would be possibly the worst team I have ever seen. A Thierry Henry hat-trick gave us the win, we lost Pascal Cygan to some kind of zombie virus in the first half and in general it was very comfortable apart from Yakubu's two chances. Philippe Senderos impresses me more and more each time I see him. He's a proper centre-half and I really like the way he leaps into some tackles. Quincy started up front with Thierry and had some nice touches but the difference between Portsmouth and Sheffield United is obvious. Not in terms of ability, because I'd say both teams are more or less equal, but Portsmouth came to defend and Quincy didn't have the room he had at Bramall Lane. Still, he did well enough. Anyway, a nice build-up to Wednesday's Champions League game which we're going to win 3-0.
Now a brief round-up: Tony Adams says he'll help Jermaine Pennant - expect young Jermaine to become a poetry loving bore any day now, Arsene Wenger talks about Chelsea's situation being artificial because of the blood money of dead Russian people financing their title and his ongoing war of words with Demento, Chelsea will face a charge for their tapping up of Ashley Cole while the boss is promising to only bring in 'real star players' in the summer. Michael Owen is being touted as a target more and more while the Spanish papers seem to think we're after Espanyol's Cameroonian, and really quite good, goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. They say chief scout Steve Rowley has been at a number of recent Espanyol games and that we're also looking at their centre-half, Lopo.
And that's all I've got. Enjoy your Sunday.
Happy Saturday to you all, Arsemates. A quick round-up for you before I plummet into the depths of my hangover.
The good news for today's game against Portsmouth is that Thierry Henry is fit and will most likely play. Who'll partner him up front is still up in the air as the boss has to choose between Robin van Persie and Quincy MD. Still out though is Sol Campbell who, Arsene Wenger admits, have missed badly when he hasn't played this season. Edu will have a fitness test on his hamstring before a decision is made about him. Player of the month Freddie Ljungberg should return to his normal position on the right.
While Jens Lehmann blames the Nike football for his bad season (isn't it the same ball for everyone?) former keeper and all round Swegyptian Rami Shaaban talks about being back in football and reports in Portugal say we're after penalty taking keeper Ricardo.
Finally Arsene Wenger is critical of the changes made the FA Cup for next season which are supposed to help England do better in the World Cup. The boss says "These replays offer the lower league teams a huge opportunity to get financial income which they would never usually get. Does the fact that England will have four weeks rest instead of three weeks make them win the World Cup? Frankly, I don’t know."
I think we all do know the answer to that and Sven has just made a rod for his own back there because he won't be able to make excuses about England's inevitable exit in the 1/4 finals on a long season. Oh well.
Right. I must go to the market to barter for provisions for my family. 'I'll swap you this lump of phlegm for three fillet steaks, por favor!"
I think after three years I've run out of ways to start the morning's blog. Perhaps I need to open with a random expletive from now on.
We'll start this morning with news that PFA Chief Gordon Taylor has slammed David Dein for not backing UEFA's plan which says English players have to be played just because they're English. I wish some rampaging wrestler would slam Gordon Taylor into the side of a building, repeatedly, but you don't hear me going on about it. Shaddap you clown. Penalty hero Manuel Almunia has called Jose Mourinho 'arrogant' after his behaviour in the Carling Cup final. Expect some witty reply from everyone's favourite bad sport - that's if he deigns to turn up for his pre-match press conference this week. The cunt. Almunia has also said he doesn't understand why Luis Aragones was fined for his comments to José Reyes in which he called Thierry Henry a 'black shit'. He says Aragones is not racist and all this does is highlight once again the huge cultural difference between the Spanish, who in general feel the coach has done little wrong, and everyone else who thinks the comments were out of order.
Thierry Henry feels Aragones got away lightly with a €3,000 fine for his comments and has called on FIFA make it a 'proper one'. He criticises the Spanish FA, saying "They fined for the sake of it, not because they felt he said something wrong." I'm not quite sure what he expects FIFA to do though, like the Spanish FA, like UEFA and like so many others they pay lip-service to racist behaviour and when the opportunity comes to make an example of somebody - like Real Madrid in the Champions League - they're thinking about how it will affect their income and not how best to solve the problem.
Edu has spoken about how well he's been treated by Arsenal and Arsenal fans in the last few months atfer he and the club failed to reach agreement on a new deal. "Arsene Wenger has always told me that he counts on me for the rest of the season. In the beginning I was a little worried about the reaction of the supporters, but they had a good stance."
Arsene Wenger says there's a 'good chance' we'll see Quincy in action against Portsmouth on Saturday. There's still a doubt over Thierry Henry, although Robin van Persie is back, while Dennis Bergkamp and José complete their three match bans. The young Dutchling is determined to make the most of his second chance in football after being let go by Ajax because of problems with his attitude. It doesn't sound like he's going to make this same mistake at Arsenal, he says "To be given a second chance, that was great. But to get it at Arsenal. What a second chance to get."
And there you go. Any plans for the weekend then?
I have just woken from a wonderful dream in which Arsenal won the Champions League final 4-2 against Real Madrid. The match was being played in Finsbury Park, there were no linesmen and Arsene Wenger shared managerial duties with that big tall woman with the man's voice from the Golden Girls. Our right winger, who also happened to be an ostrich, scored a hat-trick and Dennis Bergkamp scored the other. There were amazing celebrations as just after the final whistle the team paraded the trophy and we weren't in Finsbury Park any more but Cape Town, South Africa. Pascal Cygan then said he wanted to go on safari because it was his life long ambition to shoot a monkey in the arse and everyone thought that was a splendid idea. Then I woke up because I needed to wee.
Thankfully I had that interesting dream because there isn't much else to talk about this morning. The Times reports that Ashely Cole could miss this weekend's game with a hamstring injury. I'd imagine if there's any doubts at all he'll sit this one out with Bayern Munich to come next week. It will mean yet more reshuffling for the boss if he is out.
A 14 year-old girl was arrested for throwing a bottle at Arsene Wenger as he got off the team bus before the Sheffield United game. Thankfully she missed and now has the prospect of a career as a Sp*rs striker ahead of her. Southampton's David Prutton has been banned for 10 games and fined £6,000 for his ref pushing histrionics last weekend. The ban seems fair enough, and I'm not trying to make the boy pay more money, but the fine seems a little small when you consider the fines doled out to our players for pushing and shoving opponents at Old Trafford last season. Finally Spanish coach, Luis Aragones, has hit out at the Spanish FA for his fine saying he did nothing wrong. He says, in the voice of Peter Sellers playing an Indian, "These spics don't know what they're doing. They're bending over backwards for the darkies and Brits."
And that's about it. I can't believe it's Thursday already.
Well, there's something you don't see every day. Arsenal winning a penalty shoot-out and not missing one spot kick along the way. Let's break it down into sections...
The first half was pretty much even-steven - although they had a cracking chance after jsut one minute. Luckily for us the ball bobbled to whoever it was just before he reached it and he was a shit Sheffield cunt who managed to put it high and wide from about 5 inches out. How we laughed.
We didn't create much in the first half and Sheffield United ran around and worked very hard to stop us doing anything of consequence which I assume was their plan.
That meant that in the second half they were absolutely knackered and we pretty much walked all over them. Quincy came on for Arturo Lupoli and totally changed the game. The kid was fantastic. He was direct and super-quick, had the beating of his man nearly every time and his ball control is impressive. I'd like to see him get some time in the first team. I don't really see how Fake Ronaldo at other wanky United is that much better than him.
At the back we weren't troubled too much. Cygan was excellent, Senderos was very impressive - I really like the way he distribtutes the ball and isn't afraid to put his head where it hurts - Clichy was as good as we've come to expect while Lauren did his stuff and kicked some of their players in the air. I like that.
All the while Patrick Vieira was having the best game I've seen him have in ages, Flamini did his energetic stuff in midfield, Ashley played left midfield and did well too, Freddie was quiet but up front is not his position, while Cesc was just outstanding on the right, coming infield, making chances, getting chances (one shot which hit the crossbar really deserved a goal) and in the second half he looked our best prospect of a goal. When he was taken off at 90 minutes he looked absolutely gutted. The boy is a legend though.
Extra-time saw us all over them again, the best chance falling to Jeremie Aliadiere after Kolo's scuffed free kick and so it went to penalties. Like most Arsenal fans my confidence in our ability to win a penalty shoot-out is low to say the least. The last one I can remember us winning is against Preston in the FA Cup years ago and I'm still haunted by it. Add to that the fact that Arsenal had to face Paddy Kenny - a man who fills most of the Sheffield goal.
They go first and score, then Ralph steps up and drills his usual down-the-middle penalty. Almunia is a hero as he saves their second but it turns out the ref is a cunt as he lets them retake it and they make it 2-1. Patrick Vieira makes it 2-2 and Almunia is a hero for real as he saves their third. Freddie puts his one away nicely to make it 3-2 and Manuel does it again so that when Ashley scores our next one we go through 4-2. Cue jumping and hugging and nice scenes to watch at the end.
I know it was a 0-0 draw but I really thought we played well. Obviously we missed our established strikers but no matter. I was delighted for Almunia too - he's had some terrible stick and deserves his plaudits now - and I thought some of the kids came of age tonight. A great result and great experience for them too. Afterwards Arsene Wenger was delighted with the attitude of the boys saying "We can be proud of our performance because we had a very young generation, an inexperienced side out there. We have shown not only quality, but real character and determination that is needed at the top level."
In other news Jermaine Pennant was sentenced to three months in prison yesterday for his driving offences. While it's difficult to have much sympathy for a boy with so much who acted so stupidly I think we all hope he learns a lesson and sorts himself out once and for all. The Spanish FA have fined their coach Luis Aragones €3,000 for his remarks to José Antonio Reyes about Thierry Henry.
So it's Bolton in the next round of the cup and we have Portsmouth on Saturday. Quincy to start?
Welcome to a brand new month on Arseblog.
Well, it's a full blown striker crisis...for tonight's game anyway. Thierry Henry is ruled out with an achilles injury so he joins Dennis, José and Robin van Persie on the sidelines. That means Freddie Ljungberg will take one of the striker's positions and I'm told Jeremie Aliadiere will join him with Cesc on the right hand side of midfield. Lupoli and Quincy are likely to be on the bench and I'd imagine we'll see at least one of them as young Jeremie will find 90 minutes a bit of a task after being out so long with an injury. Senderos and Cygan continue in the centre of the defence while Manuel Almunia returns between the sticks as is the norm with the FA Cup. It's all a bit makeshift really but with so many injuries and suspensions it's not a surprise.
Some relatively good news regarding Robert Pires yesterday. It turns out his ankle isn't broken, only very badly sprained, so he'll miss two to three weeks. Obviously he's out of next week's game against Bayern Munich and maybe his lay-off will help him recharge his batteries a bit.
Goalkeeping target Silvio Proto has said he's not that interested in a move to England and that he'd be more interested in a move to a big Belgian club (if such a thing exists). Fear not though because from the finest Swedish source I know I hear Arsenal are looking at a summer move for Rennes and Sweden number 1 Andreas Isaakson. Widely touted as a potential star on the world stage it's believed Arsenal have had scouts watching him a number of times since Christmas and he really fits the profile of the kind of keeper we need to bring in this summer. If I hear more about this you'll be the first to know.
In other news Ashley Cole has defended Robin van Persie reminding us all that young players do stupid things and his two yellow cards might have been costly but he didn't kill anyone. Give the lad a break - some of the criticism he's come in for has been way over the top. Steve Bruce has asked for magistrates not to jail Jermaine Pennant for his drink driving thingy last month saying living in Birmingham is punishment enough. Gilberto could be back this month after his long injury lay-off (couldn't find a link).
And that's it for now. Fingers crossed our patchwork lads can do Sheffield United tonight and get our season back on track. I fancy a Cesc hat-trick.