Ok, first things first. It just had to be Juventus, didn’t it? Not because they’re a great team, not because they’re one of the most dangerous teams left in the competition, not because the car makers fixed the draw (I think) but because of Patrick Vieira. The ex-captain will return to Highbury for the first leg and will no doubt be afforded a warm welcome. Despite his best efforts in previous summers his departure was not at all acrimonious last July and while I had been critical of him on this site it would be horrible to think he might be ‘booed’ by anybody. Arsenal fans are better than that.
Arsene Wenger said “I am confident he will get the reception he deserves” and speaking about the match in general (first leg is on March 28th) he said “We aren’t favourites. The league positions, the youth of our team, the achievements of Juventus, the names of their players. But it is a good opportunity to show our quality.”
There’ll be plenty of time to talk about Cesc v Paddy in the weeks ahead so I’ll leave that for now. In general though I suppose the draw could have been easier but that’s to underestimate the achievements Vilarreal and perhaps Benfica who weren’t so fancied, not to mention ourselves as nobody thought we’d get past Madrid. If you get to this stage of the competition you have to expect quality opposition and that’s what we’ve got. Added spice for me is that I’m still bitter about them signing Liam Brady all those years ago so I want revenge. Oh yes.
Away from that the boss hit back at Alan Pardew’s ridiculous comments about the lack of Englishmen in Arsenal’s team against Real Madrid. One of the things I love about Arsene Wenger is his intelligence and his ability to defend and explain his beliefs and values. The following will have to go down as one of his best ever quotes. He said “When Alan Pardew calls me at the beginning of the season and asks for Jeremie Aliadiere on loan, he doesn’t check if he’s English or not – he just checks if he’s good or not. It’s just painful.”
Brilliant and AW went on to classify the comments as racist, saying “First, we kick racism out of football and racism starts there, and, second, when you’re a manager you want to accept a technical opinion but not that kind of remark. It’s very, very disappointing to hear that because it’s a regressive way of thinking.”
I think all of us would love to have more English players in the side but we want them there because they’re good enough to play for Arsenal not simply because they’re English. With everyone fit we’d certainly have had Ashley Cole and had his brain not imploded and his pie eating not got out of control then Sol Campbell too. There’s Theo Walcott still to come and what many people fail to ackowledge is the fact that there are now lots of young English players playing regular football, making good careers for themselves, because of – and not in spite of Arsenal. Pennant, Upson, Gray, Kilkenny at Birmingham weren’t good enough for Arsenal but received the training, the formation, the education as a professional football player that has given them an advantage of young players at other clubs. Steve Sidwell is about to reach the Premiership with Reading and he has spoken about how much he learned at Arsenal. If a guy is good enough to play he will play irrespective of his nationality. If he’s not he’s free to make the most of his career elsewhere. Those that can do so without a chip on their shoulders will do well.
Pardew’s comments were cretinous, the subsequent back-up of them from Gordon Taylor and even David O’Leary was disappointing. The manager’s response to them was top class and that’s that for me. Arsenal are Arsenal.
Safety has his say on the matter – Right to reply.
The Guardian has an excellent interview with Philippe Senderos – “Mistakes are going to happen in life and I’m sure I’m going to make more, like any other player, but the good players are the ones that learn from them and try to get better. There are some people who are going to like me and others are going to dislike me. I don’t mind that. I have to get better because I want to be at the highest level and take my place here.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s game against Liverpool the only real doubt is Freddie Ljungberg who has a calf strain. Unfortunately there’s nobody back. Cole and Clichy are obviously still out, Cygan is out but we can live with that, Campbell is back in normal training but according to the manager needs to play a couple of internal games to be considered while Robin van Persie will also miss out with his broken toe. Emmanuel Adebayor is available after being cup tied for the Champions League.
Ok, that’s too much for a Saturday morning after a few beers last night so I’ll leave you to to it. Have a good day.