Archive for the ‘Football’ Category


Could Fergie drop RVP for the Arsenal game?

By Stefano on April 28th, 2013

Is there any need for Robin van Persie to start at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon? Manchester United’s number 20 scored the excellent hat-trick that sealed the club’s 20th league title on Monday night against Aston Villa, and might be given a guard of honour by the Arsenal team that sold him last summer.

But Van Persie still has an affection for Arsenal, respect for their supporters (see his non-celebration in the reverse fixture) and has constantly underlined his gratitude towards Arsene Wenger. There’s no particular reason for Van Persie to be involved this weekend, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him left out of the starting XI.

Van Persie’s hat-trick against Villa also saw him move ahead of Luis Suarez in the race for the Golden Boot ­ and with the Uruguayan suspended for the rest of the season (even an appeal is unlikely to cut the ban in half), Van Persie has effectively secured that award, which was probably the only reason he might’ve wanted to play.

While the Dutchman has largely remained injury free over the past two campaigns, he’s still a player that needs to be rested whenever possible.

Besides, Ferguson might prefer to give playing time to squad members that haven’t been regulars this season: Javier Hernandez has been a brilliant supersub but insists he prefers to start matches, while Danny Welbeck’s tactical intelligence has been useful, but he needs to score more. He hit the winner in this fixture last season, and is probably a more logical starter than Van Persie.

Article originally published here.


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How the ash cloud stopped Robert Lewandowski signing for Blackburn

By Stefano on April 25th, 2013

Remember the ash cloud that hovered over the north of Europe in 2010? Well it didn’t just have the effect of crippling the Icelandic economy and downing hundreds of planes.

It also scuppered what might have been the footballing coup of the decade.

For had it not happened Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski could well have been a Blackburn Rovers player.

Apparently Sam Allardyce had bid £4.3m for the lanky goalscoring genius, a fee which Polish side Lech Poznan were happy with it.

Allardyce was due to hold talks with the player but the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud forced the cancellation of his flight.

Allardyce then bought Croatian Nikola Kalinic for around £6m and Lewandowski left for Germany.

Three years on and Rovers are just about going to keep their Championship status while Dortmund are almost certainly heading to Wembley for the Champions League final.

On a more serious note I really hope that Lewandowski stays with Dortmund and doesn’t move to Bayern Munich like his colleague Mario Gotze. Losing your star players to your deadliest rivals is one thing – but losing both is beyond belief.


Now it is rumoured that Arsenal players don’t want the guard of honour

By Stefano on April 25th, 2013

I wrote yesterday about how Arsenal fans need to get over it and give Manchester United, and their old pal Robin Van Persie, the guard of honour on Sunday.

Now in a classic piece of mischief making the Daily Mail is reporting that some of the players aren’t took keen on saluting their former team mate.

The paper says

Reluctant Arsenal players are privately unhappy about giving newly crowned champions Manchester United — and their former captain, Robin van Persie — a guard of honour when they meet at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday – but they are still expected to perform the honour.

A guard of honour is a tradition in games involving teams who have just won the title. Privately, a number of Arsenal players have expressed objections towards the gesture, particularly in front of their own supporters, but it is understood it will still go ahead.

There’s no attribution to the source of the story, so make of that what you will.

The Mail is certainly splashing a little fuel on a fire that could soon rage out of control.

Arsenal need to confirm or deny that the guard will happen and work with the fans to ensure that it goes off peacefully. If fans want to turn their backs on the United players that’s up to them.

However I think that anything that gives United players more determination to win a game that they really don’t need to – whereas Arsenal are desperate for the points – is not sensible.


Arsenal to line up Diaby replacement?

By Stefano on April 25th, 2013

Arsenal have already done one deal with French Champions Montpelier – might they be about to do another one? According to The Express Younes Belhanda, who has been on Wenger’s radar for a while now, is set to leave the club in the summer and may end up joining his old team mate Olivier Giroud at Arsenal.

Belhanda was linked with a move to the Gunners in the winter transfer window as Arsene looked to add steel and finesse to his midfield. Now Montpelier seem resigned to letting him go.

“The door is open for Younes to find a bigger club than ours,” Montpellier owner Louis Nicollin told French radio station RMC.

“I don’t know where yet but he wants to leave. It’ll take €10-11 million though.

“He’s a boy I love, but we gave him a big salary after winning the title.

“Next year, we can’t do that as we don’t have the Champions League.”

Belhanda can play anywhere across the middle and would probably be seen as a replacement for Diaby and or Rosciky, both of whom may not feature too heavily next season due to ongoing injury issues.

The player has also interested Spurs in the past too.


Stevan Jovetic to Arsenal – ‘expect developments’ says agent

By Stefano on April 24th, 2013

Good news for Gunners fans.

Speaking to website agent Peppino Tirri has sounded an optimistic note that the Fiorentina player could soon be London-bound.

Using a spot of Google translation he said

“I read the news this morning in the newspapers . In fact it is a deal that might have practical implications. Expect developments ”

I am not entirely sure what the news this morning was – though I guess it might be this which claims the player is going to sign for £24 million and take £100k a week in wages – but I like the ‘expect developments’ bit.

I wonder if the Jovetic deal might be the carrot that the board announces to quell any anger if Arsenal lose to United on Sunday. Just a thought.


Get over it! Why Arsenal should give Man United the guard of honour

By Stefano on April 24th, 2013

There are many things in life which are unfair, unpalatable and downright uncomfortable. and as a Gooner I am probably going to have to endure something that is all three on Sunday when my beloved Arsenal give Man United the Premiership Champions traditional guard of honour.

The club haven’t confirmed that the guard will take place beyond a hint that it will honour protocol, but already there has been a backlash on Twitter.

The Metro reports that many Arsenal fans may turn their back on the guard while Piers Morgan has tweeted.

‘A guard of honour, for the biggest traitor in Arsenal history. At our own ground. I think I’m going to be sick,’

Well, I do have some sympathy with those views in that the guard will be painful, especially because right at the centre of it will be the man who on Monday was cartwheeling round Old Trafford like a seven year old.

However, I won’t be turning my back. We just need to get it over with. The precarious situation that we are in is not down to Robin Van Persie, but the Muppets that oversaw his exit without properly replacing him.

For me the hardest part could be at the end of the game. If we don’t get at least a point, then we have not only been beaten by a team we once considered our deadliest rivals, but also lost ground in the battle for a Champions league slot.

So don’t turn your backs. It is just not classy. And besides anything that fires up the United side even more – on a day when in theory they could be taking it easy – simply isn’t clever.


Arsenal chase Juventus striking duo

By Stefano on April 24th, 2013

As you probably know Juventus have been pretty impressive this season scooping the Serie A title without really breaking into a sweat.

The side have already looked to next season too by adding Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente who will be joining them in July when his contract with the Basque club runs out.

So, in the club’s never ending bid to make a marquee striker signing Arsenal are targeting Juve’s current front two Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri.

The Express says that

Reports in Italy suggest that the Gunners have enquired to see if both strikers are available for transfer.

It adds that Quagliarella, who was the subject of some interest from Man United last month, is the main target, but they also like the look of Alessandro Matri too.

This one sounds like the Express filling pages to me, but Quagliarella would clearly be a quality signing and if he wants to be the main man at a big club a move to Arsenal might be one way to achieve it.


Are Arsenal planning on raiding Aston Villa? Lowton and Benteke?

By Stefano on April 24th, 2013

Arsene Wenger faces a tricky decision about who he signs as a right back in the summer. If, as expected, Bacary Sagna returns to France, Wenger has the option of either signing a replacement for Sagna or promoting excellent English player Carl Jenkinson and looking for an understudy for him.

If it is the latter then there may be some substance to The People story that Arsenal are keeping tabs on Aston Villa full-back Matthew Lowton.

Like many Premiership clubs Arsenal have been monitoring Villa’s form with a possible bid for striker Christian Benteke in the summer in mind. If Villa don’t escape relegation then both players are likely to leave the club with a host of suitors chasing them.

Lowton has been impressive this year and, let’s face it the 23 year old ex Sheffield United man has been rather busy. Whether he would want to be Jenkinson’s understudy is another matter though.

Maybe Wenger wants to repeat the scenario he has at left back with arguably two first choice players.

As for Benteke 15 goals for a struggling team speaks for itself. Personally I think buying a striker with Premiership experience is a must for Arsenal and Benteke would be a good fit.


Arsenal update: Fazio targeted, Williams courted, Real Betis want four Gunners

By Stefano on April 24th, 2013

Do you remember Sevilla’s Federico Fazio? If the name rings a bell it is because the player was linked with Arsenal as far back as 2009 after the club sold Kolo Toure.

The central defender was apparently tempted but the club rebuffed a £5.5million bid and the 22 year old stayed in Spain.

Now with Arsenal keen to strengthen their centre back options Fazio, now 26, is on the list again.

The Mail reports that the Spanish club are financially struggling so might listen to offers this time. Arsenal’s bid to sign Swansea captain Ashley Williams is apparently going well with the player impressed by what he has seen so far. If that deal falls through though the lanky Argentinean would be a cheaper option.

Meanwhile Spanish side Real Betis seem quite keen to take a job lot of Arsenal players. The club already has Joel Campbell on loan and would like to at the very least extend the loan agreement  They also apparently want to talk about defender Johan Djourou, midfielders Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong, and striker Marouane Chamakh.

I can’t see Arsenal letting Coquelin go and Djorou seems happy in Germany, but Frimpong and Chamakh could be potential movers if the money is right.


Remind me – why did Arsenal sell RVP to United? Wenger’s worst ever mistake?

By Stefano on April 23rd, 2013

I am sure I am not the only Arsenal fan to have felt just a little bit nauseous watching RVP running round Old Trafford last night after not just winning the league but also scoring , well, a hugely impressive hat-trick. If he needed a  game to push him back into the the PFA Player Of the Year race he just delivered it. And after all those games where he couldn’t hit a barn door from six paces…

I personally am dreading Sunday now. Even if Arsenal thump United five nil to turn the screws on Spuds and Chelsea in the race for 3rd and 4th it will still not be ok. Before that the club has to undergo the humiliating experience of watching its once star striker parading round the pitch with his Premiership winners medal – something that he never got close to with us.

It just makes me think once again that what a catastrophic error Arsene Wenger made last summer and how he and the club have in no way atoned for it. We really were sold a pup by a manager and a board who ought to know better.

If we do finish fifth this season the management team can expect nothing but bile from fans who won’t blame the players but those stupid enough to make the huge mistake that has cost the colour so clearly.

So RVP wanted to go – fine. But to sell him to United was unforgivable, no matter how much they gave us. The move seriously damaged the club while strengthening its opponents. Had Wenger then spent thirty million on a striker that could set the league alight then it might have been more acceptable – but we ended up with Giroud, a good player but by no means the finished article. He is Bendtner with a tan and a sunny disposition.

If Arsenal lose on Sunday I think the atmosphere at The Emirates will be utterly poisonous. If Arsene Wenger and the board expect the fans to get behind the team they might want to ask themselves why they sold the fans out so badly in the first place.

Chickens… Roost… You get the picture.


Arsenal update: Julio Cesar, Loic Remy and the QPR smash and grab

By Stefano on April 22nd, 2013

Even the optimistic of Rangers fans knows now that their team is down and will be playing Championship football next season.

It is a sad ending for a side brimming with talent that just never seemed to play together well and get any momentum going.

Already the vultures are circling and among them is Arsene Wenger. So far the Gunners have been linked with – at a push – four Rangers players, yet how many of them make the move across London depends I think on what happens in Arsenal’s next four games. Qualify for the Champions League and it is possible that none will make the transition. Fail to finish at least fourth and one, maybe two could be on their way.

Of the quarter the most likely to move is almost certainly striker Loic Remy. He has been a long term Wenger target and if he can be secured on a cut price deal Wenger may see him as a replacement for Nicklas Bendtner who is certain to leave this summer. He might end up being Arsenal’s third choice striker behind Giroud and AN Other, but I think this could be a win for everyone.

Next up would be stopper Julio Cesar who is being linked with a move to Arsenal by just about everyone at the moment. I guess he is behind Valdes, Reina and Mignolet in Arsene’s wants list, but he is a quality keeper who has a fair bit of practice this season.

The Samba to Arsenal rumour has gone a bit quiet of late, but I think he would be an obvious choice were Arsenal not to make the top four. QPR will need to offload him and he would certainly add some steel to the Arsenal defence. His form this season has been erratic and he apparently isn’t liking life in London, but he would still be a worthwhile addition to the Arsenal squad, if the team can get his wages down a bit.

Finally Wenger was once a big fan of Junior Hoilett. Can’t see that one happening though.


Van Persie, Bale or Mata. Who would be your PFA Player of the year?

By Stefano on April 19th, 2013

The PFA Player Of The Year shortlist has been announced.

There is a bit of controversy around the list this year as there is arguably no outstanding candidate.

The shortlist comprises six candidates which have been voted for by players a month or so ago – they get two votes each.

Last year Robin Van Persie was the obvious choice and the year before Spurs’ Gareth Bale took the award.

This year… Well up until his goal drought RVP was a shoe in. He was sure to make the list as when it was compiled he was still knocking them in for United for fun. Surprisingly there isn’t really another obvious candidate from the Champions elect. Michael Carrick is the second option according to the bookies and with odds of 100-1 he probably won’t win.

Bale has once again been outstanding and features as does Luis Suarez from Liverpool? But is it right to to give the gong to a player whose team may finish outside the top four?

So the player IMO who should hopefully win the award is Chelsea’s Juan Mata. His form has been scintillating all year long and there have been times when he has kept his side afloat in their challenge for CL places, The FA Cup and the Europa Cup.

I guess the vote will go to Bale – unless RVP re-discovers his shooting boots – but the likable Spaniard really ought to get the nod.

Oh, and what happened to Michu?


Wenger doesn’t expect Alex Song to return to Arsenal, yet

By Stefano on April 19th, 2013

After his cousin/uncle (no one seem to know) Rigobert Song’s intervention yesterday claiming that Alex Song was unhappy at Barcelona and itching to return to England, Arsene Wenger has responded.

In particular he has emphasised that the rumours that Arsenal have a buy back clause on Song simply aren’t true

Wenger said

“There is no buy-back clause. I heard he wants to give it a go for another season, which you can understand because it’s the first season [with Barcelona].”

“I think he is a quality player and sometimes the players have to persist when it doesn’t go well and not change their mind too soon. My personal advice for him would be to give it another go and after two seasons he can still make a decision.”

Which sounds fair enough. Song was a special player for Arsenal. But he left under a bit of a cloud with reports of changing room bust ups and poor relationships with other players. Besides, is he the type of player that Arsenal need to anchor the midfield to let Cazorla and Wilshere roam freely? I am not so sure.

But maybe in a year’s time he could be a very worthwhile, and possibly inexpensive, addition to the squad.


Arsenal update – Wilshere, Cazorla and others face late fitness tests

By Stefano on April 19th, 2013

After drawing with Everton at the Emirates on Tuesday Arsenal’s game against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday is a must win for the Gunners.

However it looks like Arsene Wenger has got some serious worries on the injury front.

Wenger said “there are a number of uncertainties about our squad. At the back everyone should available. In midfield we have a few people to check like Cazorla, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain. They will all have tests but I hope they should be alright.

“We have to test Rosicky who was not ready to start on Tuesday. There are a number of uncertainties about our squad but I will sort that out on Friday morning.”

Wilshere doesn’t yet seem sharp enough to playing vital games so maybe a stint on the bench isn’t a disaster. However Cazorla was sensational towards the end of the Everton game and not starting with with either of the players will leave Arsenal short of midfield drive and flair. The situation is made worse by the long term injury to Abou Diaby and the fact that Tomas Rosicky isn’t 100% fit either.

On the plus side at least Aaron Ramsey is playing well and Wenger can start Francis Coquelin alongside the Welshman and Mikkel Arteta with Podolski taking Cazorla’s place on the left.

We’ll find out more at the press conference later today.

Incidentally Lukasz Fabianski is still sidelined so Wojciech Sczcesny will start. The Pole did well against Everton and I really hope that this is the start of him getting his confidence back.


Arsenal update: Kalou and Patricio – two leftfield deals

By Stefano on April 18th, 2013

For a short time last summer it seemed as if Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou would be on his way to The Emirates. However it never happened with rumours that the Blues were reluctant to sell the player to their London rivals.

Well if Arsene Wenger is still keen on Kalou he may have a second chance to sign the player this summer. For Kalou, who is having an iffy season with French team Lille, has made it clear that he wants to return to England.

Speaking to The Sun
Kalou said: ‘I’d love to go back to England. I spent six seasons there and I am crazy about the Premier League.

‘Players’ careers change so quickly — you never know what will happen tomorrow.’

I am not sure how keen Wenger will be on the player now. Kalou might have been a good stop gap for a club with limited finances. It is very clear though that Arsenal need to spend big on a striker in the summer and Kalou doesn’t fit that bill.

Meanwhile there are more murmurings that Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper Rui Patricio, could be on his way to London for around 15 million euros.

Several Portuguese papers have said that thee has been contact between the two clubs.

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