Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football

Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud on those David Villa/Klass-Jan Huntelaar rumours

By Stefano on February 6th, 2013

Olivier Giroud, who is back in France as a member of Didier Deschamps’ French squad, has given a very revealing interview to French paper L’Equipe.

He talks among other things about his desire to do well at Arsenal and his overall form, but also about how the possibility of Arsenal signing another striker during the transfer window played on his mind.

In an interview translated here by SportsWitness Giroud said about Arsenal’s winter transfer targets.

“Yes, Huntelaar, but also Villa. The English press speak a lot. The coach is not really conducive to buying in winter. It would be hypocritical to say that I did not think (about it). After, I always thought the coach would give me time, I do not see the grass growing under my feet.”

Although many Arsenal fans were pushing for the club to sign another striker, Giroud’s recent form possibly did enough to persuade Arsene Wenger not to push too hard for his targets.

Giroud says of his recent form

“A bad period for me without finding the way to the opponent’s goal (5 league games without scoring). Then there were discussions on the extension of Walcott who wanted to play at the top.

“Then, facing Newcastle, in the 7-3 victory… I am on fifteen minutes from the end, I scored two goals, missed the hat-trick. But, it’s going better.”

I wonder if the possibility of another striker arriving at The Emirates has pushed him to try even harder.

It will be fascinating to see how the rest of the season works out for the amiable Frenchman. He is playing in the knowledge that Arsene Wenger has a sizable war chest to spend on a striker liked Edinson Cavani if he feels it necessary. Giroud is also going to be constantly be compared with his predecessor Robin Van Persie whose form this season, like last, has been scintillating.

So is Giroud the new Van Persie? Or just a replacement for Bendtner? Only time will tell.



Football

Ashley Cole reveals his debt to Arsenal legend David Rocastle

By Stefano on February 6th, 2013

For reasons I am not going to go into here Ashley Cole hasn’t always been the most popular person at The Emirates.

There was a day though when Cole, who will celebrate getting his 100th cap for England tonight, was the toast of North London and one of only small group of Englishmen in Arsene Wenger’s finest Arsenal teams.

It sounds now that Cole is holding out a bit of an olive branch to Gooners too.

At a special event for England sponsors Vauxhall to commemorate his 100th international appearance, Cole revealed that the inspiration behind his career was Arsenal legend David Rocastle.

News 24 reports that he told the attendees that he had a five minute chat with Rocastle and that it was that conversation that spurred him on to become a footballer.

“I supported Arsenal at the time and he was someone I wanted to be like,” said Cole.

“After he spoke to me for those five minutes, it was all I wanted to be.

“Now I look back and think what a great career I have had but I will never forget speaking to him.”

Rocastle, who tragically died in 2001 after battling with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, remains an Arsenal legend with the chorus of ‘Rocky, Rocky, Rocky, Rocastle’ still sung regularly at The Emirates.

Maye Cole, is not just saluting his hero but at the same time acknowledging the key role Arsenal played in his development as a player.

I met Rocastle once in the early 90s. We chatted for a lot longer than five minutes (he was a very genial person) though alas I never made it the Arsenal squad. He did tell me a bizarre story that he was a regular at White Hart Lane!? even when he had signed for Arsenal, and that apart from a bit of banter he even enjoyed hanging out with the Spurs fans. He clearly loved Arsenal though and I imagine that when he was sold a few years later he would have been crushed.



Football

Liverpool CL game with Debrecen definitely under investigation

By Stefano on February 5th, 2013

From the moment that Europol confirmed that a Champions League game played in England was on its match fixing enquiry list British football fans have been trying to work out which club and which game is under the spotlight.

It has now been confirmed which game is being investigation and it is a match that no one was talking about.

Sky Sports News has this

Hungarian club Debrecen have confirmed their Champions League match against Liverpool in 2009 was part of a match-fixing inquiry.

Liverpool, who won the game in question 1-0, are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The Anfield club have told Sky there has been no contact from European enforcement agency Europol or governing body Uefa in relation to alleged match-fixing.

Apparently first to point the finger at Debrecen was Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, whose allegation was then picked up by a number of British news sources. Interestingly the allegation centres around the club’s keeper Vukasin Poleksic who has already been banned for two year by Uefa for another incident.

So what do you think about the match fixing allegations now? Was the media frenzy which hinted that our game was much more corrupt than we thought justified? And Liverpool fans – does the allegation that your club was involved in the game – even though the club is not suspected of anything – worry you at all?



Football

Bacary Sagna “100% devoted” to Arsenal – but do Gunners fans care?

By Stefano on February 5th, 2013

Amidst all the talk of contract renewals for Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott in the last twelve months very little has been written about the contract situation of another senior member of the Arsenal squad – one Bacary Sagna.

The right back’s contract will run out in summer 2014, which in theory will make him a top target for European clubs come the next transfer window.

Today Sagna moved to quell speculation that he would be leaving The Emirates. Saying that he was “100% devoted” to their club Sagna told French paper L’Equipe (which has been reported widely including by ESPN) he is happy at Emirates Stadium.

“I’m 100% devoted to my club. I’m only thinking about defending Arsenal’s colours until the end of my contract. The supporters are annoyed with me when they hear my name linked to PSG, but I haven’t got anything to do with that. I’ve had no contact whatsoever.”

Sagna also said that he had “tears in [his] eyes,” when he was called up for the French squad – the first time he has been included in a year and a half.

So Arsenal fans, the 29 year old wants a new contract? But does he deserve one? Sagna’s form this season has been inconsistent. There have been games where he has been sublime, yet in others his distribution poor and his defending second rate. Waiting in the wings is young Englishman Carl Jenkinson who in December signed a long term contract with the club. He has continued to look sharp and capable each time he has deputised for the Frenchman this season.

So do Arsenal need to renew Sagna’s contract? Personally I think it might be time for Sagna to move on. Arsenal would get a reasonable sum for the player in the summer and that money could be invested elsewhere – maybe a commanding central defender in the Mats Hummel mould would be ideal. In Hector Bellerin, a product of the Barcelona youth academy Arsenal have a ready-made understudy for Jenkinson.

So is time to cash in on Bacary?



Football

Will Arsenal lose out on David Villa if they don’t quality for the Champions League?

By Stefano on February 5th, 2013

As Arsenal fans don’t need reminding they are currently in sixth in the Premiership and are four points behind Spurs in fourth. Yet many supporters share Arsene Wenger’s confidence that the club will once again qualify for the Champions League.

Many pundits are backing the Gunners too with Mark Lawrenson also confident that Arsenal will see off their rivals.

The penalty for not qualifying would be primarily financial – Arsenal could lose out on £20 million plus of revenue – however it will also affect the club’s ambition to attract big name players, and this in spite of the new tranche of sponsorship money they have secured.

The club are mulling over a bid for Barcelona’s David Villa in the summer. But will he come if there’s no guarantee of Champions League Football? As Spanish paper AS (picked up by Sports Witness here) points out today he could join Atletico Madrid (as a replacement for Falcao who is expected to leave the club in the summer) be guaranteed Champions League football and keep his young family in Spain.

AS journalist Juan Casanez confirms that there was contact between Arsenal and David Villa this winter but says that now that deal didn’t happen there are more options on the table. Atletico Madrid will likely be looking for a Falcao replacement and Villa will be a much cheaper option to Luis Suarez, or even Edin Dzeko. The newspaper says that Atletico sporting director Jose Luis Caminero was in contact with Villa’s agents during the transfer window, with a view to the summer.

Not only are Atletico more likely to qualify for the Champions League, they are also able to offer Villa the chance to stay in Spain with his young family. His wife recently gave birth to the couple’s first son and they have two young daughters, the attraction of remaining in the country is something that AS think will be another advantage.

Arsenal might also find themselves chasing players who are also fancied by Spurs and if Tottenham have the CL slot then they will clearly have an edge over their North London rivals. For example would world class centre backs like Mats Hummels and Fernando Amorebieta join the club? Probably not.

It is worth pointing out that both Liverpool and Spurs have signed world class players without a CL qualification (Suarez being the classic example) but when it comes to top stars, or players in the twilight of their career like David Villa, CL qualification is a given.

 



Football

Arsenal would be second in the Premiership – if only the second half of games counted

By Stefano on February 4th, 2013

Really great stat from the people at TalkSport who have put together the table showing who would be where if only the second half of games counted.

It turns out that Arsenal would be second in the league behind Man City on goals scored. Man United, in spite of their many late goals this season, would be five points adrift and Chelsea would be down in eighth place.

Well Arsenal fans have been painfully aware of how poor they have been in the first half of recent games and how much better they have played as the game has gone on.

In some games at The Emirates at least it appears that the team only start trying after they have quaffed their half time cuppa (or it more likely sports energy drink these days).

The trend was once again show on Saturday against Stoke when the club had an indifferent first half but created a great deal more in the latter part of the game culminating in that Podolski free kick goal.

It also adds a bit more firepower to those who still proclaim that ‘Arsene Knows’ in that his substitutions have had a very significant in pact in a number of games this season.

As for other surprises in the table – Liverpool in at fifth are higher than you’d expect. No prizes for guessing the bottom two – Newcastle and Aston Villa neither of whom seem to be able to hold on to a lead. Well not until the Geordies got their latest French imports in anyhow.

The table is here.



Football

A Champions League games in England ‘was fixed.’ Which team was involved in that game?

By Stefano on February 4th, 2013

In case you haven’t heard yet shocking news from the BBC and others. Apparently a Champions League game in England has been implicated in a huge European match fixing investigation. Europol, who are the European Police agency, have fingered more than 380 dodgy games including a CL one played in England.

Admittedly most of the investigations are nothing to do with Premiership clubs. The biggest links appear to be between Asian betting syndicates and German clubs. However the Champions League accusation will send shock waves throughout the British footballing community.

As of yet we know nothing of the details. The BBC has this

Asked specifically about the allegations surrounding the Champions League tie held in England, Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, declined to identify the match because of “ongoing judicial proceedings”.

However he did say it happened in the last three to four years, adding: “The focus has been on other countries, not the United Kingdom. However we were surprised by the scale generally of the criminal enterprise and just how widespread it was.

“It would be naive and complacent of those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe.”

However only six English teams have played Champions league games in the lasts few seasons: Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Also there’s no implication that an English club were involved in direct bribery. It could merely be that one of their opponents received a bribe and that the English team knew nothing of it.

Anyhow cast your mind back. Which Champions League games in the last few years struck you as a bit odd and why and let us know in the comments.



Football

Arsenal update: Where does the Monreal signing leave Kieran Gibbs?

By Stefano on February 4th, 2013

There’s no denying that Arsenal are looking a much stronger side than they did a few months ago. And while part on this is down to the scintillating form of Waclott, the ever growing confidence of Wilshere and the attacking flair of Giroud the defence has also played its part.

And in particular Arsenal’s key defender this season has arguably been Kieran Gibbs. At the start of the Liverpool, game Gibbs’ Arsenal future looked assured. Not only was he playing well and had signed a new long term contract, but after a series of disastrous performances no one believed that Andre Santos posed any real thereat to his position.

Then disaster – yet another injury- this time to the thigh – and Gibbs is out for over a month and Arsene Wenger – in old school parlance – got his cheque book out.

Nacho Monreal then looks like a superb signing. Against Stoke, a baptism of fire if there ever was one, he looked assured, always in control,  tough in the tackle and imaginative going forwards. Pretty much everything you’d want from a  left back. And it was clearly  no fluke. Take a peek at these these stats here. Monreal has been Malaga’s Mr Consistent. No wonder that Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini said that he was very sad to see him go.

The big question then is what happen when Gibbs returns to full fitness? Will he be straight back into the team? Sadly the answer is probably no. As accomplished a player as Gibbs is he has never managed a run of more than half a season without an injury and I think that pushed Wenger to move for a number one left back.

There were rumours that Wenger had decided he was going to sign Monreal in the summer anyhow and just pushed the deal forward. This might be true, but had Gibbs been injury-free for the season and Meade started to emerge as a potential replacement then I am not so sure that a left back would have been high of Wenger’s targets.

Wenger has gone on record as saying that he sees Monreal as one of the five best left backs in the world. I am not sure he would rate Gibbs quite as highly.

So I fear for the Arsenal future of Kieran Gibbs. For me he is a superb left back and way too good to be anyone’ s understudy. Who knows what the next six months will bring and maybe Wenger will give Gibbs the nod when he is fully fit.

But I think like Carl Jenkinson, this young Englishman is destined for a season or two not playing anything like as much football as he hoped.

More Arsenal

Who has the best squad Arsenal or Spurs?

Who else did Arsenal try and sign in the transfer window?

 



Football

So who else did Arsenal try to sign on the last day of the window? Villa? Traore? Capoue?

By Stefano on February 3rd, 2013

As well as the signing of Nacho Monreal Arsene Wenger admitted that Arsenal got pretty close to grabbing another player on the last day of the window. However that player’s club refused to let the player go and the deal fell through.

So who was that player? It was assumed initially to be either Barcelona’s David Villa or West Ham’s Mohamed Diame, but now it appears that it might not have been either of them.

The Villa deal was quite possibly dead several days before the end of the window and although Wenger was making all the right noises about Diame it seems like he changed his mind about the player and didn’t actually make a bid for him.

One other theory that has been advanced is that Arsenal were close to signing Lorient forward Alain Traore but pulled out because the player sustained a thigh injury.

Several sources now claim that player that Wenger got close to signing was in fact Toulouse midfielder Etienne Capoue

TalkSport said yesterday.

The France international had been linked with a switch to England throughout January, with Everton and Fulham joining Arsenal in the pursuit.

And while Wenger landed Nacho Monreal from Malaga, he was also busy trying to sign Capoue but was thwarted as the Ligue 1 club refused to talk.

The 24-year-old’s agent Mino Raiola told L’Equipe: “The Toulouse president didn’t need to sell during this window. The asking price was a barrier every time.”

Well it certainly sounds plausible. Arsenal have been linked to Capoue for a long time. He is also exactly the type of combative midfielder the club needs to add some steel in front of the defence. Moving for Capoue would also explain why Wenger suddenly cooled on Diame.

In fact he must have been very keen on Capoue as he would have probably cost twice the amount that Arsenal would have paid West ham for Diame.

Ultimately though the failure to sign anyone – part from the excellent emergency left back – is a poor reflection on the Gunners’ management team. To have 31 days to sort out reinforcements only for the deal for your favoured player to be scuppered on the last day because the player’s club don’t actually want to sell, sounds very poor planning



Football

Bit late – David Villa wants Arsenal move in the Summer

By Stefano on February 3rd, 2013

If you thought you had heard the last of the David Vila to Arsenal stories now the window has closed – think again. The Sun  is running with a story today that suggests that Barcelona’s want-away striker will push the deal through in the summer.

The Sun says

After a long-term injury last season, Villa has failed to command a first-team place at Barca this term.

He has made just 15 competitive starts — yet still scored 10 goals.

Now the Spain striker wants to be with a team where he will once again be the main man. Villa earns around £110,000 a week at the Nou Camp, so his wages will not cripple the Londoners financially.

The key issue now though for Wenger is whether he thinks Villa has a long term future as a top-level striker.

Villa would have been an ideal signing in the winter – maybe even on loan – to add firepower to the Gunners and help secure a Champions league slot. But a longer term agreement would represent more of a gamble for the London club.

Of course a great deal could happen before the summer. Villa could re-establish himself in the Barca team and Arsenal may become a less desirable destination if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.

Also, until recently Arsenal were not in the habit of offering long term contracts to players over 29. They amended this slightly when signing Mikkel Arteta in 2011 and also making it clear that they would offer an extended deal to Robin Van Persie.

So has Arsene Wenger changed his mind? Not according to The People who have a story that Arsenal have given up their pursuit of Villa and will concentrate on young players in the summer.

The winner is all this is Olivier Giroud. The French striker has been in excellent form of late in scoring nine goals in 24 games. However some Arsenal supporters think that with a sharper more clinical finisher leading the line Arsenal would be scoring twice as many goals given the large number of chances that Cazorla, Walcott and Wilshere are creating.

So do Arsenal need Villa anyway?



Football

Should Rodgers drop Carragher for Liverpool’s game against Man City?

By Stefano on February 1st, 2013

After receiving the man-of-the-match award for his fine performance against Arsenal, Jamie Carragher was asked if he was enjoying his current run in the side. “What, two games?” came the typically cheeky Scouse reply. He’s hardly cemented his position as a first-team regular.

But Carragher certainly performed well at the Emirates, dealing with Arsenal’s long balls towards Olivier Giroud in open play, and barking instructions at the rest of the defence, encouraging them to push up as

Arsenal passed the ball around the defence, forcing opposition attackers away from goal. That suggests Carragher is content to play a high defensive line despite his declining pace, although Theo Walcott got in behind a couple of times, which will have worried Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers must now decide whether to start Carragher away at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, or recall Martin Skrtel. He had an interesting game in the reverse fixture against City; having opened the scoring with a towering header, his suicidal backpass in the final minutes was intercepted by Carlos Tevez, denying Rodgers his first Liverpool win.

Despite Carragher’s impressive showing, it’s difficult to see how he’d be able to cope with Sergio Aguero’s incredible acceleration, particularly with Tevez stretching the defence in the opposite direction. Skrtel hasn’t been at his best this season, having been Liverpool’s star man in 2011-12: and although the Slovakian is better in the air than on the ground, a combination of he and Daniel Agger seems logical against the threat of Aguero.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.



Football

Arsenal update: Confirmed Nacho Monreal signs for £8.3 million

By Stefano on January 31st, 2013

Finally it is official. Arsenal have signed a player in the transfer window.

It might not have been the players that the fans hoped for but Nacho Monreal is clearly a quality signing. The club have apparently been tracking the player for a while and according to Arsenal insiders it was likely they were going to complete the move in the summer.

However the injury to Kieran Gibbs and the disastrous form of Andre Santos meant that club agreed the deal earlier than they had planned.

Monreal, who is a Spanish international, comes from Malaga where his team mate up until last summer was one Santi Cazorla.

Monreal is however cup tied in the Champions League, so it will be either Santos or Vermaelen playing against Bayern Munich.

Arsène Wenger said: “We are delighted that Nacho Monreal has agreed to join us. We have been monitoring him for some time now and are really pleased that we’ve been able to agree this move today. Monreal is a strong left-sided defender with good experience at both club and international level. He is a technically gifted player, a good crosser in the final third and strong in the air. Monreal will add quality to our squad and of course, to our defensive unit. We all look forward to him playing for us.”

Here’s the news from the club site

Arsenal Football Club is delighted to announce that Spanish international defender Nacho Monreal has agreed to join the Gunners on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee.

Monreal (26), who will join Arsenal from Spanish La Liga side Malaga, is predominantly a left full-back and has represented his country Spain at youth level, Under-21s and has made nine appearances for the national team.

Full name Ignacio Monreal Eraso, but known as ‘Nacho’, the defender started his career with his hometown club Osasuna, where he progressed through the youth ranks to become a regular in the first team, making 127 appearances for the La Liga side. During that time he was an integral part of the team which reached the Europa League Semi-Final in 2007.

Monreal’s performances for Osasuna earned him recognition on the international stage, firstly with the Spanish under-21s, where he notably started all his country’s matches in the 2009 Under-21 European Championships, and later became a full international, making his debut for Spain in a friendly win over Macedonia in August 2009.

In June 2011, Monreal signed for Malaga, where he was a regular in the team, alongside Santi Cazorla, which finished fourth in the La Liga, qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. Monreal made a total of 45 appearances during his time with the southern Spanish side.

Manager Arsène Wenger said: “We are delighted that Nacho Monreal has agreed to join us. We have been monitoring him for some time now and are really pleased that we’ve been able to agree this move today. Monreal is a strong left-sided defender with good experience at both club and international level. He is a technically gifted player, a good crosser in the final third and strong in the air. Monreal will add quality to our squad and of course, to our defensive unit. We all look forward to him playing for us.”

The deal is subject to the completion of formal registration processes.



Football

Arsenal update: No more signings, but Santos could go tomorrow

By Stefano on January 31st, 2013

Unless Barcelona make a sudden about turn on the David Villa bid that’s it from Arsenal tonight. The club are apparently putting the finishing touches to the Nacho Monreal deal which will be announced in the next thirty minutes, but that is the only bit of incoming business the club have done in the window.

There is however an interesting finale which could happen tomorrow and that could be the return of Andre Santos to Turkey.

The Turkish transfer window doesn’t close until tomorrow so there is still plenty of time for Arsene Wenger to offload the player. There are rumours that there have already been conversations with several Turkish clubs.

Beşiktaş are reportedly keen on Santos while his old club Fenerbahçe were linked to the player yesterday.



Football

Sky reports that Arsenal and Spurs target Mohamed Diame is on the move

By Stefano on January 31st, 2013

Earlier in the day it looked like he was staying, but according to Sky Sports an un-named Premier League side have triggered Mohammed Diame’s release clause at West Ham.

It could be Arsenal who have been tracking the player for a while, or maybe it is Spurs?

Fulham apparently have one more signing to announce too. QPR have been mentioned too by the BBC, though this has been refuted by PA.

John Cross on Talksport has said he thinks it is Spurs and that is unlikely to be Arsenal.

More when we get it.

UPDATE – At 8.41 The BBC have denied that West Ham have received a bid.

8.58 – The Telegraph says it is Fulham and not Arsenal or Spurs who have activated the deal

9.24 – The Telegraph now says it is wrong and that Diame is staying at West Ham



Football

Spurs target Leandro Damiao staying in Brazil. Summer move possible

By Stefano on January 31st, 2013

Not good news for Spurs fans. Their big signing today was to have been Internacional’s sensational striker, Leandro Damiao, but now it appears he is staying in Brazil.

Globo Esporte says that he will play for Internacional for another six months, but that a move to Premiership side in the summer hasn’t been ruled out.

The news has also been reported by Sky.

Both Spurs and Arsenal were expected to add attacking options in the window and at this point it looks like neither have managed to do it.

UPDATE at 7.30 GMT – back on again?

Sky Sports understand Tottenham and Internacional are still in negotiations over the transfer of Leandro Damiao despite earlier reports from Brazil that the deal wouldn’t go ahead.




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