The news from Arsenal just keeps on getting better. The club is in arguably its best form of the season, has a very winnable game against Norwich on Saturday, and now it appears too that the club’s missing star English players are back from injury.
Arsene Wenger has confirmed that both Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are going to be in the squad for Saturday. The manager told the official club website…
“Jack has joined normal training since Wednesday and Theo should join in tomorrow. They are 90 per cent available for Saturday.”
Wilshere has been out for six weeks with an ankle injury, while Walcott injured his hip playing for England last month.
The only bad news for Arsenal is that two-goal Tomas Rosicky could miss the game.
“The other uncertainty we have from last Saturday is Tomas Rosicky, who has a little hamstring irritation.
“His involvement is yet to be decided as well but it’s fair to say that he is a big doubt for Saturday.”
Rosicky’s absence may force Wenger’s hands on playing at least one of the England pair. Ultimately thought it is a shame to change a winning team, even if they did spend a chunk of the second half on the back foot against West Brom.
Santi Cazorla appears top be playing some of his best football in the more central role that he has inherited since Wilshere’s injury, so I wonder if the midfield trio will be Ramsey, Arteta and Cazorla with Walcott and Podolski on the wings. At least then Wenger has the option of bringing Wilshere on if Arsenal are struggling.
Also Wenger has to think about the upcoming Everton game on Tuesday – a much harder match and one that might have a huge impact on the campaign for Champions league qualification.
Mertesacker is suspended, so Thomas Vermaelen is sure to start.
It wasn’t that long ago that Arsenal seemed to be heading for a Europa league slot with the growing chorus of fans calling for a change of manager.
Well the ‘Wenger out’ brigade seemed to have been silenced by a run of form that has put Arsenal right back in the race for a Champions League slot. In fact even though the club are currently two points behind Chelsea and four behind Spurs (who have played a game more) I think that they are now favourites to even grab third place. Here’s why
1 Spurs injuries – and it isn’t just the headline Bale right ankle – Spurs are struggling with a lot of injuries. Also sidelined at the moment are Younès Kaboul (knee), Jermain Defoe (pelvis), and Sandro (knee) and Aaron Lennon and William Gallas are both having scans on injuries today.
Of course the big problem is Bale. It isn’t that Spurs are a one player team, but it is clear that Bale gives the whole side a huge dollop of self-belief – he has become their talisman. At the time of writing we don’t know how bad his injury is. At best Bale will be out for two games. The likelihood is that it will likely be more. If Bale doesn’t return for Spurs fans there is the nightmare prospect that they might have seen Bale in a Spurs shirt for the last time on Thursday.
2 Chelsea’s cup distractions – There is an irony in that what Chelsea fans see as a disappointing season, might end with an overflowing trophy cabinet. The Blues are a good bet to win both the FA Cup (if they can overcome Man City) and The Europa Cup too. The downside is that the cup run is forcing Benitez into shuffling his squad and as we saw in the game against Southampton it doesn’t always end well for the Blues. So Rafa – what is your priority? Up until now it has been the cups. I think it might stay that way too.
3 Arsenal’s run in – Of the three teams Arsenal have the least painful run in (though Spurs’ run in gets easier at the end). Home games against Norwich and Wigan coupled with trips to West Brom, Fulham and QPR are all winnable. Sure they face Man United, but by the time the Reds reach The Emirates the Premiership could have been won already. If that’s the case there’s a good shout that the Gunners might scrape a point or even a victory. Let’s not forget that Spurs face Man City while Chelsea play Liverpool and Man United away. Then there’s the small matter of them playing each other at Stamford Bridge.
4 Arsenal have most to lose by not qualifying for the Champions League - Of the three teams I think that Arsenal probably want Champions League football more than their London rivals, and this is one of the reasons why they have put together such a good run. If they qualify for the CL then Wenger will get his £70 million bounty which could means that Arsenal make a more sustained challenge for the title next season. Wenger is also eyeing up his future. His contract runs out at the end of next season. How ironic would it be that a manager who has consistently delivered CL football should end his managerial tenure fighting for the Europa League.
Ultimately not making the CL cut would be a disaster for the Gunners. As for Spurs it would mean another season of rebuilding possibly with the money from a Bale transfer, and Chelsea’s big bag of cash should mean that even if they play their European footy on a Thursday night and not a Tuesday or Wednesday that they will still be able to attract Europe’s elite players.
I should also mention that Arsenal are playing their best football of the season at the moment and that’s without their two key Englishmen Walcott and Wilshere, who are likely to give the side another boost when they return later ion in the campaign.
Well the honest answer is that of course we still don’t really know, There was a huge buzz about the move earlier in the week when Caught Offside intimated that the deal was almost done and that personal terms had been agreed with the player.
Their story was then picked up by several other news sources. However at the same time French paper La Nazione suggested that Arsenal were falling behind City in the race to scoop the brilliant Montenegrin striker.
What is certain is that Jovetic is unlikely to make any decision until he knows the Champions league status of the clubs. Sure he could still do a deal with Arsenal if the club finish outside the top four, but it would be more unlikely.
As for City, the club has been linked with so many top class strikers and ironically if Chelsea don’t make the CL then they may have a clearer run at a few of them.
I don’t think Arsenal fans should be too concerned for now. If the club qualify for the CL place they will be in a string position to sign a world class striker. Jovetic would be an possible RVP replacement, but he is not the only option.
Not good news for Arsenal fans. That all important run-in is going to be that little bit more difficult as it now appears that neither Theo Walcott or Jack Wilshere will be back for the Norwich game on April 13th.
Arsene Wenger is expected to confirm today that the two English stars are struggling to regain fitness. According to the Express Wilshere has been out since the beginning of March with a foot problem and now looks like he might only make it back in time for the crucial Everton game on April 16th
The same is true for Walcott, who was injured on England duty. Arsenal gave four games in fourteen days starting with a trip to West Brom on Saturday.
Wenger will be encouraged by the fact that the side doesn’t appear to be missing the duo too greatly.
Tonight Barcelona take on PSG in the first leg of their Champions League quarter finals. One player who is unlikely to start is the club’s misfit midfielder Alex Song.
Since signing for Arsenal in the summer Sing has made very little impression at the Catalan club and was even named the second worst signing of 2012 after Real Madrid’s Luka Modric in a poll carried out by Spanish paper Marca.
There are reports though that Song’s Spanish sojourn is all but over and that the player could be heading back to the Premiership, and maybe even Arsenal.
The Express is claiming that Song could be sold for £12.7million and that Arsenal are likely to have first option on the player. Barca still owe Arsenal plenty of money not just for Song but also for Fabregas who signed the year before.
There are also lots of reports that Arsenal are looking to plunder the Bundesliga with Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund two of Arsene Wenger’s biggest targets. Lewandowski is the Bundesliga’s leading scorer and would significantly eat into the £70 million wear chest that Wenger has.
Now HITC is suggesting that another Borussia Dortmund player on Arsene Wenger’s radar is midfielder Marco Reus. The website hints that the deal could depend on the status of one of the club’s veterans Tomas Rosicky.
Reus told The Guardian…
“My idol was always Tomas Rosicky. He used to be phenomenal. He had such a good eye for an opening and knew where his team-mates were, and he was so quick. Rosicky had great technique and was so intelligent and mature.”
Rosicky’s opportunities have been limited this season and it has been widely rumoured that the player will make a switch to the Bundesliga in the summer. However if Rosicky could help Wenger land Reus, who is reportedly keen on a move to the Premiership, he might be staying a little longer at The Emirates. Reus is having a corking seasons with ten goals and nine assists in 27 starts.
Arsenal have also been linked with another Dortmund player in central defender Mats Hummels. There could be a seriously Germanic flavour to the London team next season.
It is no exaggeration to say that Arsenal’s entire season could swing on the result of the game at home to Reading on Saturday.
On paper is it not just a should win – but a must win too. For if Arsenal can win well – and keep some of the momentum they have from their impressive win against Bayern Munich – then they can set themselves up for the first part of a run in that should see them comfortably in the top four by the end of the month.
Drop points and it will take an enormous job to get the team to believe that they can outpace Spurs, let along Chelsea.
Reading should be an easy three pointer for the side. They have already beaten the Berkshire side twice this season once in the league (a comfortable 5-2) and then again in a very memorable Carling Cup game. However Reading are in a bitter relegation battle and with new manager Nigel Adkins to spur them on the game looks trickier than it did a few weeks back.
Arsenal should still be able to field a strong team bolstered by the return from injury of both Podolski and Sagna.
Their problem could be scoring . Olivier Giroud hasn’t scored a Premiership goal since January, so there is added pressure on him and also Podolski, to help maintain Arsenal’s upward momentum.
On the positive side Santi Cazorla has been in fine form recently and with Podolski back and Wilshere sidelined he is likely to start in the centre of the midfield – arguably his most influential position.
Win on Saturday and Arsenal then face four other games which they should be able to gain plenty of points. The trickiest is the first – away at West Brom – but that really ought to a game in which Arsenal start as favourites. Then The Gunners entertain Norwich and Everton at the Emirates before traveling to Craven Cottage to meet Fulham.
Twelve points out of fifteen would probably see the Gunners back in the top four. Fifteen points is a very real possibility and if Arsenal can put a winning run together you would have to fancy them to hang on to a Champions League place.
At the end of the month the visitors to The Emirates are Manchester United, who in theory could be Champions by then. It is of course a game given extra spice by the return of one Robin Van Persie.
So how many points do you think Arsenal win take from the next five games?
It seems like it has been ages since Arsene Wenger’s last pre-match news conferences, but he has just finished his latest with updates on the fitness of Wilshere and Walcott and some stirring words for the Arsenal faithful.
Firstly the good news – Jack Wilshere is on his way back.
Wenger confirmed that the player’s ankle injury will keep him out of the squad but not for much longer.
“Regarding Jack? I think two weeks on Sunday. Not the next game, but the game after.”
Theo Walcott will also miss the Reading game (as will Abou Diaby and Kieran Gibbs) but Wenger isn’t annoyed with England for the pelvic injury the winger sustained while training with the national side.
“Walcott is an accident that could have happened here.”
And Wenger is still confident that Arsenal can finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season
He said: “We’ve got nine games to go – five at home and four away. The form we showed against Bayern was very good. We have a chance to finish in the top four.
“We have the experience of a few years and a special desire to do it together. It’s a good opportunity for us. We want to grab this chance. If we are consistent we will do it. We’re not focused on Tottenham, but the way we want to play.”
The player reports that the club are going head to head with Liverpool for the services of the player and that Wenger’s chief scout Steve Rowley has been very impressed by what he has seen of the player this season.
Arsenal face a struggle to secure Williams though with Liverpool, managed by Swansea’s ex-boss Brendan Rodgers still favourite to land the player’s signature.
The Mail says
Sources close to Swansea’s skipper claim the Wales international will find it difficult to turn down the chance of a move to a more high-profile club this summer.
The paper also suggest that the club will continue to chase Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina. His move may be partially funded by the exits of Gervinho to Galatasaray and Andrey Arshavin to FK Khazar Lankaran.
Finally it seems that Andre Santos is happy in Brazil and may end up staying.
This one should be taken with a pinch of salt, but if true…
According to website webaslan.com, which has been picked up by The Express, Turkish side Galatasaray are ready to offer £12m for Arsenal misfit Gervinho. That is over a £1 million more than Arsenal paid for him back in 2011.
At Galatasaray Gervinho would team up with Ivorians Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue. Maybe the team’s management think that the player could replicate his excellent international form if surrounded by his fellow countrymen.
So should Arsene Wenger cash in? Gervinho has never really set The Emirates alight and besides wouldn’t that money be useful in the hunt for Stevan Jovetic, David Villa etc?
It appears that after a winter window in which a deal seemed imminent but then fell through that Liverpool are once again keen on re-capturing Blackpol’s Tom Ince.
According to The Mirror the club, who were put off by the £6million fee the Championship club placed on Ince, have now tabled a £4 million bid which they hope will get their man.
Ince has been in excellent form for the seasiders this year and was awarded the Football League’s Young Player of the Year trophy, last week.
Ince has aspirations to play in the Premiership, but is clearly picking his time. He told the Mirror
“My dream is to play at the top level and to achieve my ambitions, but it’s all about timing and patience, so when you get to the top you are ready to go and not jumping too soon.”
Meanwhile Liverpool have also been linked with Barcelona’s teenager Sergi Canos. Barca are apparently trying to tie the player down to a new long term contract, but Liverpool think they might be able to offer the right winger a better deal.
So what did you make of Stevan Jovetic last night then? It was a game of two halves for the Montenegrin striker. In the first half he was sloppy when passing, wandered into offside positions and troubled the England central defending pair very little.
But in the second half, with the arrival of Dejan Damjanoviche dropped deeper, got more possession, ran more at the English defence and created several goal scoring opportunities.
Did he remind you of anyone? RVP perhaps? You get the feeling that he would link up very well with Santi Cazorla with Olivier Giroud as the option as the main striker.
‘Reportedly in advanced talks over a move to sign Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic the first Gunners signing of what may well prove to be a very busy summer for the North London side.
Though the La Viola attacker is said to have a host of prospective suitors Arsenal are said to be the favourites to sign Jovetic, with Arsene Wenger looking to bring in the forward to help beef up his strike-force.’
Arsenal can clearly afford him and the money on offer is reputedly £90,000 per week. Like a lot of Montenegrins Jovetic is a big fan of the Premiership and is seemingly very keen to play in England.
What could,possibly go wrong?
Well Arsenal could very easily be gazumped with Man City the favourites to make Jovetic a better offer. But then again the Blues are apparently chasing a number of high profile players including Falcao and Cavani. Jovetic knows that he is Wenger’s number one target.
“If he has to leave, then make it for a real top club. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United fit that bill, but Arsenal are not better than Fiorentina.”
Which in many ways is a fair point, especially if Arsenal don’t qualify for the Champions League.
There’s also the possibility of a move within Italy too.
It is clear that Jovetic is the man who could ignite Arsenal’s season next year. The club’s lack of firewpower especially when compared with United who have Rooney and Wellbeck (arguably England’s best players last night) alongside RVP is woeful.
Well, possibly not if you aren’t English, but if you are lucky enough to be have been born or live in this wonderful country how are you feeling about tonight’s crucial game with Montenegro.
Is it a must watch because you want to cheer the team onto World Cup qualification?
Or is a must watch because you want to get a really close look at Arsenal’s number one summer striking target Stevan Jovetic?
Over the past few days I have read several Arsenal bloggers who have nothing but distaste for the international games, they see them as an unwelcome side shown that detracts from the real business of the Premiership and Champions League. Some even suggest that we would be better off without internationals.
So what do you think?
Personally I am rather torn. On one level I can sympathise with English men and women who hate international football. Over the years we have seen a generation after generation of England mega stars underachieve in the international game. While rival countries always seem to pull a top performance or two out of the bag (well, at least once every eight years) England invariably seem to stumble though competitions before finally succumbing in rather predictable penalty shoot outs.
England will never ever challenge for anything – even though given the quality of the players in the team they really should. Arsenal might not have won a trophy for eight years now but, until this season anyhow, the team was always in the mix for them.
Then there are issues with the current crop of England internationals. Most Gunners have little love for the older England players – namely Rio Ferdiand, Frank Lampard, John Terry and especially Ashley Cole, and as for the youngsters – who really cares about them? Some come across as being uninterested in wearing an England short and are just going through the motions before they get back to the serious business of club football, utterly oblivious to how much the national game means to some people.
I also wonder if many of the fans that are most passionate about England are supporters of smaller clubs. While the football they see on a weekly basis isn’t that great with, England they get to support a team with some real class – well sometimes anyhow. Someone once likened it to the club team being their wife while England are their bit on the side – more glamorous, exciting and unpredictable. I am not sure I approve of the analogy, but I kind of know what they meant by it.
However I also remember the elation of the two tournaments where England made the semi final in 1990 and 1996. In particular the 90 World Cup was an intoxicating occasion packed with excitement, drama and wonderful, very personal stories. It helped that the players were very likeable too. And as for 1996, from the penalty redemption of Stuart Pearce through to the Gazza inspired destruction of the Scots, it was a wonderful roller coaster ride. If you weren’t around remember how great you felt during The Olympics and times that by ten. The country was having an amazing party.
The Olympics has shown that this country can do a spot of patriotism and play nicely at the same time, so wouldn’t it be great if the England football team could inspire the same feelings?
So I am hoping for a serious demolition of Montenegro tonight. And I don’t care who plays brilliantly and whether they play for United, City or even the Spuds. And if Robin Van Persie wants to pick up an injury while playing for Holland – just like he used to in the old days – well that’s fine by me too.
There have been some mixed messages coming out of The Emirates in the last couple of weeks about the future of The Gunners’ striker Lukas Podolski.
The player, who hasn’t quite shown the form that his manager would have expected him to this season, is now rumoured to be a target for Italian giants Juventus.
Podolski has denied that he is going anywhere, but there is still a doubt over how and where he will fit into the Arsenal team next year especially if the Gunners fail to secure Champions League football.
One possible option to replace him is highlighted by the Metro this morning. Apparently Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo is once again expressing his desire to play in the Premier League and that has alerted Arsene Wenger.
Negredo has had an excellent season scoring 15 goals in 26 league games and Wenger is rumoured to have sent scouts to keep tabs on the player.
As for the Premiership Negredo says
‘It is a league that I like and sooner or later I will play in it. President Jose Maria del Nido received some offers in January, but decided not to consider them. We’ll see what is going to happen in the future.’
Arsenal are looking for another striker to share the load with Giroud, but if Negredo does sign at least one news source is claiming that Podolski will be on his way.