Bolton Preview

Well there is bad news to start the day off with. Late last night it was revealed by the Arsenal that Jack Wilshere will have to undergo surgery on his right ankle and will be out for a period of “months”. The player himself used his Twitter page to confirm the news and suggest that he hopes to return to action around Christmas time.

This is no doubt a massive blow for the team and young Jack, the bone hasn’t healed whilst in the protective boot he has been wearing for the last month or so and the club have decided that now is the time to take further action in the shape of surgery. It’s very disappointing news but we have to think of Jack’s long term future and this needs to be dealt with correctly and if this operation proves to be just that then it’s surely for the best.

Considering that Jack has only played one full season of first team football with the Gunners, after a brief loan spell at today’s opponents Bolton, we’ve really missed his tenacity in midfield this season. The sooner we can have that desire and drive back in the side the better and I wish Jack well in his continued recovery. At least it gives him more time to listen to the whole Michael Bolton back catalogue.

So, today see’s Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers visit the Emirates.

In league terms the Trotters are having a sorrier time of things then we are at the moment (just), in fact their poor run of form can be traced back to our previous encounter at the Reebok at the end of last season.

Tamir Cohen’s last-minute header, which was celebrated with emotional scenes as the defender revealed a t-shirt commemorating his late father Avi, left the gunners nine points behind leaders and eventual champions Manchester United with four games left to play while Bolton were themselves flying high in eighth place and seemingly pushing to end the season with Europa League football to look forward to. That victory, which all but ended our title chances, was somewhat of a bright spot for Bolton in their end of season darkness. Their previous fixture had seen them go down five goals to zero against Stoke City Rugby Football Club in their FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley and Coyle’s sides final five league games, which followed that win against us, all ended in defeats.

While the opening game of this season saw the Lancashire side get back to winning ways with a 4-0 hammering of newly promoted Queens Park Rangers they have since seen their league form continue in the same vein as it ended last season. Four defeats in four, including a home defeat at the hands of Norwich City last weekend, has seen the sweet taste of victory being confined to the Carling Cup – the second round elimination of Macclesfield and Tuesday nights 0-2 victory at Villa Park.

So in their last fourteen games since, and including, that FA Cup humiliation the Trotters have won only four times and have been beaten in the other ten games scoring eighteen goals and conceding thirty-two in the process. That run looks like this – LWLLLLLWLWLLLW.

At any other time you would look at that and expect Bolton to arrive in London tomorrow and be little more than cannon fodder for the gunners but as we all know our own form is hardly that of a side you would back to win the contest.

Since that late and currently familiar capitulation we’ve managed to win only five of our own fourteen games in all competitions. We’ve picked up four draws and been beaten no less than six times. In this period we’ve found the back of the net on nineteen occasions yet we’ve been forced to pick the ball out of the back of our own goal on no less than twenty-six, meaning our run only appears marginally better than this weeks opposition due to the addition of the letter ‘D’ – LWLLDDWLWLWDLW.

What is clear is that whilst both sides have the ability to score goals we both also have a penchant for letting them in too, so on paper we should maybe expect this to be a high scoring encounter which would make for another great game for the neutral in which we compete.

The team news is pretty much as expected, Yossi Benayoun is out with the ‘strain’ which he alluded to in his Tweet on Thursday (turns out it’s a thigh strain, not an eye strain from reading without sufficient light) and Johan Djourou misses out with a hamstring injury. Arsene Wenger has suggested that they may both be back for the North London Derby on October 2nd but will defiantly miss the Champions League clash with Olympiacos on Wednesday as well as this afternoons fixture.

Tommy Rosicky is back in the squad whilst Bacary Sagna & Aaron Ramsey both came through fitness tests yesterday morning so are likely to start.

It will be interesting to see who takes up the left back position, using our last two fixtures as a barometer I wouldn’t say there is much between Andy Santos and Kieran Gibbs who have each had a game to in which to state their case. I suspect Wenger might go with the Brazilian but I wouldn’t be confidant enough to put money on it.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have done enough to win himself a place on the bench after his performance in the win over Shrewsbury earlier this week, similarly I think Franny Coquelin’s performance in the same game will see him take us a place amongst the subs ahead of Frimmers.

Other than that I would have thought it will be very much as we were against Blackburn Rovers last weekend but with Theo coming in for Andrey Arshavin.

My line up would be –

Szczesny – Sagna – Mertz – Kozzer – Andy Santos – Song – Mickey – Rambo – Gervinho – Theo – RVP.

Subs: Fabianski – Iggy – Gibbs – Franny – Arshavin – AOC – Chamakh.

I think we’ll see a home win and the collection of three much-needed points, but I’m not sure it’ll be an easy victory. One thing I will guarantee is that Kevin Davies will be booked – the lumbering forward has collected a total of eleven bookings in games against us, that is more than any player against any one side in Premier League history.

I’m really looking forward to the game, it’s a traditional three o’clock kick off and that always sits well with me. Enjoy it wherever you’re watching and if you happen to be up in the North Bank sat next to a guy who clearly needs a shave then chances are it’ll either be me or a tramp who has somehow managed to get into the ground.

Thanks for reading

Paul.

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So long Cesc Fabregas

That’s it, it’s over.

Unless Cesc arrives at Camp Nou and suddenly has a moment of revelation he’ll sign for Barcelona this morning and one of the longest running transfer saga’s in the history of football along with a chapter of Arsenal history will be completed.

 This move shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, it’s been coming at a slow pace from a long distance for a long time now, the only thing I can equate it to is ‘Squatter & the ant’.

Make no mistake, Arsene Wenger did not want Cesc to leave so there is no point pointing fingers in his direction, there is enough of that going on right now. This move is and always has been fuelled by the players desire to return to the City of his birth, the club he has supported all of his life and the club he left to join us as a sixteen year old in 2003. That desire and Barcelona’s insistence in completing the deal because, well they can.

The Catalan club have flirted with Cesc in public & in private, the likes of Xavi, Pique & Puyol have whispered in his ear every sweet nothing he wished to hear and they used all & every opportunity when a microphone was placed in front of them to discuss not only their own desperation to see a deal concluded but also Cesc’s.

All of this Catalonian conspiring & suasion has done little but muddy the waters of the golden pond that should be Cesc’s Arsenal career. There should be no doubt that whilst it may have been Barcelona and their La Masia academy that first began to tutor a natural footballing talent it was at The Arsenal, London Colney, Highbury & Ashburton Grove that Cesc was really schooled & educated. It was Arsene Wenger & all the Arsenal coaching staff who gave him a football career and helped him become one of the finest midfielders on the planet.

Xavi can talk all he likes about Cesc having Barcelona DNA but there should be no doubting that after eight years in London during which time he became Arsenal’s youngest ever first team player at the age of 16 years & 177 days (V’s Rotherham United at Highbury on Oct 28th 2003), Arsenal’s youngest ever first team goal scorer 35 days later (V’s Wolves at Highbury on Dec 2nd ’03) and gaining the captains armband in November 2008, that there is as much Arsenal in the players genetic footballing make up as there is Barcelona.

While the player himself has wanted the return to the place he calls home his affection for our fans, our staff, our club, should never be put under any doubt. He always gave 100% for the cause & it was as much his dedication and drive as well as his talent which saw him carve his name into Arsenal history.

There are many memories to think back on now –  The Pizza throwing at Old Trafford, the substitute appearance against Villa when he changed the game single-handed although injured, the rallying of the troops and Ssshhhing of Tony Pulis at the Britannia when Rambo was injured, the goal against Spurs, the belittling of Mark Hughes and those incredible performances in Europe against Inter & Real to name but only a few. It’s incredible to think that for all he achieved and inspired he leaves the club with a solitary FA Cup winners medal.

Last night Arsène Wenger told the official club site: “We have been clear that we didn’t want Cesc to leave and that remains the case. However, we understand Cesc’s desire to move to his home town club and have now accepted an offer from Barcelona. We thank Cesc for his contribution at Arsenal and wish him future success.”

There is no doubt that the gaffer will be feeling the pain of this parting as much as any Gooner, he has always felt he has controlled the departure of players, moving them on at a time when it benefited the club. With Cesc it’s different, the affinity the Frenchman has for the young Spaniard was unparalleled and he believed that with him controlling games from the midfield he could build his greatest team around him. Sadly that never happened and now that mantle will have to be passed on and we’ll all have to start from scratch.

There is never a good time for a world-class player to leave your club but this could be as good a time as any in some ways, as I said a few days ago in mind Cesc had already moved on so it is best for everyone that he goes now.

We all know we’ll receive nothing like his actual worth but there is little we can do about that now, I honestly feel the club have held out and pushed for the best deal they could get and due to the players desire to see the move happen we were always fighting a losing battle and despite the length of contract we had Cesc tied to gradually our hand was always becoming weaker.

The thing that will gripe me the most about it all will be the pleasure & posturing we will now see from Barca, I expect Cesc to retain his dignity but, perhaps Guardiola aside, I’m sure the knife will be stuck in by Xavi & Co.

 Good luck Cesc, it was good while it lasted. Maybe you’ll be back one day?

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

My old man he’s got a Sierra, Oh Patrick Vieira

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He came from Senegal and he played for Arsenal, although he was a French international and he had spells at a few other well know clubs too, Patrick Vieira will forever be regarded as an Arsenal legend.

Arsene Wenger wasn’t even the Arsenal manager when the £3.5m signing of a gangly French twenty year old was announced by the club, but he was most certainly Le Boss’ first signing and I think there are those who may argue his most significant.

Born in Senegal in 1976, Patrick was only eight years old when he & his parents moved to France. He made his professional debut for Cannes at age 17 & was captain of the side by the time he was 19. After a mere 49 appearances for the French club Italian Giants AC Milan came calling & Vieira set off for his first taste of Italian football. Big Pat made only two appearances for Milan during his year at the club & the press coverage of his move to Highbury was so minimal you could easily have missed it.

But in September 1996 the midfielder made his Arsenal debut against Sheffield Wednesday, coming off the bench to replace an injured Ray Parlour & became an instant fans favourite, striding from box to box with comparative ease and standing up to any and all physical challenges. Oh and he could play a bit too!

In 1997 Wenger signed another French midfielder, Emmanuel Petit, from his former club Monaco and the man with the ponytail immediately formed a formidable central midfield partnership with Vieira which brought instant success as Arsenal went on to win the league and cup double. The duo went off to the World Cup on native soil that summer and returned to the club as World Cup winners.

Vieira’s no nonsense style saw him fall foul of referees, he was sent off in both the first and second games of the 2000/01 season & collected a total of nine red cards during his time with the gunners. It also ensured fiery encounters with many opposition players most notably Roy Keane.

There was no love lost between the captains of the two most successful sides in England at the time and tensions ran high and challenges hit hard whenever the two would meet. One of their most memorable confrontations came in the tunnel at Highbury as the teams lined up to take to the pitch in 2005. The Arsenal captain had approached Gary Neville and told him he thought the rat faced right back deliberately kicked Arsenal players when the sides faced each other. The United captain took considerable exception to this, squaring up to Vieira and telling him “I’ll see you out there” & having to be restrained by referee Graham Poll. This was to be the very last time the two men faced each other on a football pitch & I’m pretty sure they don’t send each other Christmas cards or go on holidays together.

In 2000 Arsenal reached the final of the Uefa cup but lost on penalties to Galatasaray, Vieira missed his own spot kick on the night but did go on to collect a winners medal with France at the European Championships that summer (which was no consolation for Arsenal fans)

In 2002 as Arsenal celebrated winning the second double of the Wenger era long serving captain Tony Adams announced his retirement, for many years it had seemed that Adams would be irreplaceable in the role but Patrick Vieira was a natural successor – So much so that six years after his departure from the club it seems to me that it was the Frenchman who was the irreplaceable captain.

Although he missed out on captaining the side in the 2003 FA Cup Final against Southampton at the Millennium Stadium & consequently another winners medal due to injury it was testament to how respected Vieira was within the squad as he lifted the old trophy with David Seaman.

Then came a truly momentous season – led by Vieira the Arsenal team know as ‘The Invincibles’ went the entire 38 game 2003/04 league season unbeaten. That summer Real Madrid made an offer for our captain but the deal couldn’t be agreed.

As the 04/05 season began Arsenal went on to stretch their unbeaten run to a record 49 games, losing in somewhat controversial circumstances to Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, before leaving for a return to Italy with Juventus the big man had his revenge over United with what was to be both his last act and last kick on behalf of Arsenal Football Club scoring the winning penalty as the gunners won another FA Cup final.

There were rumours that Vieira’s knees gone & a youngster called Cesc Fabregas had started making inroads to the first team when Arsenal accepted a £20m offer from the old lady of Turin.

In total Patrick Vieira made 406 appearances for The Arsenal scoring 34 goals & winning seven trophies, he remains one of the most successful players & captains in the history of the club and his name is still sung by the Arsenal faithful.

After spells at Juve & Inter it was briefly rumoured that Arsene Wenger was set to to bring the midfielder back for a second spell at the club, but in January 2010 he signed an initial six month deal with Manchester City and stayed at the United Stadium the following season, picking up yet another FA Cup winners medal along the way, until announcing his retirement from the game yesterday at the age of 35.

There had recently been rumours that the much fabled return to North London would materialise in the form of a coaching role this summer but whilst he would most certainly have been a welcome addition to our coaching team it was another false dawn & Vieira will now take up the position of Football development executive at City.

But true legends are always welcome back to the club and few more so than Patrick Vieira.

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Pat Rice..Tasty Goal & Protest views

*Originally posted 27th April 2011

Afternoon all,

You may have noticed that over the last week I haven’t been blogging all to frequently, there are a couple of reasons for this but the main one is the current level of negativity aimed towards Arsenal by many fans. In equal measure I think it is easy to get caught up in the angst and difficult to remain solely positive so I have tried to compose my thoughts and asses my opinions without blurting them out here, even though I guess that kind of goes against the idea of having a blog!

Anyway, having now had time for reflection here’s today’s musings…

It seems that these days you either need to be in the ‘Arsene Knows’ camp or the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade, as if it’s that black and white, that cut & dry and that easy to call. I don’t think it is and, like many others who have come out in the last few days to admit they have no allegiance to either movement in particular, I still think that Arsene Wenger is the right man to lead our football team but… our football team only.

Sadly Arsene hasn’t been the only member of the management/coaching staff to have their future questioned or to come in for criticism of late and it has bugged me for a couple of weeks so whilst we seem to be in the midst of another news blackout from the club I thought I would share my views on the subject.

Recently there have been calls for the return of David Dein, especially in the wake of the takeover, believing that he can put the pressure on Wenger to spend a little extra on transfers, that he can be more influential in contract negotiations and remove some of the pressure from the manager, that a return of their old double act can bring a return to the days when we were winning doubles and bringing in players like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires & Junichi Inamoto. It’s as if David Dein is some kind of board level messiah.

We should remember that not every supposed messiah can be in the mould of Kenny Dalglish since he took back the Anfield hot seat and we should also remember that our former vice-chairman made a nice tidy £75m by selling his shares in the club to Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings.

While all of this recent praise and wanton return of Dein has been taking place a man who has been alongside Wenger since day one but associated with the club for much much longer has come in for some criticism and if rumours are to be believed is set to retire at the end of the season – it is not for the first time that both the criticism and rumours have circulated.

Pat Rice, a man who knows the Arsenal inside out, knows what it means to represent the club at every level and Arsene’s right hand man has come in for a lot of flack not just this season but for a few years.

The Northern Irish man signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1964 and went on to make 528 first team appearances (He started 521 of those games), winning the double in ’71, becoming captain in 1977 and leading the team to FA Cup victory over Manchester United in 1979. After a four year spell at Watford at the back end of his playing days, Rice returned to Arsenal as youth team coach in 1984, a post he held until becoming Wenger’s assistant manager in ’96.

If the rumours are true and Pat does decide to leave the club at the end of the season then he should do so with his head held high and to rapturous applause, not under a cloud of criticism and murmurings of ‘About time too’.

There are many who say that Rice has to go, that he is too old (although only seven months older than Arsene Wenger), That Boro Primorac is Wenger’s real right hand man, that he is a mere yes man and that someone more tactically astute should take his place. These are most likely the same people who say we lack a voice and leadership behind the scenes and off the pitch, in the dressing room and on the training ground, a proven leader who knows what it takes to win. We have all that in Pat Rice but it seems easily forgotten. The only reason he should step aside at the end of this season is because he wants to.

I’ve already listed his achievements as a player, but how about his achievements as youth coach for twelve years, think of some of the players that made it all the way to the first team in that time, Paul Merson & Ray Parlour to name just two. Look at his achievements as Assistant Manager.

I’ve heard many people say that a lot of Ferguson’s success at United is down to the fact he changes assistants so frequently, maybe that is true but those changes have not always been made out of choice – Brian Kidd left to manage Blackburn, Steve McClaren left to manage ‘boro, Carlos Queiroz has left twice to manage Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team respectively. Jimmy Ryan lasted only a season and Walter Smith was almost on a very very later life work experience at Old Trafford for a few months.

Most of those mentioned above had ideas that were somewhat above their stations, they all thought that they could make the leap from apprentice to master. If you don’t know much about the managerial careers of Kidd, McClaren & Queiroz then I’m sure Google can provide you a laugh or two.

Pat Rice has stayed loyal to this club for the majority of his life and he has stayed loyal to Wenger, the job he has done and the input he has provided over the years should not be undervalued nor forgotten.

I am all for the introduction of fresh blood, as it were, joining the coaching staff. New ideas and input would certainly not go a miss regardless of Pat’s involvement. As Arsenal supporters we are always crying out for more experience within the club and often for the return of former stars in some capacity, but if Pat Rice does indeed decide to step down at the end of the season, or whenever the time comes, I hope that whoever comes in has at least half of his know-how & knowledge, experience & loyalty but above all I hope they have the same dedication to Arsenal Football club.

In other news – I am sure you are all aware of the planned protest by ‘We want our Arsenal back’ ahead of the game against Aston Villa on May 22nd. You can read their latest press release here and once you have done so I suggest you take a look at the latest blog post of The View from N5 as way of a counter argument.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

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