Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Giroud quashes rumours his wife wants him to quit London and declares...

Olivier Giroud has quashed rumours his wife wants him to leave London and admitted: I want to stay at Arsenal.

The married striker was caught smuggling women into the team hotel on nights before home games by a Sunday newspaper earlier in the season. This prompted reports that the 27-year-old's wife wanted him to quit London and return to France.

But Arsenal's 20-goal hitman has denied speculation he'll be looking for a new club in the summer.

He said:
"You shouldn't listen to that. A lot of things were said. I'm still happy in London and with Arsenal and think I will be in the future. 
"I have a contract until 2016 and I'm an Arsenal player. I want to be here next season, at least that's my will."
Earlier this month it was reported Arsene Wenger had lost patience with his £12million signing from Montpellier and was looking to replace him this summer.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Picture: Abou Diaby makes comeback for Arsenal under-21s

Abou Diaby has made his comeback to football after 403 days out of action.

The French midfielder played 45 minutes for Arsenal's under-21 side against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium tonight.

Diaby could play for Under-21s tonight and first team this season

Arsene Wenger believes Abou Diaby could play first team football for Arsenal this season - despite being out of action for 403 days.

The midfielder last kicked a ball for the Gunner in their 2-0 win over Swansea in the Premier League in March 2013.

But he's been penciled in to play a part in Arsenal's under-21s match with Chelsea this evening.

Wenger told
"He is back in full training now and available to play. He might play a part of the game for the under-21s. 
"Yes of course [he could play for the first team this season], it depends how well he comes out of the game. He hasn't played for a year but physically he is ready to play, completely. It is now just decision-making, getting used to challenges again. He needs a game. 
"Everybody [counted him out] but he is fit and ready."
Diaby is out of contract in the summer.

Central defender's future to be decided after World Cup says his agent

Thomas Vermaelen's future will not be resolved until after the World Cup, his agent has claimed.

The Arsenal captain will have one year remaining on his deal at the end of the season and he is widely expected to leave north London to secure more first team football.

Vermaelen has been unable to force his way back into Arsene Wenger's starting line up due to the form of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielney,

The defender, who has only made 20 appearances for the Gunners this season - including seven Premier League starts,  has been attracting the interest of Napoli.

But his agent Alex Kroes says the 28-year-old, who moved to north London from Ajax in 2009, has plenty of options.

Kroes told The Times:
"Yes, Napoli have been on [about] the player and have stepped forward, but other clubs have shown their interest and not just Italian ones. 
"You cannot say, though, that the player is close to a transfer to Napoli.  
"Wait until after the World Cup, where Vermaelen is going to do his best, then we will face any kind of discourse for his future."

Ghanaian defensive midfielder could be on Arsenal's list of summer transfer targets

Arsene Wenger is hot on the trail of Ghana midfielder Afriyie Acquah.

The 22-year-old has been impressing during his loan spell at Parma from his parent club Hoffenheim where he has appeared in 23 Serie A matches.

According to The Sun, the Gunners are watching the Ghanaian defensive midfielder as they prepare their list of summer transfer targets.

Gilles Grimandi spotted watching 17-year-old Portuguese winger - report

Arsenal have been watching Portuguese teenager Goncalo Guedes, according to the Daily Mirror.

The 17-year-old has caught the eye of a number of clubs, including the Gunners, during his performances in the UEFA Youth League.

His Benfica side reached the final where they were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in Nyon last week.

The Portuguese media are reporting that Gilles Grimandi has been in attendance during the Benfiquista' run to the final.

According to reports, Benfica want to extend Guedes's contact and set a new buy out clause to fend off interest from the Gunners as well as AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund.

At the moment, the teenage winger could be available for £6million.

The Ox: It's not going to be easy but I'm confident

Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain believes Arsenal still have to bring their A-game to their three remaining fixtures if they are to secure a Champions League position.

The Gunners sit a point ahead of fifth placed Everton with three league games remaining in the season.

Arsene Wenger's men face Newcastle and West Brom at the Emirates before a trip to Norwich on the final day of the season. Everton meanwhile face Southampton at St Mary's the Manchester City at Goodison Park before their final game of the season, away against Hull City.

And Oxlade-Chamberlain knows the Gunners have no room for error, with an inferior goal difference to the Toffees to also consider.

The 20-year-old England international said:
"You've got to feel confident and believe that you can do it. We know it’s not going to be easy. We've got to make sure that we don’t have to rely on other people’s results. 
"It’s in our hands now. We've just got to make sure that we try to get as many three-point hauls as we can. We've got experience of doing it before in tight circumstances and I’m confident we can do it again. 
"It's another tough game for us. Newcastle, on their day, are just as good as any other team. They've got great quality in their side. Alan Pardew's sides make it really hard for you. We've got to compete, first and foremost.
"Hopefully we can come away with three points. We've got the quality. 
"After Newcastle, we've got West Brom and Norwich, so it's going to be a really tough run-in for us, as it will be for a lot of teams, but I'm confident we've got what it takes."

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Ramsey produces goal and assist in first league start in 116 days

Aaron Ramsey celebrated his first league start in 16 weeks with a fantastic performance and admitted: "It's important for us to come here and get the win."

The midfielder started in last weekend's FA Cup semi final after being out with a thigh injury picked up on Boxing Day. Arsene Wenger used the Welshman only as a substitute in Tuesday night's win over West Ham United but today it was obvious that the 22-year-old was quickly getting back to his best form.

Ramsey scored the opener himself after a quick passing move and then set up Lukas Podolski for the Gunners second of the game. It was the 23-year-old's shot which Hull City goalkeeper Steve Harper blocked with his feet that saw Podolski score his second from.

And the Wales international said post match:
"It's important for us to come here and get the win, to keep our position in the league. 
"We have beaten Hull twice but are not going to take them lightly.  
"They are a well organised team, get crosses in and we can't rely on our previous performances against them."
The Gunners face the Tigers in next months FA Cup final on May 17.

Podolski's brace adds to Ramsey's opener as Arsenal take maximum points

Arsenal rounded off an excellent week with their second Premier League win by beating Hull City 3-0 this afternoon.

Two goals from Lukas Podolski either side of half time, after Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring, set the Gunners on their way to 70 points with three league games remaining.

It increases the cushion between Arsene Wenger's men and fifth placed Everton to four points, prior to the Toffee's game at Goodison against Manchester United in the late Sunday kick off.

Wenger made threes changes from the side which beat West Ham on Tuesday night. Mesut Ozil returned after five weeks out with a hamstring injury, taking the place of Tomas Rosicky who dropped to the substitutes bench. Aaron Ramsey came in and replaced Kim Kallstrom. a slight hamstring injury to Thomas Vermaelen saw his place taken in the starting line up by Nacho Monreal.

Santi Cazorla was switched to the right of the attacking three, with Ozil central. Two goal midweek hero Lukas Podolski was kept in his left hand berth.

The home team had the first best of the opening half hour. Wojeciech Szczesny had to deal with the blustery conditions to claim crosses and shots. Arsenal weren't able to get their game going and the majority of play was taking place in the Gunners half.

Steve Bruce's side were creating chances but their final ball never troubled the Arsenal defence.

At the other end Ozil should have been awarded a penalty in the tenth minute when he was clipped inside the box by Ahmed Elmohamady.

Mertesacker was booked for challenge on Nikica Jelavic after Arteta had lost out in his 50/50 challenge. It looked as though the Spaniard lost a tooth in the clash.

Szczesny was called upon to make the first save of the match. Jelavic shot was going into the Poland international's far post, but the goalkeeper got a hand to it and pushed in around the post.

It was very open when the Gunners got their game open. Hull's two strikers were pressing our back four but at the other end it was open.

Podolski had the Gunners first effort on goal. Giroud freed space for Ramsey by pulling a defender into the Arsenal half, Arteta played the ball into the Welshman who laid it off for the German, who shot with his right foot. It was saved by Steve Harper in the Hull goal.

Wenger's men were getting into a rhythm and there was good passing from Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud and Podolski.

And it was Ramsey who got Arsenal ahead after a great passing move. It started on the right with Sanga, who passed in field for Ramsey. He played it for Giroud. The striker found Ozil, who played a one-two with the Welshman. The German played in Cazorla in the box who passed to Ramsey who found the back of the net.

Hull could have been level three minutes later, but fortunately Jake Livermore's shot from outside the box hit Szczesny's right hand post.

Giroud won a free kick on the edge of the box after Elmohamady barged him over. Ramsey stepped up to take it and smashed it into the bottom of the wall. Arteta's follow up was off target and the danger was cleared.

Hull were coming stronger as the half reached its end. Long had a header which forced Szczesny into a save.

Then at the other end, Podolski added a second for the Gunners.

Jelavic went down under a challenge from Arteta. Arsenal regained possession with Ramsey and he found Cazorla. Giroud ran into the right hand channel and pulled his defender with him. The Frenchman crossed for Ramsey who chested the ball into the path of Podolski who finished with aplomb.

Hull felt aggrieved they weren't awarded a free kick for Arteta's challenge on Jelavic, but it looked like a correct decision by the referee.

Wenger's men went in at half time two goals to the good.

Hull boss Bruce took off Shane Long at half time with a calf injury and Matty Fryatt replaced him.

The home side had plenty of possession in the early stages of the second period and substitute Fryatt had an effort almost immediately, breaking the Gunners offside trap, however Sagna and Koscielny got back to clear the danger.

Podolski added his second of the game and fourth of the week in the 53rd minute. A flowing attacking move found Monreal free on the left, he played it inside to Cazorla who pulled it back for Ramsey who shot and it was saved by Steve Harper's feet. The ball fell to Podolski who found the back of the net from inside the six yard area.

With 30 minutes to go, Wenger made his first change of the game. He withdrew Ozil and replaced him with Flamini.

Giroud could have added a fourth. He closed down a back pass to Harper, who hit the ball at the Frenchman. Giroud got hold of the ball and shot from a tight angle, however it struck the cross bar and Hull's blushes were saved.

Bruce made his second substitution with 21 minutes left. Jelavic replaced by Quinn. And a few minutes later Wenger brought off Giroud for Oxlade-chamberlain.

And the English man was involved straight away, winning a free kick on the edge of the box. The dead ball was taken by Czaorla who hit a cross into the near post where Mertesacker got his head on the ball, but could only put the ball just over the bar.

And Oxlade-Chamberlain was heavily involved again in Arsenal's next chance. He was played in by Sagna and rode one challenge outside the box and was brought down by a second inside the box, but the ball fell to Ramsey who shot straight at Harper.

At the other end Szczesny had to be quick to get a hand up to block a Huddleston shot from outside the box and pushed the ball round the post for a corner.

With seven minutes to go, Wenger took Podolski off for Yaya Sango. And Bruce took off George Boyd for Robert Koren.

The referee added four minutes of injury time but the game was over and Arsenal recorded their second Premier League win in five days.

Podolski: When you score the goals nobody speaks about where you play

Lukas Podolski has admitted he and his team mates will not lose focus in the Gunners battle with Everton for a Champions League spot.

The German international scored goals either side of half time to secure all three points for Arsene Wenger's men.

It ends a fantastic five days for the 28-year-old who also scored a brace in Tuesday night's win over West Ham United.

Podolski said:
"It's important to get fourth place, but it's important to go match to match. 
"We now look forward to our next game against Newcastle because every game is important."
Asked whether he minded not being played in a central role, the German added:
"When you score the goals nobody speaks about where you play. The coach makes the decision where we play and it is just important to get the three points."
The Gunners now have seven days rest before they play Newcastle at the Emirates on Monday week.

Wenger praises team performance and Aaron Ramsey in Hull City win

Arsene Wenger has praised his team's performance in their 3-0 victory over fellow FA Cup finalists Hull City this afternoon.

Goals from Aaron Ramsey and a brace from Lukas Podolski either side of half time secured all three points for Wenger's men.

It was the Gunners second league win inside five days as they pushed themselves four points clear of Everton, prior to their game against Manchester United at Goodison Park this afternoon.

Wenger said:
 "Aaron Ramsey is getting back to full fitness and sharpness, but everyone played well today. It was a good team performance as it will be when you win 3-0 away from home in a game you have to win. 
"We have had to cope to five six players all out at the same time and we have done as well as we can. You live in the real world."
Asked if this afternoon's result would have any baring on next month's FA Cup final, Wenger said:
"The cup final is a completely different game, we are focused on the Premier League and finishing as high as we can."
Wenger's men now have seven days off before they play Newcastle at the Emirates on Monday week.

PICTURE: Everyone in the Arsenal dressing room is smiling apart from Arteta

There were smiles all round in the Arsenal dressing room after their 3-0 win over Hull City, with the exception of captain Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard lost a tooth after a collision with Hull City's Shane Long during the Barclays Premier League match at The KC Stadium this afternoon.

But all of his team mates appear to have been buoyed by the result which sent the Gunners four points clear of Everton prior to their match with Manchester United at Goodison Park.

Team news: Ozil starts and Monreal returns for Hull clash

Arsene Wenger has recalled Mesut Ozil for this afternoon's game with Hull, five weeks after suffering a hamstring injury.

The German international, who replaces Tomas Rosicky in the starting line up, is one of two changes to the team which beat West Ham United on Tuesday night.

Captain Thomas Vermaelen has picked up a slight hamstring injury and is replaced at left back by fit again Nacho Monreal.

Mathieu Flamini who has been suspended for the last two games returns to the match day squad with a place on the bench.

Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud.

Substitutes: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Flamini, Kallstrom, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Sanogo.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Arsene Wenger tips star to become Player of the Season next season

Arsene Wenger has tipped record signing Mesut Ozil to come good during his second season at the club.

The German, who has been out of action for the last five weeks after picking up a hamstring injury in the Gunners 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich last month, is expected back for Sunday's trip to fellow FA Cup finalists Hull City.

In his debut Premier League campaign, Ozil has failed to win over a section of Gooners and some believe has not warranted his £42.5million price tag.

However in 22 league appearances he's provided eight assists and scored four goals himself.

Wenger though believes Ozil will build on his first season in English football and become an even better player in his second.

The Arsenal boss told the media this morning:
"Ozil had a jaded period but I will put him on the list to be Player of the Season next season"
Wenger will put Ozil through a fitness test before deciding whether to play him at the KC Stadium on Sunday.

The Arsenal manager provided a bulletin on the availability of some of his other stars when he spoke to the media earlier. 

Team News: Wenger gives updates on Ozil, Monreal and Gibbs

Arsene Wenger has confirmed Mesut Ozil should be fit to play his first Arsenal match in five weeks.

The Gunners record signing is expected to be available for Arsenal's trip to the KC Stadium to play Hull City on Sunday.

The Arsenal manager also confirmed defender Nacho Monreal was back in contention but that Kieran Gibbs was out.

Neither of Wenger's left-backs have been involved since the FA Cup semi final with Wigan, with captain Thomas Vermaelen used there in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Tuesday night.

Mathieu Flamini will be available for selection again after serving his two match suspension.

Arsenal must fight off PSG, Monaco and Bayern Munich to keep defender

Arsenal must convince Laurent Koscielny to sign a new contract to fight off the interest from Paris St–Germain, Monaco and Bayern Munich.

The Daily Telegraph reports the two French clubs and the European champions are set to pounce for the 28-year-old who signed from Lorient in 2010.

Koscielny has played in all but six league games this season and has created a fantastic partnership with Per Mertesacker in the centre of the Gunners defence.

But the Frenchman is on only £50,000-a-week at Arsenal and the newspaper reports Gunner executives want to put him on a new deal which would see him earn the same as Mertesacker, who signed a £90,000-a-week-deal earlier this year.

Last year Koscielny said:
"I want to lift trophies and to have a winning record. I hope the club will give me the means. If this weren't the case, I'd look elsewhere. I want to win titles and I hope the club have the means. 
"I feel good at Arsenal and if the club can compete with the best, I have no reason to leave. But if it fights every year for Champions League qualification it's hard psychologically to be under such constant pressure."
Koscielny has three years remaining on his present deal until the summer of 2017.

Referee who sent Wenger off for kicking water bottle handed cup final

The referee who helped send Arsene Wenger off for kicking a water bottle during an Arsenal's defeat against Manchester United will officiate the FA Cup Final.

Lee Probert will referee game between Arsenal and Hull on May 17.

The 41-year-old Wiltshire official memorably played a part in getting Wenger sent to the stands in the Gunners 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in 2009.

The Arsenal boss reacted furiously - kicked a plastic water bottle on the touchline - after Abou Diaby scored an own goal in the game, a reaction Probert took exception to.

Acting as the fourth official that day, Probert called over referee Mike Dean to send Wenger off.

This hasn't stopped the FA handing the official May's showpiece event.

Probert will be joined by assistant referees Jake Collin and Mick McDonough with Kevin Friend as fourth official and Simon Bennett the reserve assistant referee.

Probert said:
"To be given the opportunity to walk out as the referee for an FA Cup final is the highest accolade in English football. It's a massive honour and I am absolutely delighted. 
"It still hasn't really sunk in to be honest. When I got the phone call, I have to say I did shed a tear and look to the sky. The first person I thought about was my dad, who I lost six years ago.
"He was always there to support me throughout my career and it's payback for all his hard work, taking me here, there and everywhere, encouraging me to never give up. When I walk out on 17 May, I know he'll be chuffed to bits."
Watch: Gordon Strachan narrates Wenger being sent off

Szczesny: I just want the trophy - Nevermind if I don't play

Wojciech Szczesny has admitted he would rather Arsenal picked up the FA Cup than play in the final himself.

Arsenal's first choice goalkeeper has yet to play in any of the matches in the FA Cup this season

Instead compatriot Lukasz Fabianski has been picked by Arsene Wenger to start in all five games which have seen him produce man of the match displays in four of the ties.

And with May's Wembley final on the horizon, Szczesny has admitted he'd rather the club picked up their first trophy in nine years than play in the show piece event himself.

The 23-year-old said:
"As an Arsenal fan, I just want to get the trophy. It is not so much, for me, playing in the competition. 
"Lukasz has been doing really well and he was the penalty shoot-out hero at Wembley. I was very happy for him.  
"For us it is massive to get a trophy and I hope we can please everyone at the club."
He added:
"It is up to the manager. Lukasz has done really well and he deserves a lot of credit.  
"I would love to play, obviously, but it is the manager's decision."
The Gunners face Hull City on May 17 at Wembley in the final. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Arsenal v West Ham player ratings: Santi & Poldi steal the show

Arsenal v West Ham player ratings
Premier League at the Emirates

Wojciech Szczensy - Had little to do. Commanded his area well. Might have hoped he'd have better luck with the West Ham goal but it wasn't his error - 5

Bacary Sanga - Worked hard for the team as always and danerous in the final third. Will be missed when he goes in the summer - 7

Per Mertesacker - Dealt with the treat of Andy Carroll well. Calm and composed with the ball and seemed to be more on his A game. Perhaps that might be down to the return of his French friend - 6

Laurent Koscielny - Should probably have closed the ball down quicker for the West Ham goal but his attempt to take off Matt Jarvis' head to prevent the ball was admirable. Had little else to do and was probably a good come back game - 5

Thomas Vermaelen - Didn't look out of place like he sometimes can at left back and made up for his error for the West Ham goal by providing an assist for Olivier Giroud's goal. Probably won't be in the team when Gibbs/Monreal returns - 5

Mikel Arteta - Another solid performance from the Spaniard who was taking no prisoners last night. Remarkable that he looked as fresh as anyone else on the pitch despite playing a lot of football in the past week. - 7

Kim Kallstrom - Making his full debut he wasn't afraid to put in the tackles or ask questions of his team mates with his sometimes wayward passing. Looked assured and kept running for the team despite sometimes not knowing where to stand - 7

Tomas Rosicky - His engine doesn't stop turning and neither does the Czech's thoughts about always playing forward. Was unlucky a few of his passes in the final third didn't come off and looked like the Arsenal player who would make something happen in the first half - 6

Santi Cazorla - Looked laboured in the first half where he didn't seem to want to work for the team but produced a much better performance in the second half. A great interception and pass for Podolski's goal. Ran the show after half time - 8

Lukas Podolski - Scored two vital goals and as always seemed to cause fear in the opposition defence when he got into the final third. Both finishes were well taken - 8

Oliver Giroud - Overshadowed Podolski's goals with a wonderful strike of his own, which seemed to be impossible from a player who doesn't always rise to the occassion. Looked refreshed after scoring. Hopefully he's got his mojo back - 7


Aaron Ramsey - Oh how we've missed the Welshman. Seeing him perform against at such a high level after being out for more than 100 days leaves you wishing what might have been. Good assist for Podolski's second goal - 7

Carl Jenkinson - Came on, ran around and tried to get involved. Didn't put a foot wrong in his seven minute cameo - 6

Arsenal invincible: "I just cannot see life without football for Arsene Wenger"

Martin Keown believes Arsene Wenger will have a role in football even if he decides to leave Arsenal when his contract expires this summer.

The former Gunners defender says the Frenchman's love for the game is what drives him on from day to day.

Wenger's two year contract extension, worth £8million a season, remains unsigned. It will be a talking point when the Arsenal board meet this week.

Keown, who was part of the Arsenal team which won the league unbeaten in 2003/4, told BBC Radio Five Live:
"I honestly don't think he [Arsene Wenger] is looking beyond from game to game. 
"It would all come as a huge surprise to him if he didn't get into the top four, just as much as it would have been a huge surprised if he hadn't got to the cup final. 
"That's how he is. He's very pragmatic. He's organised. He's trying to build this team for the future. He loves his football. 
"I just cannot see life without football for Arsene Wenger. 
"There isn't a crisis in every day of the week for him. He's a very calm man to be around. 
"He doesn't assess things as much as we do in the media.  
"At the weekend, watching that FA Cup game, I cannot remember being as frustrated as I was that afternoon ever as an Arsenal fan. 
"By hook or by crook they managed to get through that tie. 
"When ever you win things it always looks perfect, when you look back. 
"But I remember some very nervy difficult evenings trying to become successful in that Arsenal team. 
"It wasn't always pretty. We managed to do it. Maybe there isn't quite the exposure there is now but that would have been a long way back from losing that one and not getting through against Wigan. 
"That's one step. The next step is to get into the Champions League."
The Gunners made a huge step forward in their bid to secure fourth place with a win over West Ham last night. Two goals from Lukas Podolski and a beautiful strike from Olivier Giroud ensured Wenger's men took all three points in their 3-1 win.

Gary Neville tips Arsenal to secure a top four finish

Gary Neville believes if Arsenal achieve a top four finish and win the FA Cup it will have been a good season for Arsene Wenger's side.

The former England international turned Sky Sports pundit has also tipped the Gunners to achieve both goals because he doesn't believe Everton have what it takes to not drop points in all their remaining fixtures.

Arsenal came back from a goal down to beat West Ham at the Emirates on Tuesday night and leap frogged Everton into fourth place by a point. The Toffees have a chance to regain the Champions League spot with a win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park tonight.

Neville told Sky Sports viewers:
"We've probably expected them to do better having been in the position they were two or three months ago, where there was talk about the title. 
"I think to be fair if they got fourth and if they won the FA Cup I think it would be a great season for them. 
"I think in terms of tonight they've haven't been at their best but they're playing against teams that even if they're not at their best they can win. 
"Everton have won a couple of games in the last few weeks against Fulham away, at Sunderland where they haven't been at their best. 
"I think there is games that they've got: Southampton away, City and United where they are going to have to be at their absolute best to get full points. 
"And I don't think Everton will get full points out of those games and that's why I think Arsenal will get fourth. 
"We'll see. But that is where I think Arsenal have that edge over Everton."
Arsenal play follow FA Cup finalists Hull City this Sunday, followed by games against Newcastle (H), West Brom (H) and Norwich (A).

After facing Crystal Palace tonight, Everton play Manchester United (H), Southampton (A), Manchester City (H) and Hull City (A).

Arsene Wenger reveals why he cannot play Lukas Podolski up front

Arsene Wenger has admitted he's been tempted to play two strikers up front but says he's unable to do so because he's without injured Theo Walcott.

The Frenchman switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the closing stages of Saturday's FA Cup semi final against Wigan, with Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo leading the line.

But it's rare to see the Gunners play with two strikers down the middle and Wenger has explained why he hasn't employed Lukas Podolski in a central role.

Speaking after Tuesday night's 3-1 win over West Ham, Wenger said:
"I am tempted [to play two strikers in the middle] but I have so many offensive players, who all want to go in the middle, and Lukas is the only one who is really a wide player.  
"Rosicky is a central player, Cazorla is basically a central player, and when you don't have Walcott it's very difficult to do that."
Wenger added:
"I played him [Podolski] centre forward a few times and I felt he came a lot to the ball, more like an off-striker than a target striker.  
"But he is a fantastic finisher because he has unbelievable power and a very short backlift.  
"So the one you want to have a chance is him."
Podolski's brace last night took the German to ten goals from 22 appearances in all competitions. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Podolski: Today was the first step towards Champions League qualification

Lukas Podolski believes Arsenal's win over West Ham was their first step towards securing Champions League qualification.

The German scored a brace in the Gunners 3-1 win over their London rivals and three points which propels them above Everton into fourth place - for 24 hours at least.

The attacker latched on to a Santi Cazorla pass and then fired a snap shot into the far corner to put the Gunners level after they had fallen behind from Matt Jarvis' opener.

Podolski added his second 12 minutes before the end, combining with Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey to fire a close range shot into the roof of the net.

It was the Gunners first league win in five league games, following the north London derby win over Spurs at White Hart Lane.

Podolski told Sky Sports:
"After the FA Cup is was important that we switch on to the Premier League....we must fight for the fourth place. 
"We want to play next year in the Champions League - it is very important and we must watch from game to game. 
"Today was the first step which was very important, now let's focus on our next game."
The Gunners travel to fellow FA Cup finalist Hull City on Sunday, but not before Everton face Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Wednesday night as the battle for the last Champions League spot intensifies.

Man of the match Cazorla said he knew what was at stake from tonight's result.

The Spaniard said:
"The most important thing tonight was the win, we need to win all the games."
And on linking up with Podolski for the opener, he added:
"It's easy when I have an understanding with Lukas, always in training every day. The most important thing was the win and now we freshen up for Sunday."

Wenger confirms Arsenal's record signing should be fit for Sunday

Arsene Wenger has confirmed Mesut Ozil should be fit to play his first Arsenal match in five weeks.

The Gunners record signing is expected to be available for Arsenal's trip to the KC Stadium to play Hull City on Sunday.

The Arsenal manager also confirmed French midfielder Abou Diaby will return to full training on Thursday.

However Wenger told reporters he is unsure whether Diaby will play for the first team this season.

Wenger said:
"Abou is back in full training on Thursday.  
"It's very difficult to say [if he will play this season] because he has not played for over a year now, and it's very difficult for me [to decide].  
"He looks physically fine, but he has to play one or two games before I consider bringing him back."

Podolski's brace and Giroud wonder goal secure three points for the Gunners

A Lukas Podolski brace and a wonder goal from Olivier Giroud won Arsenal all three points that put them back into the top four.

The German completed 90 minutes in the league for only the third time in his Gunners career and scored two poachers goals at important times of the game to ensure Arsene Wenger's men got all three points.

The goal of the night was scored by Giroud, who with the deftest of touches first controlled the ball under the pressure of two West Ham players and then shot through the legs of the Hammers goalkeeper.

The north London side go back into the Champions League position for 24 hours at least, until Everton play Crystal Palace tomorrow night.

Wenger made five changes from the side which won through to the FA Cup final. Wojciech Szczesny returned in goal in place of Lukasz Fabianski, Laurent Kosciielny was recalled in place of Nacho Monreal, Kim Kallstrom handed his first start with Aaron Ramsey dropped to the bench, Tomas Rosicky came in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud replaced Yaya Sanogo in attack.

The average age of the outfield players was 29 and a half. The oldest starting 11 since May 2003.

From a West Ham corner, Rosicky broke down the right and swung a cross in which Cazorla couldn't control and the chance was gone.

Tosicky was at the heart of the Gunners next chance in the 13th minutes. The Czech international put Podolski in on the left and the German crossed but Giroud was unable to get on the end of it.

Moments later Rosicky was booked for a challenge on Armero.

Arsenal were fortunate not to have had a penalty awarded against them when Carroll headed down a cross in the box and Sagna swung a leg to clear the ball but didn't make contact with it. Instead he caught Matt Jarvis.

The visitors were on the accendancy. They were having the better chances and Carroll was at the heart of everything for the Irons.

Kallstrom was asking questions of his team mates with his passing. The former Sweden international was lifting balls over the full backs and asking Cazorla and Podolski to run on to the ball. However many of these passes weren't coming off.

It appears that no Arsenal player wanted to run forward. The possession game was evident but chances were few and far between.

Giroud had the best chance of the half, given the offside advantage as Cazorla played the Frenchman in but his flick towards goal was saved. Moments later Rosicky played a one two with Giroud but couldn't get a shot away.

The Arsenal crowd increased the noise as the team increased the pressure on the opposition and started to dictate the play as they had done in the early part of the game.

West Ham took the lead in the 38th minutes after some good fortune. Matt Jarvis got the end of a spill from Szczesny after he saved Nocerino cut inside from the left. Arsenal had defenders inside the box, but Koscielny couldn't make contact with the ball to clear it.

Kallstrom forced a save from Adrian after playing a one-two with Giroud. It was the first shot on target from an Arsenal player in the first half.

Lukas Podolski capitalised on a Stewart Downing error as the West Ham man tried to clear the ball from the corner area on the Arsenal right. The former England man's pass was cut out by Cazorla who played the ball straight into the box and Podolski fired off a shot which hit the back of the net.

There were no changes at the break.

Downing had the first shot of the half which was wide. Diame hit one well over the bar. The Gunners were starting to get their passing game going. However it was West Ham with the majority of the chances in the early stages.

The Gunners took the lead with a goal from Giroud. West Ham cleared a corner only as far as Vermaelen. The Belgium pumped the ball into the box which the Frenchman pulled out of the air while being challenged by Reid and Carroll. His deft touch took on his left foot out the Irons players and he struck the ball with his right through the legs of Adrian to score his 20th goal of the season.. A wonderful goal for the Frenchman.

Podolski had a free kick saved after Rosicky was fouled. Diame was booked for the challenged. Moments later Kallstrom was yellow carded for a challenge on Nocerino.

Arsenal were close to extending their leads with a well struck shot from Cazorla from outside the area, but the ball veered wide of Adrian post.

With 25 minutes to go, it seemed the game was finely balanced. Wenger made his first substitution with 20 minutes to go, Ramsey replacing Rosicky.

The Gunners added to their lead with Podolski's second goal of the match. It was a great combination from the German, Ramsey and Giroud. The trio played the ball in a triangle twice, with the final ball being a Giroud cross to Ramsey who played in Podolski who was on shoulder of the last defender and the attacker shot the ball high into the net.

With 12 minutes remaining Sam Alladyce made a double substitution with Ricardo Vaz Te replacing Jarvis and Downing coming off for Joe Cole. The final West Ham substitution was made with seven minutes to go, Carlton Cole coming on for Carroll.

And the English forward won a free kick with his first involvement in the game after being fouled by Koscielny. The free kick found Cole in the box, but his header was off target.

Wenger made his second substitution of the game, with Cazorla coming off for Carl Jenkinson with three minutes of normal time left.

The Gunners played keep ball at the end to ensure they secured all three points.

Koscielny, Arteta and Rosicky available for Arsenal's push for "vital" fourth spot

Arsene Wenger has told his players it is "vital" they secure Champions League football next season.

Arsenal sit in fifth place, two points behind fourth placed Everton, with just five matches of the campaign remaining.

Wenger's men face West Ham United tonight in what is a must win game. The Gunners play 24 hours before Roberto Martinez's side face Crystal Palace at Goodison Park.

And with yet another Premier League campaign going right down to the wire for the north Londoners, Wenger has insisted that securing a Champions League spot is a priority.

He told
"It’s vital to me to do it [qualify for the Champions League]. I want this club to play in the top level competition. For that you want to be in the Champions League. 
"What will be an advantage is our desire to play in this competition because we love the Champions League and just to imagine how much we love it will help us to achieve it. 
"I would like them rather to concentrate on the pleasure to be in it [than worry about not qualifying]. 
"We had a difficult schedule and today the rate of the negative results and negative aspects of the results in the big games is massive. 
"To deal with that is very difficult. When you have a succession of big games one after the other, if you lose the first one you are always in trouble."
Wenger hopes to be able to call on Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky who all joined in training at London Coleny yesterday.

Gazidis should fight the FA over Arsenal's cup final ticket allocation

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis want the FA to increase the allocation of tickets given to both Arsenal and Hull City for next month's FA Cup final.

The Gunner and the Tigers have been handed just 25,000 for the Wembley showpiece on May 17.

Arsenal have 45,000 season ticket holders at the Emirates Stadium and some will be left disappointed because of the low number of tickets made available to the club.

Gazidis, who sits on Football Association committees, said in a statement:
"We are disappointed many of our supporters and also those of Hull City will be unable to get tickets to the cup final. 
"We fully understand this is the showpiece FA fixture to celebrate the game as a whole, but we also believe the loyal supporters of the competing teams deserve a greater chance to see their team play in what is one of the biggest matches of the season. 
"The balance in the FA’s allocation system is not right. 
"Arsenal have approximately 45,000 season ticket holders and 150,000 members, many of whom come to games. 
"They all give us their loyal support throughout a season but with the FA Cup final allocation at 25,000 there will be many disappointed Arsenal fans, who have supported the Club home and away for years, who will be unable to get a ticket to this historic match."
It is unclear whether the club are fighting this decision with the FA. Last season both Manchester City and Wigan had their ticket allocations increased, with City receiving 31,000 and Wigan 25,000.

Wembley hero: Saturday's win could prove pivotal for our season

Spot kick savior Lukasz Fabianski believes Saturday's win can be a turning point in the Gunners season.

The Poland international's two saves in the penalty shoot out proved decisive as Arsenal progress into the FA Cup final by beating Wigan 4-2 on penalties after the sides were tied after 120 minutes.

The 28-year-old, who has been man of the match in four of the Gunners five FA Cup ties, hopes the momentum and feel good factor created by the Wembley win can have an impact on the Gunners five remaining league games this season.

Fabianski said:
"I do think that Saturday's win could prove pivotal for our season. 
"The main thing is that it means we are winning again, which is a very good habit to develop. 
"I always hoped that I would eventually get the opportunity to change the bad Wembley memories into good ones 
"Recently we have had a bit of a run which was not great and this hopefully puts an end to it and gets us back on track. So it was probably vital for us."

Arsene Wenger has said previously that Fabianski's place in the FA Cup team was decided a long time ago. However that hasn't stopped some fans debating whether his compatriot Wojciech Szczesny should get the nod ahead of him for next month's final.

Fabianski though feels he's done enough to earn his place in the Wembley showpiece.

He said:
"I would be disappointed if I did not get to play in the final. 
"I think that I have done enough during the course of this cup run to merit getting picked to play in the final. 
"We were all acutely aware of needing to end the season pursuing a major trophy. But we cannot lose sight of the equally important need of qualifying again for the Champions League by finishing in the top four in the league. 
"If we do that first, then we can go into the cup final in a really positive frame of mind. And hopefully enjoy the experience of a Wembley final without forgetting that we must win it."
Arsenal will face Hull City on May 17 to decide who will win the FA Cup. 

Arsenal Board to meet and Wenger's contract will be on the agenda

Arsene Wenger's contract will be a talking point when the Arsenal board meet this week.

The Frenchman, has yet to put pen to paper on an extension to his current deal which expires at the end of the season.

The board have offered Wenger a two year deal, with a pay rise to £8million a year.

However Wenger has kept his options open and there is a feeling he may leave at the end of this season after 17 years as the Gunners' manager.

The 64-year-old has never left the signing of his contract this close to the end of the season during his entire tenure.

While the Arsenal Board are keen for Wenger to sign up for two more years, they will discuss what options they have should the Frenchman decide to step down.

Wenger has already hinted he's going to stay, telling reporters yesterday morning he was already planning for next season

He said:
"We are really focused and working very hard. Every day we spend time on that."
Earlier this month a survey carried out by the Black Scarf Movement supporters group revealed the majority of Gooners wanted Wenger to stay at the club, even if the Gunners finished outside the top four and failed to win the FA Cup.

Alvaro Morata, Julian Draxler and Lars Bender head Arsene Wenger's transfer wishlist

Arsene Wenger has admitted he has already started working on planning who he might sign in the summer.

The Gunners failed to sign two of their biggest targets during the summer of 2013 when it looked like first Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez would be moving to north London.

Both deals failed to materialize and Wenger was forced into a deadline day deal for Mesut Ozil, having signed Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini on free transfers.

This time round it look set to be different with this summer's World Cup also a hurdle every club will have to overcome.

According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal executives have already made contact with Real Madrid over Alvaro Morata. And the Daily Mirror believe Wenger is impressed with Morata's Brazilian team mate Casemiro.

Striker Morata, 21, has scored six goals in 18 La Liga appearances this season.

Meanwhile midfielder Casemiro, 22, has found his playing time at the Bernabeu limited and has yet to start a La Liga or Champions League game for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Arsenal scouts have been watching the Real Madrid pair throughout the season.

Also on the Gunners radar is Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender.

The 24-year-old German international has made 25 Bundesliga appeances this season scoring two goals and has one assist to his name. He also appear in all six of his clubs Champions League group games, prior to their elimination from the competition.

Also on Wenger's priority targets list is Schalke's attacking midfielder Julian Draxler.

The Frenchman was targeting a January move for the 20-year-old but was put off by his £37million buy-out clause.

However Draxler has impressed this season in his23 Bundesliga appearances scoring a single goal and has six assists to his name. It might change the Gunners boss's mind about paying a high price for such a young player.

Scouts have also been tasked with looking at central defenders.

Wenger told reporters:
"We do spend time on next season, we are really focused and working very hard. 
"Every day we spend time on that."

Monday, 14 April 2014

Ozil, Koscielny, Arteta, Rosicky, Bendtner and Diaby join in training session today

Arsene Wenger has welcomed back Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny from injury as the duo trained with the rest of his squad today.

Also included in the session at London Colney this morning were Mikel Arteta, who is a concern for tomorrow night's match with West Ham, and Tomas Rosicky who missed Saturday's FA Cup penalty shoot out win over Wigan.

Nicklas Bendtner returned from his spell nursing a hamstring injury and also on the training pitch was Abou Diaby, who is back after more than a year out with a knee injury.

Wenger was gloomy on the outlook for Tuesday night's Premier League game when he spoke to the media this morning prior to taking training.

He said:
"I cannot give you complete team news because many of them have to be checked today. 
"We have plenty of uncertainties for muscular problems and fatigue. 
"Who could be available who was not in the squad on Saturday? 
"Maybe Rosicky and Koscielny - we'll have to test him definitely today. 
"There are plenty of uncertainties so I have to make up my mind late on."

Wenger added:
"The main uncertainties are Monreal who had to come off with a dead leg.  
"Podolski had a little [muscle] problem but I think he will be alright.  
"Then there is Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey (both muscle tightness). They are the main problems."
The Gunner need to win against Sam Allardyce's team to overtake Everton in the race for fourth place. 

Arsenal look set to cash in on Giroud after Wenger loses patience

Arsene Wenger is set to axe Olivier Giroud from his Arsenal squad for next season after being left disappointed and let down by his off the field antics.

The Sun reports the Gunners manager is set to sell his 27-year-old striker because he smuggled women into the Arsenal team hotel on two occasions this season on the night before games against club policy.

Giroud is the clubs top scorer this season, with 19 goals so far this campaign.

Arsenal would be looking to sell the striker for around £17millon, having brought him in a £13million deal from French club Montpellier two years ago.

According to reports the France international is under pressure from wife Jennifer to find a club outside of England.

However his options would be limited in France with only Paris Saint-Germain matching his Champions League ambitions. The Sun says Italian clubs Juventus and AC Milan could also provide Giroud with alternative options.

The YouTube generation: Fabainski admits doing his homework on Wigan penalty takers

Arsenal's FA Cup hero Lukasz Fabainski has admitted turning to YouTube in order to research Wigan's possible penalty takers.

The 28-year-old was however left to his instincts to guess where Gary Caldwell and Jack Collision were likely to place the ball as the Gunner's keeper couldn't find any clips of the pair taking spot kicks.

The Poland international, who saved two of the four Latics penalties, told Arsenal Player:
"I did look at YouTube and things like that, but I didn’t see anything of Collison or Caldwell on there. 
"To be honest with you I did some homework but none of them [the Wigan penalty takers] were on my list!. 
"The guys who stepped up to take penalties [were different] so I was just guessing. It was more intuition rather than my homework that I’d done. 
"I was surprised that [Jordi] Gomez didn’t step up as the first one. Then I saw Caldwell and Collison taking the penalties, so I was just guessing."
Fabianski is set to play his last game in an Arsenal shirt before a summer move away from north London in next month's Wembley final. 

Podolski hits out at Wenger: I'm not happy always being substituted

Lukas Podolski has admitted: Of course I am not happy always to be substituted.

The 28-year-old was taken off in the 68th minute of Arsenal's penalty shoot out win over Wigan in the FA Cup semi final on Saturday.

The German has only played to conclusion of two of the 14 matches he's started this season: the 4-1 win over Sunderland in the Premier League and the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

And the Gunners £10.9million signing from Cologne has finally spoken out at Arsene Wenger's decision to take him off in eight out of nine of the Premier League games he's started this season, all of his three starts in the FA Cup and in one of the two starts he made in the Champions League.

He told the Daily Telegraph:
"Of course. I play and, in the last games, I always come out and of course you cannot be happy when you always go out after 60, 70 minutes. 
"Of course I am not happy always to be substituted. 
"It’s the decision of the boss. It’s not always easy when you play for a big club but of course I am not happy to always come out and watch from outside. 
"You cannot be happy with this situation."
There were boos inside Wembley when Podolski was substituted in Saturday's game, but its fair to say his performance on the day was average at best.

Wenger faces midfield crisis after Arteta injured in FA Cup win

Arsene Wenger is facing a midfield crisis after it was revealed Mikel Arteta suffered a calf injury in Saturday's FA Cup semi final win.

The Spaniard played for the whole 120 minutes of the penalty shoot-out victory over Wigan but it is being reported he faces a battle to be fit for Tuesday night's Premier League game with West Ham.

The 32-year-old scored the Gunners first spot kick in their 4-2 penalties win which sent Arsene Wenger's side through to their first FA Cup final since 2005.

They'll face Hull City who beat Sheffield United 5-3 on Sunday.

With Mathieu Flamini sitting out the second game of his two match suspension and Aaron Ramsey suffering tightness in his muscles after only just returned to action from a 14 week injury lay off, Arteta's injury couldn't have come at a worse time.

Kim Kallstrom is almost certain to make his full Arsenal debut in the Emirates clash against Sam Allardyce's side and the Daily Mail report Tomas Rosicky is set to be passed fit for action following a thigh injury which kept him out of the FA Cup semi final.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also a concerned with a groin problem.

Leading coach Verheijen critical of Wenger "incompetence" over Ramsey's FA Cup role

Leading coach Raymond Verheijen has critisied Arsene Wenger's use of Aaron Ramsey during Arsenal's FA Cup semi final win over Wigan.

The midfielder played 113 minutes of the Wembley tie, only his second game since recovering from a thigh injury which kept him out for more than 100 days.

The Welshman was given a run out the previous week at Everton, where he played for the final 24 minutes of Arsenal's defeat to Roberto Martinez's side.

Verheijen, a renowned Dutch coach who worked with Ramsey during his time with the Wales national team set up, believes Wenger was "incompetent" to use the 23-year-old for so long.

He tweeted:

Earlier this month Verheijen told The Independent:
"There is a pattern at Arsenal, and it repeats itself every year, it is a no-brainer. 
"It is a general problem in football, if you do too much too soon, in the first few weeks of pre-season, you develop shorter-term fitness.
"If you do the same amount of fitness work spread over six weeks, you develop longer-term fitness that will last for 10 months."
The Daily Telegraph report Ramsey came off as a precaution after suffered tightness in his muscles but he will be assessed today as to whether he can have any involvement in Tuesday night's Premier League game with West Ham United.