Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wenger on winning, Arshavin crocked, Keepers galore, Sagna on Wilshere

Morning Gooners.

The league season well and truly gets underway today with our trip to Anfield. Liverpool have been a team we've had the better over in recent seasons and I can't see why that won't be the same again this afternoon.

Ahead of the game, the manager gave a separate press conference on Friday to the journalists of the Sunday newspapers. This is an additional engagement on top of the two press conferences held for the daily and broadcast reporters.

As such there is plenty of new lines which have emerged.

The manager has spoken of the pressure he's under to win trophies at Arsenal this season.

"Man City invested £100million and we invested £8m. Yet if we do not win it, then people ask questions.
"It is right because if we don't win the championship, I think it's an absolute disgrace.
"It is time for us. I believe we have done well to stay in the top four in recent years but now is a time we want to deliver.
"I always consider a season make or break but maybe this one is more than ever.
"Would you like to finish 10th in the league and say you won the League Cup? No. So, for me, that deadline is this season.
"The target is always to get the maximum out of the team. Last year we were not far off, there was no shame.
"I have shown my commitment to this club but if they are not happy with me I will not stay for long, don't worry."
I don't think there is a chance that the board will sack Wenger even if we don't win anything over the next four years of his contract. Obviously it is better for them that he and the team do win silverware, but if he keeps the team competitive, within the top four and eligible for the Champions League each season within the tight budget he has, there will be no quibbles from the board.

The manager was asked about why he has been unable to fill positions in defence when, as he admits himself, there is an obvious weakness.

He said: 
"Many teams with good players do not want to sell.
"In Germany, they are in a strong financial position. In France, clubs are well managed and don't need to sell.
"In Italy, you have less players now who could strengthen Arsenal than before. And, in England, the market is flat.
"It was unbelievably difficult to get Laurent Koscielny. I'm surprised. For years, we had no money but now we have money we cannot find players to buy."
In the Sunday Mirror he adds:
"We are short at the back and need to add.
"If we manage to do that we are better-equipped. But now we have more experience.
"The average age of our players is 23 to 24. They are real men now and the league is more open. It is time for us to deliver."
You might also want to read a nice piece in The Observer by Amy Lawrence.

One man who like Anfield and Liverpool a lot is Andrey Arshavin as this stat from OptaJoe proves.

But the Russian has told the News of The World he is worried about an injury to his right thigh.

He said:
"I am so worried about an injury I picked before the beginning of the season. 
"They haven't even started to kick me yet - but my leg is already in pain. Working with the ball is painful.
"I would not like a repetition of last season when one injury after another did not allow me to play to my full ability.
"As to what form I am in, let's see against Liverpool. But judging by the match against Bulgaria, it is very bad."
He hasn't been at his best in pre-season and that's a worry. But if he can continue with his rich vein of form against Roy Hodgeson's men this afternoon I'll be more than happy. Hopefully the injury isn't too serious and he will play. He's an important player in our team who can be out of the game for 89 minutes and in the last come to  life and score the match winner.

As you might expect there is a bit around this morning regarding the goalkeeping situation. Mark Schwarzer was left out of the Fulham side which drew with Bolton yesterday after failing a fitness test.

The News of The World report this morning that the keeper's agent will hold talks on Monday with the west London club to push through a move to Arsenal.

There is also talk of Shay Given being in the frame after being demoted by Roberto Mancini for Manchester City's opening game with Tottenham yesterday. However I'm less than convinced any deal will happen with City allowing us to take the keeper, either on loan or on a permanent move.

The manager has told the official site that whoever starts the game this afternoon will be the club's first choice keeper.

He said: 
"The guy who plays on Sunday will be No 1. It is never for definite but it will be a consequence of what I have seen in pre-season."
You have to assume from that statement the manager's choice will be Lukasz Fabianski. He has played in four of the pre-season games, starting the majority. Lets hope if he is handed his chance he shines.

Another player who faces a big afternoon on his Premier League debut is Marouane Chamakh.

However our new striker has told the Sunday Mirror all the pressure is on Liverpool.

Chamakh said:
"Arsenal had a good season. They were in third place.
"The over-riding objective was to qualify for the Champions League and I think they did their maximum.
"There is pressure at a club like Arsenal, but Liverpool will be under more pressure because they had a bad season. It'll be difficult for us, but it'll be difficult for Liverpool too.
"We have an edge because we don't have any pressure on us since it is an away match.
"I know it will be hard, but I am confident. We'll do everything we can to bring points back from up there."
He added: 
"I have been dreaming for a year of playing for a team like Arsenal against teams like Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United."
There is more in The Observer about the new Premier League 25-man squad rule. An interesting point the manager makes is that players on pay when you play incentives could  take their club to court under a FIFA rule. 

Clause IV, section 15, of Fifa's regulations on the status and transfer of players states: 

"An established professional who has, in the course of the season, appeared in fewer than 10% of the official matches in which his club has been involved may terminate his contract prematurely on the ground of sporting just cause.

"The existence of a sporting just cause shall be established on a case-by-case basis. In such a case, sporting sanctions shall not be imposed, though compensation may be payable."

It certainly could cause a few issues, perhaps not with us, but other Premier League clubs who have far too many professionals in their squad.

In other news, Bacary Sagna tells The People there is no need to place the pressure of England's international football future on Jack Wilshere's shoulders. 

He said: 
"I think he is a top-class player and will improve a lot.
"He can become one of the best English players but people should stop talking about him as much as they are because they should leave him to work.
"He is an amazing player, though. I have been playing with him for two years at Arsenal and I think he's one of the best."
And the Independent on Sunday has some interesting statistics from the NHS which found that us Gooners are some of the most healthy supporters in the UK, along with fans of Manchester United, Chelsea and Blackpool. The unhealthy bunch consist of Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers and Fulham.

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