Friday, 16 December 2011

Podolski watched as Rowley eyes full back -Walcott's contract -Christmas carols embarrassment

Morning Gooners.

Today is the day every member of the reserve and youth teams hate the most. It's the day the players and staff come together at the training ground for their staff Christmas dinner cooked by the famous Rob the Chef.

The eating of the dinner isn't a problem, although I wonder how many of them enjoy eating Brussels sprouts. No, it's when the entertainment the youngsters have to provide to the first team squad between the courses. The normal peace and tranquility of London Colney will be shattered as several Christmas Carols will be sung (badly) as Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice share a joke and Robin van Persie winds-up Thomas Vermaelen about his choice of motor car.

In all seriousness, it's a good event for the players and staff to come together and enjoy lunch with one another. There isn't much time during the season for everyone to stop and eat lunch together. So the Christmas meal is a special occasion for all.

Hopefully Arsene Wenger won't have lost his appetite because prior to the meal he'll discover, along with the rest of us, who we'll face in the next round of the Champions League. The draw is due to take place at 11am in Nyon.

We can be drawn with: Napoli, CSKA Moscow, FC Basel, Lyon, Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit St Petersburg, AC Milan.

As the two Manchester clubs have already discovered, there are no easy games in Europe. And they'll be reminded of that as they both witnessed Spurs fail to progress in the Europa League last night, draw for the next stage of that competition takes place from noon.

There isn't much more that can be said on the draw until we find out who we've got.

The manager will face the media ahead of the weekend's game with Manchester City. The Daily Mirror amongst others are reporting of a training ground bust up between Mario Balotelli and Micah Richards. It's always good to see a bit of disharmony in the opposition camp.

Normally by this time there would be team news available from the official site but I guess that all the players who were injured for our game against Everton will be out for Sunday's game.

One player who is certainly in the best form of his Arsenal career is Theo Walcott. What it appears Theo is now finding is better consistency in his game. I suppose in someways it's helped that he's been playing alongside pretty much the same six players in midfield and attack since the start off the season.

And he's been talking about the squad finding it's feet following our poor start to the season.

Walcott said:
"Our new players needed time to gel, time to settle. They had to get used to the way the club is run. It was always going to take time.  
"We had injuries as well. Things were not going our way, but the way we’ve played in the last few weeks, it’s nice to see us move up the table."
One question which hasn't been raised in a while is where the club are at with discussing a new deal with Theo. He's out of contract at the end of next season, so you would have thought the club would be doing everything it could to get him to agree to an extension.

For me it's a no brainer for Theo. He's come on leaps and bounds with Arsenal. He's become a better player and one who plays every week. Is that something that any other club in the league could offer him?

The one area where I would like to see him contribute more is in scoring goals. And it's not just Walcott who needs to be finding the back of the net more. For all his assists, Gervinho should be scoring and the same could be said for Aaron Ramsey.

It's a point not lost on Mikel Arteta, who has three league goals to his name. The Spaniard and Alex Song are afforded a lot of time on the ball and sometimes when space opens up in front of them there is an opportunity to shoot.

Arteta said:
"Sometimes we get space to move into when the forward players have attracted defenders to them. We need to stay aware of that. 
"We have players to score from that range."
I could be wrong, but I think we've scored more goals from outside the box this season already than we did in the whole of last season. It's good to see Arteta and Song scoring goals. Although I'm glad they don't get carried away like Emmanuel Frimpong and shoot from 40 yards!

There are a few other stories around. Francis Coquelin says it's "flattering" that he's been linked with a move to Lille in The Sun. There is more on us signing Lukas Podolski. The Daily Mail say we'll watch him again tonight as the manager weighs up whether to spend £15m on the German striker in the January transfer window.

Both the Daily Star and Daily Mail believe Steve Rowley was watching Southampton full back Luke Shaw play on Tuesday night in the FA Youth Cup. We were linked with the defender in the summer but didn't do a deal with the south coast club to sign him. And at 16, I'm not sure he's the answer to our problem at full back at the moment.

And finally the Daily Mail say we're running the rule over AZ Alkmaar’s 23-year-old striker Rasmus Elm. They report there is also interest in the £6m rated player from Tottenham and Manchester United.

That's it for today. Looking forward to finding out who we'll get in the Champions League and I'll have more on that tomorrow.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

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