Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Theo Walcott says he’s out of a leg brace and off crutches as he continues his rehabilitation from the cruciate ligament injury which has ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Trying to remain positive about his rehabilitation, despite the fact he is missing the Premier League climax and a World Cup in Brazil, the attacker said he’s currently focusing on the short-term and the prospect of becoming a father for the first time.

“The last two days have been good days, getting out of the brace and off the crutches,” Walcott told the Telegraph.

“I have been able to walk a bit easier. It has taken me a while to get the walking right, but it is nearly there.

“At the moment, I am taking it week by week and trying to hit targets. I can’t do much yet. I just walk in the swimming pool, getting the extension right. Extension in this injury is very important. Otherwise, I am trying to build muscle and become an absolute tank.

“There’s the baby due in May. In the space of a year, I have had three very big things happen – marriage, baby on the way and a major injury.

“My main concern is getting fit and playing well for Arsenal. I’ll obviously be supporting the [England] guys in the summer but my main concern will be my family, of course.”

The attacker also made clear he has no regrets about his taunting of Sp*rs fans when he was stretchered from the Emirates turf during the Gunners 2-0 FA Cup victory.

“Me and Tottenham, you always do that banter,” he told the Mirror. “They do it to me, I do it to them. It’s just a bit of fun really.

“I have seen some Tottenham fans since then and they have said if it was one of our players [making the scoreline gesture] I would have loved it. It’s all a bit of fun, that’s all it was.

“The stretcher guys were both Spurs fans and they actually said: ‘Theo can you stop now?’ I did stop eventually. I’ll buy them some cupcakes or something! As soon as I got to the Arsenal fans and they were throwing scarves. I stopped, yeah.”

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Laurent Koscielny

Accordian to the Guardian (boom boom), Laurent Koscielny has donated a hefty sum to help save a musical instrument manufacturer in his home town of Tulle, France.

The centre-back, who ruins the lining of his suits by pocketing strikers on a weekly basis, is reported to have helped donate €600,000 to Maugein, a local business that has made accordians since 1919.

The business, threatened with closure and the loss of 20 jobs, is understood to have appealed to the French international via the local mayor; an advisor to President Francois Hollande who also grew up in the area.

It’s a lovely gesture from Koscielny and comes just 24 hours after he’s called on the Gunners fraternity to ordain him with a terrace chant.

Luckily, always eager to give back, Arseblog News readers have solved that problem for him.

kos_song_700

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Arsenal have not won a major trophy at youth level since winning the Premier Academy League title in 2009/10, but their progression in the past week has increased the chances of that mini drought being brought to an end before the conclusion of the campaign.

Despite their inconsistent league form at U21 and U18 levels, the youngsters have made considerable progress in various cup competitions, and, as we enter March, they still have a genuine chance of success in three different tournaments.

The most noteworthy of those is the UEFA Youth League, with a hard-fought victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night setting up a glamour tie away to Barcelona in the Quarter-Finals. Arsenal started well against the Ukranian side, with Jon Toral opening the scoring, but Shakhtar equalised just before half-time and Steve Gatting’s side had to rely on a penalty from Kristoffer Olsson and a strike from close range from Serge Gnabry to ensure progression. They had to see out the game with ten men following Glen Kamara’s dismissal, but were deserved winners in the end.

The Barcelona tie is certainly an intriguing one, given the rarity with which games of such calibre come along at this level. It is clear that Arsenal are trying their utmost to win this competition given that their starting line-up on Tuesday contained two members of the first-team squad in Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem, as well as two players with Football League experience in Hector Bellerin and Chuba Akpom, with the latter being temporarily recalled from his stint at Coventry City so he could feature.

Before their trip to Spain, however, the youngsters have another major event to look forward to as they prepare to face Everton at Emirates Stadium in the Quarter-Finals of the FA Youth Cup. Everton knocked the Gunners out of the tournament in the Fifth Round  last season, but Arsenal will be more confident of progression this time around, particularly following their success over Charlton Athletic in the Fifth Round last Friday, during which goalkeeper Josh Vickers made some outstanding saves, with wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi scoring the goals in a 2-0 victory.

Then there is the U21 Premier League Cup, a competition in its inaugural season, to consider. Having dispatched of Norwich City, Fulham and Chelsea in the previous rounds, Arsenal will host Reading in the Semi-Finals, with the game also likely to be held at Emirates Stadium.

It is rather remarkable that Arsenal’s various youth sides could potentially win a treble of sorts this season. Although it is often stated that development, rather than trophies, is the primary aim for youngsters coming through the system, the taste of success so early in their careers would surely not be a bad thing for their progression.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

 

Arsenal have today unveiled a statue commemorating Ken Friar’s more than 60-years service to the club.

The long-serving director, who earned an OBE in 2000 for his services to football, already has a bust which sits just inside the Directors’ entrance at the Emirates and of course a bridge named in his honour, but now joins Thierry Henry, Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp and Herbert Chapman with a bronze on the stadium’s concourse.

Capturing the chance moment which led to his employment by the Gunners back in 1946 it depicts a 12-year-old Friar chasing after a football.

As the story goes, he was caught trying to retrieve his ball from under a car in front of Highbury’s Marble Halls by Arsenal’s then manager George Allison who requested that he report back to him the following morning.

“Why I went back I don’t know,” Friar told the Telegraph in 2011. “I ended up getting a job on the front door, running messages. I used to get 12 and half pence a week.”

Promoted to a full-time job in the ticket office, he became assistant secretary in 1965 and secretary in 1973 before taking on the role of Managing Director in 1983. Stepping down from his duties to focus on Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the Emirates he again took the MD position on a temporary basis before the appointment of Ivan Gazidis.

Speaking about his life in N5, Friar had these words to say a couple of years ago: “I have always felt that people like me are custodians of the heritage. I really believe that it has to be protected. It has taken 125 years to build what we have got but, if you mishandle it, you can ruin it in 10 minutes.

“This club is like your health: you don’t appreciate it until you’ve lost it. Nine out of 10 people who leave want to come back. You just have to talk to Thierry Henry or Robert Pirès.”

Tony Adams may have been feted as Mr Arsenal but it’s hard to think of a better mantle for a gentleman who has dedicated his entire adult life to the club. 

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You can read a full interview with Ken Friar in ‘So Paddy Got Up’ – the Arseblog book, available now in digital format for just 1.99 from Amazon, iTunes or Kobo.

Picture courtesy of @stevefoord1

Tomas Rosicky Stoke Aggresive

Tomas Rosicky says Arsenal must be ready for a tough battle against an ‘aggressive’ Stoke side.

While many will feel this is simply playing up to stereotypes, Rosicky isn’t suggesting this is a bad thing, simply that everyone knows when they travel to the Brittania they’ll face a fully committed and physically challenging Stoke side.

The Czech says the crowd won’t make any difference to the Arsenal players, but that they have to contend with the physical aspect of the game if they’re to take the three points.

“It’s always very similar – they are a very physical side, very aggressive and it’s a very tough place to go,” he told the official site.

“All the away games are pretty similar so we need to be really well prepared for a physical and aggressive style of play. We need to match them in those attributes and, if we do that, we can be successful.”

Stoke fans will be fired up for this one, as they are for every home game against Arsenal, but Rosicky says that won’t affect him.

“For me, that doesn’t matter at all. The atmosphere in the stadiums here in England is great anywhere you go, so that side doesn’t bother me at all.

“What I’m thinking about is will we produce on the pitch? And if we will be as aggressive and strong as Stoke. If we do that, we can beat them.”

Santi Cazorla looks set to join Tomas Rosicky and Per Mertesacker in signing a new deal at Arsenal in a surprise, but very welcome move by the club.

The Spaniard, who joined from Malaga in the summer of 2012, was the Gunners standout performer last season and looks set to be rewarded for his important contribution with a new and improved contract thought to be worth around £80,000 a week.

Given the deal renewals handed out to the young British core, the lengthening of Szczesny’s contract and the contracts given to the players signed in the last couple of seasons Arsenal appear to be well on top of keeping their biggest stars for the foreseable future.

Obviously there are still some outstanding issues. Bacary Sagna’s remains a sticking point, while the likes of Lukasz Fabianski and Nicklas Bendtner are certain to leave. The only other issue is the boss’ own contract, which appears to be signed but not yet announced.

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Sky Sports have selected all four of Arsenal’s April Premier League fixtures for live broadcast in a move which could cause disruption for anyone who plans their life around football.

The games against Everton and West Ham have been moved from Saturday to Sunday, the match against Hull has been made a Saturday 5.30pm kick-off, while the showdown with Newcastle is now on a Monday.

Everton v Arsenal, Sunday 6 April, 1.30pm

Arsenal v West Ham United, Sunday 13 April, 12.00pm

Hull City v Arsenal, Saturday 19 April, 5.30pm

Arsenal v Newcastle United, Monday 28 April, 8.00pm

For those of you who watch all the games on TV it could be a bumper month if Arsenal also progress in the Champions League and FA Cup.

If you’re running the London Marathon (as my brother is) you’d better do it quickly as you’ll be hard pushed to make the Emirates for the midday kick-off with the Hammers. Your best bet is Arsenal making the FA Cup semi-final in which case the Hammers clash will have to be postponed.

As usual Arsene Wenger met the press today and after the politeness and team news, he was questioned about his decision to give the players a couple of days off after the Sunderland game.

Sky’s report said, “You’ve given the players some time off this week. That’s unusual for you …?”

Prompting Wenger to reply, “No. We came out of a very heavy schedule. We had two days off, that’s all.

Sky: “Do you feel like some of the players are tired? Mesut Ozil in particular.”

AW: “No, it’s not just physical. Sometimes it’s mental, you always under pressure to perform and for the players to spend a couple of days with their family, there’s nothing unusual there.”

Another reporter then asked if Ozil was over his penalty miss, which Wenger answered, and the follow up question was, “You said it’s a question of both physical and mental rest. Which is most important to you? Is that the the players were just physically tired.”

At this point the manager’s brow furrowed, as he’d clearly already answered the first question and the reason he gave them some time off was obvious from that.

“It’s not necessarily fatigue, I don’t see why that’s suddenly a problem. We have played without a break since December, we don’t have to justify that.

“We are in a society where everyone wants to control everything; I don’t understand this. We had two days off, that’s all.

“Unbelievable.”

At which point things moved on to talk about Stoke and the weekend challenge against them, but clearly there were elements fishing for a headline.

So they invent a thing then look to make headlines from thing they invented. Such as: Arsene Wenger finds it ‘unbelievable’ he has to ‘justify’ giving Arsenal players two days break.

Which, of course, he doesn’t – especially as anyone with half a brain would see the benefit of giving the players a bit of time to de-stress after a hectic schedule and to recharge ahead of the games we’ve got to come in March.

Arsene Wenger says he’ll make a decision over Joel Campbell’s future in the summer but admits he could be tempted to include the Costa Rican striker in his Arsenal plans next season.

The 21-year-old, who now has the requisite paperwork to play in England, hasn’t featured for the Gunners since signing in 2011 embarking instead on loan spells at Lorient, Real Betis and current side Olympiakos.

Two days after watching the attacker score a stunning Champions League goal for the Greek club against Manchester United, the boss offered Campbell encouragement admitting he appears to have got to grips with European football.

“He was good, convincing going forward. He looks like he has adapted better to the physical side of the European game.

“We knew always that he had the talent to create something special, [perhaps] he relied a bit too much on that.

“He’s now been out at three different clubs, he was at Lorient, he was in Seville with Real Betis and now at Olympiakos and he has learnt the toughness of the European leagues.

“I will decide [on his future] later. Why not? We bought him to bring him here.”

Several clubs, including Olympiakos, are thought to be keen on signing Campbell on a permanent basis, but if he keeps knocking in the goals in Greece he’s certainly giving the boss something to think about.

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stoke.

There’s good news in that Thomas Vermaelen is fit again after his calf strain, while Mesut Ozil is back in the squad having been rested for the win over Sunderland.

However, the manager has admitted there are doubts over both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs, meaning the captain could be thrust back into action at left-back, a position which hasn’t always suited him.

That presents something of a risk, playing all the club’s centre-halves in one go, but the absences of Gibbs and Monreal are not yet 100% confirmed. Both players will be assessed further before the team travels tomorrow.

The lack of any mention of Laurent Koscielny leads us to believe he’s fully fit.

Earlier in the week Kieran Gibbs agent said he could be fit for this weekend. Beyond that there are no new injury worries to contend with, other than the ‘lifers’, which means the boss has a good squad to choose from ahead of what will be a very difficult game at the Brittania Stadium.

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