Monthly Archives: July 2007

Gunners are back with a bang

Arsenal won the inaugural Emirates Cup beating Inter 2-1. The tournament format was such that you get an additional point for every goal scored. So Arsenal ended up clear winners with 10 point – 6 points for 2 victories and 4 for the 4 goals. The youngsters in the team showed their composure while still maintaining their passing game. They ran around the Italians weaving passes all over the field. This was a high class performance from the Gunners and definitely a notch above their previous match.

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Hleb playing just behind the striker, Persie is a wonderful move by Wenger with Eboue playing ahead of Sagna and newcomer Kieran Gibbs playing in the left flank with Fabregas and Flamini in the middle of the park. Hoyte played on the left flank with Toure and Gallas the captain in the centre of defence. Lehmann was on duty under the crossbar. Playing in his first match for the senior team the 17 year old Gibbs showed that he was no kid when it comes to playing for the senior team. He showed his class and was given a standing ovation by the crowd when he was substituted. I am sure we will see more of him as the season progresses. Wenger has found the right positions for Hleb (one of the most under-rated footballers in EPL) and Eboue. Eboue’s combination with Sagna is something to be savoured for the future. I can see that partnership building slowly and steadily. Eboue’s forward play is gonna earn some penalties too.

Arsenal had all the chances in the first half and there were quite a few positives like the shot from outside the box which none of the players hit last season were all back. Persie had a freekick being saved by the goalie and another clipping the back pole. It was an eventful first half. As usual we concede the goal, which came out of nowhere. A precise header which beats Lehmann. And then the familiar story of having all the chances but taking none and the opposition taking it was coming to mind. And then Hleb takes the ball from Arsenal half, combines with Eboue and Sagna before getting it back scores a nice team goal. Scored were level. The commentator said “now somebody should step to the next level and win the match for Arsenal”. Persie heard it I guess because he comes up with a nice twist and turn and blasts it with his weaker foot to put it beyond the Italians. It was a fitting goal that could win any tournament.

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Now there is hope. I think with this team we can look at a Top 3 finish which was looking difficult with all the transfers out of the club.  Wenger may buy one or two more players according to him. But he knows whats best for the club.

In other news, Bayern Munich beat Schalke 2-0 on Saturday to claim the curtain-raising  League Cup for the sixth time in their history. Watch out all you Bundesliga teams…

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, Emirates Cup, EPL, Hleb, Inter Milan, Kieran Gibbs, Van Persie

A Shaky Start for Arsenal

Arsenal beat PSG 2-1 in the second match of the first Emirates Cup played at Emirates Stadium. In the first match of the tournament a youthful energetic Valencia beat the ageing  Serie A champions, Inter 2-0. Arsenal scored through Flamini and Bendtner.

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Arsenal started the match without injured Adebayor, Rosicky and Walcott. Eduardo Da Silva was yet to get his work permit for England and hence didnt feature. Gilberto was still in his holiday after the Copa America victory. Bendtner played alongside Van Persie in the front. To be fair to PSG they dominated the first half and created more chances compared to Arsenal. Arsenal looked more like a work-in-progress. Sagna was lively though he didnt go forward as many times as Clichy did.

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I was eagerly looking forward to see Bendtner play and I should say I was disappointed with his performance. He had a mediocre game. He created a goal with a nice chesting to provide Flamini the chance to score. He rose higher than the goalkeeper to head the ball down and then reacted quickly to slam the ball in. But he seemed to be a bit casual on the whole. His weak shot for the penalty was proof of that. He wasted a chance to score a couple of goals and gain some confidence. Anyway I just hope he improves from here.

Second half saw wholesale substitutions and 5 players were brought in. Hoyte played full back with Eboue playing ahead of him in the flanks. Traore played full back in the left flank with Clichy going ahead. Diaby and Denilson manned the central mid-field with Hleb  playing behind Bendtner. Senderos had a steady game for the full 90 minutes. I thought Eboue going forward was a good option given that he was combining well with Hoyte as well as putting in a few good crosses. Hleb did a commendable job in his new role, winning the penalty with a surge into the box. He had some good dribbling moves in between the match to show his utility to the team. Fabregas, the most popular player in the Arsenal ranks had a very subdued match though he did a couple of good tackles to win the ball. With him firing on all cylinders the team can only get better. Almunia also had a good match, with a save which was a gritty effort coming from a close range effort.

Today’s match with Inter might be interesting as Inter would be looking at a victory and Arsenal will be tested by some Italian defending.

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Filed under Arsenal, Bendtner, Da Silva, Emirates Cup, Fabregas, Inter Milan, PSG, Valencia, Van Persie

Of Premiership Pay packets & Nani

Yesterday John Terry signed a new contract which will keep him in Chelsea till 2012. There had been a lot of speculation on whether Abrahmovich would agree to increase (well in this case doubled) the pay to their Captain Terry and will still consider on a pay hike for their talismanic midfielder Frank Lampard. So Terry finds himself on top of the list of the highest wage earners in the Premier League. He beat clubmates Ballack and Shevchenko with hsi new deal.

So the Premiership top guys look like this:
Player Club Pounds a week
John Terry Chelsea £135,000
Andriy Shevchenko Chelsea £121,000
Michael Ballack Chelsea £121,000

Steven Gerrard Liverpool £120,000
Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd £119,000
Wayne Rooney Man Utd £110,000
Michael Owen Newcastle £110,000
Frank Lampard Chelsea £100,000
Rio Ferdinand Man Utd £100,000
Fernando Torres Liverpool £90,000
Didier Drogba Chelsea £90,000
Jamie Carragher Liverpool £90,000
Michael Essien Chelsea £80,000
Kieron Dyer Newcastle £80,000

What is interesting to note is that half of the Chelsea side is there in that list. Man U and Liverpool have 3 each and surprisingly Newcastle have 2!!! Well Michael Owen is understandable given the love and affection the British have for him 🙂 Also you will note that after Henry left, there is no more representation from Arsenal…the next highest was Ljunberg at £73000 per week, now that he has also gone, the club is not having any highly paid footballers.

Coming back to the preseason friendlies, first up is the Man U tour. You can say that the Asian countries are not the best of the footballing teams but the Koreans, Japanese and the Chinese clubs did give Man U a tough time and they have kept their attacking play going on in the whole tour. Credit should be given to that. But for me the discovery was Nani…he is a class apart. He looks like a livewire, lighter than Ronaldo and personally I think he loks more skillful than Ronaldo.

Liverpool had a mixed tournament in Hong Kong. They lost the final to Portsmouth largely due to the brilliance of James under the crossbar. Though the Reds won the first match quite comfortably, the goal from the South China Captain Li Haiqiang stole the limelight. If you havent seen it, watch it here. Its a stunning free kick from some 30 yards.

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Filed under Arsenal, Chelsea, EPL, John Terry, Li Haiqiang, Liverpool, Man U, Nani, Newcastle, Portsmouth

Finally a good match in AFC Asian Cup 07

When Japan took on Saudi in the second semi final, for a chance to meet Iraq, little did I expect the match to be as exciting as it would turn out to be. It was unfortunate that these 2 teams had to meet in the semis as they have won all the AFC Asian Cups between them from 1988.

Japan could come from behind only twice to equalise with the Saudis who to be fair to Japan were defending for most of the time and were relying on the speed of their forwards in the counter-attacks. In Malek Maaz they have a striker who not only has the pace and the dribbling skills required to beat the defence but also the holding ability to wait and deliver to his forward surging teammates. This guy has the cut to make it to Europe. His second goal which was the winning goal for the Saudis speak of that class.

But credit should be given to Japan for playing some rarely-seen-in-asia attacking football for most of the match. Infact the game was played at their pace which was supposedly not suitable for the Saudis but how wrong it turned out to be. The Saudis were the bigger, taller players on the ground but the Japanese persisted with long balls and crosses from the flanks. They had a stunning shot at the crossbar towards the end of the match.

Both the teams had youngsters in them as they were preparing for the 2010 world cup qualifications. Anyways the teams should be thanked for the wonderful match they played in Hanoi, fittingly a venue other than Jakarta which had hordes of people watching the matches in the stadium.

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Filed under AFC Asian Cup, Japan, Saudi Arabia

Thanks Freddie

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Freddie Ljungberg, the longest serving Arsenal player in the current squad joined the Hammers yesterday. So that leaves Lehmann, Gilberto and Toure as the only remaining “Invincibles” of 2003/4 in the team.

325 matches and 72 goals might not look like a good record when you single it out like that. But when you look at it as a whole for the team where he played alongside such goal scoring players like Henry and Bergkamp, it looks impressive. He played a key role in the unbeaten streak of 2003-04 season where he not only scored some vital goals but also assited in many.

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Is it bad for Arsenal? Yes and No again. Yes because we are losing one more experienced player. No because he did not play any significant part in the last campaign. And he had started to lose his strength and those sudden burst of speed in the midfield, of what we saw of him last season.

Arsenal have an impressive mid-field pool but they need to add the goal scoring touch or some long range shooting skills to their repertoire for the coming seasons. I would like to see Wenger promote some of the youngsters to play in the senior team. Eg. Nacer Barazite who will be seen in action in Malaysia for the World Club Youth Championship next month can be made to play a few matches and his temperament can be tested. I would not mind if Wenger goes and buys one more experienced goal scoring midfielder because that is what we need to get better.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Ljunberg, West Ham

Bayern Munich & the Beckham debut

Bayern Munich defeated Werder Bremen, 4-1 in the league cup match yesterday. In display were their new signings for the first time in German soil. League Cup is the six-team tournament, comprises last season’s Bundesliga top four, German Cup winners Nuremberg and second division champions Karlsruhe

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Out came Klose to spearhead the forward line. Their most expensive signing this year Ribery, joined Ze Roberto, who has been brought back from Brazil and their new Turkish attacking mid-fielder signing from Schalke, Hamit Altintop. Luca Toni was injured and hence did not play this match. Looking at the current Bayern line-up, they are strong enough to win the UEFA Cup and shoudl possess one of the best teams in Europe without doubt. Just have a look at their line-up.

GK – Oliver Kahn

Def – Sagnol (French), Lucio (Brazilian), Van Buyten (Belgian), Philip Lahm (German)

Mid – Ribery (French), Hamit Altintop (Turkish), Ze Roberto (Brazilian), Van Bommel (Dutch) and super stud Bastian Schweinsteiger(German)

Fwd – Klose (German), Podolski (German), Luca Toni (Italian), Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguayan)

This is one formidable line up and looking at the attacking football they played yesterday I dont have any doubts that they will have a very memorable season. We will know how good they are in their next match where they play VfB Stuttgart

In the US, Beckham made his debut for LA Galaxy against Chelsea and hearing from the noise the crowd made to see him in flesh, I am sure he would be worth all the money paid by Galaxy in endorsements atleast. It seems they have already sold or got orders for 250, 000 jerseys!!!

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As he walked past the crowd and was loosening up before being substituted, the crowd went into a frenzy and they were no longer interested in the match. Hope the other players in the team dont get intimidated by all this.

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Filed under Bayern Munich, Beckham, Bundesliga, Chelsea, LA Galaxy

U-20 World Cup & other news

Argentina reached the finals of the under-20 World cup in Canada, beating Chile in a bad-tempered matc. In 90 miuntes, there were 53 fouls, 2 red cards (both to Chilean players), 9 yellow cards (7 to Chile and 2 to Argentina) and it would not be wrong to say that the German referee was a bit partial towards Argentina.

As soon as the ref blew the final whistle the Chilean substitutes and coaching staff came over to have a word with the ref and his assistants. The referees had to be escorted out of the ground. When the ref handed the 2nd red card to Currimilla Dagoberto, a Chilean supporter came down into the ground but fortunately the Chilean players caught hold of him and didnt let him get close to the ref.

 

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Argentina had a good match but they were partially responsible for bringing the game to dis-repute for all the dives they committed to, from the slightest touch by a Chilean player.

The first goal was scored by Arsenal bound Di Maria Angel.

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He has agreed to join Arsenal according to The Independent along with a 17 yr old Brazilian Pedro. Di Maria is one of the stars of this edition of u-20 World Cup.

The most intriguing match in this U-20 world cup should be the quarter-final between Chile and Nigeria. Chile had the meanest defence and they conceded a goal only in the semis against Argentina and I should say that this quarter final also had 51 fouls, but 30 from Nigeria. It was intriguing because in full time the score was 0-0. And after the extra time of 30 minutes the score read 4-0 in favour of Chile…beat that!

Talking of extra-time…the just concluded Copa America, did not have any extra time…it was straight penalties after 90 minutes!

Would Arsenal buy another forward. I would say, even if they dont I think it should be fine. Too much should not be read into the friendlies but still if Persie is in form them with  Adebayor, Walcott, Bendtner and Eduardo…we should be a formidable line-up!

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Filed under Argentina, Arsenal, Chile, U-20 World Cup