Monthly Archives: August 2007

Champions League Draw

Group A Liverpool, Porto, Marseille, Besiktas.

Group B Chelsea, Valencia, Schalke, Rosenborg.

Group C Real Madrid Werder Bremen, Lazio, Olympiakos.

Group D Milan, Benfica, Celtic, Shakhtar Donetsk.

Group E Barcelona, Lyon, Stuttgart, Rangers.

Group F Manchester Utd, Roma, Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Kyiv.

Group G Internazionale, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce.

Group H Arsenal, Sevilla/AEK Athens, Steaua Bucharest, Slavia Prague.

And here are the dates for the Arsenal match

Sep 19 Sevilla/AEK Athens (H)

Oct 2 Steau Bucharest (A)

Oct 23 Slavia Prague (H)

Nov 7 Slavia Prague (A)

Nov 27 Sevilla/AEK Athens (A)

Dec 12 Steau Bucharest (H)

Well it is quite a favourable draw for Arsenal and the only tough team looks like Sevilla, who have very good quality otherwise they would not be able to retain their UEFA cup and perform consistently in La Liga for 2-3 years now. Travel to Romania and Czech might not be as bad as going to Russia I suppose so Arsenal should qualify from the group stages quite comfortably.

Valencia and Roma have a chance to take revenge on Chelsea and Man U over their quarterfinal exits last year. Roma match should be more interesting given the hammering they got at Old Trafford.

Group E looks the toughest with Barca and their formidable fantastic four coming up against the French Champions Lyon, the German Champions Stuttgart and lastly the current Scottish leaders Rangers. It looks like a mouth-watering array of matches from the group stages so I am looking forward to mid-September.

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Was this needed now?

Just when things were going in the right direction with Arsene Wenger willing to sign a 3 year contract, the team playing some good football to qualify for Europe, stay unbeaten in the league, a favourable draw in the Champions League was picked & Arsene going public in stating that “yes he has funds for transfer, but he doesnt have a need”, news breaks about this new Russian Billionaire Usmanov buying David Dein’s share of Arsenal flesh.

I think David Dein is barking up the wrong tree. Things were going well for Arsenal and he comes in with his selfish intent of making Arsenal more profitable. The problem with businessmen entering Football is that they want to make more money in the minimum time. Dein might like Arsenal but he has come at the wrong time and disturbed the footballing peace and balance in the club and its supporters.

Wenger had the money and the time to buy a player and for his style of buying he doesnt need 100 million pouunds kitty to boot. And buying super stars doesnt guarantee a club of good football and prizes. The latter might come in, in the short term but the long term ideology of the club will be damaged forever. And the Russian just bought stakes in a sports channel in Russia and his intentions might be very clear on how he wants things to progress.

I just hope things settle down soon for the good.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger

7-4-9 Arsenal

No.7 Rosicky scored the first

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He is waving at the Sparta crowd whom he respects. Rosicky joined Sparta Prague as an 8 year old and left the club when he was 20, by then he was known as the “little mozart”

No.4 Fabregas the second

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Came in as a substitute and immediately showed his class. He received the pass from Eduardo and scored the second goal.

No.9 Eduardo slotted in the third

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He was working hard on the left flank and his efforts and link up play was finally rewarded in the form of a goal. To play 90 minutes and come up with a nice acrobatic finish in the last minute of the game speaks volumes of his commitment.

Arsenal finished the half done job in Prague in a very professional manner. Sparta were in no hurry to get a goal which made our job easier. And when Rosicky scored in the 8th minute Arsenal were more or less sure of how the match was going to end. Arsenal didnt try too hard maybe because the game was won and they thought it safe to play it out. Clichy hardly went forward and so did Hoyte. But most impressive were Walcott on the rigth, Eduardo on the left and Diaby in the middle.

Walcott provided the cross for the first goal but after that he made some very good penetrative runs and movements, but his cross was pretty poor on occasions. I think he will have to improve on that as AW will play him in the right-flank only and not as centre-forward as he plays in the England side. Nevertheless he is back. The operation to his shoulder and the rest he took last season seems to be paying off.

Eduardo played 90 minutes and came out with a  very decent goal towards the very end of the match. His contribution was vital. He played the ball around their defender and ran around him to take the ball and pass it to Fabregas to slot in the second. He is a very vital player for Arsenal’s link-up play.

Diaby was the hard-rock of defence and was playing like he always does. Strong tackles and winning balls. He was quite impressive and it is nice to see him doing what he does best after the long layoff.

Now that the Champions League entry has been done, the USD 50 million additional income out of the group stage and howmuchever we will make in the further progress would be an added income to the club. Next up is Portsmouth at home and lets hope we get the 3 points.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Champions League, Da Silva, Diaby, Europe, Fabregas, Rosicky, Sparta Prague, Walcott

India wins Nehru Cup

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India and Football do not go together. But last nite in Delhi, in a fiercely contested match India beat Syria a team which is ranked 40 places above India in the FIFA rankings. The goal came through a strike from the mid-fielder NP Pradeep after he was nicely set up by the ever youthful captain Bhaichung Bhutia off a pass from Sunil Chhetri.

The tournament was revived after a gap of 10 years and the Indian team was fit for the big test after their recent tour of Portugal playing some of the club teams in the lower leagues. The tournament was last held in Kochi in 1997.

Some more facts about the tournament from the AIFF Website:

Prize money at stake $100,000 was the highest ever, $40,000 for the winner and $20,000 for the runner up. The winner of each game gets $2,500. It may be recalled that when the Nehru Cup started in 1982, the AIFF had managed to rope in its first ever sponsor, Boroline for a sum of just Rs. 1 lakh. Those were the days when gate money was the main source of revenue and the novelty of foreign teams, like Uruguay, China, South Korea, Italy and Yugoslavia playing in Kolkata led to massive crowd interest and lucrative gate-money enabled the organisers make a substantial profit of Rs. 3.5 lakhs. For the current Nehru Cup tickets are reasonably priced at
Rs. 10 and 20.

Also it will be the first Nehru Cup not only in the capital but in North India . Previously the Nehru Cup was held thrice each in Kolkata and Kochi , twice in Thiruvanathapuram and once each in Calicut (1987) Siliguri (1988), Margao (1989) and Chennai (1993). Since the Asian Games in Delhi in 1982 it is the biggest football event in the capital.

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Filed under Asia, India, Nehru Cup

Would they be the stars this year?

Last weekend’s premiership games saw two teams come on tops against a point-to-prove Man City and hard-working& fighting Spurs. Their goals came from highly unlikely sources. Two players who are very different in the style of play and finishing.

Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barcelona at the age of 16 and made his premiership debut when he was 17. He announced his arrival with a stellar performance against Man U in the community Shield in 2004-05 when Viera got injured. One of his notable feats in that match was winning the ball with a hard tackle from a very influential mid-fielder of Man U, Roy Keane. He was heralded as the replacement of Viera once the talismanic mid-fielder left the Gunners. Fabregas proved to be a much better replacement than people thought he would be. In the run-up to the Champions League final in 2005-06, Fabregas set up the goal against Juventus by winning the ball from Viera with a hard fought tackle.

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Arsenal’s player of the season with more than 60% votes in 2006-07, Fabregas has the second highest number of assists in the Premier League in 2006-07. He already has 2 goals (1 each in the Premier League and Champions League) and 1 assist (Premier League) in the fisr 3 weeks of the start of the season. I am sure we will see more of this young gun in this year. He became the first player to breach the defence of Man City’s Richard Dunne, Micah Richards and Kasper Schemeichel. His goal which came at a crucial time was a well taken kick from the right side of the box beating Richards. It was a well hit shot hitting the roof of the goal, leaving no chance for Kasper.

Already the favourite player of every Arsenal fan, the number 4 is replacing all the number 14s from the Arsenal fans wishlist. 20 years and 109 appearances for the club, that is a huge achievement by any standard.

In Nani, Ferguson had an eye on the future as many say. He is fast, he is furious and he can also do the somersault after hitting the goal. The last act is not liked by Ferguson but he will pardon Nani for doing the stunt after scoring against Spurs in another frustrating encounter in the Premier League.

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His goal which scraped past Tevez’s shoulder and thus deviating away from the stretched hands of  Robinson proved to be the winner. Tevez’s back pass was going away from the box, he tapped it with his back heel, stepped to the side, pushed it a bit forward and struck it well enough to land it in goal. You cannot write-off a team like Man U even if they lose the first 4 games of the season. He is the light but powerful version of Ronaldo and you can expect some fireworks from his as the season progresses.

So watch out for these stars of the future.

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Watch out for Bayern & La Liga Serie A openers

Well caught a bit of Bayern Munich vs Hanover 96 match and now I do not have any doubt that this Bavarian side will surely win the Bundesliga hands down. They won the match quite comfortable, 3-0, goals coming from Luca Toni, van Bommel and Altintop!!!

Ribery was running the game and Bayern are getting their money’s worth from him. Now that I have seen him play in the pre-season and in the Bundesliga matches I think he would not have fitted into the Gunners line up as he controls the team. And we already have Fabregas doing it in the Arsene way. Using Ribery as a right winger would be restricting his movement and game. Ribery had a wonderful match. I have never seen somebody take corners and free-kicks so perfectly (maybe Riquelme). He was quick, he avoided tackles, got the tough balls and passed it around. Well Bundesliga winners are decided. Well they are the only unbeaten team in Bundesliga with 10-0 goal tally! Impressive.
La Liga started with Real winning their Madrid derby, 2-1 and Sevilla slamming 4 goals past Getafe.

Serie A had its own share of excitement when Juve scored 5 goals with Trezeguet scoring a hat-trick.

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Filed under Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, Juventus, La Liga, Real Madrid, Serie A, Sevilla, Trezeguet

A deserved victory

When just before the game kicks off you find your centre-half replaced by a midfielder and then before the end of the first half, you find your right-back walking away holding his back and being replaced by yet another mid-field player, things certainly don’t look good. Arsenal had plenty of chances and lets say Man City also had their chances especially from the left, where Flamini was caught out off position quite a number of times. I thought if Sagna had  played the whole match that would not have happened and the number of chances that Man City had would have dropped considerably.

Man City had their chances but if there was one team which was poaching for goals it was Arsenal. This was the first 1-0 victory at the Emirates and that speaks volumes in the teams determination to get more goals. The difference between this 1-0 and the 1-0 at Stamford Bridge is that people would pay money to watch this match over the match involving the other Blues for the sheer excitement.

If Persie, had scored from the spot then the Gunners would have tried and maybe got a couple more goals. We are yet to see a match where Arsenal score an early goal and set it up nicely for an exciting second half. That should be a pleasure to watch trust me. Schemeichel saved the penalty and came up with a couple more good saves. Arsene had to say this about the lad

“The penalty flashed 1999 – Bergkamp versus Schmeichel – through my mind. I hoped history wouldn’t repeat but it happened again. Let’s hope we don’t meet his grandson!”

Well the lad was protected all this while by two very solid defenders in Dunne and Richards. They again had a good match like last Sunday, but had to give in ultimately. Richards turned his back to Fabregas and the fabulous Fabregas didnt waste the chance and blasted it giving Schmeichel no chance. It is good to see goals coming from the mid-fielders which everyone has been talking about last year but couldn’t see happening.

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So we are yet to lose this season and have had a good start. Now if we can seal the Champions league entry in mid-week we should be looking forward to a good season. Like Arseblog said “Performances can be improved over the year, but results cannot”, we needed a goal and 3 points from this match and we got it. How many times have we seen this so may chances but no points to show matches in Emirates Stadium last year. But this time the team is more resilient and is churning out results thought they might come as late as the last ten minutes.

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This team has a lot of potential and if the injuries would be set by Tuesday we can look forward to another entertaining match at the Emirates. One final word about Almunia, I thought he kept well though Man City had only a few shots on target. His last grab of the ball from the Schemeichel header was quite classy and in slow motion looks quite neat. His pre-season confidence seems to be rubbing onto his performance.

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Filed under Almunia, Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Champions League, EPL, Fabregas, Man City, Schemeichel