Monthly Archives: July 2008

The return of the Emirates Cup

This weekend sees the return of the Emirates Cup for its second year and with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus taking part the tournament is already proving to be a real success with both days now sold out. Last year’s inaugural competition also proved to be a big hit with the supporters, with the second day of the competition sold out with the fans getting to see Arsenal lift the trophy after victory over Inter Milan.

Unlike many pre-season tournaments the Emirates Cup seems to have grabbed the supporters attention and why wouldn’t it with four very successful and well known teams taking part. Whilst Real Madrid and Juventus has enjoyed recent success Hamburg can not be overlooked being one of Germany’s oldest and most successful sides, winning the European Cup in 1983. In fact Hamburg beat Juventus in 83 1-0 to claim their European crown so that game will have a bit of history to it.
Looking ahead to the event from an Arsenal perspective the Gunners will face Juventus on the Saturday and Real Madrid on the Sunday, both tough tests for the young squad as they bid to retain their crown. You’d imagine that Arsene Wenger will field a squad with a mixtures of old and new faces, much like he did last year when Kieran Gibbs was paired along side Robin van Persie upfront. It will all depend on how seriously Wenger will be taking this tournament with the new season just over two weeks away.

As always it would be nice for Arsenal to get some silverware under their belt although it won’t be a major disappointment if one of the other three teams walks away with the cup. It may be a worn out cliché but pre-season is all about getting back to match fitness and sharpness rather than the result. However a little silverware never hurt a team’s morale and with a long season ahead it might be the boost that the Gunners need to kick start their season.Take a look at Arsenal’s odds for the new season.

Arsenal’s success this season isn’t just based on what team Wenger puts out but also who the opposition field. I imagine that many of the supports going this weekend will be hoping to see all the big names that each squad has to offer and there are some big ones to look out for. For example Juventus could field World Cup winners Gianlugi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero and Mauro Camoranesi as well as Czech legend Pavel Nedved. Real Madrid may no longer be known as the Galatico’s but they boost a powerful squad with Euro 2008 winners Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, World Cup winner Fabio Cannavero and other reknown names such as Raul, Robinho, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben filling their squad. Hamburg might not have as many big names in their side but their squad could include Dutch stars Nigel de Jong and Rafael van der Vaart and Croatian forward Ivica Olic. If you fancy Juventus to do well this weekend and for the season then here are the Serie A odds.

So potentially not a bad line-up and probably one of the main reasons why both days have sold out. Two matches for the price of one with those players involved is not something to be sniffed at. The Emirates Cup works because they invite big teams like that. Watching the Algarve Cup last week you realise why many fans shun pre-season tournaments. The Estadio Algarve was pretty much empty and who can blame the local people when the teams on offer were Cardiff, Celtic, Middlesbrough and Vitoria Guimaraes. No offence to any of the sides but they won’t be pulling in the crowds from far and wide.

Having said that the big clubs can’t be everywhere at once and as I mentioned previously managers look at the games as a chance for players to regain their match fitness. So as a means to regain fitness I don’t believe there is any finer way to do it than at the Emirates Cup and hopefully we will be able to see Arsenal lift the trophy once again as they embark on a potentially difficult season.

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Filed under 2008-09 season, Arsenal, Emirates Cup, Hamburg FC, Juventus, Real Madrid

Goodbye to Gilberto, Hleb & Flamini

It has been a month of goodbyes from the Emirates camp with the once very densely populated Arsenal midfield getting thinner and thinner as we near the season. Two first teamers Hleb and Flamini left the club to join Barcelona and AC Milan. One very loyal player who I thought might stay to lend some experience to the midfield, Gilberto also left few days back to the Greek club,Panathinakos.

Wenger would not have sold all these players if he did not have a plan. He sure is hardpressed for money, though that is never declared in public, he would have thought about suitable replacements who would come in before the season starts. One heartening matter is that Rosicky would be ready by September and if he and Van Persie can stay fit for atleast 3/4ths of the season, the team would look strong to challenge a lot of top teams for the league. With Eduardo most likely to return by the end of the year, the team would only get stronger.

Gilberto, a world cup winner with Brazil, played in the Copa America just before the 2007-08 season started and was tired to join the squad for the season starting. This meant that Flamini took his place and put in his best season for the club only to go out on a free transfer. Flamini also was responsible to some extent for Diarra feeling demotivated sitting in the bench. He also left for Portsmouth. So Gilberto who had one of his best seasons in 2006-07, leading the side for most of the season due to Henry’s injury, found himself to be the second in line for the holding midfielder role. Well, he did a great job for the team and I wish him all the best for his future.

Thanks also to Flamini the fighter and Hleb the dribbler for their contributions.

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Filed under 2008-09 season, AC Milan, Arsenal, Barcelona, EPL, Flamini, Gilberto, Hleb, Panathinakos

Capitalising on others waste

As the transfer market begins to pick up some pace we are starting to see the first signs of the players that the three newly promoted clubs believe will save them from a return to The Championship. It is clear to all that Hull, Stoke and West Brom can’t spend any where near the amounts of cash the majority of the Premier League sides can. As such the sides that stay up are usually the ones who make some shrewd purchases during the transfer window. This normally means feeding off the scrapes of what the big boys have thrown away. This article will look at the players who have shown their clubs they still have something to offer by saving their news sides. However for every up must come a down and we will look at those buys which looked good on paper but turned out to be terrible on the pitch for clubs who eventually lost their Premier League status.

Obviously these are the players whom I can think of off the top of my head and I am sure that there will be those of you out there who can name a lot more.

Good buys:

Brad Friedel: Liverpool signed the American goalkeeper for £1m from Columbus Crew. After making just 30 appearances in three years with the Reds Friedel was released and signed by Blackburn, who were then still in Division One (now the Championship). After helping Rovers secure promotion back to the Premier League Friedel had an outstanding season with the side, helping them to a secure position in the league whilst winning the League Cup against Tottenham. Friedel has since gone on to become an icon at Ewood Park as he looks forward to his ninth season with the club.

Kieran Richardson: The man who saved West Brom, at least for one season, joined the Baggies on loan half way through the season when West Brom found themselves in a dire position. However 3 goals from 12 appearances helped inspire the Baggies to escape the drop, despite going into the last day of the season routed to the bottom of the league. He scored one of the two goals in West Brom’s 2-0 victory over Portsmouth to save the club from returning straight back to Division One. His performances earned Richardson a call-up to the England side for their tour of America where he scored both of England’s goals against the USA. Richardson declined the opportunity to have another loan spell at the Hawthorns the following season in a bid to fight for his place in the Manchester United squad but has since moved to Sunderland where he has helped them to avoid the drop, although not in such an impressive manner as he did at West Brom. See what the odds are on the Baggies surviving here

Matthew Upson: The English centre back could never really get a break in the Arsenal side with Tony Adams and Martin Keown in front of him and as such spent a lot of his time out on loan with the likes of Crystal Palace and Reading. In 2003 Steve Bruce decided that he would bring in a centre back to shore up his Birmingham City defence. Birmingham were in the midst of a relegation battle in their first season in the Premier League and the signing of Upson from Arsenal helped guide the Blues to a safe position in the top flight. Upson stayed on for a further four years in which time he helped to establish Birmingham as a Premier League club, at least for a short time. The Blues were eventually relegated with Upson missing the last four months of the season a big factor in Birmingham’s demise. Check out Birmingham’s odds of bouncing back here

Alan Stubbs: Might be considered an odd choice and many of you may wonder why I have chosen the central defender. Looking back on his career he was a successful Everton player who was looked upon by Toffee’s fans as a no nonsense defender who suited the club. However there are a couple of blotches of his copybook, for example in 2005 he moved to then newly promoted Sunderland. At the Stadium of Light Stubbs made a handful of appearances for the Black Cats as they became the worst club to ever completed in the Premier League with Stubbs managing to concede 20 goals in his 10 league games. That was until Derby came along last season who you will remember one just once as they took Sunderland’s crown much to the delight of their fans. Now this may have slipped under you radar during the January transfer window but Rams manager Paul Jewell brought in Stubbs to help his sides leaky defence. No body expected Stubbs to perform miracles and keep Derby in the Premier League but he seemed to hinder the side even further as they failed to win a single game and managed to lose 6-1 at Chelsea and 6-2 to Arsenal, the only thing saving him from conceding more was an injury he picked up during the second half of the season. So here is reminder to newly promoted clubs, don’t buy Stubbs if you want to stay in the Premier League.

Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink: The Dutch forward with a rocket shot may be a hero at Chelsea and may even have created some fond memories for Middlesbrough fans. However at Charlton Hasselbaink will only bring back bitter memories for Addicks fans having spent one year the club in which time the south London club were relegated to the Championship. In his time at Charlton Hasselbaink made only a handful of appearances and didn’t bring the kind of fire power the Addicks fans might have expected when he completed his move to the club. He will have disappointed as many Charlton fans as he did thrill Chelsea fans, although at that time in his career it was clear that Hasselbaink was approaching the end of his time as a Premier League player.

Martin Dahlin: Some of you may not remember the Swedish forward but for Blackburn fans he will probably still cast nightmares over his time with the club. Having arrived from Roma in 1997 for £2.5m Dahlin was expected to help propel Rovers to a title challenge with the Lancashire side having slipped off the pace in recent years following their Premier League title success in 1995. It was still at the time when Rovers had Jack Walkers money and looked to have done well investing in Dahlin who was a decent international striker at the time. The hope was that Dahlin would link up with Chris Sutton much like Alan Shearer had done when he was at the club. Instead Dahlin spent the majority of his time in the treatment room, managing just 27 appearances in his two years at Ewood Park. In 1998-99 Blackburn found themselves involved in a relegation battle, where was Dahlin? He had got himself injured in September and missed the rest of the season. Rovers were relegated and Dahlin left on a free.So the lesson of this tale seems to be do not waste your money on past it players who can’t offer you anything, or those that are likely to break down with injury after three weeks. Sadly Hull have already gone against me on that front as they look to bring in George Boateng. On the plus side the signing of Geovanni from Manchester City is definitely a step in the right direction and I applaud them as I do West Brom after they brought in Gianni Zuiverloon. Over the coming weeks it will be interesting to see who the promoted sides place their faith in, whether they go with experience or youth I fear that Hull and Stoke are doomed.

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Filed under 2008-09 season, Alan Stubbs, Brad Friedel, EPL, Hull, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Kieran Richardson, Martin Dahlin, Matthew Upson, Stoke City, West Brom

Arsenal start training & the new Villa kit

Arsenal first started training today at their training ground.

Walcott, the new no.14 and Clichy doing the drills

Ramsey was all ears to some wise words from Wenger!!!

Aston Villa finally launched their new kit with the acorns logo. Hats off to them!!!

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Filed under Aaron Ramsey, Acorns, Arsenal, Arsenal Training Ground, Arsene Wenger, Aston Villa, Clichy, Gael Clichy, Theo Walcott, Walcott, Wenger

Transfer news and new kit

With the Euros over,time for some transfer news.

Manchester United – Ferguson has come out in the open and has said that he is looking for only one signing this season to strengthen his team. The position has not been specified but I presume it should be in the forward line given the injury prone Louis Saha might leave or get injured again. Lets not talk about Ronaldo and his impending transfer to Real Madrid. I feel United should just cash in as much as they can over him and pay off their debts. Will they go for Berbatov needs to be seen.

Chelsea – With Scolari coming in at Stamford Bridge,the playin style of the club is sure to change. And on his first day in office, he got Deco on board, something that Jose Mourinho could not do. Now this latest addition to the midfield means Lampard and Ballack are going to have competition for the second place. Does that mean Lampard will leave the club, again a debating point. Scolari is also strongly rumoured to get Robinho from Real as well. Now that should be interesting. Will Drogba be their come the start of the season, remains to be seen. Arshavin is the latest one who is tipped to be heading to Stamford Bridge this season.

Liverpool – Rafa is not good at buying players and to make it worse his hands are tied this time around with the transfer funds. The Gareth Barry tussle with Aston Villa is really sad, infact it is worse than the continuing Ronaldo saga. Barry has been asked to train on his own and Martin O’Neil has made it clear to Liverpool that they should pay 18 million if they want to see Barry in a red jersey next season. Fair enough. Do they have the money to buy David Villa??? No I do not think so.

Arsenal – Nasri is in. I hope he plays better than his Euro performance in an Arsenal jersey. Hleb stories have become silent and Adebayor stories on the rise in the last few weeks. Ade’s salary demands if it is true is showing him in a poor light. It is strange how one good season can make a player think so highly about himself. If he had made this demand at the end of next season after scoring 20 goals, it would have looked better.

The official jerseys are on sale from today. Here is the home jersey

And here is the rumoured to be away jersey

Also the 2008-09 Arsenal first team squad numbers have been finalised few weeks back. Notable ones;

12 Carlos Vela

14 Theo Walcott – ya he gets Henry’s number. Now only if he could play like him 🙂

16 Aaron Ramsey

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Filed under 2008-09 season, 2008-09 Squad numbers, Aaron Ramsey, Adebayor, Alex Ferguson, Arsenal, Arsenal Away Jersey, Arsenal Home Jersey, Arsene Wenger, Arshavin, Berbatov, Carlos Vela, Chelsea, David Villa, Deco, Drogba, EPL, Gareth Barry, Liverpool, Manchester United, Robinho, Ronaldo, Samir Nasri, Scolari, Theo, Walcott