Monday, 29 December 2008

Bendtner admits Arsenal miss Fabregas

Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner concedes that the Gunners are beginning to miss the creative spark of sidelined captain, Cesc Fabregas.

The 21-year-old Spaniard is expected to miss up to four months of action after damaging knee ligaments during the Premier League draw with Liverpool eight days ago.

The Gunners got back to winning ways yesterday, winning only their second game of December, with a tight 1-0 victory over Portsmouth at the Emirates.

Their Danish frontman Bendtner foresees a drought of sorts for his side in the absence of their captain, whose assists have been key to the manner in which Arsene Wenger's line-up conducts its business.

No player laid on more Premier League goals last season, and Bendtner admits that the void in midfield will not be readily filled.

He told Ekstra Bladet: "Of course we notice that he is out. He was our engine and he created loads of chances for others with his fantastic passes."

Arsenal are currently 10 points adrift of leaders Liverpool in the race for the Premier League crown, and lie in fourth as a result of some decidely shaky domestic results.

The Gunners' championship status has been reduced to outsiders thanks to defeats to the likes of Fulham, Hull, Stoke and Manchester City.

Bendtner cannot easily recognise where the team's problems have lain, but understands the importance of consistency in one of the most open top-flight seasons in recent years.

He concluded: "I really can't see that we've lost it [the league]. Everyone knows how fast things can change. None of the top sides can afford to relax for the remaining 18 games."

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Gallas scored for new three points

Arsenal - Portsmouth 1:0

Arsenal left it late but they eventually managed to pick up all three points against a resilient Portsmouth side, thanks to a William Gallas goal less than ten minutes from time.

The home side were guilty of missing a few clear cut chances throughout the match and it looked as though they were going to draw their fourth successive Premier League match until the defender popped up.

The goal owed plenty to Portsmouth goalkeeper David James though, who flapped at a free-kick, allowing Gallas to head into an empty net.

The win means that the Gunners are back on level terms with Aston Villa in the battle for fourth, but the crowd, and the manager, will not have been too pleased the display.

Returning striker Emmanuel Adebayor could, and should, have put the game to bed on a few occasions but he missed golden chances, whilst others looks flat and uninspired.

Ex-Gunner Tony Adams was given a warm reception on his return to Arsenal, and even though his side fought hard, he will know the result, the fourth straight defeat for his team, does him no favours at all.


With both sides low on confidence at the moment, it was no surprise that the match started as a cagey affair, with possession swapping hands frequently. Despite having Emmanuel Adebayor back in the side, Arsenal did not look comfortable, and it looked like they could go behind on the ten minute mark, when David Nugent broke behind the defence. The linesman belatedly lifted his flag though, much to the relief of the home crowd, for what appeared to be a tight offside call.

Playing on the right wing Nugent was looking a real threat in the early exchanges, and was involved in the move which saw the first real chance of the match, as Peter Crouch cracked the woodwork with a header from Marc Wilson's cross. Portsmouth were starting to play with real purpose in a deathly quiet Emirates, but they were indebted to Sylvain Distin thirty minutes in, as he blocked a shot off the line.

It was Adebayor who had the chance, after Emmanuel Eboue had played him in and he rounded David James, only to see Distin block brilliantly on the line. In truth it would have been a harsh goal for Portsmouth to concede, bearing in mind how well they had kept Arsenal at bay all match, and they didn't let their heads drop after the chance.

Distin and ex-Arsenal man, Sol Campbell, looked solid at the back, and whilst the home side did get a chance to put some good balls into the box, too often they were wasted. Samir Nasri was the main culprit from the dead ball situations, but on the whole Arsenal were struggling to get into the game, as Pompey sat back for stages and soaked up the pressure. The half-time whistle was greeted by an abject silence in the ground and Arsene Wenger was visibly unimpressed on the touchline.


Knowing they needed a goal Arsenal came out looking strong after the whistle and Portsmouth yet again cleared a shot destined for goal, this time Papa Bouba Diop was the saviour from Niklas Bendtner's header, after James had spilled a cross. The pressure was beginning to mount on the southern team and they were lucky not to go behind just ten minutes into the half when Adebayor missed yet another great chance.

The big striker found the ball at his feet, following another error from the Portsmouth goalkeeper, but he failed to hit an empty goal for the second time in the match. The away team could not get the ball from Arsenal wh, in typical style, were passing it around a lot, but without any real end product.

The crowd were growing frustrated by the lack of any cutting edge, and in an attempt to spice things up, Wenger threw on Carlos Vela to replace Eboue. The Mexican was outmuscled on more than one occasion by the Pompey defence though, as Arsenal persisted with their passing game. It did nearly pay off with just twenty minutes left, but this time James was the hero not the villian as he made a good stop from Nasri.

The England international soon changed though as his error led to Arsenal taking the lead with the clock wearing down. It was Denilson who delivered the cross, and the 'keeper flapped at the ball, missing it, and allowing Gallas to head into an empty net. The home crowd knew how important the goal was, and even though it was hard work it seemed as though Arsenal would be rewarded.

The last ten minutes presented just the one moment of panic, as the ball bounced around in the Arsenal box and twice Crouch cracked shots at goal, only for Gael Clichy to eventually clear. The home side did not come under too much pressure though, and the full-time whistle was greeted with a huge cheer, as the Gunners move back into fourth.

Arsenal - Portsmouth LIVE

This Sunday watch Arsenal - Portsmouth LIVE on this LINK

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing day Aston Villa - Arsenal LIVE

Watch boxing day matches live. Live Aston Villa - Arsenal game on this LINK

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa - Arsenal

Aston Villa go into this Boxing Day clash from the commanding heights of third place in the Premier League, underlining that Martin O'Neill's impressive and pacy team are undoubtedly the most credible contenders from outside the traditional Big Four for Champions League qualification in 2009-10. What is also no longer in doubt is that Arsenal are the Big Four incumbents most at risk from the threat represented by Villa's challenge.

Indeed, since these two teams last met - at the Emirates as recently as 15 November - they have swapped places. Prior to that game just under six weeks ago, Arsenal were fairly buoyant after two well-received victories over Manchester United and (in the Carling Cup), Wigan Athletic. They were in third place, seeking a third straight win in all competitions, while Villa, in fifth, were anxious to avoid a third successive League defeat. They managed that, in some style, becoming only the third visiting side ever to win at the Emirates with a deserved and convincing 2-0 victory.

At that time, Villa needed to beat the Gunners by a five-goal margin to overtake them, but subsequent results have done the trick nicely for O'Neill's men. The Villans, who beat Arsenal through a Gael Clichy own goal on 70 minutes and a Gabriel Agbonlahor effort ten minutes later, then went on to hold champions Manchester United 0-0 at home, and returned a similar result at Villa Park against improving Fulham before winning dramatically 3-2 at Everton, beating Bolton 4-2 at home and triumphing 1-0 at West Ham. True, there were a couple of UEFA Cup defeats, with weakened teams, during that period, but not at the expense of the Birmingham club's progress to the knock-out stages of that competition. Agbonlahor and Ashley Young have been influential all season, contributing 14 Premier League goals between them so far, plus a raft of assists.

Meanwhile, Arsenal followed their loss against Villa with a humbling 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, bounced back to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and Wigan 1-0 at the Emirates, then recorded successive 1-1 draws at Middlesbrough and at home to Liverpool. In between they beat Dynamo Kiev but lost to Porto in the Champions League (though they have qualified for the next stage) and were eliminated from the Carling Cup by Championship side Burnley.

It has been a mixed bag of results for the North Londoners, typical of their season as a whole; but Arsene Wenger has also had other problems to deal with. Growing criticism of his transfer market frugality and emphasis on youth, together with the William Gallas affair and the captaincy issue, last weekend's serious injury to new skipper Cesc Fabregas and the red card for Emmanuel Adebayor, have compounded the Frenchman's most problematic season by far as Arsenal boss.

In contrast, O'Neill's stock continues to soar. The former Celtic boss is embellishing his reputation in the West Midlands as Villa move into pole position to disrupt the Big Four's cosy hegemony. The Ulsterman's progress was underlined by the fact that last month's win at the Emirates was Villa's first success over Arsenal, home or away, in 20 attempts - and they will be anxious to build on that by inflicting a double over the wounded Gunners.

Wenger of course continues to insist that Arsenal are still very much in the title mix (what else could he say?), and that the four teams currently above his own - Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Manchester United - will slip up at some stage as the Gunners strive to get back into a more challenging position. Although they remain eight points behind current leaders Liverpool, and outside the top four places, Arsenal must be relieved, if not encouraged, that this season's seems to be the title that no club has yet made a sustained push to win. All the contenders are dropping points - indeed, none of the 'Big Four' has won a match since 6th December, which has played nicely into Villa's hands.

Wenger said in the build-up to this game: "The title is won in May and we are in December. Mathematically we will fight until the end.

“I believe Liverpool will drop many points. I am convinced of that. They had four draws at home. That means they dropped eight points, why shouldn't they drop eight more in the second half of the season?”

He added: "Villa are mathematically in there but if you asked me if they are going to win the title I would say no because there are other teams who to me look better equipped.

"For a place in the top four, they are a threat.

"We are three points behind and have a good opportunity to come back on them. It is a very important game for us."

Villa manager Martin O'Neill is predictably playing down his club's fans' hopes of earning a Champions League place. But while trying to keep expectations in check and everyone's feet on the ground, even he admits there has been much progress at Villa Park since his arrival in 2006.

He said this week: “Two seasons ago during this period we would have been beaten by sides less capable than West Ham. There is a great determination about this team.”

"If we could win the [Arsenal] game it would give us a major psychological boost. It would be an amazing double if we could beat them at home as we defeated them at their place.

"Of course, if Arsenal win they will have caught up with us immediately. They are a talented team who have always qualified for the Champions League without a great deal of fuss."

Victory for Villa would widen the gap between themselves and the Gunners to six points. But they haven't beaten Arsenal at Villa Park for a decade, losing five - including last season’s corresponding fixture - and drawing four of the previous nine meetings on their own patch. Their last home win against Arsenal was in December 1998, when they came back from two-down to win 3-2 in a game also memorable for the injury sustained by Santa Claus as he parachuted into the stadium at half-time but hit the roof of a stand on his descent to earth.


Aston Villa

20 Dec (Premier League) v West Ham (A) WON 1-0
17 Dec (UEFA Cup) v Hamburg (A) LOST 1-3
13 Dec (Premier League) v Bolton (H) WON 4-2
07 Dec (Premier League) v Everton (A) WON 3-2
04 Dec (UEFA Cup) v MSK Zilina (H) LOST 1-2
29 Nov (Premier League) v Fulham (H) DREW 0-0


21 Dec (Premier League) v Liverpool (H) DREW 1-1
13 Dec (Premier League) v Middlesbrough (A) DREW 1-1
10 Dec (Champions League) v FC Porto (A) LOST 0-2
06 Dec (Premier League) v Wigan (H) WON 1-0
02 Dec (Carling Cup) v Burnley (A) LOST 0-2
30 Nov (Premier League) v Chelsea (A) WON 2-1


Aston Villa

John Carew (back) and Wilfred Bouma (ankle) are ruled out, and O'Neill may be without Martin Laursen, who has a knee injury, and Carlos Cuellar, who was substituted after sustaining a heavy challenge during the 1-0 win at West Ham. If neither make it, Nigel Reo-Coker and Zat Knight could be handed starts.

Squad: Friedel, Cuellar, Laursen, Davies, L Young, Milner, Sidwell, Petrov, Barry, A Young, Agbonlahor, Reo-Coker, Knight, Shorey, Harewood, Gardner, Salifou, Osbourne, Guzan.

Last Starting XI (v West Ham): Friedel, Cuellar (Reo-Coker 58), Davies, Laursen, Luke Young, Petrov, Milner, Sidwell, Barry, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Knight, Shorey, Gardner.


Injuries continue to blight the Gunners' season, and the blow they suffered last Sunday against Liverpool, losing captain Cesc Fabregas for possibly four months with a damaged medial knee ligament, was the heaviest yet.

Fabregas now joins Tomas Rosicky (whose hamstring problem has kept him sidelined for nearly 12 months), Theo Walcott (shoulder), Eduardo (out since February with a broken leg), Kolo Toure (calf) and Nicklas Bendtner (knee) on the unavailable-through-injury list. Meanwhile, striker Emmanuel Adebayor is suspended following his red card against Liverpool.

Squad: Almunia, Sagna, Nasri, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Denilson, Song, Diaby, Wilshere, Eboue, Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Van Persie, Bendtner, Toure, Silvestre.

Last Starting XI (v Liverpool): Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas
(Diaby 46), Song Billong, Nasri (Eboue 90), Adebayor, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere.


Aston Villa

Ashley Young
and Gabriel Agbonlahor will again be the biggest threats to Arsenal, given their pace and penetration and the vulnerability at the centre of the Gunners' defence. And midfielder Steve Sidwell will be keen to shine against the club with whom he started his career - while goalkeeper Brad Friedel will be extending his record-breaking run to 171 consecutive Premier League appearances.


Gael Clichy
will no doubt relish the challenge of trying to contain Young, and will want to put in a decent performance after conceding an own goal in the reverse fixture. A problem for Arsene Wenger will be deciding who will replace Cesc Fabregas in central midfield, and of course who will captain the team. Abou Diaby will probably be a candidate for the former role (though Aaron Ramsey, on his 18th birthday, could be a surprise choice), while Manuel Almunia will probably be given the arm-band - unless Clichy gets a crack at it.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Fabregas wants to return as soon as possible

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas stated that he will come back very soon, and even stronger than before.

Cesc Fàbregas has revealed that he would willingly have had surgery if it had been required to repair his injury, and that he was fortunate that his leg was in the air when Xabi Alonso caught him.

The Arsenal midfielder visited Doctor Ramón Cugat in Barcelona to determine whether an operation was required and is now hoping to be able to spend the first few weeks of his comeback in the Catalan capital with family.

After being told that he will be out for four months following the blow to his knee that he sustained in a tackle with compatriot Xabi Alonso at the weekend, Cesc was philosophical.

"After consulting the best doctor we have decided not to operate. If it had been necessary then I would have been the first to have said we should., but the doctor has recommended not to because I am young and have not damaged the meniscus," Marca quote him as saying.

"I will be out for around four months. My aim now is to return as soon as possible and help my team-mates. I will endeavour to be back quickly to do what I like doing best and that is to play football.

"It is the first serious injury that I have had in my career. They effect everyone now and again and this just my turn. I will just have to wait, keep to the time frame and return as soon as possible."

Xabi Alonso has been concerned about his international team-mate and Cesc explained that he does not blame the Liverpool playmaker for the injury.

"I remember it was a counter-attack and Xabi Alonso and I ended up on the floor. I had my leg up and he came in like a bull and he took the ball and my leg. It is not as bad because my leg was not on the ground, because if it had been I would have been out for a lot longer," he continued.

"He worried a lot about me. He called me after the game and has been ending messages as well as talking to me before I went in to see the doctor. These are things that happen, it is football, and Xabi is a great friend of mine."

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Arsenal Lose Cesc Fabregas For Three Months

Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas is set to spend the next three months on the sidelines after injuring his knee in Sunday's clash with Liverpool.

The Spanish sensation hobbled out of the game at half-time after coming off second best in a 50-50 challenge with compatriot Xabi Alonso, forcing Arsene Wenger to send on Abou Diaby for the remainder of the 1-1 draw.

It was confirmed shortly afterwards that the 21-year-old midfielder had damaged the medial ligaments of his right knee, and he has been scheduled for a series of scans throughout the week.

Initial examinations have highlighted the severity of the injury, and the findings at this point are far from encouraging for Fabregas or the Gunners.

An unnamed source said in The Sun: "He has been told he will not be available until the end of March, which means he will miss the next round of the Champions League and a number of crucial Premier League matches."

That prognosis could become even grimmer if Fabregas is forced to undergo surgery, and it thought that the EURO 2008 winner is expecting the worst.

Further tests will be conducted this evening.