Monthly Archives: May 2009

Bould’s Boys Claim League, Cup Double

ars-youtchtrophy2

On the 20th anniversary of the night when Arsenal claimed the most dramatic and historic of its titles at the same stadium, Steve Bould and his young Gunners won the FA Youth Cup Final over Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday.

Arsenal’s 2-1 victory on the road gave the team a 6-2 final aggregate score and secured a league and cup double in 2009 for the Gunners, who captured the Academy League trophy by defeating Tottenham on May 17. The 2009 FA Youth Cup title is the club’s seventh overall, and first since 2001.

A Sanchez Watt strike in the first half along with a Liverpool own goal in the second period was all that was needed to win this second leg matchup, on an evening much less tense and dramatic than the special night on Merseyside exactly two decades earlier.

The young Gunners held a three-goal advantage going into Tuesday night’s match, after dominating Liverpool 4-1 in the Final’s first leg at the Emirates on Friday. Gilles Sunu, Jack Wilshere, Sanchez Watt and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas all scored for Arsenal, who — in a scenario opposite to that of 20 years previous — could have afforded to lose by two clear goals yet still claim the title.

Steve Bould, a defender on that 1989 Arsenal team that snatched the league trophy away from Liverpool at Anfield, now manages the Gunners’ Under 18 team and was pleased with the club’s performance.

“It wasn’t anywhere near the level we reached on Friday, but we showed our quality in a few little patches,” the manager stated after the match. “I think we were always capable of stepping it up because Liverpool came back to 1-1 but we still got the result.”

When asked about capturing another title at Anfield exactly 20 years after the famous win, Bould said: “It’s different to winning as a player. This is not first team level but it doesn’t matter. The biggest, most pleasing part for me is not just the result but the fact that we’ve got good kids here and we think we are developing them as players.”

Defender Kyle Bartley added that “After winning the first leg 4-1, we had to keep focused. We had to avoid sloppy mistakes in order to win the game and we did that. We knew that if we kept Liverpool’s strikers quiet then we would do well.

“I think we were confident that we could be the best. We tried not to be too arrogant because sometimes that can slip into our game, but we thought we had a good chance,” he told arsenal.com’s Chris Harris after Tuesday’s triumph. “You don’t play northern teams in the Academy League until the play-offs and with the split divisions, you don’t know who’s the best.”

Teammate Jack Wilshere said the team “knew we had the strength in depth to do it, and it’s just great to win both the league and cup. We always had belief we could do it. We just carried on showing what we could do and the cups came.”

Bartley and Wilshere were among the nine youth players in Arsenal’s starting lineup Tuesday who are English, and Bould said in an interview with BBC London that club manager Arsene Wenger is keen to blood some domestic talent into the first team’s ranks.

“Arsene is always watching these kids and knows everything about them,” he said. “They are very talented and there is definitely some real home-grown talent here who could break through.”

And Bould added that rather than being judged on winning the Youth Cup, “What we should be judged by is how many kids we get in first teams. Now we want to see them getting in our first team (at Arsenal).”

“We’ve got Kieran (Gibbs) in at the minute, Jack (Wilshere) has been taken into the first team and we’re hoping we’ve got three, four or five more that are capable of that,” he continued. “But it’s quite difficult because the first team is young at the minute but we think we’re producing players.”

And the 2008-09 season “produced” by these players has been outstanding, according to its manager. “For these kids it has topped a great, great year,” said Bould.

“We know we are not in a results environment when we set out at the start of the season, but the way they have performed all year, they have been head and shoulders above most of the other teams in the country. I think we’ve got excellent players, and this is the icing on the cake.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Arsenal

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today …

ars-anfield89celeb

Steve Bould and his Arsenal side will take to the Anfield pitch tonight against Liverpool in search of a trophy, precisely twenty years to the day when Bould and his teammates claimed the most dramatic and historic of Arsenal’s titles at the same Merseyside stadium.

Arsenal’s young Gunners play in the FA Youth Cup Final tonight, their first in the competition since 2001. And while a win would help to end their own period without such silverware, it’s a stretch of years much shorter than the league drought seen by the North London club through most of the 1970s and 1980s that ended on this day a couple of decades ago.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of May 26, 1989, when Arsenal snatched the league trophy away from Liverpool with a stunning 2-0 win, thanks to a stoppage-time goal from Michael Thomas that sent Gooners everywhere into wild celebration.

Needing to win by two goals on the road on that final night of the season (in England’s First Division), the Gunners weren’t given much of a chance to claim the title against a Liverpool team that very rarely conceded more than one goal a game.

The Anfield side were the dominant club of the 1980s, and a 24-match unbeaten streak to end the ’89 season had overtaken Arsenal in the league’s final weeks. Liverpool were aiming to pair the league crown with a recent FA Cup Final win over Everton to help its supporters overcome the Hillsborough tragedy of that season.

After a scoreless first half, a glancing header from Alan Smith in minute 52 found the net and put Arsenal into the lead. But as the game wore on, the Gunners had few chances at a second goal until Thomas flicked one past Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar in the game’s 93rd minute.

Like most Arsenal supporters, Bould still remembers the historic night. But he didn’t think “any of us really went there expecting to win – not least 2-0,” said the former defender who now manages the Under-18 side for Arsenal. “We had a belief in the team we could do OK. There was a strange atmosphere – completely different to any game I have played in before or since.

“The Hillsborough effect on the game was massive and it was a balmy red-hot night — a fantastic atmosphere but a really strange occasion,” added Bould, whose header on goal was cleared off the line by Liverpool defender Steve Nicol in the opening half.

Arsenal manager George Graham had “told us before the game that if it was 0-0 at half-time, we would win 2-0. We sort of laughed it off,” said Bould, who was substituted in the second half and on the bench when the dramatic second goal was scored.

“I didn’t see much of the goal at the end,” he noted, “as there was police all in front, chaos going on.” The goal came at the stadium end holding the bulk of Arsenal’s travelling supporters, who erupted once the ball had crossed the line.

In a coincidence relating to that most historic of moments for Arsenal, Bould will be on the Anfield pitch on this 20th anniversary of that special night, yet the task at hand for Arsenal will be much simpler this time around.

The young Gunners hold a three-goal advantage going into the match, after dominating Liverpool 4-1 in the Final’s first leg at the Emirates on Friday. Gilles Sunu, Jack Wilshere, Sanchez Watt and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas all scored for Arsenal, who can afford to lose by two clear goals but still claim the FA Youth Cup trophy.

But, manager Bould is not taking his side’s advantage for granted, telling arsenal.com’s Declan Taylor that “the problem now is it’s ours to lose. That creates different pressures and different things to handle. We have to guard against that and do it properly because the game isn’t won.

“But we have got a great start and we would have taken that win all day long before the game,” he added. The thing that pleased me the most was the performance. I thought the kids were all fabulous.

“With the watching public, the manager, and 33,000 in the crowd I thought they performed at as high a level as we could have asked.”

1 Comment

Filed under Arsenal

Van Persie Stokes Final-Day Victory

_45818018_fab_pa766

Arsenal ended its season in impressive fashion with a 4-1 victory over Stoke City at the Emirates on Sunday. All the scoring came in the first half, with three quick strikes by the Gunners inside the first 20 minutes sealing the three points early on for the home side.

Robin van Persie scored two goals for the Gunners in a match controlled basically from the start by Arsenal, who end the 2008-09 Barclays Premier League season at fourth place in the table.

An own goal by James Beattie following a Cesc Fabregas cross opened the scoring on 10 minutes. Six minutes later, van Persie was taken down by defender Ryan Shawcross in the box, resulting in a penalty. The Dutchman converted from the spot, giving him 19 goals for the season.

In Minute 18, van Persie sent in a deep free kick that Abou Diaby headed into the net, providing the 3-0 lead. Stoke keeper Steve Simonson then limped off four minutes later, replaced by Thomas Sorensen. But the Gunners continued to dominate the rest of the half, save for one positive moment for Stoke.

That came when Ricardo Fuller was tripped by Denilson on the half hour. And the Stoke striker put the penalty shot past Vito Mannone, who was in the Arsenal goal for the season’s final match.

That only seemed to re-energize the Gunners, who had chances to build the lead. Van Persie hit the post on with a fine free kick just before the Stoke goal, and Theo Walcott had a couple efforts saved by Sorensen.

Arsenal’s fourth came off a mistake by Rory Delap, whose back pass toward goal was collected by van Persie, who fired past Sorensen for the 4-1 lead at the break.

There were plenty more chances for Arsenal in the second half, with van Persie narrowly missing out on a hat trick and Carlos Vela denied late. But the damage had already been done early on, with the Gunners providing a positive finish for manager Arsene Wenger.

Chants of “There is only one Arsene Wenger” could be heard from the Emirates crowd before and during the match, as the home fans made their support known for the Arsenal manager. The Frenchman has endured through recent criticism after a fourth straight season without a trophy, but those on hand seemed to offer their continued faith in Wenger for the coming seasons.

“It makes me feel appreciated and even more regretful that we could not give them what they wanted this season,” said the Arsenal manager, who had earlier this week allayed fears he was set to quit for Real Madrid. “I am very respectful for the faith they have in me and it makes you even more determined to pay them back.”

Wenger praised van Persie’s performance in the post-match press conference, and added that it is crucial to make sure the likes of the team’s leading scorer to remain at Arsenal as he looks to lift the Gunners back into contention for the Premier League title.

Wenger also admitted that some new personnel might have to be added to the squad, but does not see the need to make any quick judgments on players.

“The question we have to analyse now is: are we strong enough like that to win the championship next year? If not, what do we need to add to the squad?” asked Wenger. “That is the basic question we need to answer.

“There is some great quality here, that is for sure, the squad is very young, so it is about what is needed to be added next year to challenge for the championship.” Wenger added: “It is important not to go into conclusions today. I have to analyse well and then make decisions after.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Arsenal

Positive News For The Final Weekend

gun__1243027756_yc_liverpool

Well, friends, we have come to the final weekend of another season, one which did not bring any trophies for The Arsenal but did see the club reach the semifinals of both the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup during this 2008-09 campaign.

The team’s final league match will see Stoke City visit the Emirates on Sunday. Regardless of the outcome, the Gunners will officially end up as fourth-place finishers in the Barclays Premier League, good enough to qualify (at the third-round qualifying stage) for next season’s Champions League.

There are no new injury concerns for Arsene Wenger’s side going into the final fixture, with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski recovering from a knee problem and passed fit to start against Stoke.

While first-teamers William Gallas, Gael Clichy, Manuel Almunia and Eduardo had previously been ruled out for the season, Wenger reported no new injuries at his pre-match press conference on Friday. But the French manager did add that Emmanuel Adebayor has not shaken off the groin problem which ruled him out of last week’s draw at Manchester United.

“Emmanuel Adebayor has a groin problem and he won’t play,” Wenger confirmed on http://www.arsenal.com. Yet this announcement will only further fuel speculation that the striker from Togo might be on his way out of the club come summer, as rumors have already linked him with a transfer to AC Milan.

Yet, when questioned Friday on Adebayor’s future at the Emirates, Wenger said his “gut feeling” is that Adebayor will be at Arsenal next season.

“At the moment his future is at the club,” said Wenger at his pre-match press conference. “He has a long contract and we want to keep him at the club. I am hopeful I will be able to keep him.”

The manager also addressed his own future with the club, reiterating to reporters that he remains committed to Arsenal. Reports surfaced earlier in the week that Real Madrid were interested in luring Wenger to Spain, with the Frenchman even quoted as believing the potential manager’s position at the Bernabeu to be “an interesting project.”

But Wenger re-affirmed his loyalty to Arsenal at his final pre-match press conference of the season, saying “I believe I have always shown my commitment to this club.”

“I cannot deny every noise or contact I have. My commitment is as strong as ever and if one day it changes I will inform you,” he continued. “I don’t want to talk about that (the Madrid speculation), because that is endless.”

Other player-related Arsenal updates on this final weekend include a decision released by the FA yesterday that cleared Cesc Fabregas of two improper conduct charges related to the aftermath of an FA Cup match earlier this season.

As http://www.arsenal.com’s Declan Taylor reports, the Gunners captain captain was “under inquiry for his actions in the aftermath of Arsenal’s FA Cup quarterfinal victory over Hull City on March 17. But, at a regulatory commission hearing, the two charges against Fabregas were found ‘not proved.'”

One charge concerned his conduct after coming onto the pitch following the final whistle. The second charge related to an allegation of spitting.

“It is a relief because personally I always believed he was innocent,” manager Wenger said at the Friday press conference. “That it has been confirmed by the FA is very good news for us.”

Some more good news came with the impressive performance and result by Arsenal’s “young guns” in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final on Friday, where the Gunners won 4-1 over Liverpool.

Dominating at times in front of a crowd of 33,000 at the Emirates, Arsenal notched a pair of goals in each half in the emphatic win. (You can view all the goals at http://www.soccerclips.net) Gilles Sunu, Jack Wilshere, Sanchez Watt and Jay-Emmanuel Thomas each hit the back of the net for the Gunners, who’ll take a three-goal advantage to Anfield in the final’s second leg on May 26.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arsenal

New Away Kit Officially Unveiled

gun__1242824360_newawayshirt05

In a move away from its traditional yellow shirt color, Arsenal Football Club has officially unveiled its new away kit for the 2009/10 season, which features a “midnight blue” color along with pinstripes and a polo collar inspired by the shirts worn by the club’s teams during its glory days of the 1930s.

According to an article on the club’s official web site at http://www.arsenal.com, the new design from Nike “celebrates the sartorial excellence of the club’s London birthplace.

“Arsenal have long been revered as one of English football’s most traditional and stylish clubs,” claims the article. “The Londoners boast a rich heritage and have always sought to play football with flair and sophistication.

“While the modern day Arsenal has an increasingly continental influence, they remain a very English club, playing in the heart of the capital and representing the best of English style,” continues the club statement. “The new Arsenal away kit has been inspired by the London’s sartorial excellence and Arsenal’s proud history and iconic footballing style.”

The shirt’s midnight blue color is also prominent on the new kit’s shorts, which also feature a photo blue stripe along the side, with white cannon stitched in to the back of the shorts on the waist-band. Midnight blue socks with a photo blue stripe on the top band and “Arsenal” printed on the calf round out the new look.

In another tribute to Arsenal history, the club motto of “Victoria Concordia Crescit,” which translates to “Victory Comes From Harmony,” appears on a small label engineered into the new shirt’s side seam (in text centered between two small Arsenal cannons).

This label helps to indicate authenticity for the shirt for club supporters looking to purchase their own authentic jerseys. Now available for pre-ordering, the kit will be in club shops and be available online beginning June 25.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arsenal

Departure Of Wenger ‘Not An Issue’

wenger520a

The main stories in the media surrounding Arsenal Football Club in this final week of the Premiership season include some reports in recent days that manager Arsene Wenger might leave the London club for Real Madrid this summer.

Such rumors have emerged since last week’s shareholder meeting when Arsene Wenger voiced his criticism over questions directed to him from club supporters who were attending.

Heated exchanges at the event, along with a pledge from Madrid presidential candidate Florentino Perez to make Wenger his first choice as the club’s new manager next season should he be elected this summer, led to stories in the British press that the Frenchman would be looking to leave Arsenal.

But according to more recent quotes from Wenger in such places as a Daily Mail article, he will continue as Arsenal manager and spurn the advances of Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Even while previously admitting that the advances from Madrid were ”strongly interesting,” Wenger is quoted in Wednesday’s Daily Mail insisting that he has no plans to quit the Emirates.

”There’s nothing to worry about, it’s not an issue for me,” he told the newspaper. ”I’m staying here. If that changes I will let you know, but don’t worry about that. It’s not an issue.”

Wenger’s comments reportedly came on a day in which he had a three-hour meeting with Ivan Gazidis, the club’s new chief executive, at Arsenal’s training ground in London Colney to discuss transfer targets and budgets.

Since arriving at the club in 1996, Wenger has impressively transformed Arsenal’s playing style along with the club’s fortunes, leading his charges to three Premiership titles, league and cup doubles in 1998 and 2002, and into the UEFA Champions League final in 2006.

But a drought without any trophies the past four seasons has caused concern among some Arsenal supporters who have seemed to lose patience with the manager and his policies this spring. While conceding the team has considerable young talent, the naysayers and doubters believe the side lacks both experience and strength in depth to challenge for titles with rival clubs who seem more willing to “splash the cash” for big-name player signings.

Considering the manager’s record, Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has stated that the criticism of Wenger is “out of order,” and that he believes the Frenchman will remain in charge at the Emirates at least until 2011, when his current contract expires.

Former Gunner defender Lee Dixon agrees, telling the London Evening Standard that “I am gob-smacked that people have started calling for his head. People are very short-sighted. It is the modern-day supporter who wants success yesterday.”

“Yes, we have gone four seasons without a trophy and have been off the pace in the Premier League this season, which is Wenger’s trophy priority, but he is as frustrated as anyone else,” continued Dixon, who maintains Arsenal will soon deliver silverware once again.

“He feels the frustration just like anyone else,” Dixon added. “He has produced one of the best training grounds in the world, one of the best stadiums in the world and some of the most attractive football ever been played. And people still just say ‘we haven’t won anything.’ They just have to be a bit more patient.”

Support is also coming from fans who feel that fellow supporters should remain faithful to the club and its successful manager as it heads forward for the 2009-10 season. In fact, hundreds of Arsenal supporters will take part in a march before Sunday’s home match with Stoke City to show their support for Wenger and help persuade the manager not to leave for Real Madrid this summer. This “march of solidarity” is being organized by the supporters group RedAction.

And the Arsenal Supporters Trust, which was established in 2003 to promote the interest of facilitate involvement of supporters who own shares in the club, has released a statement on its web site on the matter, saying, “Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest managers Arsenal has ever had. In the last few years he has performed arguably his best work by continuing to deliver Champions League football within the financial constraints created by the move to the Emirates stadium.

“Arsene must stay but if there is a need for change it is to the parameters within which he has been forced to work. The Trust met with impressive new chief executive Ivan Gazidis last week. He understands the importance of providing both the funds and hands-on support for the manager in the transfer market so that Arsene can complete his work and take Arsenal back to the top. All shareholders, large and small, should unite behind this plan and play their respective parts in it.”

4 Comments

Filed under Arsenal

Youth Team Continues To Impress

gun__1231924423_Sunu-Goal

Some encouraging news for Arsenal came a day after watching rivals Manchester United celelebrate its third straight Premiership trophy after drawing in a league match at Old Trafford, as the Gunners youth team has brought a title to the Emirates for the 2008-09 season.

Arsenal became Premier Academy League champions after a second-half goal from Rhys Murphy provided the difference in a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the final at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

And nearing the completion of another promising season in all competitions, Arsenal’s youth squad under Steve Bould have another trophy in their sights, with their first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final against Liverpool set for Friday at Emirates Stadium.

As arsenal.com’s Declan Taylor writes, “Bould’s boys have been rampant in the Cup this season. In the previous six rounds, the Gunners have notched 19 times and conceded only six.”

In comments to Taylor after the Academy league match, Arsene Wenger believes a number of Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup stars will be able to make the first-team grade very quickly.

Fans have already seen young Jack Wilshere in action with the first team earlier this season, and the recent league match at Portsmouth saw youth team members Emmanuel Frimpong, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Francis Coquelin rewarded with a place on the bench.

“Jack Wilshere is already with us in the first team, but there are plenty of players in there who could very quickly be in our first-team squad,” the manager said on Tuesday.

“I have seen this team a few times and I like not only their quality but their attitude as well,” added Wenger. “There is something in there that shows they have personality and not only talent. I believe they will win.

“They are still a bit young but not for one player could you say ‘you will not make a career’.”

1 Comment

Filed under Arsenal