Monthly Archives: July 2009

Tale Of Two Halves In Hannover Win

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Arsenal completed its three-game mini-tour of friendlies while based in its Austria training camp with a 1-0 victory over Hannover 96 at the German club’s AWD Arena on Wednesday.

Captain Cesc Fabregas saw his first action of the preseason and was the lone goalscorer in the match, running on to a lovely through-ball from Robin van Persie and sliding the ball home after rounding the Hannover keeper.

The goal came just ten minutes into the game, during a first half in which the Gunners dominated play and looked impressive against a team that will open its season next week.

Manager Arsene Wenger opted for three men up front for Arsenal, with Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin employed wide with van Persie playing the central role. While the Russian had a quiet game, Bendtner put in an effective performance from the right forward position, and from this observer it seems that the Gunners have looked most impressive this summer when the Big Dane is on the pitch.

Another lively performer thus far this preseason has been Armand Traore, who again looked solid at left back showing his speed in both attacking runs and getting back in defense.

Traore was substituted after just 35 minutes (by Mikael Silvestre) in what must have been an injury concern, but there was noticeable sign of any problem before the change — and no mention of any injury by Wenger or the club after the match.

More substitutions followed at the break, with Johan Djourou, Bacary Sagna and Aaron Ramsey taking over for the likes of William Gallas, Bendtner and Fabregas. But the personnel and formational changes seemed to slow down the Arsenal attack, and play turned a bit sloppy and scrappy for the second 45 minutes.

“It was an interesting game, with for me two different halves,” said Wenger, talking with arsenal.com’s Chris Harris after the match. “In the first half we showed good movement and cohesion. We showed good technical skill and always seemed to be in control.

“In the second half, it was different. We were not mobile and we had heavy legs,” continued the manager. “We were not mobile because we had worked very hard during the camp. We had to hang on a little bit. It was a good challenge from Hannover and it was a good physical game for us.”

With the transfer of Kolo Toure to Manchester City officially announced by the club just prior to the Hannover friendly, the Gunners have seen a second player leave this off-season. But Wenger is confident that team remains strong in quality and numbers.

“The position of the squad is very good,” he said. “If you look at the players who did not play today there was Clichy, Rosicky and Diaby. Walcott and Gibbs have not played yet (in pre-season). I believe the squad is strong.”

While that might be true, the departures have some supporters clamoring for another signing to join Thomas Vermaelen as Arsenal additions. And there might be another player leaving soon, as Emmanuel Eboue — a rumoured target of Italian club Fiorentina — was seen tossing his jersey and boots into the crowd while waving to Gunners’ fans after the Hannover match.

With Arsenal set to host Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Glasgow Rangers in the Emirates Cup this weekend, might we be seeing the club return home from Austria minus all three of its African first-teamers?

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Last Of ‘The Invincibles’ On Way Out

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The unbeaten run of games by Arsenal’s “Invincibles” five years ago was ended in Manchester (at Old Trafford) in October 2004, and it now looks certain that the same city will greet the last member of that Invicibles team to leave the club, as Kolo Toure is hours away from being named the latest Manchester City signing this summer.

Media reports this morning indicate that the Ivory Coast defender is close to being officially named a City player, with an online article from Sky Sports revealing that “Toure has agreed a four-year deal with the Eastlands club and his signing could be confirmed within the next 24 hours.”

According to that report and other sports news outlets, the 28-year-old left Arsenal’s training camp in Austria to undergo a medical at Eastlands today, with the two clubs finalizing terms of the transfer (a purported fee of £15 to 16 million) for Toure to complete the move to Man City.

Manager Arsene Wenger did play Toure on Monday night in Arsenal’s pre-season friendly in Hungary, but indicated yesterday that his once vice-captain might be leaving the club.

“We will see what’s happening in the next 24 hours, nothing is decided yet,” said the Frenchman. “We have seven centre-backs and I am in the position where I have to play some in midfield, but of course Kolo is a very good player and we will see what will happen in the next 24 hours.”

Toure joined Arsenal in 2002 as a midfielder yet soon became a fixture at center back after veterans like Tony Adams and Martin Keown ended their playing careers in North London. Once the Toure deal is finalized, Arsenal will have received around £40 million from Manchester City in the past week for two of its players.

With club supporters wondering what Arsenal might do with that cash, Wenger hinted that he might make more signings before the transfer window closes.

“I am more focused on getting everybody fit for the start of the season but we are looking at opportunities as well,” the manager told Arsenal TV Online on Tuesday. “There are still some pre-season games to see what we really need. When the time comes we will do something.”

The next of those preseason encounters comes today, with the Gunners traveling to Germany to face Hannover 96 in a friendly, the last of its three matches held during its time training in Austria.

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Eduardo, Bendtner Bag Braces In Win

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Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo da Silva each scored two goals in a dominant first half as Arsenal rolled to a comfortable 5-0 preseason win over Szombathelyi Haladas in Hungary on Monday.

A penalty kick from Robin van Persie provided the final margin for the Gunners, as manager Arsene Wenger used 19 players in the early evening match, the team’s second friendly against European opponents since setting up training camp in Austria a week ago.

Bendtner opened the scoring just after the quarter hour, nodding home a fine cross from Armond Traore, who looked impressive during his time on the pitch. The Danish striker then set up Eduardo just minutes later, and the Brazilian-turned-Croatian slid a left-footed shot into the corner of the net to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead.

An Eduardo free kick from almost 25 yards out made the scoreline 3-0 in the 40th minute, and a wonderful curler from Bendtner after some fine buildup play gave Arsenal its four-goal lead at the break.

Commenting before the match to Arsenal TV, Bendtner addressed some rumors that AC Milan was interested in his services by saying that he was totally committed to Arsenal. “I haven’t heard anything about (that),” he stated. “As far as I know, I am totally with Arsenal. This is where I want to be. This is something special and I want to be a part of it.”

Weenger made eight personnel changes at the half, with Wojciech Szczesny replacing Vito Mannone in goal to play the second 45 minutes to share the clean sheet. The Polish keeper made a couple of outstanding saves and also saw a Haladas penalty kick go wide to keep the hosts scoreless.

Van Persie’s goal from the penalty spot came after a re-entered Bendtner was taken down in the box. The Dutch forward looked to have his own brace after heading home midway through the second half, but he was incorrectly ruled offside on the play.

In other first-team news for the Gunners, Arsenal’s Arsenal’s Carlos Vela scored a goal and set up two others as Mexico trounced the United States 5-0 in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in New Jersey on Sunday.

Entering the game as a halftime substitute after a scoreless opening 45 minutes, Vela provided the spark as El Tri ran rampant after the break. Five different players scored goals for Mexico, but it was Vela and Tottenham’s Giovanni Dos Santos who were the stars on the afternoon, giving their country its fifth Gold Cup title.

Vela will probably not join the Arsenal camp in time for its next preseason match, set for this Wednesday against Hannover 96 in Germany, as the Gunners round out their mini-European warmup tour before heading home to host the Emirates Cup on August 1 and 2.

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Vela Penalty Sends Mexico Into Final

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Arsenal’s Carlos Vela converted the decisive spot kick as Mexico needed a penalty shootout to advance past Costa Rica and into the final of CONCACAF’s Gold Cup, where they’ll face the United States on Sunday.

The only remaining first-team Gunner yet to join Arsenal’s training camp this preseason, Vela has returned to action for his country after suffering a slight injury in Mexico’s opening game of the Gold Cup, the biennial nations championship for the FIFA region comprising North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Entering last night’s semifinal late in regulation, Vela had a strike on goal early in the opening minutes of the extra period, but the ball deflected wide and neither team was able to find the back of the net in the additional 30 minutes.

Costa Rica’s Froylan Ledezma, who had scored a 90th minute equalizer to send the match into extra time, was the only player to miss his penalty in the shootout, as Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa (an Arsenal transfer target not long ago) made a superb save.

The 20-year-old Vela calmly stepped up as Mexico’s final shot taker to slot his penalty home and provide the 5-3 difference in penalties, giving Mexico a chance to revenge its loss to the U.S. in the Gold Cup final two years ago.

The win means that Vela will not travel in the coming days to Austria, where Arsenal has set up its training base for a stretch of friendly matches with European clubs.

Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas was among the latest to join up with teammates there, entering camp on Monday but not taking part in Tuesday’s 7-1 win over SC Columbia.

Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs were allowed extra time off due to their own international commitments earlier in the summer. The earliest they’ll see action is next week, when Arsenal face Szombathelyi Haladas in Hungary on Monday (July 27) and Hannover 96 in Germany on Wednesday (July 29).

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Wenger Addresses Status Of Senderos

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Amid the postgame interviews following Arsenal’s 7-1 win over SC Columbia, manager Arsene Wenger addressed the status of a couple of first-team Gunners — one who appeared in the friendly match in Austria and another who was surprisingly left out of the squad for the game.

Wenger used Phillipe Senderos in a defensive midfield role when inserting the Swiss international into the game for the second half. It was the first Arsenal appearance in almost a year for Senderos, who returned to the club this summer after spending last season on loan at AC Milan.

There was some speculation last month that the 24-year-old defender might return to Italy, either with Milan making the move permanent after the loan period or by Senderos being included as part of a deal with Fiorentina to bring Felipe Melo to the Emirates.

When questioned by arsenal.com’s Declan Taylor on the status of Senderos, Wenger admitted that the defender’s future is still undecided. “He has offers and it is open,” the manager said. “He has come back here with us still looking for solutions but he is still yet to decide on his future.”

Taylor also questioned the manager on why Lukasz Fabianski did not yet join his Gunner teammates for the pre-season tour, mentioning that “the 24-year-old goalkeeper was the only surprising omission from the squad which landed in Austria on Monday.”

But Wenger revealed the reason after Tuesday’s match, noting that a slight knee injury has sidelined the Polish international. “He has a little knee problem,” the manager told Arsenal TV Online. “But he should be available for the Emirates Cup.”

Fellow keeper and countryman Wojciech Szczesny was included in the lineup on Tuesday, coming on for the second half of the 7-1 victory and not being seriously challenged while in goal.

While Fabianski’s injury is not too severe and should allow him to be back for the first weekend of August, Samir Nasri will be out for much longer, having fractured his right fibula in Tuesday morning’s training session that will require two to three months on the sidelines.

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Nasri Fractures Leg In Training; Gunners Score 7 In Preseason Win

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Logging on to the arsenal.com web site during my lunch hour to see which first-team Gunners would be included in the lineup for today’s preseason match with SC Columbia in Austria, I was disappointed to read that midfielder Samir Nasri had injured his leg during morning training and will be out of action for an extended period.

The young Frenchman, who joined Arsenal a year ago and had a fine initial season with the team, suffered a fractured right fibula during a morning session at the team’s training camp in Bad Waltersdorf.

Initial estimates after Nasri was taken to hospital in nearby Hartberg indicate that he would face around eight weeks out, but the layoff could be longer depending on the severity of the break, claimed Andreas Neubauer, a spokesman for tour organiser International Football Camps Styria, in an online article in The Telegraph.

The report on Arsenal’s official site didn’t mention just how the injury occurred, but the statement by the club does note that “The midfielder will be out of action for two to three months. Everyone at the club wishes Samir a speedy recovery.”

As noted by Chris Harris in his coverage of the match with SC Columbia on arsenal.com, the injury to Nasri “is a substantial blow to Arsenal even if the return of Tomas Rosicky will compensate for his loss.

“The Czech was rested for this game after making his long-awaited comeback at Barnet on Saturday but we did get a first glimpse of Emmanuel Eboue, Denilson, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey and Nicklas Bendtner this summer,” added Harris.

Those Gunners were in the starting eleven for Arsenal, while Kolo Toure, Bacary Sagna, Robin Van Persie and Alex Song were named on the bench. Armand Traore and Philippe Senderos, back from season-long loan spells, were also among the substitutes for today’s encounter, featuring many more veteran players than the preseason opener at Barnet on the weekend.

And the veterans didn’t disappoint, as Bendtner, van Persie and Ramsey each notched two goals as Arsenal romped to a 7-1 win at the Schwarzlackenau Stadium.

The Gunners dominated play throughout but actually fell behind 1-0 when Manuel Almunia misplayed a Mikael Silvestre backpass that allowed Patrick Lehner to slide in and score a freakish goal in the 35th minute.

Arsenal responded straight away and equalized a minute later when Bendtner tapped one in after a strong run from Abou Diaby. And the Arsenal lead was 3-1 by halftime — after Ramsey fired home from just outside the box, and then the Welshman played Bendtner in off a nice-one-two before the big Dane rounded the keeper to score his second.

“Wenger made eight changes at the break with Senderos deployed in a defensive midfield role – quite possibly a first for the Swiss,” noted Harris in his match report. Two of the substitutes linked up for Arsenal’s fourth goal as Traore’s cross was handled and Van Persie fired home from the penalty spot.

The Dutchman then stretched Arsenal’s lead to 5-1 by heading in off of a Sagna cross midway through the second half. And a couple of the Gunners’ 17 corners for the game resulted in the game’s final two goals, with Gallas heading home in minute 77 before a Ramsey left-footed strike provided the final margin.

The 7-1 victory in Austria marked the beginning of a mini-European preseason tour for Arsenal, with the next stop coming across the border in Hungary for Monday’s friendly match at Szombathelyi.

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Arsenal, Rosicky Return To Action As Adebayor Completes Move To Man City

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Tomas Rosicky’s return to action in an Arsenal jersey highlighted the Gunners’ opening preseason match on Saturday, a 2-2 draw with Barnet at Underhill that featured plenty of reserves and youth team members in the encounter that now annually marks the start of preseason competition for the club.

After 18 months since last appearing on the pitch for Arsene Wenger’s side, Rosicky was given the captain’s armband and played the opening 45 minutes for Arsenal, and narrowly missed on a couple of goal-scoring opportunities in the first 20 minutes.

As arsenal.com’s Chris Harris noted in his match report, “Rosicky’s return was the big news before kickoff but he was not the only mouth-watering name in the Arsenal lineup. New signing Thomas Vermaelen made his debut, William Gallas returned from his own lengthy lay-off and Andrey Arshavin also started.”

It was the Russian Arshavin who notched the game’s first goal (in minute 42), slotting home from three yards out after being set up nicely by Sanchez Watt, who performed very well in his 45 minutes of action.

While Barnet equalized just before the break on a header off a corner, Arsenal again assumed command early in the second stanza, even with 10 changes at halftime. Wenger replaced all but new boy Vermaelen, inserting mostly youth team players for the closing 45 minutes.

Among the substitutes was Nacer Barazite, who was all over the pitch in the second half and scored a beautiful curler of a goal early in the stanza to regain the lead for the Gunners in the 49th minute.

As Arsenal gained control in the second half, Jay-Emmanuel Thomas and Jay Simpson had chances to extend the cushion but were denied, before Elliott Charles struck with eight minutes left after a scramble in the box, to earn the hosts the draw.

“Barnet gave us a good run out and for the first game it was quite good,” said Arsene Wenger after the match. “We played basically with the Youth Cup-winning team in the second half, and in the first half it was interesting because we were challenged physically. Barnet were well organized, committed and to improve our fitness it was just ideal.”

The manager thought new signing Vermaelen’s debut was a good one, remarking that “I think he had a good welcome to English football because he got some good challenges here. I think it was a good start for him overall. He is strong, solid, calm and when he became more confident in the second half you could see that he passes the ball well. He should be a good addition to the squad.”

Addressing the prospect of further additions to the squad, Wenger added that, “At the moment we are not very close to bringing anybody else – we are not on the verge of signing anyone.”

Not long after the match, media reports announced that striker Emmanuel Adebayor had finally completed his move to Manchester City after passing his medical and signing a five-year deal.

Arsenal looks to gain a reported £25 million from the sale of Adebayor, who will join Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz in a new-look City frontline.

But it seems Wenger is in no rush to replace the Togo international, saying that ”We’re not in a hurry because we have a big squad. We’ll see in pre-season if we need to make any additions.

”We have Rosicky and Eduardo back so we’ve lost a big striker but have gained two offensive players who were absent last season,” continued the manager. “We also have Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott who can play striker. We have top players we can use as strikers.”

And Arsenal supporters may see some of these names in the team lineup as early as Tuesday, as the Gunners head to Austria for the next stage of their preseason with a match against SC Columbia in Vienna on July 21st.

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