Monthly Archives: October 2009

Gunners Advance To Cup Quarterfinals

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Goals from Fran Merida and Nicklas Bendtner gave Arsenal a 2-1 win over Liverpool in their Carling Cup fourth round encounter at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Victory in the entertaining affair between two of the Premiership’s “Big Four” means Arsenal have qualified for the quarterfinals of this competition for a seventh straight season.

While Arsenal’s Carling Cup runs during previous years have seen more youth in the lineup for matches, last night’s game featured a side more balanced with some veteran first-teamers recovering from injuries. That number included Bendtner, whose effort in minute 50 broke a 1-1 deadlock and provided the final margin.

Merida opened the scoring just before the 20-minute mark of an open and exciting first half. Kerrea Gilbert broke up a Liverpool clearance, and the Spaniard collected at the edge of the box before turning to deliver a brilliant, left-footed strike past keeper Diego Cavalieri.

Liverpool’s Emiliano Insua equalized not long after, with his own superb long-range effort that Lukasz Fabianski couldn’t keep out of the net. That left things level at 1-1 at halftime, although Arsenal had more of the chances on goal before the break, including a couple during a goalmouth scramble after a corner that were each blocked.

With the Bendtner goal coming early in the second period, Liverpool did have chances to level again, but Arsenal were able to hold on and thus hand ‘Pool its fifth loss in six games.

“I believe overall it was a game of top quality with two teams who really went for it,” said manager Arsene Wenger in his post-match interview from http://www.arsenal.com. “You had the quality of the passing, sometimes the ball was played through a very short space but at a high pace.

“Liverpool came back to 1-1 and we still managed to win the game. That shows as well we have mental resources,” added the manager. “It was more of a European Cup night than a Carling Cup night, quality wise. We have seen two very, very good teams who play at the top level.”

Asked about goalscorer Merida in the interview, Wenger responded: “He is a quality player and he comes from a very good school (in Spain). I believe we had some top quality on the pitch in midfield, and in that kind of game that is very important. … He came (to Arsenal) at a very young age but our school is on line with the way he was educated, and he shows perfectly the way we want to play football.”

“I scored my first goal for the club so I am really happy and also because the team won against a really tough side,” said Merida, who recently returned from the U-20 World Cup with Spain. “The Carling Cup is really important for young players. We have to show what we can do and also enjoy it because we don’t get many first-team games.

“We know that it will be a really tough cup because there are some strong teams left in the competition,” added the Spaniard in an interview from the club’s official site. “There is no one to fear because we can beat anyone.”

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Nasri Returns For Liverpool Match

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Two days after making the bench for Arsenal’s disappointing draw at West Ham in the Premiership, Samir Nasri will be included in the Gunners starting lineup for tonight’s Carling Cup tie with Liverpool.

The French midfielder — along with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski — played in a reserve match last week upon recovering from long-term injuries, and both are set to make their initial appearances of the season for Arsenal’s first team in the Cup match at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners will look to return to winning ways after wasting a 2-0 lead at Upton Park on Sunday, when West Ham scored two second-half goals to earn a point. The draw still saw Arsenal move up one place to third in the league table ahead of rivals Tottenham, who will visit Arsenal on Saturday.

But before that Premiership derby arrives, Arsene Wenger’s side aim to advance past another big rival in the Carling Cup, hosting a Liverpool team fresh off a 2-0 home win over Manchester United this past weekend.

While Nasri and Fabianski will be on the pitch against the Merseysiders, Jack Wilshere will be left out, according to Richard Clarke’s report on http://www.arsenal.com. The 17-year-old Englishman has starred in this domestic cup competition the past couple of seasons, but will sit out this encounter due to an ankle problem, according to Wenger.

Clarke added that “Armand Traore (groin) is also missing, but Wenger will be fielding a relatively experienced side. He intends to use the game to give Eduardo (thigh) and Nicklas Bendtner (groin) a start. Both came off the bench against West Ham on Sunday but, before that, they had missed a few games with injury.”

“Eduardo and Bendtner will be back. But we still have Rosicky, Denilson and Walcott out,” said Wenger. “Jack (Wilshere) had a knock on his ankle and will be out unfortunately. It is a question of days but we made a trial with him on Sunday and we are resigned to the fact he will be just too short to play.”

While a number of Arsenal’s veteran first-teamers will sit out the Carling Cup match to allow younger players to see action, Philippe Senderos and Mikael Silvestre are included in the team. The two defenders will be joined by teenagers Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Fran Merida, Sanchez Watt and Francis Coquelin in a balanced squad, as Wenger looks to give the youngsters experience in a competition that the Gunners have found some success in during recent seasons.

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Alkmaar Earn Draw With Late Goal

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Arsenal were moments away from capturing all three points from its Champions League group match at AZ Alkmaar on Tuesday, only for the hosts to claim a last-second equalizer with a stoppage-time goal from David Mendes da Silva.

The single point earned from the 1-1 draw maintains the Gunners’ place atop Group H, with seven points from its first three games. But Olympiacos’ win over Standard Liege yesterday in the other group match — thanks to its own stoppage-time goal — has the Greek side just one point behind Arsenal, halfway through the competition’s opening stage.

So, what could have been a comfortable five-point margin for Arsenal in the group, with one foot firmly in the knockout rounds, has been reduced to a single point. This leaves some additional work for Arsene Wenger’s side before qualifying out of the group stage, but the Gunners do have two of the remaining three Champions League matches at home to help secure its spot in the next round.

While not dominating this latest midweek European encounter, Arsenal did seem in charge for most of the match in Alkmaar. The visitors had more of the chances in a quiet opening period, with Robin van Persie denied on two clear attempts on goal.

Arsenal did break through with a goal ten minutes before halftime. Andrey Arshavin collected a misplaced Alkmaar pass and fed the ball down the left channel to van Persie, who unselfishly centered for Cesc Fabregas to direct into the net.

Alkmaar looked a bit more dangerous in the second half, going close a number of times. And with the Gunners not playing up to the standards of its seven-match win streak, the outcome remained in the balance.

Arsenal substitute Carlos Vela looked to have given his team a penalty chance six minutes from time when he was taken down by Moussa Dembele. But referee Martin Hansson waved play on, giving Alkmaar hope for a last gasp opportunity on Vito Mannone’s goal.

And that chance came deep into injury time, from a free kick inside Alkmaar’s own half. Graziano Pelle nodded down the long kick for Mendes da Silva to volley home, leading to jubilant cheers from the home crowd as their team snatched a point at the death.

While Arsenal might seem content with a road draw in this competition, the result seemed more like a loss to defender Thomas Vermaelen. “We were in control, there were no big chances for AZ but in the last minute they scored. It feels like a defeat,” said Vermaelen in an interview on ITV.

“You know that in the last five minutes of a Champions League match, anything can happen,” said manager Wenger during his post-match interview (seen online at http://www.arsenal.com). “They have thrown everything forward and felt they could only score on a set piece, and that is what happened.

“It is frustrating because we looked closer to scoring a second than conceding, but credit to them, they did fight well and went until the last minute,” continued the Frenchman. “We are still in a strong position. We have three games left, two at home, and I believe to win one game will qualify us.

“What I want is for us to continue to play like we do, focus to play better,” added Wenger. “In football, you have to produce the maximum result with your game, and tonight that did not happen.”

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Walcott Injured In Premiership Win

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Arsenal defeated Birmingham City 3-1 at Emirates Stadium on Saturday to capture its seventh straight win in all competitions, but the Gunners have lost Theo Walcott to another spell on the sidelines after the young winger limped off the pitch during the first half of the Premiership victory.

Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby scored early goals to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead over Birmingham before twenty minutes had elapsed on Saturday. With the home crowd expecting another easy victory for their high-scoring Gunners, Birmingham pulled a goal back before halftime when Lee Bowyer directed one home from six yards out after reacting quickly to a failed clearance from Vito Mannone.

Arsenal lost some of its fluidity in attack after the break, but did have some chances on goal to extend the lead in the second half. And after some nervy moments late on for Arsene Wenger’s side, Andrey Arshavin settled things in minute 85 with a neat finish off a counter attack, slotting the ball past keeper Joe Hart for the final tally.

Manager Wenger was pleased with the 3-1 result, but did tell reporters in his post-match interview (seen on http://www.arsenal.com) that the recent international break may have affected some players’ performances. “We were cruising, in control, two goals up and it looked like we could get more,” said Wenger. “You were wondering who would score the third goal. But we made a mistake defensively and they got back to 2-1.

“In the second half we did not have the same fluency or control in the game, not the same pace, but in the end I still believe 3-1 is a fair result because we had plenty of chances,” continued the manager. “Birmingham regrouped very quickly when they lost the ball and we lacked a little bit of sharpness. I feel also we tried to force the situation a little bit individually, especially in the second half, and that’s why we didn’t score more goals.”

“When we stick to our game, when we focus to play our game, it looks like we can play the ball through any space and that we can create space just as we want,” added Wenger. “That is something fantastic but we have of course to be focused on that and keep our composure.”

Walcott, replaced by Arshavin just after the half hour mark on Saturday, was on the receiving end of a crunching tackle from Liam Ridgewell earlier in the match and looked to be having a problem with a knee.

News from the club after a doctor’s scan on the knee on Monday was not good, with Walcott set to be out of Arsenal’s lineup for longer than first expected.

“We thought it would be just 48 hours, but it is a medial knee ligament, which is what I feared after the game. He will be out for three to four weeks,” said Wenger in a press conference the day before the team’s Champions League match at AZ Alkmaar in Holland.

The Birmingham City match was Walcott’s first start of the season after missing a couple of months due to a back injury suffered in preseason. The 20-year-old has managed just 54 minutes of competitive action this term, coming off the bench a week ago to score a goal on his return against Blackburn.

Other injury news from Wenger revealed that Tomas Rosicky has been ruled out of Tuesday’s Champions League encounter. Also diagnosed with a knee problem, Rosicky is expected to be fit in a few days, according to a quote from Wenger in an article from Chris Harris on http://www.arsenal.com.

However, Gael Clichy has been passed fit for the Alkmaar match, after recovering from an ankle injury that left him out of the Birmingham game. Carlos Vela also makes the trip to Holland, after returning to London later than other Arsenal first-teamers out on international duty last week.

But Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo da Silva, Denilson and Johan Djourou remain on the sidelines, according the report from Harris, who added that Samir Nasri and Lukasz Fabianski will each begin their comebacks from long-term injury spells by playing in Tuesday’s reserve team match at Wolverhampton.

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Internationals Return To Arsenal

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The throng of Arsenal first-teamers who had headed out of London for World Cup qualifying play during the October international break have begun returning to the Emirates, as the Gunners’ fixture list resumes with a home Premiership match against Birmingham City on Saturday.

As of Thursday morning, there have been no new reports of any injury problems for players who took part in the international matches, though some may return with their pride or feelings hurt as some major soccer nations failed to qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo da Silva will each miss out on participating in the sport’s biggest competition, as both the Czech Republic and Croatia finished third in their UEFA groups, meaning they don’t even have a chance to earn a trip to South Africa through the region’s second-place playoff setup.

While Eduardo sat out both of Croatia’s matches during the break due to a slight thigh injury he suffered before leaving Arsenal, Rosicky did see action for his country. The Arsenal midfielder captained his side and assisted on a goal in the Czech Republic’s 2-0 win over Poland on Oct. 10. He also played over an hour in a 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland on Wednesday, leaving the Czechs to finish behind both Slovakia and Slovenia in their qualifying group.

While Wales had known its fate as non-qualifiers prior to this international break, young Gunner Aaron Ramsey scored his first senior international goal on a free kick in his country’s 2-0 win over Liechtenstein on Wednesday.

Other Arsenal players — and their nations — fared much better during the break. Defender Philippe Senderos (pictured above) headed home two goals for Switzerland in a 3-0 win over Luxembourg, before he and his teammates secured direct qualification for the World Cup (as winners of Europe’s Group Two) by drawing at home to Israel.

Cesc Fabregas also scored for his country in a 2-1 win over Armenia for Spain, which had already qualified for South Africa during last month’s break. Fabregas then left the Spanish side’s camp before its second match, due to family matters, before returning to London earlier this week.

Arsenal forward Carlos Vela was also on the scoresheet in international competition, scoring one of Mexico’s goals in a 4-1 win over El Salvador that secured El Tri a place in the World Cup. Vela also played the full 90 minutes in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Trinidad & Tobago, as Mexico concluded their campaign out of the CONCACAF region.

Nicklas Bendtner and Denmark have also qualified, after defeating Sweden at home last weekend. Though the Gunners forward didn’t score in that match or the loss to Hungary yesterday, Bendtner and his Danish teammates captured UEFA’s Group One and will play in their country’s fourth World Cup next summer.

Traditional power France along with Russia will have to earn World Cup qualification through UEFA’s playoffs among its groups’ second-place finishers, beginning next month. The Russians fell 1-0 to Germany in a battle of the top two sides from Group Four, meaning that Gunner Andrey Arshavin and his national teammates must emerge victorious in a two-leg playoff against an opponent yet to be named.

Such qualification encounters are always tricky, but it seems certain that the Russians will be seeded for the UEFA draw that will determine playoff matchups. France should also earn a playoff seed, after Les Bleus defeated Faroe Islands and Austria to finish second to Serbia in their group. Arsenal defender William Gallas scored in the win over Faroe Islands, then he and club teammate Bacary Sagna were dropped to the bench for the Austria game, which saw Arsenal’s Gael Clichy play the full match.

In Africa qualifying, Cameroon is a win away from securing a spot in the 2010 World Cup. The Gunners’ Alex Song played all of a 3-0 win over Togo last weekend, meaning that the midfielder would join fellow Arsenal members in South Africa next June if Cameroon wins its final group match at Morocco next month.

Theo Walcott may also make the trip to South Africa if selected for England, who qualified for the World Cup in September. The 20-year-old Arsenal forward didn’t make the senior side lineup for its final qualifying action this break, but he did feature for the U-21 team along with club teammates Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere.

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Fabregas Leads Arsenal In 6-2 Win

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Arsenal continued its winning ways with another scintillating, free-flowing performance in defeating Blackburn 6-2 on Sunday at Emirates Stadium.

Six different Gunners scored on a day when Arsenal twice came from behind to overtake Sam Allardyce’s side. But it was Cesc Fabregas who played the starring role, as the team’s captain assisted on four Arsenal goals while also hitting the back of the net once himself in a dominating performance.

Things didn’t start so well for Arsenal in this Premiership match, as Blackburn opened the scoring in the fourth minute. Steven Nzonzi headed the visitors in front off of a long free kick from just beyond the center circle.

Yet the home side didn’t panic and began creating chances straight away, with the equalizer coming just after the quarter hour. Thomas Vermaelen’s left-footed strike from more than twenty yards out was a goal more worthy of a forward than a central defender, but Arsenal fans are beginning to expect such efforts from the Belgian, who remains the club’s top scorer so far this season.

The Gunners continued to attack, with chances for Fabregas and Robin van Persie kept out by keeper Paul Robinson. And on a counter attack in the 31st minute, Blackburn took the lead again when David Dunn’s shot deflected off William Gallas and into Vito Mannone’s goal.

Arsenal only needed two minutes to level things again, as Fabregas slotted a perfect through ball into the left-side channel for van Persie, who fired past Robinson into the far corner for the equalizer.

A similar goal eight minutes before the break saw Fabregas feed Andrey Arshavin for a left-footed shot that beat the Blackburn keeper, giving Arsenal the 3-2 lead after an entertaining first half.

Dunn could have been awarded a penalty in the opening minutes of the second half, but luck turned against him this time after receiving the fortunate bounce for his goal earlier in the game.

And after Mannone saved a Martin Olsson volley, the Gunners began to again dominate possession and opportunities on goal. After van Persie almost scrambled one home from close range, Fabregas got his goal shortly after, lofting his own left-footed shot past Robinson to give the home side a two-goal cushion after 57 minutes.

Tomas Rosicky and Adou Diaby soon had chances to extend the lead but their attempts were denied by Robinson, who had a number of fine saves on the day. With Blackburn now having to make some forays forward, the Gunners had numerous chances to build on their league-leading goal tally.

Theo Walcott came on to replace Rosicky in the 70th minute, and the substitute who was seeing his first action of the season scored Arsenal’s fifth goal. In a match of brilliant goals, this might have been the best; coming off a counter attack that saw Arshavin center a pass for Fabregas, who laid off beautifully for the England winger to slot home with a first-time touch.

Playmakers Fabregas and Arshavin then came off, but Arsenal’s chances on goal did not. Walcott had a shot cleared off the line, before fellow sub Nicklas Bendtner scored his own belter of a goal, rocketing home a shot from distance after collecting the ball on the left wing.

So, six goals from six different players resulted in Arsenal’s sixth win in the team’s last six matches (in all competitions). And it all came in front of the club’s greatest-ever goalscorer, as former Gunner Thierry Henry was in the stands on Sunday.

“Thierry inspired today our goalscoring, because they wanted certainly to show Thierry they can score goals and they are good followers of him,” said Arsene Wenger in his post-match comments. “We are happy to have him with us. He would have scored today certainly.”

The mantle of team leader at the Emirates has moved from Henry to Fabregas, and the Spaniard’s play impressed his manager. “We know that in every game he creates chances,” stated Wenger in an interview featured on http://www.arsenal.com. “What is important for him – what he misses – is to score goals and today he scored as well so that’s a relief for him certainly.

“When we go forward as a whole team we always look like we could score and when you look he is always in the middle of it, at the start or at the end,” continued the Frenchman. “A team goes always naturally through its strong points, the way of the game. So it goes, therefore, through Fabregas.”

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