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Arsenal Vs Barcelona : Report

The Goal That Changes Everything...

An epic clash was on the cards when two titans of European Football locked horns at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday 31st March.

It did not disappoint. Barcelona flew out of the traps with an onslaught of early efforts at Manuel Almunia’s goal. Somehow, Arsenal were keeping them out, and as Ibrahimovic blasted high over the bar from all of 8 yards, there were perhaps an air of “maybe it was meant to be our night”. For now though, Arsenal had to batten down the hatches, and weather the Barcelona storm that threatening continuously.

With the returning William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal were given a huge boost and the formidable partnership that has seen Arsenal re-enter the Premiership Title chase looked to be ineffective against the Spanish giants, as ‘Almunia pulled off a host of impressive saves to deny Xavi, Messi and co.

Andrey Arshavin limped off after 27 minutes, and was replaced by the ever improving Emmanuel Eboue. Arsenal were beginning to come out of their shell, and as such taking more of an attacking approach and looking like their normal selves. Nasri cut in from the left hand side, but his right-footed curler went the wrong side of the post, much to the dismay of the Gunner’s faithful.

Again, Nasri caused Barcelona havoc down the left flank, and his effort caused confusion between Sergio Busquets and Dani Alves to find Nicklas Bendtner free in the area, only to be denied by Valdes and then the post. The offside flag spared his blushes.

Minutes later, Arsenal were dealt another blow, as former captain William Gallas was stretchered off after suffering a recurrence of his injury.

For now Arsenal were playing with 10 men, and Fabregas fouled Busquets to earn a yellow card which will keep him out of the second leg at the Nou Camp.

After the restart,  Denilson replaced ‘Gallas as Arsenal were surely looking to capitalise on Barcelona’s inability to convert chances. It was a short lived plan as Puyol hoisted the ball forward, Ibrahimovic ran onto it and lifted it past the oncoming ‘Almunia. A stark contrast to the “total football” that normally generates their goals, but nonetheless, they deserved it. 0-1 Barcelona.

Nicklas Bendtner almost equalised 10 minutes later, but his header from Clichy’s cross was saved by Valdes.

Just as Arsenal seemed to be getting back into their stride Ibrahimovic finished emphatically to knock the wind out of Arsenal’s sails. 0-2 Barcelona.

Wenger used his last roll of the dice to allow Theo Walcott to enter the fray, replacing Sagna. It turned out to be a stroke of genius as the 21-year-old had an immediate impact, linking up with Nasri and Bendtner to slot cooly under Victor Valdes. 1-2 Barcelona. With less than quarter of an hour to go, Walcott’s opposite number, hero and Arsenal legend came on for the opposition. He received a fantastic reception but proved ineffective against his former side, as Arsenal weren’t finished yet.

Return Of A Legend

Carles Puyol clattered into Fabregas in the penalty area, and received a red card, ruling him out of the return leg.  Fabregas delivered from the spot to earn Arsenal a 2-2 draw, which the majority of pundits would not have envisaged after Ibrahimovic had doubled Barcelona’s lead.

Whilst returning to the Arsenal half after his penalty, Fabregas stopped and examined his leg, fearing that something was very wrong but he remained on the pitch for the final minutes, he awaits scan results to see the full extent of which is reported to be a suspected broken leg. The Arsenal fans are praying it is not the case.

Lewis Fowler

The Daily Cannon

(Images Courtesy of SkySports)

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Likely Line-Ups. Arsenal Vs Birmingham

Arsenal:

Almunia, Sagna, Campbell, Song, Clichy, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott, Bendtner

Birmingham:

Hart, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Gardner, Bowyer, Ferguson, Fahey, McFadden, Jerome

Lewis Fowler

The Daily Cannon

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Filed under Premier League 2009/2010

Birmingham City Vs Arsenal Preview

It could be argued that Birmingham City have been the surprise package of the Barclay’s Premier League this season. “The Blues” currently lie in 9th place, on the back of a run consisting of a draw against Everton and consecutive defeats against Sunderland and Blackburn in their last three Premier League matches.

In addition to this, they have enjoyed relative success against the remaining trio of the “big four” managing to take points away from clashes against each of these titans.

In the previous fixture at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal managed to grind out a 3-1 victory, but the return match is likely to be a much tougher ride for the Gunners. This said, Arsenal have scored 7 goals in their last three league fixtures and the fans will be hoping to add to this flourish of goals  in their bid for glory this season.

Birmingham will be without veteran Lee Carsley, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury and striker Garry O’Connor who is out with a groin injury.

Arsenal will have to cope without the impressive Thomas Vermaelen, with suggestions that Mikael Silvestre will partner Sol Campbell after Arsene Wenger confirmed he would not be resting players ahead of next Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, despite doubts over William Gallas’ return to action.

This confirmation highlights Wenger’s “one- game- at- a- time” approach because he is fully aware of the threat that Birmingham can pose to Arsenal’s title bid.

“They are well organised, play good football and have a very good physical dynamic.

There is no doubt that much of the attention on Eduardo Da Silva, should he play a part in the fixture as he returns to the scene of his horrific injury in 2008. Despite this, Wenger is confident that Eduardo and his team mates will not let this effect their game and that the squad will be prepared.

“They will try to make it difficult for us and we will need to fight, maybe until the last second of the game. The most important thing is that we prepare to fight until the last second.

Lewis Fowler

The Daily Cannon

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Filed under Premier League 2009/2010

‘Gallas Contract Talks Put On Hold

Contract Talks Paused

As the business end of the Premier League season fast approaches its climax, Arsenal are looking to hold on to one of their star assets in the form of William Gallas.

Arsene Wenger today announced that negotiations would be put on hold for the foreseeable future as Arsenal prepare for another important clash in their bid for their first taste of silverware at the Emirates Stadium.

“We will not deal with any contract because we have games every three days and we will focus on our targets.”

Despite the pause in proceedings, Wenger remains confident that Arsenal are in a strong position to hold on to the 32 year-old French international despite ‘Gallas being able to talk to other clubs. He also reassured fans that he wanted to keep the French star, who has made a formidable Centre-back partnership with the impressive Thomas Vermaelen.

“He knows we want to keep him and that we make an effort but it has to be, as it always has been historically, within our set budget.”

Arsenal are in for a tough week of fixtures, beginning with an away trip to Birmingham City and followed by the first leg of their Champions League Quarter Final with Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium. It is a certainty that Wenger will still be without the injured ‘Gallas. “He is back today from his rehabilitation and is back in full training I believe tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday,” explained Wenger, and was unsure as to his availability for the Premier League clash against Wolves.

Lewis Fowler

The Daily Cannon

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Arsenal vs Portsmouth Report

Eduardo's Freekick Helps Arsenal End The Year On a High

After being comprehensively beaten by a confident Arsenal performance it was not a good day at the office for Portsmouth after being handed a winding up order hours before kick off.

The Portsmouth players however had a huge task in hand. A resurgent Arsenal side were the visitors, and with boardroom enigma hanging over the club it was down to the players to try and restore some hope into the hearts of the Fratton Park faithful.

Kevin- Prince Boateng was so nearly the man to give the Pompey fans something to cheer about. Alexandre Song was caught in possession just outside his own half and Boateng galloped through the heart of Arsenal’s half, only for his pace to narrow the angle of his venomous shot. Nonetheless, it required a tidy save from Manuel Almunia just minutes into the match.

Moments later, it was Arsenal’s turn to attack.  Eduardo on the left hand side of the area cut the ball back to the in form Abou Diaby who forced a fantastic reflex save from Asmir Begovic from seven yards out.

Another Arsenal attack was mounting, and a rash challenge on Aaron Ramsey by stand in captain Aaron Mokoena lead to a free-kick in a promising position for Arsenal.

It would prove costly. Eduardo’s low strike was cruelly deflected off of Younes Kaboul’s leg, and managed to evade Hermann  Hreidarsson to the right of Portsmouth’s goal. Goal number three of the campaign for Eduardo.

Despite the overwhelming bad luck that Portsmouth were enduring, Nadir Belhadj came close to levelling the score-line seconds after conceding. Turning smartly midway through the Arsenal half, he ran at William Gallas, but dragged his shot wide, unable to recreate his magic against Liverpool.

Arsenal were patient with their possession. After some magnificent quick footwork from Nasri failed to develop into a serious threat, Eduardo began a new move with Song, who returned the ball to ‘Dudu’ inside the penalty area, the shot did not open up for the Croatian international but instead found Ramsey who squared the ball to Nasri who finished excellently into the bottom left corner. This was Nasri’s first goal in the Premier League since March.

Still the threat of Portsmouth would not be punctured. As the second half began, Boateng skipped past the challenge of Gallas and pulled the ball across the heart of Arsenal’s box to Belhadj who could not pull the trigger before Sagna’s sliding interception. The loose ball fell to Yebda, but his weak effort was never troubling the Arsenal ‘keeper.

In the absence of Captain Cesc Fabregas, Aaron Ramsey had a huge opportunity to stake his claim as a regular in Arsenal’s starting XI. He took it superbly. After Sagna’s poor cross was cleared to Yebda, the Welshman rounded a poor challenge from Frederic Piquionne before lashing the ball home with his left foot. Not a bad way to celebrate the clubs 50th goal of the campaign.

Surely this was game set and match? No. The pattern of the match repeated, only this time, Portsmouth were able to finish their chance. Neat link up play between former Arsenal striker Kanu, Belhadj and Van Den Borre saw the Algerian Belhadj finish past the hapless Almunia.

Arsenal, though, were still not done, and the three goal advantage was quickly restored. Once again, well thought out build up play broke down for Arsenal and Songs attempted trickery was cleared- unfortunately straight to Nasri. Song peeled off to the back post and finished brilliantly with his head.

This victory left Arsenal four points behind the leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand at home against Bolton on the 6th January. The Gunners look set to be without influential Captain Fabregas, but latest updates suggest the Spaniard will be back within two / three weeks. Additionally, Alexandre Song will have departed for the African Nations Cup. However, judging by this performance Aaron Ramsey is not afraid of filling either of their boots.

Lewis Fowler

The Daily Cannon

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Wenger Sweats On Fabregas Injury

Leading By Example

“We don’t know yet whether it is a recurrence of the pull (of his hamstring) or whether it is just scar tissue. We will know more about it tomorrow [Monday].

The Boss added “If it is scar tissue it is a few days, if it is a recurrence of the pulled hamstring it is three weeks.” Wenger and obviously Arsenal supporters will of course be praying that Cesc’s setback is the former period of time as Alexandre Song prepares to depart for the upcoming African Nations Cup.

Fabregas, 22 had sustained the second injury after slotting home Arsenal’s second goal in a 3-0 rout over potential top-4 gatecrashers Aston Villa.

Wenger had previously emphasised the importance of this fixture and added that his Captain had a bitter-sweet day at the Emirates Stadium.  “I believe he is happy we won the game but he is concerned about his hamstring.”

Check back for the Cannon’s Arsenal vs Portsmouth Report

The Daily Cannon

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Arsenal announce 18 man squad for Man City clash

Ahead of tonights League Cup tie at Eastlands, Arsene Wenger answered the eagerly anticipated question of “Will we stick with youth or change to experience?”

The squad is as follows:

Tomas Rosicky
Carlos Vela
Aaron Ramsey
Alex Song
Mikael Silvestre
Jack Wilshere
Lukasz Fabianski (GK)
Vito Mannone (GK)
Emmanuel Eboue
Armand Traore
Fran Merida
Kyle Bartley
Francis Coquelin
Craig Eastmond
Emmanuel Frimpong
Kerrea Gilbert
Mark Randall
Sanchez Watt

With the exceptions of Song, Rosicky, Silvestre and Eboue, the squad is on the whole youthful. With the strength in depth that Manchester City have on offer it is likely that experience will be on show for the home team.

One things is for sure, it will be a thrilling encounter with the attacking prowess that both sides possess. The question remains, however, who will come out on top?
Stay tuned for post match analysis

Lewis Fowler

The Daily Cannon

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