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Is Mathieu Flamini already regretting leaving Arsenal?

Had it not been for his defection to Italy last week, I reckon Mathieu Flamini might have finished a tad higher in our Player of the Season poll and given the weekend results in Serie A, the Frenchman himself may now be wishing he had waited a few weeks before making a final decision on his career path.

Because if you haven't heard, the Flamster's new club, AC Milan, will not be playing Champions League football next season after they were pipped for fourth spot in the league by Fiorentina.

That means Milan will be playing UEFA Cup, rather than Champions League, football next season and that ignominy could prompt a number of transfer requests from Flamini's new colleagues.

Don't get me wrong, I wish Mathieu all the best for his future career - after all, we shouldn't complain when a player who cost us nothing, leaves for nothing. But when players say they want to stay at a club only to let money change their minds at the 11th hour, then my charitable demeanor evaporates when their luck turns a little bad.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on May 20, 2008 9:12 AM in Champions League| Transfers
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Will Arsenal's Champions League exit harm plans to strengthen squad?

Much is being written this week - including by myself - of Arsenal's need to bring in new faces this summer to strengthen the squad, but nobody has addressed the question of what impact the Gunners' Champions League exit has had when it comes to attracting new players.

Put simply, from a world class player's point of view, it might have been easier for Arsene Wenger to lure a Kaka or Ronaldinho or Robinho or Ricardo Quaresma or Karim Benzema (pictured) or whoever if he had been able to say they were joining the European Champions. That may or may not sway a soccer superstar, but when it comes to emerging talent, it would undoubtedly be a plus.

There are many criticising Le Gaffer for failing to bolster his first team personnel during the January transfer window and while I believe he was wrong not to bring in one or two experienced players, I'll also admit that had Arsenal triumphed against Liverpool on Tuesday - which they would have, but for dodgy penalty decisions - then I'd also be applauding Wenger for his courage in showing belief in his existing players.

If you want to accuse me of being fickle, go ahead. That's the nature of being a football fan - we support a club our entire life, whereas players and managers are transient. But I'm not about to buy into the ludicrous suggestions that Arsenal will now sack Arsene Wenger and bring in Jose Mourinho. Anyone who has any history with Arsenal Football Club knowns that Wenger has been a revelation and has the team playing some of the best football on the planet. The level of entertainment us Gooners are treated to is second to none.

In saying that, I'm as frustrated as anyone at our lack of silverware...


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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 10, 2008 2:06 PM in Champions League| Debate of the Day| Players| Transfers
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Arsenal bow out, but Theo Walcott comes of age

Our hopes of an extended Champions League campaign may have been dashed last night, but the one ray of hope to emerge from the game at Anfield was the growing stature of Theo Walcott.

With six minutes left on the clock, the 19-year-old picked up the ball on the edge of his own penalty area and showed his lightning quick pace to beat four international players en route to Liverpool's penalty area, before squaring a perfectly weighted ball for Emmanuel Adebayor to slot home.

What followed a minute later with the Swedish referee's gift of a penalty to Liverpool will be talked about for a long time, but the fact that Walcott nearly won us a semi final place should not be forgotten.

Particularly impressive was the way in which he looked up not once, but twice as he shrugged off Javier Mascherano's last ditch challenge to see where his team mates were and coolly pick out Adebayor.

I've not always been a fan of Walcott, but he's proving to be a big game player and I'd be astonished if he isn't given a starting place when the Gunners travel to Old Trafford this weekend.

And with the suggestion that he will be used as an out-and-out striker next season, I'm delighted to admit I was wrong about Theo. Who knows, he might just go on to become an Arsenal legend like his hero Thierry Henry.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 9, 2008 11:06 AM in Champions League| News| Players
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Arsene Wenger in confident mood before Liverpool show down

Arsene Wenger looked very relaxed and confident in his final press conference before tonight's Champions League second leg against Liverpool and seems convinced Arsenal will progress to the next round.

Le Gaffer seemed to enjoy his time with the media yesterday and laughed off suggestions by Rafa Benitez that he will use his team's inexperience as an excuse should Liverpool win the tie. "Yes my players have experience - they have played in a Champions League final - but I still cannot say that they are old," smiled Wenger. "In two or three years time they will still be young and they will have even more experience."

And Wenger believes that fans could witness a better game this evening, rather than the 1-1 draws on the previous two Liverpool encounters. "There will be more urgency in this game and less observations," said Le Boss. "I would like to score early goals - as many as possible - but if we need to be patient, we will be."

Making the point that only Manchester United have scored more goals that Arsenal so far this season, Arsene had a professorial put down for one journalist who pointed out that six of our last seven goals have come from free kicks. Wenger admitted that his side are going through a lean spell, but added that goals from free kicks have not been a strong point for his team until recently. "We can score plenty of goals," he warned.

Certainly, if the manager can instill some of the confidence he has in his players' ability into tonight's team, then Arsenal will be able to approach the game with the same belief that broke hearts in Milan in the last round. The difference tonight is that Arsenal know that they have beaten Liverpool at Anfield many times before and if the Gunners can play to anywhere near their best, then they'll definitely get the right result tonight.

What do you reckon? Will Arsenal triumph tonight? Or do you believe Liverpool have too much of an advantage? Share your thoughts on this evening's game here.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 8, 2008 12:22 PM in Champions League| News| Players
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Are an English goalkeeper and a Portuguese playmaker on Arsene Wenger's shopping list?

I haven't written about any transfer rumours here for a while, but the latest players to be linked with a move to Arsenal are interesting indeed.

With the end of the season fast approaching, Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma (pictured) is once again being touted about as a Premier League fan who wants to play in England.

Reports claim that Arsene Wenger may be able to land the talented 24-year-old for as little as £5 million because his current club FC Porto are involved in an alleged match fixing scandal that could lead to their relegation.

Personally I can't see why Quaresma would be available for as little as that given that both Liverpool and Athletico have reportedly had bids of more than £14 million rejected by Porto. Would Wenger be prepared to pay that much? I doubt it, especially with Carlos Vela joining us in the summer, presumably in that wide left position.

The other rumour involves a move for a goalkeeper...


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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 8, 2008 10:24 AM in Champions League| News| Players| Transfers
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With make or break game, is it time to throw caution to the wind?

Robin Van Persie's glass legs have once again sidelined the player as his recurrent thigh injury forced him off at half time during last Wednesday's Champions League clash with Liverpool. But with tomorrow night's game effectively make or break for Arsenal's season, I hope Arsene Wenger will at least put him on the bench.

Arsenal can have seven substitutes on the bench tomorrow and with nothing to lose and everything to gain, I really hope that RvP will make it into the squad. He was withdrawn last week as a precaution and was allowed to rest on Saturday, so even if he isn't 100% fit, having such a player on the subs bench would be a real bonus if the team still needs him with 20 minutes to go.

Unfortunately it looks as if Bacary Sagna will miss the Liverpool game, but Gael Clichy will return after being rested at the weekend and I reckon that Gilberto might retain his place after an excellent performance on Saturday.

Hopefully Alexander Hleb will have benefited from the rest he had at the weekend, as he only played the last 10 minutes of the league game. Mind you, some shooting practice for the Belarus captain wouldn't go amiss, as that's the only part of his game that is woefully sub standard.

Anyway, ahead of the squad's announcement, share your thoughts here on who you'd like to see line up against Liverpool tomorrow. Here's who I'd choose:

Almunia
Eboue Toure Gallas Clichy
Walcott Fabregas Gilberto Flamini
Hleb Adebayor

Subs: Lehmann, Senderos, Hoyte, Denilson, Diaby, Van Persie, Bendtner

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 7, 2008 11:54 AM in Champions League| Debate of the Day| News| Players
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It's up for grabs now: time for Arsenal to show their true character

Another draw at Emirates Stadium did neither Arsenal nor Liverpool any favours on Saturday, as both managers selected weakened sides for the Premier League clash.

Now Arsenal travel to Liverpool for tomorrow's Champions League showdown knowing that they have to score to progress and every Arsenal fan old enough to remember May 26th, 1989 will be hoping Arsene Wenger can drum that sense of achievement into today's squad.

If you are not aware of that fateful night, it was the final game of the season and Arsenal needed to beat Liverpool by two clear goals to win the league title. Arsenal had not won at Anfield in 15 years, but a goal early in the second half by Alan Smith gave the Gunners hope and in injury time Michael Thomas wrote himself into folklore when he slotted home the second.

Personally, I think he would do well with simply showing the players the movie Fever Pitch when they're travelling north for the game, thus giving them a bit of a giggle, as well as a sense of how much these results mean to us lowly fans - the people who pay their wages.

A victory tomorrow night (or even a 2-2 draw) would give the Gunners the momentum to go to Old Trafford on Sunday to remind Manchester United that they won't have it all their own way in the final sprint to the Premier League title. And it would also, of course, set up a Champions League semi-final with either Fenerbahce or, more likely, Chelsea, giving us Gooners another massive game to savour as the season draws to an end...


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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 7, 2008 10:58 AM in Champions League| News| Players
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