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Play Fantasy Arsene Wenger: Pick your first team to face Reading

With Mathieu Flamini joining Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo on the sidelines and Abou Diaby still suspended, we could see Arsene Wenger experimenting in midfield on Saturday and I for one wouldn't mind seeing either Denilson or even Kolo Toure filling in for the missing Flamster.

Hopefully Bacary Sagna will return to duty having shaken off his ankle knock and indulging in my end of season mentality, I'd like to see Alex Song getting some time on the pitch alongside William Gallas. With Euro 2008 around the corner, I'd also like to see Wenger allowing Jens Lehmann to get some match practice, so that he's sharp enough to retain the No. 1 jersey for his country.

The other night I watched the footage of Arsenal's 7-0 win over Slavia Prague and it was interesting to see the way that Theo Walcott linked so naturally with Nicklas Bendtner and I'm hoping we get the chance to see that again before the end of the season, although I can't see it happening this weekend.

However, this is all about who you'd choose to play against Reading, so feel free to be as experimental as you want when you share your thoughts about your starting 11.

Here's who my team would be:

Sagna Song Gallas Clichy
Walcott Fabregas Toure Hleb
Bendtner Van Persie

Subs. Almunia, Eboue, Gilberto, Denilson, Adebayor

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 17, 2008 12:15 PM in News| Players
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With nothing material to play for, is it time for Arsenal to blood young Guns?

A win against Reading on Saturday will guarantee Arsenal a Champions League qualification slot for next season, so with nothing else to prove this season, should Arsene Wenger take the opportunity of his remaining four league games to give some of his youth and reserve players a first team appearance?

Now I know there will be those among you who reckon we can still pip Chelsea to second place, but ignoring that for a moment, I wouldn't mind the chance to see one or two of our emerging stars given a cameo role during the run-in to the end of this campaign.

Certainly, players like Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas, Gael Clichy and Alexander Hleb could do with a break and with three of those players expected to feature in this summer's Euro 2008 tournament, Wenger may take the opportunity to rest them. That might not happen during our remaining home fixtures against Reading and Everton, but away to Derby and Sunderland, I don't see that we really need to risk our star performers.

But just who could we expect to see promoted to the first team squad if Le Gaffer agrees with me that this is an ideal chance to blood some of his young Guns? Well, here are five players we could potentially see in the first team squad before the end of the season...

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 17, 2008 10:59 AM in Debate of the Day| News| Players
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No silverware for Arsenal, but here's five results to look back on

It's been a disappointing season in terms of silverware, but when it comes to how most people thought Arsenal would cope this season, the club has outperformed all but Arsene Wenger's hopes for the campaign.

The team have played the kind of fantasy football that rival supporters can only wish their clubs can achieve, once again we've finished a country mile ahead of Tottenham and we've broken records along the way - notably the Arsenal record for unbeaten games in all competitions (28 between April and November 2007).

Next season will hopefully see Arsene Wenger's latest squad even stronger and sharper and able to bring some trophies to the Emirates Stadium, but in the meantime, I thought I'd remind you of five results to look back on with pride as the season winds up...

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 16, 2008 12:16 PM in News| Players
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Is Nicklas Bendtner a disruptive influence at Arsenal?

According to various reports, Arsene Wenger could be set for a summer clear out of surplus players, with veterans Jens Lehmann and Gilberto rumoured to be among those moving to pastures new, but there is growing speculation that young striker Nicklas Bendtner could also be put up for sale.

Bendtner undoubtedly has potential and by all accounts the 20-year-old's opinion of himself is that he is the best player at Arsenal Football Club. Arsene Wenger has spoken in the past about the Dane's confidence and the fact that he looks for a bit of arrogance in his signings, but it's patently obvious that his admiration for Bendtner is not shared by his players.

The above picture was taken in the aftermath of Bendtner's infamous spat with Emmanuel Adebayor during Arsenal's Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Tottenham back in January. The Togo hitman apparently head butted his younger team mate during the game and although the pair have played together since, there appears to be open hostility between Bendtner and his team mates.

The Great Dane did not participate in Arsenal's on-field huddles earlier this season, preferring instead to jog off the pitch at the final whistle while his team mates celebrated. And even more damning was the reaction to his equaliser against Liverpool in the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium 11 days ago...

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 16, 2008 10:00 AM in Debate of the Day| News| Players| Transfers
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Could Arsene Wenger be set to break Arsenal's transfer record?

It looks increasingly likely that Arsene Wenger could be about to break the habits of a lifetime by bringing in a recognisable name to Arsenal Football Club.

Le Gaffer has come in for some stinging criticism in the past few days for his refusal to strengthen his squad with experienced players during the January transfer window and while I'm as frustrated as the rest of you about the club's failure to win silverware this season, I still back Arsene's long-term plan to build the squad organically.

That said, I'm also sure he needs to bring in new faces in the summer and experienced players should be top of his list, as even he admits that a lack of maturity let down the Gunners at key moments this season.

And the good news for us Gooners is that he won't flinch from spending big if it means the right kind of player joining the club, even though some big money signings haven't worked out in the past.

"The money [we have paid out] is not comparable to what other teams have spent on players," says Wenger. "For example with [Jose Antonio] Reyes we got a big part back and for [Francis] Jeffers a little part back. If we have the money and I am convinced it is worth it, we will do it."

So let's help Arsene out. He's ruled out a move for Ronaldinho, but I'm sure you lot can come up with a few suggestions on who Arsenal should sign. Share your thoughts on your transfer target wish list here.

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 15, 2008 12:21 PM in News| Players| Transfers
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Do you agree with Lee Dixon that Arsenal need a new captain?

Former Arsenal full back Lee Dixon has heavily criticised incumbent club captain William Gallas and is calling for Arsene Wenger to promote someone else to skipper.

Dixon's opinions have been picked up by several national newspapers, as he goes as far as to say that Gallas should take responsibility for the club's sudden slide in form. Dixon also points to the game with Birmingham, where Eduardo suffered his horrific broken leg and Arsenal conceded a last minute penalty, as the moment that Gallas lost the respect of his team mates.

Referring to the Gunners' defeat at the hands of Manchester United on Sunday, Dixon said, "When the tide turns and it starts to get hard, you need a leader - and William Gallas is not what I call a leader. He can play well defensively but you need him to be at his best when the team is under pressure - and once again he wasn't.

"When it got back to 1-1, Arsenal were suddenly under the cosh and that's when you need your captain to stand up and be counted. But Gallas didn't speak to anybody. He just walked back to his position at set-pieces and didn't say a word. He is supposed to be the captain. He needs to help the team and especially the younger players. He should have been organising things but he didn't."

I don't think for a minute that Wenger will pay any attention to Dixon, unless of course he has plans to let Gallas leave the club, but Dixon does make some valid points about Gallas's leadership qualities...

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 15, 2008 10:53 AM in Debate of the Day| News| Players| Transfers
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Arsenal's season is over, so now is the time to start building for next year

The record books will show that Arsenal finished the 2007-08 season without a trophy, but anyone who has followed the twists and turns of this campaign would have to admit that the Gunners have still outperformed expectations.

Arsenal started the season without our talismanic skipper Thierry Henry, who after pledging he would remain at the club for the rest of his career, promptly upped sticks and moved to Barcelona, where he has struggled to settle.

The loss of Henry, according to most pundits, would mean the end of Champions League qualification for Arsene Wenger's team, as the Frenchman's first team squad was the youngest the Premier League had ever seen, while the choice of William Gallas as the new club captain had many people scratching their heads.

Cue the best start the club has ever had to a league campaign, with a young team playing scintillating football and setting the pace for the title race. After yesterday's defeat at Old Trafford, Wenger said he was proud of his players and despite the frustration of losing our way at the 11th hour, us Gooners should be proud of them too...

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 14, 2008 10:12 AM in Debate of the Day| News| Players| Transfers
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