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Old Trafford win will bring Arsenal the title, says Wenger

Arsene Wenger is relishing the prospect of going head-to-head with his oldest Premier League rival Alex Ferguson this weekend, with the Frenchman confident that a win against Manchester United could put Arsenal back on course to win the title.

Mathieu Flamini's ankle knock will see him replaced by Gilberto for the trip to Old Trafford, but there are no other new injuries for the trip north and Le Gaffer is confident that his team can bounce back after the midweek defeat in Liverpool.

"It's a cup tie," said Wenger of Sunday's game. "We have to show that first we can respond after a big disappointment and secondly that we are ready for another big fight.

"It is welcome to have a big game because that can help straight away to focus everybody."

Indeed, if the Gunners can win away to Manure, the gap between the teams will be just three points, with the Mancs still facing a trip to Chelsea and Arsene believes that a win for his team on Sunday will set them on the road to the Premier League crown.

Can Arsenal beat Man United this weekend and go on to win the league? Are Fergie's men too strong for Arsenal? Or do you think, no matter what, a win will be too little too late for the Gunners? Share your thoughts here.

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 11, 2008 12:00 PM in Debate of the Day| News| Players
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Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp applies for coaching badges

Among the things I have in common with Arsenal greats Charlie George and Patrick Vieira is that we all have opposable thumbs, we each have the club in our blood and we all agree that the best player ever to pull on an Arsenal top was Dennis Bergkamp.

The Iceman was a genius with a football and witnessing him play was a true privilege. The fact that he played for the Gunners made it all the more special, so I was delighted this week to read that Dennis has applied for his coaching badges.

The Dutch maestro still has an executive box at Emirates Stadium, so I'm hoping Arsenal might find a way to give him a role among the coaching staff at London Colney when he gets the proper certification. Surely having such a brilliant footballing mind among his staff would be a must for Arsene Wenger.

According to reports, however, Bergkamp is taking his Dutch coaching badges first, allowing him to work in De Eredivisie and speculation has it that he will join former international team mate Marco van Basten next season when he takes over at Ajax - the club where both men began their careers...

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 11, 2008 11:10 AM in News| Players
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Play Fantasy Arsene Wenger: Who would you pick to face Man United?

Arsenal's quest for silverware this season rests on 90 minutes of action at Old Trafford this weekend - or 96 or 97 minutes to allow the Mancs the chance of a last ditch goal, if the Gunners' luck so far this season is anything to go by.

Putting my sour grapes aside, I would be a liar if I was to suggest that the defeat at Anfield on Tuesday was good preparation for a trip to the league leaders this weekend. But although the Arsenal first team will be despondent at their exit from the Champions League, they are acutely aware that they need to lift themselves for the top of the table clash on Sunday and I'm confident they have the character to do so.

In saying that, Alex Ferguson's men are in scintillating form at the moment and are the favourites to lift both the Premier League and Champions League trophies this season. But with nothing else to play for, I expect Arsene Wenger to choose his strongest possible team this weekend to at least put pressure on the Mancs in the run in to the league title.

I'd be astonished if Theo Walcott isn't given a starting slot at Old Trafford, allowing Emmanuel Eboue to slot in at right back if Bacary Sagna is still injured. However, if Sagna is fit, Walcott may just get the nod to partner Emmanuel Adebayor up front, rather than wide left and I hope that such an attacking line-up will be what Le Gaffer opts for in Manchester. Assuming that Mathieu Flamini has not recovered from the ankle knock he picked up at Anfield, it would be great to see Abou Diaby given a starting role in his best position in central midfield.

As usual, share your thoughts on the starting line up here. My choice would be this:

Sagna Toure Gallas Clichy
Eboue Fabregas Diaby Hleb
Walcott Adebayor

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 10, 2008 3:13 PM in News| Players
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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.

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.

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:

Eboue Toure Gallas Clichy
Walcott Fabregas Gilberto Flamini
Hleb Adebayor

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

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 7, 2008 11:54 AM in Champions League| Debate of the Day| News| Players
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