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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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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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Play Fantasy Arsene Wenger: Pick your team to face Liverpool

Arsenal and Liverpool line up at Emirates Stadium tomorrow for the middle of the three-part act that is vital to the Gunners bringing home some silverware this season.

Arsene Wenger knows that his team outplayed Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League clash on Wednesday, but their failure to convert all of that possession into goals is a concern and Le Gaffer will be be hoping for improvement tomorrow.

Personally, I think he'll go with a pretty much unchanged side, perhaps replacing the injured Robin Van Persie with the in-form Theo Walcott in the starting line up.

Share your thoughts here on who you'd pick to start tomorrow's game, but for the record, here's who my line-up would be:

Toure Gallas Senderos Clichy
Eboue Fabregas Flamini Hleb
Adebayor Walcott

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 4, 2008 10:25 AM in News| Players
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Poll: Who was Arsenal's Man Of The Match against Liverpool?

So the first of Arsenal's trio of games against Liverpool ended all square, but as with the draw in the first leg against AC Milan, the Gunners can take heart knowing that they were the better team on the pitch.

The visitors created very little, while Arsenal had 65% of the possession, but failed to convert that advantage into goals and must therefore travel to Merseyside next week knowing that they need to score to progress to the semi finals of the Champions League.

Before that they host Liverpool again on Saturday and a more steely and clinical approach in that game could still hand Arsene Wenger a psychological edge before Tuesday's away game, although we may have to do without Robin Van Persie who, once again, limped off and failed to finish the game.

The Dutchman was looking a bit sharper in the 45 minutes that he did play, while his replacement, Theo Walcott, also looked lively. Elsewhere last night, Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini controlled the midfield well, while Gael Clichy and Philippe Senderos shone in defence. And it was good to see Alexander Hleb actually running at a defence for once. He should have won the Gunners a penalty, but the referee was not in the mood for any big decisions last night.

Ahead of Saturday's game, share your thoughts here on who Arsenal's best player was last night.. Or simply vote for you Man Of The Match by selecting his name and clicking on Vote.

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 3, 2008 9:25 AM in Champions League| Match Report| Players| Poll
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Play Fantasy Arsene Wenger: Who would you choose to start against Liverpool?

Arsenal will have home advantage tomorrow night in the first of our triple header against Liverpool and it's vital that we make that advantage count as when we travel to Merseyside next week, it will be a tough place to get a result.

The character that the Gunners showed in coming back against Bolton at the weekend came just at the right time and my guess would be that Arsene Wenger will keep the faith in those players when it comes to taking on Rafa Benitez and his team tomorrow.

I'd fancy Emmanuel Adebayor to start ahead of Nicklas Bendtner, mind you, and I reckon Emmanuel Eboue will get the nod over Abou Diaby, with the prospect of Theo Walcott coming off the bench in the latter stages of the game to test the tiring Liverpool defence.

Whatever teams the managers pick, you can be sure there will be changes in the following encounters on Saturday and next Tuesday, but the starting line-ups tomorrow could prove vital for confidence across all three games, so I think both managers will go with their strongest possible teams.

Share your thoughts on the starting 11 here. My choice would be this:

Toure Gallas Senderos Clichy
Eboue Fabregas Flamini Hleb
Adebayor Van Persie

Posted by Gordon Masson on April 1, 2008 12:44 PM in Champions League| Debate of the Day| Players
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