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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do the Gunners already have a Fabregas replacement?

Although Arsenal fans would love to see Cesc Fabregas spend the rest of his career at the North London club, most Gooners are realistic enough to accept that he will soon be leaving to return to his boyhood team, Barcelona. Although this may appear to be a nightmarish situation that leaves Arsene Wenger deprived of the heartbeat of his team, Arsenal may in reality already have a tailor-made replacement primed and ready for action.

So far this season, young Jack Wilshere has clearly shown that his time on loan at Bolton has enabled him to develop tremendously as a player, with his cheeky back heel against Partizan Belgrade proving at his tender age that he is already capable of staying cool in the hottest of atmospheres, and on the evidence of his performances to date, Wenger will be able to stick to his policy of developing young talent and building the team around such players. The latest Champions League odds suggest they have a real shot at glory this season.

This approach would enable Wenger to put any cash raised through the sale of Fabregas towards the continuing development of youngsters at the club by continuing to improve Arsenal's scouting networks as well as ensuring that their training facilities are still top-notch and state of the art. If this happens they could look like Premier League best bets for some time to come.

Although Wilshere clearly needs more playing time at the top level and against the best players in club football, he is beginning to show that he is no longer just a young talent but instead a top man for his side, and perhaps for his country.

With Wilshire holding an English passport, Arsenal are finally able to show the widespread benefits of their aim to develop home grown talent rather than simply invest in foreign youngsters. However, with Wilshere only one of a number of youngsters currently being brought through at the club, Arsenal will also need to show that this new talent is capable of not just bringing joy to their manager but also to their fans by winning trophies.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gunners set sights on Chelsea

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna knows this weekend's clash with Chelsea is set to be a massive test of their Premier League title credentials, so he has called for his colleagues to step up at Stamford Bridge.

The Gunners currently trail the early leaders by six points and will be looking to bounce back from their embarrassing home defeat to West Brom at the Emirates last weekend.

Both Chelsea and Arsenal recovered from losses in the league to win their Champions League ties on Tuesday, but now the focus switches to Sunday's game and Sagna has stated the tests keep coming for Arsene Wenger's side. The Premier League odds certainly suggest they're in for a tough time.

Arsenal have not won a trophy for five years, and have not had their hands on the Premier League trophy for six, so this season is a crunch one for their French manager. He knows fans may start to get disconcerted if success does not seem on the horizon.

Sagna pointed out "the season is long" and it is no time to panic, even if Arsenal lose to Chelsea and slip back even further in the Premier League title battle.
"Now we need to stay focused and look forward to the next game, and we have to make something at Chelsea. We have to play our football," the Frenchman said.

"We know we have the quality to beat them. It will be an open game, but it will be about us, not them."

It remains to be seen if Manuel Almunia will be able to play against Chelsea, after he picked up an elbow injury in the West Brom game and missed the Champions League win over Partizan Belgrade in a result which was reflected in the football odds.

If the Spaniard fails to recover then Lukasz Fabianski will play in net. The Pole has been much derided for a host of gaffes but was praised by Wenger after the win in Serbia. However many Arsenal fans are still not convinced and will worry if he is likely to drop a clanger in a game that could in the end decide their Premier League title fate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nasri blossoms

Samir Nasri again showed his quality by scoring his fourth goal in two games. However, Nasri's brace was in vain as Arsenal suffered a rare home loss to West Bromwich Albion. Although the Frenchman's goals came too late for the Gunners as they lost 3-2, it was confirmation of what a exciting player Arsenal have on their hands.

Since signing from Marseilles two years ago, Nasri hasn't really found the form that gained him the tag of the next Zidane during his time in France. With Cesc Fabregas struggling with fitness at the beginning of the season, Nasri showed Wenger his ability in the middle of the park. With Fabregas returning to the first team, Nasri has proven he can play in the same midfield as his captain. The latest Premier League odds suggest Arsenal should bounce back from the defeat, and Nasri will be a big part of that.

One of the reasons Nasri has taken so long to settle in this Arsenal team could be a confidence issue. At Marseille, Nasri was a big fish in a smal pond, at the Emirates he's just another player, albeit it a skilful one. With the amount of midfield quality Arsene Wenger has at his disposal, Nasri previously found it hard to consistently stay in the first team. This season Wenger has seen the results when he perseveres with the 23-year-old.

Despite Wenger's public claims that Fabregas is committed to the Arsenal cause for the long term, it's highly likely that Arsenal's captain will be Barcelona bound come next summer. In Nasri, Wenger has a ready-made replacement.

Meanwhile, the Champions League betting prediction suggest Arsenal should pick up another three points this week.

They face Partizan Belgrade away, and although it will be a tough tie the Gunners will be confident of getting a win.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wenger calls for concentration

Arsene Wenger insists he is not getting carried away with Arsenal's current form, as he demands concentration as his side look to win their first Premier League title since 2004.

The French manager knows he must bring trophies to the Emirates soon, as it has been five years since they last won silverware and six since they last paraded the Premier League trophy in front of their fans.

They have had a strong start to the season, after drawing their opening league game against Liverpool they have gone on an unbeaten run in all competitions and scored ten goals in their last two games.

A 4-1 win over Bolton was followed by a 6-0 thrashing of Braga in the Champions League, but Wenger is not getting too confident about his side's chances of glory this season as he knows they could come unstuck at any time, even if the Champions League betting suggest they are in with a chance of success.

Over the last few season it has been Arsenal's inability to beat some of the so-called lesser teams that has seen them fall short in the Premier League title battle, so this weekend's trip to play Sunderland is vital if they want to keep up with leader s Chelsea.

Wenger said: "It is the start of the season and I think it is important that we take encouragement from what we are doing at the moment.

"We will keep our feet on the ground and a good concentration. We have another big test now at Sunderland on Saturday."

The Premier League betting suggests the side can win the title, but Arsenal are currently without some key players through injury and they need to ensure they do not lose ground in the title race as a result. Their attacking potential has to be hampered though by the fact both Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie are missing for at least the next month.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Has Arsene's stubbornness already sounded the death knell for Arsenal’s season?

Having started the season brightly, it may seem premature to suggest that Arsenal are already out of the title race, but some fans would certainly argue the side are trying to win the league with only ten players.

Although this is an obvious exaggeration, many Gooners will feel the decision not to sign a goalkeeper has effectively condemned Arsenal to yet another barren season at the Emirates.

Despite Manuel Almunia putting in a good performance in the recent tie at Blackburn, few would suggest the Spaniard can perform at the highest level consistently enough to wear the shirt that legends such as Bob Wilson and David Seaman once pulled on.

Although Arsenal will probably continue to their ruthlessness in front of goal, they will need to show a level of potency they have failed to achieve over the past few seasons if they are to be successful in overcoming the inadequacies of their goalkeeper. Anyone who places a bet on football games will be aware of Almunia's habit of dropping a costly clanger.

With Wenger having recently signed a contract extension at the club showing that Arsenal have full faith in his ability, it may be the case that Arsenal fans may not have the same level of patience that allows the Arsenal boss to continue to endure a distinct lack of success. I don't think anyone would make them their FA Cup betting prediction this season.

Should success fail to arrive at the Emirates, pundits may well pinpoint Wenger's stubborn refusal to accept his squad's limitations as the straw that broke the camel's back and caused Arsenal fans finally to reject the mantra that Wenger's early success generated: "In Arsene we trust".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Can Arsene finally get the cherry on top?

"Arsene Wenger's magic, he wears a magic hat, and when he saw the Champions League he said 'I fancy that,'" is a chant often heard coming from the fans at the Emirates on European nights. However, so far, the closest Wenger has come to winning the famous trophy with Arsenal was back in 2006 when his side finished as runners-up to the mighty Barcelona.

This season, Wenger's side has made a promising start to their domestic campaign, emerging from a tough trip away at Blackburn Rovers with all three points, and Wenger has suggested that his Arsenal players are now ready to make the step up into Europe's elite, even if the Champions League betting odds make them outsiders.

Of course, the side isn't without its problems. The squad still looks thin at the back, while captain Cesc Fabregas had his head turned by Barcelona this summer and main striker Robin van Persie is already injured. From the outside, it would seem Arsenal cannot claim they have a squad stronger than the one that received a footballing lesson from Barcelona last season.

However, with Wenger having shown himself capable of getting the best out of his squad, and with the young Arsenal players continuing to improve every year, Arsenal fans will still believe that their side is fully capable of overcoming the Champions League betting odds and triumphing in the competition.

With rivals Tottenham Hotspur taking part in the Champions League for the first time, Arsenal have additional motivation to get further than their North London rivals in the Champions League this season, and any failure to do so is likely to be greeted with anger by the Gunners fans.

However, supporters of Arsenal will take comfort from the fact the Carling Cup odds suggest Spurs are more likely to win that competition than taking Europe by storm.

And given the fact the two sides face each other in the next round of the League Cup, Arsene Wenger will have an excellent chance to dent Tottenham's trophy prospects.