Robin van Persie gave Arsenal a triumph over Watford

Wenger's team completed back-to-back league wins for the first time since the autumn to hold to the third position in the Premiership, but for Watford it was another episode in a seemingly ever lengthening list of hard luck stories.

Indeed, only the most fervent of Arsenal fans would have denied the Hornets' claim on the point that would have lifted them off the bottom of the table after a display that combined their battling qualities with some speedy and attractive attacking play, particularly in the first part of the clash.

It's fair to say that the visitors had had their chances to wrap up the points before the decisive moment, but a combination of poor finishing and some excellent stops from Ben Foster looked like it would see Watford earn their deserved rewards.

Despite that effort, we must notice that substitute Theo Walcott fed Robin van Persie with a fine pass down the right and the striker pulled Jay DeMerit out of the middle before checking back inside the American and curling home an excellent finish reminiscent of another Dutchman from the Gunners.

We must say that it was tough on Aidy Boothroyd's men who had played their part in a thoroughly entertaining encounter - the tone for which was set by the end-to-end opening exchanges.

In fact, the excellent Hameur Bouazza warmed Jens Lehmann's palms with a low drive before DeMerit's timely intervention prevented Cesc Fabregas having a clear shooting chance in the penalty area.

And England goalkeeper Foster was called into action for the first time to keep out van Persie's angled effort following a thrusting Tomas Rosicky run into the left side of the penalty area.

Foster had to be alert again to thwart Fabregas from close distance but moments later the on loan Manchester United keeper could just stand and watch as van Persie dragged the shot wide of him and narrowly past the far post after more good play from Rosicky.

However, this game changed thanks to a decisive double intervention from Arsenal skipper Gilberto Silva.

With Ashley Young set to pull the trigger, he made a superb potential goalsaving tackle before, within a minute, appearing unmarked at the far post to head home his third goal in as many encounters after Kolo Toure had flicked on a Rosicky corner.

It's important to consider that Watford may have only had one previous top-flight win to their name but had proved time and again they are no soft touches and within four minutes were level.

The equaliser stemmed from a storming run down the left from Bouazza who left Toure trailing in his wake before his low cross deflected off Justin Hoyte towards the near post which Tommy Smith attacked and calmly steered a left-footed finish low to Lehmann's right.

In the end, Arsene Wenger expressed: "It was very hard. There was fantastic commitment from Watford and we needed to be patient and resilient.

"I claimed that we have improved (when playing against physical sides) and you could see that. In the air we were strong and in the second half we were not troubled physically at the back."

In fact, Wenger also likened match-winner Robin van Persie to Gunners legend Dennis Bergkamp.

Goals: Gilberto (19) 0-1; Smith (23) 1-1; Van Persie (83) 1-2.

Watford: Foster; Mariappa, DeMerit, Shittu (Priskin, 90), Stewart; Smith, Mahon, Bangura, McNamee (Henderson, 77); Bouazza (Francis, 69), Young. Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Doyley.

Arsenal: Lehmann; Hoyte, Touré, Djourou (Senderos, h-t), Clichy; Hleb (Walcott, 71), Gilberto, Fabregas, Rosicky (Baptista, 79); Van Persie, Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Flamini.


Chelsea fought hard to tie with Arsenal

Chelsea FC dropped two points at home Sunday, needing an 84th-minute equalizer from Michael Essien to just get a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League.

Mathieu Flamini put the Gunners ahead in the 78th, scoring after receiving a pass from Alexander Hleb. Essien then leveled with an incredible long-range shot that went in off the inside of the post at Stamford Bridge Stadium.

"I think the goal was tremendous, unbelievable,"Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted.

It's fair to say that Essien and Frank Lampard nearly gave Chelsea the win in injury time. Essien hit the crossbar from right in front of goal, and Lampard then hit the post.

Actually, this draw gives Manchester United an eight-point lead at the top of the standings, but with one more game played than Chelsea. Man United has 44 points, followed by Chelsea with 36. Arsenal only reach 26 points.

We msut mention that Mourinho was confident that his team would cut the gap to five after Wednesday's match against Newcastle, and he warned Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson not to celebrate his side's lead too much.

"I'm convinced that he must be happy now because we can say we dropped two points, but if he thinks it's over, he is in trouble,"Mourinho said. "Chelsea are ready. We were losing at home with five minutes to go but we had an incredible reaction and should have won the match.


Arsenal to face Porto without Henry

In a really important game, Porto and Arsenal can guarantee a place in the Champions League knockout stage with a draw. The Group G match will take place at the Dragao Stadium.

But it's important to consider that a victory for one of them could eliminate the other if CSKA Moscow beat Hamburg SV, who have lost all five games, in the other match in the group.

In fact, if Porto draw with Arsenal and CSKA win, all three teams will have 11 points and the Russians will be eliminated by virtue of a worst goal difference in games among the three.

The Gunners will be without their talismanic striker and captain Thierry Henry. The Frenchman, suspended after picking up his third yellow card of the tournament against Hamburg two weeks ago, would not have played anyway as he is nursing a neck injury which has led to sciatic nerve problems which are likely to sideline him for at least 30 days.

Arsenal will also be without midfielder Tomas Rosicky after the Czech midfielder was injured in Saturday's 3-0 win over arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, which boosted morale in the squad after two successive away defeats in the Premier League.

With Wenger's side also playing Chelsea next Sunday, manager Arsene Wenger has described this as the most important week of their season and Brazilian midfielder Gilberto, who scored two penalties against Spurs, says the squad are ready to respond.

"We know that this week is decisive for our future in the Premier League and the Champions League. We did our job against Spurs, but need to continue with Wednesday's very difficult game against Porto. We must come back with a result."

We must remember that Arsenal beat Porto 2-0 in London in September and would become the first English side to beat the 2004 European champions away if they win.


Anelka's goals beat Arsenal

The Gunners faced this game with high expectations, but Nicolas Anelka surprised everybody with two goals against his former side. In the end, Bolton Wanderers beat Arsenal 3-1 on Saturday to move up to third in the English Premier Laegue.

The French striker's goals and the opening goal from Abdoulaye Faye was too much for Arsenal, for which Gilberto Silva's strike in the end proved to be a mere consolation.

We must keep in mind that Arsenal was without the injured Thierry Henry. Faye put the home side ahead on nine minutes and Anelka opened his account on the stroke of half-time, smashing the ball into the net from around 25 yards.

Brazilian midfielder Gilberto gave Arsene Wenger's side hope within seconds of Anelka's goal as he pulled one back with a header. But though the Londoners hit the woodwork three times in the second half, it was the home side who scored again as Anelka outpaced the defence to net the third 14 minutes from time.


Arsenal will face Newcastle without two players

Wenger team will be without vital midfielders Gilberto and Freddie Ljungberg for tomorrow’s Barclays Premiership clash with Newcastle United.

As we said in a previous article, the 30-year-old Gilberto returned to Brazil to deal with a family matter, and is not expected back until Sunday.

“I had him on the phone last night, and he is there for sickness reasons,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted.

“In fact, the situation looks quite good now, and hopefully he will be in on Monday morning, so we will see him for the Champions League clash.”

Ljungberg will also be rested again tomorrow after several weeks out with a calf injury.

“I nearly wanted to pick him, but it is down to the fact that for five weeks he has not played one minute at a competitive level,” Wenger expressed.

Brazilian striker Julio Baptista, however, is available, along with goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who has recovered from the heavy cold which saw him miss the win over Liverpool and Germany’s midweek Euro 2008 qualifier in Cyprus.

What's more, midfielder Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) is still a week or so away from fitness, while Abou Diaby (ankle) and Lauren (knee) are long-term absentees.

This will be the team to face Newcastle: Lehmann, Hoyte, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas, Hleb, Henry, van Persie, Baptista, Almunia, Djourou, Senderos, Eboue, Song, Flamini, Walcott, Aliadiere, Adebayor.

Gilberto to miss game against Newcastle

Arsenal’s Brazilian midfielder Gilberto is likely to be missing from their home derby against relegation – strugglers Newcastle United on Saturday in the Premiership.

In fact, Gilberto, the thirty year old Brazilian, has had to return home to attend to a family matter that appeared to have been a matter of some urgency.

ACcording to close sources, it is not clear what the problem back in Brazil appears to be, but it is unlikely that he will have returned in time for the game at The Emirates Stadium.

We must consider that Gilberto also pulled out of Brazil’s international friendly against Switzerland during the week. The game was won 2 – 1 by Brazil.


Arsenal got a 0-0 draw with CSKA

Arsenal got an amazing 0-0 draw with CSKA Moscow. And it is amazing because they had 24 attempts on goal at the Emirates Stadium, but failed to find a way past Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev, and are now under threat of not qualifying for the next round of the Champions League.

Arsenal team is still a point behind the unbeaten Russians, and Porto have now drawn level with Arsenal on seven points after their 3-1 triumph in Hamburg on the same night.

However, Wenger was adamant that his side had played superbly, only to lack the killer touch that would have brought the all-important win.

"It was the best Champions League match we've played since I've been here," said Wenger afterwards.

"Of course it is frustrating with the result. The normal score in this game is 7-0. Or maybe 7-1 because they had a chance as well. But I feel that there's a lot of positives for my team.

"In fact, I don't think tonight we are guilty of wanting to score the perfect goal. We created clear-cut chances and we didn't take them - it happens in the game.

It's important to notice that Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky both missed open goals in the first half of Wednesday night's game, while Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie also missed several gilt edged chances apiece as Arsenal could just not find the vital breakthrough.

And they almost fell for the sucker punch when Vagner Love broke clear for CSKA in the second half, only for goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to deny the Brazilian striker with a fine double save.

Arsenal's next match is another home clash, this time with group whipping boys Hamburg on November 21.

Because of the situation, even a victory will not gaurantee them progress ahead of the final game at Porto on December 6 where, in all likelihood, Wenger's side will need to secure at least a draw to qualify.

"The group is really close," admitted Wenger. "And that decision in Moscow to cancel our good goal (Henry's strike disallowed for handball) looks costly at the moment.

"However, I think we are strong enough to deal with that. The team is at a crucial moment, because this team can really explode and be sensational if we deal well with what we are facing, because there is so much potential in the squad."


Wenger angry with the "negative football"

Arsenal boss man Arsene Wenger is fed up of the negative tactics rivals are using against his team.

Indeed, their last Premiership game saw them working hard for a 1-1 draw against Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday after falling behind to an early Tim Cahill goal.

Dutch striker Robin van Persie's 71st-minute free-kick rescued a point for Arsenal, but Wenger felt Everton's approach ruined the clash as a spectacle.

The Frenchman claims: "Every game we don't win is a massive disappointment.

"I have to say that it was very frustrating against a team with zero shots on or off target and when you have 70 per cent of the ball.

"We all saw that from the first minute to the last the goalkeeper was placing goal-kicks from the left and then moving them to the right.

"They were standing in front of the ball at free-kicks. It was negative but that's the way the match is going at the moment.

"It's like a film you have seen ten times. It is becoming really boring.

However, the coach said a final phrase that suggest many things: "In fact, I have nothing against negative football if it is played with the right spirit."


Ljungberg will be out for another month

It is sad to know that Arsenal squad could be without the talented Freddie Ljungberg for around another month because of his calf injury. Emmanuel Eboue and Julio Baptista also remain unavailable for Sunday's Premiership clash at Reading, but otherwise there are no new injury concerns following the midweek Champions League loss in Moscow.

In fact, coach Arsene Wenger admitted: "Freddie had a setback, and will be out for two or three more weeks."

In another information, defender Philippe Senderos and midfielder Mathieu Flamini return to the squad after working on their fitness with the reserves and left-back Gael Clichy is in contention for a start. However, Lauren (knee) and Abou Diaby (ankle) are some way from a return.

This will be Arsenal's list for the match against Reading: Lehmann, Almunia, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Toure, Senderos, Hoyte, Hleb, Fabregas, Gilberto, Rosicky, Flamini, Song, van Persie, Walcott, Henry, Adebayor.


Baptista is confident about making a great season with Arsenal

The new striker at Arsenal, Julio Baptista, has claimed he will be "a big addition" to the Gunners' squad and is confident the team can repeat last season's achievement of reaching the Champions League final.

The powerful striker, who has joined the Gunners on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, is likely to be given a frostier reception at White Hart Lane than he was at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. There he came off the bench to play the last 18 minutes of Brazil's 3-0 win over Argentina and got a huge reception from the home support.

"I was really happy to be so welcomed in my home ground," he said. "I hope to get as big a welcome in the league. I am very confident I can be a big addition for the squad. It's a traditional club which is very well known. They reached the Champions League final last season and I hope this year we can continue and reach the Champions League final again."

In bringing Baptista to the institution, coach Arsène Wenger has secured a player he has long coveted and was close to signing last summer. "I am very humbled that Arsène Wenger is so interested in me. I would be very happy to stay here," Baptista said.

Brazil coach Dunga has backed the versatile player to make a big impact in the Premiership. "Technically, he brings the quality of a Brazilian footballer but he also brings his personality: he is very strong, very strong-willed. He is a winner," Dunga said. "He can defend, he can attack and he can score goals and this is really important."


Arsenal is after Carlos Tevez

According to the British media, Arsenal are ready to table a £17 million bid for Corinthians star Carlos Tevez.

Arsenal hope to invoke a get-out clause in midfielder Tevez's deal with his Brazilian team Corinthians. They originally claimed his contract said he could quit for $ 30m - but Tevez's agent revealed it actually says 30 million dollars.

We must remember that Tevez is lined up to play for Argentina in a friendly against Brazil at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

According to the newspaper, the ideal plan is to unveil Tevez as a Gunners player before kick-off.

We must mention that Manchester United had been leading the race for Tevez, who made a huge impact at Germany 2006.

However, they could only move if they failed to lure Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich.

In fact, United cannot afford both and boss Alex Ferguson has kept England midfielder Hargreaves top of his summer shopping list.


Important win to reach the Champions League

In a very emotional game, Arsenal edged Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 on Wednesday to assure their participation in the Champions League group stages.

In fact, the visitors went ahead when Eduardo reduced Dinamo's deficit to 3-1 when he fired in in the 12th minute after Kolo Toure's attempted clearance fell into his path.

Midfielder Robin van Persie almost ended Dinamo's feint hopes only to see a shot steered on to the woodwork and to safety.

However, swedish player Freddie Ljungberg's late header and Mathieu Flamini's tap-in saw Arsenal to triumph and a place in Thursday's draw.

There was an air of co-ordinated adventure about Dinamo's play early on as they looked to engineer an unlikely comeback in the second leg of the third round qualifier.

Eduardo thrust in from the left and played the ball wide to Etto before continuing his run into the Arsenal box.

Etto slipped the ball back to his fellow Brazilian and, after Toure could only steer his clearance into the run of Eduardo, the Dinamo frontman pounced to slot in an angled shot.

The Gunners heeded the warning and exerted some pressure to go along with their superior possession and they were only denied by the frame of the goal.

Ljungberg had an excellent chance after Adebayor's knockdown but placed his effort too close to the legs of grateful keeper Turina.

Still, Dinamo remained a threat and Luca Modric went close with a shot across goal and a deflected Etto strike just before half-time.

Arsenal forward Emanuel Adebayor should have put the home side beyond reach after 53 minutes but blazed high from 12 yards.

The match started to open up as the Croatian side became stretched in their attempts to score again and send a ripple of anxiety around the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger's team could not take advantage of the extra space in attack and the manager introduced star striker Thierry Henry.

In fact, Henry's arrival gave his side more of a threat up front and Ljungberg headed in a Van Persie cross in the 77th minute to mark his first game as captain with a goal.

And in the injury time, Theo Walcott then set up his second goal in as many games as he crossed for Flamini to give the Gunners a win in their first European encounter at their new stadium.


Wenger talks about Gallas interest

The Gunners' manager, Arsene Wenger, thinks William Gallas would fit right in at Arsenal - and accepts his squad will seem "a bit light" should Ashley Cole leave and nobody replace the England player when the transfer window shuts.

As we know, the future of Ashley Cole remains uncertain despite his clear desire to leave and Wenger's willingness to let the 25-year-old go.

In fact, conversations between Arsenal and Chelsea have seemingly hit an impasse over the size of the transfer fee.

And while Wenger remains confident of strengthening his squad ahead of the end of the month, he would allow Cole to leave even if he were unable to bring in a replacement.

But with a firm offer put into the Premiership champions for versatile French defender Gallas, 29, the possibility remains it could just yet turn into a busy few days of negotiations between the two London rivals.

Wenger admitted that he likes his football: "I like the fact he (Gallas) is a good defender. He can play right-back, left-back, centre-back. And we want the player because we made an offer for him. That is clear. But we have not spoken to the player yet.

"You need to agree personal terms. We have a salary cap here and he comes from a club with no salary cap. I do not know if it is possible to agree personal terms and agree with Chelsea."

"If he comes here, frankly, he will have to come for less money."

"Sure we can make one exception (Thierry Henry) - but we cannot make five or six."

Wenger would not be drawn into whether he would be open to any swap deal involving the pair - and insisted: "William Gallas is not the only player we have a chance of getting.

"There is always a lot happening in the last few days - but he is a player we have a chance to get.

"I think he wants to leave Chelsea, Ashley Cole wants to leave us."

Wenger accepts the situation is far from ideal as he prepares for what is set to be another hectic domestic and European campaign, with the second leg of Arsenal's Champions League qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb tomorrow night.

He expressed: "It does not affect me because I am used to that, but I feel at some stage, you want to sort things out so your team focuses completely on what you want to achieve."

Wenger reflected: "If Cole was completely focused, and ready to go with us or if someone else with experience comes in, I feel we are strong enough and experienced enough."

He added: "We lost a lot of experienced players over the summer. The weight on the experienced players like Henry, Gilberto and Lehmann is stronger this year.

"So, they have a little bit more to carry. Last year, it was a bit more shared because when somebody had a little doubt they could speak with Pires or Bergkamp or with Campbell.

"In the end, we had a bit more weight in the dressing room. And of course, the responsibility of our experienced players is bigger than ever."

Arsenal only got a 1-1 draw in Premier League opener

It was not a good game for the Gunners. A late equaliser by Gilberto gave Arsenal a 1-1 draw with a surprising Aston Villa in the first ever game at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Olof Mellberg gave Villa the lead on 53 minutes, but incessant pressure and a first-team debut by Theo Walcott saw Gilberto level with four minutes remaining.

Since it was not a good result, Wenger blamed it on a lack of sharpness at the start of a new season, saying "the players were not completely ready physically, added to the fact that many of them played 90 minutes in midweek."

In fact, Arsenal kept the ball and created chances, but there was always a Villa player ready and willing to block anything Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and the impressive Emanuel Eboue threw at them.

When Thomas Sorensen was called into action early on he was similarly effective, saving well at the near post from Eboue - acting like a winger for much of the game - while a well-positioned J'Lloyd Samuel turned the ball off the line when Emanuel Adebayor had done everything right with his downward header into the bottom corner.

Villa had to be content hitting Arsenal on the break, which was threat enough with the pace and directness of Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor supporting from the flanks.

It's important to say that Arsenal made all the chances though, slick one-touch play unfortunately unmatched by anything approaching top-class finishing. Adebayor only impressive in fits and starts with Henry drifting wide and deep for much of the encounter.

It actually took Villa's opener to spark Arsenal into life, Mellberg rising above Jens Lehmann to head home a corner on 53 minutes, one of their few clear-cut opportunities in this game.

Arsenal became truly threatening after the introduction of Theo Walcott for his first-team debut, the expected debut for the last 20 minutes and tearing holes into Aaron Hughes with his pace and touch.

His presence also allowed French star Henry to move inside, the usual support in width absent on account of Juan Antonio Reyes protracted on-off move to Real Madrid.

It's fair to mention that Walcott had a key role in the equaliser, turning Hughes inside and out before chipping a delicate cross to Robin van Persie, whose glancing header fell to Gilberto, the Brazilian lashing a half-volley into the roof of the net on 84 minutes.

Even though they kept on attacking, The Gunners were unable to find another goal and start the 2006/7 season and life at their new stadium without a victory.


Arsenal win in friendly match

Arsenal is preparing for their Champions League qualifying match against Dinamo Zagreb next week and defeated AZ Alkmaar with a 3-0 win on Friday.

The goals came from Gilberto, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie saw Arsene Wenger's team complete their pre-season in style.

This match officially opened AZ's new DSB Stadion.

It's important to know that neither Thierry Henry nor Jens Lehmann lined up for the Gunners on Friday.

And both players will be absent again next week through a lack of match fitness and suspension respectively.

However, Arsene Wenger's side made light of their absence as, having threatened for much of the first half, they took a deserved lead in the 35th minute.

Midfielder Jose Antonio Reyes was the provider, with a looping free-kick to the far post.

Later, Gilberto's downward header found its way over the line underneath keeper Joseph Didulica.

Just over five minutes into the second half, the Gunners doubled their lead.

Khalid Sinouh, on as a half-time substitute for AZ, could do no better than parry Gilberto's scuffed shot into the path of Emmanuel Adebayor.

And the Togolese forward slotted the ball into the unguarded net.

Three minutes later, Arsenal's Dutch winger Robin Van Persie came agonisingly close to making it 3-0 when his powerfully struck shot ricocheted off both posts, but failed to cross the line.

The third would indeed come for the Gunners, however, as with less than 20 minutes remaining, the hapless Sinouh was penalised for bringing down Van Persie in the area - though it must be said that the Dutch player made the most of any contact.

In fact, Van Persie stepped up himself, and coolly despatched the spot-kick to score the 3-0.


Reyes wants to go to Madrid

Arsenal talented player Jose Antonio Reyes said he is continuing to dream of a move to Real Madrid. However, compatriot Cesc Fabregas is set to be awarded a bumper pay day for his decision to stay with the Gunners.

Real Madrid were said to be interested in both of the Spanish starlets and Reyes, who has failed to adjust to life in England, has made no secret of his interest in the move.

However, young footballer Fabregas has settled in London and was impressive in the centre of the Gunners midfield throughout last season.

It's important to say that while his contract currently extends to 2011 it is believed his loyalty could be rewarded with a sizeable wage increase.

In fact, winger Reyes has urged Real to move to sign him before the Premiership club kick off their Champions League campaign next week.

In a report on a Spanish website, 22-year-old Spanish international Reyes made it clear he was desperate to make the switch.

Reyes noticed: "I don't know anything but the days are going by and I am not going to deny I am a little worried by those rumours.

"I know I am wanted here at Arsenal and that the fans are behind me but I am not adapting to this life.

"I am missing Spain and I have a unique opportunity to come back with Real Madrid. Everyone must understand I can't let this chance pass by. Madrid are unique."


New Stadium says good bye to Bergkamp

One of Arsenal most popular players, Denis Bergkamp, bade farewell to Arsenal, Ajax and football on Saturday (22/07), when he played his last matche for the Gunners against the club that first made him at Arsenal's new 712-million dollars Emirates Stadium.

In a very touching moment, Bergkamp's testimonial against Dutch giants Ajax attracted a crowd of 54,000, thanking him for 11 years of service to the London team.

In fact, football stars of past and present also turned out to honour the 37 year-old striker, who made 423 appearances and scored 120 goals for Arsenal, and 122 goals in 239 appearances for Ajax.

It's important to say that Arsenal's Emirates stadium in Ashburton Grove finally opened its doors to the paying public on Saturday, two streets away from Highbury - their home of 93 years - and seven years and investment worth US dollars 712-million since the club decided to construct a bigger field.

And there was no better way to begin a new era at the club than to say goodbye to an old one then, as Denis Bergkamp, after 11 years of service to the London club, was granted a testimonial.

Arsenal took to the field against the squad of Bergkamp's youth, Ajax of Amsterdam, and the 37 year-old forward was determined to get on the scoresheet.

We can say that the closest he came in a first half that saw much of the new blood from both clubs though, was as a result of a pass from former Arsenal player Ray Parlour and an attempted chip sailed narrowly over the crossbar.

It was like Bergkamp was destined not to score the first goal at Arsenal's new stadium.

What's more, Ajax went against the script after Bergkamp went off for a breather and a pinpoint cross from Edgar Manucharyan was converted by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with a deft flick in the 40th minute.

The goal did little to dampen the carnival atmosphere though, and after former Arsenal favourites Ian Wright and Patrick Vieira had shared a joke on the touchline, the second half began with both sides fielding a 'Legends XI'.

Thierry Henry has the rare distinction of being a legend while still at the height of his powers and it took the French international just nine minutes to score his first goal at his new home.

And then right back Lee Dixon, another favourite at the old Highbury ground, provided the cross.

Ajax were determined to make a game of it though and Edgar Davids in particular was intent on making his mark.

The former Dutch player broke free and jinked past David Seaman in the Arsenal goal, but Gilles Grimandi was equally intent on stopping him.

According to experts, Grimandi's challenge would have earned him a red card under any other circumstances, but only a penalty was awarded.

His only excuse was that Davids had spent last season at Arsenal's arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

And another Dutch legend, Ronald de Boer stepped up but spooned the spot kick over the bar.

Wright came on for Arsenal to cheer the crowd even more, and a reverential hush fell over the ground when first Johann Cruyff entered the fray, recently voted the best European player of all time and the coach who gave Bergkamp his first chance at Ajax.

Then the current Dutch national coach, Marco van Basten, the player Bergkamp replaced at Ajax, showed a glimpse of his sublime talent - Austrian international Alex Manninger making a fine save.

Then with the clock running down, Nigerian striker Kanu tried his luck from distance, the ball deflected off Jaap Stam and beat Stanley Menzo at his near post to make it 2-0 in the 'legends' match, but even the best efforts of Henry couldn't set up Bergkamp for the coup de grace.

Menzo stood his ground and made a fine save and soon after it was all over.

And then it was over. Bergkamp's final game had gone in Arsenal's favour in the end and emotional day could draw to a close.

There's no doubt that Dennis Bergkamp is now a legend, in the Netherlands as in England.


Arsenal is not after Juventus' players

English club Arsenal announced on Tuesday that they will not try to go sign the players leaving scandal-hit Juventus.

As we know, Juventus were relegated to Serie B, stripped of their two last two league titles and banned from the Champions League for their part in the Serie A game-fixing scandal.

Some star players such as Italy's World Cup winning defender Fabio Cannavaro and French midfielder Patrick Vieira have been linked with some other important European teams like Valencia, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.

However, the Gunners' coach Arsene Wenger told the club's website that they would not be tempted to spend big on the footballers.

"We know this situation is disturbing the market because you have a flow of players coming out," Wenger explained.

"But we must not forget that the players of Juventus are very well paid and not many teams in the world can afford to pay these kinds of wages. And we can not afford to do it. That is why we are not disturbed by the Juventus incidents."


Cygan stays at Arsenal

Arsenal player Pascal Cygan has said that he will not leave the club to go to a team with "inferior conditions", stating that he still has one year left on his deal.

It was thought that Cygan would leave Arsenal in search of regular first squad action but the former Lille defender has said that he is happy to see out his contract at Arsenal.

As we know, Cygan expressed: "I still have one year remaining on my Arsenal contract. I am not in the streets. I know about interest from an English club or French outfits, but I will not leave for inferior conditions."


Wenger denies negotiations with Real Madrid

Despite all the rumours from Spain, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has not held talks with Real Madrid.

As we knmow from newspapers, presidential candidate Juan Miguel Villar Mir claimed to have discussed with the Frenchman the possibility of taking over at the Bernabeu, yet the Gunners boss insists this is not true.

"I do not know if someone has spoken with the club, but with me nothing has been agreed." Wenger assured to Spanish daily AS. "It is simply not true."

Furthermore, with the Londoners recently tying Thierry Henry to a new contract and a new stadium to be played in next season, it is highly unlikely Wenger would consider leaving the institution.


Pires leaves the Club

After deciding to leave Arsenal, Robert Pires has revealed that he took the decision because he no longer felt a key component of Arsene Wenger's squad.

In fact, Pires agreed to move to Spanish club Villarreal next season on a free transfer after refusing a new one-year contract with Arsenal.

The Frenchman was looking for a two-year deal, something Villarreal were offering, but the main reason for his move was that he felt he had slipped down the pecking order under Wenger.

"I have to admit that it was not easy as I've had six fantastic seasons at Arsenal and we played the kind of football I love with pace and tempo," Pires expressed.

"However, I have to say I have had some disappointments this season as, for example, I was on the bench very often."

Pires and Jose Antonio Reyes had been struggling to earn a place in the left midfield all season and Reyes was often given the nod over Pires, especially in the second half of the season.

And even though Pires won the battle with Reyes to start the Champions League final in Paris, he was substituted after just 18 minutes when goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent off.

The midfielder does not hold any ill-feelings towards Wenger for the move at the Stade de France but he admits that it represented a wider trend which he believed would curtail his chances at the north London club.

"It's obvious that the coach had to make a choice about who to bring off, but for me it was a terrible moment and also proof that the coach did not trust me like before," Pires finished.

Pires will officially go to Villarreal at the start of July.


Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 and win the Champions League

A 10-man Arsenal was defeated 2-1 by Barcelona. The Spanish team won their second Champions League in history. Paris was the scenario of a spectacular final game.

Everything seemed like a glorious night for The Gunners, which played with 10 men from the 18th minute after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was red-carded, when they took the lead in the 37th at Stade de France. Sol Campbell headed in the first goal.

However, Cameroon star Samuel Eto'o tied the game for Barcelona in the 76th minute, and Juliano Belletti scored the last goal in the 81st.

Henrik Larsson found Belletti on the run, and the Brazilian charged through the Arsenal defence and sent his angled shot off replacement keeper Manuel Almunia and into the net.

The English side was shocked and couldn't react. The game finished and the catalan party began. Now Arsenal will have to wait for the next season to try to get a title.


Arsenal is ready to win the Champions

Arsene Wenger is very confident as the Final Game is closer. The coach has told fans to expect the unexpected in Wednesday's Champions League final against Barcelona.

Indeed, he added to the anticipation surrounding the final of European soccer's elite club competition by saying Arsenal would not man-mark Barcelona dangerman Ronaldinho Gaucho. He also predicted a thriller at the Stade de France.

"They are a squad that you admire, a team that always tries to play and never has a negative approach to the game," Wenger told the press.

"I like that so much and the fact that they have players who turn games round. We all love that in the game.

"It's a clash that should be exciting because on both sides we have players who can produce the unexpected."

It's good to understand that the showdown has been dubbed the dream final with Arsenal's outstanding French striker Thierry Henry vying with Brazilian world player of the year Ronaldinho for top billing.

"We will not man mark him," Wenger said of the Brazilian genius, adding that he did not want Arsenal to pin all their hopes on Henry either.

"I don't want too much pressure on Thierry, I just want us to play well as a team. If we play well as a team Thierry will be automatically good. If we don't, Thierry will suffer" he explained.

"Remember the games against Villarreal away when our team refused to play and we suffered offensively."

Wenger, whose team laboured to fourth place in the English Premier League this season, is happy to be bracketed with the Spanish champions, but says simply being in the final for the first time is not enough.

"Everybody said the dream final is Barcelona against Arsenal which means that somewhere it is acknowledged that Arsenal and Barcelona play great football," he said.

"But fans always want more. We want to be recognised as being a team who can win the biggest trophy.

"I'm here to win this final. We don't just want to be there in the final, but we want to win the trophy and I believe we can do it."


The last Game in Highbury

Arsenal completed a good week after defeating Wigan with a 4-2 final score, but the feeling at the end of the game was not exactly happyness: Highbury closed forever and now it's part of history.

The Sunday's win over Wigan showed many emotional scenes among Gunner fans in the stadium and throughout the world as they watched the scenes on television.

So many big names will miss this stadium: Alex James, Cliff Bastin, Ted Drake, the Compton brothers Leslie and Denis, George Male, Eddie Hapgood, Wilf Copping, George Swindin, Jimmy Logie, Cliff Bastin and the recent vintage of Tony Adams, Liam Brady and Dennis Bergkamp, who won three League Championship and four FA Cup medals.

Neill, still highly regarded in the Arsenal corridors of power, said: "What struck me about Highbury when I went there was its ambience even though you had a nervous apprehension approaching the field. After all this was Highbury with its famous clock, those marble halls and, of course, the Chapman bust. Quite an awe-inspiring ordeal for a boy from Bangor.

"As a player my favourite memory was scoring a penalty against Pat Jennings in front of the North Stand and managerially it must be those four goals Malcolm Macdonald scored in the 5-3 win over Newcastle in 1976."

Also Jennings has played for both the major London clubs, and he recalls: "It was a January night, bitterly cold and it had taken us five matches to get past Third Division Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup game. In the first replay we were 60 seconds away from being eliminated when Liam Brady equalised to bring the old Twin Towers into focus."


Closer to Heaven

In a glorious night, Arsenal got their best result in their history after. By eliminating Villarreal with a 0-0 draw in El Madrigal stadium, the Gunners reached the Final of the Champions League.

German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was the hero when he stopped Juan Roman Riquelme's 89th minute penalty as the Gunners hung on to progress 1-0 on aggregate and will now play in Paris on May 17th against either Barcelona or AC Milan.

Indeed, when Gaël Clichy was harshly judged to have knocked over José Mari — it was only a slight nudge from a featherweight full back — Riquelme stepped up to take the match into extra time. Instead, Lehmann bounced at least a yard off his line, diving to his left to send Arsenal to Paris and into ecstasy.

It's time to celebrate, but it's also time to analize the good and bad sides of the team, just like the coach did.

“You will see a different team at the Final in Paris,” Wenger said, not completely happy with the game of his team. “We will recover physically and we have everything to win. We will give it our best shot and I believe we will do it.”

We must understand that the same timid performance would bring only despair in Paris, whether it is Barcelona or AC Milan in opposition. Arsenal played poorly throughout, seemingly trying their hardest to live up to Riquelme’s disdainful description of Wenger’s cavaliers as “nine men behind the ball and Henry”.

They endured it, to leave Arsenal coach wondering if the Gunners’ name is on the cup but, if a wonderfully unexpected, uplifting story is to have a happy ending, they will first have to remember how to move the ball without inhibitions.


Great 1-0 Victory over Villarreal

Kolo Touré surprised everyone scoring his first goal, and helping Arsenal FC beat Villarreal 1-0 at Highbury. Now the English team is very close to reach the Champions League Final in Paris.

In fact, Villarreal came into the match undefeated in five previous encounters with English opposition. However, were undone by Touré's close-range finish four minutes before half-time that settled a tense tie in Arsenal's favour. The Gunners managed to stop Juan Román Riquelme, for the majority of the encounter, and should they stretch their run without conceding to a tenth match, a spot in the final in Paris on 17 May beckons.

Arsenal manged to press all the game, but it took until four minutes before the break for them to go in front as Henry fed Hleb from a short corner and the Belarusian's cross was turned in from close range by Toure.

It's important to notice that the home team nearly threw their advantage away before the break though as Gilberto Silva tangled with striker Jose Mari and was fortunate not to give a penalty shot away.

We can say that despite their defensive frailties on the night, Arsenal FC did look confident going forward and Thierry Henry almost made it two but his shot was cleared off the line by Cesar Arzo.

Despite their confidence, they struggled to break the Spanish side down for the remainder of the half as both teams looked to stick with what they just had for the second-leg next Tuesday.


Bergkamp still in Arsenal hearts

We can say that the game was what it was intended to be: Dennis Bergkamp’s Day. Coming on as a substitute in the 72nd minute, the illustrious Dutchman almost immediately saw West Bromwich Albion score a potentially devastating equaliser. Yet three minutes after that it was Bergkamp who hooked the ball back across the Albion goal, enabling Frenchman Robert Pires, to score.

And then Bergkamp scored. On 89 minutes, receiving from Emmanuel Eboue, Dennis calmly and irresistibly slammed a right-footed shot wide of Tomasz Kuszczak in the Albion goal to secure maximum points for the Gunners.

“I really think it was disrespectful,” declared his manager Arsène Wenger afterwards, “to say to Dennis, you came on because it was your day. I felt we needed his vision. We needed somebody because Van Persie looked tired and Hleb looked tired.”

It's important to mention that Bergkamp will retire this summer and Arsenal may find him irreplaceable. Time after time, whether playing up front, never his favourite role, or just behind the striker, he has shown himself, in the old Italian phrase, “capable of inventing the game”. And we know it.


Manchester United 2 - Arsenal 0

It was obvious that Arsenal is focused on the Champions League. And it's also obvious that Manchester United still dreams of being Champions. It was so obvious that the final result was a 2-0 win for Manchester.

Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park scored the winning goals, as Thierry Henry was sitting on the bench. Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie were the starter strikers of the Gunners.

In fact, the Gunners enjoyed the better of the first quarter, dominating possession on a slick Old Trafford surface, with Arsenal’s front two both failing to capitalise on nice chances.

However, United gradually began to force their way back into the game. Jens Lehmann, outstanding all match, was forced to make a series of good saves from close-range and long-distance shots from Rooney.

It's fair to say that United could have taken a lead before the break and were unfortunate not to be given a penalty. Amazingly, Rooney rounded Lehmann, who got a glove to the ball, bringing down Kolo Toure. The Ivory Coast international appeared to handle the ball as he tumbled and knocked the ball onto the post from Rooney’s shot.

Manchester United began to turn the screw in the second half and after an extended period of pressure in the Arsenal half, Rooney opened the scoring.

In a very classy move, Rooney controlled the ball expertly and shot fiercely past Lehmann.

Arsenal brought on Henry in an attempt to restore parity but the captain, receiving little possession from his team mates, made little impact on proceedings.

In the end, Ji-Sung Park made sure of the victory for United with a goal ten minutes from the whistle, his first in the Premier League.


Arsenal is in the Semi-Finals!

This result means a lot to every Arsenal supporter and to the institution. The city of Turin saw the Gunners reach the semifinals of the Champions League for the first time, after getting a 0-0 tie against Juventus.

The London team got the pass because of the result of the first leg with the Italian squad. That match finished with a 2-0 victory for Wenger's side.

"We really did everything possible and played at a great level, but the 2-0 from the first leg was too difficult to recover," Juventus boss Fabio Capello said. "We could not have done any better at this stage of the season."

In fact, Arsenal had a pair of chances in the second half, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon stopped shots from Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas - the scorers in the first leg. Juventus' Pavel Nedved was ejected in the 77th minute when he got his second yellow card for a rough foul on Emmanuel Eboue.

Now Thierry Henry and his teammates will face Villarreal in the semi-finals. After all, this may be the most important year in Arsenal's history.


Arsenal is closer to the Semifinals in the Champions League

Arsenal FC beat Juventus 2-0 in the Champions League and their chances to be in the semifinals are bigger than ever. The Italian team ended with nine players.

Spanish Cesc Fabregas and French Thierry Henry scored for Arsenal, England's only remaining representative, which is aiming to reach the last four of Europe's elite club competition for the first time. The return game in Turin is April 5.

The Champions League is Arsenal's last opportunity for a trophy this campaign and it may need to win the competition to secure a spot next season. It stands sixth in England's Premier League, two places behind the qualifying positions.

Juventus of Turin finished with nine players today at Highbury, north London, after Mauro Camoranesi and Jonathan Zebina were dismissed in the final three minutes for receiving their second yellow cards. Both are now suspended for the second game, as well as the Italian team's former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira.


Sol Campbell will be back

One of the most experienced players in the team, defender Sol Campbell is ready for a return to the Gunners first squad. He came through a second reserve match unscathed.

He suffered an important injury in February, but he managed to heal and now he played the full 90 minutes for a strong Arsenal reserve side in their 2-0 victory over Charlton.

In fact, it is the second time in the space of a week that the former Tottenham captain has managed to complete a reserve game and he is now in line to be involved in Saturday night's Premiership clash with Portsmouth.

However, fans think he must to prove he is both physically and mentally right after leaving Highbury at half-time of the Gunners' 3-2 defeat to West Ham last month after a disastrous first-half performance.

According to Arsenal reserve team coach Neil Banfield, however, the 31-year-old is getting back to near his best.

'Sol is smashing to have around,' Banfield said.

Arsenal fans will also be happy about the news that Robin Van Persie, who has also failed to start a first-team game since the West Ham game because of a broken toe, also played the full 90 minutes.

The player did come on for the closing stages of Arsenal's 3-0 Premiership win over Charlton last weekend, but will now be looking for a starting place on Saturday.

Former Southampton winger Theo Walcott scored on his home reserve side debut at Underhill last night, while Danish teenager Nicklas Bendtner wrapped up win for the Gunners second-string with a 74th minute strike.


Thierry Henry defined match against Liverpool

Arsenal defeated Liverpool by 2-1, with two goals scored by Thierry Henry. It's important to say that Liverpool had a contrasting week to the Gunners. Last year's Champions League winners were knocked out of the competition by Benfica while Arsenal progressed thanks to a Thierry Henry goal in the first-leg of our clash against Real Madrid.

As we were saying, the London team built on the delight from Wednesday night by handing Liverpool their second defeat of the week. They had the better of the first half and opened the scoring midway through the opening half when Cesc Fabregas sent a beautiful ball down the left flank for Thierry Henry, whose shot curved around the keeper and into net.

The Gunners deserved the lead and took it into the second half. Liverpool came back into the game in the second thanks to a goal from Luis Garcia who capitalised after Jens Lehmann failed to hold onto a Steven Gerrard long-range shot. Liverpool were reduced to ten men soon after and so was Arsenal.

Steven Gerrard's made a terrible mistake when ho shot a backpass in the last ten minutes. The past was taken by Henry who rounded the keeper and shot the ball into the then unguarded net.


Cole injuried in comeback game

Arsenal and England defender Ashley Cole limped out of his latest comeback match after just four minutes last night.

In fact, Cole has been restricted to just an hour of competitive football since the start of October after suffering a fractured foot and a thigh muscle injury.

Is good to know that he was hoping to make a Premiership return at Fulham this weekend and a Champions League comeback against Real Madrid next week, but now his Arsenal and even World Cup plans could be in tatters.

Indeed, Cole limped out of a reserve team match with London rivals Tottenham following a firm but fair challenge by young Tottenham striker Andy Barcham.

Cole was seen nursing his left foot and left the action with the help of an Arsenal physio.

Team-mate Freddie Ljungberg is a major doubt for the Real Madrid game with a calf injury which has already ruled him out of Sweden's match with the Republic of Ireland tomorrow.


Arsenal gets epic victory over Madrid

Thierry Henry made a fantastic goal in Arsenal's 1-0 upset victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League yesterday. At the same time, Italian AC Milan ended Bayern Munich's 15-clash winning streak at home with a 1-1 draw.

It's important to notice that it's the first time an English club has won at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu scenario.

"For a really long time, I didn't see an Arsenal squad like that," Henry noticed. "We were brilliant defensively, but more importantly we were not scared to play. You see that as soon as Arsenal is not scared to play, we can play good football."

In fact, Real Madrid manager Juan Ramon Lopez has praised Arsenal’s excellent 1-0 victory over his squad last night in a packed Bernabeu.

Arsenal can have won by more but their 1-0 away victory now gives them a great opportunity to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

"We were strong at the start of the match but they began to change that by stealing the ball and launching explosive counter attacks, although we still had c to score and win,” Lopez noticed.


Arsenal may use 16-year-old Walcott against Real Madrid

Arsenal FC may give Theo Walcott - with only 16 years old - his debut as the injury-hit English team seeks an upset in today's Champions League game at Real Madrid, coach Arsene Wenger suggested.

In fact, Walcott, signed from Southampton for as much as 12 million pounds ($20.9 million) on Jan. 20, might come on as a substitute in the first leg of the round of 16 match, Wenger told a news conference in Madrid.

``He's doing good in training and if I think he can bring us something coming on I will do it,'' Wenger said.

Indeed, beating the record nine-time European champion over two legs without injured first-team regulars including Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Lauren would be ``one of the biggest achievements,'' according to Wenger.

``I'm confident we can make it,'' the Frenchman, whose team has never reached the Champions League semifinals, said. ``The players have not only quality but character. I believe my players don't get the credit they deserve.''

It's important to notice that it may be Arsenal and Real Madrid's best chance of success this season, with them lagging in their national leagues and out of domestic cup competitions. Madrid trails Spanish league leader Barcelona by seven points, while Arsenal is 25 points adrift of Chelsea.

Arsenal, facing its first trophy-less season since 2001, won four of 11 games this year, losing to Wigan, Everton, Bolton, West Ham and Liverpool. Madrid won 11 of 13 in 2006 under former reserve-team coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro.

``We're on form but statistics and the past don't count for anything,'' Lopez Caro told a news conference. ``Arsenal is one of the best teams in the universe.''


Arsenal 1 Bolton 1

Arsenal squad is discovering and learning paying a high price. Brazilian Gilberto Silva’s late equaliser gave Arsenal some relief on an afternoon when, despite having the overwhelming bulk of possession, Arsène Wenger’s boys were out- bullied by Sam Allardyce’s men in a titanic thriller that also featured two horrific tackles.

“A great performance but the wrong result,” Allardyce noticed. His team are now six matches unbeaten and two points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.

“It’s sad we didn’t win as we deserved, but it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that we’ve drawn at Highbury and it feels like we lost.”

Infact, New personnel and the youngest back four in their league history notwithstanding, the previous week’s victory at Birmingham appeared to herald a return to traditional, steel-tinged Arsenal values. What's more, Wenger neglected to change his starting line-up, leaving Fredrik Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires on the bench.

It's obvious that Bolton were a proposition fraught with the gravest of danger, for their forthright approach has traditionally troubled even Wenger’s finest Arsenal teams, let alone his present ragbag of kids and stragglers. So it proved.

It's good to notice that Bolton scored as early as the 12th minute. The only surprise was that it took them so long, for they created two terrific chances in the first five minutes.

First, Matt Jansen crossed from the left to find Kevin Nolan, unaccountably unnoticed by the nervy Sebastian Larsson, sliding in at the far post. Jens Lehmann pawed the shot aside.

Arsenal struggled to clear the subsequent corner, Joey O’Brien chanced a lob back into the melee, only to watch Bruno N’Gotty’s beautifully judged header drift past Lehmann and on to the bar. The best Arsenal had to show for a wretched opening spell was Jose Antonio Reyes’s ludicrous dive in the penalty area.

Keep in mind that Nolan’s goal was sweetness itself. Ricardo Gardner side-footed the ball through to Hidetoshi Nakata, whose poke looked too hard for Jansen before the forward’s tenacity and Philippe Senderos’s sluggishness combined to ensure the ball spun towards Nolan, again unnoticed by the hapless Larsson. Nolan’s perfect flick sailed over Lehmann and into the top corner.

For the top of the day, worse came for Arsenal when Abdoulaye Faye’s two-footed challenge took the ball but also caught Reyes, who spun in agony and crashed to the turf. Faye was shown the yellow card while the Spaniard was eventually carried off with a suspected broken leg.

Actually Allardyce countered: “So Arsenal don’t run the clock down if they’re winning 1-0 away from home with 10 minutes to go? He should stop whingeing about us and concentrate on his own team.”

With desperation increasing, the last 10 minutes were a siege. Francesc Fabregas forced Jaaskelainen into a fine close-range block from Bergkamp’s corner, while Nicky Hunt and Ben Haim combined to foil Adebayor’s dance through the penalty area, but, in general, Arsenal rarely looked convinced that parity would be theirs.

Then, with the five minutes of added time almost up. Arsenal managed one last heave. Nakata blinked a second allowing Fabregas to chip towards the redcurrant hoards. Hitherto invisible, Gilberto stole in ahead of Ben Haim to turn a deft equaliser past Jaaskelainen.

In the end, Arsenal had something to show for an afternoon of strife.


Walcott and Campbell to help Arsenal

Sol Campbell is "focused" and "determined" to win back his place in the squad, and that is very good for Arsenal. At the same time, 16-year-old wonderkid Theo Walcott scoring on his debut.

Engilsh defender Campbell, 31, returned to training on Monday, following his leave of absence, and Wenger went out of his way to praise his experience and strength.

At the same time, Wenger's assistant Pat Rice and youth academy coach Liam Brady were watching Walcott pull on an Arsenal jersey for the first time in a reserve team match at Portsmouth.

And the club's £12 million signing from Southampton, who was wearing the No 7 shirt, did not disappoint with a stunning half-volleyed goal from 12 yards out after 75 minutes which levelled the scores at 2-2.

Arsenal FC went on to lose 3-2 in front of a crowd of 619 at West Leigh Park, home of the non-League side Havant & Waterlooville, but Rice and Brady will still have gone home happy with their teenage striker, who does not turn 17 until the middle of next month.

Of more immediate concern to Wenger, who was speaking at a Nike launch in London, was the well-being of his England defender.

He said: "He is determined to help the team as well as he can," said the Arsenal manager. "We need Sol's experience, his desire and strength and he is all right. He is back and focused."

Wenger also indicated Campbell can rejoin his team-mates in action in the Premiership match against Bolton at Highbury next Saturday.


Hard time is not over: Arsenal out of FA Cup

In a disappointing game, Arsenal FC suffered their second Cup exit in a week when they went down 1-0 at Bolton.

In other important matches, Manchester United eased into today's FA Cup fifth-round draw with a 3-0 win at Wolves.

Back to the Gunners, we can say that Stelios Giannakopoulos headed home a late winner for Bolton against Arsenal, who fielded an inexperienced side just days after crashing out of the Carling Cup against Wigan.


Wigan win over Arsenal in League Cup

Jason Roberts made a last minute of extra-time goal and sent Wigan Athletic into the English League Cup soccer final today after a 2-1 victory over Arsenal.

This result sent Wigan through on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate scoreline. Arsenal FC looked on course to advance after substitute Robin van Persie netted a spectacular free kick in the 18th minute of extra-time to make it 2-0 after Thierry Henry had headed them into a 1-0 lead in the 65th.

Juan Antonio Reyes had a penalty stopped by Mike Pollitt in the 22nd minute and the Wigan goalkeeper made several more great saves to keep Wigan in what was a pulsasting, action-packed second leg tie.

Roberts, who had earlier missed half a dozen opportunities, broke clear in the 119th minute, forced his way past two Arsenal defenders and kept his cool to tuck the ball home.

The other semifinal takes place on Wednesday when Manchester United face Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford, level at 1-1. The final is at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on February 26.


Arsenal crushed Middlesbrough 7-0

Henry boosted his level to help Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 7-0 in a Premiership game at Highbury yesterday. Thierry Henry's brilliant hat-trick was followed by Robert Pires, Phillippe Senderos and Gilberto Silva goals.

The French striker started the scoring in the 20th minute with an amazing volley. Phillippe Senderos followed up almost immediately with a header that gave no chance to Jones in the Boro goal. Henry was in a killer mood on the night and broke clear in the 30th minute to slot home his second and Arsenal's third. It looked like a rout when Robert Pires tapped in the fourth goal on the 45th minute.

Things for Boro went even worse after the break when Doriva was sent off for a sent card offense in the 73 minute, but not before Gilberto Silva had tapped in the fifth goal in the 59th minute and Henry had completed his hat trick in the 68th minute. This goal was also Henry's 150th League score. The final flourish was courtesy Hleb, who was able to tuck in from a close range.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger praised his players for delivering a strong performance, "We played our game and the goals came as a consequence of the quality of our football. Of course, Thierry scored three - and everybody nearly scored!" he enthused.

Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren thinks the game was a learning experience for his team, "This has been my toughest day as Middlesbrough manager without a shadow of a doubt. Down to 10 men with six teenagers on the park it was always going to be difficult. I've told the kids they're going to be good players in the future." he told us.


Great Goal: Henry stays Arsenal

It is true that Arsenal FC supporters have had little to cheer about this season. Thierry Henry managed to turn things beautiful as he committed his future to the club. Such is the Frenchman’s importance that his signature is worth more than any trophy.

According to many speculations, Henry had been expected to join Barcelona in the summer, but has had a dramatic change of heart. The blaugrana team have been tracking him for some time, with Joan Laporta, the club’s president, recently revealing that they would do everything in their power to sign him, but his incessant phone calls to the player’s agent appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Keep in mind that the Gunners are preparing to move into the new Emirates Stadium, and Thierry Henry’s renewed commitment will ensure that they approach the future with confidence. “The truth is I love this club and I’ve made my mind up to stay,” Henry says today. “I can say to all my fans and the people who care about me, I want to lead the team out in the new stadium.”

The Frenchman has only 1½ years left on his contract but will sit down with Arsenal’s board in the next few weeks to discuss a new deal. Peter Hill-Wood, the club’s chairman, has previously made clear that they are willing to make him the highest-paid player in their history and it should not take long to hammer out the details of a new £100,000-a-week contract.

Henry’s decision has been the talk of English football in recent weeks, with everybody seemingly chipping into the debate as to whether he must stay or go, and the dilemma has even affected his own form. The striker has been a shadow of his effervescent self in recent weeks, shrugging his shoulders with seeming indifference as his side have struggled, but revealed that the support of Arsenal fans had helped him to come through a hard time.

After reaching a career-defining choice, he can expect to hear even more from them in the coming days. “I’m still only 28, but when I see the fans and the way they talk to me it helped make my decision,” he admits. “They didn’t boo me or make life difficult for me on the pitch.


Arsenal beats Cardiff City: 2-1

French player Robert Pires underlined his case for a new deal to stay in the club. At the same time, he scored two goals to guide Arsenal into the FA Cup quarter finals. Pires, whose future is still not clear, managed to strike twice in the first 18 minutes to seal victory.

Robert, whose contract expires this summer, is looking for a new two-year deal. However, the Gunners usually offer 12 months to any player over 30.

Arsenal FC rested not only Thierry Henry. Also Jens Lehmann, Sol Campbell and Cesc Fabregas were dismissed for this clash, and the inexperienced defence was made with youngsters Kerrea Gilbert and Johan Djourou, as well as the nervous Philippe Senderos.

Cardiff threatened after less than a minute: Neal Ardley clipped an excellent through ball over the head of Senderos. The Swiss international took time to turn, and that enabled Jerome to nip in ahead of goalkeeper Manuel Almunia only to lob his shot just over the bar.

The Gunners nevertheless steadied themselves and regrouped. Although their defence looked suspect, they were a completely different squad going forward, with experience and class in equal measure.

With just six minutes gone, Arsenal scored. Dennis Bergkamp picked out Jose Reyes and the Spaniard weighed up his options before clipping a superb pass into the path of Pires, who had beaten the offside trap.

He controlled the ball with his first touch before picking his spot and burying his shot inside the far post.

Senderos was still looking shaky and was fortunate not to be penalised when he accidentally tripped Jerome as they got to their feet together after a challenge.

The Swiss international got a booking soon afterwards for a clumsy late challenge on Joe Ledley, but Arsenal were in a class of their own going forward and went further ahead on 18 minutes.

This time van Persie was the architect of Cardiff's downfall, delivering an incisive pass to Bergkamp, who in turn picked out the run of Pires and the Frenchman's finishing was again exemplary.

After the mid time, they were still suspect and when Jerome powered forward onto a long ball, he picked out Kevin Cooper in space inside the penalty area only for his shot to be blocked.

Almunia, who was pushed by a fan who ran onto the pitch amid the amazing finale, clasped onto the ball amid one scramble in the Arsenal area but the home side held on for victory.


Pires: Arsenal is just an option

French player Robert Pires says he is open to offers from another clubs. However, he wont rush a decision on whether his future lies at Highbury.

The midfielder has less than six months remaining on his Arsenal contract, and although he has been offered a new one-year one, beginning in the summer, Robert wants two years.

He is free to negotiate with other tems now, under terms of the Bosman ruling, but just after talks with coach Arsene Wenger will he be ready to declare whether this season is to be his last after six years at Arsenal. "I am now free to commit myself to another club," said Pires.

"I don't want to get worried with this for now. I will see what happens. I will meet with Arsene Wenger this month. I will see what he wants to do with me before making any decision about my future." Pires said.

Pires has been out of the French national team for the past year after a series of rows with manager Raymond Domenech, but he recently expressed his hope of winning back his place in time for the World Cup.

He told today's L'Equipe newspaper: "I think I can play at the highest level for another two seasons and I am open to any proposal.

"Everything will depend on the professional and financial terms. Mentally and physically I feel I am still at the top."