2006-02-27

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.

2006-02-24

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.

2006-02-21

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.''

2006-02-12

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.

2006-02-08

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.