2006-05-29

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.

2006-05-18

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.

2006-05-14

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."

2006-05-10

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."