2009-02-18

Eduardo Da Silva set for his return: Taylor feels a little better now


Birmingham City’s Martin Taylor has spoken of his relief at Eduardo’s return to fitness, and hopes his own ordeal over the broken leg incident is now at an end.

Indeed, the controversial Taylor received death threats after his tackle Eduardo in last February’s Premier League game left Eduardo with horrific injuries. He has always maintained that the tackle was not malicious, and says he has received plenty of support over the last year.

“I must admit that it’s a relief to see him back playing,” expressed Taylor.

“But there is nothing like that first proper game because you are never quite sure whether you have recovered or not. I had a feeling he would be okay because he’d played for Croatia last week. I think it lifted Arsenal on Monday night and I can understand why.

“To recover both mentally and physically — to get through that training and to get back to that standard — he has done really, really well. We must consider that you have to be exceptional to reach that level in the first place. It is one thing to come back and play at all. It is another to play for Arsenal.”

Speaking about the tackle, for which Taylor was dismissed, the former Blackburn footballer expressed: “‘I know in my heart of hearts that it was an accident. A horrible accident. So I wanted to see him playing again. You can never be sure. I was hopeful because of the updates I received from the Gunners. I kept my fingers crossed when he was playing in the reserves.

It’s amazing to notice that in the immediate aftermath of that tumultuous 2-2 draw at St Andrews, Arsene Wenger called for Taylor to be banned from football for life, comments the Frenchman later retracted.

However, the immediate aftermath of the incident proved incredibly difficult for Taylor and his family.

“I had death threats,” he expressed. “No one would sit here and say that was enjoyable. When I received them, I wasn’t too sure with some of them. A couple were written in crayon, some were more sinister. and in despite of that, generally, I didn’t take them too seriously.

“Ninety per cent of the correspondence I had, though, was encouraging. We must consider that the other 10 per cent wasn’t.”

Asked whether Eduardo would shake Taylor’s hand should the pair meet again, he expressed: “I wouldn’t expect him to. Maybe, I don’t know. It’s up to him.”

Arsenal boss considers impossible to hunt Manchester United

The French coach Wenger has conceded for the first time that Arsenal have no hope of title in the Premier League this season, as he declared the current leaders Manchester United just untouchable for them.

We must consider that Arsenal sit in fifth place, 15 points behind the reigning champions, after United victory over Fulham, a victory that takes Sir Alex Ferguson’s side five points clear of second-placed Liverpool.

All the top five sides will have 13 clashes left to play after tonight, with Arsenal still to visit United, giving them a small chance of reducing the points difference. However, Wenger sees United as being in such amazing form that even an Arsenal victory at Old Trafford would not halt Ferguson’s men on their way to a third successive Premier League title.

In any case, Wenger’s side visit Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend of the season, when a victory might come too late to make any difference. Wenger cannot see United also losing four other games to give Arsenal a chance of the title.

The manager expressed: “We promised ourselves to give everything until the very last day of the season. At the moment Man United look untouchable, they beat Fulham tonight. United’s results are really consistent. They victory 1-0, and in despite of that, you always think during the match they will drop a point tonight, or drop maybe more than two points, and in despite of that, no, they always manage to find, somewhere, the resources to victory the game.

“That means if they victory their game in hand they are 15 points in front of us. That means they need to lose five games for us to catch up. Let’s say they lose one against us, that leaves four. They still need to lose four other games, which they haven’t done yet this season. and in despite of that, we promised ourselves. We are very consistent. We are on a very strong run. We just missed the goals recently we know we are capable of scoring.”

It’s amazing to notice that Wenger saw his side cruise into the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday night, defeating Cardiff City in their replay 4-0, and they now have a relatively straightforward path through to the semi-finals. They next play Burnley, at the Emirates, and if they victory that they will play either Sheffield United or Hull City in the quarter-finals, again at the Emirates.

However, Wenger has downplayed the importance of the Cup, insisting that it is more important to finish in the top four of the Premier League, thus qualifying for the Champions League preliminary stages.

Wenger, whose last trophy was the FA Cup in 2005, responded, when asked about the Cup being his best chance of silverware: “I believe our basic target is to get in the Champions League. Therefore the championship remains our priority.”

The Gunners’ hopes of overhauling Chelsea or Aston Villa to finish fourth were lifted with the return to first-team action of Eduardo on Monday night. Their Croatia international forward played his first encounter for Arsenal since breaking his left leg and dislocating his ankle against Birmingham City 51 weeks ago.

Eduardo scored twice, with a header and a penalty, and looked lively throughout his 67 minutes on the pitch, before he was taken off as a precautionary measure, due to a tight hamstring.

Wenger expressed Eduardo, 26 next week, had shown that, “mentally, he is as strong as a mountain” in coming back from such a serious injury.

We must consider that the Brazil-born Eduardo wants to carry on where he left off last season, when his goals looked like they might take Arsenal to the league title. Now he has his eyes on European and FA Cup success.

He expressed: “We have three months until the end of the championship. I am here to help Arsenal to be on top of the Premier League or in the first three. Now we are in the FA Cup, I want to get to the final and in the Champions League we want to go far. I feel I can play again like before.”

2009-02-06

Arshavin words after latest Arsenal transfer


As we know, for most soccer players now, the tag 'a dream move' is increasingly becoming a cliche; a statement made just to endear themselves with fans at their new clubs.

However, as far as Andrei Arshavin is concerned, his deadline-busting transfer from Zenit St Petersburg to Arsenal is indeed beyond his wildest dreams.

Indeed, so much so that the Russian star did everything he could to make sure the deal remained a possibility.

Case in point: at the time severe snow threatened to cripple the London transport system on transfer deadline day, he jetted into London first thing in the morning on a private plane and camped himself in a Hertfordshire hotel, just a stone's throw away from Arsenal's London Colney training ground.

And at the time the reported £15 million ($31.5m) deal was on the brink of collapse after an impasse over financial terms, Arshavin offered to take a pay-cut to ease through the deal.

What's more: he also reportedly agreed to pay 'compensation' to Zenit for leaving the Russian champions.

As you can tell, the talented 27-year-old really wanted to join Arsenal. Desperate even.

'Arsenal are one of the leading football clubs in the world, with a group of fantastic young players and a great manager,' declared Arshavin after his move was confirmed by the Premier League on Tuesday - almost 24 hours after the transfer deadline.

'I am looking forward to making the Arsenal supporters happy and helping this great club victory trophies.

'I am so happy to be an Arsenal player, it was my dream.'

One suspects that he really means it. Arsenal supporters will be heartened by Arshavin's show of determination, commitment and sincerity throughout this protracted transfer sage.

No fan likes it better at the time a soccer player appears to be devoting his life to the club.

All Arshavin needs to do is to replicate these qualities on the pitch, and he'll do alright.

Chances are he will. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has made no secret of his admiration of the Russian playmaker.

The feeling is mutual, it seems.

Arshavin, one of the leading stars at Euro08, revealed the prospect of playing under Wenger played a big part in his decision to move to Arsenal.

'I moved because I like the Arsenal style, Arsene Wenger as a manager and I like some of their players,' Arshavin said.

'Every time I talked to Arsene, he said: 'I want you to come to Arsenal'. He had confidence in me.'

But it wasn't Arsenal who made the first move, though.

After his personal success at Euro08, Arshavin - who has 15 goals from 41 caps for Russia - was flooded with enquiries from major European clubs.

Barcelona came calling, but the Spanish champions' 15 million euros ($30m) bid was turned down by Zenit.

Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham, too, made a bid worth £16m.

It was again rejected by Zenit, prompting Arshavin to blast his club for pricing him out of the market with an exorbitant £22m price-tag.

When Arsenal started their pursuit at the start of the year, their advances were thwarted at every turn by Zenit.

Barbaric

Incensed, Arshavin described Zenit as 'barbaric' and vowed never to play for them again.

Negotiations went back and forth over the course of January and finally, the drawn-out deal was done.

It was tough work, admitted Arshavin, but it was worth it.

'It was a very tough time for me, but now it doesn't matter because I am a Gunner. It is great,' said the 2006 Russian soccer player of the Year.

Arshavin will be cup-tied for the Champions League, but his goals and creative play will be needed to propel Arsenal beyond fourth place in the Premiership to secure automatic Champions League qualification next season.

Even though Arsenal's title bid is all but decimated and the League Cup exit still smarting, the new Arsenal No. 23 has his eyes set on silverware this season.

The FA Cup - with a replay against Cardiff coming up on 16 Feb - is very much a possibility.

The EPL title? Mission Impossible, isn't it?

But Arshavin is not about to give up, just like how he refused to give up fighting for his dream move.

'Trust in me and Arsenal,' he assured. If your deliver your promise, Arshavin, all will.

Wenger reasons to leave Van Persie on the bech

The Gunners were held to a goalless draw at the Emirates, which meant they were unable to make up ground on fourth-placed Aston Villa, who also drew at home.

Despite having around 70% of the possession, Arsenal Football Club rarely threatened the Hammer goal.

And although Wenger sent on van Persie with 15 minutes to go, there was to be no late goal as if often the Arsenal style.

In fact, when asked whether he regretted the decision to leave the Dutchman out of his starting line-up, Wenger insisted: "No.

"When sides defend like West Ham did you normally expect to score a goal in the last 15 minutes or so and van Persie was on for the last 15 minutes.

"It was done not to get him injured.

"We have to be cautious with him and he had played every minute against Cardiff and also Everton.

"We have bad experiences at the time we pushed him to play lots of encounters."

The Dutch marksman, who is the Gunners' leading scorer with nine Premier League goals, currently has 18 months remaining on his Emirates deal.

Both parties sat down to open negotiations two months ago, but they were postponed as the club underwent a boardroom reshuffle.

Although Arsenal are reportedly just shy of matching Van Persie's £80,000-a-week demands, Wenger is confident an agreement can be reached.

"He knows how much it means to me and we will try to sort him out," said Wenger. "I'm convinced it means a lot to Robin to stay here.

"I've invested a lot of time in them (Van Persie and Theo Walcott) because I feel it is important to them and it means something to them to be at this club.

"He wants to be part of the club and, of course, we have to satisfy his demands as well. I don't think that we're far away."

Van Persie's blistering form has coincided with an injury-free spell and Wenger's main concern is not trying to rely on the 25-year-old services too heavily.

"I believe him being fit has helped him greatly. He is a player who has made an extreme improvement," he continued.

"When you consider the player who arrived here, and who he is today, it's absolutely fantastic. He has ingredients which are very important - talent and motivation.

"The danger is to overplay him at the moment because we still have to be a bit cautious with him."