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24 birthdays but none as bad as this. That is the story of Lukas Fabianski. Started the match by nearly conceding as he needlessly came off the line and ended it in the same fashion, except that this time he conceded.

Fabianski

Not many Arsenal fans were expecting a defeat considering the form they were it. It seemed we were invincible, but not anymore. FA Cup was the tournament we had the greatest chance of winning but we will have to wait yet another season now for it. To expect winning the Champions League is more hope than expectation. It seems another trophyless season it will be now…

It all started with bad news and ended with bad news as well. Denilson and Diaby preferred to Arshavin and Nasri. Wenger did manage to give a logical explanation as to why Nasri was not started but Arshavin. That was an unbeliavable decision. He had not featured in the mid-week match against Villareal so he was fresh and daring to have a go at Chelsea. Yet he is dropped. Wenger said when you have 8 matches in 24 days you can’t expect to play the same 11 in every match. But wait Arshavin didn’t play the last match. No reason to drop the best player of Russia in such a big match. Complaints later lets talk about the match.

Fabianski as expected was in goal. The same back four as against Villareal ahead of him as Gibbs passed a late fitness test. Walcott on the right, Fabregas, Denilson and Diaby in the centre. van Persie playing on the left and Adebayor the forward. The line-up raised a lot of eyebrows but Wenger isn’t a man who listens to others does he.

The match started with Arsenal clearly looking the better side. But that didn’t last. A howler from Fabianski nearly let Drogba give Chelsea an early lead but his header cleared off the line by Gibbs. Chelsea soon had another decent opportunity for Drogba. But the Ivorian’s touch too heavy and the chance went begging.

Chelsea couldn’t get the early lead but Arsenal did. Against the run of play Walcott put Arsenal ahead. Adebayor had the ball on the left flank, played a neat pass to Gibbs whose cross came straight to the unmarked Walcott inside the box. The youngster took the shot with his unfavoured left foot and it needed a deflection off the hand of Ashley Cole to beat Petr Cech.

Arsenal had got the goal but that was the only advantage they had as Chelsea continued to dominate. With a midfield comprising Ballack, Lampard and Essien against Diaby and Denilson, it was quite obvious Chelsea would dominate in midfield.

Walcott was looking very lively whenever he got the ball and Fabregas was brilliant as usual as well. The two nearly combined to increase the lead. Fabregas’s through ball met by Walcott who had his shot brilliantly saved by Cech. But Walcott had wrongly been called offside. Had Cech failed to stop the shot there would have been a lot of post match controversy.

Chelsea had an immediate reply though. Great vision and a pin point long ball by Lampard found Malouda just inside the box. A sublime first touch, got away from Eboue with the second and had a shot on goal with his right foot. Through Eboue legs and into the back of the net at Fabianski’s near post. Advantage Chelsea.

At this point everyone could feel that Almunia was being sorely missed. Fabianski was looking very nervous. He isn’t the worst of keepers but probably the nerves of playing in such a big match got to him.

It was one way traffic after that goal. Anelka had a stunning effort on goal but it hit the post and out. Diaby was at fault there. Trying to play pretty football inside the box isn’t something you should be doing in the FA Cup semi final against a team of Chelsea’s quality.

Next up Essien tried a curler but it was straight at Fabianski. Whenever Chelsea came near Arsenal’s goal, one feared Fabianski would mess up.

Even in the second half, Wenger’s motivating half time talk couldn’t do the trick as Chelsea continued from where they left. Lampard had a chance but superb tackle by Toure to deny him.

Both the sides had their chances. Walcott was the main player of Arsenal. Whipping in dangerous crosses in but no one getting on the end of them. Ashley Cole was looking hapless. Both side also had appeals for penalties turned down. Drogba and Lampard also combined nicely by Lampard volley went wide.

Honestly speaking, I feared Chelsea will inevitably score. They were looking too good and Fabianski too bad.

Arshavin and Nasri came on very late on. It was too little too late though. Ok they are wonderful players but you have to be sensible enough and not expect a miracle from them by bringing them on so late in the game.

A minute after Nasri came on, the worst happened. Drogba sent through by a long ball. The Chelsea forward shrugged off Silvestre and the Frechman virtually gave up his chase. Very poor defending. Then Fabianski capped up a hopeless performance by setting up Drogba’s goal. Came off his line. Tried to stop Drogba by a half stretch of his left leg. He was never going to be stopped that easily, got away and finished it with his left foot. Toure and Silvestre got back but too late, the ball had already crossed the line. You could see how furious Toure was seeing the ball cross the line. He secretly felt this game was over.

Wenger had a final throw of the die by taking Adebayor off and bringing Bendtner on. Bendtner can be a good super sub and he nearly forced extra time. Got away from a couple of defenders and sent a cross in. Arshavin got on the end of it and had a shot. The shot had beaten Cech and was heading for goal only for Alex to step in and put the ball away for a corner. The corner saw Cech flapping at the ball resluting in another corner. Similar flapping by Cech but this time the ball was cleared. Match over. Dream over.

Drogba yet again brought tears to the Arsenal fans eyes. Dumped Arsenal in the League Cup final two years back and does the same in the FA Cup semi final this year. Arsenal fans will have to live with the regret that if Almunia and Gallas were fit maybe the result would have been different. Nothing can be done now and Arsenal are out of the FA Cup

Injuries have killed yet another season of Arsenal.

Ivanovic hardly had anything to do all match. A player of Arshavin’s quality would just have ripped him apart. But no Wenger thought Diaby would do a better job than Arshavin.

And Adebayor really needs to start fighting for long balls. Fabregas sends brilliant long balls to him. And what does he do! Makes a run forward in the vain hope that the defender might fail to head the ball and it will fall to him. That is never going to happen Ade. At least not against a team of Chelsea’s quality.

Lets forget about it now, though I just cant get it out of my mind! So one can imagine how hard it will be for the players to get over this defeat. Lets hope they get over it as soon as possible or it might even result in a Champions League semi final defeat. They need to re focus quickly. This season may seem to be over but it’s not as yet…

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Rosicky - Could be back much earlier than expected!

Rosicky - Could be back much earlier than expected!

We all thought Fabregas was going to surprise us with an earlier than expected recovery. But Rosicky! Not a single person on this earth would have expected that!

The Czech international has been out for over a year with a hamstring injury and could be back in just about 3 weeks! Can you believe it! And we had thought we would only be able to see him next season!

As you may have read on Arsenal.com an ecstatic Wenger said:

“Tomas needs three weeks to play in training fully fit. He is still doing special training but in three weeks he will join in with the first team. It will be three weeks to play in the Reserves, touch wood. Rosicky looks very good in training, he looks unbelievably strong. Fabregas looks good, Diaby will come back. Rosicky is three weeks, Cesc four weeks, Theo two weeks.”

This means all of them should be back for the last 6 matches of the Premier League which includes matches against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. This season is suddenly taking a u-turn. We all looked down and out with once again nearly no hope of a trophy but suddenly we are on a 12 match unbeaten run, Arshavin is here, Eduardo is back from his long term injury and now Walcott, Fabregas and Rosicky are weeks away from return. I am quite hopeful of finishing inside the top 4 and winning the FA Cup now.

Nasri Believes Arshavin is an Excellent Player

Nasri Believes Arshavin is an Excellent Player

One of Arsenal’s best players this season Samir Nasri is confident Arshavin will make quite a mark at Arsenal. Nasri has played against the Russian during his Marseille days and says he was quite impressed. Arshavin brings creativity and Arsenal have been lacking that lately. But the young Frenchman believes Arshavin will not be the ultimate solution to Arsenal’s problems as Arsenal need their injured players back. Once they are back, Arsenal will soon be fighting for the trophies in the three competitions they are in.  Nasri said:

“I played against Arshavin when he was at Zenit St. Petersburg and I was at Marseille, he’s an excellent player. He will give us that little bit more penetration and incisiveness which the team have been lacking recently.

“I don’t think it is a central midfielder that Arsenal have been lacking. What we have really been missing is the injured players and when they come back you’ll see a different face to this Arsenal team.”

The young midfielder also mentioned that Arsenal’s style of play suits more against big teams:

“Arsenal like to play football so when we play against a skilful team who also like to come out and play it is easier to play because there is more space to exploit. When Manchester United came to the Emirates we had the opportunity to play well ourselves. When we are at home to teams who come here and keep things tight we have found things more difficult.”

A lot of people out there feel Arsenal can only win the FA Cup if they don’t have to face Man Utd or even Chelsea or Liverpool for that matter, but they should know how good Arsenal are against big teams. Nasri has said it spot on.

Arshavin - Nice Hair!

Arshavin - Nice Hair!

Talking of Arshavin, he has brought his trusted hairdresser to London as his wife doesn’t trust the hairdressers of London! Arshavin’s wife Yuliahas has been quite critical of London’s people and all and before Arshavin joined Arsenal she had critisized English food and that if he moves to Arsenal it will be quite hard finding good food for themselves. Now its London’s hairdressers turn! Their hairdresser to be flown to London from St. Petersburg Volkov said:

“Yulia superstitiously distrusts hairdressers in London and insisted that her husband paid for his personal stylist’s trips to London for his hair cuts.”

Arshavin will be funding the trips for the stylist whenever he needs a haircut. So much for loyalty! Hope Arshavin turns out to be as much loyal to Arsenal too! Volkov said:

“Before Andrei left Russia I cut his hair shorter than normal so that he wouldn’t need me too soon. It’s easy to work for him. So far he liked everything I did. I’ve changed his style from glamorous Vidal Sassoon to simple ‘streetwise guy’ and I had no complaints from him or Yulia.”

Wenger - "Man Utd Look Untouchables"

Wenger - "Man Utd Look Untouchable"

Arsene Wenger has finally admitted Arsenal are not in the title race anymore.

This season has been a relatively poor one for Arsenal and they are not only 12 points behind leaders Manchester United but 5 points below 4th placed Chelsea which makes even the Champions League qualification difficult for them But Wenger may be giving up on title hopes, which was quite obvious, he is confident Arsenal can secure the final Champions League berth. Arsenal are on a 12 match unbeaten run which gives Wenger all the hope that if they keep on performing consistently they should finish 4th at least:

“We’re very consistent and on a very strong run. We missed scoring the goals that we’re capable of recently, but are very consistent and promised ourselves that we’ll give everything until the end of the season.”

The Frenchman also conceded Manchester United are too good at the moment and look ‘untouchable’. Like most people out there Wenger also feels it will be United who will end up Premier League Champions:

“Manchester United look untouchable because they’re 12 points ahead and have a game tomorrow against Fulham they’ll certainly win. Their results are very consistent. They win 1-0 and you think during the game that they may drop a point or maybe more, but they always manage to find somewhere the resources to win the game.

“If they win their game in hand they’re 15 points in front, which means they need to lose five games. Say they lose one against us, then they still need to lose another four games. They haven’t lost four games all season yet, but we’ll try. I believe our basic target is to get into the Champions League.”

It may seem nearly impossible for Man Utd not to finish at the top, especially as all the matches against the other members of the big 4 for them are at Old Trafford. But for Arsenal to clinch the fourth place, there are a lot of things in their favour. They are on quite a decent run, their next 7 fixtures are against smaller teams whereas the next 7 fixtures of Aston Villa include Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd. So that can help Arsenal to leapfrog Villa. On the other hand Chelsea are going through a bad form and just have a new manager who will hopefully take time to settle in so combine a good form of Arsenal with a bad form of Chelsea and you might get Arsenal overtaking Chelsea! With Dudu back and straight away looking better than he was before getting injured, Fabregas back at the end of this month and probably Walcott back at the same time. Arshavin to make his debut soon so things are looking great for Arsenal at the moment and along with a Champions League place, I am getting hopeful they have quite a chance of winning the FA Cup.

Burnley celebrate the opening goal

Burnley celebrate the opening goal

Giant killers Burnley have claimed yet another Premier League scalp in West Brom. The FA Cup replay saw the Championship side thrash Tony Mowbray’s side 3-1 at Turf Moor. This means if Arsenal truimph against Cardiff at the Emirates on 16th of February, they will once again play Burnley, who knocked the young guns of Arsenal out of the League Cup. Burnley have already defeated Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham and now West Brom.

fabregas02

"Now my only worry is that I recover as soon as possible"

Apart from that Fabregas says he wont go anywhere near Nou Camp. The Spaniard said:

“I’d have liked to have gone to watch Barcelona at the Nou Camp, but I wanted to avoid all the speculation about my future. Now my only worry is that I recover as soon as possible to return to Arsenal and help my team.”

No surprises there. Once again the Arsenal captain wastes no time in addressing speculations regarding his future. Hope he returns earlier than expected. He has the will and I am sure he can do it. Arsenal need him back big time!

Arshavin - Can't wait to start playing!

Arshavin - Can't wait to start playing!

Meanwhile Andrei Arshavin had a session with the fans. The new Arsenal player looked very excited and claimed that he has been a Gooner for quite some time now. He says he joined Arsenal because he likes he club’s style, Arsene Wenger and a few players. The forward is already looking to spur Arsenal’s silverware ambitions.  The Russian said:

“Arsenal’s aim is to win the Premier League title and be European champions. That is always the target for this club, so everybody knows that.

“I have already had a training session, and I am pleased with how I have been welcomed. Everyone has been very hospitable.

“I’m yet to train at the stadium but I’ve trained at the training ground and I was happy with how they took to me. Everything was very good, everyone was welcoming, asking me what I needed and things.

“We trained for an hour and a quarter, in the gym and then on the pitch. I got a positive impression from my new team mates. They believe in me.”

“Arsenal play very fast and attacking football that I really like, and there are many creative players.

“Wenger is a great man, and I never thought I would be able to play in his team.

“Here in London, I have had three or four interviews in English. It is clear that I am unlikely to speak without making errors, but it seems to me that I am being understood. In any case, I have only had to resort to using an interpreter a few times in these interviews. Naturally, I will improve.

“Naturally there are problems with English because I don’t know the language very well and can just chat about basic every day things.

“And today I was sitting in the changing room and it was all French – now that’s a language I have a lot of problems with*laughs*! But I hope we will get over the language barrier and everything else very quickly.”

Looking quite confident and happy from the start! As always the players have made a new player feel at home and that is very vital for one to settle at a new club. It’s good to see he has already had interviews in English. Learning the language will be vital for him to settle in quickly. He seems really confident and hopeful. That’s really good.

by Zain Shahid

Arshavin - One really excited guy!

Arshavin - One really excited guy!

I think there will hardly be a single Gooner out there who wouldn’t be happy with Arshavin coming in and why not!

Arshavin is an extremely creative and skillful attacking midfielder and in my view exactly what we needed right now.  Arsenal have looked very lacklustre as of late especially when it comes to creativity. We have been unable to create clear cut chances and on some rare occassions that we have managed it, Adebayor has wasted the opportunity! We may be on a 10 match unbeaten run but let’s not forget it includes 5 draws which is 10 dropped points with draws in the last 3 matches. Just 1 goal from 3 matches now shows what Arsenal are going through at the moment. But now here comes Arshavin. He can create chances out of nothing like Fabregas, and score goals out of nothing like van Persie. With van Persie and Nasri in brilliant forms and Arshavin to join them, it will make quite a line-up with those three in it. Next up for Arsenal is North London rivals Tottenham and I would be pleased to see him make a substitute appearance. I don’t think he will be fit enough to start right now.

Everything seems to be giong right at the moment but the big question is how long will he take to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League. It’s easy to make guesses and I am sure most will say not long. But remember Shevchenko? He was a better player when he arrived at Chelsea than what Arshavin is now but he completely failed to adapt to the Premier League and his career has taken a steep downfall. Of course there are various reasons for it but will Arshavin also suffer the same fate? Lets hope not but there is always that risk. Apart from that, historically speaking Russians and Ukranians have had a hard time in the Premier League. We have our own example of Oleg Luzhny and then the biggest example I mentioned of Shevchenko. I don’t know why is it so but there surely is something about it. But then there is Arshavin’s Russian teammate Pavlyuchenko who has wasted no time in showing his class at Spurs so one can be hopeful. But there is the dangerous side of the transfer so I would say give the lad time. Don’t put your expextation level too high because as Arsene Wenger said he doesn’t expect an instant saviour in Arshavin.

There is also another question of which position will he play in. Right wing is in my view the most probable position Wenger will play him but he is a natural attacking midfielder and can score goals. So I would like him to be played as an attacking midfielder playing just behind Adebayor and van Persie. But I would be really happy for him to play on the right. Reason? Eboue will be forced to the bench!

So lets wait and see how good can our new big signing be. I hope he adjusts as quickly as Sagna and Nasri did!

by Zain Shahid

Arsenal vs West Ham United

Arsenal vs West Ham United

We’re back to Emirates now and once again needing a win. Dropping points now seems unacceptable. But West Ham have always been a tough match for Arsenal. This time around also it might be a difficult encounter as the Hammers under Zola are in hot form and have managed 13 points from their last 5 games compared to Arsenal’s 12. This match will be one to keep the pressure on Aston Villa for the Champions League place. People say its a fight between the Gunners and Villa but I think Chelsea and Liverpool are also in it, especially Liverpool. But in the end with the quality that big 4 have got and the lucky wins Villa are getting week in week out, it will be the same old Big 4 at the top of the table the end of the season in my opinion. Villa should have a tricky game against resilient Wigan, who held Liverpool to a draw in mid-week, at home. Then there is the big Liverpool Chelsea match so a draw in both of the games will be of great help to Arsenal.

Arsenal will look to continue their 9 match mini unbeaten run. To add to that only Arsenal have managed to score in their last 9 league matches. To expect Arsenal not to score is madness! van Persie is in hot form, Arsenal have only not scored 3 times in the League this season and have only failed to score once at the Emirates, which ironically was against West Ham!

The defensive aspect will be very important. I would like to point out here that on the 7 occassions that Arsenal have kept a clean sheet this season, they have won all those times. So keep a clean sheet and win!

I expect the same line up as was in the trip to Goodison Park:

Almunia
Sagna     Djourou    Gallas    Clichy
Eboue    Denilson    Diaby    Nasri
Adebayor    van Persie

But Toure might get a start as he was rested in mid-week. Nasri should drift into the centre quite often and probably end the match playing there with Diaby on the left. Vela is quite surprisingly being played very less often than expected considering his impressive performances from the bench and I would want him to play at least 20 mins. The man to watch will be van Persie, no surprises here. He has scored 3 and assisted 5 of all the goals Arsenal have scored in January.

Arsenal will have to look out for Carlton Cole. The guy is good in the air and very physical. There lies a problem because Djourou isn’t too strong but if he is not played then both Gallas and Toure are not good in the air! I expect Djourou to start though.

A 2-1 win for Arsenal is my prediction.

by Zain Shahid

The Story of 2008...Sad Times...

The Story of 2008...Sad Times...

As we all know 2008 was one of the worst years in Arsenal’s recent history under Arsene Wenger. We were cruising at the top of the table with a 10 point lead as the year started but with a new year came a complete form slump. Dropping points again and again, Eduardo breaking his leg, Rosicky out, and we eventually end up 3rd despite leading for most part of the season. We also got unluckily knocked out of the Champions League to Liverpool, and were humiliated 4-0 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. Then came summer and all we sign is young Ramsey who is not part of our first team as for now and Nasri, who is the only good thing that has happened to us this year (apart from that historic truimph at San Siro!). Apart from those two we signed Silvestre, who himself would not remember the last time he played for Manchester United, and Bischoff, who had hardly played for his previous club and has not played for Arsenal apart from a substitute appearance so far. Then this season started and we lost our second game of the season to Fulham, then got into a bit of form which ended at the Emirates to Hull City. Since then we have seen disappointing performances from the club, with only two standout performances against Manchester United and Chelsea. We have already lost more games so far this season than we did all season last season. We are 8 points behind the leaders, once again finished 2nd in the group stages of the Champions League, out of the Carling Cup to lowly Burnley. Luckily there wasn’t FA Cup this season in 2008 otherwise we would have been out of it too! So to sum it up 2008 was a very unlucky year for Arsenal. But luck is not going to betray Arsenal again and again will it?! I don’t think so. We have started the year winnig dirty…we all know teams come and park their bus against Arsenal and in 2008 they had been quite successful in it. However this year we have already been successful of winning against teams that come just to defend twice (if you include late last year’s fixture against Portsmouth in 2009!). We have advanced to the next round of the FA Cup and are looking all set to sign Arshavin. What a start don’t you think?! Last year we could not win against teams that came to just defend; and could anyone have imagined that Arsenal would buy a big name like they are very close to signing Arshavin! So the start is quite good…and if you believe in Lady Luck then maybe 2008 as a whole was meant to be a bad year and 2009 as the start suggests (though I admit it might be too early to start making conclusions) will be a good and ‘lucky’ year for Arsenal! Ok our best player is out but remember what happened when Henry went?! van Persie and company are really coming out of their shell now. van Persie has been producing consistent match winning performances and so has been Nasri. The defence hasn’t looked this good all this season, Vela is really starting to become an impact substitute, Ramsey is impressing, Denilson and Eboue are much improved, and even Bendtner who was hopeless last year has suddenly scored 2 goals from 2 matches in 2009! Eduardo is also back, and once Walcott and Fabregas return they will be like two big name signings for us after returning from long term injuries. So the signs are looking very good I think. Lets just hope for the best! May 2009 be Arsenal’s year!

Now back to the never ending Arshavin transfer speculation! The Russian star expressed his desire to wear the number 10 shirt at Arsenal and also hoped that he wont have a hard time in adjusting to Arsenal’s style of play:

“In some games last season, we played football which was very similar to that of Arsenal. I would prefer my present No 10 but in the team where I hope to move it’s not vacant. So I’m ready for any number they are going to offer me.

“In some games last season, we played football which was very similar to that of Arsenal.

So he wants the the no. 10 shirt in ‘the team where I hope to move’! Now that is awesome news! In most cases players who are to be sold end up at clubs of their choice and it seems Arshavin wants to join Arsenal.

Meanwhile Arsenal target Everton’s Mikel Arteta has dispelled transfer rumours linking him with Arsenal and Manchester City and assured his commitment to the Toffees.

Arshavin - Conflicting statements from his agent and Wenger

Arshavin - Conflicting statements from his agent and Wenger

Arsene Wenger has come out to address the transfer speculation surrounding Everton’s Mikel Arteta and Zenit’s Andrei Arshavin. The Arsenal manager said:

“Mikel Arteta is a very good player but we have not made any enquiry about him at all. There is no progress on [Andrei] Arshavin. If there is any progress made you will be informed, I promise you.”

He said no move has been made for Arteta but that there is ‘no progress on Arshvain’. So certainly a move has been made for him. And Arsene said a few days back that he cannot take names of the players he is negotiating with because that ends a 50% chance of signing him. So is it the reason why Wenger is saying no progress has been made on Arshavin so maybe he is hiding it to avoid ending that 50% chance of signing him because if there was no progress then Arshavin’s agent would never have come out and made the statement saying everyone would love to see Arshavin at Arsenal but wait a few days for it. Apart from that he also denied any truth in the rumour that Arsenal are looking for Shay Given. I always thought so because I never expected Arsene to be looking for a goalkeeper which is why I did not mention this rumour in my blog.

Arteta - Wenger not interested in him

Arteta - Wenger not interested in him

Wenger also addressed the issue of the credit crunch saying Arsenal have the best chance of surviving in it. And he also committed himself to the club in the wake of rumors linking him with a move to Real Madrid. He said:

“How many clubs have managed to build a new stadium, have a good financial situation and continue to play at the

top? Chelsea haven’t built a stadium and they lose £100m per year, how do you imagine you can deal with that at Arsenal without going bankrupt? We have to be responsible. The other clubs, except for Man United, lose money. This team is together getting stronger and stronger but what we need to focus on is continually developing and not live in dreamland where we are linked with players of £30 to £40 million because that’s not realistic. It is not that we don’t want to spend. We have gone for a policy that is to develop our young players and we have to show some character and strength and not listen to everybody who comes out everyday with a new name. The players who have made a massive impact here are not always the ones who have cost £30 or £40m. I can cite you players in the last 10 or 15 years who have cost £30m and have been a flop. It is not necessarily linked that you spend £30m and get a massive player. I believe I have shown my commitment to this club. I accepted when we built the new stadium to stay and to commit my long-term future to the club under restrictions. I don’t think anyone can doubt my commitment here and question my decisions and I accept that, but not my commitment.”

Well Arshavin is not for £30m or £40m! I just can’t accept any news that contradict the chances of Arshavin coming to Arsenal! Apart from that I am not an economist so I really can’t comment on the other stuff he is saying except that it seems the financial situation of Arsenal is perfectly fine.