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The Super Sunday encounter between Arsenal and Manchester City can rightly be called a battle of ideologies. Cash rich Manchester City have not been shy of spending money. They have made a completely new team over the last year or two spending lavishly. Arsenal, on the other hand, with Arsene Wenger at helm have been the least spending Premier League side. They have persisted with project youth in the past few years with not more than a couple of additions each year. Tomorrow we may well find out how right Wenger is when he says “You can’t buy success.”

We usually don’t term games this early in the season as must-win. But its getting the 3 points especially in big matches like the one tomorrow that help to keep those must win games to a minimum in the final stages of the season.

The trip to City of Manchester Stadium used to be an easy ride for Arsenal till 2006. But since the influx of virtually unlimited money at City, Arsenal have managed to avoid defeat just once in the last 5 trips to Eastlands. Not to forget last season’s 4-2 defeat – a result that was overshadowed by Emmanuel Adebayor’s infamous stamp on former teammate Robin van Persie. Neither of the two might feature tomorrow though. Van Persie, as usual, is out injured and Adebayor has fallen out of favor with manager Roberto Mancini.

What’s more worrying for Arsenal is that they have a horrible away form. They have not kept a clean sheet in their last 15 away games and have won only one of their last eight Premier League away games. It really makes one wonder whether Arsenal can manage to get the 3 points tomorrow. Looks doubtful, honestly speaking.

As for the team news, City have an extremely short injury list. Balotelli, Jo and Toure are the only big names doubtful for tomorrow. Balotelli and Jo will surely not be missed with the form that Carlos Tevez is in. 28 goals in his last 31 Premier League appearances, including 7 already this season, says it all. It is this remarkable form that has forced Adebayor to the bench. But the lanky forward did get a hattrick in the Europa Cup in midweek so he will surely be contesting for a start against the club where it all started for him. New boy David Silva is also starting to fulfill his potential and could pose a serious threat to the weak Arsenal defence.

Arsenal’s absentee list is a lot longer than that of City. Almunia, Frimpong, Ramsey, Van Persie, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Wilshere (suspended) will all be missing. The list has shrunk a lot in the last week or two. Sagna is back, so are Walcott, Bendtner and Fabregas. The captain’s return is a timely one considering the little man running the show from midfield this season, Jack Wilshere, is suspended. The probable line-up will be:

Fabianski
Sagna     Squillaci     Djourou     Clichy
Nasri     Song    Fabregas
Walcott     Chamakh     Arshavin

Fabianski is turning out to be a reliable goalkeeper. You don’t have mini heart attacks anymore whenever he’s called into action, and instead you really fancy him to pull out a save or make a good punch. Sagna is back fit and I would prefer him over Eboue because he’s better defender defensively. The back two pick themselves since they’re the only options we have unless Koscielny makes a surprising recovery from his back injury. At left back I wouldn’t mind either of Clichy or Gibbs but Wenger will probably go for Clichy’s experience. Nasri has been Arsenal’s best player this season so he’s an automatic selection. Song is the only holding midfield option we have. Fabregas picks himself. As for Walcott, I think we really will need his pace and direct approach in a big match like this because as Wenger said the first goal decides the game in most big matches so better to start him than bring him on as a super sub. Of course you can’t drop Chamakh. He’s been The Man so far. Involved in nearly everything – tracking back, good link play, assists, winning penalties, scoring goals. And we all know Wenger wont drop Arshavin so lets not argue about that!

MANCHESTER CITY:
League position: 2nd
Points: 17
Goals scored: 12
Goals conceded: 5
Form: WWWWD

ARSENAL:
League position: 5th
Points: 14
Goals scored: 18
Goals conceded: 10
Form: WLLDW

Lets hope Arsenal can turn their away misfortunes around and turn up with a performance we’ve all come to expect from them at home. With Chelsea getting a win today, not dropping points is all the more important now.

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FergusonG2608_468x632Sir Alex Ferguson has been in this game long enough not to count Arsenal out of the title race. But there is a condition. IF Arsenal’s old enemy doesn’t return – injuries; though it seems they already have returned as Nasri is out for six weeks and Rosicky for 8 weeks.

“If Arsenal keep clear of injuries, they’ll be up there challenging. Cesc Fabregas has been the architect of that team for the last three or four years.

“I think they’ll be stronger than last season.”

Good thing Ferguson didn’t mention Arsenal in the same sentence as Man City like Arsenal and Man City are going to be title contenders this season! We are way better than them and don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as them!

Aston Villa have given all Gooners some great news! Slumping to defeat against a Manchester City without Robinho and Bellamy. Shaun Wright Phillips, our very own legend Ian Wright’s son, proved to be of immense help to Arsenal’s attempt to make it to the Champions League next season as he won the penalty for the first goal and scored the second to thrash Villa 2-0. The gap is now down to just 3 points which can easily be leapfrogged by a team of Arsenal’s quality with 10 games remaining. Looks like Villa have run out of the luck which had helped them to overtake Arsenal and quite a lot of us Gooners expected it to happen. We could see them getting goals from deflected shots, own goals, penalties and winning by small margins and according to a poll conducted on this site 31% of us think we will finish 4th because Aston Villa are only getting lucky wins and soon their luck will run out. Lets hope these recent results for them aren’t exceptions in their run and that the poor run continues!

fabregas_wenger_280x390_474869a

Fabregas and Wenger will leave Arsenal together!

Moving from good news to bad news now! Fabregas has warned he might well follow Arsene Wenger out of the club whenever the Arsenal manager leaves Arsenal. The young Spaniard said:

“I have heard the rumours about Wenger leaving for the past three years. If Wenger left the club then of course I would consider my own future and whether I would leave the club. I am happy at Arsenal because it’s the ideal club and believe that we and Barcelona play the best football in Europe. But Wenger is a main part of that.”

Actually this doesn’t come as a surprise to me. We all know he is at the club because of Wenger. Wenger has been able to convince him time and again to stay and we all know how much Fabregas loves him and considers him a father figure. I, honestly speaking, expected Fabregas to move on if Wenger leaves whenever that happens and I hope it doesn’t happen anytime in the next few years! Just one of them leaving would be enough of a big blow for Arsenal let alone both of them leaving. I can’t even imagine it! But the thing is at the moment both of them love Arsenal and Wenger isn’t going to leave anytime soon unless he is sacked, though I don’t expect it to happen.

by Zain Shahid

Richards - Flattered by Arsenal link

Richards - Flattered by Arsenal link

With rumours linking Manchester City centre half Micah Richards to Arsenal, the young Englishman has straight away come out and pledged his future to the Eastlands club. It was rumoured that Arsene Wenger will make a swoop for Richards for a lowly £7m which would have been an exceptional buy considering the guy is extremely talented and worth more than just £7m. However flattered he may be with the link, he is set to remain loyal to his current club where he has a 5 year contract. He said:

“It’s always flattering being linked with a club like Arsenal, and they have one of the best managers in the world in Arsene Wenger. However, as I said before, I’m happy at Manchester City and believe that the club is going in the right direction. We’ve had a difficult season all round, which can affect performances, but I think that I can continue my development at City and hopefully win some trophies. I’m still young and still learning, and I’m fully settled at the club and believe that Mark Hughes will help me to improve my game.”

Well, there is another rumour squashed and with it the chance of any consolation transfer as Arshavin coming to Arsenal seems like is never going to happen. But still there is a week to go and a very slight hope of a quality player coming in!

Meanwhile Arsenal have been held to a stalemate by an impressive Cardiff with the replay at the Emirates to be played now nine days later. The report, analysis and ratings tommorow!

by Zain Shahid

Gallas - Pledges his immediate future to Arsenal

Gallas - Pledges his immediate future to Arsenal

With rumors linking Arsenal’s ex-captain with a move to AC Milan, the Frenchman has come out and rubbished the rumors. The (big mouthed!) centre half said:

“There is no tension. I play. I give the maximum for the club. I am concentrating on my future, finishing my contract with Arsenal and seeing where I’ll go in two years.”

It’s good news. Arsenal already have a hapless defence, and I can’t imagine Arsenal without Gallas right now unless a good replacement is bought so him staying is wonderful news.

Arshavin - ... no comments!

Arshavin - ... no comments!

Meanwhile *yawn* Dick Advocaat expects Arshavin to be a Gunner soon. The Zenit manager explained:

“Negotiations with Arsenal continue and the chances are very high that Arshavin will soon play in the English Premier League.”

Why can’t anyone say he will soon play for Arsenal!! They all say he will soon play in the Premier League and when they say it, it scares me! Because Manchester City are looking to hijack the move. But still I’m quite optimistic about the move.

Lastly, there have been rumors circulating around since Manchester City bid for Kaka that if the move goes through Milan might turn their attention to van Persie and Adebayor for reinforcements. Seems like a joke to me! Kaka, I bet, won’t go anywhere; at least not to Manchester City so that means Milan wont make a move for the Arsenal stars. I’m not at all worried and same is the case with Wenger.

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.