Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Arsenal's Transfers Crash Official Website

Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun and Per Mertesacker were all confirmed as Arsenal players on deadline day, as was the Brazilian left wing-back, Andre Santos. In fact, it was a day so uncharacteristically busy for Arsenal, the official website crashed for a little while as too many fans rushed to the site for confirmation on transfers - some of which ended up going down to the wire.

Everton's central midfielder Arteta is said to to cost around £10 million, as the 29 year-old signs on a four year deal worth £60,000 per week - that's £10,000 less than he was earning as an Everton player. His eagerness to join Arsenal and play in the Champions League helped to move the deal along at such a late hour, and Wenger finally got his man just before the deadline, meaning Arsenal have purchased a player with a wealth of Premier League experience.

Meanwhile, Yossi Benayoun also comes to Arsenal with years of experience in England, having played for West Ham, Liverpool and Chelsea. The 31 year-old Israeli also has valuable experience in the Champions League, a competition he would have been unlikely to play in at Chelsea due to their summer purchases in the midfield, which included Liverpool's Raul Meireles.

Benayoun joins on a season long loan deal, and Bendtner leaves for Sunderland on those same terms. Arsenal's signings of the South Korean striker Chu Young Park, and Gervinho meant Bendtner's chances of starring in an attack which also includes Robin van Persie and Marouane Chamakh was unlikely, but the club will be hoping to see him improve and mature in his season away playing regularly.

Per Mertesacker's signing was pretty much done and dusted before deadline day, but the move was officially confirmed with Wenger singing the Germans praises: "We are delighted to welcome Per Mertesacker to the Club. He is a German international with vast experience and strength and is good on the floor and in the air. I believe he will be well-suited to the Premier League and a tremendous asset to the team."

So two defensive signings and two midfield signings in the last few days of the window seem to be holding off some critics of Arsene Wenger's transfer policy, however some are labelling the signings as "panic buys," and ones which Arsenal fans may have cause to be worrying about as the season progresses. Both Arteta and Benayoun are experienced, but both have been troubled with injuries and aren't in the best form of their lives.

Perhaps the step to Arsenal will rejuvenate the Arsenal squad and improve morale in the side recently crushed 8 - 2 by Manchester United. The depth has certainly been improved, and when the injured and suspended players return, Wenger will be looking at his players with a quiet satisfaction. Football is a results business however, and with no wins in three Premier League games, these new player will have to start piling up the victories to save Arsenal's miserable start to the season.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Per Mertesacker to Sign For Arsenal

Arsenal have had an £8 million bid for Werder Bremen's central defender Per Mertesacker accepted, with the German defender to travel to London to complete a medical today.

Wenger has already wrapped up a deal which sees Brazilian left wing back Andres Santos join from the Turkish side Fenerbahce, as DBS Football reported yesterday, and now another defensive addition has been made. It is clear Wenger understands the problem with his current side - his defence.

Mertesacker has been trailed by Arsenal for a while, but other options have side tracked the North London club from making a bid official for the Werder Bremen captain, such as Wenger's interest in Gary Cahill of Bolton. Arsenal have now ended their bid to sign Cahill, who would have cost around double the price of Mertesacker.

At 6 foot 6 inches, Arsenal's new defensive signing will help massively with the teams problems in dealing with set pieces, especially when you consider the astonishing statistic that last season, 53% of Arsenal's conceded goals came from set pieces. His towering height will also be a bonus when Arsenal win corners of their own and need someone to smash the ball in with a powerful header.

He is a composed, experienced and powerful defender, who is comfortable on the ball and precise in the tackle. Captaining Werder Bremen shows he has the leadership qualities needed in a weak Arsenal team, and a partnership with Thomas Vermaelen looks frighteningly intimidating for opposition attackers.

The Bremen general manager Klaus Allofs said: "Per has had the wish to join a big European club for some time. Arsenal was always his favourite club," and while Mertesacker is in the German squad for this weeks Euro 2012 qualifiers, the German national boss Joachim Loew has granted his player a day off to talk to Arsenal ahead of his move which will see him pocket £80,000 per week.

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Monday, 29 August 2011

Arsenal to Sign Brazilian Defender

Arsenal are extremely close to signing the Brazilian 28 year-old left wing back, Andres Santos for a fee believed to be around £5.5 million according to reports in Turkey.

The Fenerbahce player is expected to finalise his move to Arsenal within the next 48 hours. It is activity from Arsene Wenger which goes some way to revitalising the defence which was battered by Manchester United on Sunday as the manager seeks to find a left back as a replacement for both Gael Clichy, now of City, and Armand Traore, who will soon be a QPR player.

Reports from the Turkish news site NTV Sport claim that Fenerbahce and Arsenal have agreed a fee for the player, who joined the Turkish side in 2009.

In May, the European Champions Barcelona were linked with Santos, but he is currently said to be on his way to London to sign a four year contract with Wenger's side.

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Sunday, 28 August 2011

VOTE: What do Arsenal Need?

It has been an awful start to the season for Arsenal, with injuries, suspensions and one mighty battering from Manchester United, conceding eight goals at Old Trafford.

Arsene Wenger has found himself under huge pressure which really began when the transfer window opened this summer, slowly building up with the lack of new faces at the club, mixed with a handful of very disappointing results. He seems to be content with his current squad, while all around him tear their hair out in frustration at his apparent oblivion to Arsenal's obvious needs.

Signings aren't the answer, say Wenger, who is expecting to see the South Korean striker Park Chu Young of Monaco, but what more do Arsenal need to avoid another footballing catastrophe's as they did on Sunday?

What Do Arsenal Need Most?

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Arsenal Collapse - United Punish

When Arsene Wenger sat in the Arsenal bus on the way to Old Trafford today, he couldn't have expected much from the group of players he had sitting behind him. There they were, headphones on, training kits ready, the Arsenal badge placed firmly on their chest. Little did they know the footballing misery that was to befall them in the Theatre of Dreams.

"I believe we'll be up for it and have the quality," said the Frenchman as he stood before Geoff Shreeves. Remarkably oblivious, or simply blinded by optimism? In truth, no one will have expected such a rout from Manchester United which Arsenal became victims of - eight goals to two? Stunning.

I've said it before, and will say it again; at the moment, the two clubs are the complete antithesis of each other. In quality, in depth, in direction, in experience, in know-how, in common sense, in understanding of the game, today, they were miles apart. Yes, Arsenal had a weakened side, but conceding eight goals is incredible, and to concede eight goals when you are expected to be challenging for trophies is quite unbelievable.

Wenger cut a lonely figure on the away team bench, and as Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie came off the join the substitutions, none of them could muster the tenacity to look each other in the eye. The Arsenal team were humiliated and embarrassed by some awful defending, amateur mistakes and a huge lack of Arsene Wenger's favourite two things; "spirit" and "belief."

Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson on the other hand, were full of confidence on the back of two successive Premier League victories, and had no room for sympathy. It was a day in which their biggest rivals in City had won at Spurs, scoring an impressive five goals, and United aren't ones for being second best, especially against the blue side of their City, so winning against Arsenal was the only option.

Indeed, after winning convincingly against Tottenham on Monday, United were favourites for this game, and from the off, there didn't seem to be any doubt that this would be a game to remember for this young United side.

There were some fantastic individual performances in the United team, but it was the way that they played together which was so impressive, especially considering the expectation on their young shoulders - and yes, there was expectation. As favourites to win the big match throughout the weeks build-up, it would have been easy for the players to become complacent, and take a win for granted in front of the home crowd.

From the defence, through to the midfield and up to the two young and exceptionally talented pair of Englishmen in attack, the team was confident, assured, lucid and ready for the challenge before them. Admittedly, it didn't turn out to be too big of a challenge but it is a sign of a strong footballing side, when the players can punish the opposition whatever level they play at just like they did against the Gunners.

The Welbeck opener spelled disaster for Arsenal, as a cheeky chip from Anderson flew over the defence, and left Johan Djourou in no man's land for Welbeck to show his strength and nod the ball passed the unfortunate Sczcesny.

The Polish goalkeeper had very little defence throughout the game, with the four at the back getting drawn to the ball instead of staying with their markers too many times. Against United, you simply cannot do that.

Rooney grabbed a hat-trick, and in doing so, his 150th, 151st and 152nd goals for Manchester United, as he comes closer to cementing his place among the United legends. Ashley Young grabbed a sublime double, Nani, who was quite frustrating throughout as he complicated simple moves with often unsuccessful shows of needless extravagance, finished with a cool chip into the net, while Park came on for the Portuguese winger to score his customary goal against the Gunners.

David de Gea's penalty save while United were one goal ahead was crucial for both his confidence in himself and the fans' confidence in him, as well as for the route to victory in the game, however, he needs to better with shots like Theo Walcott's which from a tight angle, crept beneath his legs. He is improving every game, and soon the creases will be ironed out for this young talent, much like the whole United side.

While the goals were extremely well worked, creative and scored and created by some marvellous talents, Arsenal didn't pose a great challenge, and United will have to keep improving to beat the best. It just so happens that they have the best manager in the world to guide them in that fruitful, trophy winning direction.

As for Arsenal, like I've said before, Wenger's need for spirit and belief simply is not enough to realistically compete when they have a severe lack of quality players in their squad depth. It is a ferociously rocky period, and pressure is rising dramatically, but with a few signings, players back from injuries and suspensions, a manager given full support and confidence, Arsenal could be back to winning ways soon. The pivotal word in that sentence being "could." Nothing is guaranteed.

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Friday, 26 August 2011

Arsenal After Eljero Elia

Arsenal are said to be after the Hamburg winger, Eljero Elia as a replacement for Samir Nasri in the depleted Arsenal side. SkySports claim, from their sources that Arsenal have made an enquiry for the 24 year-old Dutchman, and with funds to spend, a move for him looks on the cards.

Elia is a frighteningly fast runner, with a lot of ball skills Elia and can play as a winger or striker. In 2009, he won the prestigious Johan Cruijff Award for "Young Player of the Year" in the Netherlands, and the player not only has skill in abundance, but confidence in that skill too, so much so, he has very real aspirations to play with three of the biggest clubs in the world.

He said in January "I would love to play for one of the special clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or Manchester United."

The young Dutchman is certainly an exciting player, with Liverpool just one of the clubs who showed a real interest in signing the former FC Twente player quite recently, with a £13 million bid said to have been offered. Hamburg also rejected an offer from Juventus earlier in this window, but now it is Arsenal's turn to attempt to sign his services.

He joined Hamburg two years ago for a fee of £7.5 million and has played 60 games for the German side, scoring 8 goals and assisting 11 as well as causing havoc to opposition defenders. He played a cameo role in the World Cup in 2010, which is when I first noticed him, and he did impress with the short periods he had on the ball, making probing runs through the defence.

He is said to be considering his options, but is apparently keen to leave, but with a contract with Hamburg until 2014, the German side will be looking for a decent sum of money. Wenger has aid he is willing to spend and is looking for a striker and several midfielder's, so we shall see where this link leads.

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Wenger: We Need One More Striker & Cahill Latest

As Arsene Wenger fights off criticism for a £6 million bid for Bolton's Gary Cahill described as "derisory," which he vehemently denies, other transfer matters further up the field also hold an importance to the Arsenal manager.

While many fans are calling for midfield reinforcements to counter the absence of the departed Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Wenger has turned his attentions to replacing a man who hasn't left yet, Nicklas Bendtner. The Danish international will be on his way out of Arsenal, and Wenger said in his Friday press conference that he needs replacing:
“We look for one more striker because we know he [Bendtner] will leave and we will be short.”
Wenger has said he will be working hard during the last few days of the transfer window, and has made attempts to recruit players in midfield, with a 30 million euro bid for Eden Hazard being rejected by his French club Lille.

On Gary Cahill, a player who has interested Wenger and Arsenal a lot over the past few transfer windows, the manager was quite angry about how his offer had been portrayed in reports, with some saying it was as low as £6-7 million. Wenger strongly denies such a low offer being made by himself, but did not want to comment on the true amount he had offered Bolton for the English international defender. He said:
"First of all I would like to say the number is wrong. It's completely wrong and nothing to do with how much we rate the player. I believe negotiations are between two parties and you only have to sell the player if you are alright with the price." 
"In this case the information is below what has been spoken about. You can believe Gartside or you can believe me. It's not right. It's not the truth. If Gartside can say I am lying I am ready to confront him."  
"If Gartside can say I am lying I am ready to confront him. The truth is that we never speak about our negotiations."

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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Wenger's Love of "Belief" & "Spirit"

Arsene Wenger begins answering almost every post match question with two words which are becoming his trademark. As the interviewer lifts the microphone to the Arsenal managers' mouth in anticipation of an answer to the preceding question, you can quite easily predict that the answer will start with the words; "I believe."

The sort of "belief" Wenger talks about in interviews and press conferences are, of course his opinions and convictions on a certain issue, however, he expects his Arsenal team to play with a very different sort of belief. It is the psychological belief with which his players should perform, with a certain amount of confidence and mental strength to trust each-other and themselves, often added to by Wenger with the word "spirit."

Wenger puts a lot of trust in this "belief" and "spirit." He has shown how patient a human being he is in his time at Arsenal, especially during the past 6 years in which Arsenal have won nothing, much to the frustration of the fans. However, despite increasing pressure to do so, Wenger has always been reluctant to spend a lot of money on big, established players and has relied on his youth heavily.

It is his trust in the psychological side of football which he uses as an excuse to avoid the real issue of squad depth so as to prevent the need to spend money on more players. It is frustrating for fans who have shown loyalty to the club and Wenger for so long, yet the clear issue for most people does not seem to register too urgently with Wenger.

The plain fact is, "belief and spirit" will not help an injured player, unable to walk on two feet, nor will it help a team severely lacking in strength in depth. Of course Wenger is right, players need to have a strong mental attitude, with desire, belief, spirit and leadership, but where there are constant injuries during a long hard season, once a side loses games and morale is low due to heavy expectation, the spirit and belief in players needs a little help from new, fresh recruits.

With the loss of two quality players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, as well as the sale of Gael Clichy, Arsenal are lacking in numbers. When you compare the squad size to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and now Liverpool, who have all spent big on new recruits despite not losing as many players as Wenger, the weaknesses are clear.

Unfortunately, signing Gervinho, Jenkinson, Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain do not address the immediate issues Arsenal have, and while they have a very decent and respectable first team, when you take injuries and suspensions into account throughout the season, they will not be strong enough to compete against the best.

Fortunately for Arsenal fans, it seems Wenger is making some movement, with rumours of Yann M'Vila, Marvin Martin, Eden Hazard among others in midfield as well as defensive reinforcements like Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill on his transfer wish list. So while Wenger has more spirit and belief than a priest drunk on vodka, I believe it is quality in depth that counts. Over to you Arsene.

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Gill: No Sneijder, But Man United Are Ready

Manchester United's chief executive David Gill and Wesley Sneijder were in the same room today, as they listened to their fate, but unfortunately, it was the fate of the clubs they were representing at the Champions League group stage draw rather than round a negotiation table.

Once the draw had finished, there were whispers that perhaps Gill, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sneijder would meet up and begin those negotiations. Instead, Gill met up with SkySports to announce that any new signings would be unlikely, and following in Sir Alex Ferguson's view, United are comfortable with the young squad at their disposal.

Gill did confirm that Manchester United had looked at various players, but in an indication that no deal with any of the clubs targets including Wesley Sneijder was close, continued to emphasise the belief United have in their current crop of players. When asked whether United plan to bring in any new faces, Gill said:
"I don't think so. We've looked at various players but we're very comfortable with our squad. We've made some great additions in the summer and we've got a young, vibrant squad." 
"We look forward to a great season now as, I'm sure, will a lot of other clubs. A lot have strengthened, in England in particular, but we feel we're well equipped for the months ahead.
"We'll progress now and I'm sure Alex will get the best out of the players over the season."
It seems Manchester United fans hopeful that Sneijder or a similarly intelligent midfielder were to come in and grace Old Trafford will have to come to terms with the fact that the current squad is likely to be the one which fights United's on-field battles this season.

Many already have, and after a couple of impressive displays from the young players are happy that a new signing who may perhaps halt the progress of some younger players by walking straight into the United side is now off the cards.

However, there are still several days left in the summer transfer window for negotiations to be completed and fine details to fall into place. If Sneijder does agree to lower his wage demands, who knows - perhaps United will make another move just before the deadline - it is, after all Manchester United, where everything seems to be steeped in drama and excitement.

One final big signing would be a pleasant and welcome surprise to United fans, and if it doesn't work out now, there's always January.
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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Vermaelen Injury "Worries" Wenger

An injury to Thomas Vermaelen during Arsenal's victorious Champions League tie against Udinese on Wednesday night is a "worry" for the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

When asked about the general fitness of his side looking ahead to Arsenal's fixture against Manchester United on Sunday, Wenger was very unspecific in his details, but said of the Belgian central defender:
"We have worries about Thomas Vermaelen after the game because he wanted to come off."
Whether or not these worries are down to just a slight knock that may need some medical attention or if it's something a little more serious is now up for debate, but it will certainly have Arsenal fans worrying as they head into the week-end with a potentially even weaker squad to face United.

Everyone at Arsenal will be hoping the injury to Vermaelen is nothing serious, because having only recovered from a very troublesome Achilles injury which meant he only played 5 times for Arsenal during the whole of last season. Many put down the 25 year-olds absence from the Arsenal side as a big reason why the team fell apart towards the end of the season with a number of defensive errors leading to costly losses.

Arsenal are already without Gervinho, Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong due to suspension as they travel to Old Trafford to face United on Sunday, while Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Kieran Gibbs are out with injuries. Laurent Koscielny "could" be fit to face Manchester United according to the Arsenal website, but if neither him or Vermaelen are fit, more misery may be placed on Arsenal with yet another loss.

Stand by for some more news on Thoman Vermaelen's injury, which hopefully is not too serious for Arsenal.

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Nasri: I'm Really Happy to Leave Arsenal

Samir Nasri has told of his delight at finally joining Manchester City from Arsenal after long, drawn out, tiring negotiations, speaking about the frustration of still being an Arsenal player at pre-season. He told City's official website:
“It is a big relief. It was a long negotiation and discussion between the two clubs and now I am finally a City player. That is what I wanted from the start. I’m really happy." 
“I was a little bit frustrated because I said to the manager (Wenger) I wanted to leave. I stayed for the whole pre-season, but I wanted to do the pre-season with Manchester, so then I can know my team-mates a little more."
“I was a bit frustrated. It is a big day for me. It is a new start and I’m looking forward to doing it.”
Nasri had some trouble with abusive Arsenal fans during the clubs first game in which he did not play, but the Frenchman feels he will not have any worries with the City fans, whom he described as "really passionate," - and more so than Arsenal's fans, which may cause upset with many Gunners. City's £24 million signing continued:
“The (City) fans are really passionate. It reminds me a little of Marseille. Arsenal have good fans but not so passionate since they moved to the Emirates from Highbury."
“I remember when we lost 3-0 at City the crowd was amazing. That is what I want when I play football.”
To add insult to injury, Arsenal's former captain, Patrick Viera, who is held in high regard among many Arsenal fans, played his part in bringing Nasri to City. Viera, who is now a Football Development Executive at City, the club where he retired, told Nasri that City is "the place to be." He said:
“It was important to have advice from people who know the club well and know the difference between Arsenal and Manchester City." 
“Patrick is a legend in France. When a player like this tells you Manchester City is the place to be, that it is the club of the future and wants to win everything, you have to listen to this. I am here to play football and to win titles, not for the sun or things like that.”

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Nasri Signs 4 Year Deal & Mata, Five

Samir Nasri has finally completed his move to Manchester City from Arsenal after a long running transfer battle, signing for Roberto Mancini's side on a four year deal, while Chelsea's new signing Juan Mata completed his move and signed a five year contract.

City apparently paid Arsenal a fee of £24 million - massive when you think he only had one year remaining on his Arsenal contract and could have left for free next summer. Nasri will don the number 19 shirt for City, and will go straight into the squad for the Premier League leaders' next game against Tottenham on Sunday.

Nasri is City's fourth major signing of this summer, and will follow his former Arsenal and French team mate, Gael Clichy who joined earlier this summer for around £7 million, as Nasri's signing brings City's summer spend up to around £77.6 million.

Meanwhile, Juan Mata, whom Arsenal had been close to signing as a replacement for Samir Nasri until negotiations broke down, has officially completed his move to Chelsea from Valencia, commanding an equally large sum of £26 million. He was rather sad leaving a club which he has grown up with and grown very fond of, playing 179 times and scoring 43 goals.

However, he says he has now joined a "bigger club" and is looking forward to paying very attacking football and winning plenty of trophies.

The 23 year-old's position at Chelsea on the field has been debated, and Mata allowed us an insight as to where he will play, saying:
"The plan is that I can play on either flank or even in the middle playing in between the lines of midfield and attack. I like to keep the ball and use it well, I am an attacking player and above all I like to set up goals and score them also."
Mata also revealed turning down both Arsenal and Tottenham, saying he chose Chelsea over their London rivals because they "did not compare with the Blues;"
"I want to come to England to win trophies - and that's why I accepted Chelsea's offer. It was also a question of sporting achievement, not money. Arsenal and Tottenham were both interested in me but they did not compare with the Blues."

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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Wilshere Out for Further "Two or Three Weeks"

Arsenal have further troubles to deal with as Arsene Wenger confirmed that their talented young midfielder, Jack Wilshere will be missing for at least two to three weeks.

The England international has not played a game for Arsenal this Premier League season after picking up an ankle injury against the MLS side New York Red Bulls late in July during Arsenal's pre season schedule.

There had been hopes that the 19 year-old would recover quickly and in time for Arsenal's Champions League qualifying second leg game against Udinese on Wednesday. However, after training for a few days, Wilshere has had another setback, with Wenger fearing the players rehabilitation will have to start all over again.
Arsene Wenger said:
"I don't know if we are back to square one or for how long he will be out. He's in a [protective] boot again, so that means he will at least be out for two or three weeks."
This news means that not only will Wilshere miss Arsenal's mid week European qualifier, but also the week-ends game against Manchester United. Wenger is already likely to be without Samir Nasri for the United game on Sunday, having travelled to Manchester today to complete his medical in order to join Manchester City, but injury news further weakens the Arsenal squad.

Arsene Wenger has had some good news for Arsenal fans however, stating that he is seeking to improve the midfield positions since Fabregas' and Nasri's departures, "We are short in midfield at the moment and that is where we want to strengthen."

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Monday, 22 August 2011

Nasri Asks Wenger Not To Cup-Tie Him

Samir Nasri has asked Arsene Wenger not to play him against Udinese in the Champions League second leg qualifier on Wednesday so that he remains eligible to play in the Champions League, allowing Manchester City to sign him as soon as possible, according to the Guardian.

Wenger has been forced to accept Nasri's position, and the French midfielder will now not travel to Italy on Tuesday to prepare for the all important game on Wednesday.

Wenger had said earlier in the week that he had no problems in selecting Nasri for the mid-week game, because qualifying for the Champions League is more important than the individual case of Nasri. However, under pressure from Nasri, Manchester City's manager Roberto Mancini, and probably the board, who wish to cash in on £25 million rated Nasri,Wenger has had to back down in his stance.

Wenger raised some eyebrows when he played Nasri against Liverpool on Saturday, as some thought his move to City was imminent, however, there are still some fine points to complete, including sorting out the fees of agents and lawyers who have been involved in the process.

Nasri seems keen to have the deal completed, as do City, and once Arsenal finally have the guarantee of the money from the sale, Wenger can begin to rebuild his side with the needed replacements. However, in the immediate future of the Udinese game, it is a blow for Arsenal, who will now have to hold onto their narrow goal lead away from home without one of their bes attacking players.

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Hazard & M'Vila Wait on Arsenal Future

Arsenal must qualify for the Champions League on Wednesday if they stand any chance of signing two of their top transfer targets, Eden Hazard and Yann M'Vila.

The match against Italian side Udinese now has a massive, added importance to it, with Arsenal's late activity in the transfer market relying on them getting through to the group stages of Europe's biggest club competition to match the ambitions of two of Ligue 1's brightest prospects.

Arsenal's raid on the French League also includes a big interest in Marvin Martin, Sochaux's attacking midfielder, who has impressed in the French national side as well as in domestic football, playing in a role similar to that of Samir Nasri at Arsenal. Martin assisted 17 goals last season, and in one game this year has already scored one goal.

He is a flare midfielder, as is Hazard, with the latter being a long term target of Wenger's, while Rennes' Yann M'Vila has only recently come into the Arsenal managers line of vision as he searches for depth in the defensive midfield role.

Lille are said to be asking for over £20 million for Hazard, and despite rumours that M'Vila was subject to a rejected £17.5 million from Arsenal, Rennes are supposedly rating him at just over £12 million. According to the Independent, Martin would be the cheapest signing of the three, with Wenger confident he can snatch the 23 year-old for £10.5 million.

With this information, it is understandable why Arsene Wenger is absolutely prepared to cup-tie Samir Nasri against Udinese which may potentially see Manchester City pull out of the deal to sign him, meaning the French midfielder would leave for free next season.

Arsenal may lose out on the £25 million fee City are prepared to pay, but last year, despite only reaching the knock-out round of the competition, Arsenal made £26.2 million, so with Nasri as well as any of Martin, M'Vila and Hazard, getting through on Wednesday is absolutely crucial for Arsenal's future.

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Manchester United Youngsters Shine Again

When Manchester United turn up the pace, when the players pull up their socks, and the manager fires out his orders to his team, it's scary. Scary for the opposition at least, because for the United fans, it's fantastic.

The first half had ended in stalemate, with neither side dominating too much of possession or chance, however the pace in the second half dramatically increased. Sir Alex Ferguson, beginning his 26th season as United manager had given his young players a mission, and they didn't disappoint.

The three youngsters in the back four were immense. They may not have been troubled too much, but against Tottenham, they needed to keep the likes of Rafael Van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Arron Lennon and Jermaine Defoe quiet, and they seemed to do it with ease. Chris Smalling played on the right, while 19 year-old Phil Jones and 23 year-old Jonny Evans filled in the middle for Ferdinand and Vidic.

Smalling has already proved himself to United, with a solid season last year after joining from Fulham, but the Old Trafford crowd had seen little from their £16.5 million signing Jones, while Evans' form has been on and off.

Powerful, steady and authoritative are words which could describe their performance, with no mishaps at the back to speak of at all. All three are also very comfortable on the ball, and can pass it around between them, creating time for a clearance, or drive the ball out themselves, with a strong surge up field. It's thrilling to think that these three are the Manchester United back line of the future.

Behind them was a 20 year-old Spaniard. David de Gea - ever heard of him? His appearances in the press being labelled unbelievably as a flop will for now have been forgotten, with a much improved performance in front of his supportive fans. A piece of trickery under pressure from an incoming Van der Vaart may have given some a mini heart-attack, but when kicked to the ground, the whistle was blown and all was safe.

He had a more troublesome second half, as the Spurs players fired more frequently at the goal, hoping for a spill or blunder. A typically heavy-duty blast from Tom Huddlestone late was dropped, but recouped quickly by de Gea, who snatched it away from Defoe just in time for a nasty kick from the England striker, but nothing too serious. It's promising.

The midfield was as it was in the Community Shield. The player in that attacking six are in the early stages of creating a very encouraging bond, in which the awareness is immense, allowing the passing to be quick and probing, to allow the team to be one step ahead of the opponent.

United's starting eleven, the team of youth, filled to the rim with fiery and enthusiastic quality, had an average age of 23, and for all the money the club have and may yet spend this summer, it was a pair of free local lads who broke the deadlock.

Tom Cleverley, who had a relatively quiet first half whipped in a marvellous, pin point cross which was met by Danny Welbeck, who glanced a precise header into the far corner, past the veteran Brad Friedel. The American goalkeeper had frustrated United before, but there was nothing he could do about this wonderfully simple but crucially effective goal which began the onslaught.

The goal came on the hour mark, and for the final thirty minutes, United completely dominated. Welbeck had scored one, and created the next, with a cute back heel in the box to set up Anderson for an easy side foot which bulged the net delightfully.

Rooney, the ever present and very much needed talent of the United attack grabbed a well deserved goal, thanks to a cross from the old man in the team, Ryan Giggs. He came on in a triple substitution, which saw the return of Javier Hernandez from concussion, and Ji Sung Park, only for a cameo - but with Giggs, every performance counts.

A trademark cross hung in the air for Rooney and his brand new hair to knock in with a perfect header, topping off the win with a mix of the accomplished old with the blossoming new.

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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Arsenal Held to Ransom Over Nasri

Manchester City are threatening to pull out of the deal for Samir Nasri if Arsenal play him in their Champions League qualifying second leg match against Udinese on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini claimed that the deal should be wrapped up in the next two days, but if Nasri were to appear on Wednesday, making him cup-tied in Europe, and unable to play a part in Manchester City's Champions League journey, it would be a "big problem."

In fact, it wouldn't just be a big problem for Mancini, but it may mean that he would pursuit other targets, pulling out of the deal. His comments also indicate that Nasri will not be a City player before Wednesday. Mancini said:
"If Nasri plays against Udinese, it could be possible [to pursue other targets], yes. I think we can close [the deal] in the next two days, but if he plays in the Champions League, it will be a big a problem. A big problem." 
"It's a big problem because we have followed Nasri for 40 days and I hoped [it would be completed] in two days or in three days. I don't know why we didn't close it, but for Nasri, it will be important to play all the Champions League with us."
However, Arsene Wenger doesn't seem bothered by this threat, and will do whatever necessary - including playing his best players - to get through and into the Champions League. When asked if he was worried about Nasri being cup-tied, Wenger asserted:
"No. What is important to us is to qualify. Both Manchester clubs are on the case. Perhaps one day, but it's a long, long, long way from being done."
Wenger's comments also suggest that City's rivals Manchester United are still in the hunt for Nasri. United were thought to have given up on the French midfielder to concentrate on capturing Wesley Sneijder, but it seems Sir Alex Ferguson is keeping his options open.

The worst thing that could possibly happen from this "threat" from Mancini is that Nasri will not be bought by City for £25 million, but will instead either leave for free next season or join Manchester United this season. Wenger must utilize all he has in the present moment, and Nasri is important to European qualification, so expect to see Nasri in the squad on Wednesday at the expense at his move to City.

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