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Friday, September 28, 2007

Carling Cup, Leeds United and Womens' World Cup

Came across a number of moments of interest in the Carling Cup competition. Notably a sweet performance from Fernando Torres with a hat-trick, not just because he is a Liverpool player before anyone starts commenting negatively but of his handling in obtaining the goals admist the occurrences of sneaky misalignment of foot movement by Reading defenders Michael Duberry and Andre Bikey in pursuit of the ball but instead making contact with Torres' lower limbs. How the referee did not give the penalty for Liverpool was bewildering, much less how he allowed the mentioned misalignments.

James McFadden grabbed two and set up new Toffee man Aiyegbeni Yakubu at Hillsborough to overwhelm Sheffield Wednesday and I never understood why David Moyes hardly played McFadden. The player has skills and vision and complements the likes of Yakubu and Andrew Johnson almost in the same way as Mikel Arteta does. His goal for Scotland against France recently was a superb way to win a game much less a qualifier and I see his playing for Everton to be key to their season with the addition of Arteta when fit. Alongside Kris Boyd for Scotland, McFadden in such form can lead Scotland to the Euro2008 tournament too.

Man Utd fielded a completely changed side on Wednesday from that which won on Sunday, starting with six internationals in Tomasz Kuszczak, Jonny Evans, John O'Shea, Gerard Pique, Nani, Anderson and Dong Fangzhou, not to mention Chris Eagles who was loaned to Watford last season and has featured in the first team before. In front of more than 74,000 at Old Trafford, Utd were expected to parade up-n-coming players to shine but were outdone by two Michael Mifsud finishes. Wes Brown came on for the second half and Michael Carrick joined in some 11 minutes later with the score at 0-1. It was a surprise but congrats to Coventry City, they earned the scalp and proceed to the next round.

Leicester City were guests at Villa Park, the hosts featuring the much sought after Curtis Davies in his Villa debut, at home too. But the match saw Villa efforts thwarted and then the hosts going behind to a Matt Fryant effort underneath Stuart Taylor in the 74th minute. By his own admission, Davies said he was like "a pub team player", so disappointed was he in his performance. Having been on for 80mins before being replaced, Martin O'Neill must have thought differently. It is now about where Leicester go from Wednesday night. New boss Gary Megson has earned a Premier League team scalp too, away, so it will be interesting to see how Leicester take confidence from the result.

Where North London was concerned, my colleague T has written on his Gooners' showing on Tuesday, so that leaves that of Spurs. The is-it-isnt-it saga about Martin Jol being replaced continues, and so does he with his responsibilities, which include managing the team during games. Jol considered that Jermaine Defoe's efforts during the tie were not forthcoming enough and replaced him with Robbie Keane. Boos went around White Hart Lane as a result, YET Keane provided the touch within a minute or two of coming on for Gareth Bale, who rounded Brad Jones in goal and slotted in.

Inspirational substitution, no? Still worthy of Jol being booed? I don't think so. If the message was the fans were behind Jol, the boos fell way short of extending that message, so it was a good thing Keane was so influential so quickly, otherwise the knives would definitely be out for the Spurs manager. The message to Defoe is score every time you play and I expect he will get confidence from scoring to enhance his position.

A little mention about Leeds United. Well documented about their pre-season financial positioning and that within the FA, they have gone unbeaten with a 100% record since the beginning of the season. I hope they can do it, get promotion back into the Championship. If Juventus can do it, so can Leeds United.

Final mention goes to the Women's World Cup. Not the first time of watching women's football for me but I've followed the England team since the opening 2-2 draw with Japan, two superb freekicks from Japan's Aya Miyama in that opener. England went out to the USA team 0-3 in the quarter-finals, and the Americans featured yesterday afternoon in the semis against Brazil. I had the fortune to be able to watch the match from the second half and saw great playability from Brazil who tore into the 10 American players remaining after the sending off of Shannon Boxx, which was as unjust as the penalty decision at Anfield! Boxx was already on a yellow card but Brazil forward Christiane clipped onto the back of Boxx and both players fell. The referee then came over and stiffly raised a second yellow for Boxx. Christiane reacted by a clear clenched fist and a big grin which was definitely uncalled for and unsportsmanlike.

Brazil had already gone two goals ahead by then, as Formiga's corner caused panic and Leslie Osborne inexplicably nodded a low header into her own net. Then woman-of-the-match Marta cut inside from the right and slotted in from the edge of the box with veteran keeper Brianan Scurry getting two hands to the ball to no avail. Scurry was not first choice for the tournament and why she was selected ahead of the first choice Hope Solo, who had not conceded in the previous three games in the competition, is another baffling question. Coach Greg Ryan said Brazil's play meant the potentiality of plenty of shots and touches which he felt was more suited for Scurry to deal with. Sorry but Scurry was not looking credible enough for her selection.

The second 45mins it was pure Brazil. Maycon used the left wing as a landing strip every time she galloped down it to bring cross after cross into the box, Marta and Formiga used the left flank more and piled more pressure on the defence while Christiane waited in the box for the numerous passes that came her way. The third goal came courtesy of Formiga as she slotted a sweet slide-rule pass for Christiane to tee up and side-foot her goal. The USA put on Tina Ellertson to help reduce the attacks of Marta but the Brazilian forward left the USA defender with skills on two occasions. One, she did a 360-degree turn to feed Christiane to no avail but the second was where she received a pass from Formiga and then flicked it with the outside of her left foot around Ellertson and went the other way to collect. Ellertson tried to hold her up with a tug but Marta was already gone, dropping her shoulder to fool another defender as she entered the box and then fiercely striking the ball low with her weak right foot past Scurry.

The USA team had gone previously fifty-one games unbeaten. The Germans meet the Brazilians in the final, on Sunday at 1pm. The Americans face the Norwegians in the 3rd/4th place play-off also on Sunday at the earlier time of 10am. I note that when a tackle goes in on a player, there is no diving, no theatrics and players get up and get on with it. My goodness, how I would endorse the same in the mens' game.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The best of Bendtner, Captain Senderos and Diamond Denilson

This one minute highlights video of last nights Carling Cup match between Arsenal's young guns and Newcastle contains three moments of play that shines any Arsenal/football heart.

19 year old Nicklas Bendtner's leaping power header had great timing and looked so natural and dominating. For me there is a touch of Duncan Ferguson in this header... and I hope there is more like this to come from our Danish superstar in the making. A great first competitive goal for the club.

Captain Senderos showed the anticpation and commitment to get back and make a goal-saving challenge. As the cliche goes: it was as good as a goal. Phillipe is still only 22 years old- which still makes him a baby for a centre-back. I have a lot of faith in Senderos as I always see in him the determination and desire to improve and succeed and it is a case for him now to mature in his decision-making and on-field confidence.

And 19 year old Denilson's peach of a strike is awesome viewing: showing his shooting technique is equal to his obvious fantastic technique and workrate. For me Denil is a certain diamond in the making; a certainty to progress into a great player under Wenger.

The Carling Cup made for wonderful viewing last season and it continued last night. This cup is perfect for the aspect of Wenger's Masterplan to develop and mature his young players through first-team action as soon as possible. Every extra match played in the competition is one more match of experience and progression for our young guns and in this context the existence of this competition - which I used to look as quite irrelevant - is now proving to be simply invaluable.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chelsea Football Club & manager Jose Mourinho part under mutual consent

I came across the unconfirmed headline last night on ITV Teletext that Mourinho had left Stamford Bridge for good. It was later confirmed this morning around quarter to two via a small statement by the club that simply said they and Mourinho had agreed under mutual consent to his departure.

Chelsea managed to draw against Rosenberg in the Champions League group start on Tuesday where the home crowd for the Blues was just under 25,000, which was said to contribute further to owner Roman Abramovich's disgruntlement as well as the Chelsea fans jeering of their team at full time.

Other factors that appeared to have led to a breakdown in relationship between manager and owner include the playing of Andriy Shevchenko, who was said to be considered by Mourinho as not fit and sharp enough in contrast to the opinion of Abramovich. The possible signing of Barcelona's Brazilian midfielder and World Player Ronaldinho where Abramovich was allegedly keen whereas Mourinho was not.

The appointment of Avram Grant as sporting director with authority to include himself in coaching, signing players and their recruitment. Mourinho heard of the proposal to bring Grant in from Portsmouth Football Club in January and threatened to leave the club then. Abramovich was familiarised with Grant via big football agent Pini Zahavi, when Grant was the coach of Israel's national football team. Also, Grant has become acquainted with Frank Arnesen, who oversees scouting and the development of the youth players at The Bridge.

Reports have also detailed that Abramovich has not come accustomed to the authority of Mourinho throughout the club, preferring to spread such powers and decisions amongst several key positions within the club hierarchy. Mourinho is said to prefer absolute control on who he signs and when, who he plays and how with little or no influence in such matters from anyone outside of the management team.

Mourinho's departure comes after his arrival in June 2004 after leading former club Porto to the Champions League final victory, where he led Chelsea to their first title win in fifty years, only to repeat the feat in the following season. He also won the League Cup in his first season, and last season in a double with the FA Cup. Now reports are rife that additionally, with what was considered a lame beginning in this season's European Cup campaign on Tuesday, Chelsea would be pushing difficultly not only in their football but in attracting numbers at The Bridge.

But crucially from Mourinho's point-of-view, there has been too much interference in the pipelines in his day-to-day management of developing the squad. To mention the names of Gianluca Vialli, Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho shows Chelsea have employed managers with character, European flavour and flair, have made themselves one with the fans, have brought along success, yet have discovered such character has not satisfied wholeheartedly in other sectors of the club.

Another name with European flavour and experience linked to replace Mourinho is that of former France captain, Chelsea player and Juventus coach Didier Deschamps. The current Russia coach Guus Hiddink is another potentially linked to the role, but for me Deschamps can command the respect and impression left by Mourinho, he is that open with his players, and having led Juventus back into Serie A in one season he is far suited to take over at Stamford Bridge.

In the interim, the very person who Mourinho was apprehensive about when he came to Stamford Bridge, Avram Grant, is said to taking over supervising the players for the forthcoming fixtures. Timing of the news comes as Chelsea face an away trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. Ironically, Mourinho and the players attended a local cinema last night to view a DVD premiere on Chelsea's success under Mourinho, which was also to hail the expectations for the coming seasons.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jol and Lee increasingly edge the plank

Spurs 1 Arsenal 3

Martin Jol has found his position as coach under such scrutiny and pressure that he is now one result from a dismissal. He is not the only one, however that is scant consolation after yesterday's derby defeat in his own garden. What could be are the next four fixtures scattered around the following fortnight. Thursday is UEFA Cup, Sunday is away to Bolton, facing another manager with a perilous position, then Wednesday is the Carling Cup with Middlesbrough at home and so to is their next league game with Aston Villa on Monday.

Spurs' defending was woeful where they were opened up by the spread of Arsenal's passing, Arsenal looked more the comfortable home side. Spurs opened the scoring through Gareth Bale's curling freekick that Manuel Almunia should have gotten to better but probably saw late. Arsenal almost answered immediately as Emmanuel Adebayor stole ahead of Michael Dawson to force Paul Robinson into a save, one of a few the England stopper had to do against the Togolese forward. Good news for England.

But Spurs were undone when a Cesc Fabregas freekick curled for Adebayor to head in, aided by Robinson coming out and totally getting nowhere near the ball. Worrying for England. Dimitar Berbatov had a great chance to make it 2-0 before then when a superb through ball found him with Kolo Toure alone, the Bulgarian rounding the advancing Almunia but choosing to go further and try the same with the Arsenal captain and instead getting stopped.

Arsenal took the lead with Robin Van Persie and Alexander Hleb combining to slot in Fabregas, who went on to hit a strike from 20-25 yards past Robinson, reminiscent to the Christian Pander goal for Germany. Berbatov almost equalised from a corner as his header came off Gael Clichy on the post and a second header went over. But Arsenal wrapped up a miserable afternoon for the home side as Fabregas, again, found Adebayor, who tipped then struck a volley past Robinson which is going to be up there for goal of the month.

For me the purchase of Darren Bent has so far shown that despite the headlines, spending money does not necessarily get you your dividends. Bent, Robbie Keane, Berbatov and Jermaine Defoe are renowned scorers yet they are not engaging teams at the front, meaning that the midfield and defence are engaged and if either of those tiers are weak, they will leak goals. Dawson and Younes Kaboul were non-existent. Bent missed a sitter of a chance when put through similarly to Berbatov earlier, his effort scuffed diagonally across goal.

Birmingham 1 Bolton 0

Sammy Lee is the other manager who is one defeat away from a dismissal. Bolton cannot carrying on picking up defeats and as nice as Lee is, if he cannot pick up three points, or fails to pick up any in Bolton's next league game, then it's curtains. Ironically that game is away to Spurs. If it is a draw then it's destiny intervening. Olivier Kapo picked up the points for the home side as Sebastian Larsson chipped over a freekick for the former Juventus midfielder to poke the ball towards goal.

Portsmouth 0 Liverpool 0

Rafael Benitez faced criticism for leaving out certain faces from the line-up and the result being Liverpool were not as formidable as before. Despite that, those who featured were still capable enough to earn a win yesterday, particularly with Peter Crouch starting alongside Andriy Voronin. Tony Adams said Liverpool would be happy with a point, which for me shows what he knew about the game. Portsmouth had good chances to score following Alvaro Arbeloa's pull on Nwankwo Kanu in the box which resulted in a penalty, saved by Pepe Reina. John Utaka went well close in the second half with the ball fractionally missing the goal. Voronin almost played in Jermaine Pennant in the first half and missed out on a cross ball by Fernando Torres in the second. Torres was put through on his left by Steven Gerrard but skyed the effort. All in all it was just that not only did both sides draw, but neither conceded, contrary to Adam's comment.

Everton 0 Man Utd 1

The visitors seemed lively from the start with Everton looking less lively than before. Interestingly Paul Scholes was booked for dissent in fisting the ball away and could have seen red when he went in to tackle Mikel Arteta. But other than that it was a quiet affair between the two until seven minutes from time when Nani's corner was headed in superbly by Nemanja Vidic, who has some technique when it comes to corners. As Alan Hansen pointed out well on Match Of The Day, Andy Johnson got ahead of Christiano Ronaldo and away from his marker Ryan Giggs to head on a corner that was goalbound except for Scholes' clearance. Vidic got away from his marker Joseph Yobo and ahead of Tony Hibbert to head in the winning goal. A lesson for defending corners no doubt.

Chelsea 0 Blackburn 0

With no Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, and Claudio Pizarro, Chelsea brought in Andriy Shevchenko upfront and the Ukrainian almost scored when put through by Joe Cole but for his two touches that gave Brad Friedel time to smother his danger. Chelsea scored in the second half when Juliano Belletti cut across the box for Salomon Kalou to tap in, only to have it disallowed for offside. Jose Mourinho and the Chelsea bench were furious with the decision, which seemed to me to be just right, although on MOTD they used a technical line for before the move but not so for the actual offending positioning, which made it all the more inconclusive.

West Ham 3 Middlesbrough 0

Alan Curbishley finally enjoyed a thorough home win as West Ham went wild in the second half. Lee Bowyer latched onto a Carlton Cole pass to touch in the ball just after the kick-off. Cole was on hand to pressure Luke Young into intervening a pass which inadvertently put the ball past Mark Schwarzer and Dean Ashton got on the end of a Matthew Etherington cross to make it three. West Ham are now fifth in the table, amazing what one big win does for league positioning. Dean Ashton thinks he could do what Emile Heskey did for England recently, I beg to differ. Some of the home fans were allegedly booing Cole in the first half. Can anyone tell me why? Maybe it sparked him into life to contributed to the first two goals but how does a player feel if even his home fans boo and jeer him?

Sunderland 2 Reading 1

After a fitting tribute to the passing of Ian Porterfield, who scored in the FA Cup final against Leeds in 1973 to victory, who died on Tuesday. The very team-mates from that final gathered in the centre circle and applauded with the whole ground as the commentary from that final was played out along the speakers. The scoreboard displayed the result. As all appreciated one goal hero, another could be in the making for Sunderland. Kenwyne Jones featured for the first time since signing from Southampton and he came up with the first goal, receiving a pass from Grant Leadbitter, tipping it to his left and then striking it low past Marcus Hahnemann.

Jones could have had a hat-trick in the first half, heading wide a Danny Collins cross and then heading another down and over the bar. He did get to the byline to cut back across goal, Michael Chopra missing and do did two Reading defenders, leaving Ross Wallace to come in and slot home for number two. Reading decided to rally and their pressure paid off as a Nicky Shorey freekick was nodded in by Dave Kitson.

Wigan 1 Fulham 1

Heskey was in the limelight after his good showing for England, only to go off in the first ten minutes with what could be a broken foot bone. Maybe following Wayne Rooney's broken foot football will have to investigate whether it is the ground, the training or the boots worn that contribute to broken bone injuries, the main occurrence being the metatarsal injuries. However Fulham got on with proceedings as a slight scramble in the box found Clint Dempsey who was yards from goal to slot in the opener. Wigan equalised as Mario Melchiot ran into the box and was upended by Hameur Bouazza, Jason Koumas slotting the spot-kick.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

2 hours from realisation

Amidst the rumours that Roman Abramovich has given an incentive to the Russian players of £40,000 on completion of a victory tonight, the England squad all reported for training to give a better boost of confidence to Steve McLaren. Owen Hargreaves and Frank Lampard out, McLaren looks set to unveil the same players who featured in Saturday's win against Israel. But Israel is totally different to Russia. While the Israelis felt prepared to sit and defend England out, with England responding in kind by a relax biuld-up with more time and space on the ball as a result, the Russians I expect will look to fly at England from the start. Something which I want to see England do to the Russians instead, otherwise we will seek to soak up the Russians' pressure and aim to hit them on the counter which limits our approach on their goal.

Nothing wrong with Emile Heskey alongside Michael Owen, felt he provided exactly the kind of response and problems for Israel we wanted from him, which drowned the doubts about his selection. Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry know each other from the Euro2000 days and they linked up comfortably on Saturday BUT I expect they both will be busier tonight. They have a good understanding of one up, one holding back and Barry adds a different scheme of things from central midfield. The player of the moment is not Owen, contrary to the press who by-passed the efforts of Shaun Wright-Phillips. SWP twisted and drapped up the Israeli left back and will have to be more vigilant with the Russian player marking him, meaning I want for him to add crosses earlier and with good accuracy, something both Owen and Heskey simply thrive on.

I think we can win, but it's not so much the victory but the method of gaining it. Three points is three points regardless but if we are to enter into qualification, we should do so with a good amount of pedigree. Some may say we cannot achieve that without Lampard and/or Hargreaves but I say we can and we can show as much tonight. The Russians have drawn their two matches with Croatia and we should not have lost in Zagreb considering what happened. A win tonight also means we are capable of dealing with the Croatians properly and therefore set ourselves well for qualification. Eight o'clock tonight awaits.

Speaking of England, a mention has to go to the England Women's team who kicked off their World Cup campaign yesterday afternoon against Japan. Kelly Smith pulled England back level after Japan's no.16 Aya Mimaya scored a superb freekick from some 20-25 yards, almost similar to Christiano Ronaldo's in the friendly with a Europe XI. Smith was on hand again to put the English into the lead with some 10 minutes remaining, only for England to concede a freekick practically around the same spot as before. Considering England's fortunes, I pondered whether Mimaya would do it again and lo behold she did, this time bending the ball to the keeper's right.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday - Wednesday: Four days within the realm of distinction

Robinson, James, Carson; Richards, Ferdinand, A Cole, P Neville, Brown, Terry, Lescott, Shorey; Bentley, Lampard, Wright-Phillips, Barry, Hargreaves, Gerrard, J Cole, Carrick, Downing; Smith, Crouch, Defoe, Heskey, Owen, Johnson, Young

From this current squad of England players Steve McLaren has to pick eleven players to start at Wembley against Israel in order to compete for and gain three points towards Euro2008 qualification. Being honest, we should win today, regardless of who starts for England from the squad. I know little of Israel's players other than those based in England and a few from abroad, but from what I know of our players week in week out, we should win. I don't want to hear from anyone telling me I am disrespecting Israel, we are good enough to beat them and Russia on Wednesday.

Steven Gerrard was a doubt. Then Frank Lampard pulled out with a thigh problem and misses today's match and potentially Wednesday's match too. Owen Hargreaves had a reaction in his thigh in training and is still touch-and-go if he starts today. Gerrard is said to have passed through training well with and without injections into his broken toe area and is likely to start. The biggest amazement is not only Emile Heskey's selection but the likelihood he will start today alongside Michael Owen. Well, to most it is amazing, but not me. I have found Heskey has been putting himself about well for Wigan overall and I still admire his contribution as Wigan skipper on the last day of last season at Bramall Lane, where Wigan were expected to give way to a Neil Warnock proud Sheffield United equally fighting for Premiership survival. Heskey wasn't the only hero in that match for Wigan but he was practically the biggest one.

The other options upfront are Alan Smith, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and Andy Johnson. Smith is played in midfield and though he added a couple of touches on for Owen against Germany, he was not influential enough. Crouch is suspended for today's match and could come in against the Russians, he has good touch and looks an obvious target for aerial balls, not the derogative 'long-ball' tactic allegedly attributed to England by Israel's midfielder Idan Tal or anyone else.

Defoe and Johnson are similar in style to Owen and with Crouch suspended, Heskey is the best option as a link-up man for Owen to feed from. Heskey has strength, pace and tenacity and if he can be encouraged into pressing into the Israeli defence I believe he can cause the kind of problems that can unravel the back four and allow for a breach.

Additionally to breaching the defence from close quarters, we should also encourage a shoot-on-sight policy. If you are in a good position with time, shoot. Don't always try to pass around and through the defence, take shots now and then. We saw how Germany came back at us at Wembley and Christian Pander coming forward with his left foot shot, we have players who can shoot just as good and we should use that utility.

There is no excuse, McLaren said. No, there is little room for an excuse. We have not been performing within 70% of our capabilities and I wonder how much is that down to McLaren and/or the players. I think any player he starts with from the squad can win games, I lay the blame on the players, they are the ones who perform. Captain John Terry said we should be patient and not be disgruntled if England do not score within the first 10/15/25 mins. On the contrary, if we mean business today as if we REALLY want to win this game, and that against Russia, and REALLY show off our true credentials, we should be scoring our first within the first 10mins and another within 15mins after in today's game.


Friday, September 07, 2007

The Wenger Masterplan: watch with fascination!!

It's a privilege for me to support Arsenal. It's a part of me and my identity and it will always be this way. But its an extra special privilege that for the last ten years the team I support has been managed by Arsene Wenger: the master-creator of teams playing technically superb, exhilirating, attacking football.

For me, the now confirmed prospect of more Arsene Wenger football for Arsenal until 2011 not only means the prospect of watching more joyous football from my club but also continued fascination with watching the development of what I call the Wenger Masterplan : the deliberate vision and burning ambition by Wenger to build a third-generation squad totally enveloped in his philosophy of total football that will surpass all his earlier work.

In my view Wenger was never going to leave his Masterplan - which is some three years into the making - incomplete. The project is too bold and of such unlimited potential for Wenger to have really seriously contemplated departing.

It is clear from the Champs League final run in 2005/2006 and the Carling Cup run in 2006/2007 - combined with solid top four Premiership finishes - that the youngsters that Wenger has pencilled into his Masterplan squad have more than what it takes to realise his ambition of a hugely successful team moulded into his grand 'total-football' vision of how the beautiful game should be played.

And in the last two months what has underlined to me, Wenger, and I'm sure many other Gunners the belief that we are watching the emergence and development of potentially the most superb Arsenal squad created is the visible emergence of the special 'Arsenal fighting spirit' that I was bought up on in the George Graham era of Arsenal football.

When I say 'fighting spirit' I mean it in the sense of that special collective character and mental edge that this team will never have less fight or heart that their opponents. They will not be bullied and will be up for the battle if confronted.

It is the theme I've read time and again in interviews with the players and the manager on and elsewhere in the last couple of months. This repetition is deliberate: it shows that this young squad are collectively conscious of fighting for each other on the pitch as much as playing techinally great football together.

Cesc stressed one word after the Portsmouth that sums up what we have seen from this young Arsenal squad since the Emirates Cup and Amsterdam Trophy wins in July/August: 'unity'. They have shown for the full duration of every match that they are in for the battle together and determined no longer to be perceived or patronisingly labelled as a 'soft-touch' by the media or players like Phil Jagielka.

Total talent combined with total fighting spirit is a fantastic combination to possess and this young Arsenal squad are showing they are capable of maximising both these winning qualities which can only bode well for their future prospects of success.

This is what Wenger has laid the foundations for in the last three seasons. The news of Wenger's expected contract extension simply means confirmation that for at least the next four years we can expect to see him manage the most challenging and main stage of his Masterplan: achieving success - and on a consistent basis - by playing sublime football with his fully self-developed third-generation squad.

It will be something to watch with continued fascination, pleasure, patience and joy... good luck Arsene!


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