Thursday Ramblings

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With due respect to Utrecht, the first real test of the pre-season comes tomorrow night when we take on Ajax in Amsterdam.

There’s nothing else to talk about – Olivier Dacourt rumours excepting – so I might endulge myself with some idle speculation.

The question is, who will Arsène start the game with? I imagine Lehmann will come in for his first pre-season jaunt, given that the only alternative is Mark Howard, a rookie of the highest order. As for the rest of the back four, can we look any further than the usual suspects: Cole, Lauren, Senderos and Toure?

It’s the midfield of the post-Vieira era that’ll be of some interest, with new boy Hleb now vying for a berth. In theory, we’ve now got four wide players (Pires, Ljungberg, Reyes and Hleb) challenging for the two wide slots, and four (Flamini, Fabregas, Gilberto and Bentley) pushing for the two central midfield positions.

In practise, Gilberto has only just come back from pre-season and will not play, so who the two centre midfielders will be is anyone’s guess. Fabregas has not played a single second of pre-season either – where’s he been?

Then there’s Song, who’s been quite solid in the midfield. He’s on trial – 30-day money back no quibbles guarantee – so it could be wise to play him again.

And up front, Bergkamp (ex-Ajax) will surely be favoured ahead of van Persie (despised by Ajax) to partner the captain, Tel Henry (loved by one and all).

So, to sum up this morning’s ramblings, I have very little idea of who will start tomorrow night.

Which is why Arsène Wenger is the manager of Arsenal and I am not.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 64 Comments

  1. Goonuck

    Cesc has been given extra time off having played at the World Youth Championships in June.

  2. RotorGoat

    That would explain things…

  3. Geoff

    Quincy & Senderos also played there aswell. I think quincy was given extra time off which is fair as they went the furthest but spain & switzerland went out about the same time which goes to show how short of defenders we must be as senderos was made to come back earlier than the others to training & has played in games.

  4. uncle fester

    RVP is not on Amsterdam jaunt as he will get the dogs abuse one because of his pending charges two Feyhnoord i am not really worried as it will be good to see the chaps playing ,give Mark Howard a go in goal,i still think we are in short supply of back up its ok at the start of season but what happens when we get to Feb and players are struggling with fitness and the games are being compressed due to the bloody world cup god i hate international footballi will try and hibernate during that bloody show.

  5. nigel ingram

    play who you want ‘goners’ cos we are the chelsea and we are the best…..

  6. Geoff

    Lets hope France do not qualify for the world cup then henry will be fresh again next season, pires is unlikely to still be with us after this season, Belarus are also struggling to qualify so that will be good news for us. Campbell & cole may also be plying their trade elsewhere so we may not have that worry either. I agree with uncle fester international football has become second rate & just gets in the way of the real stuff. A lot of players are saying these days that they would prefer to win the champions league than the world cup etc anyway.

    Maybe they should scrap international football & make a world club cup. Not like the present one but one where all teams enter & qualification is over 4 years like at present for international football. Much more interesting for fans.

    Rotorgoat, has wenger ever played bentley in a central midfield role?? I have only ever seen him play left/right wing or as a striker!! My guess at tomorrow nights team is:- Howard, lauren, senderos, toure, cole, ljungberg, pires, flamini, hleb, bergkamp, henry & subs reyes, bentley, lehmann/mannone, cygan, christanval/song (if either are still with us).

  7. wengerball

    I know what you mean about international football unc but bizarrely I love the world cup – can’t explain it.
    I’d like to see song get a run out against decent opposition – he’s looked very capable so far.
    And now we might get a clearer idea of how Hleb’s going to be used – will we see him down the middle?

  8. RotorGoat

    True – just trying to squeeze him into the squad somehow. I think he wants to play behind the strikers – or am I making that up (too)?

  9. Alex

    I think your ‘players for positions’ is slightly out. Arsene seems to see Reyes as the fourth striker now (who can play wide if necessary) with probably Bentley as the fourth wide man. Seb Larsson is another who can play a variety of positions (wide, ‘hole’, full-back or central mid) who seems to currently be seen as the fourth central mid – though of course Song could be in there too. Anyone who saw the reserves regularly last season will know that Larsson was very impressive and highly consistent, eventually being promoted to captain. He’s been rewarded with a two year contract and is only just 20.

    In defence, if Christenval is taken on, and Garry finally returns, then Arsene is right – we have a big squad, a young squad and one full of bags of quality and potential. We do need to buy a keeper, though – if not, it looks like Howard will be starting the first two Champions League games.

  10. cygooner

    Isn’t anyone worried about our central midfield for this coming season?

    Cause I am…

    Oh yeah, and the first two CL games without Lehman…

  11. LutherBlissett

    I wouldn’t read too much into the formation for the Amsterdam Tournament. The summer Arsene signed Lauren he was deployed as a defensive midfielder in pre season friendlies.

  12. Geoff

    I think thats what he wants, he likes to play the bergkamp role!! The trouble is arsene only plays with two upfront & bentley does not score enough to be a regular striker. Bergkamp has always scored tap ins aswell as wonder goals & bentley will need to add that to his game to be considered for a front role.

  13. anon

    guess wot ppl real m and barca are chasin cesc fabregas , wait for this, 15 fukin million pounds!!!!

  14. anon

    and i hope cesc plays in amsterdam tournament , cos next season im 110 % percent sure hell become worldclass player at least challengin henry for top fifa honours, cesc also adds another dimension to our central midfield, gilbo and viera had defensive partner ship, gilbo can carry on protecting back four, and cesc can clip those sweet balls and charge forward, so it was worth sellin viera, and let the TRUE captain lift the premiership(another unbeaten campaign) fa cup, and the EPL, ALL HAIL KING HENRY!

  15. Dom

    Senderos by the way, apparently came back to training early voluntarily.

  16. wengerball

    I’ve read Hleb can play left or rioght wing in the centre or in the hole behind the front men – I hope his heart isn’t set on the latter because DB10, RvP and Bentley all want that.

  17. gunnerzed

    I think its a slight gamble to start the season without replacing that vieira bloke, but at the same time if we did bring in a big name to ‘bolster’ the midfield I think that would kinda be a big slap in the face to the Flamini and Cesc and could back-fire. I think we could be pleasently surprised by what we have. I think Bentley can do a job in there too although hes not the toughest of players.
    The keeper thing is a worry, its nice to think that Alummmunia is a okayish replacement but is he? he just looks terrified all the time and out of his depth. hes also injured but should be back for the champs league but is he good enough?
    I could see us having a great start to the season till we get to those 2 Champ league matches and us losing them both and then we will have our little ‘blip’ stage of the season and fall away. We need better cover for the nice german.
    ps, its a shame abt ‘The Beast’ I think he would have been a great buy, lets just hope he goes to Real and that pushes Owen our way, we do need more English, I think Owen could secure Cole and Cambell at Arsenal for the long term.

  18. Trevor Mcbevor

    Am I the only 1 who really hopes Wenger signs up Cristanval ??? We desperately need defenders and he was a quality player before his injury nightmare. Would be an excellent addition to the squad and most importantly of all he would push Cygan (worst player EVER) further down the pecking order.

  19. Irish Gooner

    Although we had major injury problems in centre-mid last year, it was clear that there was also a lack of viable options and now that paddy is gone I think we definitely need to sign someone of quality to bolster that department. As for the back.. Sol is injured more often than not and i think it would be unfair to expect 40+ games from Senderos for the coming season, considering he only broke into the team towards the latter half of the season. I am very concerned about our potential ability to challenge on all fronts next season but i hope i am proved wrong. I know AW is a miracle worker at the best of times but also lets not forget Cygan, Stepanovs, Almunnia, Vivas, Wiltord, Gio, Pennant etc.. players who quite simply couldn’t cut it in the long term in a gunners shirt, sometimes you have to invest in quality… Viva la Rouge!

  20. robinvp

    football isnt about keeping all happy. its about having personnel that can competently do the job or excel at it. viera was someone who excelled at what he did. flamini and cesc have just begun their careers so they expect to take a back seat roll till they gain sufficient experience to take control of matches as the way Viera did.

    his presence alone would frigthen the opposition midfielders. half the job done already.
    nither cesc or flamini have that presence yet nor do they posses physical strength.

    the loss of edu another who excelled when called upon. you cannot lose two such players then replace them with rookies and still expect to compete with chelski and manscums.

    also we seem to be soct cutting heavily. if you look outside the confines of the first team we seriously lack experience, yoof are good for entusiasm but are not so good when things get messy as they are effected more due to lack of experience.

    Arsenal have money issues, the sales of the club lounge seats are not going well. this is BAD news.

  21. Farnborough Gunner

    Shame about the Beastard not coming, but at this stage I don’t want him to come. His heart is not in the move, and if he did come he’d probably start angling for a move quite soon and leave next year for Real or Barca, after moaning about the British winter, tough fixture schedule etc. And his price has gone totally OTT. He hasn’t exactly put himself out to befriend Arsenal fans either. He’s like Anella and Vieira rolled into one. I’ve had enough of the Arsenal Summer Pantos.

    I’m still more concerned about cover for goalkeeper and central defense. If AW goes with Toure & Senderos, I can’t see Sol being too happy as cover. Cygan is a good pro, but just not good enough for us, in central defense at least – I always thought his best position would be defensive midfield anyway, but never got the chance to assess this.

    I’m not too concerned about up front or midfield – possibly apart from the lack of a “fox in the box” (we called them “goalhangers” at school). We are reliant on youngsters, but we do have cover, and a number of players could fill several positions.

    Ideally I would have liked to supplement these positions, but at this late stage you have to prioritise, and it’s a goalie and centre back I’m sweating on.

  22. Farnborough Gunner

    Just for the record, I can’t get enthusiastic about international football either. I rarely even bother watching World Cup finals – I’d rather watch a club match between 2 neutrals (ie not Arsenal) than an international match. It’s illogical really, because WC finals are packed with the best players in the world, but I’d rather watch Newcastle v Everton (e.g.)!

  23. Farnborough Gunner

    I know – I’ll ring a tabloid, say I’m Cesc’s mate and I know he has spoken to Real Madrid, hence his absence from Arsenal pre-season. We’ll have a small wager on how long before the story is plastered everywhere on the www.

    Some of the stories we read every day are no more accurate!

  24. Geoff

    Thats the thing, cesc will probably one day want to return to barcelona, thats his club & as much as I would love him to spend his whole career at arsenal it just will not happen. However it will be at least 8 years probably more before he goes back there. There is no chance in hell he would go to real madrid he is barcelona through & through.

    With regards the club level seats I can say for a fact having been invited to a presentation by the club (along with many others), that they have sold over 70% of them & that was a while ago now.

  25. bongo et al

    Good afternoon,
    I hope everyone is well?

    The OLLy Dacourt rumour is a interesting one. I know the Alsatian has been linked with him before. usually as replacement in The PV sagas every summer.
    He has certainly got the appropriate disciplinary record for the Gunners!
    He will also add some spice to the Arsenal v Chelsea games. Here was a player who deliberately broke Arjen Robben’s ankle for Roma V Chelsea last PRE-SEASON.! ( get ready for that PHilip Neville!)
    He is a competive boy- thats for sure! He will be ideal in the Man. U games against their delinquent dogs!
    So as we know, the slow countdown to the season starts in earnest tomorrow- in the genteel and benign Amsterdam surroundings. Just remember how lucky we are!- And whilst our corporate and confused rivals are selling their sol’s to all and sundry.
    Spare a thought for the DIGNITY & CLASS of our Wonderful Arsenal. Who sole aim is to prepare the players for the coming season.
    God Bless The Arsenal, thank our lucky stars for the integrity of Mr. Arsene Wenger and just enjoy our marvellous good fortune!

    A very proud Bongo et al

  26. Boz

    I have no worries about the centre of midfield – Gilberto will hold ship and Hleb or Cesc will get the ball from him. Flamini is going to get games too, and he looks the real deal.
    The back is where our problems appear to be – Campbell is already thinking about the end of his career, Cole is unsettled, Kolo had a nightmare patch last season and Lauren got a severe roasting in the Cup final. That only leaves the Swiss Guard on a high. I suppose Clichy could come in if Cole gets injured or flogged, but Eboue hasn’t really set the place on fire as a potential replacement for Lauren. It’s no suprise that the boss claims he is still looking for a defender.
    As to Baptista – he’ll surely never play for Arsenal after some of the things he is reported to have said this week. And he won’t make it into the Brasil team for the WC either. So he can stay with Seville like the spoilt boy he appears to be.
    Lets hope for a win or two in the Damn Hamster tournament – notably against Ajax. They’re quite good.

  27. Vince

    I must admit I don’t like internationals that much either but I love the World Cup and just can’t wait for them to start, once through the league stage almost every game is tense, gripping stuff….love it! Having said that, because of the refereing decisions in the last one, I didn’t enjoy it so much, it just got spoiled by everybody wanting South Korea to do well, and them being helped by Fifa,. Sepp Blatter is a c–t!!

    I agree about the goalkeeper problem, I just don’t rate Almunia at all, he would be my choice for worse arse team ever, by a long way!!

  28. wengerball

    Dacourt would make a firey addtion to the squad, but hasn’t Arsene ruled him out?
    The thought of cesc going anywhere is too depressing for words.
    Everyone agrees on the need for a new gk, but who? There has to be a huge field out there better than manuel.

  29. cygooner

    i prefer the thought of having kolo on right with cambell and senderos in cd. Ive had enough of that prick ronaldo doing what he wants whenever we play manure…

    i have to say, shevchenko coming to chelski must be worrying for AW. hope that doesnt materialise…

    what it is with real and barca anyway? it cant be the spanish cause they are rude as hell…

  30. Vince

    Something that may be of interest. I looked at the Arse America site this morning. One of them yank gooners has developed a site which shows all the locations of football clubs in England. Don’t know why he did but it is really well done and as he bothered to respond with a very nice thankyou after I commented on it I thought I’d pass it on.

    There was a mistake on it though that I have already pointed out to him, he seems to think there is more than one team in London!!

    Sorry but I don’t know how to make this a proper link but here it is:

  31. RotorGoat

    That is quite clever. Has he not got a job?

  32. wengerball

    Ralph escaped with only a little criticism after the cup final but Cygooner is right – he was consistently done by ronaldo who has his measure. I’ve been a big fan in the past but I think he could start to look increasingly creaky this season and we might see Hoyte take a step up.
    Hoyte is a great prospect – pace to burn, fine, fierce tackling and silky passing skills.
    I don’t think there are any worries at right back, even though Eboue hasn’t really shone there.

  33. Austingunner

    I don’t think that Hleb is going to be plaing on the wing for us….he is the replacement for Paddy and will be the playmaker.

  34. Geoff

    So Freddie has signed a new deal until 2009, now dont get me wrong I love the fact that freddie gives 100% every match even though he does not have the skill of other players. But I wonder how arsenal showed that their ambition matched his, I take it the 10k pay rise or whatever it was showed him they meant business. Call me a cynic but I really wish players would not make threats they dont keep!! cole & his “I will not sign a new deal if they pay me 200k a week” (only to go an sign a 1 year extension), freddie & his “their ambition must match mine, I expect new players to be there when I return for pre season training.” I take it letting edu go & selling vieira finally convinced him the club was moving forward.

  35. uncle fester

    That is my worry i like Ralph as a player but if he is turned he has no turn of speed but to be fare to him he is not a genuine right back i think Hoyte’s time will come soon,i think he was ok in the few times i have seen him granted he made some mistakes but so did Cole when he started,dont worry about Chavski and who let that blue nose git in sod off sonny go back to your own rats castle.

  36. uncle fester

    Anybody going to the members day on Thursday?,how old is Dacourt anybody know personally i know nothing of him and stop worrying about Cesc when we sell him on his best days will be behind him.

  37. uncle fester

    Geoff i agree with you but its always the same i really love this club as long as they pay me £20k a week more it makes me sick i am struggling to get some tickets to take my two sons to Highbury and these merchants dont have a clue how hard it is for the average punter.

  38. Andy K

    Think AW should have secured a replacement for Vieira before flogging him to Juve – a bit more steel in the middle of the park is needed, although we’ll probably ‘get by’ without …drawing our 1st few CL games.

    Dacourt would maybe be a decent short-term solution.
    As for Jenas, no ta…

  39. matt

    Hello, anyone know where I can watch the amsterdam tournament in Toronto? Ideally in a bar full of gooners, with decent beer. Cheers.

  40. bongo et al

    Spare a thought for our Jeremy Allierdere- what with The Celts out of european soccer in july- he has not too much to look forward to. I certainly do not think he is going to learn too much from the likes of fallkirk and st. mirren et al.

    good news re: fred llungberg. The Alsatian obviuosly knows best!

  41. Jesus

    I’d not mind seeing Lauren shifted up into midfield, pushing Toure out to right back and thereby accomodating Toure, PS and Sol. And then when you want to give Big Phil a rest, pull Toure centrally, draft up Hoyte, and you’re sorted.

    People worry too much. Remember that the summer before the unbeaten season all we bought was Lehmann and Clichy.

  42. Jesus

    I’d not mind seeing Lauren shifted up into midfield, pushing Toure out to right back and thereby accomodating Toure, PS and Sol. And then when you want to give Big Phil a rest, pull Toure centrally, draft up Hoyte, and you’re sorted.

    People worry too much. Remember that the summer before the unbeaten season all we bought was Lehmann and Clichy.

  43. uncle fester

    I wil say this Jerry Alliadiere will appreciate the Arse more then ever especially if they play Ross County in the cup or other small teams i have been to a couple of these small Scottish grounds there are more people over Hackney Marshes on Sunday morning.

  44. Farnborough Gunner

    The suggesion to move Kolo out to RB keeps coming up. I’m interested to know whether this is because people believe this is Kolo’s best position, because he is the best man for that position from the current squad, or just because it seems to work out well overall; i.e. giving Sol, Kolo & Big Phil all a game?

    I’m not knocking anyone’s opinion – I’m just interested to know the rationale.

  45. Geoff

    I hate to say this but with the spuds signing davids & van der meyde (remember his goal at highbury?) they are beginning to look a good team & they certainly have a very strong squad. I know we have good youngsters but so do they & now they are getting a blend of youth, experience & strength in depth. I know arsene is a great manager but he seems to be tied down with money issues. I would love to know how the spuds are getting all this money as over the last two years or so they have bought so many players (a lot of them british). I was all for the new stadium but if its at the expense of the team (which is certainly seems to be) then I would rather have stayed at highbury. If spuds can afford these players & wages at a smaller ground than highbury why couldnt arsenal at highbury??

  46. Geoff

    I hate to say this but with the spuds signing davids & van der meyde (remember his goal at highbury?) they are beginning to look a good team & they certainly have a very strong squad. I know we have good youngsters but so do they & now they are getting a blend of youth, experience & strength in depth. I know arsene is a great manager but he seems to be tied down with money issues. I would love to know how the spuds are getting all this money as over the last two years or so they have bought so many players (a lot of them british). I was all for the new stadium but if its at the expense of the team (which is certainly seems to be) then I would rather have stayed at highbury. If spuds can afford these players & wages at a smaller ground than highbury why couldnt arsenal at highbury??

  47. Geoff

    I want to see Eboue be given a chance at right back this year, I see arsenal fans saying he did not shine there, but how many times was he played?? I think lauren is getting worse in that position not better, he seems to have lost the tiny bit of pace he did have. I can see why people want toure there as he is an excellent tackler, extremely quick & difficult to knock off the ball, however that would leave senderos & campbell at centre with no cover (unless your a fan of cygan). There have been reports that campbell will not play right centre, so both phil & sol want the same position, with sol being an experienced pro he should have gone right instead of making phil play there against birmingham (& look what happened then). So for me Toure has to stay central unless we sign a new defender.

  48. wengerball

    I agree. Toure has, largely, been classy at centre, so why push him out to the right? I’m not sure why people love that idea – plenty also suggest he should be pushed forward into the midfield which seems to be based on assumption that because he adapted so well to defence he could do the same in midfield – not necessarily so.
    We need the class cover in the form of either senderos or sol because, lets face it, Cygan just isn’t good enough, except in an emergency.
    Isn’t eboue more than just a right back? I thought he could play across the defence/defensive midfield. Have I got that right?

  49. robinvp

    eboue can play at RB, CH and n the modfield. he has terrific pace and is handy on the ball. he will take this season to adjust but i see him as our future rightback. Wenger ahs stopped looking for a right back, last year we tried to sign angulo and trablesi. this year no mention of right back position.

    Tour to right back is a silly idea. he has injected PACE into the CH area. both senderos and campbell are slow. we should not move toure from that position as with each passing year he gains experience and knowhow.

    Wenger may push ralph into the midfiled area. that wa shis priginal psoition before Wenger converted him to righ back. he can play there. in CM the frist requirement is ball winning which he is good at and is fierce in tackling. his lack of pace would not matter here so much.

    Wenger is asying we will have to change the system rather then try to replace PV. makes sense as CESC and flamini are in no way PV type players. flamini is energetic but a bit of a headless chicken at times but will get composure through experience. cesc is class and will develop hrough playing but we cannot put too much pressure and over expose him. Wenger sees him as the player that everything will revolve around in the future. he is our new play maker in the making.
    gilberto will be very over worked this year unless Wenger devises a 5 man midfield startegy with helb playing at the front of the formation making the final passes which he is good at.

    imho we need to buy a few older players as experienced back up. yoof is good but at this stage of their career they should not be over used or they will burn out.

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