Arsenal Players’ International Round-Up
There were a number of Arsenal players who took part in International frendlies overnight. Although I didn’t watch any of the matches (I have better things to do than get up at 2am to watch International frendlies) I have included a summary of the performances of the Arsenal players taking part based on various match reports I managed to get my hands on. There’s also quite a detailed review via the official club website that you can find here.
Jens Lehmann (England 1-2 Germany) – Lehmann played a full game against England and was beaten by a thunderous Frank Lampard shot within five minutes from the start. Apparently Lehmann was a little shaky for the rest of the match but to his credit he did make a couple of smart saves from Lampard and especially Michael Owen. Arsenal supporters will hope for better if he keeps his place for the Manchester City game on Sunday.
Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast 0-0 Egypt) – I couldn’t find much info about this game but to my understanding Toure played a full 90 minutes. A clean sheet against Egypt suggests he probably played well but to be honest, to say so would be pure fabrication.
Alexander Hleb (Belarus 2-1 Israel) – Hleb didn’t get amongst the goals against Israel but was reportedly a bundle of energy in the match against Israel. He really could’ve done with a rest and I just feel Wenger might give him one with Emmanuel Adebayor returning for the Manchester City match.
Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark 0-4 Ireland) – Whilst Denmark were absolutely smashed by Ireland, reports suggest that Bendtner did quite well, smashing one header against the underside of the bar before going close again late in the game. It was good to hear he got a full 90 minutes for the national side which should keep him sharp if he is called upon this weekend.
Tomas Rosicky (Austria 1-1 Czech Republic) – Rosicky’s injury meant he missed out on the match against Austria. Hopefully the week off will see him come back fresher in the near future.
Eduardo da Silva (Bosnia Herzegovina 3-5 Croatia) – Opened the scoring in the thrilling match, heading in firmly from 10 yards out in the 18th minute. Although he couldn’t add any more goals to his impressive record for the Croatian national team, he reportedly played quite well. Should be in the running for a starting position on the weekend and the goal will do his confidence the world of good.
Cesc Fabregas (Greece 2-3 Spain) – Fabregas got a good rest during midweek, only playing the final 10 minutes of the match against Greece. He did have enough time on the pitch to see Valencia midfielder David Silva chip home a clever winner though. Should be refreshed and ready for the game against Manchester City.
Philippe Senderos & Robin van Persie (Switzerland 2-1 Netherlands) – Senderos and van Persie faced off in the most interesting friendly of the lot with the Swiss defender coming away with the victory. Whilst van Persie did play up front, Senderos’ job was to take care of Ruud van Nistelrooij, who returned from a year’s absence from the national side, and he did so with aplomb. The match will hopefully boost his confidence as he prepares to slot in for William Gallas against Manchester City on the weekend.
Perhaps the most important thing to take away from the midweek fixtures – from an Arsenal perspective – was the fact that there was no injuries. So often players come back with little knocks from these sort of games but it seems as if the football gods have taken notice of their injury crisis and ensured the players were returned in good shape.
Wenger close to new contract
Some other news of note for the day is that manager Arsene Wenger is apparently very close to signing a new deal. Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has suggested that Wenger should put pen to paper within a week on a new two or three-year deal.
“Hopefully we’ll have something to say in the next week or so. The length of the contract is up to him but hopefully it will be a two or three-year deal. We certainly want to pay him what he’s worth. But money is not the major stumbling block – there are just little pieces here and there to sort out.”
There really was never going to be an issue over Wenger signing a new contract but the news that he is now very close can only be a good thing. It will surely boost the players’ spirits as well as going some way to keeping the annoying British media off the club’s back.
Hleb will not be played centrally
Wenger has also revealed that he will not be using Alexander Hleb as a support striker on a permanent basis. Hleb filled in as van Persie’s strike partner in the absence of Adebayor and Eduardo through injury and performed admirably, scoring against Fulham and Sparta Prague. But with both the Togolese forward and the Croatian striker available again following injury, Wenger has indicated that Hleb will be going back to his normal role as a left or right-sided midfielder.
“Alex likes to play through the middle. However I cannot isolate Robin van Persie up there the whole year. It does not work on a longer period. It can work in some games but it cannot be the basis of your game. You need two strikers.”
Whilst this move makes sense on a logical level, it is still quite disappointing. There is no doubt that Hleb has been superb centrally so far this season and seeing him move back to a wide position – where he is far less effective – will be quite frustrating. You have to think that Wenger will be moving him back on to the right-hand side whilst keeping Rosicky on the left, and if this is the case then the likes of Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna will be required to push forward and offer width at every possible occasion. The positive of this declaration is that it is quite obvious that Wenger values Adebayor, a player I rate very highly, as an integral part of the starting team. It’s going to be great seeing him back in the team against Manchester City and hopefully both he and Hleb (if he starts) can put a positive performance. There is no doubt that Adebayor needs to justify Wenger’s decision to bring him back in up front with a goal or two.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that there been a little bit of an update on the Wilson Palacios story I posted yesterday. I ran the headline “Arsenal trialing Wilson Palacios or Harry Potter?” because I found it a little suspect that the source report – crudely translated – quoted him as being called ‘Harry Potter’. According to regular reader Samuel, ‘Harry Potter’ is actually Palacio’s nickname, so the story may not be the hoax that it appears to be. I’m yet to be completely convinced, but if the situation progresses, you’ll be the first to find out.
What do you think?