Antonio Puerta (1984-2007)
Before I move onto Arsenal news I would like to take some time to reflect on the death of 22-year-old Spanish footballer Antonio Puerta, who passed away yesterday after failing to recover from the multiple heart attacks he suffered during his club side Sevilla’s match against Getafe on the weekend. I do not personally know too much about Puerta as a player or a man but on reading the news that he was expecting his first child in October, this really was a tragedy. The reactions of some of his teammates – Andreas Hinkel, for example – really say it all. I strongly encourage you to read the wise words of Arseblogger and his comments on Puerta’s death and hope that the incident can help shed some insight into the things that really matter in your own lives.
Wenger on Adriano…
A massive day in Arsenal-related news is kicked off by the revelation from manager Arsene Wenger that he turned down the opportunity to sign Brazilian and Inter Milan striker Adriano. Wenger admitted that Arsenal were presented with opportunity to bring Adriano to the club on loan but refused to do so because the Italian club requested a player that the manager did not want to lose.
‘The agreement was for a loan. They wanted to give us a player but wanted one back in return. I won’t say who it was. I didn’t want to lose the player they requested. It is nothing to do with the quality of Adriano, but I already have Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner to play through the middle.”
There is no doubting the fact that Adriano is an absolutely immense player when on his game but he has been unsettled for some time now and would take a little while to settle in. It seems to me like Inter Milan just want to send the big fellow away for a season to get his head right and then reap the benefits when the loan deal runs out. Much as I would love to see Adriano running riot in an Arsenal shirt the reality is that he would be far more likely to hit his best form when he returned to Italy. If, however, the club offered to sell Adriano to the club on a permanent basis, I would be much more positive about him joining. As it is, the offer is a loan and in that regard I think Wenger has made a good decision for the club. The other point of interest in this story is who the mystery player is that Inter Milan requested, but I’ll it leave the readers of the blog to speculate about this.
Wenger also had a few things to say about the goalkeeping situation at the club. As you know, Jens Lehmann has been dropped/injured from the squad following two poor goalkeeping errors/an achilles tendon injury, and Spaniard Manuel Almunia has been filling in for the time being. However, the Arsenal manager has hinted that Lehmann’s time as the club’s first choice goalkeeper could be over if Almunia continues to perform at a high level.
“I brought him here four years ago and made him our number one. Since then he has always been number one. But saying Jens will be first choice when he gets back from injury is asking me to say that no matter how well Almunia plays, he will always be dropped for Jens. You can never say that to a player because it means his performance is not important.”
I don’t think there are too many people who who disagreee with Wenger’s comments. If Almunia performs well during his time in the first team then I don’t think there is any reason why he should be replaced by Lehmann after a certain period of time. I really feel that despite Lehmann’s obvious talents as a goalkeeper, he does need some time out of the side. Equally, I feel that Almunia deserves a decent run in the starting team. He has been as patient as any goalkeeper around during his time on the bench and proven to be more than adequate when previously given the chance – the shaky start to his Arsenal career excluded. There was word yesterday that Lehmann was on his out of the club in a huff but – somewhat predictably – this turned out to be blatant speculation, with Wenger confirming that the German will stay and fight for his place in the team.
There is little doubt that Tomas Rosicky was well below his best last season with injury wrecking the Czech midfielder’s chance to build into a consistent run of good form. However, manager Wenger is convinced that Rosicky can steer clear of injuries this time around and complete a great season for the club, despite the Czech international still not at full fitness.
“I think that Tomas still is not [yet] at his optimum shape. The most important thing for him now is to play game after game and avoid injuries. I am convinced that Tomas will have a great season this year.”
The big issue over this statement is whether or not Rosicky can in fact avoid injury. The guy is obviously a good footballer but his slight frame has seen him prone to knocks on a regular occasion and this has massively disrupted his progress as an Arsenal player. It is clear that Wenger sees him as the club’s permanent left midfielder and if he can build into some form and steer clear of the Fredrik Ljungberg-esqe injury problems then it is not unforseeable that he could become one of the stars of the season. But I just get the feeling that staying fit for long periods may be too much to ask a player who has been so injury-prone over his time at the club.
Wenger completed his big day in front of the media by explaining his decision to loan out Johan Djourou to Birmingham City despite the club’s apparent lack of depth in central defence. With Klo Toure leaving for the African Cup of Nations in January, Wenger is hoping that Djourou can get some much needed first-team football to ensure that the Swiss defender is able to adapt quickly when he returns from his loan spell. Wenger also mentioned that he was not worried about the lack of depth as he felt that both Gilberto Silva and Cameroonian youngster Alexandre Song could fill in when required.
“I knew when Djourou left that Alex Song can play in there and Gilberto has played in there already. I wanted him to be experienced. I know Kolo will go in January [to the African Nations Cup] and I want Johan to play.”
It does make sense when you think about it. Djourou should return from Birmingham a better player, and Wenger will be more confident in the defender’s ability to immediately slot back into the side in Toure’s absence. Wenger’s comments also raise an interesting point: is Djourou now ahead of Philippe Senderos in the pecking order? The feel of the comments suggests that if William Gallas is fit, it will be Djourou and not Senderos who replaces Toure in the starting team. There is obviously a lot of time between now and then and anything could happen but I just get the sneaking suspicion that Wenger favours Djourou over his fellow countryman as a long-term prospect.
Arsenal v Sparta Prague Match Preview
Arsenal go into the second leg of their Champions League qualifier against Czech side Sparta Prague with a two goal advantage and the news that Philippe Senderos is back in the squad. Senderos injured his ankle in the warm-up to Arsenal’s last Premier League fixture against Manchester City and did not feature in the match, but the injury was not as bad as previously thought and the big Swiss defender looks set to start against the Czech champions. Another player who was hurt against Manchester City, Bacary Sagna, was not so lucky and will miss the match due to a back injury caused by a collision with teammate Mathieu Flamini. Ironically, it will most likely be Flamini who slots in at right-back due to an ankle injury to Sagna’s usual replacement, Emmanuel Eboue, although Justin Hoyte may also stake a claim.
Despite Arsenal holding a dominating lead going into the home tie, Sparta Prague’s manager Michal Bilek believes his side can overturn the deficit and qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. Although Bilek admitted that the match will be difficult he suggested that his side can take encouragement from the performance Fulham gave against Arsenal in their first Premier League match of the season.
“Fulham showed how to play at Emirates. They played an even game with Arsenal. They went into the lead in the first minute and Arsenal turned the score with a big luck at the end.”
Can anyone see a problem with this? Anyone who actually watched the Fulham game? That’s right, Bilek has got things around the wrong way. To my recollection it was actually Fulham who got the ‘a big luck’ and Arsenal who dominated the match. Can’t remember? Maybe this will jog your memory. Either way, I can’t see a way back for the Czech side. They looked quite sharp in the first leg but the chances of them scoring two and Arsenal failing to score are so low that I’d almost call it inconceivable. The way to trouble Arsenal is to play defensively and hit on the counter and I doubt very much whether Wenger’s side will be naive enough to fall for that trick with a 2-0 buffer going into the match. Sparta Prague will need to attack Arsenal and that should leave big gaps at the back for the likes of Robin van Persie, Emmanel Adebayor and Alexander Hleb to exploit. So far I’ve tipped all four Arsenal results this season and I’ll try and continue my run by going for 2-0 to the home side with Adebayor grabbing his first of the season.
What do you think?
Have your say on Antonio Puerta or any Arsenal news by leaving a comment.