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Monday, August 21, 2006

Honest statement

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Thierry Henry opened up and admitted that he is "no way near" full fitness following his exertions in the last World Cup in Germany.

The talented striker was a key member of the French team that progressed all the way to the final of the showpiece tournament in Germany where they eventually lost to Italy on penalties.

In fact, Henry appeared to lack his usual sharpness in the Gunners' Premiership opener against Aston Villa on Saturday and he claims it is down to a shortage of match fitness.

Henry and Freddie Ljungberg, who was in Sweden's World Cup team, have had minimal preparations in the lead-up to the new season and the Frenchman feels he and the Swede are some way off peak condition.

"I am not even at 60 percent, no way near," Henry told to a newspaper. "While Freddie Ljungberg tried ever so hard, and you have to give him credit for that, he is not fit either.

"Fitness-wise, I need another month. Certainly four or five games.

"Obviously players who were at the World Championship are in a similar position. But, this was only my second football game while it was Freddie's first.

"Our preparation games are league matches rather than pre-season friendly matches."

Arsenal tied 1-1 with Aston Villa

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Arsenal began the Premiership with a grim draw against Aston Villa. The match ended 1-1, and even though Arsenal showed a better football, the rival managed to steal one point in the new Emirates Stadium.

It's fair to say that Arsenal only failed in front of the goalkeeper, otherwise they would have won the game by a clear margin. They had 67% possession and 18 shots on goal, and the Gunners should & could have buried the tie, but nevertheless there were more positives from the game than negatives, the only gripe I would have would be that nasty habit that seems to have followed us from last season of being scared to shoot.

In the first place, Emmanuel Eboue terrorized Villa from start to finish and was by far and away our biggest threat on the day and was magnificent in tear arseing down the flanks, almost scoring on several occasions. However it was Emmanuel Adebayor who almost broke the deadlock when his towering header was turned of the line following a Cesc Fabregas corner.

Arsenal did indeed find the net 3 minutes into first half stoppage when Toure powered home a header from a freekick but only to have it ruled out for offside. Not having had the benefit of seeing a replay I couldn`t say whether or not it was the correct decision.

Against the run of play Aston Villa took the lead after Jens Lehmann flapped at a corner and Olaf Mellberg nodded into an empty net. The Villa fans went crazy and it was something that you could not begrudge them after the torrid times they`ve faced over the past few years.

Arsenal kept on fighting, shot after shot as the Gunners set camp around the Villa penalty area, but when Eboue had a shot parried back to him and his header crashed against the bar, you just got the feeling that it wasn`t going to be our day. But then, Wenger played a master stroke, and after months and months of wait young Theo Walcott was introduced to a standing ovation and the England under 21`s international didn`t let us down.

His impact was almost immediate, he ran riot down the left flank seemingly suffering no nerves as he played in front of a 60,000 strong crowd. His mazy runs and unbelievable pace was what we Gunners have waited so long to see, and it was he who originated the equalizer.

Indeed, Walcott picked up the ball wide on the left, and after nicely skinning the Vila defender on the edge of the box; he floated a beautiful cross to the back stick where Van Persie challenged Samuel for the header, the ball grazed the pair of rising heads and ball dropped beautifully to Bert who rifled an absolute unsaveable snorter into the roof of the net. Chaos erupted inside Ashburton Grove.

Then, Arsenal hit Villa with everything they had, and Thierry Henry came oh so close to giving the Gunners a win that would have been harsh on Villa, but would not have been undeserved.

After al the action, we must say that it was a very one sided draw but both teams worked extremely hard for their point. For me, there were far more positives in the match than negatives ones.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wenger mad at Domenech

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Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger hit out at Raymond Domenech on Saturday after the France boss played Thierry Henry for the full 90 minutes in the midweek friendly game against Bosnia.

Wenger was furious Domenech did not bring his talismanic striker off during World Cup runners-up France's 2-1 win, especially with the match coming so soon after the tournament in Germany which ended last month.

"It's disrespectful," Wenger told a news conference after Arsenal's 1-1 Premier League draw with Aston Villa at the London club's new Emirates stadium.

"When you rest the players and give them extra holiday because they have been at the World Cup and then they take those footballers on a friendly and play them for 90 minutes...I find that provocative.

"Actually, in the World Cup they always took him off before the end of the game and then they play a friendly and play him for 90 minutes," Wenger finished.

We must mention that Arsenal almost lost on their Emirates debut, with Brazilian player Gilberto Silva scoring a late equaliser after Olof Mellberg had put Villa ahead.