Arsenal draw Udinese in Champions League qualifier

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Arsenal have been pitted against Italian side Udinese in this morning’s Champions League qualifying draw.

The first leg will take place on Tuesday August 16th with the second leg on Wednesday 24th. Arsenal were drawn first so will play the first leg at home.

The Italians first qualified for the Champions League in 2004-5 but failed to get out of the group stages. Last season they finished fourth in Serie A but have lost two of their most important players, Cristian Zapata and Alexis Sanchez to Villarreal and Barcelona respectively.

However, Arsenal will go into the first leg without the suspended Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri while the participation of Cesc Fabregas is not guaranteed, if he’s even at the club when the games take place.

It also means a trip away to Italy before Arsenal’s league game at Old Trafford. August is set to be a pivotal month for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Bartley seals Rangers loan deal

Kyle Bartley has sealed a season long loan deal with SPL champions Rangers just 24 hours after penning a new contract at the Emirates.

The 20-year-old centre-back spent the second half of last term with the Scottish giants and appears to have done enough to persuade new boss Ally McCoist to bid for his services for a second time.

While Bartley had hoped to seal a place in Arsene Wenger’s first team squad it can only be assumed that the Frenchman made clear to the Academy graduate that he should continue to garner first team minutes elsewhere before staking a claim to a place with the Gunners.

It is believed that the young Gunner will finalise the necessary paperwork ahead of Rangers friendly match with Chelsea on Saturday.

Galindo loaned while Wenger plays hard ball with Japan

Arsenal have confirmed that central midfielder Samuel Galindo will partake in a second year on loan in the Spanish second division as he looks to gain further first team experience.

The 19-year-old Bolivian proved a promising prospect last year with Salamanca and will spend the upcoming season under the guidance of Gimnastic De Tarragona.

Galindo is the second youngster to have a loan move to Spain confirmed with Brazilian striker Wellington Silva already sealing a deal with Levante. Left-back Pedro Botelho is also expected to further his development on the Iberian peninsula with Rayo Vallecano closing on his signature, according to Young Guns.

Closer to home and 20-year-old goalkeeper James Shea will play for Dagenham and Redbridge this season.  The Academy graduate takes over between the sticks at Victoria Road from Arsenal goalkeeping coach Tony Roberts who has finally retired at the age of 41 after being offered a full-time role at London Colney.

It appears that further loan moves could potentially be afoot before the start of the season, although one player who Arsene Wenger appears determined to keep on his roster is young Japanese international Ryo Miyaichi.

“My plan is to get a work permit for him and to put him on the pitch for Arsenal Football Club,” the Frenchman said of the 18-year-old last week.

It remains to be seen whether the Home Office grant Miyaichi the work permit he was refused in January, but having impressed in Holland with Feyenoord and on the pre-season tour of Asia, it appears Arsenal are increasingly confident that they will seal the necessary paperwork.

Putting the player’s growing reputation to good use Wenger has cranked up the pressure on the Japanese FA to call up Miyaichi to the full national team squad by refusing to release the starlet for an under-22 friendly.

“Arsenal have told us they would be only be willing to release Miyaichi for the (senior) national team,” Japan Football Association technical director Hiromi Hara told a news conference on Thursday.

If Miyaichi were to seal his first full cap it would almost certainly aid his chances of featuring for Arsenal this season.

Fabregas trains with Arsenal as Wenger urges support

Arsenal fans got to watch Cesc Fabregas in action for the first time today as he joined the rest of his teammates at the Emirates for the annual Members Day training session.

There had been much speculation as to whether the Spaniard would be in attendance this afternoon with the speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona still in full force. Nevertheless, despite the furore over his future the club captain appeared to be in good spirits as he took part in a lengthy warm-up, short practice matches and shuttle runs before leaving the pitch to warm applause to sign autographs and smile for pictures. It remains to be seen whether he plays his first competitive minutes of the summer in Saturday’s friendly with Benfica in Portugal.

The Gunners were due to pose for their pre-season team photograph later in the day, but with torrential rain engulfing the North London area the club has taken the decision to postpone the shoot for two more weeks.

The adverse weather conditions seem to have played into Arsene Wenger’s hands with rumours abounding yesterday that two separate photographs would be taken; one with Fabregas in the captain’s position and another with the armband worn by potential replacement Robin van Persie.

A couple of unexpected faces were spotted at the stadium with Nicklas Bendtner selected to train with the first team despite being close to a move away from the club and new owner Stan Kroenke seen chatting in the tunnel area. Samir Nasri was in attendance but did not train (presumably due to a knock), Jack Wilshere was absent having had a scan on his Achilles, although Theo Walcott did take part, albeit alone, as he stepped up his recovery from injury.

Quizzed by legendary goalkeeper Bob Wilson at the end of the session, Arsene Wenger reflected on the high confidence in the camp while asking fans to keep believing his squad.

“We had a good preparation and good team bonding with our trip [to Asia]. Overall we are happy and confident. We were very close last year and we will give absolutely everything to do it this year,” said the Frenchman.

“We want the fans to be proud of the team. We are confident we will make them happy this season.”

Having completed what appeared to be an enjoyable work out for all involved, several players are now set to take part in supporter Q&A sessions in the Emirates press conference area.

Chamakh: I want to make a name for myself at Arsenal

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Marouane Chamakh believes that he can challenge Robin van Persie for a starting berth at the Emirates after accepting that he suffered a loss of form in the second half of last term.

The Moroccan international, who signed for free from Bordeaux in May 2010, began life at the Emirates as the club’s first choice striker after Arsene Wenger was robbed of both Nicklas Bendtner and Robin van Persie due to injuries. Working as the lone front man the 26-year-old proved himself a real nuisance for opposition defenders garnering a spate of penalties, getting on the scoresheet himself and linking up the play in the final third.

However, having been rested ahead of the hectic Christmas period Chamakh was predominantly reduced to appearances in the domestic cup competitions with Van Persie restored to the team in the New Year. Seemingly low on confidence in the final months of the season, the man with the buzzard hair was nothing short of abject during several Premier League cameo performances as the side limped to fourth in the table.

Speaking about his first season with the Gunners and stressing his desire to repay the faith shown in him by Arsene Wenger, Chamakh told SkySports.com:

“I want to make my name in the Premier League.

“I started well last season and lost my way. However, I want to make a name for myself here.”

Despite his poor showing since January, several clubs have been linked with a move for Chamakh’s signature with AS Roma and Marseille both tipped to make a move. Despite the speculation, the player himself insists he is fully focused on seeing out his contract with Arsenal.

“I’ve heard a lot of rumours about me leaving the Gunners, but I have a contract here. I want to honour it and make myself No.1 in my position. I am looking forward to that.”

Kyle Bartley signs new contract

Arsenal have announced that young English defender Kyle Bartley has signed a new contract with the club.

Bartley, who spent periods of last season on loan at Sheffield United and Rangers, had only one year left on his current deal and it seems the club have moved to ensure that he won’t walk away on a free transfer next summer.

While many will speculate the new contract means Arsene Wenger has given up on his search for a new defender this summer, the former Bolton man could very well go out on loan again this season. Rangers has again been mooted again as a possible destination, although the player himself believes he’s ready to make the step up.

Last month he said, “If I’m honest, I don’t think I was anywhere near the level to play for Arsenal last season. But I’ve come back, I feel really strong and I feel that I am ready now.

“I am a little bit different to the other centre backs. I like the physical side of the game and I see myself as a leader. If Arsène decides that he wants me in the first team then that will be fantastic.”

Bartley played for 20 minutes on Sunday against New York Red Bulls, rather unfortunately scoring the own goal which handed the trophy to Thierry Henry’s new team. He joins Carl Jenkinson as the club’s joint leading own goal scorer this pre-season.

Wenger eyes another Spanish youngster

Reports in Spain suggest that Arsene Wenger is ready to move for one of Real Madrid’s brightest youngsters, Jose Rodriguez.

AS reports that on the recommendation of Spanish scout Francis Cagigao, Arsenal brought the young striker to London in June to see the training facilities and the Emirates Stadium. He met with Cesc, who apparently advised him to sign for the club, and left with an offer of €300,000 per year as well as a place in the U-18 team. Wenger has also spoken directly with his parents.

On his return to Madrid he advised them of Arsenal’s offer and the Spanish giants have presented him with a professional contract with a €6m release clause. Wenger is looking to take advantage of the loophole in Spanish employment law which saw him land Fabregas in 2004 and also sign Barcelona youngers John Toral and Hector Bellerin this summer.

It remains to be seen if Arsenal have done enough to woo Rodriguez, who was a stand-out player in the U17 World Cup, or if Real’s offer will be sufficient to keep him in Spain.

Arsenal bid for Mata confirmed

The father of Spanish international Juan Mata has confirmed that Arsenal lodged a bid to sign his son, only for the Gunners offer to be rejected by Valencia.

Arsene Wenger is known to admire the player’s qualities and with Barcelona thought to be closing in on a deal to sign Cesc Fabregas it has been widely speculated that the 23-year-old Los Che midfielder is the number one target for the Emirates outfit.

Speaking to Calciomercato.com, Juan Mata Senior confirmed:

“Valencia simply rejected their offer. After some hesitation they answered ‘no’ to the Gunners’ offer.

“So my son remains a Valencia player, for now. But I don’t think it’s their last offer.

“There are several offers for Mata and I think that Arsenal will come forward again. The situation is still evolving.”

It remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger sanctions a second bid for Mata, however, with several reports indicating that the player’s buyout clause has more than tripled following the passing of a July 31st deadline, it appears that Arsenal could have to pay more than the original supposed £17.5 million asking price.

The situation is further complicated by reported interest shown by the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan, although Mata Senior remained coy on a bidding war:

“The Inter team has never directly contacted me. I read the newspapers and I know through mutual contacts in Milan that my son is in high esteem. We’ll see if Inter will step in directly. But I repeat: everything depends on the president of Valencia.”

If Inter Milan do prove to be one of Mata’s suitors it would represent the second time this summer that Arsenal have gone head-to-head with the Italian giants for a player’s signature. Last month Argentine winger Ricky Alvarez opted to move to the San Siro despite a prolonged attempt on the part of the Gunners board to seal a deal with his side Velez Sarsfield.

 

Wenger confirms preference for ‘lighter’ players

Arsene Wenger has revealed the ingredients which make up Arsenal’s highly technical pre-season training regime and confirmed his favour for lighter players with high technical ability.

The Frenchman, who sacrificed his side’s usual Austrian training camp in favour of a lucrative a tour of the Far East, saw his side booed off at the Emirates following a disappointing 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls but has never hidden the fact that the aim of summer training is to prepare for the long-term.

“Arsenal has a special way to play the game so of course we want to respect that in our programme,” the Frenchman confirmed in an interview with Nike’s Inside Edge website.

“Arsenal’s game is based on the ball on the ground, movement, technical quality. Therefore 90 per cent of the session is based on that.

“Our programme is never to add kilos to anybody, it is more to take off [weight] because contrary to the idea that people have the most important thing is the coordination; the lighter you are the more chances you have to be coordinated.”

Citing the impressive development of England midfielder Jack Wilshere, and with a nod to the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong, Carl Jenkinson and Benik Afobe, Wenger further stressed the importance of using friendly match minutes to assess the potential amongst his younger charges.

“For me the pre-season is a good opportunity to see the young players. You have this [2010/11] season for example Wilshere who played 50 games having convinced me during the pre-season.

“Because the difficulty of the games is getting bigger and bigger, you play first in a small game and he does well, you play in a bigger game and if he does well [again] then he can convince you that he has the level to be in the team.”

After a somewhat traumatic end to last season, the boss also conceded that the opportunity to reinvigorate the squad’s confidence was also a big part of his role:

“The coaching staff has to put a positive culture into the team because confidence at the start of the season will be very important.”

Adding his support to Wenger’s unique training set-up, club coach and 1993 Coca-Cola Cup hero, Steve Morrow continued:

“In general we probably have a different training programme to most clubs. It’s very technical based obviously which is hopefully reflected in the way we play on the field.”

Much criticism has been directed in recent seasons at the club’s medical staff due to the spate of fitness problems which have quite literally (in some cases) hamstrung Wenger’s squad. Reflecting on his role during these important weeks before the August kick-off head physiotherapist Colin Lewin also highlighted that everything is done to micro-manage the needs of individual players.

“If we feel an individual or two needs to be stronger then we get the strength and conditioners involved to make a decision.

“It’s all about individuals; that is why we have a screening day and have a good look through them from top to bottom to decide what they do and don’t need.”

Fingers crossed the coaching staff, medical team and players all get themselves into prime physical condition ahead of the first match of the season at Newcastle on August 13th.

Afobe’s debut delight

Young forward Benik Afobe has spoken of his happiness at making his Emirates Stadium debut for the first team. He replaced Jack Wilshere early in yesterday’s game against New York Red Bulls and afterwards he spoke of his joy at running out in front of 60,000 at home.

“It’s always nice to make your debut for the team you supported since you were 6 years old. So it’s a great day for me and my family and hopefully I’ll get more chances from the boss.

“I wasn’t really prepared for it, to be honest, but when I came on all the nerves went and I tried to play how I do for the reserves”.

Afobe was taken to Germany as part of the first team squad and says that he’s beginning to settle in. “I think the more I train with the team and the more time I spend with them I feel more comfortable. I feel relaxed with all the lads, they’re obviously a young group which makes it easier for me. And I speak French which is a bit of an advantage!”

He had a successful loan spell at Huddersfield last season, scoring 8 goals, but so far no decision has been made about what the coming campaign might hold.

“We’re waiting for the pre-season games to finish then we’ll talk about what’s going to happen with me”, he said. “My aim is always to play for Arsenal’s first team, I’m not thinking too far beyond that, but we’ll have to wait and see what the boss thinks is best for me”.

See the full interview on Arsenal Player