Vieira: I understand Arsenal fans frustration


Former captain Patrick Vieira says he’s ‘gutted’ for former boss Arsene Wenger but understands why sections of the fanbase may have lost faith with the Frenchman.

On Manchester City’s US tour Vieira, who this week announced his retirement from the game, spoke fondly of the man who brought him to England from AC Milan’s reserves.

I am gutted for him because I know how much hard work he has put into Arsenal and how he loves the club”, he said. “‘He arrives early and leaves late and spends more time on the training ground than he does with his family. But you can understand the frustration of the fans. They are used to winning and haven’t won anything for six years. For a big club like Arsenal it is difficult to go a season without winning a trophy”.

And Vieira believes the balance between good football and the physicality required for the Premier League is not right, saying “I honestly believe that the Arsenal team now are playing better then we ever did. The difference is we put silverware on the sideboard. That is what people remember, not how you play.

“Our team was more physical and responded better to the English game. Maybe now Arsenal lack the physical aspect. You need a balance to win trophies. If you look at United, Chelsea and City, the physical aspect of the game is there. The season is really long and hard and players get tired and perhaps need to work harder”.

Vieira, whose last kick as an Arsenal player was to score the penalty which won Arsenal’s last trophy, the 2005 FA Cup, will continue at Manchester City as a ‘development executive’. He has still to complete any of his coaching badges and perhaps in the future Arsenal fans will see him return home when the time is right.

Gibbs can be world class: Vermaelen


Arsene Wenger’s decision to sell Gael Clichy and replace him with Kieran Gibbs has raised eyebrows amongst some Arsenal fans, but Thomas Vermaelen is confident the 21 year old can make the step up.

Speaking to Arsenal Player, Vermaelen was quick to extol the virtues of the man who, fitness permitting, is likely to be playing outside him on the first day of the season.

“I think Kieran is a really talented player”, he said. “I played a few games with him in my first year and he impressed me a lot. He’s a fit player, he can run a lot, he’s a technical player as well. He has all the qualities to be a world class full back”.

And the Belgian is keen for the fresh start the new season brings, saying “Everybody starts from zero and everybody has to start again. The past is behind us and it’s good to look into the future.

“That’s what we do now – we start all over again with a new chance and we will go for it this year”.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger’s attempts at reinforcing the centre of his defence have taken a setback with Everton widely reported to have a rejected a £10m bid for Phil Jagielka. It remains to be seen if Wenger will test Everton’s financial mettle with an improved offer or turn his attentions elsewhere.

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Walcott welcomes mentor reunion as Miyaichi impresses


Theo Walcott has revealed his excitement at playing against former mentor Thierry Henry in the Emirates Cup but admitted that he has rarely had the chance to talk with the Frenchman since he left Arsenal in 2007.

Henry took the Southampton protégé under his wing when he moved to Highbury as a 16-year-old at a time when many predicted the young England winger to be a potential long-term challenger to his record-breaking Gunners scoring tally.

While Walcott has shown flashes of brilliance during his five years in North London he has yet to shake off persistent injury problems or find the penalty box consistency which made Henry one of the most exciting players of his generation.

Reflecting on his relationship with the Gallic great, Walcott told “He’s been a great influence to me so it will be nice to see his face.

“I think he changes his phone number a lot so it’s tough to keep in touch with him! So many people want a bit of him but he will always be there for me, definitely.

“Thierry has always given me advice, telling me just to enjoy my football and not believe what people say about you. He told me just to go out and play my football and not worry about the hype. That’s what I’ve been doing and hopefully it’s working.”

While Walcott readies himself for a reunion with his old mentor, the 22-year-old also took the time to analyse the qualities shown by Arsene Wenger’s latest wing acquisition; 18-year-old Japanese starlet Ryo Miyaichi.

“I don’t like comparing myself to other players, every player is different. He wants to be his own player, he is a confident lad and will hopefully have a good career at Arsenal.

“He has got a few stepovers more than me, I don’t do any! That is maybe something I could bring into my game.

Miyaichi, who spent six months on loan at Dutch side Feyenoord earlier in the year, has yet to secure a work permit allowing him to play for Arsenal in the Premier League. However, after a noteworthy debut for the Gunners against Malaysia on the recent pre-season tour of Asia, excitement has already mounted about the winger’s raw speed.

Recognising the challenge to his status as the club’s fastest player, Walcott continued: “If I don’t come top [of the speed tests in pre-season] I’m not bothered because the most important thing is doing it on the pitch. But it will be tough to beat me, that is for sure!”

Irritating man makes further irksome comments on boring situation

It would be lovely to report that Barcelona midfielder Xavi has apologised for his recent comments regarding the future of Cesc Fabregas, but it would appear that maintaining a level of dignity is above and beyond his warped capabilities as a man.

A terrific footballer. Certainly. A close friend of Cesc. Apparently. A meddlesome little twerp representing all that is wrong with modern football. Seemingly so…

Don’t get me wrong, it must be difficult having a microphone rammed in your face and being asked the same questions about a situation over which you have no control. But perhaps rather than talking for the sake of talking, a ‘no comment’ policy might be advised.

Reacting to the suggestion that his actions have been disrespectful, Xavi has again taken to the press to speak of his desire to do right by Fabregas.

“It seems absurd to me,” the Barcelona star said of Wenger’s recent retort.

“I was only acting in the interest of Cesc and of Barca. But that’s that and I really don’t want to get into a war of words with Wenger. I didn’t want to offend anyone.”

“I don’t really know the situation but it seems they are more disposed to sell this year than last year. Maybe we can be a bit more optimistic but it depends on reaching an agreement with Arsenal.”

In that last comment Xavi hits the nail on the head. Meet Arsenal’s not unreasonable asking price for Fabregas or forget it.

Do we hold it against our club captain that he wishes to return to his boyhood club? Begrudgingly no. He has spent eight years under Arsene Wenger’s stewardship, become a tremendous player for the club and always tried to do right by his employers.

If Xavi, Guardiola, Puyol, Pique, Rosell or any of the other talkers at the Camp Nou wish to resolve this problem, just hand over the cash.

Remember, you spent €25 million on a Ukrainian defender called Dmytro Chygrinskiy in 2009…offering the same amount for Fabregas is nothing short of disgusting. Rant over.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: I hope for Arsenal


Southampton’s 17 year old winger, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has told his club he wants to join Arsenal.

Quoted in The Sun he said, “I’ve had a chat with the manager, Nigel Adkins, about my situation and expressed my feelings to him. I talked about how I wanted to be playing in the Premier League as quickly as possible and he has been really understanding.

“I’ve heard Arsenal are in for me and to join a top-four club is what I hope for. When the bus comes along, you have to jump on it and make the most of your opportunities”.

And according to Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal are riding a bus filled to the brim with cash, ready to spend on new players to boost Arsene Wenger’s squad.

Whether than bus passes through Southampton on its way back from Costa Rica remains to be seen. The deal for Deportivo Saprissa youngster Joel Campbell is off after the player and his father didn’t bother to show up for a meeting with Arsenal executive Dick Law.

Arsenal have now withdrawn from negotiations and the 49A may well be heading towards the south coast of England.

“Fares please!”

Guardiola: Barça ‘fight’ for Fabregas but he’s not the priority

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has confirmed that Arsenal are prepared to sell Cesc Fabregas this summer and reinforced his claim by stating that the two parties have entered negotiations.

Last summer the Catalan side had two bids dismissed out of hand and while a third bid of £26 million was again rebuffed this summer it appears that Fabregas, who is under contract at the Emirates until 2015, could still seal a move to the Nou Camp before the end of the transfer window.

As things stand however, Arsenal remain steadfast in holding out for a transfer fee in excess of £40 million; a  figure which looks likely to prove troublesome for Barcelona given the fact they have prioritised the acquisition of an attacker, thought to be Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez, this summer.

Speaking to the Spanish press, Guardiola revealed: “Last year we were interested in Cesc but Arsenal did not make him available.

“This year Arsenal have agreed to negotiate and we’re working on it. Prices in the market are what they are right now, but I hope that everything can be resolved.

“Everything we have done has been with permission of Arsenal and Mr Wenger knows that. Cesc owes them.

“Between a midfielder and a forward, our priority is a forward, but there’s money for two players.”

“There is money available to sign the player and until the last day [of the transfer window] we will try to sign him, but I’m the first to understand that sometimes these things cannot happen.

“Cesc will make us better, we’re interested, but if it’s not to be then maybe next year and we use the money for something else.”

The comments stemming from Barcelona appear to contrast those made by Peter Hill-Wood last night who stated that he has not heard anything from the reigning European champions since the bid they lodged last month was dismissed.

Gazidis promises further transfer window action

Ivan Gazidis has revealed that he used the club’s pre-season tour of Asia to outline a number of transfer targets with Arsene Wenger.

Stressing that Arsenal still have the necessary resources to further strengthen the squad before the transfer window closes, the club’s CEO told

“We still will be active in this window. We haven’t finished our business at all. We’re just not conducting it publicly; we’re working hard privately.

“I was out in Asia because I could be with Arsène for an extended period of time and think very, very carefully about strategy and targets.

Presumably paying lip service to the defensive weaknesses which saw Arsenal too often surrender leads in the title run-in last term, Gazidis continued:

“We understand where the weaknesses have been. Financially we’re in a strong position, we have resources to spend. We’re certainly not sitting there saying ‘let’s hold back on our resources’ for some reason, why would we?

“The resources are there. We’ve got a substantial amount of money that we can invest. The important thing for us, which can be frustrating, is not doing it only in response to a public clamour but in a way that can positively impact our performance next year. That’s the focus now.”

Arsenal have so far signed Ivorian attacker Gervinho and right-back Carl Jenkinson but with targets Phil Jones and Ricky Alvarez opting to move to Manchester United and Inter Milan respectively frustrations have grown amongst fans eager to see new faces capable of winning trophies.

Bartley: I can offer Wenger something different in defence

Kyle Bartley believes he is ready to become a regular member of Arsene Wenger’s defence after impressing during a successful six month spell on loan with Rangers.

The Gunners have been heavily linked with a number of potential centre-back targets since the tail end of last season, but with the season drawing ever nearer the 20-year-old maintains that he could be the man to help firm up the defence.

Recognising in himself traits which differ to those offered by Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, the 6ft 3inch tall stopper told about his ambitions for the months after a rapid spell of personal development.

“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 learned the demands of being at a top football club who are trying to win things and how important it is to be a champion and a winner. Every time you step on the pitch, you are going out there to win so there is a lot of pressure on you.

“I think I can offer something else [because] 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.”

Born in Manchester and beginning his career with Bolton Wanderers, Bartley led the Arsenal Youth team to FA Cup glory in 2009 before making his first team debut later in the same year against Champions League opponents Olympiakos. He later spent two separate spells on loan with Sheffield United before moving north of the border in January.

Recognising the importance of playing first team football, Bartley hinted recently that he would be happy to leave the club again on loan if necessary, but stressed that the circumstances behind his missing the tour of Asia were merely down to fitness issues.

“I spoke to the boss on the Friday before they left [for Asia] and he told me that they had four centre backs [going on the tour] and obviously I wasn’t fully over my injury yet. It’s just one of those things.

“It was always the aim to get back for the start of pre-season because it’s an important time of the year. I will be back with them on Tuesday when they are back in training with a view to going to Germany with them.

“He has said he doesn’t want me going on loan yet and he hasn’t made his mind up. My hopes are the same as every year, to be an Arsenal first-team player. Hopefully, this year, that will happen.”

Hill-Wood dares Barcelona to make proper Fabregas bid

Peter Hill-Wood has revealed that Arsenal would consider a ‘very good offer’ from Barcelona for Cesc Fabregas but stressed that the Catalan side have not been in contact since their £26 million bid was rejected last month.

Arsene Wenger has already spoken publicly about his desire to see his club captain stay at the Emirates for another season, although with the Spaniard missing the Gunners tour of Asia and still struggling with fitness, speculation has continued to mount that the 23-year-old will leave North London for the Camp Nou before the start of the season.

Speaking to the Daily Star about the situation, Hill-Wood hinted that Pep Guardiola’s interest in Fabregas could be waning:

“I am not sure how keen they are. There are still stories in the (Spanish) press, but they don’t talk to us. They’ve made one offer, which works out at around £26m, but that was ages ago.

“But at the moment our situation is very straight-forward: we don’t want to lose him. Obviously if they come up with an offer which was a very good offer we would have to think about it.

“We have told them a number of times that what they are proposing is unacceptable and yet they haven’t moved on it. I don’t approve of what they are doing, but unfortunately it seems the way of the world right now.”

Having loaned Denilson to Sao Paulo, sold Gael Clichy to Manchester City and with the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia also tipped to leave, Arsene Wenger is desperate to preserve a level of squad stability as the new season nears.

Given the circumstances, and in the process denying suggestions that the Arsenal board were upping the pressure on their manager to sell, Hill-Wood also made clear that City’s attempts to sign Nasri would likely prove fruitless.

“City seem to have more money than anybody else, and they keep splashing it around all over the place. But our position is very straightforward: we don’t want the player [Nasri] to leave.”



Gazidis: Fans will soon get to know ‘Silent’ Stan Kroenke

Ivan Gazidis has revealed that new owner Stan Kroenke has been restricted in his ability to speak about his plans for Arsenal due to the rules governing takeover bids, but made clear the American will be a vocal and public figurehead for the club in the coming months and years.

There has been much speculation in recent weeks as to how Kroenke, who has accumulated a 66.64 per cent shareholding in the Gunners, plans to run the club and whether he will maintain channels of communication with the Emirates faithful.

Eager to stress the billionaire’s good intentions, CEO Gazidis told “He has been in a period during the takeover where he has been restricted in what he can say.

“He will be an owner that you can get to know, fans will get to know, our staff will get to know better. He is an engaging guy and very focused and interested in what goes on the pitch.

“He is a believer that what drives the success of any club and particularly Arsenal, where we are in such a competitive environment, is on-field success. I think you will all get to know him better and I think that will be good.”

Stressing that Kroenke’s involvement at Arsenal will be restricted to boardroom matters, Gazidis continued:

“He is an owner who puts people in place that he trusts and relies on them to do the right things. But he is involved.

“He knows who the players are, he thinks and talks about strategy. He is not an owner who is ever going to say, ‘I think your judgement on the left-back isn’t the right one’. He is just not going to do that.

“But he is somebody who wants to understand the strategy and be involved and supportive as well.”

In a recent poll carried out by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, 96% of the association’s members made clear they are keen to see the American improve his communication with fans while also wanting to see him outline his ambition for the club and the methods he intends to use to achieve them.

78% also felt that Kroenke Sports Enterprises should be more transparent in publicising how it raised the finance to purchase the club.