16 March 2006

Arsenal Midweek: Liverpool, Charlton, Squad Speculation, Merida

First, a quick note about Sunday and Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool. Obviously I'm incredibly pleased with the match. It could easily have ended 4-1 with better finishing from the Gunners. Liverpool finished with just 3 shots on goal, and two of those came from the goalscoring sequence. The whole Arsenal squad were outstanding; I will single out Cesc (yet again), Eboue, and Toure for having fantastic games. Yeah, it was a good week.

Arsenal have Charlton at Highbury on Saturday. It's clearly a match that Arsenal should win, but still it will be interesting for a few reasons. Both Sol Campbell and Robin van Persie are back for the Gunners, and I'm curious how Arsene Wenger will use them. Despite the ungodly spate of injuries, the back four have developed rather well in the current arrangement, with Flamini a pleasant surprise and Eboue a real revelation. Still, it has been a busy year for Toure and Senderos in particular, with extensive action for both club and country. A home match with Charlton would be an excellent opportunity to get Campbell back on the field and get some rest for the back line (probably Senderos, as the Campbell-Senderos partnership has never solidified). Even with Senderos-Toure remaining the first-choice partnership, a healthy and focused Sol Campbell is a huge asset to have.

Up front, similar problems present themselves. Robin van Persie was a fixture in the squad for much of the season, but he now faces stiff competition from Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese only has two goals in 6 Arsenal matches, but he's been solid, shown an incredible workrate, and has given Arsenal an additional dimension. I suspect that van Persie will see some time as a sub against Charlton and Portsmouth, but will start against Juventus. He's done well in the Champions League, and Adebayor is cup-tied. Overall, the important thing is that the squad is slowly regaining its strength, just in time for the stretch run.

And finally, a very happy birthday to Theo Walcott. The young Gunner turns 17 today. It's an important birthday for any teenager, but even more so for the professional footballer, as it means he's now eligible to sign a professional contract. His salary will increase immensely as a result. Getting a weekly raise of £1500 or more makes for a nice little birthday present. Perhaps he'll make his Arsenal debut on Saturday too. Cheers, Theo!

So. Let's do a number on the Addicks Saturday, shall we?

Update: Rumors are flying this morning that Arsenal have signed young Spaniard Fran Merida out from under Barcelona. The Sun is claiming that Arsenal are close to signing him, while Arseblogger claims it's a done deal. On Tuesday, Arsenal held a friendly with Brighton, primarily to give Campbell and van Persie a game. But the match report said that Matthew Connoly came off at 60' for "A. Trialist"... who was evidenly Merida.

What's more interesting is that evidenly Merida was 'signed' to Barcelona... except that Barca never actually signed the contract. Of course, there was a bit of controversy over that other Catalan kid we signed -- some guy named Fabregas. Arseblog provided a link to some video of Merida, and he looks to have skills. There's a lot of smoke around this rumor...

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