As international teams prepare frenetically for a place at next year’s World Cup in South Africa, Arsene Wenger has been involved in a war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson in the fallout from last week’s Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United at Old Trafford. Frenchman Wenger is fuming with UEFA’s decision to ban Eduardo following his ‘dive’ against Celtic in a Champions League play-off tie while Ferguson has come out and defended the European governing body’s decision. This is the first sign that Arsenal and Manchester United have reignited their famed rivalry following years of lull after Arsene Wenger accused the Red Devils of adopting “anti football” tactics against the Gunners as the champions made an undeserved comeback to win the bad-tempered tie 2-1 just over a week ago.
In an interview given to The Times, the Scot claimed that Eduardo’s behaviour in the Champions League play-off tie against Celtic at the Emirates Stadium was “not acceptable” and warranted punishment. Ferguson was quoted as saying: “Quite rightly something should be done. You hope that message gets across.” Sir Alex is getting into unwarranted trouble with Wenger in a direct response to the latter’s accusations that United midfielder Darren Fletcher’s on-field attitude at Old Trafford on Saturday was particularly poor and his desperate fouls went unpunished continuously. Ironically, both Wenger and Ferguson spent part of the week at UEFA’s Elite Club Coaches’ Forum in Switzerland but the fallout from a typical Man Utd vs. Arsenal game rumbles on.
Coming back to events within the club, Wenger has revealed that his new 4-3-3 formation could provide the spark that Cesc Fabregas needs to be a successful midfielder this season. Under the new formation, the Spaniard has already scored two goals and was involved in three assists in his first three appearances for the club before getting injured against Portsmouth. According to his manager: “He likes to play deep when you have the ball first, and then join in later. He’s a bit like Lampard in that. He wants to structure the game. Cesc likes to be at the start of things and then get on the end of things. And he can push forward more this season because he has two players around him who can defend.”
Arsenal fans must keep their fingers crossed this season to have an injury-free Fabregas for a very important campaign. It was great to see the Arsenal club captain come on as a second half substitute against Belgium in a World Cup qualifier at La Coruna for Spain on Saturday night and unselfishly set up David Villa for his second goal and Spain’s fifth goal of the night. Elsewhere, Nicklas Bendtner was on target for group leaders Denmark as a struggling Portugal was held to a 1-1 draw at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium.
The Gunners’ U-18s maintained their unbeaten start to the season as the youngsters made light work of Birmingham City on Saturday. Benik Afobe opened the scoring just at the stroke of half time. Roarie Deacon scored the second on the hour mark and Luke Freeman secured all three points for Steve Bould’s side before Brice Ntamdwe grabbed a consolation for the home side two minutes from time. The young Gunners have seven points from three games. While Arsenal’s U-18s maintained a good start to the season, the club’s reserves have a new captain on the horizon as 18-year-old Kyle Bartley was provided with the official Reserves armband. The Manchester-born defender has described his appointment as a “terrific honour.”
Arsenal’s first team squad are all in action once more on Wednesday in their respective internationals and Wenger will be hoping all his stars come back fit and healthy and ready for an important spell for the Gunners.
Arsenal Club Focus
Pre-season preparations take a few hits – July 29
Gunners as prepared as they can be for Everton – August 12
Gunners gear up for vital ‘Battle of Britain’ clash – August 18
Fortuitous Gunners revel in Glasgow win – August 21
Electric Arsenal improve on success with a formidable win – August 25
Gunners undone by terrible errors – September 1
No international break for injured Gunners – September 4
Wenger and Fergie in war of words – September 8