So Who Do You Think Will Make It To Athens?

It’s a strange time of the season really.

While I’m intrigued with who will get through the Champions League Semi-Finals and make it to Athens, the emotional memories of that night in Villarreal where Jens Lehmann made some simply outstanding saves and denied Riquelme from the penalty spot to take us to Paris come flooding straight back to me.

That still brings a tear to my eye!

But a year on and Arsenal aren’t in the mix – the 4 teams remaining who are fighting to get into the final are AC Milan, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

So who will make it?

Manchester United are 3-2 up against AC Milan but the Italians have 2 away goals which could count for a lot. You can see United scoring at the San Siro but can they keep out Kaka et al who can be a totally different prospect in front of their home crowd?

And despite United’s major injury problems over the past few weeks they could see the return of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at the back which could prove vital.

And on top of that, the huge lift from this weekend’s football (virtually sealing the Premiership) will give the team a big boost going to Milan.

It’s a tough one to call, but I can see Rooney and Ronaldo helping United to score twice against an aging Milan defence. That would mean Kaka would need to score 3 goals and I just can’t see that happening!

For me United will progress.

And what about the other Semi-Final?

It’s a tough one, but if Chelsea score even one that means Liverpool need 3 goals. At Anfield that’s possible (remember Olympiakos?) but to do that against Chelsea is a totally different ball game.

Liverpool need to score first and score early to put the pressure on Chelsea – they’ll have to make a decision to either nick an away goal or hold on to what they’ve got.

Chelsea are a funny team – they’ll either go all out and smash Liverpool scoring 2 or 3 to completely kill the tie or they could be subdued, not get into the game and let Liverpool score a couple and progress.

And Anfield you just don’t know what will happen.

It’s like against the games against Arsenal this season. We beat them convincingly 3-1 in the FA Cup but then in the league everything went for them and they beat us 4-1!

You would think that the outcome of the tie totally depends on the performance of Peter Crouch. The best defender in the league this season – Ricardo Carvalho – is out and Michael Essien will have big problems coping with the height of Crouch.

The two Bolton goals at the weekend exposed Chelsea’s weakness at defending set-pieces and Essien was at fault for the second, leaving Kevin Davies with a free header to equalise. The first goal they conceded was scored from poor defending and uncertainty at the back.

Whatever happens it will be fascinating, but I fancy Chelsea to conclude a miserable week by crashing out of the Premiership and Champions League in a matter of days and for Steven Gerrard to lead Liverpool into another one of those memorable victories at Anfield.

So who do you guys think will make it to Athens?

Manchester United Are Premiership Champions

Well Chelsea have blown it.

After having the chance to really put the pressure on last week at Newcastle they stuttered to a dull draw when United only drew against Middlesbrough. And a win at St James’ Park would have put Chelsea only a point behind United.

But now, after again disappointing against a weakened Bolton side (with 6 first team players out injured) they find themselves 5 points behind with only 3 games to go.

Surely Manchester United know they’ll be lifting the Premiership Title once again.

The fact is United can draw against Manchester City next week, and if Arsenal beat Chelsea at the Emirates then the title race is over.

It would have been good to see a title race go right to the wire but now with United effectively having a 6 point lead (5 points with a superior goal difference) then it’s all over now.

I was watching the Manchester United game today and Everton did brilliantly to go two goals ahead and blow the Premiership wide open but I haven’t seen a worse collapse in some time.

In the second half, United looked lost and really didn’t look like scoring at all. But the Everton keeper gifted a goal by dropping a simple corner and only a few minutes later Phil Neville thought he was playing for United and scored a sloppy own goal.

Then after that there was only one winner and Rooney scored the 3rd and United reserve Eagles finished the game in stoppage time.

I’d say for a while that whoever wins the league will win the FA Cup, and that could push them on to win the Champions League.

And at the moment United have that momentum and could sweep the treble, and Chelsea could end up with just the Carling Cup.

But could today signal the start of a Chelsea collapse?

They will not give up in the Premiership but mentally the players and Mourinho will think it is all over with the number of games remaining, the big 5 point gap and harder fixtures coming up.

And going to Anfield on Tuesday, Chelsea will know that if they lose then they have been dumped out of two major competitions in only 4 days.

Well at least Cashley Cole has that valuable Carling Cup medal anyway.

Has Mad Jens Made The Sensible Choice?

Well Jens Lehmann has ended speculation about his future and has agreed a years extension to his current deal, meaning that this is the third successive one-year contract he has completed with Arsenal.

We all know Jens can be quite mad at times but I’m glad he’s decided to stay at Arsenal. Premium goalkeepers are hard to come by and there’s no way I would be comfortable with Manuel Almunia in goal for Arsenal for an entire season. It would be like having Zinedine Cygan in to replace William Gallas!

Jens’ form hasn’t been great in the last few months, but you would say that has been alongside a lot of Arsenal players who have under-performed during the same period. The antics against Spurs showed that his tendency to be erratic hasn’t got any better though and hopefully he can be more focused next season.

And a word on the sad news that former Arsenal player Alan Ball who passed away yesterday. He played for Arsenal from 1971 to 1976 and many Arsenal legends have been paying tribute to him on the official Arsenal website.

He scored 52 goals in 217 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions and only played more games for Everton in his career, and of course was part of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.

Arsenal Suffer Some Real White Hart Pain

Well what can you say about that?

After going a goal down from a Robbie Keane header on 31 minutes, Arsenal reacted in the perfect way by dominating the rest of the game – which was mainly due to the introduction of the simply superb Cesc Fabregas just before the break.

The first half was scrappy but once the second half started Arsenal were bossing the game and put Spurs under so much pressure with attack after attack.

But poor finishing looked like it could come back to haunt Arsenal yet again.

Toure had a header from a corner smash against the post and Adebayor also had a header hit the bar after a superb cross from Clichy.

But Arsenal got what they deserved on the hour mark when Toure stole in behind the Spurs defence and converted one of many excellent deliveries from a Fabregas free-kick.

And with the equaliser Arsenal kept the pressure on and another Fabregas free-kick found Adebayor in the centre who finally got his goal when he headed right into the top corner.

At 2-1 Arsenal looked comfortable and it was no exaggeration to say that Lehmann did not have a single save to make until the 94th minute when Jenas scored Spurs’ undeserved equaliser.

After Game Thoughts?

The problem is that with the way Arsenal dominate games they create a lot of very good chances but fail to finish them – which is the story of our season really.

Adebayor, Gilberto and Baptista in particular missed golden opportunities to kill off the game when it was 2-1 and as long as the opposition are only a goal down then they’ll always have a chance to steal something.

I’ve had sympathy for Baptista but today just confirmed that he has absolutely no chance of being at Arsenal next season. He missed two very easy chances and you wonder if he practices finishing at all! It doesn’t really matter when you’re 4-0 up but when you need to kill a team off you’ve got to find the back of the net and the free header which Adebayor setup for him was such a poor miss.

A defence has to be a bit of a concern at the moment as well. With Eboue, Clichy, Toure and Gallas we had our first choice defence on the pitch – but somehow we concede sloppy goals. There’s just isn’t that belief we can keep a clean sheet and especially this season you just expect the opposition to open the scoring!

But there were a few positives from todays performance. Fabregas and Gilberto were outstanding and stepped up their game in the second half. Clichy and Eboue were also excellent in helping Arsenal’s second half revival and Diaby looked decent in the middle of the park.

Toure and Gallas did okay but I’m not sure if they can actually play together. There seems to be this uncertainty whenever the opposition attack and we are susceptible to giving away that first goal that makes things so much harder.

Hleb and Rosicky (along with Baptista) looked lost again. If it wasn’t for Fabregas and Gilberto in the middle we wouldn’t have got back into the game. Adebayor did well on his own up front running for every cause but needs to be more clinical in front of goal.

It looks like 4th place has been secured now with only 3 games left so I guess all eyes will be on the Chelsea game, where we can help decide the destination of the Premiership title.

Was David Dein’s Exit Down To Arsene Wenger?

As expected, the tabloids are full of stories of an ‘Arsenal Exodus‘, and a huge crisis at Arsenal but to be perfectly honest I think the speculation is ridiculous.

The papers have painted David Dein as a divine saviour for Arsenal, a man who Ian Wright has called ‘Mr Arsenal‘.

Now don’t get me wrong, while David Dein has been excellent for Arsenal Football Club and done some wonderful things it would be naive to think the club would just collapse with his depature.

It’s as if ALL of Arsenal’s success was due to him. I think Arsene Wenger might have had a little somethng to do with it.

Peter Hill-Wood has already issued a statement saying that along with the other board members – including Danny Fiszman, Lady Bracewell-Smith, Richard Carr and Peter Hill-Wood himself – have agreed not to sell their shares for at least another year.

And the fact is any sort of ‘hostile takeover’ which has been mentioned almost everywhere would be hard to achieve anyway. With the board members already holding 45% of the shares it would be virtually impossible to succeed in taking over Arsenal, especially when the board can easily pick up another 5% from the other small investors to inevitably block any proposed takeover.

But that doesn’t stop the stories and despite his close involvement with all things Arsenal and his relationship with Wenger, it’s worth remembering he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Arsene on everything.

Arsene Wenger was instrumental in the development of the new Emirates Stadium, and was backed heavily by Peter Hill-Wood and Danny Fiszman through the entire process.

David Dein however, opposed the move from Highbury which Wenger was such an advocate of.

And Arsene has always stated time and time again that he would be against any sort of takeover from foreign investors. And obviously the rest of the board agrees with him – and not Dein.

It’s always amusing to read stories that Wenger might leave – did he ever support a takeover?

You would probably find Wenger would be more likely to leave if a takeover was to actually take place!

Arsene has put so much work into the 11 years he has been here throughout the entire football club so an unlimited transfer kitty to spend on the likes of Ronaldinho, Eto’o et al is not his style.

And yes, we’ve heard that Henry is close with Dein’s family and his son was the best man at his wedding (I never tire of that story…) but it’s funny that Henry is so close with Dein that he was thinking about leaving Arsenal for Barcelona!

Surely if they were that close then the thought of leaving Arsenal shouldn’t even be an issue should it?

And Ian Wright has proved to be talking utter b*llocks yet again. He was such a great player for Arsenal and I will always remember the great things he did but he does talk a lot of sh*te sometimes.

He says that David Dein loves Arsenal, which I’m not disputing – but just because he was always there and has done great things doesn’t mean he isn’t in it for himself does it? I’m sure he’d just love to run Arsenal with Big Stan’s money and being at the helm.