Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nasri Debuts, Vela and Bendtner on the Mark Again

Lots to cover today.

First and foremost, the Arsenal pre-season got well and truly underway today with a friendly between Arsenal and Stuttgart. And fancy that, old friend Jens Lehmann was in goal for Stuttgart. Nice to see him again. Ol' Jens was really something in his time with Arsenal. In particular, being the man for the unbeaten team during their 49 game run. (Remind me to tell you a story about that, by the way.) The last couple of seasons saw Jens turn in wonky performance after wonky performance. We always knew how easy it was to get him wound up, and indeed throw him off of his game, but to be booked as much as he was for a goalkeeper at times just got to be too funny. Sure it was upsetting for the supporters to see someone making mistakes that affected the team negatively time again, but really, you gotta admit, ol' Jens was good for a laugh every game. The finger wag, reminiscent of Dikembe Mutumbo in the NBA, the flopping and overreactions anytime the opposition got close to him. He was a gas. Enough to lead me to look past a lot of his faults as a footballer, and enough to make me doubly-embrace his ability as a shot-stopper. (that was one of the best moments of my life, surely one of the most out-of-control celebratory freak outs I've ever had)

Down the pub for the matches, at The Highbury, we'd laugh about "pushing the Jens Lehmann button on your remote" to get exclusive access to the "Lehmann Cam." We'd belt out, without any true understanding of German, "das est verboten!" whenever he wagged his finger. And then, honestly, was there anything more uproariously funny than his season-long temper tantrum in '07 - '08 when he finally lost his place to Manuel Almunia?

That was too long of a sidebar. I'm not intending to trot out a Lehmann post-mortum, rather, we're taking a peek at the 3-1 Arsenal win over Stuttgart. (Click for match highlights)

This one saw the debut for Samir Nasri. I rate the boy, I do, but Tottenham can shove their Luka Modric. They'll likely be looked at in much the same way through the upcoming year. Sammy's turning heads, folks. Sure, he hasn't played enough yet to get heads turning, but he will. Because I say so. Balance. Balance. Balance. It won't be long until David Pleat puts down his SAF talking points long enough to say, "you know, this boy's got the best balance in the Premier League, what an addition he is."

Carlos Vela and Nikolas Bendtner were on the mark again in the second half, as was 16 year old Jack Wilshire with his third in two games. The lad is 16. I'm not even going to bother hyping him, but it's another reflection of the quality of football Arsene has developed that a boy so slight and inexperienced can slot in and turn up the excitement as much as he has. Let me put it this way ... how many other sides can name their 16 or 17 year olds, eliciting envious grins from the opposition, while still maintaining their perch as one of Europe's top sides? Eh?

Didn't think so.

Looking forward to the Carling Cup when Liverpool's Damion Plessis (do I win for the first Plessis reference?) gives it away in midfield with his jackhammer first touch and Wilshire and Ramsey nick one on the break.

What else....Plenty.... As the day rushed on, we had reports of Barry's imminent arrival in Liverpool, and then reports that he'd indeed stay at Villa. Word has it that Bentley's move to Spurs is just about done and dusted. No worries there. By the end of the day Arshavin's agent had begun running his mouth again, saying that his boy could well be off to Spurs in the next five days.

An agent. Running his mouth. Again. Yawn.

And finally, Super Kolo Toure should be able to fully shake off the affects of his bout of malaria by the start of the season. Terrific. (editor's note: I'm making this my first global plea to get a Kolo chat spreading across the Atlantic. Think "Marco. Polo.")

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