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A Game Apart

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A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ashley Cole considers quitting as Arsenal confirm Aaron Ramsey is out for season

ASHLEY COLE is considering quitting football as he lies in a Biarritz rehab centre, conetemplating his post-operative ankle - and a divorce from the nation's darling, Cheryl Cole.
The 29-year-old was injured by Everton's on-loan USA international Landon Donovan - unintentionally - three weeks ago and needed surgery which may put him out of the World Cup in South Africa which starts on June 12 when England, ironically, play the USA in Rustenburg.
Though Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti says he is confident Cole will play again before the end of the season, there are no doubts about his mental state.
While he has been rehabilitating, Cole's private life has self-destructed. Four different women have claimed to have had affairs with him since the first stories involving illicit text messages emerged in The Sun three weeks ago.
And Cheryl Cole officially announced that Britain's dream couple - second only to David and Victoria Beckham - had split on Tuesday.
With Chelsea losing 4-2 to Manchester City yesterday amid the whole Wayne Bridge/John Terry dispute, the Sunday Mirror's Paul Smith reckons Cole has told friends he's had enough.
Officially Chelsea are saying what they said when Terry was revealed to have had an affair with Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel - that they would support him.
But the club's billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, is believed to be unhappy about the negative publicity surrounding two of his leading English players.
Though Abramovich himself has recently been through a very public marital split, he does not want the club dragged through the gutter.
The club moved last night to deny they would fine Cole or force him to be sold - despite reports in Spain that Real Madrid were hovering, ready to pick up the pieces.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has apologised to Cole for the way the club have handled matters,s an X-Factor judge, does not appear to be forthcoming.
Meanwhile Arsenal's Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, horrifically injured after a tackle from red-carded Stoke midfielder Ryan Shawcross, is out for the season. The club confirmed both bones in his shin, the tibia and fibula, were broken in the challenge.

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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Perhaps, Arsene, you should try buying a striker before the Chelsea game. Manchester United might appreciate it.

NEXT time Arsenal play Manchester United, it might be a good idea to use a striker. And find a better midfielder than Denilson. There are several in my local Sunday League.
The Gunners' 3-1 defeat at the Emirates, their first in the League to Sir Alex Ferguson's men at their new ground, was even worse than Andy Murray's straight sets defeat against Roger Federer in the Australian Open this morning.
At least Murray showed a bit of spirit, a bit of fight. Arsenal, like Murray, will no doubt be hoping they have a bit of youth on their side, and consoling themselves that Gooners have suffered five years of trophyless hurt rather than the 74 years Britain has waited for a tennis Grand Slam.
In truth, though Murray wept following his defeat, the future is bright for the young Scotsman. For Arsenal, they've got Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next.
And what have they done so far in the transfer window? Persuaded Sol Campbell to return, so he can attract any possible new investors in his veteran talents. Is that really all they can afford? Do you think that's good enough for all those season ticket holders paying thousands to see their side humiliated by United?
Wenger, ever the spendthrift, sold Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City amid veiled threats to buy a new striker. But even with Robin van Persie injured and Eduardo struggling to recover his form after that awful ankle injury last season, he has done nothing. Scrooge sits over his candle every night counting the gold pieces while the silverware slips away.
Today we had Nicklas Bendtner coming on when the pint-sized Andrie Arshavin had been muscled out of it again and again. Oh, and Theo Walcott. The pace of a greyhound, the touch of poodle.
In the end, William Gallas, one of the few with real spirit, was up front trying to get another goal back. And he very nearly did. Shows what a positive attitude might have achieved today.
Thank God Cameroon didn't stay to the end of the African Nations Cup in Angola. Without Alex Song, Arsenal would have been over-run.
As it was, that uniquely awful midfield trio of Denilson, Amir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky contrived to produce absolutely nothing between them.
When Wayne Rooney broke away to score his goal, Denilson saw him coming and just let him run past. Glorious. Elsewhere, things are little better. Spanish beachboy Manuel Almunia managed to turn Nani's cross into his own net, but only after the Portuguese under-achiever had been given a real confidence boost by the fumbling - and lack of pace - of the once-competent Gael Clichy.
Cesc Fabregas did little and looked like he was dreaming of Barcelona, Arshavin had no chance on his own, Gallas and Tomas Vermaelen - who will claim the deflected Arsenal consolation - might be worth a place in a top three Premier League club. Song was the Top Gun. Those five aside, the rest could be replaced by decent, British-born Conference players. At least they'd give a damn. At least they'd put in a tackle. At least they'd give it some for their £60,000-a-week.
Forget Nasri, Rosicky, Clichy, Sagna and particularly Denilson. These men will never win a Premier League title, as they will prove once more against Chelsea next week. Wenger has just over 24 hours to sign a decent striker. He should be thinking about a couple of midfielders too, though why he didn't try Aaron Ramsay and let Luke Wilshere go to Bolton on loan, who knows?
Couldn't we get David Bentley back, Arsene? Or one of the other many young Englishmen you sucked the life out of before replacing them with lacklustre foreigners?
Sure, third place looms again. And perhaps a Champions League quarter-final, if we're lucky.
But having seen Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Mathieu Flamini, Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure go, Sol Campbell doesn't quite cut it as a sole replacement.
Wenger said afterwards: "We were poor defensively. We were punished. We made massive individual mistakes. It's a disappointment for us. We were poor, we know we can do much better for that. Give us some time to analyse that.
"It's our job not to feel sorry for ourselves. When you're completely off the mark, it's difficult."
He avoided the question when asked if Chelsea was now a must-win. And when Sky asked him if he was planning a late swoop in the January transfer window, it was a straightforward: "No."
The agony. You're a great manager Wenger, but a stubborn cuss. Spend some money. Find us a striker and a goalkeeper. And get rid of Denilson. The fans have spoken.
Sir Alex? He was understandably happy with a stroll against the Gunners. And he grinned: "We'd like them to go and hammer Chelsea at the Bridge."
But he knows it won't happen. It's a two-horse race. Again.

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