Arsene Wenger has confirmed his squad for next week’s Champions League Final against Barcelona, barring injury, will not include Theo Walcott and that Dennis Bergkamp has yet to play his final match for the club. The surprise inclusion of Walcott in England’s final 23 for the World Cup means that he will be away in Portugal on a jolly, sorry Training Camp, for the finalists. Bergkamp meanwhile will be travelling to Paris for the final for a touch of benchwarming and maybe one last hurrah in the clubs colours, which incidentally will be the yellow away kit. Given the comments in the press made by the Arsenal manager, I would expect his starting line-up to be:
Lehmann; Eboue, Toure, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg, Gilberto, Fabregas, Hleb; Reyes; Henry
with the subs bench being:
Almunia, Clichy, Flamini, Senderos, van Persie, Bergkamp and Pires.
The only change I can see may be Pires in place of Reyes but I think that given the Spaniard has started ahead of Pires for most of the season, it is unlikely. Meanwhile, Pires’ oft-rumoured move to Villarreal seems to be moving closer each day as he is the subject of much speculation in the media. I am not surprised by this as he will probably be moving further down the pecking order next season should he decide to stay. Should Walcott make an impression at this summers World Cup, he increases his chances of playing in the Premiership next season which would then leave Pires fighting Reyes, Ljungberg and van Persie for the wide left midfield berth. Hleb, I think, has convinced Wenger of his worth with some diligent defensive work in Europe and also is starting to show the close ball control that Wenger admired in the first place.
On the subject of the World Cup, Wayne Rooney is supposedly on course to play in the England v Sweden game, the final match of the Group phase in Germany. This is better than expected news and eases some of the pressure on what England do once they get into the knockout phase, assuming of course that the captainless ship plots a safe course past Trinidad & Tobago and Paraguay. If results go to form, the result of the England v Sweden match decides who gets to follow the route to the final via Poland, Portugal and Brazil or Germany, Argentina and Italy. Neither is particularly easy but the expectation is growing as the tournament comes ever closer. Unfortunately for the England Camp, they have fed this belief that England can win. Not a country that needs any boost in its’ thirst for glory, the English fans have been told that Germany 2006 represented the time when Englands’ so called Golden Generation would be at their peak, although I am unconvinced that at the time they were labelling themselves as such that the players had a potential forward line of Crouch and Walcott in mind. Eriksson meanwhile, has been feeding the fishes by claiming that England, with a little luck, can reach the Final in Berlin. He, no doubt, has the hope that England go out on a high so that he gets offered the pick of coaching jobs as opposed to the return to Benfica which is being mooted following Ronald Koeman’s departure to Eindhoven.
Further controvesy strikes at the heart of a major European club with the news that the whole of Juventus Board has resigned as a result of allegations of collusion with match officials and financial improprieties involving transfers. Following on from the suspicions that Florentino Perez may have jumped ship at Madrid more because of financial problems than failed Galacticos, it seems that the curse of Arsenal is striking at the heart of our vanquished European foes. Barcelona beware.
Todays Tunes continue the soulful theme: