Champion Champions League Draw For Gunners
Arsenal avoided European big guns Real Madrid and Roma in this week’s Champions League draw and will play in Group H alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, SC Braga and FC Partizan.
Shakhtar’s last visit to London saw them succumb to Fulham in last year’s Europa League. So the Gunners will feel confident of qualifying for the last 16 ahead of them.
And they would hope also to overcome Portuguese new boys and surprise package Braga, who knocked Glasgow giants Celtic out of this year’s tournament, and the inexperienced Partizan outfit from Serbia’s capital.
The Gunners will certainly feel confident if Theo Walcott can build on his first-ever hat-trick in an Arsenal shirt, the goals coming in last weekend’s 6-0 thrashing of EPL new boys Blackpool.
Arsenal were helped by the first-half dismissal of Tangerines’ defender Ian Evatt. But they were impressive going forward nonetheless.
The Gunners are still on the hunt for a new goalkeeper however, as they continue to battle with Fulham over the future of the Cottagers’ Australian international custodian Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham manager Mark Hughes has expressed his disquiet over Arsenal’s public pursuit of the 37-year-old net-minder. He said:
“Mark is aware of the interest of Arsenal. That knowledge is distracting and disruptive.” And Hughes claimed that Arsenal’s offer was still short of Fulham’s valuation, adding:
“There wasn’t an improved offer from Arsenal – it was exactly the same one that was put forward in May.”
Manager Arsene Wenger has had better luck with his native France, as Arsenal completed the signing of Wenger’s compatriot Sebastien Squillaci from La Liga side Sevilla, who exited the Champions League this week.
The 30-year-old has reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Emirates Stadium outfit. His transfer fee has not been disclosed, although he was a “£6.5m-rated” defender in most newspapers.
And he is available for Arsenal’s Champions League campaign having deliberately sat out Sevilla’s aggregate defeat to Arsenal’s Group H opponents Braga.
Wenger explained: “I made a bid on the day Sevilla played in the Champions League, so he did not play as he was waiting for the transfer.”
The Arsenal supremo added: “We needed a centre-back of quality and experience and at the right price – he is all of that.”
“He is a real defender and is good in the one-against-one, good in the air and can score goals on set-pieces as well. I believe he will be suited to the English game.”
Squillaci will not be available for the Gunners Saturday lunchtime visit to Blackburn Rovers, a match which Wenger fears may produce “rugby on the goalkeepers” if match referee Chris Foy doesn’t get tough with the Ewood Park outfit.
Arsenal lost 2-1 at Blackburn last May and Wenger criticised Rovers at the time for having “no purpose to play the ball” as they unsettled the Gunners then-keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
And he further criticised other teams for their treatment of goalkeepers so far this season, adding: “You can’t say anymore that it is football, it is rugby on the goalkeepers.”
Tags: Arsenal, Champions League, Gunners, Theo Walcott, Mark Schwarzer, Arsene Wenger, Sebastien Squillaci