Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Grab: 02.15

Bolton 1-3 Arsenal (AET)
Talk about the FA coming back in terms of staging enjoyable matches. Arsenal pull off a strange and compelling extra-time victory over Bolton in last night's fourth round replay. Sam Allardyce's team have had the Gunners' number since 2003 when Arsene Wenger's side failed to challenge Manchester United for the Premiership title by drawing 2-2 with Wanderers. Despite missing two penalties and at least one opportunity to score on an empty net, Arsenal manage to overcome their "bogey" team to progress to the next round. [SportingLife]

And it's getting busier for Arsenal, with a fifth round tie with Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Although the Gunners have trounced Rovers a few times in the league this year, Mark Hughes' side is another "physical" team, albeit with some true offensive threats in Morten Gamst Pedersen and Matt Derbyshire. Three days after that, the squad travel to the Netherlands to face PSV Eindhoven in the beginning of the knockout stages of the Champions League. And of course, the League Cup Final with Chelsea takes place in Cardiff less than a week after that. Although it's still early in the last half of the campaign, this is a crucial time for the North London side and could be telling in whether or not they can maintain momentum.

Jogo Bonito? Even my corgis could stop those two
In other Arsenal news, the squad is set to meet the Queen for tea at Buckingham Palace. After last night's performance, it is reported that the Queen fancies a few minutes between the sticks at some point, with Wenger's Brazilian contingent taking penalties against her. I've got my money on Denilson. [BBC Football]

King Romanov's crazy about the Old Firm
In a stunning change of character, majority owner of SPL side Hearts, Vladimir Romanov, launches a tirade against the Old Firm, accusing Celtic and Rangers of bribing referees and players in their dominance of the league. Romanov, highly controversial for his oafish machinations in a side that threatened the Old Firm for much of last year (he picks the squad, and fires a manager about once every two months) may have a point, given the stranglehold on 1st and 2nd throughout the history of the SPL for Celtic and Rangers. Then again, the Scottish Premier League may just be more or less shit with very little money to raise the level of play. I'm leaning toward the latter. [In The News]

England players take The Godfather out of their DVD players for a few minutes
Wow, talk about really laying down the law. Steve McClaren takes time from polishing his choppers and sanding his face to send out DVDs highlighting individual performances in England's last friendly loss to Spain. With the Three Lions smack in the middle of lackluster Group E in Euro 2008 qualifying (below Croatia and Russia, above Macedonia and Israel - Estonia and Andorra really don't count, unless they're playing England, of course), the pressure's on. McClaren's boys travel to Israel on March 24 and follow that up with an away to Andorra just four days later. In other England news, Michael Owen is up and running, which pleases the FA and makes Freddie Shepherd at Newcastle United nervous. [Daily Telegraph]

I'm gonna poke out your eye and skullf- . . . too much? Sorry . . .
Speaking of English er, grit and determination, new Parma and former Chelsea gaffer Claudio Ranieri is promising the English style of play he learned during his time at Stamford Bridge.
"I will take no prisoners", he said, "You are either with me or against me", showing the clarity and resolve of say, Alexander the Great, or perhaps more likely, George W. Bush. After describing his desire to win with allusions to warfare and death, you'd think he'd throw his book of cliches out. Parma travel to SC Braga in Portugal in the UEFA Cup today for the Italian's first match in charge. [SMiA]


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