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Thursday, 26 August 2010

Squillaci deal confirmed...sort of, Champions League draw

Arsene Wenger "announced" the signing of Sebastien Squillaci during his press conference this morning. By contrast, the official website ("it's not official until it's on arsenal.com") has not yet announced it. I have to say that all the excitement of signing a new player is taken away by this kind of thing. Throughout the day arsenal.com has given us various snippets from Arsene's press conference, such as "Denilson to return" and "Nasri and Bendtner 3-4 weeks away". They have chosen to completely ignore the one thing that every other news bulletin is reporting - the signing of Squillaci. This is so crass it is beyond comprehension. It's really quite embarrassing to be honest. So, still we wait for an "official" announcement. No point in getting upset about it, we know the signing is complete, but that doesn't excuse Arsenal's complete lack of communications on this.

The draw was made for Europe's most inaccurately named competition this evening. Arsenal are drawn with Shaktar Donetsk, Sporting Braga and Partizan Belgrade. At first glance this was a draw that concerned me, with long trips to Serbia and Ukraine. I am less worried now by the trip to Belgrade as I remember how Red Star were dispatched in qualifying a few years ago.
The long-haul to the far side of Ukraine remains a concern however. Apart from the travelling, Shaktar have a striker with whom we are very familiar - Eduardo. It will be great to see Eduardo say a proper goodbye to us in the home game. We have to hope he won't come and haunt us. The away game takes place in early November, so we should avoid the worst of the weather there, and it also comes between two home games in the Premier League. Sky are taking pleasure in saying that we have had a problem with the Ukrainians before, when they beat us 3-0 a few years back. They fail to acknowledge that Arsenal sent a reserve line-up out there for the final game of a group from which we had already qualified. Having said that, the defeat at Donetsk was the beginning of a terrible run that put paid to our Title chances that season - but I only recall that because Arsenal is, essentially, my religion.
Our final group opponents, Braga, are known as the Arsenalistas and play in red shirts with white sleeves - a revolutionary idea copied by Arsenal for this season. They also play in the weirdest stadium in Europe where a cliff forms the backdrop at one end of the pitch. If I had the money I should dearly like to visit Portugal for the game on 23rd November. Sadly I do not have the money so will have to make do with TV.
I think it is a group we should qualify from comfortably, but there is just enough about the opposition that faces us to make us guard against complacency. With two of the first three games to be played at home, we will only have ourselves to blame should we need to get a result towards the end of the group fixtures.

I will preview the Blackburn game tomorrow, including my thoughts on "Denilson to return."

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