The boys finished their tour to Austria with a comfortable 4-0 win over SC Neusiedl 1919 yesterday. The stars of the show were, once again, Jack Wilshere (whose delightful dummy set-up the opener for Theo Walcott) and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who scored superbly from a Kieran Gibbs cut-back. Gibbs was also impressive down the left as he linked superbly, again, with Arshavin. Manuel Almunia made his first appearance of the pre-season campaign as captain - a concern to those of us who want a new goalkeeper. Marouane Chamakh made it 3-0, his first goal for Arsenal, as he put away a penalty he had earned himself, and a delightful Carlos Vela chip wrapped up the scoring. There was still time for Chamakh to give away a penalty with a silly handball, but Vito Mannone (replacing Almunia at half-time) kept up his impressive record against penalties - he's made quite a reputation in the reserves for his prowess at spot-kicks. Of the World Cup players that returned to training only Diaby (more of that below) and Song (no apparent explanation) were missing. Johan Djourou went off in the first-half but should be available for the Emirates Cup this weekend. The mickey mouse pre-season fixtures are finished for the first-team, with rather more serious opposition lying in wait this Saturday when AC Milan come to London. The reserves play at Dagenham tonight.
I am extremely disappointed that Sol Campbell has not signed for Arsenal. The big man has gone to Newcastle instead. When I heard that this was likely yesterday, I assumed he had got his two year contract, that Arsenal were never going to offer. Imagine my surprise to find that he has signed a one year deal. Why? Why would you sign for Newcastle when you could have continued at Arsenal? Surely at 37 your only ambition should be to win trophies while you still can - going to Newcastle is an absolute joke. It's not the first time Sol has let us down at Arsenal. Perhaps we should have known what sort of guy he is when he left Tottenham to join us nine years ago. Back in 2006 he expressed his desire to play abroad, so Arsene Wenger released him from his contract, only for Campbell to join Portsmouth. What happened? Did he get to the ferry and realise he didn't like sailing, so turned up at Fratton Park instead? This time around, his career was over. Wenger allowed him to train with Arsenal and then signed him up. Campbell was outstanding, far better than any of us could have hoped. How does he repay us? By saying that signing for Newcastle is the best move he could have made at this stage of his career. I could have understood if he'd gone to Celtic - easy football, European football, and almost guaranteed silverware. I have loved watching Sol Campbell play for Arsenal, in both his spells - a legend of the Club - but I feel let down by him for showing no respect to Arsenal and to Wenger. The fact that he has not signed for Arsenal brings our defensive problems in to even sharper focus - especially with the injury-prone Djourou limping off again last night.
Arsene Wenger announced today that he doesn't know when Nicklas Bendtner will be fit, and that he will miss the start of the season - just as I said he would last week. Denilson should be fit for the trip to Warsaw next week, as should Diaby. Diaby is a real enigma to me. Brilliant on his day, awful all the rest of the time. I thought he'd made a breakthrough around Christmas as he stayed fit for more than three matches and showed some consistency. Then we played the big clubs and he was back to normal - inconsistent and missing games. It is no surprise to hear he has a knock again (I'm sure he still suffers the effects of his horrendous leg-break in 2006) and he is one of the dead-wood players I often refer to - time to cash in.
Wenger has also given an update on Fabregas and Van Persie, saying that they might miss the start of the season. He needs to assess them physically and mentally on their return on 5th August. What? Thousands of pounds per week, Arsene - get them on the bloody pitch and earning their money! Why exactly have these two been given this time off after the World Cup? Van Persie had a five-month lay-off last season so why does he now need a long break? Fabregas missed the last five weeks of the season, as well as other large chunks of action over the past two years. I just don't get it. I can tell you now, if we go to Anfield 0n the first day with Chamakh, Vela and Walcott as the attacking options, you can forget it. We would be praying for another Arshavin Anfield miracle.
Until tomorrow - please can we have a signing or two?