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Ladies & Reserves Column #8

Ladies & Reserves Column #8

Preparations are now full steam ahead for the Arsenal Ladies, who open the defence of their Women`s Super League title today at home to Everton. Last weekend saw a disruptive break for Euro 2013 Qualifiers- thought both Steph Houghton and Ellen White registered for England in a 6-0 win over Croatia. Meanwhile, stalwart centre half Ciara Grant becomes the first woman to reach 100 caps for Republic of Ireland. Last time out the girls` defeated today`s opponents Everton in the F.A. Cup Quarter Final at Meadow Park to book their place in the semi finals.

The schedule is looking rather busy for Laura Harvey`s side. Next Sunday they play the first leg of their Champions League semi final against Frankfurt, followed by the away leg six days later. The following weekend they will play Chelsea Ladies twice in three days. A WSL encounter at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, 26th, followed by a tie at Griffin Park in the F.A. Cup semi final. Both Arsenal and Chelsea will know who awaits them in the final by the time they kick off, with Birmingham City playing Bristol Academy in the other semi final next weekend. Arsenal kickoff their season without the re signed Kelly Smith. I told you in my match report for the Everton cup tie that she seemed to be heavily plastered and on crutches. It turns out she`s aggravated a stress fracture which makes her extremely doubtful for this summer`s Olympics, with England Ladies the favourites to take the crown.

The girls were busy last weekend trying to raise the profile of the Women`s Super League when they hosted a free football festival at Meadow Park for girls aged 7-16 to spend a day training with the likes of Rachel Yankey, Faye White, Ellen White and Alex Scott. Football Focus were invited to do a feature on their flagship Saturday show. As far as the WSL campaign goes, Arsenal will once again be hot favourites. But with European commitments to juggle, the curtain raiser against Everton will probably go a long way to identify what sort of shape Harvey`s side are in. Games between the two sides are usually incredibly close and Everton, along with Birmingham City, will most likely be Arsenal`s biggest challengers for the title. After today, the Ladies next home game is at Borehamwood on Sunday, 15th April. A Champions League semi final no less against Frankfurt. As ever, tickets are £2.50 concessions, £5 adults. The girls will appreciate and need the support, I`m sure.

Moving onto the Reserves now and things have been moving along on that front despite the absence of any Reserve Premier League fixtures. With the likes of Wilshere and Diaby on the cusp of full fitness, behind closed door friendlies were arranged, first with Reading at London Colney. Abou Diaby played 60 minutes unscathed before being replaced by Conor Henderson. It was the Irishman`s first game since rupturing a cruciate ligament in pre season. Henderson had been drafted into the first team squad for pre season, having signed a long term contract last year and starting the cup replay against Leyton Orient last February. However, this is Henderson`s second serious knee injury before his 21st birthday, so how he recovers will be crucial. Zak Ansah has undergone successful surgery as he starts his recovery from the same injury.

Arsenal then arranged another behind closed doors friendly against Birmingham City Reserves last Wednesday. It was strongly suggested that the game had been intended for Jack Wilshere`s recovery. However, there was no sign of him in the line up, with suggestions that his progress has been halted by a small bout of tendinitis. The manager has spoken already about Jack`s fitness, explaining that caution is the order of the day and that he needs to demonstrate fitness for Arsenal before he can contemplate going to the Euros with England. I think Arsenal are right to treat this one with kid gloves, but I`d rather he went to the Euros than the Olympics. Provided he`s physically fit enough, he could even get rid of some of that ring rust in an England shirt and aid his preparations for 2012-13 at Arsenal. We`re going to have to deal with the fact that Wilshere will be going to summer tournament`s regularly throughout his career eventually. In any case, a strong Arsenal side, featuring the likes of Santos, Chamakh, Park and Diaby drew 1-1 with Park Ju Young scoring. You have to think he`s more worthy a spot on the bench than Chamakh.

Meanwhile Swiss right back Sead Hajrovic extends his loan to Barnet until the end of the season. It seems incredibly likely that he will be released this summer. Henri Lansbury, on loan at West Ham, has been relegated to the "Development Squad" (which is what West Ham call their Reserves). He captained the Hammers` stiffs to a 2-1 win over QPR last week, scoring a scorching 40 yard volley to win the game. Nevertheless, you have to believe that his Arsenal prospects will also be curtailed this summer, given that his wages are in the £15-20k bracket, not making Championship West Ham`s first team squads doesn`t augur well from an Arsenal perspective.

Arsenal Reserves play their penultimate fixture of the season at the Northumberland F.A. against Newcastle United on Tuesday night. With the first team playing 24 hours later away at Wolves and with the likes of Aneke, Afobe and Yennaris out on loan, it will likely be a team of next year`s scholars who will look to prove their mettle. The likes of Josh Rees, Jeffrey Monakana and Jordan Wynter may feature. Abou Diaby could well be pencilled in too. Speculation abounds around the coaching set up at Reserve level too. Pat Rice retires this summer, meaning Arsene Wenger will look to appoint a new number two. It`s hotly tipped to be an internal promotion, with Neil Banfield and Steve Bould in the frame. (Ligue 1 scout Gilles Grimandi is also an outside bet). It will be interesting to see what develops there. Anyway, more next week. LD.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday April 8 2012
Time: 11:39AM


Thanks LD. It is good for Santos and Diaby to be given these games as I believe they will both be important for us in the run-in. Santos should be played against City today and Diaby should get a chance against Stoke City.

How is Tony Adams for Wenger's No.2, after Pat Rice. That's not to say Bould and Banfield are not good enough but you've got to look at experience at senior level; Adams has had a chance to coach as full time Manager for a premiership side and this may prove useful even as the club prepares for a Wenger replacement. Plus, having a club legend as part of the coaching crew can only be good for this team.
08/04/2012 14:50:00
OT. Just saw one of the very worst refereeing decisions at Old Trafford (OT). How does the Ref give a penalty and red card to the QPR captain for dive in the box by Young who had been clearly offside when he received the ball? When you are relegation fodder, it seems you don't even get the calls.
08/04/2012 14:54:00
More shoddy gamesmanship by an England player. Rooney has been teaching Young some tricks in training.
Wyn Mills
08/04/2012 15:31:00
No match thread for the game today?
08/04/2012 16:29:00
With the familiarity they have plus the home fans getting on the back of Clichy, one would have thought Theo will have a brilliant game today but, so far, it's been disappointing from the England wide man. Arsenal needs to be a lot more controlled in the approach otherwise, we could open ourselves up for a sucker punch. The Verminator blocking off RvP's chance at scoring a first since his 'draught'.
08/04/2012 17:05:00
Felt very sorry for QPR today, I couldn't believe how quick the ref got his card out, I think he might be keeping his head down for a while after watching MOTD tonight. Credit to them for keeping it down to 2.....10 men against 12. Very pleased with our performance today, we burst out of the blocks and suffocated city, it unsettled them. After the that unbelievable miss in the second half (I think the ball hit two posts) and RVP misses I did have this horrible feeling that city would nick one against the run of play. A thoroughly deserved win! But do we have to charge forward like the light brigade when we are 1-0 up and there is a minute on the clock!!!!!!!!!??? Thank god Sagna saw sense not to whip in a cross and hold it in the corner at the death, I think santos had a rush of blood to the head when he did a cross field ball with seconds remaining!!!!!
08/04/2012 19:11:00
Oh and memo to Ramsey!!!! When arguably the best striker on the planet is stood in front of an open goal, YOU PASS HIM THE FU(KING BALL!!!...... jeeees!
08/04/2012 19:13:00
Well done today you deserved to win as we did not properly turn up and Balotellu got what he deserved. As for the refs of the last three Manure matches .... they are all scared of making a decision aginst United in front of 75,000 baying morons and their knighted manager.
08/04/2012 19:16:00
That took some balls to admit willy. Its a far cry from your willy waving on this site for two seasons. All the best in your remaining games.
08/04/2012 19:20:00
Fair play there, Willy. I only ever remember your willy waving posts on here, as well. I guess it was just our day today. You guys gave it a fair go, though and did give old red nose a right good scare this season.
08/04/2012 21:34:00
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