Good morning. I'm delighted to say there's plenty to get through this morning, so let's get down to business.
It's Emirates Cup weekend, and Arsenal will be playing AC Milan in their first game of the tournament today.
Usually in this tournament Arsenal hold a bit of an edge over the continental teams because they start back training earlier in the summer, because the Premier League starts before a lot of the other major European leagues.
There's plenty to play for in today's game, the likes of Jack Wilshere and Jay Emmanuel Thomas will want to build on good performances in the three preseason friendlies so far this summer ans stake their claim for a place in the squad for the coming season.
The Emirates Cup has become the stage at which we tend to get some idea of the manager's thinking about what his team for the new season may be. I would think we will see the strongest Arsenal team today, with a bit of rotation for the Celtic game tomorrow.
In terms of the competition itself, it's certainly stronger this year than last. A game against AC Milan is always an occasion to look forward to, and should bring back memories of our famous win over them a couple of years ago. There's a face from the past as well as Mathieu Flamini returns for the first time since his free transfer to Milan.
I'm sure Flamini will probably be on the end of some booing today, but for my part I don't really care about him. He had one great season for Arsenal back in 2008, thought the grass was greener elsewhere, and found out otherwise. Case closed in my book.
With the point for a goal system at the Emirates Cup I think we can be reasonably confident of Arsenal winning the trophy. The team certainly have it in them to knock a goal or two past a Milan side short of fitness. Same for Celtic tomorrow, who looked less than impressive during their European game in midweek.
Arsene Wenger held a press conference yesterday ahead of the tournament, which was a slightly unexpected bonus. I believe he was asked about Cesc Fabregas's future a total of 56,284,621 times. Mr Wenger was resolute on the subject, saying, “We do not negotiate. If I want to buy your house and you don't want to sell, you don't negotiate with me, that's completely normal.
"I have spoken to him directly. But I believe it's important that meetings between me and the players remain secret. I never come out with the words I exchange with my players.”
Quite right too. It is reassuring to hear the manager speak so strongly on the subject. Arsenal have mostly kept quiet over the whole thing this summer, and whilst I think that was the right thing to do it also leaves fans feeling in the dark over what's going on.
We've heard the message repeated enough times to know now, the club has no intention of selling Fabregas, and I don't see how they could now even if an astronomical offer came in. Not unless the board and the manager want to lose a lot of credibility with the supporters. I must say I see very little chance of us selling Fabregas this summer now.
When asked how long Fabregas might stay more, Wenger rejected the idea that he might join Barcelona next summer, pointing out that he is still contracted to Arsenal for another five years.
The manager went on in his press conference comments to talk about the contribution that Fabregas can make to the team in the coming season.
After dismissing the question of whether Cesc would be captain next season (which I never felt was in doubt if he stayed), Wenger said, "There's a great attitude and spirit inside the squad and Cesc Fabregas can help us achieve these targets. He's now at a good age, 23-years old, and he has just won the World Cup. I believe he will grow in authority again for next season. The biggest achievement for him now is to help us win the title.
"I have known players who want to leave and then after they don't want to leave anymore. There are all kinds of situations, but I believe what happens after is that when a player stays it is about how much he focused on playing football.
"It is always in the interests of the player to perform. If he is a champion, he goes on the football pitch and wants to be the best he can. All the rest is a poor excuse for a football player.”
The example that springs to mind for me is that of Commander Worf (ok fine, Joleon Lescott) playing against Arsenal for Everton in the opening game of last season.
All summer long he'd angled for a move to Man City and whatever ridiculous wages they wanted to pay him. Everton weren't keen to sell so in the first game of the season Lescott sulked his way around the pitch, playing more than his part in Arsenal strolling to a 6-1 win.
That is a lousy excuse for a professional footballer, and as we've seen time and time again that description does not fit Cesc Fabregas. Personally, I have absolutely no worries about him not playing to the best of his ability for Arsenal this season.
So the challenge has been laid down to Cesc to show what kind of man he is, and to lead Arsenal on the field to success. I'm very confident he's equal to the task.
Arsene Wenger also said that he is looking for the side's improvement to come from within rather than from signing a lot of players. Which is not to say that he's ruled out making any more signings; indeed, he confirmed that the club are still on the hunt for another central defender .
Rather, he was saying that the team has been progressing steadily, and there's no reason to think that they can't progress again next season. I do agree, and I know that for Arsenal fans it's frustrating when teams like Manchester City are spending so much money and it looks like Arsenal are standing still next to them, rather than bringing players in to keep up.
The fact is, though, that Arsenal do things in a different way, and we do have a much better team than some of the fans give us credit for. Arsenal need a couple of reinforcements in the right areas to be a team that could win the title. Manchester City, Tottenham, and even Liverpool are much further away from being at that level, and they need signings more than Arsenal.
Not only that, but I feel Arsenal are on the right track because the more a team's squad starts depending on players purchased externally the more they risk falling foul of the new squad regulations for the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger spoke about the new rules at yesterday's press conference, and reiterated his disapproval for them. Despite the fact that Arsenal are better equipped than most to deal with them, I must agree.
I do not see how it benefits the club game at all. To a certain extent, it benefits the national team because homegrown players are more likely to be English (although Arsenal have plenty of foriegn youngsters who qualify as homegrown ). But why should any club have to work for the benefit of another team, even if it is England?
Those who read my blogs on a regular basis will know despite my English nationality I am not a fan of England's national football team. I don't see why Arsenal or any other club should be forced to take measures that might benefit England.
The England team has gotten itself into a shambles through refusing to look at the long-term, refusing to change the way football is coached in this country, and always looking for a quick fix. The state of the team is the fault of the FA. Why any club should be inconvenienced to help sort the situation out completely escapes me.
Anyway, that seems to wrap it up for this morning. I'll be at work for today's game but one of the benefits of being a bookie is that being at work is not necessarily a barrier to watching the game. Let's hope it's a good one, with a good result to match. If you're going, have a great day.
Enjoy the game.