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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Arsenal Defensive And Leadership Problems and Beckham To Milan

Gunners lacking leadership on the pitch

So the finger pointing can begin. After throwing away a two-goal lead against Tottenham on Wednesday night it has been revealed that the Arsenal players turned the air blue with their post-match bust-up in the dressing room.

Publicly, all Arsene Wenger would say was "we have to look at ourselves and improve'', but behind the scenes it would appear that he had a few choice words to say to his senior players, most notably Willam Gallas, Mikael Silvestre and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Yet Wenger must take a portion of the blame himself. For all of Arsenal's pace, elegance and exuberance, they lack a leader to take control of a game when it turns sour and Wenger's refusal to sign experienced players has not helped.

The last few minutes were a prime example of immaturity against Tottenham and it is hard to imagine the side capitulating so easily, had Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams been on the pitch.

Adams has now been tasked with pulling Portsmouth up by the bootstraps in his new role as manager, but one of Arsenal's greatest ever captains must have had one eye on the Emirates as the Arsenal defence crumbled. As a fan he will not have liked what he saw but, like every other Premier League manager, he will now be seeking to capitalise on Arsenal's soft centre.

Only four clubs boast a better defensive record than Arsenal this season, but it is notable that both Chelsea and Manchester United have conceded half as many goals. The Gunners' defence is simply not strong enough to mount a serious title charge and the blame can, mainly, be placed with the captain.

Where Chelsea have John Terry, United have one of Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville or Ryan Giggs and by comparison, Gallas just doesn't match up.

The Frenchman lacks the authority, determination and respect to hold such a prestigious position at the club. A good defender, Gallas has proven with numerous misdemeanours (including the tantrum at St Andrews' last year and open criticism of Theo Walcott), that he is not the man to lead Arsenal forward.

But Wenger has made mistakes in appointing captains before. Using the role as a means to keep his best players happy in the past, he gave Thierry Henry the position before his summer move to Barcelona despite having said that he prefers his skippers to play at the back.

Overlooking Gilberto Silva for Gallas last season may have hastened the Brazilian's exit from the club but, more importantly, it proved that Wenger places personal reasons above the team dynamic. Gallas and Henry, while massively important players, were never captain material and, years after the event, Patrick Vieira's departure from the club is still being felt.

Gallas has a hamstring injury ahead of a tough trip to Stoke's Britannia Stadium this weekend and, while cynics may question the validity of the injury in the midst of such criticism, it could work in Arsenal's favour. Ultimately it may force a real leader from within the current squad to reveal themselves.

Beckham to join AC Milan on loan in January

David Beckham will have only two months to make an impact at AC Milan after clinching a loan move to the Serie A giants on Thursday. The 33-year-old England midfielder will join Milan on January 7 and could make his debut four days later away to Roma.

David Beckham's presence failed to inspire Galaxy to great things during the MLS this season.

But he must return to the Los Angeles Galaxy by early March, to prepare for the Major League Soccer season, which is expected to start on March 19. All parties concerned are content with the terms of the deal, which was struck in Milan a week earlier than anticipated.

Milan director Umberto Gandini told Sky Sports News: ''The deal will be as long as David wishes. I think his commitment to MLS and Los Angeles Galaxy will take him back after a couple of months. I think he will have to go back to Galaxy by the time the MLS starts, and training before that.''

Gandini also confirmed that the Italian club do not expect any opportunity to arise which would allow them to sign the 33-year-old permanently, saying: ''David is committed to the Los Angeles Galaxy and the MLS. He thanks them for the opportunity to let him train and work with us, we're very happy for that.

''Only David knows his future, but for sure he has a commitment to go back to the MLS and I think he will fulfil that.''

Beckham is seeking to maintain his match fitness to ensure he stays in the England squad as he closes in on a record number of caps for an outfield player. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder has 107 caps, one behind the late Bobby Moore who led England to their 1966 World Cup triumph.

The former England captain hopes to retain his place in coach Fabio Capello's squad and is believed to be targeting international retirement after the 2010 World Cup.

Capello has indicated he will only select players who are active with their clubs, and with LA Galaxy now in their off-season, Beckham risked being left out for upcoming games, including the proposed friendly against European champions Spain in February.

Beckham will join a star-crammed squad at Milan, with the likes of Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Ronaldinho soon to be team-mates.

''The players understand we are the premium brand,'' said Gandini. ''We are a fantastic club, one of the best clubs in the world. The fact they want to play with us is a great achievement.

''David Beckham will come to our club where he will have a lot of people and a lot of players that have his ability and status so I think it will be very beneficial for him and the English game.''

Beckham is by no means certain to feature regularly for Milan, with nothing in his contract stipulating he will play in a specific number of games. Gandini confirmed: ''He will train with the other Milan players and the selection will be up to the coaches.''

Capello expects David Beckham will prove to be a ''great acquisition'' for Milan, the England coach's former club. Capello has worked with Beckham at Real Madrid and England and has been impressed by his work-rate.

Speaking before the deal was completed, Capello told Milan's World Business Forum: ''If Milan sign him they will make a great acquisition. He is a very focused lad. He is a professional. When I left him out of the team in Madrid because he had signed the contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he continued to come to the pitch to train and I put him back in the team.''

''He is a very serious lad, very sensible, a professional. People think he is a playboy off the field, it's not true at all,'' added Capello

Talks over Beckham's future were originally scheduled for next week, but the player's representatives and Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani met on Thursday afternoon to thrash out the transfer.

The former England captain was a Milan target in January 2007, but opted instead to move to Los Angeles from Real Madrid.

In a joint statement Milan and LA Galaxy confirmed Beckham would return to the States for training before the MLS begins, which suggests he will spend just two months back in Europe.

Writing on his website's blog Beckham this week admitted he was looking forward to joining Milan.

He explained: ''One of the reasons I want to train and play in Milan for a few months is the fact that the MLS season doesn't run as long as the European season and having played most of my career in Europe, my body has been trained and geared not to have that amount of time off.

''Obviously, I will be honoured to be given the chance to train and play with the likes of Ronaldinho and Kaka, but it also gives me the chance to keep my fitness up and carry that on for when I come back to the Galaxy for the new MLS season.''

He rubbished suggestions he had bought a house in Milan and denied planning to purchase a jet, and also confirmed LA Galaxy remain his priority.

''Next season is an important one for the Galaxy,'' Beckham remarked. ''We haven't been in the play-offs for three years now and for a team like LA Galaxy we all know that isn't good enough.

''(Head coach) Bruce Arena will also have had the chance over the past few months to get used to the squad and, with his experience and previous success, he'll want to make sure that we're up there competing next year.''

Galaxy boss Arena has given his blessing to Beckham's transfer. Arena had described the deal as ''an odd proposition'' last week and questioned whether the MLS and Galaxy would benefit.

However he has become convinced Beckham is making the right move.

''Clearly I think this is an ideal situation for David,'' Arena told Sky Sports News. ''It can benefit David, it can benefit England, it can benefit the LA Galaxy and hopefully it benefits AC Milan as well.''

Arena expects the 2009 MLS season to start on March 19, and he stressed Beckham will be involved.

''David will be back and have a couple of weeks of training with our team and will be ready to really kick off in a good fashion in 2009,'' Arena said.

The former United States head coach recognises Beckham's desire to stay involved and active with England.

''I can't speak for David but what motivates any top-level footballer is the fact that playing for your national team is the greatest honour,'' Arena said. ''And having the potential to play in another World Cup is every player's dream. I think these are the things that motivate him.''

Little chance of permanent Becks deal - Milan

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani says that the chances of David Beckham remaining at the San Siro beyond the end of his loan from LA Galaxy are non-existent saying that any moves to make the deal more permanent are "not practical".

The Rossoneri have reached an agreement which will see the England midfielder join the Milan club on the short-term from Galaxy. He will join on January 7 before returning to America in time for the start of the MLS season, which is expected to kick off on March 19 although the final schedule has not been finalised.

"David's arrival is a dream that becomes a reality," admitted a delighted Galliani. "We haven't written the contract but the agreement has been reached," said Galliani.

"Beckham will be at Milan on loan from January 7 until the start of the Major League Soccer, hence, for two months-and-a-half to three months."

Galliani added that Milan's hopes of keeping the 33-year-old at the San Siro on a permanent basis are non-existent.

"That possibility is not practical because he has a contract with the Galaxy," he said. "The club want him to remain in Los Angeles and he is happy there.

"Moreover, he has many advertising contracts."

Beckham could make his Serie A debut away to Rome on January 11 and could be playing alongside Ronaldinho, who joined the Rossoneri on a permanent transfer from Barcelona this summer and is looking forward to playing alongside Beckham, a player he faced while in the Primera Liga with Barca.

"I am happy that Beckham is arriving," said the Brazilian star. "I hope he will help us. He has so much quality."

Capello delighted with Beckham's Milan loan

England boss Fabio Capello fully approves of David Beckham's move to AC Milan, whom the England midfielder will join on loan on January 7.

David Beckham feels that a move to AC Milan would help prolong his England career.
As the deal is Beckham is only available for nine Serie A matches, the first of which will be away to Roma on January 11 but he will be training at high intensity and will be determined to win a place in Carlo Ancelotti's team, with Capello certain the Milan boss will be impressed by the England midfielder's attitude.

Speaking just before Beckham's move was confirmed, Capello said: "If Milan sign him they will make a great acquisition. He is a very focused lad. He is a professional."

Beckham's motivation for moving to Italy is he is determined to extend his England career, with Capello having warned he would miss the proposed friendly against Spain in February if he was inactive.

Capello recalled his own experiences of the former Manchester United's star's strength in adversity: "When I left him out of the team in Madrid because he had signed the contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he continued to come to the pitch to train and I put him back in the team."

Beckham, 33, must return to LA Galaxy by early March, to prepare for the MLS season, which is expected to start on March 19.

And, for the moment, all parties concerned are content with the terms of the deal.

Milan director Umberto Gandini told Sky Sports News: "Only David knows his future, but for sure he has a commitment to go back to the MLS and I think he will fulfil that."