What did the Arsenal coach say about the signing of Jon Miquel Toral Harper? Injury updates and player comments from London. Read some brief notes from the last few days after the jump.
The bitterness between FC Barcelona and Arsenal has multiplied as the English club acquired the services of 16-year-old midfielder Jon Miquel Toral Harper, who currently plays in Barca’s Cadete A. The player, whose mother is English, will move to the English club in summer. For Cules, the signing is a reminder of the forgettable episode of 2003 when Cesc Fabregas also left the club for London. Arsenal FC coach Arsene Wenger was delighted with the signing.
Asked to comment on the transfer at a press conference, Wenger said that moves like this were a part of European football. He said, “We have done what is legal. I love Barcelona, I love Catalonia. I have nothing against them. But when a player who is half-English and half-Spanish wants to join us, why should we turn him down if it’s all legal? If we have done something illegal, I will say ‘Sorry, my boy, we cannot do it’. But plenty of players leave us under exactly the same rule.” Wenger may love Barcelona but he shouldn’t expect any love in return on March 8, when his team takes on FC Barcelona in the decisive round of 16 tie of the UEFA Champions League.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who will have to be on extra alert mode when his side travels to Camp Nou, said that he has faith in his abilities. “All the top goalkeepers are crazy, you’ve seen in the past where they are a little bit bonkers so maybe I have a piece of that. Nothing worries me, not really, I am just very confident, I keep my feet on the ground. I was born this way. I believe in my own ability and that’s why I’m confident that every time I go out on the pitch, whether it’s Stoke and we have to face a lot of crosses in the box or Barcelona and the best strikers in the world, I believe in my ability and I am confident before the game.”
As FC Barcelona battles against time hoping for a quick and smooth recovery of Puyol, Xavi and Valdes for the tie, Arsenal has also suffered a setback with reports in London suggesting that Theo Walcott may not recover in time for the game against Barcelona. The England international left the field on a stretcher after straining his ankle in the game against Stoke City on February 23. Wenger said that Walcott would be out for “two to three weeks for an ankle problem. I would say today it will be very unlikely he will be fit for the second Barcelona game. I imagine the worst so maybe I will be surprised in a positive way but I just give you the gut feeling at the moment that I have.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal FC captain Fabregas, who missed last year’s return leg at Camp Nou because of suspension, should recuperate from his continuous hamstring problems and be fit for the match on March 8. “It could have been worse and the injury is a very small one,” said Wenger. ”But we have so many targets in front of us, it is important that he is not out for longer.” Fabregas has been ruled out for one or two games, which includes the Carling Cup final against Birmingham City on Sunday.