The Champions league resumes with the knockout stage that sees us pitted against the best team in the world according to popular and widespread beliefs, Barcelona. But are they really that mighty? On paper and in La Liga they are, but we all know the champions league is a different ball game entirely.
No point crying over spilt milk as we could have avoided this fixture at this stage if only we had topped our group, but as Le Boss is always quick to point out “To be the best, you gotta beat the best”. I love our coach, if only I shared his enthusiasm at times.
Looking to banish memories of last years deflating loss and eventual exit at their hands the lads are rearing to go and confidence within the camp can’t be any higher and as if that’s not enough good news, we only have one major absentee through injury and that’s TV5. After disposing of Wolves without hitting top gear and watching Barca held by a brave Sporting Gijon side, you’d fancy our chances especially with Puyol set to miss the first leg.
When we were drawn against the Catalans last season, I stood alone in saying we won’t lose at the Emirates no matter the situation and final outcome and I’m glad to report that this season am not alone with those thoughts. For some reason, gooners worldwide are calm about this tie and I’ll tell you why.
- •For starters, we’re not missing that many players and we don’t have anyone carrying knocks at the moment. Last season, we had Rvp out injured Fab and Arsh both half fit etc
•The team is stronger than it was at this stage last year and the emergence of key players like Jack wilshere, Samir Nasri and Johan Djourou has provided the fans with some cheer.
•If you think Messi is in form then RVP is form, banging in goals with his head, left leg and right leg.
I’ll get back to the 101 reasons why we can beat Barca but for now let’s look at team news ahead of the show down. Le Boss is most likely to stick to the same team that defeated Wolves at the weekend with the only real headache is whether to start Nasri(who has recovered from the hamstring injury earlier than expected) or play him from the bench. One enforced changed is the introduction of Eboue for Sagna with the latter suspended from the group stages. A healthy Arsenal squad will beat any team in the world any day to me.
Much attention has been paid to Paul Merson’s comments about the Arsenal players that would make the Barca team. I don’t have the exact comment but he implied that only Cesc, Nasri and RVP would enter the current Barca squad…….. as substitutes. Imagine that??? What rubbish. Is he trying to say Busquets is better than Song or Wilshere, or Maxwell and Adriano better than Clichy, or the trio of Iniesta-Xavi-Pedro beats that of Cesc-Nasri-Theo? In my own books, this is what a combined team of Arse-Barca would look like today and am sure most of you would agree.
Alves Vermaelen Puyol Clichy
Fabregas Song Xavi
Messi RVP Villa
The bench would definately have more Arsenal players than Barca, a different formation would see Nasri and or Iniesta in the line up. But the matter on hand is how to stop barca, or how to make sure our game surpasses theirs. We need to take the game to them early, and focus on our own game rather than on individual battles, keeping possession for long spells during the game is also essential. This would make Barca chase the ball which they aren’t used to and we could capitalise on that. But this is easier said than done. Xavi would be looking to do what he does best and so too will Messi, but if we can keep one quiet then I foresee an advantage.
Personally I’d love to see Wilshere stick to Messi throughout the game, not necessarily as a man marking strategy but just to harry him each time he touches the ball, kinda like Tiote did Fabregas in the 2nd half of the 4-4 game at the Emirates. No matter the team that is sent out there, I expect nothing less than 100% from them, my only worry is the fact that Eboue gets to start, let’s just pray Barca continue their habit of repeatedly attacking from the right.
We will cause them problems as I expect Alves’ attacking instincts to be curbed and Pique won’t have it easy against the Red hot RVP, and with Wilshere and Song enforcing behind Fabregas our attacks would be devastating. Even they would need to be careful as to how they attack us knowing they have full backs not known for their defensive strengths and Walcott agaisnt Maxwell is already giving me goose pimples. Our defence needs to be on their toes, they’re used to playing against physical strikers and winning aerial balls and this might pose a problem as Barca forwards don’t require any of that and like to let their feet(which by the way are some of the quickest in world football) do the damage.
Irrespective of what happens come the end of 90 mins, football would be the winner as both teams have mastered the art of entertainment, winning or losing they’re always pleasing to watch and let’s hope we’re the one’s with the loudest noise come end of the game. I repeat I don’t see us losing at the Emirates, it won’t happen.
Possible Formation : Chezzer-Eboue-Kozzer-JD-Clichy-Song-Wilshere-Fabregas-Walcott-Arshavin-RVP.
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