What do you expect from tonight? Will we estacionar el autobus? Will we start gung-ho, try to score early and then work on the counter, or try to play keepball and settle slowly? Or do you expect Barcelona to blow us away early and give us a lesson?
All my non-Arsenal friends are predicting that Arsenal will get a hammering tonight and that we were fortunate to win at the Grove. To them I say “ Pish Tosh and a bottle of Pinosh”. Beating Barca was one of the great Arsenal performances and I see no reason why we cannot progress at the Camp Nou.
I have read the suggestion that we would be better off losing tonight; that we cannot win the CL because there are too many English teams in it and it is less shameful to lose to Barca than, say Chelsea. Again I say “pish”. We have beaten the Chavs on aggregate this season, thrown away a win against Spurs and were unlucky at Old Trafford. We are better than Bayern. In fact, the only fear I have is Real. We can win this Cup.
But first we have to get a result tonight ….
One of the key questions to be answered tonight will be which team is most affected by their missing players? Will we be able to take advantage of the absence of Piquet and Puyol without our most effective strike force? How damaging will be the loss of Song? (he is 50/50 as I write, and I am assuming he will not be risked.)
Should Song be out, who should take his place as our defensive shield? In a perfect world it would be Ramsey or even better, a fit Vermaelen. As it is AW has to decide between Denilson, Diaby and Rosicky. I expect Mr Wenger to take a safety first stance and play Denilson, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rosicky get a start in place of Nasri or Arshavin. AW must have been hoping for more from Diaby, who would be ideal if he could just play with more intelligence. Diaby is without question the most frustrating member of the squad; tonight should be a night where he showcases his huge talent but I doubt he can be trusted in so important a fixture.
Wilshere established himself as the coming man at the Grove – I hope he can keep his cool at Camp Nou. His booking for what appeared to be dissent on Saturday was a worry and hopefully not a portent of a young man developing arrogance. Self confidence is an absolute in a player of JW’s undoubted skills, but the glare of the media on one so young can turn heads. I hope AW can keep him grounded. One thing for sure is that Barca will not take him so lightly again.
Our defence is solid at the moment and I am delighted to see Sagna return (though Eboue did well in the first game). This is the best back 4 we have had for 5 years; youth, experience, physical power and ability on the ball. Have we ever seen our CB’s propel the team as we saw JD and Kos do on Saturday?
Upfront we have problems. RvP is in the squad, but is unlikely to start. In his absence and on the evidence of Saturday, I would play Chamakh as a lone striker. I love Nik but it appears he requires more time than the Barca defence will allow him (though he has scored at Camp Nou). Chamakh has been publicly praised by AW and I expect him to start. The news has just been released that RvP is travelling with the squad – I wouldn’t risk him, but what a sub! With 20 minutes to go at the end of a tight game, Robin could make a huge impact.
Our most important players? Fabregas and Szczesny. Fab will be so excited about tonight, the opportunity to show his wonderful talents in his home town stadium. He will control the tempo of our game. What a night for our 20 y.o. GK. To play at his age in what is the glamour tie in World football is unimaginable. He seems to be unflappable which he will need to be. There is no question that he will be by far the busier keeper and should he perform to his highest ability we have a chance. If he freezes, we are sunk.
My fear is that should we be 2 down at any time in the game we haven’t the weapons to get back into the game. Without RvP in the starting line-up we lack bite – we need a big night from Nasri and Fabregas. If we score (and have the luck) we will win.
Barcelona is home to many interesting chaps. Picasso, Dali, Jean Miro`, Gaudi, Jose Carreras, Montserat Caballe`, Pablo Casals, Victoria de los Angeles among others, but does not appear to have any proper Rockers. Perhaps it is a weather thing?
Will I be nervous tonight? Will I be envious of Brigham who is at the game tonight? What do you think?