Big game tonight and a very interesting situation. We all know how our hapless Pole ruined what would have been a comfortable victory, and how we are capable of making a similar mistake at home.
To me this is the crux of the game. I am certain we have “enough in the locker” to score the goals to go through – even without Fabregas. The combination of Diaby and Nasri was very creative at the weekend and with Song replacing our Invisible Brazilian, we will be very strong in midfield.
Upfront we have a wealth of talent. I would start with Arshavin, Bendtner and Walcott. A mixture of pace, guile and stature. Surely Nik cannot go through another 90 minutes spurning chances again? If I were a betting man I would put a few kroner on AA and NB to score. Plus a brace from Diaby……. I am that confident. Diaby looked very good on Saturday and plays very well just behind the strikers. Nasri played excellently without Cesc, and looks as though he wants the role as “The Man”
However, it is the defence that will decide this tie. Should Sol and TV perform as we know they can we should be OK. Almunia has looked slightly less shaky (AW. Please, pretty please, sign a quality GK in summer). Clichy is returning to the form we know he is capable of, Gael retains the ability to make the wrong decision when to venture forward, but has grown incrementally over the past month. The Right Back position is not so obvious, and it is with considerable surprise that I find myself hesitating about Sagna. – not because of his form, but due to Eboue’s. His combination play with Walcott galvanised both players. Eboue defended better and Walcott found the space that on other occasions has been occupied by Sagna. Eboue crosses better than Sagna, is a more potent attacking threat but Sagna remains the better defender
My solution is to start with Eboue and if when we are ahead after 75 minutes, replace Theo with Sagna , pushing Eboue into midfield.
Tactically, I expect AW to be circumspect at the off, relying once again on our better technique and ball-retention to frustrate Porto. Porto have a poor away record, but as we have seen, quick thinking and fleet footed forwards. We must not forget to defend in the quest for goals ….. they will come. Arsenal are the team with the highest percentage of goals scored in the last 5 minutes, we get stronger through the game – a mixture of conditioning and spirit.
The loss of Fabregas is not just the loss of the best player in World football at the moment, it is also the loss of our Leader, and Cesc has really shown in the last few weeks that his fighting spirit can drive us onwards through adversity. However, the Stoke game exposed other leaders in the team, Sol, Clichy, TV, TR are all men who lead from the front. Should we go out it will not be because of lack of spirit.
Many pundits have expressed doubts about our European potential and fully expect Arsenal to go out tonight. To these chaps (to a man Northerners with an axe to grind and ex-players who wouldn’t have got a game in our U-18’s , let alone our reserves) I say, look away tonight, for we shall win comfortably. How do I know? Well, last night I had a vision. – I was lying in verdant fields under a warming sun, when a chap with a brylcreemed head sporting the Arsenal kit of the 1930’s – baggy shorts, proper cotton shirt, striped woollen socks and a hefty pair of boots – sat down next to me. He introduced himself saying in a broad Scottish accent ” I am the late, great Alex James, and I have a message for all Arsenal fans, we shall win 4-1 tonight. We will do it for Aaron Ramsey”
Trouble is , can one trust the words of a dead Scot?