There’s only really one thing that anyone involved with Arsenal are talking about and that’s Barcelona.
If you’re still talking about Rooney’s goal, perhaps you should reassess your loyalties.
I’m not really sure what to say, we know that we are the underdogs, we know that they are the best team on the planet, we know what happened the last time we played them, and we know how they feel about Cesc Fabregas.
Let’s look at what we ‘know’ then shall we?
Is it right that we are the underdogs? Of course, even the most hardened gooner must conceded that any other team on the planet is an underdog when facing Barcelona.
That also takes care of point two, but we must remember that they are not unbeatable. They are human, they can have an off day, and so many other factors can play their part.
The last time we played them we were mullered. Or should that be Messied? Even though the first leg finished 2-2, we should have been dead and buried by half-time, having an inspired performance from Almunia to thank for still being in the tie. Of course, true to form, in the second half, he made it as easy as possible for Barca to take the lead. Theo’s introduction terrified Barca and we snatched an unlikely draw.
The second leg was a nightmare. Starting off so well, we took the lead and then Messi showed up. But, what the score-line, or performance, doesn’t tell you, is about the team we sent over there. Unlike Spurs, who are without (possibly) three players and it’s a ‘crisis’ as they head to Milan, we were without Fabregas, Song, Gallas, Van Persie, and Arshavin. We went to Barcelona and played Silvestre. Silvestre! Our bench consisted of Fabianski, Eboue, Eastmond, Campbell, Traore, Merida, and Eduardo.
Even on their best days, to start a team at the home of the Barcelona Globetrotters which includes Almunia, Silvestre, Denilson, and Bendtner, and to only leave with a three goal deficit is some sort of miracle. This was my preview from last season.
Could Man United do any better out there without Vidic, Fletcher, Scholes, Rooney (on last season’s form) and Nani? What about Chelsea without Terry, Essien, Lampard, Drogba, and Anelka? What if they had practically zero fit first-team players for the bench? You can be dam sure you would hear about it more than you did in the lead up to our match their last season.
We have more than a few points to make tomorrow night.
We need to be in their faces the way we were with Chelsea. Right from the first whistle until the last. We need 10 players who are willing to work at 100% for 90 minutes or more. The goalkeeper will be busy, and I’m glad it’s Chesney. Inexperienced or not, this kid is a match-winning keeper, I have no doubt about that (and have been saying the same since 2009). We need to stretch our fitness to breaking point, we should know that if you get about Barca, they can be broken. Watch a replay of the last 20 minutes of the first leg last year and see how sloppy Barcelona become with the ball when we start pressing from the front. There can be no excuse, no eye on the horizon and the league. No holding back.
It’s all or nothing.
And I think that’s exactly what we will see tomorrow night. I believe that we will come out as we did against Chelsea. We will shock Barcelona, and perhaps even shock some of our own fans as well.
Finally, we come to Cesc Fabregas. Arsenal captain, fans favourite and ex-Barca player. They feel they have some sort of divine right to him, well, here’s a few facts – Cesc was a Barcelona player for six years, he has been an Arsenal one for eight. We didn’t ‘fish’ him away any more than they tried to get Afobe. The difference? Cesc wanted to leave Barcelona, Afobe didn’t want to leave Arsenal. And what about Henry, Hleb, Petit, Overmars, Sylvinho, and Van Bronckhurst?
Barcelona are one of the most hypocritical teams on the planet.
Pah, enough about them.
In encouraging news Nasri took part in an open training session this morning with the rest of the team, van Persie’s knee didn’t fall off after being kicked at the weekend, and we are generally looking as strong as we could possibly expect.
This gives us every chance. Chesney or Almunia? Djourou and Kos or anyone with Silvestre? Denilson and Diaby or Song and Jack? Van Persie or Bendtner? This year’s Theo and Sami or last?
The only weak link is the inclusion of Eboue due to Sagna’s suspension, but let’s not talk about that eh? It might make me cry.
The rest is looking pretty damn hot.
The media’s focus will no doubt be on Messi, but as Diaby said:
“We need to be focused on the way we defend and not be focused on one man (Messi). We know that individually he is really good but if we do the job together I think it will be difficult for him. For me, that is the best way to control him and control the game.
“When you focus on one man it is never a good idea because they have also got Iniesta, Xavi, Villa – so many players. The most important thing is to be well organised defensively and, when we have got the ball, play our game.
“I watch Barcelona play quite often because I like the way they play, the way they move and obviously they have got the best player in the world.
“We know that this is a great team but we have a very good side with very good players. We can beat anybody in the world. We just need to be conscious of our qualities and play our game.”
We have the talent, and if we don’t have the desire for a tie like this then we never will. Fortunately, when the big teams roll in to town, we tend to pay attention.
Just as I finished that paragraph I was alerted to the fact that Diaby was withdrawn from the training session earlier today due to injury.
Hokey kokey…here we go again.
Just to wrap things up, many Arsenal blogs are uniting to ask all fans going to the game tomorrow night to fill the Emirates with renditions of ‘Hand off Cesc Fabregas’ (to the usual tune of ‘We’ve got Cesc Fabregas’. Started at the request of Le Grove, this is a very real way in which we can impact the game. They’ve even been so kind as to design a Twitter avatar which you can get here.
We know that when Cesc plays at the Nou Camp they will no doubt make some effort to let him know how they feel about him, let’s make sure that we leave him in no doubt what he means to us.
Closer look at the starting line-up in tomorrow’s blog.
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