Arsenal vs Barcelona: Same Old Problems For Arsene Wenger
So the big one has arrived…Arsenal vs Barcelona at the Emirate in the champions league first leg. This is a game with more sub-plots than an Eastenders Christmas special. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry returning to face his former club for the first time, Cesc Fabregas playing against his boy-hood club and serial stalkers Barcelona, as well as the revenge factor for Arsene Wengers Arsenal after the unfortunate defeat to tonight’s opponents in the 2006 champions league final.
The tie promises to be an exhibition of passing football at it’s best. However, my excitement for a game i have waited years to watch has been dampened by Arsenal’s greatest foe in recent seasons…injuries. I would love nothing more than for both sides to be able to field their strongest eleven and slug it out. But it seems lady-luck has deserted us once more with our captain and most influential player Cesc Fabregas being rated at 60:40 against to make the game tonight.
What a cruel time to pick up an injury for both Arsenal and Cesc. Without him, our chances of over-coming arguably the worlds best team are heavily reduced. Fabregas is Arsenal’s heartbeat and he will be up for it big-time if he plays so the loss would be a devastating blow. But there is still a chance he will make it, as Wenger explained in his pre-match press conference:
“He didn’t appear in training because at the moment he is not fit to play,” said the Frenchman. “We will give ourselves 24 hours more and we will assess the situation tomorrow. But today he would not be available.”Sometimes you do not want to take a gamble in training because 24 hours more can help. You don’t want him to get another kick so it was better that he didn’t train.
“I would say it is 60 against, 40 for him playing. Cesc is desperate to play in every single game we play. But if he is not capable to play I wouldn’t even put him on the bench. We have 19 players in the squad, that means I have considered the possibility of ruling him out completely.
“But if Cesc is fit I will play him. And I cannot give you an answer today because the medical staff tell me there is still a chance he will be available. But that will decided in the warm up tomorrow night. That tells you how late we will leave it.”
Part of me hopes this is all a cunning Wenger ploy to lead Guardiola down the garden path and disrupt the Barca game-plan. If they don’t think Cesc is playing they won’t prepare any special plans for him. Maybe im just dreaming!
To make things worse, there are doubts over Andrey Arshavin, Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri. But all three trained yesterday and are expected to make it. It really would be mission impossible if those three were out as well as Fabregas.
On a more positive note, William Gallas took part in a full training session yesterday and is in the squad, with Arsene saying he is in contention to start. Im not sure how i feel about throwing him straight in against Barca after he’s missed the last 8 games and only had a few days training, but maybe Sol Campbell is still feeling the effects of Saturday’s game and the boss sees a half-fit Gallas as a better alternative.
“Gallas is in the squad,” said the manager at Tuesday’s press conference. “I have not picked the team yet but he has a chance.
“He looks physically quite good. He has had three days training and I will now have to have a chat with him and then decide.
“But,” he added later, “Sol Campbell has played many games recently and a little breather would be welcome.”
Possible starting team:
Sagna Gallas Vermaelen Clichy
This side is only RVP short of being our strongest eleven, but obviously many of the players are not fully fit, and Gallas and Fabregas may not even make it. If they don’t, i expect Campbell and Rosicky to step in, with Nasri moving in to take Cesc’s role and Rosicky out on the right.
There is some welcome news from the Barcelona camp, as Andrea Iniesta has been ruled out with a thigh injury. Although the loss of Iniesta may not be as substantial as many Gooners would hope as he has not found the form he produced last season, but is a quality player none-the-less.
Unfortunately Barcelona have received some more positive news on the injury front, with Xavi, Yaya Toure and Gerard Pique all being declared fit.
Thierry Henry is expected to take his place alongside Ibrahimovic and Messi in attack. It’s sure to be an emotional night for Thierry and he will no doubt get a rapturous reception from the grove. I wrote a report on Henry’s return, if you missed it check it out here.
I see games like this as a time to just enjoy the occasion. It’s time to test yourself against the very best. If you manage to beat the reigning champions, it will give you the confidence to go on and win the tournament. If Arsenal lose, there is no shame in losing to the best in the world. It will be gutting don’t get me wrong, but we ARE the under-dogs and rightly so. Barca have proven they are the cream of the crop and it’s up to Arsene Wenger and his players to figure out a way to beat them…something Sir Alex 09Ferguson and Manchester United couldn’t do. I just pray injuries don’t end the game before it has begun.
Whichever 22 players take to the field tonight it will be a great game of football. There is a slight worry that both teams may cancel each other out, but with the philosophy of both sets of players to play open, expansive attacking football, I’m sure there will be goals. Let’s just hope it’s the boys in red and white celebrating them!
Could Arsenal beat Barca without Fabregas? Will the Gunners stop Messi? Please leave your comments below…..
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