Posts Tagged ‘ Braga ’

Who Should Arsenal Face: Barcelona or Real Madrid?

So the much anticipated Champions League draw is tomorrow afternoon (in my time zone anyways). The four teams that we can draw are Schalke, Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid. Does anyone have a feeling like me that it’s most likely going to be one of the Spanish giants?

Our Champions League campaign started on a high when Arsenal comprehensively won the first three group games, but had to wait to the last game in order to secure qualification. We only have ourselves to blame for making things so difficult. But as many people predicate our team, that it wouldn’t be Arsenal if they didn’t do things the hard way.

Copyright Getty Images

Some fans seem to think that it’s best not to focus on the Champions League and actually get eliminated early to focus on the Premier League. This could be maybe because of the disappointing performances against Shakhtar and Braga, so the ‘hope’ of winning the competition has dissipated. Unfortunately, Arsenal have found themselves in a similar sort of position in the Premier League for a countless number of times in the past few seasons and yet haven’t been able to capitalise on them.

One of the fans I talked to recently said that he wants Arsenal to face Real Madrid to give them the same 5-0 thrashing that Barcelona did (woah, that’s the spirit!). Many may also want to face Barcelona early on in order to take revenge of last season. That is a possibility, especially since our team does look a lot stronger than when we faced Barcelona the last campaign. This time, Samir Nasri is firing at all ends and we have the likes of Chamakh and a fit RVP, so Bendtner is less likely to be our primary front-man. Others of course, are still wary of facing Spain’s dominating footballing forces and would much rather fancy their chances against Schalke or Bayern to progress further into the tournament.

Questions about our weaknesses remain. Football pundits ask whether Fabianski is ‘good enough’ to protect the Arsenal goal for them to win the Champions League? Does the Arsenal backline possess enough quality and depth to prevent the likes of Messi and Ronaldo scoring goals aplenty? Is Chamakh prolific and lethal enough for the Gunners attack to lead us to glory?

The problems are there. But do we sulk about them and lose confidence, or accept them and move on? The latter seems to be the right way to go. Does it really matter whether we face Barcelona or Real Madrid early in the competition? We’ll have to face them eventually if we are to win. So why fear them at all?

I cannot accept any element of fear in this Arsenal side. We are a team that has played in this prestigious competition for 13 seasons so far. The team needs to exuberate confidence and the winning mentality must flow through the veins at all times. Whether we play at Camp Nou, Santiago Bernabeu or at the Emirates, we must be in it to win it.

Reasons to still be optimistic

So yeah, we lost yesterday. I knew right after the defeat to spurs that we would lose yesterday and that it might be one of ‘those’ weeks. And it was. Sometimes after losses like this, we are more devastated about the loss than the consequences of it. So what actually did we lose this week?

1) 3 points lost in the title race

2) lost our dignity at the hands of  sp*rs

3) 3 points lost in the C. league

4) Loss of Cesc Fabregas

Reasons to still be optimistic:

Losing 3 points in the Premier League title is always a bad thing especially if you are challenging for the title. But have a look at the table right now. We are 2 points behind the leaders the same as before, the only difference being that there are two leaders now instead of one. So even though we lost, I’m glad we lost on the same week when Chelsea dropped points. The difference in points in the table is a good enough reason to still be optimistic as mathematically we are well within reach of the title. Chelsea have bad fixtures coming ahead and with their weakened defence there is still much to hope for. Arsenal have a much better squad than Manutd this season and all of us know it, just wait till Ferdinand gets injured…

Maybe the humiliation by spurs has little or no bright side to it but hey, let them make a DVD or whatever, Arsenal FC has much pressing matters at hand than to soak it’s shirt with tears. Move on. Next up- the loss to Braga. Arsenal were playing away at a stadium they have never played  before. Plus a number of players were rested/benched. I am not  much surprised by the result and as Wenger stated, Carlos Vela should have had a penalty  and  it was the turning point of the game. And, anyways this was no by no means a must win game. A win against Partizan should be enough for Arsenal to get through to the next round. We may even top the group if  Braga do us a favour and lose. And anyone who is familiar with the Champion’s League knows that finishing top in a group is not always a good thing and it does not necessarily give you the upper hand. In fact, I would prefer Arsenal to draw a top team in the next round like Milan or Bayern(not Barca though, at least not now!) than a weaker team which this team might underestimate.

The loss of Cesc Fabregas is a massive blow for Arsenal, or is it? The skipper had been rather ordinary in the last few games and he never really seemed to have recovered, physically or mentally, from his previous injury. Yes, Wenger made some wrong calls for the Braga game and this was definately one of them. Cesc’s injury might be a blessing in disguise. The lad needs some rest to clear his head and come back strongly. In the mean time I expect Nasri take over together with young Wilshire and do the business.

Other good news thats come our way is that Ramsey had played in a reserve game yesterday and he seemed pretty excited about his return. So are we. You can watch his interview at the club’s official site. Denilson has apologized for the club’s recent losses and is determined to set things right. Well this might not be ‘good news’ but at least one of the players have stepped up and have the decency to apologize. It would have been better if it was the captain himself who apologized but this will have to do for now.

So you see, things aren’t all bad. Living in depression is never a good thing. After the tears have dried out, it’ s time to look forward. Put this week behind you and put on your seat belt ’cause it’s gonna be a long ride. Aston Villa, here we come!

Man to watch vs Braga: Nicklas Bendtner

The squad for tonight looks rather shallow with a number of players missing with various reason giving it a kind of Carling Cup look. But we can assure you it is indeed a Champion’s League fixture tonight and it is one of those matches where we put our squad depth to the test.  Gael Clichy will miss the match through a back injury and Vermaelen and Diaby remain sidelined. Aaron Ramsey and Manuel Almunia have played 45 minutes tonight in a different fixture to regain fitness  and thus are not available for tonight. Arshavin and Robin v. Persie are set to be rested, the former because of playing back to back matches and the latter due to yet unknown reasons. Cesc Fabregas could also not feature in this match. This makes way for players such as Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshire, Carlos Vela, Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Eboue and Nicklas Bendtner who have been mainly on the bench this season.

Nicklas Bendtner is set to start today and with a point to prove. He had been complaining recently about how he deserved to start after he returned to fitness which was kind of absurd at that time as Chamakh was in form and Bendtner was surely behind a fit RVP in pecking order. But, Chamakh has been very plain in recent games and RVP seems to lack fitness which should  prompt the manager to give this issue a second thought. This indeed could be a make or break match for the Dane. If he can perform as good as his confidence seems to imply, then surely he could get a string of starts in the next couple of weeks. With only 5 league appearances this season,all of which were from the bench, Bendtner has been only a shadow of the player he was last season with constant injuries. This is an auspicious fixture for the Dane as he was very much a Champion’s League player last season scoring 5 goals which made him one of the top scorers of the competition.  But will today’s depleted Arsenal team be able to feed Bendtner at a ground where it has never played before? With key players missing in midfield, it might require Bendtner to shift it up a gear and provide a strong individual performance today. The current Arsenal team is bigger and more competitive than ever before and a good performance is no longer ‘good enough’. Nicklas Bendtner, although lacking in certain departments, has one quality that many Arsenal players seem to lack at the moment- confidence. If he can take advantage of this strength tonight, I fully expect Arsenal to beat Braga  and get the upper hand in our group.

The Role of Carlos Vela

Thinking about the Braga game tonight reminded me of the 6-0 Braga thrashing at the Emirates a couple of months back. There were two fantastic finishes from Carlos Vela, one a lovely chip and the second one beating the keeper on the inside post. Apart from those two he just has one Premier League goal so far this season.

I know, his goals have probably not come against the toughest oppositions, but they’re still important goals. The question is whether he will be able to replicate these performances against much tougher opponents, one of the big four perhaps? If you ask Arsene Wenger what exactly is Carlos Vela’s role in the team, I don’t think even he will be able to tell you.

Carlos Vela (c) mirror.co.uk

A player who possesses great pace, dribbles well and is a relatively dependable finisher (also features on the Arsenal first team) makes you wonder how he doesn’t make the first team that often. It just shows how the Arsenal attack is congested, with everyone shouting for first team opportunities. I do feel for Wenger, it’s tough. He’s got too much talent in there.

Vela should be predominantly used as an impact player down the left wing. That’s something what Tomas Rosicky does when he comes on from the bench. I think it’s time Vela gets some more first team (apart from just League Cup starts). Otherwise, should he be sent out on loan? That’s probably not a great option either. Van Persie’s still not in full match fitness and it’s still not sure what Bendtner’s situation will come to this January transfer window. He is definitely a quality player to have as cover in case our regular attackers are plagued with injuries.

What I hope Carlos Vela does is give his heart out at every single opportunity he gets. Whether he plays for the Reserves, League Cup or as a first team substitute, he needs to perform his best. That’s one aspect the Arsenal philosophy thrives on. If you perform well enough, Wenger will create a place for you. That’s how the likes of Fabregas, Song and Wilshere came into such influential ranks.

I really do hope to see Carlos Vela one day as an Arsenal first team regular. Otherwise we might have to say goodbye to another one of talented left footers, while a new Gunner wonder-kid takes his place.

Below are the highlights of Arsenal’s goals against Braga in their first Champions League meeting a couple of months back.