Posts Tagged ‘ Champions League ’

Barcelona finally outclassed

Yesterday was historic. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for a long, long time. The day when Arsenal finally beats Barcelona. To all those who support Arsenal, it was a special moment. We forgot about everything else going on in our lives atleast even for a few seconds, to spare some thought on this glorifying victory.

Those who saw the match should however know that it wasn’t really an easy ride. Barcelona really dominated the game in the first half. They played breathtaking possession football, passing it around almost training session like. It was not a pretty sight for the thousands of fans in the Emirates Stadium who were eagerly waiting for a result. If the first half was so poor, then what could’ve possibly turned it around and placed the match in our favour?

It was possibly the first time in a major victory that Cesc Fabregas is not at the heart of attention. In fact, it was the young Jack Wilshere who inspired everyone. He was arguably the best player in the whole match and he got stuck in at the Barca field when they had possession and made some fantastic passes when he had the ball at his own feet. His perception was brilliant and tracked back extremely well to always anticipate and tackle that growing Barca move. What a display from this young Gunner. If anyone had any doubts about him, this performance should remove them completely. Actually the rumour is out already that after yesterday, Barcelona have lost their interest in Cesc Fabregas and have shifted towards Jack Wilshere. Hopefully this will never happen!

 

 

Wilshere was the Man of the Match, but it was one moment of brilliance that catalyzed this win. Robin van Persie’s form just continues to get better, and he continues to impress. I don’t remember the last time RVP was so prolific. I still remember just a couple of months back all we were talking about was Chamakh and his goal scoring form. Woah, but where is Chamakh now? He is pretty much out of the scene because van Persie comes back in the team in a bang! What RVP provides to the team is that cutting edge finishing ability. Just the way he moves when he has the ball in his feet is mesmerizing. I mean no offence to Chamakh, but van Persie is provides just a totally different class of striking ability up front. It was his awareness that made the crucial goal. It was a flash of inspirational play, from a true Gunner.

You know who is our super sub now? Before it was Walcott, now its Arshavin. Andrei won’t be too happy about because he wants to start for Arsenal every game. The important thing is he is making an impact in every game he features in now. We get glimpses of the old Arshavin back in his true colours. It’s his ability to be at the right place at the right time which makes him such a great player. His finish yesterday might have looked easy, but it wasn’t at all. A composed and accurately placed strike from our little Russian. Not even a sign of doubt in his eyes when he struck that. This is the Arshavin we want to see everyday.

However, the department that most impressed against Barca was the defence. Yes, the defence. I can’t believe I’m saying this as well. Wenger didn’t sign anyone in January and many started to speculate that we would stand no chance against a resilient Barcelona side. The first half was horrid though. There was a lack in concentration and Song’s flurry of tackles was frustrating to witness. But the defence regrouped, and put up a match winning defensive display. It’s not easy to contain the likes of Messi and David Villa upfront for even a few mins, let alone the full match. Djourou and Koscielny were right on the money as they kept intercepting passes and clearances with great precision. Then again, we have the Szczesny factor, who also seems to be improving on a daily basis. From being in the utmost outskirts of the first team, he is now out best goalkeeper and is putting up match winning displays against the best teams in the world. It seems as though the future of our goalkeeping lies in good hands. It must be said, Vermaelen’s absence was not felt yesterday. Just to put it in the most simplest of terms, our defence is awesome!

It’s not over yet, since it’s just the first leg. Nou Camp will be a hell of a game, and Barcelona will be at the top of their game. Whichever way it goes, this victory means a lot.

Leading up to the next game, Andrei Arshavin puts it perfectly when asked about Arsenal’s chances.

“Without belief you can do nothing, so we must believe”

Couldn’t have said it any better, it is belief that will take us forward.

 

Sending Vela out on loan

So Wenger confirmed it yesterday that Carlos Vela is most likely to go out on loan. It seems that Bolton is the most likely place he’ll be joining.

I had expected Vela to be used way more off the bench this season than he has been. Except for a handful of start for the Carling Cup and a couple of appearances in the Premier and Champions League, Wenger has kept him out of the pitch for most of the time. Although he’s still somehow scored 3 goals in competitive matches just shows that his goal scoring record isn’t as bad as most people may think.

Bolton is a great club to go on loan, especially for someone of Vela’s talent. Owen Coyle is also someone who seems to love Arsenal’s homegrown players. One of the reasons why Jack Wilshere got a start in the first team is because he had a great spell on loan at Bolton. Coyle started with Wilshere in most of the games and he handled the pressure with ease, played a solid midfield role. It did show Wenger that Wilshere was capable of putting his talent out on the ground and was influencing ball play. Hats off to Wilshere though for capitalizing on his opportunity and cementing his place in the first team. You’ll see talented players all over the world who play well day in and out in training, but it’s the mental aspect of the game which you can only assess in players while they’re playing at a competitive level.

Rather than bench warming and training with Arsenal, it’s best if Vela gets first team action. We all know what he’s capable of doing, but us fans need to see whether he can maintain consistency at the top level. I’m sure Vela knows that he has a future at Arsenal but our attacking options are plentiful and too competitive. He should understand that even Walcott, Arshavin and Bendtner are needed to wait in the bench for their chance. Hopefully he’ll play his heart out (wherever he goes on loan) and proves to Wenger that he deserves a starting place too. I want Wenger to have a first team selection headache 24/7!

But wait, what happened to David Moyes and his Everton transfer plans? I thought he was looking for attacking options to bring in on loan to replace his under-firing strikers? I would’ve been so happy in Vela was playing for a team like Everton, as most players who have loan spells there had great ones (such as Jo and Landon Donovan at recent times). He’d probably score a lot more goals at Everton than at Bolton, who have scored quite a few goals this season, thanks to the rejuvenated striking pair in Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander. Oh well, I don’t manage Everton though so it’s quite insignificant what I think from a Moyes’ perspective! As an Arsenal fan, I’ll be happy if he stays in the Premier League (because apparently Valencia want him too), starts often and most importantly, creates and scores goals in plenty.

It’s time for revenge Barca, ‘cause revenge is sweet

Oh let’s cut the crap. We all knew who we were going to face next. Admitted that we ‘wished’ for something else but deep inside our fragile hearts we knew that it was time- time for revenge.

Some Arsenal fans are already moaning about how unlucky we are and that we can never win against a side like Barcelona. Really? If Arsenal fans feel like that then we seriously do not deserve to be in the Champion’s league. What’s the point of playing in the Champion’s League if we do not have the guts to face Europe’s top teams? It defeats the purpose, really. If not now, then when? We would eventually have to play them anyway. After playing in this elite competition for 13 seasons consecutively, we should be able to cope with this type of pressure. If Arsenal can ‘beat any other team’, why won’t it be able to beat Barcelona?

Arsenal are the underdogs in this match up. I know some fans prefer that we stay underdogs but frankly speaking, I don’t want us to be underdogs anymore. Why you say? Because I think Arsenal deserve more than just being a good club playing good football. I want Arsenal to be a club that puts fear into even the most elite clubs. I don’t want opponents claiming that they ‘rather face Arsenal than Chelsea or Manutd’. You know why people keep saying things like that? Because Arsenal never won the Champion’s League before. Yes, we went to the final once but ask any neutral footy fan if he or she remembers that game. I bet the answer would be ‘no’.

Arsenal are really unlucky. We again face Barca at the Emirates first. Personally, I would have preferred an away game to start with. That way we actually know where we stand when Barca come to play in our turf. It gives us the mental edge. But no, that won’t happen because lady luck’s a friggin’ Barca fan!

The one man who will be a key player for this tie is obviously our skipper Cesc Fabregas. He has to step up soon. I do not know what’s wrong with the chap. Before his injury he seemed very rusty. He made his comeback against Manutd the other day and he seemed even rustier. I mean, at a game like that adrenaline alone should make him be on his toes. But no, Cesc Fabregas’ 65% pass completion rate off the bench made him the most wasteful Arsenal player on the pitch. But the game is at the end of February and he has time to recover. But he has to step it up for this game, not just to the next level but to his maximum level.

At the end of the day, though, this is the biggest and the toughest game for Arsenal so far this season. I know revenge itself is not a good enough reason to play this game. But our pride is at stake this time. I am fed of us being the weaker of the two clubs playing the same way. I want us to be the best at what we do. I believe so, but the world does not. It’s time to put an end to this once and for all. Arsenal shall not only beat Barcelona, but go to win it all the way as well. Let’s keep believing, because it will make us stronger.

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.