Tuesday 10 March 2009

Roma nerves

Morning all. I've Wednesday and Thursday off work to go to the Roma game with Obsinho. We don't fly until tomorrow but I am already nervous with excitement.

The Champions League is not a perfect format, by any means, and the purists out there deride it compared to the straight knock-out format of the European Cup, but I am a massive fan of the Champions League. In the last ten years, we have watched Arsenal play the likes of Milan, Inter, Juve, Real, Barca, Ajax, Valencia, Bayern - all at a time when those teams were near the top of their games. Once you add the trips to far flung corners of Romania, Russia and Ukraine in to the picture, then you appreciate just what a spectacle we are now witnessing on a regular occassion.

In contrast, the 'glory' years under George Graham, are a short memory. The second round exit against Benfica in 1991 was our only impact in Europe's premier cup competition. Now that is not to be too harsh, on the good runs we had in the Cup Winners Cup, which had some massive highlights, not least the 1994 final against Parma, but I think we need to remember the CWC was Europe's third tier competition and was viewed about as badly as we now see the Uefa Cup. I certainly told my Chelsea supporting friends so when they beat Stuttgart to win the CWC in 1998.

And that, also, perhaps goes to show where Arsenal are now after 10 years with Wenger in charge. In 1997 we scraped into the UEFA cup, and then lost first road to the (un) mighty POAK Solonika. We then took a bit of time to adjust to the Champions League, but we now have one of the best records in Europe at qualifying for the competition, and doing quite well in it.

There is also a good record in the competition for teams who are struggling a little bit in their domestic leagues to do well in the Champions League. Arsenal and Liverpool are prime examples from England. We just finished 4th when we got to the final, Liverpool finished 5th and 4th respectively (I think) the years they recently got to the final.

And so our recent improvement in form gives me some confidence that we will be too strong for Roma tomorrow. That said, this Roma side topped their group and convincingly beat Chelsea in Roma earlier in the season. European teams are notorious for playing a tight game away from home and then trying to force a result in the return leg.

So the first goal tomorrow is going to be crucial. If we score first, then we are in a very strong position. Conversely, if Roma score first, then its squeeky bum time. Either way, I can't wait for the game....


Si said...

Obs and Ted, you take care out there. I've been to Roma games and Lazio games and it can be pretty hairy. The fact that Uefa have given them the final is beyond a joke, it would be safer to have it at the Den with a free bar and a wrap of wizz free with your programme.
Stay away from the bridge and the Mussolini column.
And good luck to Gooners everywhere.

Si said...

Oh and after the game, head to Piazza de Popolo. It is the most beautuful square and you have two amazing bars, one right wing (Canova) where Fellini used to drink and the lefty bar (rosetti) where the journos go. The Rosetti is lovely in a way only an Italian bar can be and the Canova is great in a way only an Italian bar can be.
They're friendlier in the lefty bar obviously.
Forza the N5 Ultras!!!!!!!!!!

1979gooner said...

Indeed, take care boys. I don't want to be writing this blog on my own, and neither do our readers want that!

Come on you Gunners.

Anonymous said...

wow u going to Rome.......to c Arsenal win.....

Good Good !!


Anonymous said...

line up for tonight:
Almunia, Sagna, Clichy, Toure, Gallas, Nasri, Denilson, Eboue, Diaby, Bendtner, Van Persie.

I don't agree with this starting XI. I think we should start with Walcott instead of Eboue and Eduardo instead of Bendtner. Or at least one of Walcott or Eduardo starting.

I think we would be better off with those players starting to give us a better chance of getting on top of Roma early on and set the tone for the match. Possibly make them a little more nervous and put them off of their game.

If we don't cause Roma some early anxiety, they could settle in and get comfortable defending against us and cause us to lose our confidence. Bringing on Eduardo or Walcott later may not be enough if we're chasing the game at that point.

I'll happily admit my apprehension was misplaced tomorrow if we control the match and look comfortable throughout. But I think this starting line up could make harder work than is necessary of obtaining the desired result tonight.

Hoping for a large slice of humble pie and freely admitting I was wrong!