Wow. This is a big day. A really big day. The butterflies have been going all week. There will be very little productive work done today by Gooners worldwide, thats for sure.
This is one of those days where nothing else really matters. So what if some Mexicans have a bad cold? The government should cancel the order for pointless facemasks and start handing out aspirin and beta blockers to football fans for tonights game - there is a significant risk of a heart attack tonight. I hope a good dose of numbing lager should see me through.
My anger after the FA Cup semi-final has now subsided to something of a simmering realisation that Wenger has staked almost everything on the Champions League this season. I would have hedged my bets and put our strongest XI out against Chelsea as well, but Arsene rested Song and kept Arshavin on the bench. No-one saw that team selection coming and I have a sneaky feeling there will be a surpise when the teams are announed at about 7.15 this evening.
Either way, and whatever the team selection is, the game will come down to which team wants it more, which team works harder and keeps its discipline. I don't doubt our attacking ability, but our discipline is a worry. Even if we were to go 2 or even 3 into the lead tonight, you have to think ManUre will fancy their chances for a come-back.
The one thing we have to do is play our own game. Arsenal are rubbish at sitting back and trying to defend. If we play too deep then its curtains for us. Instead, we want to get possession of the ball, play our passing game and hope to create an opportunity.
I fully expect a roller-coaster ride. A quiet start could see a deluge of goals in the second half (a la Liverpool), whereas an early goal might not indicate a goalfest is approaching. Either way, given both teams propensity to score in the final seconds of games, this is going to be a heavyweight slugger.
I suspect Arsenal are sitting in a hotel conference room somewhere in Manchester at this very moment, with Martin Keown and Giles Grimandi giving an informative lecture, with demonstrations and Q+A sesssions, of just why ManUre are the biggest bunch of jammy, cheating, over-spending, over-inflated, over-paid, diving bunch of cock-smokers ever to walk this earth. Its been too long since I truly hated ManUre with a rage approaching beserker levels. Arsenal need to find that rage today. I have been a massive fan of Song, Ade and Denilson all season. Those guys need to deliver tonight.
That said, whatever happens tonight, we cannot win or lose the game in the first leg. Yes, you can give yourself a head start for the second leg, but lets not get too carried away if we win, or too depressed if we lose. Both teams can score, and concede, a lot of goals - a single goal is an advantage, but not that massive. Even a two or three goal lead/deficit can disappear pretty quickly.
Anyway, thats enough guff. Get up for it Arsefans. We cannot make history tonight, but this is a great opportunity for Arsenal to punch a massive hole in Operation ManUre's plan for world domination. The fuckers. To pass time in the next 9 hours, I suggest you give serious thought to which Manure player you would like to punch in the face. You only get one punch.
Rooney or Ronaldo? Or Ferdinand? No, wait, I would love to smack Scholes in the nose. Or Nani. God, Berbatov deserves a punch as well....
Silvestre? Oh, yeah not allowed anymore.
My line-up for today will see Nasri in the middle again (I think we will need to play from deep so having a player there who can read the game when not in possession and dictate when in possession will be important) with Song, Theo wide right, and Diaby wide left. That is if we get Milan Diaby, or Villa Park DIaby. If not the putting Denilson in there with a screening role may work.
It is then Cesc and Ade in a 1-1 up front. 442 ain't happening so I won;t wish for it. We can then bring Bendtner, Eboue, Eddy or Denilson/Diaby from the bench.
I think the important thing is not to get carried away by the result. Chelsea thought they'd qualified and Liverpool rocked them. Chelsea are also being hailde for last night, but to my mind the position is more precarious now than it was before - Barca will get an away goal, and Chelsea didn't even try for one.
Either way, this game is a real bonus in a season that looked as flat as Silvestre's hideous face. Let's try to enjoy it. I am going to hate every minute of it as I cannot handle the pressure, but everyone else should enjoy it.
Is 11.15 too early for the first beer of the day?
Depends if you're actually going to be woking today.
I have a leaving do at lunch, so will have a tipple to calm the nerves.
I'd like to push Rooney's face in if I can only choose one.
If we have to play with one forward, I wouldn't mind seeing Vela play wide on the left. I know Diaby gives us height for set pieces and he has moments of indiviual skill. But we seem to struggle to create when he is in the team with Cesc pushed up top. They appear to take up similar positions and fill the same role.
Either way, everyone needs to play with a high level of confidence and not be overawed by the occasion. It's time for these players to step up and play like winners.
Yep. Rooney should probably get it, not least because i am sick of seeing his fat wife in the papers in her latest tracksuit.
Although Ronaldo is about as despicable a perma-tanned, non-practising homosexual you could ever hope to smash the mouth.
Its between those two though.
Great post, I am even more up for it now.
Last night a strange thought occurred to me whilst watching eastenders, phil mitchell was looking particularly fat, red and hypertensive, i thought of fergie's smug red face. and how ripe it was for a good right hook.
Nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing a red faced fergie beaten tonight.
Come on you Gunners.
Loving the new blog vote. That is a hard choice!
I've just had 2 bottles of wine with lunch, so I am now pumped for the game.
I think I might get a train to Manchester and just stand outside Old Trafford screaming incoherently all afternoon.
Then when the Utd bus comes in, I will forcemy way on and cause havoc. Not sure what type of havoc, but full on class-A havoc right in Ronaldo's face.
I am far too drunk to be in an office environment right now....
Before I run to the tolilets and have some quiet time, I thought I would just mention that the game tonight may hinge on our ability to play the big game with the right level of "professionalism".
Watching Chelsea-Barca last night, it is evident that you need to dive at the right time, foul at the right time, and also simply pick up the ball and have a chat with the ref. Drogba and Alves did this brilliantly in offensive and defensive positions last night, which either bought time or defused dangerous situations.
Admittedly by the end Alves was walking a tightrope, but it is clearly an element of the game you need to master to achieve at this level. I think we are too nice at the moment, and only Cesc and Nasri would really stick in a dirty fould where needs be..
Well we do seem to be quite a violent bunch, eh? ;-) Someone needs to tend to Obs before he gets himself arrested though. Ted, can you mind him?
This team is too nice. And while I don't like dirty teams, I would like to see us be a bit more aggressive. We used to have more of that side to us - Vieira, Keown, Ljungberg, Cole, Lauren, Bergkamp.
I noticed several times in the match last evening where the Chelsea wall was nowhere near 10 yards away from the free kick too. The ref did nothing about it.
Overall, my preference is to see us win easily without transgressing any rules or giving anyone ammunition to remark negatively about our behaviour.
Agreed that you have to play within the rules, but in European football the rules are somehwat fluid, to say the least!
Ballack should certainly have been off, and both Alves and Malouda would have been booked and warned in the Premisership. I am not suggesting we go overboard during the game, far from it and I would never want to see us playing an intentionally dirty game. But we do not seem to take full advantage of the opportunities to waste time, or buy a free-kick.
EBoue does/did dive a lot, and was rightly criticiesd for Gooners for it. But consider how many decisions have gone our way from us "winning" a decision this season? Consider Hleb's non-penalty against Liverpool last year, Ade's sending off against Liverpool, Theo's refusal to dive in the box (he is fouled more than Ronaldo but wins a third of the free-kicks)?
Wenger's manyta of honest, attacking and total football does occasinally translate into naivety on the pitch. In a knock-out competition aganist professional cheats, you have to play them at their game. Barca cheat like the Catalan thieves they are, but their reputation is none-the-worse for it?
4-1-3-1-1 formation,with song as holding and nasri behind adebayor,this then would have cesc dictating our play while theo and diarby pushing down the wings!!!
i kick the crap out of ronaldive-o and shrek while show scholes the back of my hand the rest of manure will scream and run!!!
BUT,we got to go for it tonight and not let manure dictate the play and if we win the so-called un-baised(that's laugh)media can kiss my fat arse!!!!
We don't need to win tonight. I just don't think we can afford to lose by more than one goal - that is my touchstone for the least that is acceptable.
The thing about these 2-leg games is they tend to get over analysed and over-played tactically due to the away goals. This can see teams playing in a way that doesn't suit them, or having a different mentality. It's danegrous to approach 90 minutes of football in any other way than "we need to win this game". To my mind if we can play in that way in 2 legs, and to the best of our ability, then we will give it our best shot.
Too much cunning can be a bad thing.
Agree with the drunken Obs.
Even with injuries, I think if we are on song we can trouble them, if we don't play well then we could be in trouble. In particular Ade will need to be on form.
The sneaky fouls are important and can save goals, we do need to be slightly better in this regard.
Come on you Gunners!
Arsenal line-up, are you ready for this?:
Almunia, Sagna, Gibbs, Silvestre, Toure, Diaby, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, Adebayor
Subs: Fabianski, Eduardo, Denilson, Ramsey, Djourou, Bendtner, Eboue
Why couldn't Silvestre stay injured? It would have forced Mr. Wenger to pick the right team....
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