A lot has been said prior to the Champions League tie with Barcelona, about how unbelievably good they are and how we have no chance against the greatest side on the planet. A lot of emphasis will be placed on last season’s matchup and our inability to lose a 4-0 lead last week. However this is Arsenal and we have a tendency to come up trumps when you least expect it. Now there is no need for me to tell you all how good Barcelona are but I can at least shed some positivity on the clash (incase you need some).
Barcelona Full Backs
Their full backs love to attack and also have serious question marks about their defensive abilities. It comes as no surprise that Theo Walcott played an instrumental role in 2 of our 3 goals against them last season. They are frightened of his pace and they have a couple of cynical players who’ll take shots at Theo early on but Theo will get the space he needs to have a big game. On the other side Dani Alves is prone to join the odd attack and that will put a lot of pressure on Arshavin to defend and be disciplined in his approach. When the tables are turned though, Arshavin is improving game by game, he will get change out of Alves and he’s also due a goal...
Remember Chelsea at home just before Christmas? For the first time in a long while we applied pressure on the opposition when they had the ball. Too often we rely solely on our talent/ability to get us through games. Often that strategy comes up trumps but very rarely does it work in the big games. Against Chelsea however we put our ability aside, got in their faces and pressured high up the pitch. We need to do the same against Barcelona. Last season we just sat back and could only admire their passing. We were camped on the edge of our own box for 20 minutes and Barcelona ended the game with 65% possession. That may well be a statistic we have to put up with again but if they are passing it around in less effective areas on the pitch then we’ll put ourselves in a much better situation. Wenger isn’t a great tactician but he needs to get them to understand their roles and responsibilities more than ever.
Robin Van Persie
Robin is bang in form and he’ll want to make amends for the World Cup against Pique and Puyol. Robin didn’t get a kick in the final, amazingly because Arjen Robben never passed the ball to him once. This time, he’s in a side that thrives with him as centre forward. We lost 6-3 on aggregate last season and we got little sympathy for amount of injuries we had. Our side will be in better shape leading up to this game and with Robin in attack he can certainly swing things our ways. We couldn't possibly have a striker more in form than he is at present. Last season we had Nicklas Bendtner upfront for both games and he played a role in all of the 3 goals last season and if he can do that, Robin can cause a serious amount of damage.
Last season we lost 3 players due to injury because of that game, Gallas, Arshavin and Fabregas. Imagine they lost Pique, Iniesta and Xavi? We had to use enforce changes during the gameand we weren’t blessed with depth on the bench that day. This time around we have more options, all be it not at centre half. This also had a massive influence on our line up away in the Camp Nou but I’ll cover that more in advance of the 2nd leg. Our side has a lot of stability at the moment and there’s an understanding amongst the team as a result, just look at RVP's 2nd v Wolves. This will only benefit us on Tuesday night and Barcelona would be foolish to dismiss that. We also have Jack Wilshere in the line up instead of Diaby but that plus is probably cancelled out by having Eboue in for Sagna.
We can win this game and the fans have a role too. If Barcelona starts well, let’s get more vocal. The side can quickly transmit the feeling in the stands into their performance. If we believe we can win and the players believe it, then what’s there to be afraid of? It’s a 90 minute game of football, 11 v 11 and we are more than a match for any side in the world, including Barcelona.