Bracelona preview – Do we sacrifice or plan ahead

March 8, 2011 by   Filed under: Arsenal FC, Champions League

It has been an odd couple of weeks for Arsenal. In the space of 14 days Arsene Wenger’s men have lurched from quadruple hopefuls to staring down the barrel of another 6 years without a trophy; from favourites to overturn Manchester United in the title race to no hopers and back again. But there has always been one constant lurking on the horizon, and now it is upon them.

The Champions League 2nd leg tie against Barcelona has permeated every thought of Wenger since that dramatic night 23 days ago, make no mistakes about that. Ask any Arsenal fan if they would prefer to have beaten Birmingham or Barcelona and the answers will no doubt have put the Gunners through to the next round of the Champions League despite that trophy-less run hanging heavy on their minds.

The Catalan club are of a similar mind-set as well. Because this is more than a match to decide the better team on the night, it is a battle to decide the finest purveyors of a type of football most others can only admire from afar – and Wenger more than Guardiola is eager to have his own approach to the game justified, if not with trophies, then with the scalp of the finest club in the world.

With this in mind, both managers have had their thoughts twisted as they attempt to outwit one another off the pitch.

Wenger has included the injured Robin Van Persie in his squad for the trip to the Nou Camp, having previously being advised by the club’s medical staff that he will be unavailable for the match.

The Frenchman pleads his innocence, suggesting he is “very bad” at mind games, but has had his fingers burnt in the past, most notably with Cesc Fabregas, and would only consider such an action for a game of this magnitude. His presence in Barcelona has more than a whiff of psychological warfare to it, especially given the absence of Barcelona’s two first-choice centre backs and the blank drawn against Sunderland last weekend.

“This morning he was unlikely to travel, but he wanted to go, so he had a test and it was quite positive.” He insisted.

“We will not take a gamble in a game of such importance. It will be fit or not fit. Personally I would like him to play if possible, but I will only play him if he is 100% fit.”

If Wenger was busy trying to out-think Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, then the same was happening in Northern Spain – and Guardiola had his sights set on Jack Wilshere.

“We have many types of players like him (Wilshere) in the second team” Said Guardiola.

He is not the type of manager to criticise opponents, let alone single out a member of the opposition, so his comments raised a few eyebrows. Wilshere was excellent at the Emirates against his side and this will not have passed him by. It may have been a fairly innocuous comment about his age, but pressure does funny things to people, and this game is as big as it gets.

Elsewhere for Arsenal Theo Walcott and Alex Song have both already been ruled out, and the loss of the former will be felt most. Lionel Messi described Walcott as “the most dangerous” player Arsenal have prior to the first leg, and while his performance in that game was lacking, he hurt Barcelona last year and would have been hopeful of doing that same again this time around.

Wilshere has managed to shake off a knock he picked up against Sunderland while Fabregas has a “90% chance” of playing against his former side. Place a free bet in the hope that the defensive errors that marred the Carling Cup final will have to be ironed out, and Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny will be at the heart of an Arsenal defence charged with keeping the likes of Pedro, David Villa and Lionel Messi at bay.

With Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol already ruled out, Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal will likely step into the side who have no other injury worries, aside from their manager who has had treatment on a back complaint but insists he will be in the dugout tonight.

Last season’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Barcelona will be at the forefront of Arsenal’s mind as they emerge from the tunnel tonight, and they will have to learn the lessons of the first half display of their opponents from the first leg. Don’t forget those Free bets and be ready for this one, it should be a cracker if the previous three encounters between the two are anything to go by.

They will have to be patient and understand there will be large portions of the game where they will not have the ball, while maintaining a direct attacking edge when they do. If they can, then Wenger can finally put one of his personal demons to bed.

Comments

2 Comments on "Bracelona preview – Do we sacrifice or plan ahead"

  1. wisdom on Tue, 8th Mar 2011 3:24 pm 

    i am confident we are going 2 make it.

  2. ArthurTheGooner on Tue, 8th Mar 2011 4:10 pm 

    Wisdom,

    It certainly wont be easy but I’m oconfident we will. We need to score no matter what the more the better. We need to start the game really well no early mishaps of fuckups please, if we can maintain a good score line until 60th minute then anything can happen.

    Come on you Almighty REDS!

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