Villareal vs Arsenal Match Preview

It's here - the biggest game of our season so far. We're in good form at the moment, and with the League a distant objective at the moment, the real prize for us this season would be to win the Champions League. And today there's a whole load of Champions League discussion and overview. There's a bit from Arsene on Bobby Pires and a bit by Pires too on Arsene and Arsenal... a few quotes here and there... a look at Villareal's team and a look at who / how we'll line up tonight.

Okay, let's start by looking at the squad announcement.

1 Manuel ALMUNIA (GK), 3 Bacary SAGNA, 4 Cesc FABREGAS, 5 Kolo TOURE, 8 Samir NASRI, 10 William GALLAS, 12 Carlos VELA, 14 Theo WALCOTT, 15 DENILSON, 17 Alex SONG, 18 Mikael SILVESTRE, 20 Johan DJOUROU, 21 Lukasz FABIANSKI (GK), 22 Gael CLICHY, 25 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR, 26 Nicklas BENDTNER, 27 Emmanuel EBOUE, 40 Kieran GIBBS 

As we lined up against Man City on the weekend, I’d expect us to have the same formation and similar personell, with Samir Nasri coming in for Arshavin…

Here’s a guess at the line up:


Sagna – Toure – Gallas – Clichy

Song – Denilson

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri


With a bench of Fabianski, Djourou, Silvestre, Gibbs, Eboue, Vela and Bendter. I think Arsene would rather have Silvestre on the bench than Ramsey, which is a bit of annoying because I think Ramsey came on and played very well on the weekend. We’ll see – there may be a few more surprises before the end of the day…

For Villareal, the squad has been announced and is:

Goalkeepers:  Diego López and Viera

Defenders:  Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Capdevila, Ángel, Godin, Fuentes and Cygan.

Midfield:  Marcos Senna, Pires, Eguren, Cani, Ibagaza and Mati Fernández.

Forwards:  Rossi, Nihat, Llorente and Guille Franco.

I’d expect to see a 4-5-1 from Villareal, but more like a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Nihat in midfield and Rossi up front. Players like Cani, Pries and Fernandez will support the striker too, with Senna holding… so here’s my expected line up for tonight:

Diego Lopez

Venta – Gonzalo – Fuentes – Capdevilla


Nihat – Pires – Cani – Fernandez


You’ll notice that Cygan probably won’t start, and I think he’s been on the bench quite a lot this season, Gonzalo and Fuentes getting the nod ahead of the former Arsenal player. Pires will play just behind the striker and will be a creative influence in the final third.

Arsene spoke about Pires yesterday and said how he wanted to keep him for one more year:

“Personally, I wanted to keep him. He wanted to go because he wanted a longer contract than one year and you know our policy. Also he wanted to play. You know many players here feel the pressure every day of the young players who are ready. It’s not easy to take. You look behind you and you see what’s coming behind is strong. It’s an everyday challenge from the young boys who are ready to give 100 per cent to show that they are better than you.  So I believe that he decided to go. He was aware that he would not definitely be automatically first choice. I can understand that. He was at the stage of his career where he wanted to play regularly and, at 33, to come in and out, it’s difficult. Don’t forget, he’s almost 36 now. But he is someone who I would have loved to have stayed longer. He was such an example, him and Dennis Bergkamp. They were quite similar. You give them a ball and they could have stayed out there on the training pitch the whole day.”

Pires also talked about the final:

“The final in Paris was the worst moment of my career and two days afterwards I went to Arsène Wenger to speak about two things. The first thing was that I would leave and join Villarreal. The second thing was that I wanted to know why he took me off in the Final. He said that with me the team would have played more defensively. I don’t feel angry with Arsène Wenger at all and when I see him I will thank him. But I thought I would end my career there. In the Final in Barcelona you could see that Wenger had lost his confidence in me. So I left to join Villarreal. I have been in contact with Arsène Wenger for the past three years. He is a manager I won’t be able to forget because I learnt so much from him. He made me play and win trophies at a very high level. That is important for a club and a player.”

And as a fan you can understand it from both points of view… We love you Bobby!!! No doubt, there may be a chorus of Super…. Super.. Rob… Super… Super… Rob… Super… Super… Rob, Super Robert Pires…

And finally, Arsene spoke on whether or not winning the Champions League would make him a great manager and he said:

“No, not really. I know some great managers who have not won the Champions League. It’s very difficult to get a general conclusion because it’s a cup. When I started in the Champions League it did not involve a lot of games. But now I believe that consistency is the most difficult thing. If you look at the last 10 years there are only five teams who have played consecutively in the Champions League – Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Olympiakos and PSV. You have plenty of big clubs like Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Liverpool who have not been in it every year. So it is down more to consistency for me. Of course I want highly to win it. But we are in the Quarter Final at the moment unfortunately, we are not in the Final yet. So the job is still to be done.”

Very true – Arsene is a great manager. Teams like Real Madrid and Man United, spending ludricous amounts of money per season will obviously have a better chance of winning it. But in reality what Arsene has done down at the Emirates is unbelievable and remarkable.

So, about 6 hours left until kick off…

Come on you Gooners!!!!]]>

  • devday

    I’m so damn excited!

  • Debs

    < ![CDATA[I've been excited since yesterday and still am!!! A little bit nervous also, as always!

    I was also thinking about Ramsey today and how I'd love to see more of him although he's probably played more than he thought he would have, at this point in time, but I would still love to see him get more play time. He's played 21 times so far, 12 of which were off the bench, and he's really impressed most of the time. Hopefully Wenger will play him in the home leg if we can bring a good advantage back home from Villareal.
    Should be a cracker today though!!! Can't wait!]]>

  • Fabrez

    Hmm…should be an immense game….tight no doubt. Well looking fwd 2 it…shame i won’t b bale to watch but i’ll b sure to check my fone during the course of the game to see how we r doing. I’m thinking 0-0 or 1-0 to us…but i’d like to see 2-1 with a cleansheet being a big bonus. Very excited… Pires is a top guy…hope he has an off game! lol But i reckon we’ll b fine…

  • Fabrez

    *be able

  • devday

    If we score and don’t lose, then we have a great chance. We’ve got the quality to win, no doubt!

  • Pete

    < ![CDATA[Excited and a little nervous. Got all my fingers and toes crossed lol. Hopeful for a good result :)

    Got to admire Pires' honesty, and admire even more his respectfulness toward Arsene Wenger. Top lad!]]>


    I’m really excited for this – I think we’ve got a really good chance if we take our oppurtunities. We can’t be wasteful tonight. We need to sieze the game and score a couple of goals – beat them before the Emirates.

  • nigelp

    < ![CDATA[Havent posted here in a few months. Back then i was calling for Arshavin. The man has coome in and the mood around the Emirates has completely lifted.

    He's been a breath of fresh air,it shows what difference spending money can make. We were in big trouble but now theres a sense of much needed optimism. I said the perogative of this year was to qualify for the CL next year and to show signs of a title challenge also. And thankfully i think were ok on both counts.

    The likes of Denilson and Song have matured, i still want a DM but they are now good squad players. At the start of the season there was a sense of despair and worry and it was proven on the field.

    Cant help but think by the start of next season there will be a resemblence to the start of 07/08 where despite losing Henry there was still a feeling of hope and excitement.

    I'd take a score draw here all day long, I think a lot of people are taking Villarreal very lightly indeed, which is exactly the mistake our supporters made last time.

    I remember coming out of the ground after that 1st leg in 06 and everyone was complaining that we had only won 1-0 and that complacency could and should have bitten us in the arse for the second leg where Villarreal should have won by three clear goals at least.

    They are an excellent side, with an unrivalled home record and they are in the same position in La Liga as we are in the Premiership, so we have no reason to feel over confident. If we won 3-0 or 2-0, I'd be absolutely astounded quite frankly.]]>

  • Debs

    < ![CDATA[As Wenger said, it's a 50-50 tie, and I guess it depends on which team, whether Villareal or us, turns up on the day.
    We are capable of winning 2-0 or 3-0 cos we all know we're capable on beating anyone by that scoreline or more if we're on our game on the night. We definitely shouldn't take Villareal lightly, but I think if we're firing on all cylinders from the off, we can practically kill this tie off. Or at least that's what I'm hoping for!]]>

  • JAT

    I feel sick – no KFC for me Dev!

  • devday

    < ![CDATA[I'm getting a bargain bucket. I hear it's quite a bargain for such said bucket. I will offer you until you yak*

    * or just eat it myself.]]>

  • zohaib

    < ![CDATA[Like everybody else, I too hope that we can score 2 or 3 goals. But I also hope, we don't loose focus because of that, and not turn up at the Emirates. With this Arsenal team, you're always on the edge.

    My lineup would be exactly the same as yours Dev. Let's see.

    Really excited, lads. Let's hope we play some good football.]]>

  • devday

    < ![CDATA[If we play with confidence, we can definitely get a result out there. Man for man, we're better, but if they get their tails up, it will be much harder.

    I hope we score early and then counter attack and score another one or two.]]>

  • devday

    < ![CDATA[Line up confirmed:

    Sagna - Toure - Gallas - Clichy
    Song - Denilson
    Walcott - Cesc - Nasri

    Let's roll...]]>

  • Debs

    Come on Arsene’s super outsiders! :D

  • Gooner Get Ya

    Not long now…man I’m nervous!!! Not sure which way it will go…but I hope we get an away goal.

  • Gooner Get Ya

    fuck it…we are 1-0 down Senna scored a decent goal to be fair but they have acres of space and no one closing down!!!

  • Gooner Get Ya

    They seem to be carving us open at every attack and we just cant get going. Song and Walcott are playing well so far

  • Gooner Get Ya

    I must say our corners have been garbage!!! I can never understand why top level players cant kick a dead ball?

  • Debs

    I’m slightly worried, but yet still confident. Come on you Gunners!

  • Debs

    < ![CDATA[So much for 3 nil huh? lol.
    But a draw with an away goal, I'll take that! Seeing also that Man U conceded 2 away goals!
    It's going to be a really big 2nd leg for both teams, but I think we've got the slender advantage...]]>

  • Pissed off

    How about that for a finish Zohaib!!!

  • steve

    < ![CDATA[Decent result. You have to expect to at least win your home game if you wanna get through these 2 leg ties, and I think we're in pretty good shape to get the win.

    They didn't make it easy for us, but really felt we took more control as the game went on after a fairly shaky 1st half.

    3 goals in 2 games for Ade, including a lovely bit of technique today and some good composure to round the keeper at the weekend. Hopefully we will see him back to his best. Found it a bit tough being slighlty isolated, but managed to fashion a few chances and took his goal superbly.]]>

  • Pissed off

    And Man u are leaving in a thine line of exit.

  • Debs

    < ![CDATA[Yeah Steve, another goal by Ade, and also another assist from Fabregas! I think the injury break did him a world of good. It looks like it did so too for Ade.
    I hope the injuries to Almunia and Gallas aren't too serious, although Gallas' might be. But Fabianski did really well today, credit to him.]]>

  • Fabrez

    Poor 1st half and showed mental strength in the 2nd…i think Wenger calmed them down and told them to focus and play their game and that’s what we did. Shame about the injuries of course…hope the boys are back soon. I’m satisfied with the result at the end of the day…

  • Debs

    Apparently Gallas’ injury ‘does not look too good’. I hope that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with Silvestre! I hope not, cos I think Djourou did well as Gallas’ replacement…

  • Fabrez

    Hmm…yeah…Djourou needs to get in there!

  • Pete

    < ![CDATA[Man, hope Gallas is going to be ok. We really could do without injuries to defenders as there's not much cover in that area.

    As Fabrez said, 1st half was poor and we we're lucky it wasn't more than 1-0 at half time, but 2nd half they showed some character in a difficult place to visit. Ade scored a very good goal thanks again to meastro Cesc and his killer passing powers lol. Also Fabianski did well enough coming on for Almunia. Hopefully the 1-1 score will be a good enough result for the away leg. But am more gutted about the injuries than anything else. Hope the'll be ok.]]>

  • zohaib

    < ![CDATA[How in the blue hell did he do that ?! Where did that come from !? HOLY mother of all things beautiful. Wow. What a goal. I was absolutely shocked.

    Ade's definitely reading this site. Hey Ade you're shit (now come on, score a hattrick in the next game). Every time I say he's not good enough to be at a top 4 club, he does something good. Let the trend continue. I'll keep up my end and hopefully he'll keep up his.

    But what a pass. Absolutely sublime. And Cesc, you little shit, can you please learn how to create space for yourself to take a shot once in a while, specially when you're almost alone in the opponents' box. Don't f*cking wait for somebody to pass it to. Surely that's not all you know how to do is it. You were doing so well in the beginning of last year. And now your long range shooting has completely dried up :(

    Damn it ! Almunia's injured for a long time. This is horrible news. It's possibly the most important week or 2 for us with FA Cup games, and Champions League games. Stupid son of a b*tch Diouf.]]>

  • Debs

    < ![CDATA[lol Zohaib! I can't even tell if your happy or p*ssed off! Classic! :D
    Almunia out isn't horrible news, cos I think Fabianski can hold his own- I think he'll try to use this opportunity to prove that he's good enough to challenge Almunia for no.1. Let's see what he's made of, but I'm not too worried, but I still hope Almunia isn't out for a long time; Wenger did say 3 weeks...]]>


    < ![CDATA[Arsenal were terrible in the first half yesterday and all things considered - a draw and an away goal is probably a good result to take away. Villareal really should have been 2 or 3 up by half time.

    Djourou was immense when he came on - he looked so calm and assured and was marshalling the back four like a true captain. I don't think it's any coincidence that when the change occured Arsenal began to look far more solid in defence.

    My trouble is - Villareal look like they've got a goal left in them, and I wouldn't be surprised if they scored at the Emirates.

    Adebayor was frustrating last night - the best and worst sides of his game. Twice that I noticed, he lost the ball easily and stood with his hands on his hips - a Tevez or a Rooney or a Robin Van Persie would sure as shit make an effort to win that ball back.

    You can't take anything away from the finish though - it was Henry'esque in it's execution and delivery. Something out of nothing!

    Nasri was clearly off the pace, Fabregas is clearly still not fit and Walcott needs some crossing practice.

    Either way the second half reinstated some hope after the horrorshow first 45!]]>

  • nigelp

    It is becoming very apparent that Man u is not as exceptional as a lot of analyst were thinking.Man have struggled in their last 4 games and have conceded at least 2 goals in a match and i think their sudden metamorphosis came when they were comprehensively whitewashed by liverpool at old traford that result showed every team in the world that Man u can be beaten and that is why fulham,aston villa and F.C porto have refused to be intimidated by the old traford pretenders.It is really amusing and amazing that a team who kept a clean sheet in 10 consecutive games has found it difficult to concede less than 2 goals in their last 4 games.The truth is right from the beginning of the season Man u were not really exceptional,they were winning games because their opponents felt they could not win but that myth was shattered beyond monumental proportions when liverpool came to Old traford.Man u had the easiest fixture in the championsleague and yet they could not take advantage of it,chelsea and liverpool would have died to have a championsleague fixture against FC Porto it would be extremely difficult for man u in the return leg,fc porto has 2 away goals and they have a great record against Man u maybe fcporto could help Morinho avenge intermilan’s exit from the championsleague


    I’d be quite happy for Man U to win – I think we’ve got a better chance of turning them over than we have against Porto.

  • debs

    Yeah Kieran. I think I’d much prefer to face Man U in the semis. It didn’t even seem as if they were playing at Old Trafford yesterday, atmosphere-wise. We definitely will be able to beat them over 2 legs. But I guess we’ve got to get past Villareal first, but I’m fairly confident about it.

  • Pete

    < ![CDATA[Yeah. Plus the lads wouldn't have to travel all the way to Portugal to play Porto either.

    Lol Zohaib :) You could be Ade's sport psychologist mate, gee him up a bit when he gets lazy lol :P

    On a serious note though, as Kieran said, both sides of his game were on show last night, the classy and the crap. But as said before, 1-1 might not be a bad result to take for the away leg (though I'd have loved Cesc's goal to have been allowed too!!! hehe). This tie is far from over though.

    Any news on Gallas/Almunia? Anyone going to the return leg at the Emirates?]]>

  • Fabrez

    Hmmmm…yeah…i’d go for Man U too once we beat Villareal… Once we have our main players, Man U are beatable 4 sure. Would b close as usual. Ppl underestimate Porto…including me initially. But now i appreciate they are pretty strong and more so over 2 legs…they got good players. I think having 2 games in England would help us too as opposed to having to travel to Porto… But let’s beat Villareal and wry about the rest later!

  • Fabrez

    I tried 2 send my last comment bout 30 mins ago! But we’re thinkin along the same lines with travelling Pete! We play Middlesbrough like 3 days b4 our away leg then Portsmouth a few days later on the Saturday so not travelling would b a big help… And nothing on the injuries as far as I know as yet… Worst case scenario is Almunia out for 3 wks and Gallas for the season…let’s keep fingers and toes crossed for better news tho!

  • Fabrez

    Oh yeah…and 2 of those Villareal players were holding up imaginary yellow cards to persuade the ref to book Cesc…pathetic. I was absolutely amazed at what i saw. That was shockingly terrible. I was lost for words… Let’s let them pay for it in a week’s time!

  • Fabrez

    Hopefully we’ll have RvP, Abou and Edu back by then to rub salt in their wounds too! :D

  • Fabrez

    And i must give a lot of credit to Łukasz Fabiański for a top game…he shows that he’s always ready to rise to the occasion in the big games…no matter what time he comes on. He did well for the Man U game and did very well last nite. The double save comes to mind. Senna drilled the 1st shot of his saves well and his positioning was on point for the 2nd shot.

  • debs

    Yeah, well done Fabianski. I’m a massive fan of the dude and hopefully he’ll impress some more whilst Almunia’s out, but I hope he’s not out for too long though. Competition for the No. 1 jersey won’t hurt, I think.


    If the lads fly from London to Manchester, the extra flying time to Porto would be about 35 minutes!!

  • debs

    I think it’s a case of psychological distance! Lol

  • Fabrez

    LOL! 35 horrible minutes!! lol

  • zohaib

    Lol ! Good one Pete.