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:
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!!!!]]>