Wednesday is a massive game. Like uber uber massive. Like, the biggest game that we've had at the club since the Champions League final three years ago against Barcelona.
Manchester United are the current team holders of the trophy and they're the favourites. They've done pretty well last season and this, winning pretty much everything in their path (except the FA cup)... they've got strength in depth and have a solid defence. Of course, a new £30m player every season helps a little and we've fallen behind them purely because we wanted our new stadium.
On current league form, it's exciting... we're 20 games unbeaten, look the business and have looked very exciting in recent games. Our link up play, speed and aggression going forward has been pretty awesome. But of course, we're capable of an off day and the Chelsea game was one of those days. We're also a little suspect in defence and having Djourou back in the back four will help us deal with the pace and tricky skill that Man United pose.
We'll have Gibbs playing at left back and you feel that it will be a little bit of weakness for us. Not because he hasn't been playing well. In fact, he's been very exciting at left back and definitely been an able deputy in the absence of Clichy. But you feel that this will be a very big test for the young lad. Ronaldo is the obvious candidate to play on the right and if he does, young Gibbs will be up against him. That's where the presence of Alex Song comes in. If he starts just in front of the back four and supports them like we've seen Gilberto do, kind of acting as a fifth defender and being available to slot into the left back or right back position when our full backs are going forward, it will really help with the defensive side of the game.
As for the attacking part of the game, you feel Adebayor will start up front alone and with what we've got available, it makes a lot of sense. We're away from home, and it's in our interest to get some sort of result, any result. With that in mind, a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1 is preferable... Adebayor will be supported on the flanks by Walcott and Nasri and Cesc and Diaby in the middle. So this is how the 4-2-3-1 works:
Sagna – Toure – Djourou – Gibbs
Song - Diaby
Walcott – Cesc – Nasri
There is a fear that without Arshavin, we may see the semi-final performance type of game, but I really think that game was decided by a bad pitch and some bad defending and bad goalkeeping. With Almunia back in the squad, I’m sure the confidence will be restored amongst the defence, and that’s important. And of course, with Djourou, the high balls can be defended better.
Arsene has been in the news today and he’s been talking about the away goals rule and how it affects the two legs.
“At this level you have to be audacious away,” said the manager speaking before the weekend. “The weight of the away goal in European football could be discussed I feel. It may be a little bit too heavy.
“We have spoken about it, maybe making it a Carling Cup rule where it only comes in at extra time. At the moment you are encouraged to be very cautious at home but very audacious away from home.”
I think Arsene has a point, but I do think it adds some spice to the game. It gives the two games a dimension. A reason for the away team to attack and if it wasn’t there then the away team would always play for a 0-0. The away goal rule makes the two legs different and is part of how it works. But I see what Arsene means about trying to win it in normal “game time”, ie, within extra time first and then if not, let the away goals rule apply.
There is so much more to discuss, bit unfortunately, not enough time tonight…