Cesc Misses Porto

There will be a proper pre-match preview tomorrow so I’ll keep it brief today. The big news of the day is that Cesc Fabregas misses the Champions League 2nd leg tie with Porto as a result of a hamstring injury which appears to be more serious than first hoped. It is a blow, no doubt, because you always want your biggest players available for games like these. Whilst we have Song available again (his ban applying to domestic matches only) I have to admit that I would have preferred any other player in the squad to be unavailable over Cesc.

However, the manager has already ruled out any opportunity for excuses:

“Ideally we wanted him to be there, but we want to qualify and the absence of Cesc is no excuse at all.

We have enough players and a strong enough squad to get round that and have enough chances to qualify.”

You have to agree with him. At the end of the day it is down to us to cope with these sorts of injuries. We have managed to keep our title hopes alive without the input of Robin van Persie and it is imperative that we don’t allow the loss of Cesc to interfere with our belief and desire in the Champions League.

There has never been a better time for players like Bendtner and Walcott to step up and be counted for. We are going to need big performences from them no doubt, and without Cesc you look towards other players such as Arshavin, Nasri and Diaby to fill the void left by the captain. Our defenders will of course be vital too. The forgettable performance from the first leg must not be replicated. We’ll need the whole team to be fully committed to the cause because it is going to be a difficult evening tomorrow. I know we are capable of winning but there is something about this tie that smells like PSV a few years ago.

When we drew Porto everyone was saying that it was the easiest tie out of all the English sides. On paper I would agree but I always felt that the away leg would be crucial and the result was bad at the end of the day. Will it be a case of the away goal saving us, or our calamity of a defensive performance proving ultimately to be the decisive factor?

As I have already said this tie gives me an uneasy feeling. We have beaten them comfortably everytime we’ve played them at home. The media enjoy reminding us of that as well as that they have never won on English soil. The typical outcome is that Porto win the tie and shove all that straight back at the media. I desperately hope this doesn’t happen but we’ll need to be on our game big time to make sure. The wasted chances on Saturday will not be a luxury afforded to us tomorrow.

On this point Arsene has backed Bendtner to bounce back from his inexplicable performance on Saturday:

“He missed some big chances on Saturday but that is needed for any young striker at some stage. He looks at why he missed the chances and gets it right in the next game. That is important for a young striker.

I think he is really improving at the moment. That was just an isolated game. In every competition you always have something to prove and show how good you are.

He has a good mental strength and, even if he was disappointed with the chances he missed, it will not diminish his desire and confidence to going to the next game.”

The one certain factor that must be borne in mind is we need to score tomorrow. Ideally as many goals as possible but if we fail to score we are out. I know it is stating the obvious but it goes back to my original point that we have to take our chances. If we do, we’ll win comfortably but if we don’t it is going to be another one of those nervy nights at the Emirates.

  • Josiah

    come on arsenal we can win this

  • Sam

    Let’s look at the positives. We are more than capable of securing a win.
    Go Gunners!

  • vj

    hey guys on wikipwdia it says that chamakh has joined arsenal is this true

  • Josiah

    when is cesc going to be back?

  • sid

    The Liverpool downfall suits us just fine. That makes their games with Chelski and Manure to be more “must win” games. Though it is more likely that they are not able to get one over each of them, we should not underestimate a wounded animal. The Scouse might give us a hand in our miraculous run for the title.

  • sid

    cesc maybe in for saturday according to wenger. i think he should only be on the subs bench & bring him on if needed against hull

  • sid

    tonight 7-0 to the gunners please

  • dada

    I think Tottenham could decide the Championship – looking at the final weeks of the 2009/10 season are shaping up to be fascinating. When was the last time we had 3 teams in serious contention for the Championship at this late a stage in the season AND at the same time saw the battle for 4th, and the final Champions League spot, as congested and wide open as it presently is? And in the middle of it all is Arsenal, much to the disappointment of many in the media.

    After losing to Chelsea on 7 February, the media were lightning-quick to write off our chances. I never thought that to be the case. I personally thought that if we could come out of our nightmare run of matches (Villa, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool) within 6 points of the lead we might even be favorites for the Championship.

    Instead we were 9 points behind, a big gap but by no means insurmountable given our run-in. However, even I have been staggered at how quickly the gap has been narrowed again, and in some ways we might indeed have to be considered favorites at this point (although I HATE saying that!!).

    If we had a fully fit squad I wouldn’t hesitate to call us favorites. Another assumption made after the Chelsea match was that we would have to win the remainder of our games to be Champions. I didn’t think that was the case then and I certainly don’t think that is the case now. Points will be dropped by everyone. How many points each team will drop is the real question.

    The game most people are looking at to “decide” the Championship is Chelsea-Man Utd on 3rd April. Sky will certainly build that one up to be a “Championship Decider” as they do. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. Let’s assume a draw in that one. If that’s the case then it effectively brings us even with the teams above us. I don’t think Chelsea will win that one, so the only other result I can see is a Utd win, and if that is the case I don’t think Chelsea will last the pace (that is just a feeling I have, there is no rational reason why!). My prediction is a draw however. So what of the other fixtures remaining for each team?

    We’ve examined Arsenal’s fixtures in great detail. Most of us would agree that all of our home matches should be wins, with the only tough one being Manchester City’s visit towards the end of the season. A lot will depend on how they are doing in the League at that point. Will that game be essential for them finishing 4th or not? Our away matches are a mixed bag, with Hull, Birmingham, Tottenham, Wigan, and Blackburn presenting us with a selection of potential banana skins. The Spurs match is the one that stands out however.

    Chelsea’s matches are just as interesting. Their only tough home match remaining is the visit of Aston Villa. However Chelsea still have trips to Old Trafford (where we already assumed a draw), Anfield, and White Hart Lane to come (as well as Blackburn and Portsmouth – ho hum, six points there).

    Manchester United have a very interesting run-in as well. They have Spurs, Liverpool, Fulham (a bogey team), and Chelsea to come at home and still have a trip to Manchester City (as well as Sunderland, Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves away – more of those potential banana skins I’d say).

    The presence of Tottenham on each schedule, in 3 consecutive weeks in April, is the most interesting part of the run-in as far as I am concerned. We get them first, then Chelsea and finally Manchester United. I’d give the advantage to Manchester United in that case, because when we play them they’ll still be fighting for 4th place, something they may no longer be doing two weeks later. But it could also work the other way as well. Tottenham have Manchester City for their final match of the season, so they will know that even with a poor result or two, they can still make up for it with a strong finish to the season (just as we followed losses to Utd and Chelsea with a win against Liverpool, salvaging that run of games).

    One way or another, the 3 weekends from 10 April to 25 April look like they could go a long way towards deciding the Championship. Tottenham may not qualify for the Champions League, but they might just decide the Championship! How scary is that thought???

  • Fo

    Josiah, I think that Cesc will be back either for the weekend game or the game after – if they were talking about even thinking of playing him, then the injury couldn’t have been too bad

  • Yemi

    My Predictions again, we are winning by a 2 goal margin but i can’t say if the score line will be 2:0 or 3:1 (since we have found it difficult to keep clean sheets)

  • grahm

    It would be Almunia in goal for us. Almunia would be on form tonight.

    Sagna and the improving clichy will be our full back tonight. Campbell and Vermaelen will be the rock in our defence. I seriously expect our defence to turn up tonight and keep a clean sheet. The 5 of them would know how important this game is for us.

    In defensive midfield role, I would take both Song and Diaby. Song has been an ever present player in my Arsenal team. He is hardworking and provides cover for the defence really well. He is someone that can hold the ball and passes well. Diaby on the other hand has improved tremendously after all the insults, we fans directed at him. Diaby is now a stayer in my Arsenal team. He can defend and his attack is great. His passing has improved alot.

    Replacing Fabregas, I would choose Nasri. Nasri has been fantastic for me during the burnsley game. His chip to Fabregas is marvellous. He has a great engine and can defend and attack with ease.

    I would choose Bendtner, Walcott and Arshavin as the front 3. Bendtner for his height and ability to hold the ball and play in some of his other team mates. Furthermore, he knows he needs to show the fans what he is all about especially after missing so many chances in the burnsley game. I would reckon that he scores some goals tonight.

    I picked walcott also because he is currently on fire, on form. There is no reason to take out someone that has been doing great during the last game. He is crucial to our team with his speed. He and Sagna would provide alot of crosses for bendtner tonight.

    Arshavin scored a goal during the burnsley game after being out for quite awhile. He is back to his best and we all know what he is capable of. With fabregas out, we need someone that dares to shoot whenever there is a chance, and that someone is arshavin. Arshavin would provide all the trickery on the left and cut in for a chance to shoot.

    Subs: Fabianski, Silvestre, Traore, Denilson, Eboue, Rosicky, Eduardo

    I would reckon that my Arsenal team play some fantastic football and win the game. But I do not expect a high scoring game. I would take it that we win it 1-0 or 2-0. We must keep a clean sheet and not let them score first.

    We will win this match and move on into the last eight.