Arsenal vs Barcelona – Preview Number One

Evening folks and welcome to preview number one of the game this midweek – it’s Arsenal vs Barcelona, and it will be a great tie. A true footballing tie of two pure footballing teams. For the neutral, you couldn’t ask for a more scintillating tie. Barcelona have looked on at Arsenal during the years when we’ve hit the dizzy heights, a la Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg. Many years later, we now look at the Barcelona team and wait to see a certain Lionel Messi come out of the tunnel – most people call him the best player in the world, and I can’t really disagree.

Playing in Spain is something that offers a slower game and yes, Messi has played well, very well this season, but he certainly would not have been afforded that much space in the Premiership. Never. And that’s what our game plan has to be – simply to deny Messi space – play as normal. Ensure we’re defensively solid and then attack, attack, attack. Yes, Barcelona have Messi, yes they have our old man Thierry and players like Xavi (who is officially fit after earlier injury worries), Ibrahimovic and of course little Iniesta (who is injured)… But we have little Andrei Arshavin, the man in form – Samir Nasri, captain fantastic, Cesc Fabregas and a supporting cast of Walcott, Rosicky and Diaby.

Really, trying to be objective and neutral, it’s made me think that these two teams are actually quite evenly matched – I think it’s time to look at the two probable teams…

Almunia
Valdes

Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy
Alves – Puyol –  Pique – Maxwell

Song – Diaby
Keita – Toure

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin
Messi -  Xavi – Henry

Bendtner
Ibrahimovic

So, there we have it – two teams – the same formation and two sets of personnel. Let’s compare…

Almunia vs Valdes

Whether it’s down to the defence or the goalkeeping, 34 goals conceded versus 18 goal conceded is a big difference. Almunia’s reputation was at an all time low this season until his understudy Fabianski showed how bad you can get… Without having seen much of Valdes but having heard a fair amount, it’s safe to say he wins the battle of the goalkeepers.

Valdes wins

Campbell / Vermaelen vs Puyol / Pique

The ex-Manchester United defender has been quite impressive since his move to Barcelona and in the last couple of games, has looked decent. His weakness is that he can get turned quickly, something that Arshavin, Nasri and Bendtner can exploit, whereas Puyol doesn’t have the positional sense that his colleague does, you’ll see him – a la Kolo Toure – sometimes too forward or sometimes too much to the right. With our two, we’ve got two extremes – Campbell has extreme physical presence, but lacks in pace. He can deal with the extra-ordinary height and aerial ability of Ibrahimovic. Vermaelen, on the other hand has pace to deal with the likes of Messi.

It’s a draw

Clichy / Sagna vs Alves / Maxwell

With the absence of Abidal. Maxwell has seen an extended run in the first team and whilst he is good going forward, he is definitely suspect in the art of defending – the same goes for Alves, who has one of the best crosses for a right back, but is small and isn’t great in the tackle. Whereas Clichy and Sagna have proved that they are very effective going forward and defensive. Clichy had a massive dip in form at the turn of the year, but he has come back in a strong vein of form. Back to the old Clichy we all know and love.

Clichy and Sagna win

Song / Diaby vs Keita / Toure

Song and Diaby – for me are miles ahead of any two players in the “shield” position. Song has single handedly proved every single Arsenal fan wrong and gone from zero to hero. He is the first name on the team sheet and combined with Diaby, another player who has gone from being a mistake to an enigma. He, like Song, has proved to be an excellent acquisition – his attacking instinct is what makes him so effective. Whereas looking at Keita and Toure, both players normally vie for the same position with Iniesta and Xavi playing with them, but more recently they have had time together. However, both Toure and Keita have had a lot of time out of the team – to the point where they’ve both been first choice and both been left out of squad. Don’t get me wrong, they are both effective as defensive midfielders, Keita with a shot on him. In reality, though, I’d say that our two edge it over them…

Song and Diaby win

Nasri vs Messi

Nasri has been one of our most influential players in the last couple of weeks – his goal against Porto an exhibition of his footballing ability, but right now, he has one player in the world who is simply sensational right now in Lionel Messi. It pains me to say this because I think Nasri is a match winner for us, but surely Messi has to win?

Messi wins

Cesc vs Xavi

Cesc has based his game on Xavi – the master and the student – but where we are right now, there is hardly a difference between the two. Xavi has been recently injured, so let’s hope that he can’t perform at the highest level – but Cesc has been in the wars too, so it’s going to be even stevens in this department.

It’s a draw

Arshavin vs Henry

Ouch, difficult one? On one hand we have our little crazy Russian and on the other hand we have one of our greatest legends. I’m not going to probe any further into the comparisons between the two, but Arshavin is surely the player on form and the one who can make a difference.

Arshavin wins

Bendtner vs Ibrahimovic

If you asked me this question a year ago, I would have laughed at you – that is how lowly rated Niklas Bendtner was – but now his stock has raised, whilst Ibrahimovic’s stock has declined rapidly since his £76million part exchange move. Ibra, unlike our Nikki B, does have the ability to score a goal out of nothing, and aerial ability in abundance. He also has years of experience at clubs like Ajax and Inter Milan. Ask me again in a year…

Ibrahimovic wins

There we have it, an overview of the two teams. Writing this does instill me with confidence, the benches look good in our favour too, with the likes of Walcott and Eboue ready to inject some pace into the team… til tomorrow…

  • http://arsenalandtherandomthoughtsofmylife.blogspot.com/ Debs

    I’m not sure I would have been this unbiased, if it were me. I’d have found a way to say ALL our players are better, minus Messi, ofcourse! Kudos…

  • Nick

    Right now Valdes is playing better than Iker Casillas and that’s saying A LOT! Iker is one of the best in the world and Spain’s #1.

    IMO it’s a very even match other than a massive performance from Messi if we let him. IMO, Song should man mark him and become a boil on his ass. Don’t let him free.

    Primary concern for me other than Almunia is finishing and taking chances on goal instead of always looking for another pass. Nasri could’ve netted another goal against BC and didn’t because he opted to pass. You’ve gotta shoot to score boys!

  • Sam

    I think the difference will be made on the touchline by the couches.

    Wenger vs Guardiola

    While Barca manager has done incredibly well at his initial year, you’ve got to give it to Wenger for his vast experience.

  • Yemi

    Valdez is enjoying the impact of messi, xavi, alves, pedro, henry, ibra. Most teams don’t attack barca cos dey are under constant attck from barca so valdez is covered. However i don’t think he is miles ahead of alumina, he too is a very suspect keeper prone to calamitous errors. Watch out tomorrow.

    And thanks dev for this post, it has given us the opportunity to really compare both teams and you can see that we are not disadvantaged.

    Do you guys really think guardiola will start henry against us ? iniesta is out so i think he would bring on pedro.

  • Will Scott

    I’d just like to echo something said on the Arsenal website, about the atmosphere at the game tomorrow night.

    If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, please get there as early as possible to show your support (gates open at 6.30!) Wear red and white, even if it’s just a scarf or a hat. Make as much noise as you can to make the atmosphere one to remember. The players can hear the noise of the crowd, even when they’re in the dressing rooms, so lets all sing those Arsenal songs before they even step onto the pitch. There shouldn’t be an empty seat in the ground for the duration of the 90 minutes.

    The atmosphere in the Nou Camp will be brilliant, but also intimidating. There’ll be nearly 40,000 more people in there but I know we can match them.

    The crowd at Anfield has so often got a mediocre Liverpool side into the next round, a good crowd at the Emirates can do the same with a brilliant Arsenal side.

    So lets get behind the team and be the twelfth man tomorrow night!

    COME ON ARSENAL!!

  • dampatti

    This may read more horrid than a Derek McGovern column but we have to concede that one day there will be life at Arsenal without Arsene Wenger at the helm.

    Whoever steps into his shoes will have an absolutely massive job on their hands, most probably the second biggest job in football. The first, begrudgingly, I have to admit is whoever takes over at Manchester United after Ol’ Red Nose.

    It’s going to take someone who can cope with the pressure of succeeding Wenger. Someone with nuts bigger than an unfortunate Elephantiasis sufferer, but also someone who shares the same philosophy as Arsene.

    As Arsenal supporters we have become accustomed to watching the best style of football in the world. In truth the only other side to rival our brand of football is Wednesdays visitors to the Emirates, Barcelona.

    I like watching Barcelona. Like us, they play football the right way and are very entertaining. Our Champions League tie will be spectacular and a great advert for the game of football.

    This will be down to two managers with the same principles and ideas. Arsene Wenger and Josep Guardiola.

    I honestly feel that Guardiola could be the man to lead Arsenal in our next era. In fact, I’m convinced he is the right man to do the job. And I think he would relish the opportunity to do so to.

    In the past it has been said that the Barca manager would love to manage in England and especially in London. I think he is far too classy for that lot down at Slagford Bridge and definitely too good for the other mob at Shite Fart Lane. That only leaves us doesn’t it?

    We will see Guardiola patrolling the away technical-area, well I hope that he will be the next man after Wenger to patrol the home one.

    Despite writing all this I still believe that Arsene Wenger is the man for Arsenal. I hope you, my fellow Gooners, don’t think that I am trying to write him-off! Far from it in fact.

    I love the man to bits but its just an opinion of mine that I’d like Guardiola to eventually take over his mantle. He’d be the right man.

    Whoever gets the job in the future will be a very privileged man but also one who has to walk into Wenger’s shadow. Josep is strong enough and more than good enough to do so.

    Guardiola has great qualities and has been very successful in recent times but I wouldn’t put him in Wenger’s league yet. He will be, eventually, and I hope that he is Arsenal gaffer when he gets there!

  • dampatti

    Campbell was such a clever buy by Wenger.He may be showing signs of age but Sol appears to be an enormous calming presence on the pitch .
    Is he any good in goal?

  • Yemi

    @ dampatti:
    campbell in goal? whats on your mind ?

  • dampatti

    Yemi says on March 30th, 2010 at 11:02 am : I was being sarcastic -

  • Yemi

    @ dampatti:
    ok, maybe he should replace alumina right ?
    my mind went to the lehman red card in 2006. LOL

  • http://messi@discofan.com mesias angala

    but why camphell in that tough game.Unless he might be substituted out in the middle of the match…

  • kodjo

    Tactically….wenger may opt to start arshavin instead of b52 upfront since we ‘might’ not need the height in attack just bcos of barca’s style of play.

    if arsene goes with this formation then it gives eboue a chance in the midfield area vacated by arshavin so that he and diaby can double up on messi.

    alternatively, walcott may be employed on that side of the midfield for 2 reasons

    1. to do a ‘hleb’ on messi …that means using his speed to disposses messi by running from behind. we saw this tactic neutralize ronaldinho in ‘that’ final game.

    2. force alves to think twice before joining any attack cos he creates that extra space for messi to attack.

    if wenger does not employ this tactic, then i guess Devs formation will suffice with the variation of eboue/walcott starting in place of arshavin.

    it will be a fascinating game tacticaly and technically …..

  • Nick

    @dampatti about life after Wenger. I’d rather not think about it but if I’m forced to Pep would be a great coach. I have in my head there may be another Frenchman at the helm by the name of Laurent Blanc (head coach of Bordeaux). He’s cut from the same cloth as Wenger.

  • Sam

    Anyone know the truth to Cesc fitness? Lots of conflicting reports around… Will he play tomorrow?

  • Kuka

    Wenger just mentioned that Gallas is in the squad

  • goonerman

    Wenger has actually said that he will decide if fabregas plays in the warm up before the match tomorrow so i really think its touch an go becuase he wouldnt be playing tactical games so close to the match, also in the interview he said gallas was fit with a little smile so there could be a huge possibility he could start alongside vermaelen which is AMAZING

    obviously theres a big game tonight with bayern and man united and im really hoping bayenrn can stun man united but yet again their amazing luck continues with the news that robben and ribery are hiuge doubts lol their 2 best players. anyway thats nothing to do with us but its still a quality game

    if fabregas is fit then your team looks pretty bang on dev but iv got a feeling gallas could start alongside vermaelen tomorrow he had a happy look on his face about gallas!

    if fabregas is fit:

    Almunia

    Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Clichy

    Song – Diaby

    Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

    Bendtner

    Fabregas not fit:

    Almunia

    Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Clichy

    Song – Diaby

    Arshavin – Nasri – Rosicky

    Bendtner

  • ny

    defenitely walcott and rosicky will not start ahead of Eboue

  • devday

    @Goonerman / NY

    I’ve heard the reports too – one minute he is fine, the next he is not – his dad said he will play, so I think Cesc is a starter.

    Great news about Gallas and if he’s been in the squad and is fit, then surely he must play!

    If Cesc misses the game, I think Arsene will opt for Nasri in the middle and Eboue on the right…

    Fingers crossed everyone is fit!

  • devday

    Ouch….. United 1-0 up in 63 seconds!

  • L

    Uniteds luck is frightening. From refs decisions to own goals to the way we lost at old trafford. champs draw, being drawn away 1st home team in final. Penalties.Players sliping. u name it everything goes there way Its almost unbelivable.

  • Sam

    Pardon my French, but ManIOU is so fucking lucky.
    This Bayern is so shit! They struggled to get here, then gift an open goal to Rooney in 1st min, and now can’t score with so many chances.
    And the ref is taking it easy on them again!

  • Tm17

    @Nick
    to be honest Laurent Blanc seem to be
    heading to be the next French national
    coach so no luck.

  • Sam

    Finally, ManIOU get some of the rough side too. 1-1.

  • Sam

    2-1. ManIOU were 2nd best for 89 minutes.
    Now they must face Chelsea on Sat, and Bayern again on Wed.
    Pressure is on, Rooney looked injured too.

    May all gods bless our beloved Gunners tomorrow night.

  • Josiah

    2-1 bayern final score.

    now arsenal vs barcelona