Are you ready? A question that all fans will answer……… “Of course I’m ready”….
But the real question is whether the team is ready. We’ve had many false dawns – defining moments – those pre-match talks where Arsene says “we will show you all and produce something special” and then end up going 2-0 down within the first 10 minutes! But this time, we’re not talking off the pitch… this time we’re talking on the pitch. With the exception of the 4-4 at Newcastle, our form has been pretty good since the turn of the year. Our football has been a joy to watch and it’s all been building up nicely to the tie this week.
For me, I really believe we have a first XI that oozes class and quality – the rapid rise to the number one jersey for Szcznesy has been well deserved and he has earned his shirt. He’s played well and the main thing is that he does the simple things well – and that’s key. He’s commanding and breathes confidence to the defence – a defence which has been marshalled admirably by Djourou creating an equally impressive partnership with Koscielny.
I think they both have enough nous to snuff our the danger of Messi & Villa and for me, the two key players will be the Songshere megasphere… I mean Alex Song & Jack Wilshere – who are starting to really dominate the midfield nowadays.
Song spoke about Jack and had nothing but praise for him:
“Jack is an unbelievable young player – it’s hard to think that he is just 19 years old because he’s playing like a guy with 200 Premier League appearances. I’m very happy to play alongside him – he always wants to listen and learn, and I’m not surprised to see him in the England team.”
I like my new combo, the Songshere megasphere, it’s got a ring to it…
Song also took time out to talk about the way we should approach the game and said:
“The reference point for us has to be the Chelsea match from December, when we pressed them very high from the first minute and gave them no room. We need to do that to Barcelona – they have a similar style to us and it should be a pleasure for everyone to watch. I can’t wait. Everyone’s talking about it, not just here – a lot of my friends have been in touch wanting to come over and watch. It’s a very good tie, I think we took a lot from last year’s matches. Both of us are in good form and if we can keep as many players fit as possible for both legs then we can do something.”
And he’s hit the nail on the spot there – we need to give 120% throughout the game – Inter away, Real Madrid away, Juventus at home, Chelsea at home this season – we gave 120% – we press high up the pitch, we were disciplined, we were focused and took our chances.
With Robin Van Persie in the form of his life – 11 goals in 9 games – we have a serious goal threat. You’ve got to give it to RvP – despite the plethora of injuries, he is really coming back into some form – a massive accolade to the confidence in his own ability and the faith that Arsene has shown in him.
Arsene, of course, is looking forward to this game – with all the Cesc furore, I think the manager is keen to “get one over” Barce and really press home to Cesc that he was right to stay at the Emirates this season. Arsene spoke about the style of play and said:
“I believe, if we manage to get them under pressure, we will create chances. Ideally that is something we can work on before the game. Sometimes you have that extra special focus in these kind of games which makes you more efficient, so hopefully we have that. The question at the Nou Camp you can wonder is will we change the way we play? But here [at Emirates Stadium], we will try to play to our strengths. We will try to attack the other team. If we play in the final third defensively, we will not only be happy, it will not be our game.”
That’s so very true – our strengths are our attack. We need to terrorise their defence – a defence without key man Carlos Puyol. They’ll have a decent player in reserve, but between Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin, we can surely get at them – with Cesc pulling the strings just behind the front three, we can really do some damage!
Cesc to score against Barce on Weds? If you’re a betting man, it’s worth a fiver….
I’ll be back tomorrow for a proper pre-match blog, team news and formations, but for now, let’s support Milan as they entertain Sp*rs at the San Siro…
Boy, do I love the Champions League!!