It’s the second leg of the Villarreal game tonight and what a contest it looks to be. It’s doubtful we’ll see anything quite like the 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Liverpool last night but there should certainly be some good attacking football on display. And even if there isn’t, I won’t really care if Arsene Wenger and the boys can get through.
As you’re probably aware by now, team news going into the game is not good. William Gallas, Manuel Almunia and Gael Clichy remain absent after knocks taken in the first leg while Johan Djourou is also out after sustaining knee cartilage damage against Wigan. It leaves our defensive options threadbare and it will be interesting to see what the manager comes up with to minimise the impact of these significant losses.
As I mentioned in detail yesterday, I’d like to see Emmanuel Eboue brought in on the right and Bacary Sagna switched to the left with Kolo Toure and Mikael Silvestre teaming up in the middle. Whether Wenger goes for that or something else is impossible to predict at this stage, but I do think the twin defensive-midfield pairing of Alex Song and Denilson will need to be at their best to provide protection to our taped-together back-four. There’s also the possibility that Abou Diaby could displace one of the two after being passed fit, but I think the manager will err on the side of caution with him after his consistent injury troubles.
Update: The word from the official Arsenal website suggests it will be a backline of Sagna, Toure, Silvestre and Gibbs. No official word from the manager but the intimation is fairly clear.
Even though Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor are both fit and raring to go I think the manager will go with a 4-5-1 and one of them is going to miss out. Given that Adebayor is far more suited to playing the lone-striker role you have to think it will be van Persie, although Wenger might choose to play him on the wing instead of Samir Nasri or Theo Walcott. That leaves just one spot left in the hole behind the striker, set to be taken up by the captain, Cesc Fabregas, who will surely be excited at the prospect of leading out the side at home on such a big occasion.
I am fully expecting us to go through tonight even despite the state of our defensive options. We’ve taken back a good result with us from El Madrigal and with Villarreal missing their two best midfielders in Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna we should get the job done. Although nights like these have a habit of being decided by one mistake or one moment of magic I would really like to see us take the game to Villarreal.
Our defence might be a bit wobbly but we still have players of the quality of Fabregas, van Persie, Adebayor, Walcott and Nasri in our squad. As such, attacking them and applying pressure in the midfield and attack might be the best way to keep the ball out of our own net. Barcelona’s midfield did it impeccably well in against Bayern Munich last night and as a result took a lot of the pressure away from Carlos Puyol and Co at the back and I’d like to see it repeated by Fabregas and his midfield chargers tonight.
Anyway I think I’ve said enough. Enjoy the game wherever you’re watching it and fingers crossed we get a positive result.
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