Hello there and a happy, happy Friday to all of you. If you’re anything like what I am today – still glowing as a result of Arsenal’s performance on Wednesday night – then you’ll surely be reading this post with a big smile on your face. Nice one.
It’s essentially a three-part post today as I start by running through some final thoughts on Villarreal and the prospect of facing Manchester United, continue with a preview of the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and finish off on a bit of sad note with some very unfortunate personal news. As such, I’d really encourage you read right to the end today even if it’s just as a personal favour to me, you’re favourite Arsenal blogger *wink wink*.
Final Champions League thoughts
So first up, the Champions League. As I mentioned in detail yesterday it really was a top performance by our boys and the feeling going around most of the Arsenal blogs and various other football sites has been very positive. Villarreal might have been pushed by the injuries to key players but I still think that our efforts to keep a clean sheet with four key defensive players and our first-choice goalkeeper out were remarkable. It’s nice to see Alex Song finally getting some credit for his recent performances too, with Amy Lawrence in particular singing his praises on The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast.
We face United for the first time ever in Europe and what a contest it promises to be. I’ll be speaking about this in a lot more detail as the first leg edges closer but the meantime I thought I’d mention two bits of positive news that will surely improve our chances going into this one.
The first is that we’re certain to have Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy back by the first leg while Manuel Almunia and Johan Djourou are also likely to return. Add in the fact that Eduardo will surely be 100% by that time and we’ll surely have a better starting team and squad going into this one than we did for the second leg against Villarreal. Let’s just hope we can avoid any other injuries before now and then.
The second bit of news is that I can confirm we will be playing the second leg at home. It’s generally considered an advantage to have the home leg second and I think in this case it is even more of an advantage. It’s been shown that United usually struggle to play home games first and it also means our players avoid the horrible prospect of getting a result in the ferocious cauldron that Old Trafford can quite often be.
Moving onto the Chelsea game now and Arsene Wenger has delivered the unthinkable news that Kieran Gibbs may join our long list of defensive absentees as a result of groin problem he picked up in a knock on Wednesday. The manager has also mentioned that Bacary Sagna is doubtful as a result of a virus. Although I can’t be certain, my personal opinion is that Gibbs will miss out and Sagna will start. Wenger mentioned the option of playing the Frenchman on the left side of the defence and given Emmanuel Eboue’s composed performance against Villarreal I think he’ll keep his spot.
Further forward our options are excellent. Andrey Arshavin will return to the side to give one of the attackers a rest while Abou Diaby is “completely ready” to play according to the manager. I think the manager will stick with the 4-4-2 that worked so well against Villarreal on Wednesday and play the best side he has available. That means Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song are likely to continue while Arshavin’s return means one of Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott will miss out. Which one is anyone’s guess, though.
Chelsea have been a bit of shambles defensively of late, shipping four goals against Liverpool and another three again Bolton last weekend. In Petr Cech they have a goalkeeper who is really short on confidence and I really fancy us to get past them with the added threat of a super-fresh Arshavin in our side. Guus Hiddink is a clever manager and he is in charge of a superb squad but I just get the feeling their lunge-busting draw with Liverpool will see us go into this game slightly sharper in attack.
Fingers crossed we get the result our performance deserves and that we put in a performance that deserves a positive result.
Some sad personal news
As I mentioned earlier, I want to finish today’s post with a little bit of very sad personal news. On Tuesday I my father, who had been battling with cancer on and off for the past nine years, passed away. It was a sad moment for my mother and two brothers but one that we had been expecting for some time now. And even though we’ve certainly been expecting it, the fact that my dad was only 53 when he died is a tough thing to take.
I was considering whether his passing was worth mentioning on the blog and I came to the conclusion that it was. This is a personal sort of blog read by many people who have become like workmates, emailing me with kind words or chatting to me on Facebook. As such, the loss of my beloved dad is something that I feel is very much worth sharing with you all.
Although he never started out as Gooner, his constant support of me and this blog meant he died a Gooner. The game of his heart may have been Australian Rules Football but he still cared enough to get up to watch early-morning Champions League games with me and watched repeated highlights of Thierry Henry as many times as I wanted to show him.
My dad was a really great guy and the most important thing he taught me was to go after whatever it is that I wanted. His support has lead my down the path of becoming a social worker and now part-time writer, a path that I wish to continue pursuing. He has had a wonderful and positive influence on my life and I’ll never forget him. And although it’s too much to ask you do the same, I do hope you can think about him just a little bit as we move into a very exciting part of the season.
A very heartfelt cheers to you all.
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