Hello there blogmates – welcome to another installment of the Arsenal FC Blog. It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m sucking down a couple of Grolsch beers before my indoor game later tonight. Football and beer, a wicked combination.
I’m sure you don’t need reminding that the International Break is up on us and that means inevitably means no Arsenal until next weekend’s game against Manchester City. I’m holding back the tears as I write that.
Anyway, in an attempt to avoid relying on the minimal Arsenal scraps that are floating around to provide inspiration for my writing content (van Persie saying we’re invincible, Arshavin suggesting he will end his career at Arsenal etc), I thought I’d take a step back to last week’s Champions League draw and spend some time discussing our chances of actually winning the thing.
As you will all surely know by now we drew Spanish side Villarreal in the quarter-finals. Villarreal currently sit fourth in the Primera League and boast some quality players in Guiseppe Rossi, Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla as well as Arsenal old boys Robert Pires and Pascal Cygan. And while the latter of that pairing will hardly strike fear into the eyes of Arsene Wenger, the now 35-year old Pires still might.
Villarreal undoubtedly have quality in most areas of the park, as illustrated by brilliant Spanish football writer Tim Stannard in this article. In saying that, when you look at the other sides that we could be facing in this round of the competition we’ve certainly drawn ourselves a beatable opponent.
Liverpool are in the form of their lives, Barcelona are top of the Spanish League and have a squad stacked with quality, Manchester United are still – in my opinion – the best side in Europe, while Chelsea have a manager extraordinaire in their possession and Bayern Munich a hefty European pedigree. Of all the sides that we didn’t draw in the quarter-finals, perhaps only Porto are a lesser foe than Villarreal and even then they managed to finish ahead of us in the group stage.
It is my firm opinion that we will beat Villarreal and I think that we will beat them well. It’s no disrespect to them as a club at all, but I think Roma were a tougher opponent and with Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor both available for selection we’re going to have one hell of a team for both legs of this tie. We also have the advantage of playing second and given we pick up a decent result on the road I think we’ll get the job done at Emirates to book only our second ever semi-final appearance of the competition.
If we do get past Villarreal it’s likely to set up an absolutely epic semi-final contest between Arsenal and Manchester United. I know we’re not there yet, but I am getting excited just thinking about the possibility of knocking off United to make it into the final. It is the sort of stuff dreams are made of and our boys only need to look at the way we performed earlier in the season against Alex Ferguson’s to realise that we have a really, really decent chance of making it into the final. United might have the best squad in Europe but at the end of the day we have a First XI to match anyone around when they’re fit and healthy.
On the other side of the draw, I actually think Guus Hiddink will mastermind a victory over Liverpool while Barcelona should be too good for Bayern Munich. I feel that the international break might stifle Liverpool’s flow and by the time they play Chelsea the shine of their recent performances would well and truly have worn off. Hiddink is the master of knockout football and I think he’ll motivate Chelsea sufficiently to get past Liverpool, provided they have the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry and Michael Essien available.
As it was last season – I think we would have won the Champions League had we got past Liverpool – the opportunity is certainly there for Arsenal to become Champions of Europe for the first time. We’ll need to take it one game at a time, of course, but provided that the boys get past Villarreal we may still be treated to an unforgettable end to this season.
Anyway, that’s it for today. I’ll have some more to say tomorrow as well as some information about the Arsenal FC Blog podcast that I am planning for the near future. Have a good one!
Have your say on Arsenal’s Champions League chances by leaving a comment.