If we beat Villarreal… a look into Arsenal’s Champions League chances

If we beat Villarreal… a look into Arsenal’s Champions League chances

The players celebrate with Jens Lehmann after his save against Villarreal in 2006Hello 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.

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38 Responses to “If we beat Villarreal… a look into Arsenal’s Champions League chances”

  1. Ronaldo7
    March 24, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    United vs Arsenal…(imagine)

    i just blew in my pants

  2. Spanish Fry
    March 24, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    @ Ronaldo7 – I’m trying not to get ahead of myself but the prospect of that game in the semi-final is extremely exciting.

  3. YON
    March 24, 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    I think we have a bigger squad than Man Utd and actually a better squad. You mention Ade and Cesc coming back but what about Walcott, Eduardo and Rosicky??? Those are an additional 3 attack minded players that all blogs seem to have forgotten. Bendtner (our 4th choice striker) has scored as many goals as Wayne Rooney and 1 less than freaking Dimitar Berbatov. Use that to calibrate how deadly our attacking potential really is. We can field two competent forward 6s.
    On a saturday we can play:
    Walcott-Song-Cesc-Nasri
    Ade-Eduardo
    and play the following on a Tuesday:
    Rosicky-Denilson-Diaby-Arshavin
    Robin Van Persie- Bendtner

    I honestly can’t think of another side that can do that.

  4. ib
    March 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm #

    if we go past villareal,then man u.we have a 50-50 chance of geting to the final then given that we are lucky winning games lately we might luckily win it

  5. GoonerJake
    March 24, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    ib – if we get past villareal, then Man Ure, we are already in the final, no 50:50 about it

  6. Gibbs
    March 24, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    Im also looking forward to CL. On paper, ManU should demolish us if we meet in the semis, but we’ve proved time and time again that we can better than them. So im confident that we can knock them out.

  7. GunnerPete
    March 24, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    I think it will be a repeat of the Arsenal Barcelona final with us having a full team this time. I expect a 3-1 victory.Wait and see!

  8. Gunnersmith
    March 24, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    Good optimistic post from you spanish i think i agree with YON we have a really big and good squad that can beat any team in the world chamooooooneeee you reds bring on villareal……………

  9. brdgunner
    March 24, 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    I have just read that Fergie refused to move his game from Sunday back to Saturday. Had he accepted he would have had an extra day before the Porto game. I think his ‘everyone hates us’ attitude could cost him.

    The chance of a Barca V Arsenal final is very high. Imagine that Henry plays two Barca V Arsenal finals and loses both with each side.

  10. browny
    March 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    I often hear this “we have the advantage of the second leg at home” statement. Is it just me that feels that it is better to play home first. Firstly the first leg is a bit more cagey and I always think if you can keep a clean sheet in a tight home game you are in a good position for the 2nd leg, especially an offensive side like us with tha chance for away goals. If it goes to extra time in the 2nd leg the away team basically has more time to score away goals. From memory I recollect losing with home 2nd legs against Munich and PSV. Not sure about the exit to Liverpool and Chelsea in recent years. We did beat Madrid on the way to the final though with 2nd leg at home. Other way round I recall victories against Juve, Villareal and Milan. Does anyone know our official stats with both home/away legs 1st and 2nd?

  11. Estif02
    March 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    ARSENAL VS BARCA…I JUST CANT STOP THINKING ABOUT IT!!!

    COMEON U REDS

  12. Amit
    March 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    Lets not count our chickens yet, I think we have a good chance of getting to the semi finals.

    But I watch Spanish football regularly, and can see that Villareal are just like us, in the fact that one match they can be brilliant and others awfull.

    But Corzola, Senna and Rossi are impressive.

    I think we might just have enough over them.

    Playing Man U over 2 legs is different than just one game at the emirates. We have a bit of luck though that we have the second leg at home.

    If we were 2 reach the final then it would have be same as last time, 1st knockout game at home, then the next two away first.

    If we play Barca in the final then i think we can get revenge, just like Milan did against Liverpool 3/2 years ago.

  13. Ezra
    March 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    Fingers and toes crossed i really hope this is our year! Looking at the injuries we are suffering through seasons one can not expect Arsenal to contending for any trophy but hey we are in 2 and thats something. Keep the hope alive all you gunners.

  14. LB
    March 24, 2009 at 8:38 pm #

    If we get past Villareal we will beat Man U. Man U are genuinely scared of Arsenal. We always outplay them, even when we don’t beat them. They know that. They can justify parking the bus against Barca like they did last year, but not us.

    They can fight the physical Chelsea battle and scrape a win. But they cannot deal with our movement and passing game. We need to just get past Villareal, which will not be easy, and we’ll be in the final. But Barca may not beat Bayern.

  15. Spanish Fry
    March 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Great to hear so many positive opinions. I wonder what the response would have been like if I asked that question before Arshavin arrived – a bit different, I reckon. And he’s not even able to play any of the games! We’ve certainly turned our form and attitude around.

  16. Pete
    March 24, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    browny – having the home leg second does tend to be quite the advantage.

    Last season, all six two legged ties from this stage onwards (qf & sf) were won by the side with the second leg at home.

    I think overall the stats are in the region on 65%-35% in favour of the side that are home for the second leg.

  17. Fatboy
    March 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    The FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and the Villareal quarter final will surely define our season. I think it’s been very difficult to judge our progress this term, simply because we’ve had so many players out for so long. I agree with those who say our squad isn’t strong enough, but we’ve always had 3 or 4 keys players out. One thing about the fantastic “invincibles” season was that we were really lucky with injuries. Fergie’s come out and said this week that he doesn’t think Man U will win all 5 possible trophies as you need a lot of luck. For once I agree with him. we were unlucky not be CL winners in ’06, and we really deserved to beat Liverpool in the quarters last year. Recent events suggest that maybe our luck is beginning to turn- about time too. If we can keep everyone fit between now and the end of the season, plus get our fair share of the breaks, there’s no reason why we can’t win something this year.

  18. enemyairships
    March 25, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    Don’t worry fellas, it’ll be Porto in the Semis and Bayern in the final. I can see it now, we wont be needing injury time winners against the Germans either! Bring on Everton in the FA cup final as well come to think of it!

  19. jay-jay
    March 25, 2009 at 1:36 am #

    we actually have 4 wingers of pure quality – Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri and Arshavin plus Vela and Eboue arent bad there either. And Cesc is the mastermind in the middle but Song, Diaby and Deni have had to help out in his absence and as were in the semis of the FA Cup, 1/4s of the UCL and 4th in the BPL they havent done a bad job. That match in the semis could be great but imagine if Porto manage to knock out United haha.

  20. GetGunMN
    March 25, 2009 at 2:20 am #

    SF, Is it just me and my biased thinking or ManU are actually not as invincible as a lot of pundits make them out to be? Their weakness by my humble opinion is their defensive midfield. They don’t have one! I have had this argument with my ManU fan friends awhile back when they were winning 1-0. But, it fell in deaf ear for obvious reasons. Why complain when things work to your favor? If you cut supply of the ball to the wings where Ronaldo & Rooney camp out, there is no attack. People give a lot of credit to the pair Gerard and Torres when they played against ManU, but for me the credit should go to the other pair of Alonso & Mascherano. They actually suffocated the ManU midfield and allowed their offense to torment ManU’s defense the whole game. So, if all the other teams don’t feel defeated before they even play them, and have a tactical knowhow, I think ManU probably have already won their last silverware of the season, the Carling Cup! Just for fun, Do you think they are missing Owen Hargreves?

  21. shambogunner
    March 25, 2009 at 3:42 am #

    totally share the optimism of SF and my fellow gunners on our CL chances but must disagree with some of the naive comments been touted around about man utds demise,we just cant turn around and say wel beat them,a forthnight ago all europe wer still in awe of their quality and strength in-depth now two losses in a row later every1 thinks their crumbling?compare that to our rollercoaster form this season?i hate utd but can admire the way thev played last couple of seasons,their the closest to us for flowing entertaining football.
    add that to the pounding we took at their place not to long ago where nani and ronaldo took the mick out of us after eboue had been red carded…their the same as us in many ways and form is temporary but class is permanent and theyd raise their game ten fold against us.
    in saying that i do think it wud be a fantastic tie and would fancy us wit our returning big guns but im not counting my chickens and thinking two mnths ahead like alot of people…lets just play 1 game at a time until the end of the season…..any1 watching champs league this year wil know bayern are the form team and wil be the team we beat if we are to win it this year
    C’mon Arsenal

  22. Spanish Fry
    March 25, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    @ shambogunner – No reason not to be optimistic! We have a good chance. As you say, it’s one game at a time but if things go well we may get further than we imagined this season in the Champions League.

  23. jay-jay
    March 25, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    @ shambogunner – Europe were shaking in fear of United as they thought they were invincible. Liverpool (4-1) and Fulham (2-0) have shown they can be beaten and consecutively too, which gives us confidence we can beat them, thats all mate.

  24. Darragh
    March 25, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Probably good that we’d potentially get United in the final. Getting them while they’re stressed out trying to win to win 5 trophies is probably the best time. Assuming we get past Chelsea in the FA Cup and United getting past Everton, there are quite a few United – Arsenal games coming up in the next two months, and statistically you’d have to say Arsenal will win at least one – let hope its the CL semi!

  25. Medeski
    March 25, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    After a troubling start to the season, the kids have put themselves in a great position. We should be careful to not count our eggs too soon though. There is a very tough stretch of games coming up. If the results can continue we will play, Villareal twice, ManU three times and possibly a fourth, Chelsea twice, Liverpool and then either one of the latter again or Barca or Bayern. This is the kind of stretch that determines greatness. With the return of Cesc, Eduardo and Walcott Arsenal have the required numbers to push through to greatness. Having Arshavin cup tied may actually help in keeping some players rested and rotated during this massive run of epic matches.

    I can’t believe I have to wait 2 weeks for all the excitement to start back up.

  26. Spanish Fry
    March 25, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    @ Medeski – I know, the wait is going to kill us. My only fear is that during the two weeks Liverpool and Arsenal might lose their momentum while United and Chelsea have an opportunity to regroup.

  27. The Doodle
    March 25, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    So like I am thinking, to come on and win the UEFA Champions League, and also the FA Cup, would be sweet sweet “revenge” on all those nay sayers back in Nov / Dec.

    We have a very funny team – they can beat anyone any day – and they can loose to them too. But we have been on the precipice of Greatness and we are starting to break though – just in time too!!!

    THE DOODLE ABIDES

  28. Spanish Fry
    March 25, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    @ The Doodle – Good to see you commenting on here mate. Have a good one 🙂

  29. Ronaldo7
    March 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    @GetGunMN

    I totally agree with you that united dont have a DM player..and there weakness is the centre of midfield. The loss of Owen Hargraves is a huge one. Fletcher has done a good job from time to time.
    For me Carrick is the most important midfielder in the team. Scholes is only good at home against midocre teams. That leaves me with the fact i think united need to play a 4 5 1 formation against arsenal.

    Oshea Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Ronaldo Carrick Anderson
    Giggs Rooney
    Berbatov/Tevez

    That to me is uniteds best team

  30. ramugunner
    March 25, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    Morning guns!

    Nice discussion during international ‘freaking’ break fella’s. Villareal are pretty good team with solid defence and topclass goalie. This season they played United twice and didn’t concede. That tells the whole story about their defence. On the other side, they are very inconsistent like us. Like they conceded 4 goals against Sevilla.

    I have a Barca friend in Spain who follows Spanish football more than I do. He also thinks Arsenal should be favourites over 2 legs given the 2nd tie being in our home turf.

    The prospect of meeting Manyoo in Semis is favourable for Arsenal in my opinion. I never wanted to face either Scousers or Chelski just beacuse they have very good tacticians to outdo Wenger.

    The most important thing for any team to win a Champions league trophy is luck. Most teams that have won Champions league in the past always had a bit of a luck in the process. Pools in 05, Manyoo last season to name a few.

    Two things that will prove critical for Arsenal in the pursuit of Champions league dreams (besides injury concerns)

    1. Defence
    2. Wenger’s game tactics

  31. MG
    March 28, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    It’s great to go through all these thoughts that we’ll get Villareal out of our way to the semis. That’s our desire, our dream, our uttermst expectation to play Man Utd, but don’t be surprised if we face Porto on our way to the Final. They’re no favorites for that encounter but any thing can happen. I’m very convinced that with the inclusion of King Fabregas, Theo Walcot, Edu the magician we’ll execute our duties with no questions to answer. Let’s just hope that it works for us.

  32. censored
    March 30, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    I feel that Ade has been inconsistent this season. At times, he has been sulking especially against Everton and Spurs. If he can do without the whole ” Next Henry” ego crap i feel he can get back to his scoring ways like Drogba and make and impact in these final but vital 2 months. I say van Persie will get a double over Man U in the UCL. Its gonna be Arsenal 5 Man U 0 (2 BPL 2 UCL Semi-Final 1 FA CUP Final)

  33. abedgunner
    April 1, 2009 at 4:40 am #

    we can beat everyone in the world, but personally i would like the repeat of the 2006 final Arsenal vs Barcelona. only for arsenal to in and gain revenge

  34. abedgunner
    April 1, 2009 at 4:40 am #

    we can beat everyone in the world, but personally i would like the repeat of the 2006 final Arsenal vs Barcelona. only for arsenal to win and gain revenge

  35. censored
    April 1, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    oh dear with v persie out it could prove costly for arsenal in our bid for fa cup and champions league trophy

  36. JOE_NIKE10
    April 2, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    if we beat villareal… we are the one of the both final team

  37. patrick mwabila
    April 3, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    Iam happy to get updated on our lovely club activity and other important information. we need to have comfidence in all our players because at the the end of the day , we are made proud.Rosisk recovery is great news because we realy need his services like yestaday.Have a good one there.

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