With the huge Champions League clash with AC Milan just around the corner Arsenal have been boosted by the news that no less than six players have been made available since the weekend defeat to Manchester United. Arsene Wenger revealed that regular starters Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy as well as squad players Denilson and Theo Walcott have all recovered from injury, while Bacary Sagna looks set to start despite the death of his brother just a week ago.
“Bacary Sagna is back so are Gael Clichy, Mathieu Flamini and Emmanuel Adebayor. Manuel Almunia is not completely ready to play. But he is getting there and is very close now. Jens Lehmann will start. Denilson is back in the squad and Theo Walcott is in too.”
I said in the aftermath of the game against United that the key reason for the heavy defeat was the absence of the Flamini, Adebayor and the two full-backs so to have all four back is fantastic news indeed. And whilst not quite important, the return of Denilson and Walcott will also add some much-needed depth to the squad. The only disappointment is Manuel Almunia’s failure to recover from the virus he is dealing with, but given Jens Lehmann’s performance on Saturday and his previous record in this competition I don’t think it will make too much of a difference to Arsenal’s chances of winning the game.
What will certainly make a difference is the return of Clichy, Sagna, Flamini and Adebayor. They have undoubtedly been the four most consistent performers throughout the season and will add much needed width, heart and an attacking threat – in respective fashion – to the side. Milan’s tendency to play very narrow will mean that Clichy and Sagna have a good opportunity to stretch the Italian club across the park while Flamini’s tenacity should see the threat of Kaka nullified to a certain extent. As for Adebayor, well, he’s the top scorer for Arsenal this season and any club in the world would welcome their top scorer back for a game of this magnitude.
One of the big mysteries going into the game for Arsenal surrounds the formation that Wenger chooses to play against Milan. I mentioned yesterday that the manager had hinted at a 4-5-1 with Gilberto Silva acting as a security blanket in front of the defence but I also suggested that Wenger could (and should) go with a 4-4-2 with the Brazilian on the bench and Eduardo da Silva starting up front alongside Adebayor. Only time will tell what Wenger does. But as the manager emphasised, whilst the formation and strategy that he employs in the game will matter to a certain extent, the most important thing for the boys is that they are able to play with the right attitude.
“What is important is that we play without the handbrake on and go into the match with desire. We have to play free of pressure and I believe we will do that. We can express our talents in a game of this magnitude. I believe we will do that.”
I have to say that I absolutely believe it too. For whatever reason, I am ridiculously confident that Arsenal will do the job tomorrow and get the win they require to travel to the San Siro with confidence. I really feel that the return of the ‘magic quartet’ will make all the difference in the tie and give Arsenal the energy and quality that they lacked against Manchester United on Saturday. Flamini tends to make Cesc Fabregas play better, which tends to impact on Alexandr Hleb and if the the little Frenchman can have a good game then I think Arsenal will take at least a one-goal lead from the first leg. Wouldn’t 2-0 be nice though? Come on boys!
What do you think?
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