Arsenal midfield could take a leaf out of Barcelona’s book

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Diaby is back from injuryIt’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.

Have your say on Arsenal’s huge clash with Villarreal by leaving a comment.


61 thoughts on “Arsenal midfield could take a leaf out of Barcelona’s book

  1. Well said SF. I agree that attack is our best form of defence. We need a positive start, and if we can get an early goal it’ll settle the team and the crowd. Recent history suggests we’ll see one of those horrible, edge of the seat nailbiters, which will go right to the wire. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to extra time.

  2. We should play like this:)


    Cesc isn’t that good when he plays as (almost) a striker. He should distribute balls from the midfield, not act as a target player. With both Ade and RvP on the field we will be unbeatable:P
    With Nasri and RvP pushing from the flanks Ade won’t be alone.

  3. Fellow gooners, what do you guys say to Wenger approaching Mathieu Coutadeur? I’ve seen him play once and I didn’t get too much from that some ten minutes of play.

    Has anyone heard about him he’s meant to be a real prospect with clubs such as hamburg and Stuttgart interested. He’s a central midfielder and is “known for his passing”.

    This is probably not the solution as a Defensive midfielder whom could add steel to the middle of the park SHOULD be a preferred option. Inler has also been linked although the club is ransoming over something like 22.2m…Forget that.

    Well, we’ll see in good time what Wenger does. Honestly, i think he will transform a player whom plays in an other position and change him into a DM like he’s transformed Henry from a winger to a striker and Flamini into a versatile player with him even playing at Left-back

  4. I think what TA said could be the truth.However as a defence you have to operate as a unit . In that case the gunners could neutralizwe whatever threat presented by anyone of Villareal,Chelsea ,Liverpool,MU etc.
    There are no easy games and if you want to be the best you have to beat these teams.

  5. My friend is a liverpool fan and I said to him I think Barca will win the UCL. He thinks their defence is S**T. But I say they may concede 1 or 2 but they score 4 or 5. They hav Puyol, Abidal, Dani Alves in defence which is a good defence, but with players like Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Keita, they pass it through players, they pass it with ease and it is just great to watch, and then when Eto’o and Henry join in, it just looks fantastic and most teams cant handle it. We play that great football from time to time but they play it all the time. I think we will go through tonight, whether that be a 0-0 or a win.

  6. I have no problem with Gibbs at left back at all. he actually had a good game bar that one moment at wigan. He will have learnt from that. he is a natural left footer with a great cross and lots of energy. I would definitely stick with Gibbs at left back.

    Diaby may come into the team instead of RVP but really I would expect to see Song, RVP, Walcott and Nasri all starting in a 4-4-2. That would mean Den has to miss out, but SOMEONE HAS to miss out. you cant fit 12 regular players into a team of 11. cesc is better than Den and they do the same job.

  7. Why aren’t Senderous and Traore back from loan? Big Phil has always done well in the CL apart from that liverpool game. Traore coming back would have been ideal for the Premiership games given that he has played a lot for Pompey this season. Instead we basically have no decent cover for Silvestre and Toure, Song doesn’t really count as CB cover.

  8. @ jay-jay – Anyone who thinks Barcelona’s defence is poor is just plain wrong. They play attacking football for sure, but that doesn’t mean their defence is weak. They have two great defensive midfielders in Keita and Toure and a consistent back five that works extremely well together. They don’t concede many goals (check their La Liga stats) and in Gerard Pique finally have a top class physical partner for Carlos Puyol.

    Personally I think people that pick holes in Barca’s defence are just lazy journalists who are playing on the assumption that just because the side attacks well they don’t have the ability to grind. They’re favourites for the Champions League and would be deserved winners if they get it (and we don’t!).

  9. I think Gibbs and Fabianski at the back is a bit of a risk given their relative inexperience. I’d rather have one and then an experienced, if slightly out of position, defender.

    Not sure what to make of the approach for Coutadeur. Our midfield seems to have similar players to him already – like Song and Denilson – at least Wenger is trying to craft them into similar players.

    Fingers crossed, Wenger will make an approach for a COUPLE of centre backs this summer. We’ve been threadbare in that department for the last few seasons.

  10. As long as we don’t have another roma tie when they score early and I’m just staring at the clock waiting to see how much time we have before we score.
    Off this topic but I missed the end of the last one and just want add my 2 cents over this carrick bullshit as he is nowhere as good as (or even half of) viera and silva who both have wc winners medals and who both were in championship winning sides. denilson and song may be that stepping stone with a fully fit squad and some of our young guns like wilshere, thomas and gibbs getting blooded in next season, we then have maybe the next manure kids ala becks scholes and co but only better. These youngsters will have wc medals I’m sure but how many manure players can say over the last 3 wc’s have done better than us gooners? Arsne to be England manager in 2014 with our youngsters over here in oz now thats dreaming spanish eh!!!!!!!!

  11. I can’t see the point of disrupting the back four even more by shifting Sagna to left back and bringing in Eboue. Better to play Sylvestre at centre back and Gibbs at left back . Fabianski is the only option in goal. I think Denilson, Fabragas and Song will play deep with Nasri and Walcott behind Adebayor in a 4,3,2,1 formation. We have the option of Van Persie if we need a late goal or Eboue if we need to hold on to a lead.

  12. Barca are no slouches at the back but Abidal is way over-rated and Alves can get caught out of position. I’d fancy our chances to get in behind them and cause some problems – such a shame Arsh isnt available..

  13. Also where can I watch the match cause they are showin the MANURE and PORTO game here in AUSTRALIA. We always miss out

  14. Have just updated the blog on account of the official Arsenal site announcing that Kieran Gibbs will be starting.

    “Manuel Almunia (ankle), William Gallas (knee) and Gael Clichy (back) all picked up problems in Spain while Johan Djourou (knee) suffered a knock at Wigan on Saturday.

    It leaves Wenger fielding Lukasz Fabianski, 23, in goal with Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Mikael Silvestre – without a start since January 3 – and 19-year-old Kieran Gibbs as the back four.”

  15. I have to disagree with SF in saying that Gerard Pique is top class, he is the weak link in the Barca defence. To be honest, the Barca back four has yet to be put under major pressure this season, they don’t concede many goals because their attacking players are very good at keeping the ball. I agree that Toure and Keita are quality.

  16. @ kurupt the replays are on espn at 6.45 syd time and prob the same on sbs just get a sleep in and try not to jump o the site if we go 1-0 down as that will jinx us haha. 2-0 with ade scoring both and making me eat my words that he is/was overrated.

  17. @SF
    I read that article and you maybe right but I wouldn’t think that Arsene would put out his real line up yet.
    Getting nervous here in Turkey, yet again finger nails are gone, but what other use have they got than being bitten.
    Do you guys down under have a sleep before these games and get up to watch them or just drink through the night?
    It is a difficult call regarding who I want to win the other game, as an Englishman I always want an English team to do well, but I know that if we get through tonight that we can do a job on Porto, we’ve done that already this season. I am not so sure with manure, so come on Porto!!!

  18. dont think silvester should start at all the guy is past it. even for asnl reserves he plays crap! think gibbs can handle the pressure they should slot eboue in the right with bacry and kolo center in my opinion thats the strongist back line we can field.

  19. Diaby is not average, he is pretty damn good, he just hasnt had a consistent run in the side, due to always getting injured….

    this arsenal side now going forward is the best side in the champions league…

    just defensively with Gallas out we might be wobbly

  20. SF,
    Barca defence is WEAK. beleive it or not, Dani Alves is a weak link in that defence. He is not as fast as he thinks he is, and leaves holes at the back. That was how Seville got slaughtered by Milan last year. he hasn’t learnt new tricks since then. Abidal at LB is not spectacular. Puyol is more brawn than brains and so is Marquez. Valdez is not even as good as Almunia that we gripe about all day. On a good day, their midfield should consist of Iniesta, Xavi and Toure/Busquet (when they are at their attacking best on a 4-3-3), their 3 strikers have issues with defending and cannot really help when they are under pressure. Of the 3 Midfielders, only Toure/Busquet (and only one can play ata a time) is solid defensively. Their game is built on defending by attacking. A few teams have overcome the fear of Barca and come out smoking, and they’ve given them a good fight. Make no mistake, they WILL score. Pressure their defence and they will concede more than they can score. Cheers. Gunners 4 Victory

  21. @ KURUPT, have a look at – there are normally loads of links there that enables you to watch the game via p2p streams.
    You will have to download some software first, I’d say get TVU, SopCast and TVAnts (download links to all of them on the aforementioned webpage) and you’ll have plenty of streams to choose from.

    There is also another option of watching the game after it’s finished (make sure to turn off your phone and stay away from the news though!! 😉 ), and that is the Arsenal Vlog at:
    There you can download torrents of the full match about an hour or so after full time.

    Good luck!

    As for our line-up today, I reckon we should play:

    Eboue – Sagna – Toure – Gibbs

    Song – Denilson

    Walcott Nasri


  22. hopin sylvestre doesnt start toni mite get away against likes of wigan but CL way to high standard for him thesedays…my team toni
    in my opinion that team can do the job while still having influencial players to come off the bench to change things if necessary….no more injurys please

  23. 3 strikers, 3 cmf, 1 GK on the bench. No defender! should be interesting. We should win with the lineup though

  24. If we lose this match, it’s probably going to be due to the fact that our squad isn’t fit for purpose. That defence is terrifying. There’s no way we should be putting out a back five like that in an Champions league quarter final!

  25. IM WORRIED… Villarreal is no joke and sadly our back 5 right now is… We are going to need goals and lots of them… The squad better be ready for a battle like yesterday’s Chelsea/Liv game

  26. 3-0 and villarreal down to 10, I think it is us against manure, unless Porto score. Great game so far lets score some more. Did anyone see Ronaldo’s goal, absolutely brilliant strike from at least 35 yds.

  27. Im happy with the performance, its good to see us not conceding. Its the chavs next, our biggest test of the year so far. Lets hope we pull off another solid performance.

  28. I thought Arsenal looked really good today. I was particularly impressed with the defense – I thought Silvestre and Gibbs stepped up well. And nothing’s more of a sure thing than RVP taking a penalty. 🙂

    Hooray for the Gunners!
    –Adrienne in Seattle


    please beat Chelsea- I want to personally ruin Man Utds chances in every competition

  30. I could only be happier if Porto had gotten through. I would love to see Wengers critics now, the people that said Arsenal are having a crisis season. Semi finalists in both FA and UCL. And we could be finalists of the FA cup at the weekend. Still not conceded a goal at home in the UCL this season, which shows we have a solid defence and still we kept a clean sheet, Villarreal are very reliant on Senna, they were a different team to the one we played in Spain, they had no Senna. We have a good chance to get a trophy this season. Walcotts goal was good, great chip, fabregas touch was good to though. The passion in Rvps celebration makes me confident the players are up for the ride, they want to get a trophy.

  31. Song is growing so fast its crazy… His confidence on the ball is astonishing all of a sudden… We could have ourselves a player here folks.

    I really think Fabregas needs to elarn to be patient to take his game to the next level. Keep the ball in posession instead of going for the killer pass as soon as possible. This will open up so much more for himself and the team.

    Forget Porto- I wanted Man Utd. Will be 2 incredible games. Hope Djourou is healthy for the weekend but I havent heard anything…

  32. 2 def. Arsenal vs United games.

    MY god some good football is goign to be played. I cant wipe the smile off my face.

    I look forward to knocking you guys out

  33. Ade vs Vidic, Carrick vs Song, RvP/Eduardo vs Rio, Clichy vs Ronaldo, Toure vs Rooney, Cesc vs Giggs, Theo vs Neville, Nasri vs Evra.

    Goodness me, interesting battles everywhere, its going to be a cracker. I reckon we have the edge over the mancs b/c of our superior attacking skills and our defense is really solid this year. I really cant wait for this. 🙂

  34. Yeah boys thats arsenal for you everyone writes us off and we prove everybody wrong and song was awesome today. Hope gibbs will be right for the chelscum game.
    @ sf even though he scored ade was woefull today at least 6 offsides was his and thats just plain lazy but now we all know why walcott has the no.14 had the master all over that goal.

  35. @ butterfingers – Ade woeful today? What? He was excellent. There were offsides for sure but no-one leads the line quite like he does.

    Well done Arsenal, more to come later today on the blog!

  36. I still think Ade needs to watch as much of Pippo Inzaghi as he can… Its not the offside that worry me- its the first touch/ off ball movement… If he can train himself to need one touch to score every time, he will be one of the best around. He did it on his goal today- 1 touch, wide open, buries it. I dream of him being Inzaghi but taller

  37. Inzaghi aint and wasnt that great, he just takes one touch and shoot. Like someone said before he is a striker with a compass, imo he could never create something out of nothing he always relied on the delivery. But I would be very happy if Adebayor could be 1/5 as good as Ronaldo was at his best, not C.Ronaldo the fat legend ronaldo, I would be very happy but 1/5 might be asking too much.

  38. trying to compare two completely different players in Inzagi and Ade.

    Hey does anyone know who plays at home first for the United vs Arsenal match.

    To me the home match in the second leg will be a advantage

  39. @ Ronaldo7 – I am extremely excited and to answer your other question, Arsenal will play the away leg second. As you said I see it as an advantage.

  40. Umm I dont know about you guys but I havent seen Ade create his own goals… In fact he was near useless when Fabs passes werent available…

  41. Did anyone notice that Fabregas gave the ball away a bit too much in defense? I notice he was being a bit slack. Of course, his assist making in attack made up for that, coupled with Song working hard as DM.

  42. I thought everyone performed very well except the weakest link – silvestre. too many unforced errors for my liking. if not for fabianski, he could have cost us the match yesterday.

  43. A solid perfomance,the team proved that they can fill in gaps left by any injured player,unlike villareal,after losing carzorla,they had a good first game,losing senna was too much for them,ours is not built on one player,we lose a first choice keeper, a first choice defender,his able deputy,no 1 rightback,no 1 leftback,and what you know, we go out and smash 3 goal to win a game,its nothing but pure managerial class,wenger has the knowlwdge and foresight to take this team anywhere. song,great read on the midfield,eboue,gibbs toure,great to watch,fabianski,al better get well or this kid will put him on the bench,bailed silvestre out more than once,great overall performance. next stop,wembly,hope JD is fit or silvestre beter pick up his game.Stern test ahead.GO GUNNERS,GO.

  44. A very fitting article written on teamtalk:

    Gunners on course for greatness

    TEAMtalk feels Arsene Wenger has been proved right once again after seeing his young side roar into the Champions League semi-finals.

    Wenger does not often get things wrong – and everyone else will soon have little option but to believe his latest Arsenal generation are destined to be the best yet.

    Just a few months ago, the Gunners were written off as a club in crisis, with a team devoid of experience, steel and guile, relying too much on the potential of youth.

    On Wednesday night, though, the side led by 21-year-old captain Cesc Fabregas, fighting fit again having missed more than three months with a serious knee injury, set up a Champions League semi-final against holders Manchester United with a 3-0 win over Villarreal at an electric Emirates Stadium.

    Next up is the small matter of an FA Cup semi-final date with Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday afternoon, and although this season’s Premier League title is all but out of reach, few can deny Wenger’s latest talents their place among Europe’s elite.

    The unwavering faith in youth has long been a trait of the shrewd Frenchman, knowing the direction the club would have to take as they embarked on the move from Highbury to a new, 60,000-seater home at Ashburton Grove.

    It was fitting then that three of his young proteges combined for the opening goal which set Arsenal on their way after 10 minutes, Theo Walcott latching onto a deft backheel from Fabregas to touch on a through ball from the once-maligned, but now rejuvenated, Emmanuel Eboue.

    From then on, the Gunners never looked like surrendering their grip on the tie, most of the hard work already done in securing a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Spain last week courtesy of a brilliant scissor-kick strike from Emmanuel Adebayor.

    Certainly there seems little weakness in Arsenal’s forward line, which will add the mercurial Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin, who is cup-tied in Europe, to the mix, while Croatian striker Eduardo is another expected to be ready to grace Wembley.

    In midfield, the reputation of Alex Song, still only 21, continued to grow, with the Cameroon international holding the line to allow Fabregas more freedom.

    Wenger, though, will know his squad cannot afford any more losses in defence, with full-back Bacary Sagna ruled out tonight because of a virus, adding to a growing absentee list which includes Gael Clichy, centre-backs William Gallas and Johan Djourou, as well as goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

    Stand-in Kieran Gibbs picked up a kick on his foot late on, but played out the final minutes.

    Continue to play with such wonderful flare and spirit going forwards, however, and Arsenal’s shortcomings at the back could well prove inconsequential over the defining weeks of the campaign.

    This result will send Arsenal to Wembley full of confidence.

    When the Gunners last played a major final at the stadium, winning the FA Cup in 1998 and then the following season’s Charity Shield, Arsenal were a much different proposition – led by midfielder enforcer and captain Patrick Vieira, soon to be inspired by the genius of Thierry Henry.

    Now, though, is the turn of Wenger’s latest generation to repay their manager’s heart-felt belief they have the talent to deliver silverware once again.

    The Gunners faithful were not afraid to voice a chorus of disapproval during difficult times earlier in the campaign, but the Emirates Stadium was at fever pitch from kick-off, as Walcott rampaged down the right, and almost gifted Adebayor a tap-in.

    Arsenal eventually took the lead after 10 minutes, when some quick passing put Walcott clear into the right side of the penalty area.

    The England forward needed no second invitation, and sent a clever chip over the advancing goalkeeper to put the Gunners a step closer to Rome.

    Leading scorer Robin van Persie saw his curling free-kick saved well by Diego Lopez, with Adebayor’s follow header hacked off the line.

    Villarreal went close in first-half stoppage time when Diego Godin headed over, but Arsenal made sure of a semi-final place when, on the hour, Van Persie released Adebayor to net his fourth goal in as many games.

    Dutchman Van Persie converted a penalty to make it 3-0 and finally sink the Yellow Submarine who had Villarreal’s Sebastian Eguren sent off after he was shown a second yellow card, for dissent when arguing the decision.

    At the final whistle, Wenger allowed himself a wry smile, once again being proved the man in whom Arsenal’s complete trust is indeed well placed.

  45. great game and fantastic result.disposed easily of a team that man utd couldnt score once gain in 4 games in the CL!all in all it was a solid performance with only silvestre looking suspect.i just hope he doesnt have to play too much cos in all honesty he isnt a great player and i fear he could cost us at some point.really impressed with gibbs last night.had concerns for us when i saw the back 4 but gibbs turned in a very accomplished performance and eboue did what he does best, drive forward from deep and offered excellent support to walcott.special mention to song who was brilliant last night.he seemed to have much more urgency to his game.i just hope he can maintain it.ade took his goal really well and thankfully i can laugh about it now but ive never known a striker be offside as much as him!learn the rules!!!!!!hoped we might see dudu last night but if he’s fit i think he’s gonna be a big player for us before the seasn is done.this season could be the making of our young team……

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