Milan, Inter, Real, Barca or Porto for Arsenal

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Arsenal finished as runners-up of their Champions League group despite beating Steaua Bucharest last night.

Nicklas Bendtner celebrates Arsenal’s second goalArsene Wenger’s side accounted for the Romanian champions 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium but finished second after Sevilla’s late surge saw them steal the points away to Slavia Prague to guarantee the Spanish side top spot. Arsenal went one up through Abou Diaby’s 8th-minute strike and took a commanding lead into the break when Nicklas Bendtner struck again just before half-time. Steaua Bucharest did pull one back through substitute Dorel Zaharia’s fine header but it was too little, too late as Arsenal held out for their fourth win of the Champions League group stages.

There’s not much point going into the performance too much as this was effectively a dead rubber, but in my eyes there were two major positives to come out of the game. The first was the welcome return of both Robin van Persie and goalscorer Diaby to the starting lineup and the second was that the side was able to get back to winning ways before the crucial Premiership clash with Chelsea on Sunday.

Both van Persie and Diaby looked sharp and after coming through 70-odd minutes each they look a good bet to play a big part in the Chelsea game. When you consider that Mathieu Flamini is likely to return and Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb are still chances to make the squad then it looks like Wenger will be able to field a much stronger side than the one which slumped away to Middlesbrough last weekend.

Regardless of the almost pointless nature of the fixture, I think it’s important that Wenger’s side grabbed a win before meeting Chelsea and that they did so with such a controlled performance is pleasing. I thought Alexandre Song added some much-needed dynamism to the centre of the park and up front Bendtner again sent out another very clear ‘I’m here if you need me’ message to the Arsenal coaching staff. I don’t think Emmanuel Adebayor’s position is under threat at this stage but as I’ve said in the past it’s good to know Bendtner is ready and raring to go if injury befalls his African teammate.

Emmanuel Eboue will unlikely be missedSecond in the group no disaster

The major negative to come out of the night was of course Sevilla’s win in Prague which ensured that Arsenal finished second in the group, and will inevitably face a very tough second-round opponent. Wenger spoke a little bit about this after the match, unsurprisingly pointing to the success that his side had in the competition two seasons ago and suggesting that a tougher opponent may bring out the best in his side.

“We knocked Madrid and Juventus out two years ago. What is good if you get a big club everybody is focused and up for it and at their best.”

I’ve spoken about this previously and I totally agree. There is a clear pattern of Arsenal struggling against smaller sides in the knockout stages of the Champions League over the years and I really feel a more difficult opponent could force the players to lift their game. Wenger’s side will face one of Porto, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona or Real Madrid in the second round and there’s no question that it’s going to be tough. Many people will remain hopeful of drawing the Portuguese side but I’d fancy Arsenal if they had to take on any of those sides. Except maybe AC Milan, those guys scare me.

Some news that broke before the Arsenal-Steaua Bucharest was the announcement that Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure have been named in the Ivory Coast squad for the African Cup of Nations that kicks off in January. As a result, Eboue and Toure will be unavailable from the start of January until midway through February, but I had a little run through the fixtures that are taking place during that time and when it’s all said and done it’s nowhere near as bad is it could’ve been. There are six Premiership games in all during the period, four of which are at home and the toughest of them all looks to be an away clash against Manchester City.

When you consider that Adebayor could’ve been missing as well I think things have actually worked out quite well for Arsenal. The biggest worry is of course the absence of Toure (I’m sure most people will be delighted with Eboue having some time off), but as long as Johan Djourou returns to the squad and Flamini is still around protecting the back four then I don’t think Arsenal will have too many problems. That’s something that cannot be said of Arsenal’s Sunday opponents who will lose no less than four key players; Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel. Ouch.

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal-Bucharest or the ACN by leaving a comment.


28 thoughts on “Milan, Inter, Real, Barca or Porto for Arsenal

  1. I think Internazionale would be the easiest game. The last few years they always screw up in the Champions League, partly because i think they are more worried about winning the Serie A, which it is geting closer between Roma and Inter for the top spot. It dont matter though, Porto, Barca, Milano, Real… we’ll beat any of them. Even Milano.. i’ve seen alot of their league games this year, they dont impress me, altho they do step up their game in the CL.

  2. Inter scare me more than AC, although I’d prefer the Italians anyday above the Spanish. Both spanish outfits can match Arsenal’s game but we have a much better chance against the Italian sides given our speed and dynamism…

  3. Something about AC Milan in the Champions League is scary. They consistently perform well and I can’t see that stopping this year, even despite the Serie A troubles. Inter don’t bother me for some reason, neither do Real Madrid overly. Barca would be tough and Porto are on paper the easiest, but there’s something about Arsenal going in as favourites that might work against us.

  4. As long as Giberto doesn’t play, we would be fine. Not Porto, I think Inter would be most ideal team to face. However both Inter and Milan wrote us off before and during the season, it will be nice to knock them out. So what even it is Milan? It is a old men team… vs our youngsters… interesting.

  5. For the Champion´s league, I say bring them on. In the end it is a game, and I want to watch a good one. Both Madrid and Barca have scary good offensive players, but both also depend on speed in their attack, which plays right into our defensive strengths. I think any of those teams can be had, but it all depends on how well we play…and whether Cesc and Alex are healthy.

  6. i was very delighted with Bendtner’s performance and that young man is a real leader because i liked the fact that he was communicating all the time with his team mates which was good to see, was impressed by senderos and Song’s performances, Denilson again was superb, he needs more games. Traore, Diarra and Diaby need to cut out those unnecessary touches on the ball, wont help but put our defenders in tricky situations

  7. Arsenal will get cesc and hleb back for the chelsea game and we can beat them. A club like porto are easily defeatable and madrid are not a threat either! GO ARSENAL ! !! &*!#%**(#&$*)%#*$

  8. Take your pick: AC.Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid I. Milan, Porto.I’ve noticed you guys mentioning the word “Scary” a lot on this blog about the other teams, nothing to fear trust me. My question is not who do we want in the next round but which one of them wants to play us. The answer is none. All of them will be looking to avoid us in the next round and that is already a pshycological advantage. If we beat one of these teams the confidence will be sky high and the rest will fear us even more. I have a sneaky feeling its going to be Barcelona and as I mentioned before I can’t wait for it to happen SF is with me on this one it would be our chance to set the record sraight with them. The legend Henry said he would hate to play against Arsenal and he knows why. Hopefully he’ll score an own goal for us.
    Seriously with a full strength team we can beat all of these teams.So stop fearing and start beleiving in our team.Sky has mentioned the winner in CL gets a £27 million compare that to the Premier league winner gets £60. So the prority for me is the Premier League.

  9. “All of them will be looking to avoid us in the next round and that is already a pshycological advantage.”

    Great point. It’s all psychological and whoever draws Arsenal will get a sinking feeling in their stomach. Can’t wait. I loved seeing Arsenal play the big teams a couple of seasons ago and it’s going to be great fun again.

  10. I don’t think inter should be underestimated this year, they’ve been in some decent form of late both at home and in europe. It certainly is good to have RvP back – he is silky smooth upfront.
    Looking forward to the chelsea game, shaping up to be a cracker night of football. !

  11. Le Gunner and SF I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself. Why would all these teams want to avoid Arsenal that much? For as long as I’ve been following football Arsenal have only been decent in the CL once. I’m sure if PSV made it through they wouldn’t care if they got to play Arsenal. I reckon the teams mentioned above would prefer to play Arsenal over Liverpool, Chelsea or Man Utd due to their good results in the CL over the past years. You think you will have a psychological advantage over all those teams? 2 of those teams have won the champs league in the last 3 years… I think that’s a psychological advantage. They have what it takes to win it. I think Arsenal will be the ones with the sinking feeling if they come up against AC or Barca.

  12. The feeling I’m referring to is say Barca or Milan’s when they could possibly play host to a much easier team when Arsenal are the most difficult team of the second-place finishers. Chelsea, Man United etc all finished top so cannot play the teams mentioned. If, say Inter could draw the likes of Olympiakos or Schalke then they’re going to be disappointed if Arsenal’s name pops out. That’s the psychological advantage I’m speaking of, and I think Le Gunner’s point is much the same. PS. You’re 100% right about the Chelsea game – it’s going to be a cracker!

  13. Thomas you are missing the point. The likes of Milan Madrid Barcelona Can’t play M.utd chelsea they are the seeded teams, in the runners up group there are only 2 teams that stand out. Arsenal and Liverpool. Like Sf said if you ask them who do you want to play in the next round they would rather pick the likes of Chalke. I hope it is clear for you now. M.utd Chelsea and Liverpool are among the favourites no one is denying that but you can’t dismiss the fact that Arsenal are the contenders alongside Liverpool if you look at runners up group. So surely the seeded group would want to avoid them and it is playing on their mind.

  14. At our best, We can beat anybody.I fancy AC Milan. If we are fluid enough as normal, we can neutralise their midfield and diminish Kaka’s threat. I would fancy Van Persie and Eduardo upfront. We need to be clinical since there may not be too many chances.

  15. drawing Barca will make me nod and smile..we need to prove to these dudes that we were always better than’s gonna be tough with any other of the teams anyway. about chelsea, am sure we going to beat them.. if Flamini will be back n Hleb n Fab still out, i wouldn’t mind seeing Diaby in the creative mid-field…cheers!

  16. i wud lyk 2 face Porto or Barca. porto r the easiest top seeds and we have revenge agaisnt barca 4 2 reasons. 1) Champo league final and 2) They have our legend. This will be a match 2 prove we mean business and that we dont need Henry to survive.

  17. “Except maybe AC Milan, those guys scare me.” i like that,they are a bit scary,but with teams that attack alot haev to remember to defend when they face us and mos of them are not that good at it thts why we not too worrried except ofcourse AC Milan like you said hahahaha

  18. Milano shouldnt scare anybody. If you look at what they’ve done in the Serie A, they are in 10th place, with 3 losses and 6 draws already and Arsenal are much better then the teams they’ve drawn with this year. Study how teams have beat and hung in with Milano, and we could beat them. Even tho they do step it up in the Champions league, some of those old legs are starting to show, and our youngsters (if all are healthy) can expose that. To beat Milano you have to control the midfield.

  19. You’re probably right Demetrio, it just seems to me that some of those old legs live for big Champions League games. They have such a consistent record and the ease with which they despatched Manchester United in the semi-final and how comfortable they were against Liverpool in the final shows they know how to play English teams. I know they’re struggling this season and even if they weren’t I’d still fancy us, I just have a personal fear of AC Milan.

  20. AC Milan may know how English teams play, but we play like no other english team so they will have just as much trouble as the next team. Our passing is flawless, any team gets confused. Old legs or young legs, when it comes to AC Milan in the CL they do well. SF is right they play much better, dnt judge milan on their Serie A standings, they r like Liverpool, crap in the league but great in the CL. I still feel we cud have them infact i fell we cud have any of them. FC Porto easily the weakest of the bunch. Barcelona i belive we will play our best agaisnt this team, like we have something to prove and to say to Henry that we are coping n tht he made the rong decision 2 leave us. Inter we beat them in pre-season, they arent great in the CL. Madrid – we beat them before, we can do it agen and finally AC we can show them how a good english side can play.

  21. Well, lads..I guess it doesn’t really matter who we get now. Remember that WE WANT TO WIN IT ALL this year, and for that that will be no shortcuts. If you don’t play Barca or AC Milan now, you will run into them later on. So facing them now or in the next round makes no difference at all.
    Champions League is the toughest competition of all Sports! Beat Barca, then you face Real Madrid, Beat Real Madrid and then you face AC Milan..So to me what do we care who we meet first? Does it really matter? there is no shortcut! You have to go through them!!!

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