Wenger should look to Walcott with away goal the key

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Theo Walcott should start against RomaIt’s the second leg of Arsenal’s Champions League tie with Roma in Italy tonight – and what an interesting game it looks to be.

Arsene Wenger and our boys will take with them to Rome a 1-0 lead from the first leg at The Emirates. The general consensus from that match was that although we performed well a one-goal advantage was the bare minimum reward for such a dominant display. Even so, a clean sheet will see us through to the quarter-finals while a goal will ensure Roma have to summon three from somewhere, an extremely tough task even accounting for their home advantage.

The plan going into the contest will be to remain solid and organised at the back, ensuring we don’t concede while constantly looking to hit Roma on the break with pace and swift movement. It’s a task that we did expertly against Milan last season and although the personnel is far from  the same, I do feel we have the players available to get the required result.

Team news going into the game is excellent, with Kolo Toure being passed fit to start and no fresh injuries emerging from the weekend. All of the players that were rested against Burnley – Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Denilson, Samir Nasri, Nicklas Bendtner and Robin van Persie – are available, meaning Wenger has a large compliment of players to choose from, something that has rarely been said this season.

You have to suspect that the manager will start with the 4-5-1 formation that worked so well against Roma in the first leg. The first-choice back five of Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas and Clichy picks itself while Denilson is set to play the holding role in front of the defence. I can’t see anyone other than van Persie playing as the lone-striker meaning that Bendtner is likely to play on the left – as he did in the first leg – leaving Nasri to float around ‘in the hole’.

That leaves two spots open; one in the central midfield alongside Denilson and the other on the right wing. In a game where we will be doing our fair share of defending and will need to be reliant on pace and athleticism to attack Roma on the break, I’m hoping that the manager starts both Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott. The former because he tends to perform well in slower-paced Champions League games is a towering threat from set pieces and the latter simply because he is the quickest player in our squad.

Just sticking with Walcott for a moment and my personal opinion is that he will have far more impact on the game if played from the start as opposed to being used off the bench. The way I see it, with Roma needing to score to stay in the tie the impetus will be on them to attack, leaving gaps at the back from the start. If the home side do get the opener I feel they’re likely to go back in their shell and sit on their lead, denying Walcott the space he needs to work in. In that situation Wenger could pull Walcott off and put on a player who has the ability to work in tight spaces, someone like Eduardo or Carlos Vela.

In contrast, if we happen to score first then the manager has the option to replace Walcott with a more defensively secure option in Emmanuel Eboue. If the scores stay level and Walcott begins to tire then Vela could come on to provide continued pace on the break. For all of these reasons I really hope the manager goes from Walcott from the start and if he does, I think it will make the task of scoring a precious away goal just that little bit easier.

Roma do of course have some great attacking players that we will need to keep an eye on. Francesco Totti and Julio Baptista both failed to fire in the first leg but the pair are sure to be a different proposition in Rome, while Mirko Vucinic – as I mentioned before the first game – is a player that I rate exceptionally highly. With Roma requiring a goal I feel they will play all three up front and it means our defence as well as Denilson and Diaby in the middle will have to work their socks off to close down the space in the middle of the park.

My final thoughts going into the game against Roma are that while we’re well placed to win it and really should do given the squad that is available, it’s going to take a tremendous team effort to get the job done. As I said before the Milan game last season, the longer the game stays goalless the more dangerous we will become and I really fancy us to nick a goal or two on the break with the pressure firmly on the home side.

I’ve put a sneaky fiver on a 3-0 win for us (at $34) and another fiver on Diaby to score the first goal (at $19). In the meantime, enjoy the game wherever in the world you may be watching and COME ON ARSENAL!!!

Have your say on Arsenal’s trip to Rome by leaving a comment.


67 thoughts on “Wenger should look to Walcott with away goal the key

  1. I always seem to get my comments on the end of a long line, so here goes lets get in first for once.
    @Spanish Fry
    I find your analysis of the game plan very interesting and I tend to agree with you, we will need some pace to break open their defence. Last year we played against an aging back four which were no match for our attacking play. I think Roma will be more mobile than that but given the chances that we had in the 1st leg I feel, that with our more attack minded players coming back then we have the fire power to score at least one. In fact if we do get one then I see more coming as Roma will have to attack more and allow us to score on the break.
    I see the side being lined up as follows (Toure is back from injury)
    Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichey
    Nasri, Denilson, Diaby, Song, Walcott
    But how I would love to be able to put Pires in that team who is still playing every week in Spain (I think).
    Come on you Gunners

  2. Morning everyone:
    That’s tough betting SF. Good luck. I will be glad if we win with that scoreline.

    Wenger will go with this team:

    Sagna Toure Gallas Clichy
    —-Diaby Denilson—-

    Diaby always seems to perform on big stages. Last year he played very well on both legs against Milan. This year he was everywhere against Manyoo and Roma.

    Diaby/Denilson is fine with me.

  3. 3-0 would be nice but after seeing luckypool winning at home that might of buyoed roma as no one would of bet on that score line (wonder what odds that would of been) Still walcott has proved his worth in the cl last season against milan when eboue would of thrown himself to the floor as if he ha been shot but walcott stayed up and put in a assist (can’t remember for who)
    The game isn’t on espn until 10pm so I’ll be at work all day as I always watch the match without knowing the score so I’ll be staying away untill midnight from all computers, radios and tv’s with the news on and it’s going to be one hell of a long day just hope it will be worth it or I’ll be crying myself to sleep tomorrow night.

  4. Hi Dally; You can actually watch live football without using softwares like Sopcast. Visit Justin.TV. You just need Flash player I think…

    All the travelling fans be safe! Be aware of Romans. I couldn’t make it happen but couple of my friends just landed in Rome. It would be nice to hear from them when they return.

  5. @ramugunner
    Thanks for the info, I have down loaded flash player and have seen the Roma v Arsenal game link so will try tonight and let you know how I got on. Cheers.

  6. Great post SF.

    Now that i think about it, Eduardo and Walcott should start the game. We must get an early goal to force Roma to attack. So i think 4-4-2 should be our starting formation, if we go into half time with the lead, then we can then shift to 4-5-1 and defend our lead in the 2nd half.

    first half

    second half

  7. Agree with ‘Gibbs’, let’s nick 1st one or two goals with Walcott and Eduardo in the lin-up, then switch back to 4-5-1 with Eboue, Song and Bendtner coming for Walcott, RvP and Eduardo …
    Gunners OLE … :))

  8. I know they are plenty of players that have left Arsenal and succeeded but there are plenty of superstars who left the Gunners and became average, unknown to the point of wondering if it is worth leaving Arsenal for other teams in pursuit of greatness.

    Flamini left for AC Milan and has seriously struggled to make a mark, Thierry Henry, despite the few goals he has scored this season, is no longer being mentioned on the shortlist for the World Player of the Year, Alexander Hleb looks like he is on his way back to Germany. A certain MR Reyes left for the Bernabeu and is now lost in the Portuguese league, Nicolas Anelka only looked back to greatness eight years on after Arsenal. Most of the players that left Arsenal whilst great and needed have not reached the same level of greatness. In most cases their careers have disintegrated. Those that left when older and unhappy at one-year contracts have made a decent fist of it but then Patrick Vieira left to win the Champions League and the next season was totally outshone by Cesc as Arsenal reached the final.

    My theory is Arsene Wenger builds a great team unit and not great individual players. Players at Arsenal succeed because they are components in a well-woven engine and once taken out of that team setting they become duds. Only if they take time to rediscover and reorientate to a new setting can they become great or decent again. So Mr Adebayor and Van Persie before you think of leaving just remember the assists from Walcott, Fabregas, Sagna, Clichy and the rest.

  9. I think we’ll have to start with 4-5-1. It would be disastrous to concede early. I’d agree wioth you SF about atsrting line-up, but I’d replace Bedntner with Vela. Neither player defends well, but Vela is far more mobile and has a better first touch. With chances in the first half likely to be limited, a good firat touch will be vital. Also, the subtlety and technique shown by Vela when scoring at the weekend is something Bendtner simply doesn’t have. If the scores are level at half time, or we nick a goal and get ourselves ahead, we won’t need to change anything. If we’ve fallen behind, we’ll have Eduardo in the locker.

  10. @ fereria – Please make sure you quote other sources, otherwise I have to deal with copyright issues. Cheers.

    @ Fatboy – I don’t disagree about your Bendtner/Vela swap, but I’m sure the Dane was rested on Sunday for a reason and will start against Roma.

  11. i think walcott should stay on bench..and he will be used on second half, along side eduardo if the boys get tiered like the emirates match….

  12. @ Gibbs – I disagree with the idea to go 4-4-2. I also disagree that we need a goal to make Roma attack. They have to attack no matter what, if they don’t then we can play for 0-0. I think 4-5-1 is attacking enough as long as we have three players who can link well on the break and I believe we will have that in van Persie, Walcott and Bendtner, who is deceptively quick when in space. With Nasri supporting we will be dangerous in a 4-5-1.

  13. @ butterfingers/ramugunner – I don’t actually think we’ll win 3-0, but I do think it’s very possible if we score first. It’s more of a fun punt than anything else, as is the one on Diaby.

  14. @ SF

    I really dont mind going 4-5-1. I agree, Roma will attack no matter what but at 0-0, they will be a little cautious. An early goal will make them take more risks by pushing more players foward, this will leave their defence wide open and it will be easier for us to finish them off.

  15. Chelsea lack width and have a lot of old heads in the squad, Liverpool have problems with full-backs have only one good striker, Villa have a squad which consists of 15 people while Arsenal are covered in every position with quality players and we have the right balance of youth/experience. Almunia has stepped up and is one of the best keepers in the league, two experienced CBs with a promising youngster as cover, fullbacks are some of the best in the league with decent cover for both of them. We have wingers coming out of our arse, most of which can play down the middle and upfront. Centre midfield we have two youngsters who are currently doing a good job and Cesc who is a lot maturer for his age. The only thing we are missing is an experienced DM. Most of our so-called youngsters are now coming of age (RVP, Ade, Eboue, Clichy) while we have added to experienced players to the ranks in Silvestre and Arshavin. If we get in one player this summer (Veloso anyone?) and keep our current squad, then we WILL seriously challenge for the title next season. Arsene is nearly finished his project and soon it will be time to reap the rewards.

  16. @ James Le Beak – As I said with ‘fereria’, please don’t copy+paste other peoples writing and put it on the blog without quoting.

    Come on people, don’t make me have to do up commenting guidelines! I’m a busy man!

  17. suspect Wenger will start with the same eleven as in the first leg – if that is the case, I hope Van Persie and Bendtner swap positions as the latter is not a left winger and would be much better playing in the centre to disrupt their defenders. We can win this tie and very much hope we do as if we fail I feel this will impact badly on the rest of the season, we might not have the stomach to come back and fight again on the League and Cup fronts. Having watched an average Chelsea team progress against an equally average Juve ( where are the great European teams these days?), we do have an opportunity to go very far in this competition if our collective heads are in the right place. What worries me is how we approach this game. Three years ago we took a 1-0 lead to Villareal and Wenger again was full of the “we must not sit back” quotes. We did exactly that, played awfully and were very lucky to go through. What the other three English sides have, that we don’t, is resilience, which we don’t display consistently and that comes from a good attitude, team spirit and experience. On our day we can beat all the others for skill, flair and passing, but when the chips are down, the others seem to have more flexibility to change things and an ability to get a result. I just pray we don’t go a goal down as then it will be like the Alamo and we might suffer- Come on Gunners and let’s hope our supporters over there get home safe and don’t encounter Roma’s loony fans, some of whom I had the misfortune to see after the home leg!

  18. @ James Le Beak – So it is. My apologies dude, I’d read it on ‘Football365’ and didn’t realise it was actually yours. I often have people copy+paste so I try and prevent it as much as I can.

    Just on your post, I couldn’t agree more. And well done on adding something that is actually useful to their mailbox.

  19. No problems SF- We here in London are already getting the hjitters about this eve-the nerves are coming in- cant imagine how the lads must be feeling!!! c’MON gUNNERS!!

  20. greeting fellow gooners. i have one biggest concern here. hope that you can calm my nerves here. okay my worries is, what if roma scored in the first 2 minutes? i for once expected us to lost our composure and confidence. the whole aspect of the game will be changed completely, a 100% difference from previous 2 minutes since that kick off. is there any chances that we gonna crumble under pressure after that? based on records, this year, were not doin that well in terms of coming back in losing position, once at sundlund i remember, but other than that? burnley? fulham? porto?

  21. I agree gibbs and @ sf I do think we will beat them by 3-0 if not more and I hope we get luckypool and f%$k them up after that hleb didn’t have and babel shouldn’t have pens and that still grates me, also I broke my tv remote over that 2nd leg and the replacement remote sucked. I’ve got my flash telly now so if we lose I might just kick the bloody dog haha.
    Also this arvo in k-mart I saw some twit walking around in a real shirt (stupid or just wanting attention?) That has got to be my play of the day and to all you romans when in rome get beat by the poms yeah……….

  22. Good evening folks I have to document what a lot of you have been saying.

    People have been jumping on the bandwagon and slating the Gunners. The media, and their love and bias for Utd is so obvious it’s horrific.

    It appears that most people believe that United are set to sweep up every trophy in sight and dominate world football, crushing anyone who gets in their way. I have to admit, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy and start believing but the truth is reality is far different from fantasy & United could find that out. Remember the season 2003/04? Of course you do. That was the season Arsenal went through the entire Premiership campaign without a single defeat. Back then people were saying the same things about Arsenal as they saying about Utd now. Arsenal were going to win everything in sight and nobody could stop them. Fate didn’t follow suit. Within a few days we suffered a double blow when losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup and Chelsea in the Champions League. Football is unpredictable and that’s why I won’t get caught up in all the talk that Manchester United will win the lot. I’m sure the Manchester United players and Ferguson won’t either. If you listen to the media then the season may as well end now and lets just hand the trophies to Manchester United. I don’t listen to the media and happen to believe that Arsenal will ruin the party and win the Champions League and the FA Cup/People will call me an optimist and not a realist but why? I’m realistic enough to know that Arsenal, on their day, like Utd and Chelsea have found out, can match and beat the best. United deserve a lot of praise but I think winning everything is beyond them or anybody. They will win the Premiership, they have the Carling Cup but I think Arsenal will share the spoils and give everybody a reality check.

  23. @ rajivinindia – Even if we concede after two minutes, we’re not behind. We’ll play the game as it comes knowing that if we get just one goal we’re likely to knock them out.

  24. @ Jeff from Fulham – good point about RvP and Bendtner swapping roles. RvP often drifts out wide anyway. However, Bendtner is not the best at holding the ball up, and his first touch is suspect. If he’s the lone striker, he’ll need to recieve the ball, then hold onto it until support arrives. He doesn’t have the pace or the close skill required to beat a man one-on-one, so I’d be worried if was the only one up front. I totally agree with you about the way we approached the Villareal game in 06. That was bloody torture to watch. We don’t have the mentality to sit on a lead. Yes, by all means play it safe with a 2-5-1 formation, but we need to be looking to attack at every opportunity. Attack is definitley the best form of defence!

  25. rajivinindia, Dont worry mate, we will sit back and wait for them to come at us. As long as we play our game it’ll be fine, we dont want to be too bogged down like the Villarael game

  26. @James Le Beak

    after the total destruction of Sporting by Bayern, do you still say “Veloso anyone?” – what an idiot!

  27. Given that we make it through, does anyone know when the QF and SF draw takes place? I think it ios usually the following Friday which would be the 20th. Can any one let me know.
    @rajivinindia the only time we have to worry is if it gets to us being 2-1 down and they make it 3-1 in the 90th minute, then you can be concerned.
    I am looking forward to the game and hopefully thanks to ramugunner I will be able to watch it, if not I will get a chance to watch Inter score an away goal against manure, that would put a bit of a dent in to their quintripplet or whatever they are calling it.
    Come on you gunners.

  28. @rajivinindia; Arsenal are used to chassing games. We have been doing it for seasons now. Even if we concede in the 1st minute, we will never lose our cool. Actually it will only serve to wake us up and don’t wait to play for the last 20 minutes like we normally do.

    I like the look of Eboue right now. He is a man on a mission and his mission is on the up!. He also has adequate pace to trouble any european side, with more ability to take defenders on and more skills than Theo at the moment. He is also one of the keys for us not conceding early for his defensive cover. Bendtner on the left will be OK for me as nobody will be comfortable letting a huge and deceiptively fast player as SF alluded to, lumber around without adequate cover. He also has enough skills to be lethal in Europe. I would like to see Vela and Theo later on to annoy the heck out of Roma even/especially when we are already 2/3 up!
    Come to think of it, I would like Eduardo to start alternating with Nasri in 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 switcharoo! As crazy as it may seem, we might end up with both RVP, Eduardo and Bendtner/Vela starting and the L’pool win last night might make the boys want to hummilliate somebody tonight!

  29. I feel we can win, we have a greta choice of players to choose from which roma hasnt. De Rossi is suspended (Roma are not good without him) Perrotta, Cassetti are injured. Totti, Aquilani face late fitness tests. Totti could start on bench. So if we get a goal in the first half then it could set us on our way. They are missing key players, so are we but we have missed key players most of season, they havent, they have just lost De Rossi, Perotta. Thats like losing Fabregas and Nasri for us. I feel we will get the right result.

  30. Well it looks like I made the 1st and last comment of the day. Hope you enjoy your sleep and you get up nice and early to enjoy the game, if anybody can enjoy a game which can make or break a season. I am still at work but will be going home soon, less than 5 hours to kick off and I have to put some pictures up on the wall, gosh this is an exciting life.

  31. @ ggs – Yes I still want Veloso. You cant say that he was crap because his team lost 7-1. Yeah, bad team performace. bad TEAM performance. If he moved to Arsenal, he would be playing with better players and become better, he still young and with the right mentor (AW) and set of players, he could be great!!!

  32. Eduardo is essential in this match… 2 hours- can’t wait. I was supposed to get some work done before hand but…

  33. Its extra time. Kolo missed an absolute sitter in the last minutes and Almunia is single handedly keeping us in the competition. I knew we needed an early goal, i just knew it.

  34. im at foxsoccer watching minute by minute and it says that the game is over. who moves on??

  35. Damnit i hate penalties. Dont make me go through that again Arsenal i beg you. So we are still in it. Cesc and Rosicky will be back for the 1/4 finals.

  36. I almost died. None of the streams werw working for me. Was listening the radio. Eduardo missed, I was almost crying!! The radio said Doni got a hand to Walcotts penalty but didnt bother saying it had gone in. I was just so pleased to hear Tonetto sky his pen. I feel for the guy but damn I am happy. I really thought we would win in normal time, our unbeaten run continues.

  37. That was one of the most nerve-shredding moments of my life, but i’m glad it turned out for the best.

    I think that getting through the match in such tough circumstances is part of the “experience” that everyone always says is lacking in our players. This could be the catlyst that we need to keep this steely edge and get our hands on some silverware this year.

  38. Yoh, what a relief. I hate penalties, damn. AW was unusually careful in this game. The game was not easy on the eye, but I’m grateful we’re through. Another game like this, we’re definitely out

  39. Phew, that was a close shave. I think ill of a heart attack if i go through that again. Its a good learning curve for our young lads, they are the most experienced bunch of kids out there and they did well to stay calm during the penalty session.
    COYG, lets go all the way! Man, love this club!

  40. Oh, before i go to bed. I have to give credit where its due, Almunia saved us tonight. We are still in the CL b/c of him (and Baptista), so thank you Al. Most fans dont apreciate hin and i really dont know why b/c he made alot of crucial saves this season.

  41. Congrates Arsenal. Although how did Babtista miss that……

    Some great games of CL football.

    All english sides through. Would say Juve deserved more vs Chelsea.

    United were pretty comfortable over both the legs against Inter.

    For those who bag ROnaldo in big games. Let me tell you he was the best player on the pitch at Milan and unlucky not to score. And he scored tonight to clinch the victory.

    Liverpool proved they are masters of CL.

    Arsenal got through against similar opposition. They will need a good draw to go any further in this comp.

    Already cant wait for the next CL matches and draw

  42. This was an ugly, ugly match. With the knowledge that a goal from Arsenal would require 3 from Roma, I would have liked to see a much more attacking minded approach to the game. Diaby was woeful and Denilson invisible most of the match. Almunia played well enough during the match but did not seem to have any confidence during the shoot-out. His one save came out of his own indecisiveness combined with a meager attempt from the spot. But we’re through and that is what matters.

    When does the next round start and are is it possible to have Cesc and Rosicky (I was sure they had amputated) ready? As for the draw, I would really like to avoid ManUre and Bayern, probably Liverpool too since they seem to be a different squad in the CL.

    We have 3 more matches in the next 10 days and if our boys can find a way to manage 3 wins we will see our Arsenal still in the hunt for 2 trophies and presumably back into fourth in the league. Even with all the struggles this season, this is an amazing, exciting, albeit sometimes nerve wracking time to be a fan. I am certain we will see Arshavin, Song and Vela start on Saturday and probably see Walcott, Eduardo and Djourou, if he’s fit.

    I’m off to write some papers I put off in favor of going to the bar to watch the games. I wish you all good dreams of great goals and sublime finishes. GO YOU GUNNERS!!!

  43. Diaby had a good game, i enjoyed his performance. also as great a player as Totti is, he dives way too much for my liking, even more than Pires!
    ive heard that Baptista was playing for us- he was shocking!!! Denilson also played quite well, he took on and beat players more than once, and as bad as the performance was, there was good upside too it to,but if we want to consider ourselves serious contenders for the Champions League, we need to up our game, to take down the big guns, quite frankly going to penalties, against Roma, is physically tolling on the players-and proves all the more how good an extra goal in the first tie would have been.

  44. I can’t believe it, we won on penalties instead of killing off the game in the first half, how can we challenge for cl when we can’t beat a team that is suffering with injuries and weakest from the other three italians teams.The only gud thing for the boys about the game was that they can take penalties(condifently)

  45. SF-if wenger keep on using the same gameplan, attack threw the flanks and the opposition counter that by defending there, then we pretty much are just there to make up that 8 teams? becoz wenger as no second plan,we are lucky to get thro imagine if that was bayern munich or barc

  46. I know that maybe, I am exaggerating, Roma came all fighting since cl final held there and the crowd were behind them, but arsenal were lost and not even the passing seem to be there,but you take in consideration that walcott and eduardo still feeling football right now, and arsenal definitely have weak links like bendtner 70% and eboue 30%.

  47. Think about this why do man & chelsea play like us, and we beat them, but yet they don’t seem to struggle to find open clean chances in cl and we do. If we play like in the quaters then we better hope it’s porto or villareal

  48. A wins a win. Ugly sure but we needed it.

    I am hoping for Porta/ Villareal/ Chelsea in the next round. It will give Cesc some time to ease back in and start dominating- Then I want Man United in the Semis and Barca in the Final…

    We can beat anyone on our day but Im hoping to avoid Barca/ Bayern in the next round…

  49. @ MoMONEY
    “A wins a win”. That is definitely not the arsenal mentality, we like to win games, and win them convincingly. But at this point, like you, I’m just grateful that we won.
    @ sa gunner
    Where about in SA are you?
    Can’t wait for the draw, I wouldn’t mind Man U in the QF, and hope to meet liverpool in the semis, revenge will be swheet

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