Five players who may hold the key for Arsenal in Rome

Van Persie is the Arsenal player most likely to score against RomaArsenal play Roma tomorrow night for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Our team takes a 1-0 first-leg lead with them to Rome, safe in the knowledge that a clean sheet will see them through while a goal would leave their Italian opponents needing to score three. In this pre-preview of Arsenal’s game against Roma I thought I’d take a look at the five players who I believe hold the key to our chances of progress. Enjoy!

Robin van Persie

The Dutchman was rested on the weekend against Burnley, Arsene Wenger giving him just enough time off the bench to ensure he remains sharp and focused ahead of the Roma game. Although his form has waned just a little in recent outings, van Persie is undoubtedly our best chance of scoring an away goal either from open play or from a set piece as he showed in the first leg. The hapless Philippe Mexes struggled to pin him down in the home tie and if we do happen to score in Rome it’s more than likely we’ll have the Dutchman to thank for it.


With Nicklas Bendtner as well as the aforementioned van Persie rested against Burnley and Eduardo playing a full hour, it’s unlikely that the Crozilian will start on Wednesday night. However, his touch and guile off the bench could mean he could be the game-breaker if scores remain at 0-0 or a game-turner if we fall a goal or even two behind. Eduardo has scored three goals in his two FA Cup appearances and a first in the Champions League is very possible regardless of how long he is on the pitch.

Abou Diaby

Diaby is a player who divides opinion amongst supporters. There is no doubt he remains an unpolished gem – as likely to drive forward and beat two players as he is to dwell on the ball too long or misplace a simple pass – but the value I see in Diaby’s presence is not to be underestimated. One advantage is his breaking up of the overly-defensive Song-Denilson partnership in the middle of the park, providing a creative spark and some much-needed physicality. 

Another is the obvious threat he provides on set pieces. While Diaby may not have scored this season with a header he’s come mighty close on several occasions, one of which came against Roma in the first leg. In a competition with games that are increasingly decided by set-pieces Diaby’s presence will certainly cause it’s fair amount of troubles for our Italian opponents.

William Gallas

Since being stripped of the captaincy Gallas has produced the best form of his Arsenal career. The Frenchman’s partnership with the man likely to lead the side out in Rome, Kolo Toure, has seen a previously leaky defence concede just one goals in the past eight games. Given that Arsenal can progress through to the quarter-finals without scoring if we keep Roma goalless, Gallas will be a vitally important player in determining the outcome of the tie.

Manuel Almunia

The Spaniard will have a very clear motivation for not conceding a goal on Wednesday night because if he succeeds, Arsenal will progress through to the next round. Almunia has, like Diaby, always been a player who divides opinion amongst the Arsenal supporters but there can be very few people who can knock his performances in the last two months. 

The typical role of a top-class goalkeeper at a big club is to command his area and make one or two key saves per game to take the pressure of the rest of the team, something that the Spaniard has done consistently over the past two months. If Almunia can do his job again in Rome it will go a long way to ensuring Arsenal come away from the tie victorious.

* * *

I should add here that at the time of writing there has been no word on any fresh injuries or hints from the manager about who or who won’t be starting on Wednesday night. Toure will travel to Italy but faces a late fitness test while Eduardo and Theo Walcott are also likely to join the squad.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. I’ll be back tomorrow with a full preview and the latest news from the manager. In the meantime, enjoy yourselves.

Have your say on Arsenal v Roma by leaving a comment.



  1. Hope so Arsenal will reach at quater final.
    Arsenal most probaly starting
    line up…
    sagna gallas djorou clichy
    eboue denilson diaby nasri
    Bendtner v.persie


  2. I Imagine he will play 4-5-1 using Song Denilson and Diaby in the centre with Bendtner and Nasri providing the width. I think he fancies bendtner coming in on the far post and he performed well there in the first leg.

  3. If Arsenal plays their normal fast game, Roma will struggle. that’s how AC Milan was destroyed at their home turf last year. but need to be very sharp as Roma will snatch every single loose balls to launch counter attack. but still, Arsenal to go home with quarter final ticket in their bag. predict Arsenal 1-Roma -0 (av. 2-0)

  4. Informed, thoughtful blog as usual SF.

    It will be imnteresting to see what tactics the manager employs on Wednesday. Does he play it cagey and defensive, and hold onto what we’ve got, hoping the italians over-extend going forward and look to nick a goal on the break? Or does he take the game to them straight from the off and hope to get an early goal that should hopefully kill off the tie? Most would expect the former, but the latter would certainly have the element of surprise. I suspect we’ll see 4-5-1, with RvP as the lone striker. I’ve critcised him in the past for needing 3 or 4 chances before converts one, but the extra half yard of space availalble in European games means that he may gat that all-important strike. The same is tru of Diaby- he’s looked better playing in Europe than he has playing in the Premiership. He was great in the first led against Roma, and I think it’s down to the fact that European teams don’t press in the way Premiership teams do. Diaby is often caught in possession in domestic games, but will have that extra second on Wednesday. I agree that Gallas, and the defence in general look a lot more solid of late. Almunia has progressed this term- he still doesn’t engender the confidence that truly great goalkeepers like David Seaman used to, but he’s steady. I’d love to see Walcott and Eduardo at some point in the game. Walcott’s pace will always cause problems, especially if he comes off the bench and comes up against defenders who are tiring. Eduardo proved at the weekend that he can score from anywhere in any situation, and you’d never bet against him nicking one. You won’t be surprised when I say that I’d rather not see Bendtner start, but he may have a job to do off the bench.
    If we can get to half time with a clean sheet, I think we’ll get through. If we can nick a goal and get ourselves ahead on the night, I’m sure we’ll progress.

  5. I agree SF, Walcott and Eduardo will not start. I expect to see Eboue and Nasri on the flanks with Denilson partnering either Diaby or Song in the middle. RvP and Bendy should be the pairing up front.

    A 4-5-1 formation wouldnt be a suprise either. Maybe Vela could start on the left with Nasri playing in CM and RvP as a lone striker.

  6. Quietly excited about this one. It’s like when the pressure if off from the outside in that no one expects much of us now, we can play with more freedom and just do our own thing. As opposed to this time last year when injuries were starting to hit us and we looked mentally and physically tired, we are starting to look fresh with players coming back with a point to prove. Theo, Cesc, Eduardo (he could be amazing if he stays injury free), etc. We could actually kill Roma if we put our minds to it .. like 2-0 or something. It’s time to believe.
    Excited to be heading to the Emirates this Saturday!

  7. s’one 4got smthn. i wish Arshavin would pair with Nasri while Eduardo and Van p start

  8. I think…no…I know that Roma are going down all thanx to RvP,Theo,Nasri and Dudu. If Song plays like he did against Burnley and we get an early goal…I think that we’ll win 3-0 on the night and 4-0 agg. Am so sure we are winning and I would also like to see Ramsey sometime on the game…that kid will be a great player come next season.

  9. @ Mzunye – 3-0! Jeepers that’s incredible. If that ends up happening I’ll buy you a beer next time I see you – wherever in the world you may be!

  10. yeah agree with u on the players but denilson will be also be key in midfield… also where is the phone no i politely asked of ur fine friend who was holdin a beer the last time i saw her on ur blog

  11. @ SF

    A 3-0 win is a huge possibility. If we score and early goal, they’ll be forced to open up and play attacking football, we all know who the kings of attacking football are right?

  12. if wenger can loan adebayor to cardif so that he can learn otherwise he is so poor as per now he has no number in my squad


  13. Eboue should also be mentioned as a possible key player in a match like this. His recent form has been spectacular and I wouldn’t be surprised if this game would end all hostility against him.

  14. We will beat them 2-0 RVP and Eduardo on the score sheet, Roma are not as good as they want everyone to believe what do you expect of a team where Baptista is a regular ? The key to this match is pace , we put in a high tempo and Roma will not cope.

    Maxwell, Nairobi , Kenya

  15. i think we will win but i see us leaving it late like the milan game last year. just let them run around and get tired and then we will pounce. come on

  16. If it’s still 0-0 in the last 15 mins i’d like to see walcott on the right and vela on the left with just one up front. The pace of those two would scare Roma and keep them from committing too many players forward!

  17. I know we will win with r.v.p scoring and hopefully eduardo get on the score sheet…..roma will play cagey and hope to beat us on the counter and especially bad possession

  18. @ Spanish Fry… There will be only two EPL teams advancing…Arsenal and Liverfools. After RvP,Dudu and Bendtner score,I think we should meet either Inter-Milan or Juventus…I always like it when we play Italian opposition…coz they really suck and cant up keep with us! Jus cant wait for Dudu to make more wonders with the most amazing comeback ever…I hope you getting me a beer was no joke!!!

  19. I watched the burnely game yesterday and got scared, Spanish Fry if you watch the curling cup game the kids out played them and had numerous one on ones with the keeper to be fair this older team struggled the goals were geat indivualistic kind not team play kind trust me with that game we will be shocked by Roma. Gaffer will go for a more defensive format using a lone strike up front and a crowded mid field that will kind of slow our attack, i wish eboue and song start on the bench because its time to bring out the real Arsenal not trialists.

  20. Song and Eboue may be the only form of Muscle we have in the game…you saw how Eboue played against Roma in the 1st leg, you saw him again against burnley…Song was super against Burnley and that was arguably his best match since he joined Arsenal…now you want them not to play? If not both atleast Song should play…even if he wont play the whole match…he earned this game atleast.

  21. First time on joining u guys, SF you are doing a grt job.
    wish AW will start Vela and walcott on the flank to run them down.

  22. I feel a 4-5-1. Most away games after the Group games, AW uses 4-5-1 and has Ade as the lone striker but Rvp will be used i feel. Roma are dirty at home, I have to say that because they are! So I feel Eboue may get wound up and get sent off if he starts, however I think our team will be:
    Subs: Fabianski-Toure/JD-Vela-Ramsey-Bendtner-Eduardo-Walcott

  23. Has Adebayor done anything this season to endear himself to Arsenal fans? He moaned all summer and flirted with leaving for wherever was offering the biggest pay packet, acted like a total prima donna in thinking he was worthy of a similar salary to that of the greatest player in Arsenal history Thierry Henry, and from the beginning of the season has sluggishly ran about the pitch with not even half the committment he showed last year. He aso comes out with ridiculous statements how the team should be winning every game from now onwards to bring Glory to the club and win the CL. Well Ade has to start pulling his (considerable) head out of his a$$ and contribute. It’s one thing to talk the talk, quite another to walk the walk. Now he’s coming out saying AC and Barca wanted him. Who cares about that in March? Really? Who? Is he threatened that Eduardo is back after 9 months and has 3 goals in 2 games? Bendtner is firing goals in too along with impressive performances by Vela and Arshavin too in the support striker role. Could Mr Ego be afraid of not getting his place back? If so good, then maybe he’ll start putting the effort in.

  24. Mzunye i understand that, the problem with song and eboue is that with strong oponents they have never simply turned up, look at diaby in the mid he gives the team more character despite his misups he connects the team better. Eboue is going 2 give you a good run with the ball and at the end of the game nothin he is a runner not a finisher nor a passer i’d rather risk walcott.

  25. In Rome Arsenal should have a game of 2 halves. First, defensive, cagey, highly concentrated 4-5-1 formation. Once the Italians legs tire in 2nd half (around hour mark) introduce Theo, Vela and Eduardo to run them rugged in a 4-3-3 attacking formation with lightening speed passing and running on and off the ball. With this strategy I predict a minimum of a 3-0 white wash of the hosts. Bring it on…

  26. With the attack being where we have abundance of riches, it will be too negative for AW to play a straight 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1. If he chooses so, I expect to have atleast 2 strikers in with Bendtner pushed wide. Either way I expect to see us interchange between a conventional 4-4-2 to various formations during play because of the versatility of the players we have in the squad. I hope to see Eduardo start instead of Bendtner on the left alternating with Nasri in the middle, and for a shock factor, a battering Ram called Nicklas on the right should do more than enough to peg Roma back. On the european stage, Bendtner is more than capable of running on defenders and beat them and as I keep saying, he can not be ignored regardless of how well or bad he is playing. Eboue played 90 mins on Sunday so I keep the hope that Nick will start on the right. Both Nick, Eduardo and RVP can play in MF in the hole and with the exception of RVP, they can play Wide MF, that includes Theo and Vela, which sets things up to be more exciting as we can realistically send out 4 strikers who can function equally well if we choose to go with 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1,4-5-1, 4-3-3, etc, and if you throw in Arshavin?!?!? My kind of football

  27. Ezra,Eboue has started to improve his game and we should all acknowledge this…he even had a good game against Roma in the first leg…Walcott is an impact player and we should use him in the 2nd half,he can cause all sorts of problems when Roma are trying to push for the Kill…Song can be replaced with Diaby but always keep in mind that the CL is open and not like the league…Song and Eboue linked well against Burnley and if given a chance they may also translate this to the CL.

    NB: Song passes better than Diaby…even though diaby dribbles better.

  28. There is one thing we are forgetting: Mirko Vucinic. If he is healthy and plays we must focus on him. He has the potential to score in a heartbeat and can flip the tie on its head. We shut him down we win IMO. And I think you may be right about Eduardo not starting but I really hope he does. Him and RVP up front is guaranteed at least 1 goal and thats all we need…

  29. @ MoMONEY – Agreed, Vucinic is Roma’s most dangerous player. He scares me.

    @ Gibbs – It seems I was right about Liverpool being the most attacking side in Europe 😀

  30. @ SF

    Lol! Real Madrid is just aweful, i wish we were playing against them. They are easy pickings.

  31. Oh my, Sporting Lisbon is 10-1 down on aggregate. They shouldnt have showed up at all for the 2nd leg.

  32. Real Madrid and Sporting Lisbon are out, 5-0 and 12-1 on aggregate respectively. Oh my goodness! shocking!

  33. @ Gibbs – I know, ridiculous scores. Madrid really were horrible against Liverpool and although I didn’t see it, one can only assume that Sporting dropped their heads against Bayern. There’s no way that would have been 7-1 if Sporting hadn’t lost the first leg 5-0.

  34. Supposing we go through who do we want to face? Villareal? Atletico? Porto? Those three have to be preferred though I wouldn’t mind Chelsea. Part of me wants United so we can end this foolish quintuple talk… Cant wait till tomorrow!!!!!!

  35. @ MoMONEY

    I want either Bayern or Liverpool in the quarter finals. I know those are tough teams but i want revenge on Liverpool and Bayern is playing some brilliant attacking football, most teams that play like that against us usually get a spanking.

    @ SF
    I doubt it mate. Im sure when Sporting stepped onto the field, they wanted to reduce the aggregate score to a respectable margin.

  36. Im down for Liverpool- All the EPL teams are beatable. Bayern on the other hand Im not so sure about. Klose is deadly and RIbery will give us trouble. Id rather avoid them and Barca. Anyone else is game…

  37. I am worrying but because I have no influence on the result I figured I could look ahead… If any of our players are doing the same they should be slapped back to reality immediately…

  38. Just watched Fernando Torres completely destroying Real Madrid single handedly. Pheww..’Bayor.. Some comedians still dare to compare those 2 players.

    Then I watched the man I had suggested as a potential Wenger reaplcement, Guus Hiddink, outsmart Juventus in Turin.

    On Arsenal:
    Arsenal have the team and the players to win the Champions League – but we don’t have the manager to do it.

    Wenger is a very good manager but a poor tactician. I have always maintained it and will continue to do so. Benitez, Mourinho and Hiddink are better tacticians. So, they are succesful in Europe.

    There is a reason Wenger has been at Arsenal for solid 12 years but has never won the competition and only been to the semi-final stage the one time.

    Chelski knocked us out when Ranieri was in charge because Wenger’s tactics fell short. With the team we had that time. 3/4 players were considered to make World XI. In Guus Hiddink, Chelski have a manager that again is a superb tactician and has the experience of having won the competition. I would make them favourites if we qualified and drew them.

    Manchester United. Say no more.

    I said it last season before we went out to Liverpool and repeat it: Wenger never learns from his cocky mistakes.

    Last season Wenger tossed the group stage. To some people winning one’s group means nothing. However; I think that playing the return leg at home is a massive advantage. I believe that had we not had to go to Anfield in the second leg last season then we might have qualified.

    However yet again this season, Wenger tossed the group leadership in Porto. Again.

    We shall see…

    For tomorrow’s game Vucinic and Referee will be key for Roma. For us midfield, Almunia and Wenger. We need to play the game with good pace and high intensity. Walcott should come in 20 minutes from time to destroy their defense.

    Everyone is demanding Eduardo like myself but he will not start.

  39. Bayor’s recent media outburst was very absurd. The man who hasn’t won anything in his life thinks he is better than anyone. Absolute joke. Why the hell such a horrible player is being paid 80k per week instead of kicking his ass off is a mystery.

    Still some comedians think he is worldclass. For me, he is not even better than Eduardo. Torres, Villa, Eto’o, Zlatan are in different level.

    Song had 2 good games against Championship sides; Cardiff and Burnley. Now, he is the answer for Arsenal. He played well because he was playing against his natural level teams i.e. Championship. He belongs to Charlton Athletic. No more.

    Anyone who calls ‘the ‘Bayor Worldclass and ‘Bong Song as Arsenal midfield answers are “Worldclass Jokers”. Fact. Someday they will start saying Almunia is as good as anyone around and he wouldn’t swap him with anyone including Casillas, Buffon.. Hah Hah…

    Watch Torres playing ‘Bayor.. Hah Hah

    Night everyone.

  40. Ummm Ferguson has been to the final what- twice in god knows how many years he has been in charge? Hiddink is quality but Chelsea got quite lucky in both legs. My point is the performances that Chelsea put in would not be acceptable at Arsenal- we are more then just results- we play with class. And Mourinho never made it to the final either. There is not manager in the world I would rather have then Wenger and that is the truth of it. It has noting to do with blind commitment to the man- It has to do with his ability to milk as much as possible out of his players and ability to run a top class organization- all by doing it the right way… And it just so happens that he also puts out the most entertaining football in the EPL and maybe in europe (after Barca…).

    And Wenger’s tactics led us to the lead with 8 minutes left last year. They had nothing to do with the penalty…

    But about Torres- That is a proper footballer/ striker. Ade is nothing more then a tall athletic guy IMO. The turn Torres made when he missed near post was absolutely awe-inspiring… I wish we had someone like that in our squad (…ahem…David Villa…ahem…). What a player

  41. @ trent – I don’t think it is. I checked the ESPN guide yesterday and the Manchester United game is live and the Arsenal game is delayed.

    Even so, the best resource for watching games is: [] You should be able to navigate your way through that and watch the game on your computer. Let me know if you have any dramas.

  42. @ ramugunner – You’re very negative today. I think there’s a time and a place for that but let’s try and keep things positive as we go into a Champions League tie that we can very realistically win. Why look at the negatives today when we have a strong squad and a good chance to make a bit of a statement on Wednesday night?

  43. @ ramugunner – Also, no-one is making those comments about Song or Adebayor at the moment. Most people on here seem to be keeping things quite low key: people are disappointed with what Adebayor has said and are happy with what Song has been doing in the last couple of games. No need to go overboard.

  44. shows the games in great quality… Thats where I will be watching

    Here in the states they are showing ManU but delayed- and no games live. Its quite torturous to live over here sometimes…

  45. @ MoMONEY – Hey, at least they’re on at a decent hour! It’s 5.45am starts for us here, leading to a rush tired eyes and a nasty rush to work afterwards. Count your lucky stars I say!

  46. Yea I guess so… Must be horrible going to work when we lose… Don’t think I would go. I usually ditch class for UCL anyways

  47. Hi from Turkey, watched the scousers destroy Real last night, they were very poor, what happened to the Galactico’s? Did they all leave with Beckham? Chelski also managed to scrape through, they were in the same position as us going in to the game last night and getting an away goal certainly changes the game plan.
    Lets hope that Arsenal go on the attack and score an early goal to calm everyones nerves, mine included. I remember last year when we scored the goal that was going to put us through against Liverpool I went crazy, I had, had quite a few wines by then, and while I was still celebrating the scouse gits got a very dubious penalty which Gerrard scored, it just goes to show how important an away goal is, that is why we are in a better position than manure, if Inter sneak a goal manure will require 2, actually I am talking dribble they would need two anyway, but 1-1 would see Inter through.
    Is ESPN360 a subscription channel as it looks like it is, I have subscribed to channels that give you links only to find that you can’t watch them because you need sopcast, ustream etc and all these are banned in Turkey, I will probably listen to the game on and watch the live feed of manure, in Turkish, the arsenal game is on afterwards.

  48. 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.

    Come on Gunners…

  49. @spanishfry how about i return the favor? i know a few people chicks living down under who would turn more than their share of heads… I think the barter system works best when it comes to matter of phone numbers u see

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