Nasri and Walcott need to fire to make perfectly-balanced Arsenal work

These boys need to have a big gameIt’s Villarreal in the Champions League tonight and there is a fair bit of excitement buzzing around my body in the build-up to this game. And while the tie can’t be decided tonight a good result in Spain will see us take a big step towards the semi-finals with the second leg to be play at The Emirates.

The very excellent news has come through that both Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott will play, making the absences of Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie far less of an issue. Given that Walcott’s knee injury seems to be more to do with pain than a restriction of movement, I’m fully expecting Arsene Wenger to go with the 4-5-1 that functioned so effectively against Manchester City, with the one change of Nasri slotting in for Arshavin.

The combined midfield anchor of Denilson and Alex Song will provide defensive stability to our back four, leaving the dynamic attacking triangle of Cesc Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott to help out Emmanuel Adebayor up front. I’d go so far as saying it’s as good a team as we could play even without the various injuries in our squad, given that the manager rarely plays two up front in European away games and Adebayor is the best lone-striker at our disposal. You could probably find a spot in there for Arshavin if he was available but aside from that it’s an extremely well-balanced unit.

The emphasis on this game will be to play relatively conservatively and hit Villarreal on the break through the pace of Walcott and Adebayor and the passing of Fabregas and Nasri. The impetus will be on Villarreal to score at home and in players like Guiseppe Rossi, Llorente and Robert Pires (read his pre-game thoughts here) they certainly have the players at their disposal to get that goal, even despite the significant loss of Santi Cazorla, the man described by Marcos Senna as Villarreal’s more important player.

I believe the return of Adebayor and Fabregas combined with the absence of Cazorla makes us favourites for this game, and in many ways I’m almost expecting us to win. I know it’s a little dangerous to make that sort of statement, but from what I’ve seen of them Villarreal aren’t a particularly dangerous aerial threat – an area of the game we sometimes struggle with – and if they play their normal passing game then I think it will suit us perfectly. They’re not on a good run of form just at the moment while we are and I full expect us to carry that momentum into this game.

The key to us getting the result we desire is to defend compactly without possession and look to move the ball swiftly when we break forward. With Song and Denilson set for purely defensive roles a lot of the impetus will be on Fabregas to provide the creative inspiration, but I think the likes of Walcott and Nasri need to really step it up in Spain. Nasri has a habit of sometimes being caught on the periphery in Champions League games while Walcott still has issues with consistency, but the two of them need to provide a threat tonight to take some pressure off Cesc.

So, what’s going to happen? Well as you can probably gather from this post I’m feeling confident. I really feel that the balance of the side likely to start is just about right and it can see us grab a really positive result. Some people will say a draw would be good but I really think we’ll keep a clean sheet and if our midfield can fire than 1-0 is very realistic and 2-0 is not as farfetched as it sounds. As always though, we’ll have to wait and see.

An exciting night awaits, a huge opportunity presents itself. Will we take it? I think we might.

Have your say on Arsenal’s big, big, massively big clash with Villarreal by leaving a comment.



  1. I am quite literally salivating at the prospect of the Fabregas Vs Senna match up in midfield. Senna was incredible at stamping out creative threats of opposition teams at the Euro championships, but then with Wenger’s midfield set up and Fabregas’ incredible talent, who knows which way it will go.

    Also, I know he’s injured, but do you think RvP could ever fill the role on the left wing should the need arise? I can’t work out if it would be a waste of his talents or not, I saw him work wonders there for Holland at Euro 2006, but then again he is an incredible goal scorer. Anyway, tonight should be a tense match, I’ve got my fingernails at the ready!

  2. Love the confidence among Gooners. I honestly dont see a threat in that Villarreal side. Bob is not even close to the player he used to be and with Song and Deni, i dont see Sena dominating the CM. So my predo is 1-0 to the Arsenal. That should be enough to take us through.

  3. i am sure it will be a great day for us, cause every time some old Arsenal player wants revenge or calls for our heads we win. So bobby get over it.
    We will win 3 to 1.
    Come on you goooners!!!!

  4. I think 4-2-3-1 formation – Team: Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Song, Denilson; Nasri, Fabregas, Walcott; Adebayor should be the best formation for us to play. We put two defensive midfielders in front of Fabregas so he can concentrate to attack. we can use the speed of Walcott to break through their defend.

  5. The below article suggests that Walcott’s place in the team tonight is far from decided. With one striker we could really use him in support, so fingers crossed.,19528,11670_5156678,00.html

    If Senna tries to mark Fabregas out of the game we will need Nasri to be at his creative best. Maybe even Song can chip in again with a few nice passes!

    @ enemyairships – I think RvP played on the right wing for Holland in Euro 2006 as Robben tended to have the left side. Personally, I prefer RvP playing just off the striker in the DB10 role. We have plenty of quality wingers.

  6. i feel confident too and pray and hope that we keep a clean sheet yet again,however,the 4-5-1 formation works beta 4 me if the lone striker is Van P,Ade alone well let’s wait and see.dont look @me badly fellow gooners just speaking my mind and im not hating on Ade or anyone 4 that matter,just preference.nway keep the faith gunners,Arsenal rocks.we gotta win 2ny8 honestly.

  7. Eek, that should read Euro 2008. You might be right again, but I seem to remember RvP rampaging down the left for a few of his goals in that tournament.

    Could anyone suggest a streaming site where I could watch tonight’s match? I just went to my local and unsurprisingly they’re showing the Utd match instead. Typical – they’re only a London pub after all!

  8. Lass Diarra dominated Senna earlier in the season. He is a top class DM, but he is not good enough to stop Fabregas.

    Denilson should always be in the teram, but I would think Song will play in his more advanced role with Denilson protecting them, with some help from Song.

  9. Re: Marcos Senna. Sid Lowe from the Guardian podcast clearly stated that Senna is not the player he once was and that it’s more likely that Pires, Rossi or Llorente would cause the problems. Personally I can’t see him keeping up with the likes of Walcott/Nasri/Fabregas.

  10. I can’t wait to see how creative fab will b against senna.We stand a better chance of beating valle @ their home ground if we take our chances as they come and hopely Adeba will b in tip top form to shine. COME ON GUNNERS,LETS GUN THEM DOWN AS THEY COME.

  11. I for one am looking forward to the game, but unlike enemyairships my fingernails have already gone. I can’t see Wenger going with any other formation than 1-4-5-1 it worked at the weekend and should work tonight. Villerreal are not an Italian defending team but one that will play the ball around which as all ready said will suit our style of play, hopefully. I will probably watch the manure game on Turkish Tv and listen to the Arsenal game on as I can never get any video streams on my pc, myp2p is banned here. I looked in to Satanta on line after SF said he watched it in Australia but even that is not available here.

  12. Havent posted here in a few months. Back then i was calling for Arshavin. The man has coome in and the mood around the Emirates has completely lifted.

    He’s been a breath of fresh air,it shows what difference spending money can make. We were in big trouble but now theres a sense of much needed optimism. I said the perogative of this year was to qualify for the CL next year and to show signs of a title challenge also. And thankfully i think were ok on both counts.

    The likes of Denilson and Song have matured, i still want a DM but they are now good squad players. At the start of the season there was a sense of despair and worry and it was proven on the field.

    Cant help but think by the start of next season there will be a resemblence to the start of 07/08 where despite losing Henry there was still a feeling of hope and excitement.

    I’d take a score draw here all day long, I think a lot of people are taking Villarreal very lightly indeed, which is exactly the mistake our supporters made last time.

    I remember coming out of the ground after that 1st leg in 06 and everyone was complaining that we had only won 1-0 and that complacency could and should have bitten us in the arse for the second leg where Villarreal should have won by three clear goals at least.

    They are an excellent side, with an unrivalled home record and they are in the same position in La Liga as we are in the Premiership, so we have no reason to feel over confident. If we won 3-0 or 2-0, I’d be absolutely astounded quite frankly.

  13. Great to see that there are so many optimistic fans around. I believe we have the chance to get a good result tonight, I have never gone in for predicting scores but I don’t think we will lose.

    I doubt that Walcott will play a full ninety minutes, more likely Eboue will start and Walcott will come on to tear them apart in the last twenty.

    I suspect that Denilson and Song will sit in front of the back four and lift the defensive burden from Fabragas, Nasri and Eboue allowing them to push up towards Adebayor.

    C’mon the Gunners let’s go and sink the Yellow Submarine!

  14. @ Dally: It’s a shame to hear you’re having so much trouble watching games due to the Turkish screening of websites…

    However, there ARE other options than myp2p, so I thought I’d try to help you out 🙂

    First option is JustinTV. They’re streaming loads of different games, but they quality isn’t always top notch. Anyway, try it out by surfing to

    Second up is a TVU. This is a player required to watch some of the streams at myp2p. You can download this player, run it, and go to the section that’s called SPORTS. This will list about 50 channels, try the Football ones – there’s always at least one showing EPL/UCL.

    And the last option is Spanish TV. The public Spanish TV channel “Antena 3” is showing the game live, and there’s a streaming site for this channel here:

    Hopefully that’ll help you on your way to watching our heroes live 🙂

  15. @ enemyairships

    the match is on itv4 if your in the u.k.

    i hope the match isnt too cagey tonight we seem to struggle with the cagey ones. come on young guns!
    i’m goin for a 2-1 to us.

  16. Sounds like this will be a good game – it’s a shame I’ll be stuck in class! Nevertheless, I’m hoping for an Arsenal win, and a great show from Walcott, as I like him.

    Come on you Gunners! Make your supporters around the world happy!

    –Adrienne in Seattle

  17. am in nairobi kenya n ever1 from this part of the world is a die hard gooner. unfortunately our local tvs showing the manure porto game. hop porto screw em up. its all looking gud 4us right now. i hop wenger starts theo 2 help get an early goal. if not, its stil fine coz ebue has stepd up of late. lets go gunners n sink the submarins!

  18. Team news.
    Arsenal make one change from the team that beat City on saturday as Nasri starts in the place of the cup tied Arshavin.

  19. After all his talking, Bobby Pires is left on the bench for what would’ve been a massive match for him. Isn’t that why he left Arsenal!?

  20. you folks from outside the u.k. might not know what i am talking about but robbie earle is the worst football pundit in the fooking world.
    and andy ‘wankdog’ townsend is an arse biscuit.

  21. Not happy with our performance tonight but im glad we got the all important away goal. Next time, we dont hold back, we go all out.

  22. @ Gibbs – I thought our second half was excellent under the circumstances. Halfway there and in the lead (on technicality) 🙂

  23. I hope it’s nothing serious with Almunia and Gallas. If we lose the second leg the effect on our confidence could be catastrophic, without big players it’ll be even more tough to bounce back.

    Was well enjoying our second half display though. In the first half Villereal were playing football like Arsenal, it was a pleasure to see all round really. Fingers crossed we turn it on and have RvP back at the Emirates.

  24. Rubbish First half, excellent 2nd.
    Quality goal from Adebayor I have to say.

    Song/Denilson worried me a lot. Senna chew them alive. By the way how old is he? And our CDM kids. Senna ran his Arse off the whole match. But I didn’t see Song/Denilson doing half his job in the pitch.

    Still, I am very happy with the result. Both hands off for Bayor’s goal.

    Diaby was sorely missed today.

  25. Senna : Amazing Goal
    Adebayor : Even more amazing goal

    Away Goal, Poor 1st Half, Excellent 2nd Half. 3 poor yellow cards for us but overall I am happy. I only watched 35 mins onwards and so didnt see us play badly but I heard we were crap, Clichy wasd magnificent today, he, fabregas and deni inspired us back in the game, bring on the emirates game. Jus worries bout Almunia/Gallas situation.

  26. @ SF

    Yeah, the 2nd half was good for us. But i really expected us to win tonight. Villarreal were not a good side even in the first half imo. I feel that had we put in a little more effort we wouldve won. Anyway its an away game, we got a draw and an away goal, its a decent result. All we have to do now is keep a clean sheet in the second leg and we’ll be through to face Porto it seems. 😀

    BTW, I hope Willy and Al arnet seriously hurt. We need them for the final stretch of the seasom.

  27. Praying Gallas is OK… I was ready to slam Adebayor until the goal. Abolutely breathtaking… If he only would work hard each game, winning balls but more importantly getting into position, he could be deadly. He needs to watch a thousand tapes of Pippo Inzaghi. If he does that he could be incredible…

  28. Good result Arsenal. Great great goal. Im one of few people that rate Adebayor. His a tall, quick, lanky, player that is good with his feet.

    Senna is awesome.. Reason why spain are so good. United should of signed him 3 seasons ago but they didnt falk out the cash.

    United were poor this morning. OK second half. But poor. Porto are very very good on the break. I have half conceded defeat. Very dissapointed

  29. Gallas woudl be an absolutely huge blow. I know people hate on him but IMO he is one of our most important players. And with games against the rest of the big 4, the FA Cup, and the rest of the UCL, he was much much needed.

    Also we need to be careful in the next leg with all of the yellow cards… I think RVP may have one as well…

    It will be interesting to see if Utd can get through. They were quite lucky to get that gift of a goal in the first half…

  30. PS- my image of Ade is changing… I have been hard on him but it is IMO a question of desire, workrate, and mentality… When he is confident he is deadly…

  31. @ MoMONEY – Agreed about both Gallas and Adebayor. Gallas has become a huge player for us since the change of captaincy and his loss will be big. However, I do think Djourou is ready to step up to the task if it is required of him. We can still win the Champions League with a central defence of Toure and Djourou.

    As for Adebayor, his talent is undoubted. He is my favourite player and his all-round effort against Villarreal was superb. His touch may be a little inconsistent but he is a handful for defenders and as long as he keeps his workrate up is the most important striker in our team – even above RVP.

  32. I think the most important thing with Ade is confidence. When he has that swagger about him he is deadly as we saw today… Id love for him to evolve into a taller Inzaghi type- stretching the D and being a constant menace…

  33. Yeah but how many needless offsides does ade have to give away and if wasn’t for that great goal I would of been saying bendtner would of been better. never really rated denilson but the last 2 months he has been really impressing me with his workrate and now some of his passing is really good (he is only 21) all the team needs to stay together and we will run away with the title next year. Shame bout big al as he was comanding his area well with gallas and tourre as they seem to trust him a lot more than at the start of the season and that’s what makes a good team. Hope we play porto as manure don’t have many bad runs and when they are over they are on fire and ol benitez is using mind games saying they are buckling under pressue from luckypool.

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