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“Sod it.” Untold’s unbeatable preview of the Barca Game.

By Phil Gregory.

Here we are then with the final installment of our feast of football. There’s everything still to play for, but after a 2-2 draw at home, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the odds had tipped just a little bit further away from us.

Truth be told, as I said in my previous article this is no standard tie. Conventional wisdom would say that a high score draw at home spells doom, but I’d beg to differ. This team can score two at the Nou Camp, no doubt about it. I won’t dwell on the first leg too much as it has been covered fairly comprehensively on the blogs, but suffice to say as many beers were drank in that first twenty minutes as I did during the rest of that match.

The big questions surround a certain Theodore Walcott. In the aftermath of the first leg, my friend Mike and I were in disagreement about whether he should start the tie in Barcelona. He argued he should, whereas I thought Theo has rarely delivered the goods from a starting berth. My logic being, when he attacks tired legs he has more space and time. Barcelona’s fullbacks, however, left plenty of space from the off: I daresay it seemed Alves spent as much time in our half as theirs. Might Theo be able take advantage from the start?

The other argument for his inclusion from the start is how Theo will affect Barcelona’s set-up. His pace on the break will force Barcelona’s fullbacks to be much more conservative, taking away much of their attacking impetus. Admittedly, if they sit back Theo’s threat could be mostly negated, but let us not forget it is a team game. If Theo can pin their fullbacks further back, the midfield will find it easier to restrict Barcelona’s possession, given the reduction in the Catalan’s options

Decisions, decisions. I’m still not decided as I write!

One thing I am decided on however is Arsenal FC’s resident scapegoat, Denilson, had one of the best games of his career during the first leg. That is no faint praise from me – I have a lot of time for the Brazilian, his is a contribution that doesn’t appear on the the TV camera too often, and so can be easily missed. We were so much more solid when he came on, his game intelligence shutting down options and space and generally hindering a Barcelona attack that was just too quick for Song’s ballchasing. Denilson MUST start.

Predicted line-up:

Almunia

Sagna Campbell Vermaelen Clichy

Denilson

Nasri Diaby

Walcott St Nicklas Rosicky

Decision made: Theo starts for me. There’s some debate over Eboue, and no doubt many of you will disagree with me leaving him on the bench. I had a good mind to start him, with Theo as the supersub. I’ve changed my mind on that front, however, and am going to cutting edge instead. If we are needing a goal, put the Ivorian on at rightback, if we are holding out, sub Theo for him.

Shotstopping maestro Manuel will be between the sticks, while Sol slots into the back four given Song’s injury. Even is Song was fit, I wouldn’t have space for him in midfield, and Sol can marshal the back four. Ibrahimovic’s absence is a big loss for them: their attack lacked a focal point when the Swede went off.

Denilson, as I mentioned will do the holding role and turn the opinion of the D&G brigade in regard to him with a stunning performance as in the first leg. Samir Nasri, not long ago expressing his desire to play centrally, will get his wish in the biggest game of his career to date. The Frenchman has it in him to make us not even notice Cesc’s absence (a la Porto at home), let’s hope he does just that.

Rosicky goes out wide left, while Super Nicklas Bendtner, fresh from his winner late on in what should have been around fifteen minutes of stoppage time, will start up front. Theo Walcott goes wide right.

Up against us won’t be Zlatan, Iniesta, Pique or Puyol. Bojan will likely take the place of the Ibrahimovic (though Thierry replaced him in the first leg). Chgrynskiy, the Ukrainian holding player, won’t step in as he played in the Super Cup tie for Shakhtar before signing for Barcelona,though Yaya Toure is an option if he shakes off a knock. Expect a back four of Maxwell, Marquez, Milito and Alves.

Trying to predict this match is a bit of a fools errand, but sod it. 2-2 on the night, Arsenal to win on  penalties. They are playing with but one member of their first choice back four, let’s take advantage. Hit them from the off, pin them back, impose our game on them.  We soaked up their pressure, let’s see them do the same to us.

Whatever happens, it’s an occasion to remember. We’re going to the Nou Camp, we’re playing the best team in the world, and we’re missing four of our best players. And yet I couldn’t care less: no excuses, let’s go out there positive, play our football and earn our ticket to the semis.

Untold’s Index on all that is Real

30 comments to “Sod it.” Untold’s unbeatable preview of the Barca Game.

  • Paul

    Phil

    Gr8 write-up – positive and punchy – just what we need from our boys tomorrow

  • kinfe

    i might gamble wuth sagna in central defence instead of Sol and eboue at right back. i feel sol may be out-paced and could possibly concede a penalty, what do you think?
    i have a good feel though that we’ll scrape through…. this will be a season to remember both on the premier league and champions league front!
    has sagna ever played central defence in his career? with eboue at right back and walcot on the wings… barca would definitely be pegged in their half!

  • Davi

    I agree more with your initial analysis of the walcott dilema. Imo starting him is a risk. Hes very hit and miss to say the least from the start. On the other hand, hes proven many times that when hes brought on nearer the end of the game he can really exploit tiring legs. Therefore, to start him is a huge gamble, because we risk wasting one of our most potent weapons.
    Apparently rosicky is only 50:50 as well now, so it’s really ridiculous imo that carlos vela is not even in the squad. For me, to start him on the left is not a great risk. He has pace, skill, works well with bendtner and can put in a good cross; and this game suits him more than most PL games. He also has experience playing in La Liga.
    Given carlos’ absense, Id go with a front three of eboue, bendtner and eduardo (who’s link up play is still excellent btw, even if his finishing skills have diminished), with walcott coming on to destroy them in the last 20-30 minutes.

  • Davi

    By the way, anyone who says our squad is weak is crazy.
    Who else can have the injuries we do and still go there with a squad that could include 2 of walcott, rosicky, eboue and eduardo on the bench. We are a bit threadbare in midfield at the moment though

  • Mark

    I think Barca will be wiser this time, and if Abidal starts a s left back, then they will simply sub him when Walcott came on.

    Better to go 4-4-2, all out attack, leaving Walcott centrally up front to exploit Marquez’ lack of pace. Bendtner and Walcott roaming up front will hinder their build up from the back, and tie down their full backs a bit more.

    We need to do to Barca what they did to us….as the pitch was compressed with both side holding high back lines, they were able to pass balls straight over the top…

    Clichy needs to feed Walcott in the same way.

    Eboue on the bench is not a bad call either……he’s no slouch as an impact player.

  • Dixon

    I always read your sensible blog. Do you think missing Song might be a blessing in despise? Considering the fact that Song is yellow card prone, and already has one yellow. Barcelona game is not Song’s type, he performs better in more physical games and would me more missed in a possible tie against Inter than Barca?

  • Dixon

    I meant blessing in disguise

  • MoMONEY

    4-4-2 is not a bad idea.

    I worry about Campbell vs the speed of their liittle forwards so I would be very tempted to move Sagna into CB and start Eboue at RB… Just no Silvestre PLEASE

  • well-endowed gooner

    We converted to a 4-3-3 because we didn’t have the box-to-box players to play two in central midfield. We still don’t have those players. I wouldn’t trust Diaby or Denilson in the middle by themselves. I wouldn’t put Nasri in the middle without a DM to protect the defence. A 4-4-2 would get massacred by Iniesta and Xavi.

  • ziv

    In my opinion, all out attack is suicide, we can defend well like 1st leg after Ibrahimovic was substituted, that means counter attack is more reasonable.
    So Nasri should play left flank and Rosicky at the middle, both Walcott and Nasri have the needed pace.
    Anyway, Arsene knows.

  • Mark

    We’ll see ……Barca punched themselves out in the first leg.

    I don’t hold great hopes personally, especially if Rosicky is out, he is so good for a game like this.

    I’d like to see Theo up front tho, even if that meant putting Bendy wide right, in a 4-5-1

  • eleanor

    We may have to go into this match with a bench consisting of Eboue and a bunch of Carlings. Which means we’ll have no real opportunity for any tactical management. Whoever starts this one will have to finish it.

    With ManU going out tomorrow (and no disrespect) … this will be the equivalent of the final itself.

    Of course, we’re going to pull it off.

    We’re “The Improbables”.

    It wouldn’t be history if there was no narrative.

  • MoMONEY

    We just need to go out there with the same belief we had the last twenty minutes if the first leg. W can play with barca if we believe it

  • gerald

    I hope that the players feel as I do… zero pressure, respect for the opponent, and a sense of history in the making.

  • walter

    And now also Rosicky ‘play acting” doubtful and Campbell also …

    On Walcott, I would start with Eboue on the right flank and bring Walcott in later.

  • Nice analysis Phil.

    Going 4-4-2 might give them an added one man in the mid-field, something I don’t want. Going like-for-like with a 4-3-3 should be preferred. Let’s play to our strengths & take the game to the opposition, & not allow them to impose themselves yet again.

    We’ve done it before, we can do it again.

    5-1 in the San Siro

    1-0 in the Bernebeu

    2-0 in the San Siro (again)

    1-0 in the NOU Camp? No problem.

    Come on you Gunners

  • SharkeySure

    This is the most nervous I have been for 6 whole days !!!

  • walter

    The last days arsenal.com was a frightning place to go. Every time I went another player was out…
    Maybe I should stop visiting them ?

  • Karthik

    We’re going to the Camp Nou,
    Hoping to beat Barca black and blue.
    The Gunner inside me is shouting it out,
    “Arsenal! Give ’em a rousing rout!”.
    Destroying the Catalans is the order of the day,
    Come on, Arsenal! Teach ’em how to play!

  • Wayne

    @Walter…Seriously..Went there yesterday and got a shock to see Wenger spelling out his bad surprise about Song.

    Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse….the front page news is about Rosicky.

    Man ..the only positive thing about the whole thing is that if there is any team that can manage with so many injuries at one time…it is Arsenal.

    I don’t care if we are forced to play with a reserve team at Camp Nou…I still believe that we have a chance going into the game.

    So at 2.15 A.M India time I hope i am cheering an Arsenal victory …otherwise I am going to have trouble waking up to go to work tomorrow. 😀

    Come on you Gunners!!

  • AnonymousGun

    They will have Abidal on their left flank for sure.. Oh, Iniesta are in their team sheet too for this game.

    @ Den .. You should just give up .. The D&G will not let him loose.. In few of the more matured Barca’s blog I’ve visited, most of them acknowledge in surprise how he turns the tide when he came in.. Yet, our own fans, slacking him off >.>

    for ex.. One of the blog write this –
    I don’t know what Wenger will do, but Denilson made a positive impact for them in midfield–if not a massive and wonderful impact, then certainly a greater impact than I would have foreseen

  • Rhys Jaggar

    An interesting question for you all:

    If you were Theo Walcott and you read what the British Press said about you at the weekend and you listened to what Guardiola said yesterday about the same match you played in at the Emirates on Saturday, whose opinion would you think was more important?

    For the record, lots of UK journalists said Walcott was pretty poor on Saturday, whilst Guardiola said he had a good game…..

  • Ian Trevett

    Good post Phil. I might go Eboue rather than Rosicky.

    Off-topic: Wolves aren’t appealing the red card from Saturday. You know – the one where we were cheating and trying to get their players in trouble. So if they were cheated then it has to be worth appealing a 3 match ban. Unless of course the evidence shows it was a dangerous foul.
    Anyone expecting an apology from Mick “throw the game at United for me mate Fergie” McCarthy?

  • Wayne

    @Ian…..Haha that has to qualify as the joke of the year.
    McCarthy says that every person he spoke to told him that it’s not a red card…but he received ‘advice’ against appealing as the ban could have been extended.

    Correct me if i’m wrong..the ban can only be extended if the committee decides it is a frivolous appeal. Arsenal appealed Vermaelen’s red card and there was no extension even though the appeal was turned down. Did McCarthy think that there was a more than a decent chance of the appeal being regarded as frivolous …haha. This really is foot in mouth time for him :)).

  • brigi

    Love your post..One of only two (2) Arsenal Blogs I currently read, and there are some really awful ones out there.. I like your line up, but I am banking on Eduardo scoring today, and I would actually start him if Rosicky is not fit.. This guy is a natural striker who is taking his time to get back , but when he is on the field, his runs, movement off the ball means he always ends up in a goalscoring position, and with the space barca give you, I have money on him scoring today, I really hoep he plays.. Vive La Arsenal.Joga Bonita..

  • Paul C.

    That Mick McCarthy thing is ridiculous. I mean, come on, have the courage of your convictions. We appealed Vermaelen’s red card because we thought it was wrong. We lost the appeal. For Wolves not even to appeal shows that they realise that the red card was maybe slightly harsh, but by no means ridiculous. And it is one of those tackles that gets worse every time you see it, especially at normal speed.

    4 HOURS TO GO.

    COME ON YOU ARSENAL!!!!!!!!

  • Mark

    Its a rank bad challenge……he rakes Rosicky’s leg, and then pulls his legs away. Sad to see a man earning that amount of money behaving like a delinquent……but I guess the premiership breeds people like Marlon King.

    The FA should really extend his ban, and fine McCarthy for their comments, which were totally out of order.

  • AnonymousGun

    Oh dear.. pray for miracles ..

    Uncle Egghead starts ..

    OH SHI-

  • tim

    Messi dives.