Mar 112009

Apologies for the long delay since the last update, spectacular computer issues have stopped me getting anywhere near the site, but all is resolved now, just in time to do a quick preview of tonight’s game. It is a shame I couldn’t write about the 3-0 victory over Burnley at the weekend, as it was a match of exceptional moments – Vela scoring his third audacious chip of the season, Eduardo scoring with a remarkable finish off the outside of the ankle shattered a little over a year ago, and finally, Eboue lashing home an accomplished finish for the coup de grace.

And wonders don’t cease there. Song, becoming more adept defensively but seemingly unable to play a forward pass, was the instigator, chipping a ball in for Vela that nearly resulted in a goal, and providing the assists for Eduardo and Eboue’s strikes, the latter being a precise backheel. It truly was a match that went against everything we’ve seen so far this season.

And suddenly, it has created an extraordinary amount of optimism. Unbeaten in seventeen, the lack of firepower up front was preventing us from realising that the backline have conceded just one goal in eight, a remarkable turnaround from the early part of the season. And with Arshavin pulling the strings, Nasri in form, and Walcott and Eduardo returning, the goals are beginning to flow again. It certainly makes for a promising end to the season – too often we arrive at this point with a tired squad, struggling to keep up the momentum, but this year, there are fresh legs coming back, and crucially, there is competition for places at last.

That competition is leading some to speculate over the future of our strikers, most prominently Adebayor, and with good reason. Our wide men include Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri, Eboue, Vela and Walcott, with Adebayor, Bendtner, Van Persie and Eduardo up front (along with Vela and Walcott, if they move forward). For all the talk of a small squad, that is probably too many, even if you discount Rosicky on the basis on being unsure about how he will fare on his return.

Who is likely to leave is best left to another day, but the only real candidates are Adebayor and Eboue. Bendtner is a favourite of Wenger’s, and is beginning to show some real spark, while the rest look nailed on to stay.

But that is one for another day. Tonight we face Roma, in a match still evenly matched from the first leg. I say that because although a 1-0 home win is excellent these days, Roma are capable of putting on a performance at home, as they showed against Chelsea in the group stage. But an away goal should see us through, and I’m backing Eduardo to come off the bench and get it. With the Croatian and Walcott available, we have options if we need to chase the game, but I imagine we’ll be circumspect early on.

We’ve done well in cup competitions this season – some of our most inspiring performances have been away from the rigours of the league, and tonight is an opportunity to put in another. But if I’m honest, I’m quite relaxed about it. With the English clubs still storming through, we’re likely to run into them again soon, and that doesn’t excite me in Europe. I’d much rather we played the likes of Barcelona or Bayern, instead of the situation we had last season, where even if we’d got past Liverpool in the quarters, it would have been Chelsea and then United. Oh, how exciting.

It isn’t just that though – realistically, the FA Cup is our best bet for silverware, and the Premiership is the most important thing. That doesn’t mean tonight is unimportant – this is where we want to be, and there are millions at stake from a financial point of view, but I’m just feeling quite unflustered about it somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to it, and I’d love us to turn them over, but if we lose, I won’t be crying myself to sleep.

Or maybe I’m just relaxed because I’m actually feeling very confident? Perhaps that’s it. I’m going to go with a 1-1 draw, with our away goal killing the tie stone dead. I also have a funny feeling that Mourinho’s Inter are going to do for United tonight, probably with a 1-1 result too. That’s my bet of the day, certainly, as it is always good to bet against the English with the bookies.

Enjoy the game!

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