Apr 062010

Here we go. Since the draw was made, we’ve been waiting for tonight with bated breath. There could have been nothing to play for, but the never-say-die spirit shown last week has left the tie firmly in the balance.

At this stage of the season, one of two things is normally happening. Either a) every match is a pressure cooker situation, usually labelled a ‘must-win’, or b) you’re out of contention. I’m no fan of Alex Ferguson, but there’s no doubting his ‘squeaky bum’ assertion of games played in April and May.

But tonight is different. The most glamorous of stadia welcomes us, and absolutely no-one gives us a prayer. Barcelona are rightfully considered the best team in the world, and while they are missing their two main centre backs, our absentee list reads: Van Persie, Cesc, Arshavin, Song, Gallas (all certain starters), Gibbs, Djourou, Ramsey and possibly Rosicky and Campbell, depending on late fitness tests.

It is easy to see why we’re considered heavy underdogs, but so were Fulham recently, right before they dismantled a supposedly superior Juventus side. Would a win tonight rank alongside our biggest upsets? Yes. Is it impossible? Absolutely not.

Frankly, the pressure is off. Even if Barcelona brush us aside, we can hold our heads high for even being in the tie at this stage, and return to the Premiership, still in the hunt for a trophy as the season draws to a close. And that fact might release some of the tension that surrounds the game, and allow some of our instinctive players to shine.

The obvious example is Walcott who, in the absence of Cesc, is being pinpointed by the Spanish press as the main threat. Eboue, if he plays on the other flank, is another. Diaby, who cannot play worse than he did in the first leg, is a third. All these players are erratic, but when you’re underdogs you want the erratic players in your team. Why? Simple – erratic players are capable of brilliance, and we need brilliance to win. A solid performance won’t be enough – we need moments of magic.

The major concern, as always, is the defence. With Gallas injured, Wenger appeared to have a tough choice to make – risk the 35 year old legs of Campbell, or bring Song out of midfield. But the Cameroonian hasn’t travelled, and even Sol is a doubt. Silvestre v Messi just isn’t funny.

Fingers crossed Campbell can play, because his experience and will to win complements Vermaelen’s skill and attitude, and would make us a tougher nut to crack. Ahead of him, Denilson needs to continue his upturn in form. They all need to defend like troopers, but if we’re still in the tie after an hour, Barcelona will start to worry. Remember, they are expected to win comfortably – the pressure is firmly on their shoulders.

And they know full well how strong we are in the latter stages of matches.

I have never seen such long odds on us winning a football match. We’re 9/2 with Sportingbet to qualify, and a ridiculous 13/2 to win the match outright.

13/2??? This is Arsenal we’re talking about, not the bleeding Faroe Islands.

With only a win or a very high scoring draw putting us through, we probably have to claim the win in ninety minutes to progress, so that is my bet of the day.

Elsewhere, there is plenty of value in the first or anytime scorers, particularly Walcott, who is 11/1 to strike first, and 19/5 to beat Valdes at any point.

There is no doubting tonight will be tough. We have a patched up side, they have a collection of the finest attacking talent anywhere in the world. They have proved once that they can tear us apart at will if they play to their best. But take a look at the Spanish press – they are not writing us off.

We may win, we may not. But we don’t have another game for eight days after this, so whatever happens, leave everything on the pitch.

Wherever you are, enjoy it. These games don’t come around that often.

Come. On. Arsenal.

  12 Responses to “The rare position of being heavy underdogs could release our shackles”

  1. i hope we win i have put everything in place that we win ..wont say or devulge..but

    i must say wenger again finds himself wanting for not doing his omework for starting and jan 2010 time

    not sorting out our backline and goalkeepers for four years

    not buying players of note

    making empty promises and foolong you and me

    no good enough backup when injuries starts to mount

    he is dead in the water

    in the league we are only hanging and hoping

    in chelsea and manure we more consistant , we would have had no chance to fight for the title

    wenger is playing in aleague of the young premiership that does not exist

    lok at fa cup exit look at teh l/cup exit

    they should sack him not embed him
    he is not in the competition league

    he is hoping and hopping

    that why tonight , the return leg’ have sweet all to rely on

    sol and silvestre are dead horses that run in the bush

    so is dujourro

    mu fingsers are only crossed

    pse reply allan

  2. heyy allan you are no fucking Arsenal fan… i must say you dont even deserve to be an Arsenal fan..
    Go to ManC Arabs that is where u exist..

  3. Get a grip Allan, and focus on Barcelona.

    Moan at the end of the season, if you want.

  4. Alan……You are officially….The BELL END OF THE DAY!!! Well done, please go to Spurs to collect your prize…..Its an education in professional football….

  5. Hey Allen, What you have just said is the biggest load of s**t ive ever heard from a supposed Arsenal fan. In 2005 we had a great team that had played together for a long time but were all ageing. The Magician realised this so got what money he could to build the foundation for the next line of Arsenal stars. What have Henry, Vieira, Hleb, Flamini,Edu or any of the other invincibles done since departing?… Not a lot!!!! With the debts of the stadium Wenger has managed to build a new team on a shoe string which is competing in Europe and Premier league and these young heroes will be here for a long time to come. Arsenal are making profits to pay off the stadium all other teams are losing money. Shame on you Allan.

  6. Allan. Fxxk off. Tw@t! Yet again we are in with a chance of the champs league and premier league. OK, we might not get there, but it has all been done with a profitable club. not horseshit finance from an oligarch. Nor do we have massive debts. get a grip you moron

    Go arsenal…give it your all tonight! We are proud of you to still be in the competition!

  7. […] I think it’s much like Pete says over at the Beautiful Groan; Arsenal need our more erratic players to step up. We need a great night from Diaby. We need a World Cup performance from Walcott. We need the […]

  8. Allan-We are underdogs not dogs.
    As long as we have 90 minutes to overcome the challenge of Barca we are still in the race.You talk as if we were facing relegation and knocked out of the cup by Yeovil Town,pull up your socks mate.Arsenal are on the verge of greatness,a little more patience,one last push before the storm!!

  9. And because Barca was not really sure whether they have the supremacy yet..they added Iniesta to the squad this morning.. what a joke.. everything that nagged all year, the missing pieces in the team came back to bite hard and harder ,here we are on the verge of being able to make history(nobody could doubt that),so undermanned that it is a diabolical joke, as cabbage face said so eloquently.

    4:1 IS A FAIR RESULT THIS EVENING, DON’T HATE ME!, I am not a seer just a messenger,and IT COULD ALSO BE 7:1, But Barca is not a team out to humiliate the opposition, they are not like that nor have to be, but they will be out to make really sure that the dead will not come back undead, they will be relenless till 4-goals are begged in .
    Hold to you seats and be strong..

  10. allen u go lick the bulls arse u lousy fukin castarated shithole…go ask ur mom to offer her services to man u nd chelsea if u like them u swinefukin gaylord

  11. Jesus Christ who are you morons here?, what is this, the GROAN what kind of blog are you running here??, all these curses abuses for what? Allen says the truth, maybe just A truth. You all run and hide from the truth, there is nothing new about what came to bite us now hard and harder and hardest,to be so undermanned in Catalunya,to put so much load on the kids out there with half our outfieled on crutches IS Wenger’s fault!, what are you all some commnado of the cause who say nothing , talk nothing say yes yes yes to everything,
    wake up! you are not in the stands, you are just bleeding bloggers, and if you cann’t handle the truth of fellows here, you sorry lot, go cry under the blankets, just don’t go out there and hurt anyone, d’you hear?

  12. really? u r the shi* spurs fun!
    so ridiclous, look at the achievment this team ? still in contention in the league just 5 games to go… everybody expects them to fail yet they were a brave fighters and still are…. can u possibly imagine united with out rooney,vidich,carrick,fletcher, giggs perhaps?? or chelsea wo drogba lampard,terry, essien and malouda at the same time? com on giv wenger and this team a huge break! for me they even exceed expectatsons. u r the illusionst to think that som1 can come up and take the place of the maager to turns things around cos believe me with out wenger absolutely no1 can make this team better with this sets of players. Mark ma word for it. and ofcourse THEY ARE GOING THROUGH today, i kno u re praying aginst it but just waitand see u ego centric silly supposedly arsenal fun{alan and the guy u posted under wenger illusionest}

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