Monday, 14 February 2011

Diaby to miss Barca - Nasri injury latest - Wilshere ready to be "nasty"

Morning Gooners,

Well after taking what could have been a tricky three points on Saturday against Wolves in the league, we now switch our attention to the Champions League and I'm sure you're as excited as I am about this one.

In some ways I think we didn't give the best account of ourselves when we played Barcelona last season. This time round though I have no fear that we'll be a different team. There are more players fit and ready to go and we may well welcome back Samir Nasri who has lit up our season.

The Frenchman will undergo tests at the training ground today and tomorrow to establish whether he is fit enough to take any part in the game. The manager has already said he won't take a gamble with the player and considering we need Nasri back for the rest of the season and not just one game, he's correct in his approach.

Wenger said:
"I will not take a crazy gamble. But if he is medically and physically OK... . 
"Physically he has worked very hard in the last week. Physically he is ready. 
"But is there a risk of a setback? Who isn't desperate to play in that game."
I don't think Nasri will make the starting line up, no matter how good he's looked in training. But he's a good option to have on the bench. With Andrey Arshavin having found some form at long last, missing the Frenchman isn't the body blow we thought it would be after the Huddersfield Town game.

I also wonder if the manager has put this information out there in a bid to get the Russian more focused on his team game for Wednesday. It was noticeable on Saturday how hard Arshavin was working off the ball. He's obviously desperate to play in this one himself and with his place under threat, has decided to graft a little harder.

The Russian was only able to play 27 minutes of the tie at the Grove last term so we never saw the best of him. This is his stage to truly sparkle.

It is imperative that we do play as a team to ensure we have a chance of winning this one. The tactics are clear. Keep the ball and take our opportunities.

Jack Wilshere, who 12 months ago was on loan at Bolton, is now a first team regular. With his performances, he's made himself indispensable to our starting 11. It's a rise to a place in our starting 11 I don't think even Arsene Wenger would have predicted this time last year. But Jack has focused and forced the issue, making sure he's got his place by performance, leaving the likes of Denilson and Abou Diaby on the sidelines watching.

And I know this game will be a big one for him. The 19-year-old has offered his own assessment of how we need to play in  order to win the game.

He said
"This year we have to get in their faces and show them what we're all about. When we have the ball, we've got to keep it as well as they can. 
"We've got to change our game a bit to play against Barcelona – we'll learn from last year, but we need to get in their faces and, if you like, be a bit nasty, in a footballing sense, to get the ball back." 
For me, that reads we've got to put some tackles in. We offered them too much respect last time round. We will be over that this time. We know how they will set up and we will have to win the right to play the game we know we want to. The easiest way of attacking them is holding on to the ball and making life as difficult for them as possible.


One player who might look back on those two ties with regret is Cesc Fabregas. He played out the first game after injuring himself in the 85th minute taking a penalty which saw us come back to draw the match 2-2 .

He missed the rest of the season through injury and therefore the chance to play for Arsenal at the Nou Camp. With all the noise surrounding his summer move back to Spain, still in the background, I'm sure he'll want to put in an excellent performance.

He said:
"Our objective is now to think about Barcelona. 
"We know they are the best team in the world and it is a big task for us. We will do our best. We have a young team but one with a lot of quality and energy. We are very motivated.
"We don't have to worry too much about them. We have to play with no fear. Last season in the first half [of the first leg] we respected them too much. We just have to play our game."
I'm sure his team mates understand how important this game is to him and will work as hard as they can to get a result. We've seen a strong defensive performance since the start of the year with just nine goals conceded in 12 games, admittedly four of those came at the game at Newcastle.

If we can build on that strong team ethic we've built I'm sure we can get something from these games. I know this sounds like wishful thinking, but I really do believe we've got a good chance to progress. I can see so many things in our favour. I'm quietly optimistic we can take something from the game on Wednesday, then who knows what could happen in the return leg. 

One player who I'm told won't be involved in any way is Abou Diaby. He's got another injury, which the manger told the media about on Friday and won't be fit enough to be in the squad. Hopefully he won't be out for too long.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

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