Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Wilshere buzzing - Wenger focused - Narsi fit - Barca worried


Morning Gooners,

Well the day has finally arrived. Tonight we take on Barcelona in the most eagerly anticipated match since.... the last time we played Barcelona. I know there have been big matches since we last played them, but the everyone see's this game as the biggest in club football. Two teams who play football the right way.

It's going to be a pleasure to be there. Before I forget, well done to Red Action for having these flags produced especially for tonight's game. There is going to be a special video montage on the big screens as well, so if you're going make sure you get to the ground earlier than usual.

Yesterday the world's media descended on London Colney to get the thoughts of Arsene Wenger and Johan Djourou.

The early team news given by the manager was good. Samir Nasri is in the squad as is Tomas Rosicky, both players returning from injury, but there was confirmation of the news I brought you on Monday that Abou Diaby wouldn't be fit enough to play - he has a calf injury. 

Wenger was keen to point out that if he plays Nasri, there is no medical risk to the player. He's had two tough fitness tests to make sure he's able to play and come through them. Now the manager has to decide whether he's going to start. My feeling is that Nasri will play.

The manager was very focused in his press conference about getting his massage across. 

He said: 
"I believe personally that we can do it. Barca are certainly the team to beat if you want to be the best — and that's our target."
Let us have no doubts about this game, Arsenal will play to win. And we can defeat Barca, there is no doubt in my mind that we can qualify for the next stage, if we take our chances. There won't be a change in tactics. We will go on to the pitch at the Grove tonight focused and committed to playing the game our way. No parking of the bus, attacking football all the way.

Wenger said
"We have to work very hard without the ball. The focus on defending well will be vital, as we know that when we have the ball we can cause them problems. They will give us problems as well, so it's important we do our defensive job very well."
Tonight we have to play like we did against Chelsea and Manchester City but give 20% more effort. It is clear that Barcelona will retain the ball well, but it is our job to get it back from them and use it to our full potential.



There were questions yesterday about whether Wojciech Szczesny could handle the pressure of a game like the one he'll be starting tonight. There wasn't a moments hesitation when Johan Djourou told the media that the Polish goalkeeper wouldn't need a minder to watch over him tonight.

He said:
"I think he can look after himself. He has all the abilities and knows what he has to do. We do not have to do anything special thing for him.
"He is not scared about anything. He is a great guy - very confident. If he sees some things, he will tell you."
Szczesny has certainly impressed a lot of people since he arrived in the first team. Everyone had heard stories about him but until we've seen him play first team football at the highest level were unable to see if he was the real deal. And he certainly is.

I have no doubts about him. His age, 20, means nothing. Like Djourou said in his press conference, it's like he's been around for five years!

There is obviously a lot of talk about Cesc Fabregas, what with his Barcelona (DNA) connections. The manager has defended our position when we moved for Cesc in 2003 and signed him from the Barca academy. And Cesc''s dad say now is not the right time to be talking about last summer or next summer, with his son focused on tonight's game.

The manager has no qualms about Fabregas' desire to win, even if he is playing against his boyhood club.

Wenger said:
"Cesc will approach it as he approaches every game - with a huge desire to win."
There is a well meaning campaign running on another blog, Le Grove. However tonight is not about Cesc Fabregas, it is about Arsenal Football Club and I would encourage every Gooner going to tonight's match to get behind the players and not to be concerned about the sideshow of Joan Laporta's comments or Xavi's DNA obsession.

Arsenal have class. We don't need to involve ourselves in this stupid obsession Barca have about Cesc. We need to give our team our full vocal support and not wave posters around telling Barca to keep their hands off our captain. He is our player, we hold all the cards. We certainly don't like the dark arts Barca used last summer, but we've lived with it during the Vieria and Henry years and I'm sure we'll have to live through it again in the future.

So get behind the boys tonight, they are the only people we should be focusing on.

Martin Keown in the Daily Mail runs through some tactical aspects of the game.

Whilst there are comments from Pep GuardiolaAndres Iniesta and Pedro should you want to take in views from a Spanish perspective.

And that's you're lot for now. I'll post a team preview of the match later on. I know I'll find it hard to concentrate at work today, like Jack Wilshere, I'm buzzing!

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