Arsenal’s Time Is Nou
A bit of pre-match spice has been added to an already huge match, with Pep Guardiola claiming that Barca has a second team full of little Jacks and suggesting that Wenger has been playing mind games regarding the fitness of Robin van Persie.
The Wenger retort to Guardiola’s jibe that ‘Maybe there could be a private flight for Walcott to come in at the last minute – you never know’ was typical Wenger:
‘ I’m very bad at mind games – it’s just the whole truth I give you here. The medical staff will assess him. Personally, I would like him to play if possible.’
RVP will not start the match. He’ll be on the bench as Wenger’s wildcard if we need it.
Fabregas will play. This is a huge occasion for Cesc, his first return to the Camp Nou; where he used to watch his team from the stands as a little Niño. He’ll lead with distinction and desire. He has a lot to prove to his home club – a club he is destined to join (hopefully as a swansong to an illustrious Arsenal career).
Wenger can choose from a full squad minus Song, Walcott and of course Vermaelen. This was not the case last season. We will be stronger tonight, and we have the belief. We’re not overawed by Barca anymore, yet the players are well aware that they need to be on top of their game as any small mistake will be punished, as was the case in the 1st leg when Clichy sloppily played David Villa onside for the opening goal.
‘We are good enough to deliver, even with the players who are out,’ says Wenger.
Let’s not forget, Barca are missing their centre half pairing – and a fine pairing at that – in Puyol (the leader of this team) and Pique.
It would also not surprise me if Wenger were to opt for Eboue on the right flank to provide extra cover off the ball. I don’t think he will start but would not be gob-smacked if he does. More likely that Nasri will start from the right, with Arshavin from the left, and either Bendtner or Chamakh up top.
In the absence of Song, I believe Wenger will opt for the much maligned Denilson to anchor midfield as he offers more energy and a more eager ability to win back possession than Diaby. He is also more disciplined.
This group of players have the opportunity to become a part of Arsenal’s jam-packed book of folklore (Iniesta has described this match as a cup final, to emphasise the importance of this for the ‘best team in the world’). And yes, I’ll be watching from behind the sofa.
Keep the faith. In Wenger we trust.