We’ll start with team news ahead of tonight’s game. Robin van Persie has been passed fit and named in the 18 man squad, which holds no other surprises.
There’s no return for Bacary Sagna, Diaby is back after sitting out the league game due to his suspension, while long-termers Eduardo and Rosicky are both still out. It was more or less confirmed that Rosicky is out for the rest of the season now, which is a shame but not a big shock. There’s no doubt his quality might have won us a few more points during this poor spell but you do have to start seriously considering his worth to the team if he’s going to be out injured with the frequency he is.
I’m told the medical staff are rather flummoxed at the injury, it doesn’t seem to be responding to treatment and they’re not sure what else to do other than rest it and hope it gets better. I think his injury record would make it rather a gamble for any club to considering buying him so what we need to do is replace him this summer and when he’s fit, if he’s fit, we’ve got a bit of extra quality in the squad. Could the replacement be Hatem Ben Arfa?
Anyway, back to tonight’s game and Arsene believes that an early goal is what’s needed. Certainly it would make a nice change and as we do seem to have fallen back into that bad habit of allowing the opposition to score first it would be good to get our noses in front. Really though it doesn’t matter when the goal arrives, once it arrives. Even Liverpool going ahead wouldn’t make that much difference as we have to score due to their goal at the Grove.
As I said last week I think they’ll play a cautious game but we need to get at them like we got at Milan. I know the team has looked tired recently but we really do need to up the pace and be more direct when needs be. Lots of possession with sideways and backwards passing will suit the Mugsmashers fine. Benitez thinks we might be affected by the Anfield crowd and while European nights there do have a special atmosphere I can’t imagine it’s something we’ll to be too phased by.
How we line up will be interesting. I hope it’ll be the same back four from the first leg and with Hleb likely to start on the left I’d go for Theo on the right hand side. His pace and relatively fresh legs could be vital and he’s looking a lot more confident in recent games. As it’s one we have to win I think you’ve got to take a little gamble in your team selection. The other option is Eboue but his return in terms of goals and assists (none and one) doesn’t come near Theo’s (five and three from fewer games), and when we need end product he’s the more likely to provide it.
I hope van Persie is fit enough to start up top with Adebayor, if not we may see Diaby on the left and Hleb playing just behind Adebayor. If that’s the case then hopefully the Belarussian can recapture a bit of the form he showed at the start of the season, it wouldn’t be unfair to say he owes us a goal or a killer pass in this game. Can we do it? Of course we can. We have the quality to beat anyone, we’ve seen that this season, we just need to find a little bit of form again.
Emmanuel Adebayor has dismissed the notion that the team is tired, saying:
Everyone is feeling good. I came to Arsenal to play as much as possible, so I cannot say I am tired. As footballers, we just have to fight in our head and be ready to give 100 per cent. I will give everything that I have in my heart and, at the end of the day, we will see. Liverpool have good defenders and it will be very difficult, but as a striker I just have to find the solutions.
And really that’s what it will come down to. Fight. Weariness in the legs can be overcome by strength in the mind. And the manager is going to keep the players fully focussed. He might still be talking about winning the league (God bless his optimism!) but he must realise the Champions League is the most realistic chance of a trophy this season. Tonight is going to be the biggest game of the season so far, hopefully the games can get bigger from here. Come on lads!
In other news The Emirates Cup line up for this pre-season has been announced. Real Madrid, Hamburg and Juventus are on the menu, quite tasty actually.
Arsenal have strengthened ties with Stan Kroenke. He has a big part to play in the club’s future as Fat & Orange are still lurking in the shadows, the fat and orange cunts.
And that’s really about it. Tonight is going to be tense and exciting, I’ll be watching with the dastardly Mugsmasher, more tomorrow.