It’s a gorgeous day in London, great day for football.
I’m making my way to the Grove for an old fashioned breakfast before the game. It looks like we may rest a few players ahead of the Champions League game against Man U. They are looking like they will win the Prem after yesterday’s 5-2 win.
Meanwhile we have nothing to play for except the CL, so Wenger should focus on that. We only need 5 points to secure CL qualification, and it looks a little late to make up the ground to 3rd place.
The team should be up for it to day, we still need to retain focus, after all we have conceded sloppy goals to weaker teams at home this season. Middlesbrough are fighting for survival, so those who are picked need to give their all this afternoon!
“We know he can finish but now he is transferring that to the games. His level of confidence has gone up”
The game progressed well and we passed it around nicely. Defensively Toure and Silvestre looked solid in the centre. Gibbs looked alright, although he wasn’t seriously tested, and Eboue did well. In midfield Song was solid, as were the attacking Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott.
The final goal was from a penalty, which at the time I thought looked like a foul on Walcott, but seeing the TV replays it seems there wasn’t contact – Theo tripped on the ball. In any case the goal was deserved, and Van Persie put it away – Adebayor and Eboue got him to do their little dance cameo in celebration.
The atmosphere was very good, and it was nice to hear Robert Pires get a standing ovation several times during the match, and at the end of the game, this was his goodbye to the Arsenal fans.
We now face Man Utd in the Semi’s after their 1-0 win over Porto in Portugal from Ronaldo’s 40 yard strike. Wenger commented:
“I would not like speculate on any weakness of Man United. They will be strong on the day, but it should encourage us to be at our best”
It’s going to be an interesting run in – we now face Chelsea twice and Man Utd at least three times in League and Cup competitions combined. Our form is excellent – but this is a huge challenge for the Arsenal team. Their chance to prove themselves is now.
Arsenal – Villarreal. Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg (1-1). Ashburton Grove. 19:45pm
We play Villarreal tonight in what is arguably the most important trophy this season. After the poor start to the season we have created something out of the ashes – we still may end up with nothing, but a win over Villarreal tonight will put us through to a semi final against Man Utd or Porto.
Wenger has been talking about the mental strength of the side all year and tonight we have to prove it. In defence we are missing Clichy, Gallas, Djourou and Almunia, we looked weak in the first half against Wigan – but we will be up for the game tonight no doubt. Villarreal have also lost players to injury – Senna and Santi Cazorla, and wingers Cani and Mati Fernandez are possibly out too.
This team likes the big occasions the most and tonight Villarreal have to score – so the game will be open – another positive for Arsenal.
“We did everything last season to achieve things and for me it is a little bit of luck in the quarter-finals of the Champions League against Liverpool last season that knocked us out,”
“This season we have the chance to do it and just have to take our chances.
“If you want to be a big club, of course you have to win things, which is normal.”
This is a knock-out competition so we have to take our chances, we have the advantage, but it will be hard work. I’m going to be very disappointed if we don’t make it through. We aren’t the strongest contentders for the CL this year, but we do have an outside chance.
We are currently unbeaten in 23 CL matches at home and have kept clean sheets in our last 4 CL home games, but of course form means nothing tonight.
I’m leaving for the Grove in a few hours, if you’re going tonight then get behind the team!
To presume that Arsenal will now qualify for the Champions League this season is a very dangerous mentality. To presume that the FA Cup and the Champions League are the only genuinely important games remaining is a very dangerous mentality.
Arsenal may well sit six points ahead of Aston Villa in the race for 4th spot, but there are some tough games remaining for the Gunners. Aston Villa are bound to pick up their form in the remaining few games as well, so the Premier League is still very much a priority for Arsenal.
With this in mind, I thought that it would be appropriate to take a look at the remaining league games for Arsenal and to reveal my football predictions as to how many points will be achieved. Will the unbeaten run keep going? Will the loss of Clichy and Gallas be crucial in the coming weeks? A little speculation never hurt anyone, so let’s take a look.
Saturday 11th April
Wigan v Arsenal: Forgive me for my pessimistic attitude on this one, but I think it is going to be a draw. The combination of being tired from Europe and the injuries will affect Arsenal.1 – 1.
Tuesday 21st April
Liverpool v Arsenal: Liverpool’s home form has let them down this season at crucial times. This will be a must win for them, but Arsenal have been good against the ‘big four’ this campaign. Another draw for me. 2 – 2.
Sunday 26th April
Arsenal v Middlesbrough: This should be a home banker. Middlesbrough will be fighting for their Premier League lives at this stage, but Arsenal should have more than enough. Arshavin, Van Persie, Adebayor and Walcott up against Chris Riggott and co? 3 – 0.
Saturday 2nd May
Portsmouth v Arsenal: This is a very difficult game. Pompey will need the win to steer clear of the relegation zone. For some reason, I see the unbeaten run coming to an end here. 2 – 1.
Sunday 10th May
Arsenal v Chelsea: In response to the Pompey defeat, Arsenal will start this game at an electric pace. The crowd will be loud, the players will be determined and the luck will be on Wenger’s side. 2 – 1.
Saturday 16th May
Man United v Arsenal: I think it is fair to say that Arsenal will have their say on where the title goes this year. In the penultimate game of the season, Manchester United will still need as many points as possible. However, they will drop two on this occasion. 0 – 0.
Sunday 24th May
Arsenal v Stoke: A nice home win to finish the season? I think so. After this hammering of Stoke, optimism for next season will be extremely high. 5 – 0.
Should these results come true (remember they are just predictions that you may disagree with), Arsenal will gain another 12 points to leave them on 70 for the season. This means that Aston Villa would need 19 points from their last seven games to overtake them. Quite a big ask, I’m sure you’ll agree.
However, Arsenal are by no means guaranteed the points I gave them. The games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United could go either way.
Overall, my message is that 4th place is by no means guaranteed. The Premier League is still my number one priority and I just hope the players are aware of this. A win at Wigan tomorrow would do no harm at all.
End of Season Update:
Not bad – We finished on 72 pts and took 4th place!
Arsenal came away with a valuble away goal against Villarreal last night, which places us well for the Quarter final second leg at home next week.
Adebayor scored an amazing bicycle kick in the second half to equalise after Senna had scored a long range goal in the fist half. The fact that we got the goal is most important – I will take the result, even though we could have finished them off in the second half.
The Fabregas/Adebayor partnership again provided crucial goals – making it 3 in 2 games for Ade, with Fabregas providing every assist!
I didn’t see the game, I downloaded highlights after the match – and I was disappointed to see us go a goal down. It hurt to lose Gallas and Almunia, and as Wenger said – this meant he couldn’t change things around at half time.
Gallas has knee ligament damage – so he may be out for the rest of the season – a blow seeing as our defence has been very stable since December. Almunia is out for a few weeks with an ankle injury – so we will have Fabianski in goal for the next few games which will define our season.
I think Fabianski will do good – but he has made rash decisions at times during games this season – this is his chance to prove himself – he made some good saves last night.
Overall a good result – some annoying injuries – but this looks promising. The fact that Porto got two away goals at Old Trafford means that they have a good chance of going through – no British team has ever won at Porto – and they have the advantage!
What do you think Arsenal’s chances are? Leave a comment below.
There are several ways to look at it, but many believe that the International weekend has come at the wrong time for Arsenal. There is a chance that the momentum of 16 games unbeaten in the league could be hindered and there is a chance that several important players could come back injured.
This would be the last thing that Arsenal need considering the importance of the remaining few weeks of the season. The Champions League and the FA Cup are still up for grabs and then there is the small matter of making sure that a top four place is achieved in the Premier League.
Referring specifically to just that, Robin van Persie has claimed that Arsenal’s superior experience of handling pressure should ensure that 4th place is achieved ahead of Aston Villa.
The Arsenal striker believes that the team are going from ‘strength to strength’ in terms of their performances, meaning that ‘things are looking good’ for Arsene Wenger’s men at this moment in time.
As for the challenge of Aston Villa, van Persie says that the Arsenal players ‘can handle pressure better’ than Martin O’Neil’s team. This means that he is ‘confident’ that 4th place will be achieved with some to spare.
The Dutchman has even suggested 3rd place could be a realistic option for his team because ‘anything is possible in football’. He pointed out the fact that Arsenal are only six points behind Chelsea. This, combined with the fact that they still have to play them, means it could happen.
Overall, van Persie knows that Arsenal need a ‘really good run’ towards the end of the season to create the best possible chance of success. As for arguably the biggest prize, he seems certain that his team can win the Champions League this season.
The Gunners will face Villarreal in the quarter-finals next month and this is a draw that van Persie admits he was ‘quite happy with’. He then went on to say that Arsenal ‘want to win’ the competition and they won’t be satisfied unless they do.
Quite an optimistic young man isn’t he? It’s really good to hear though as it is clear that he is very happy at the club. He believes in the team’s ability and he is positive about what the future may bring.
If there were more players and characters like van Persie in the Arsenal squad, the ‘unbeatable’ tag would be set for an unprecedented return. Come back injury-free from Holland duty please Robin.
Arsenal’s 4-0 win against Allardcye’s Blackburn this Saturday was impressive, it was like watching the Arsenal of old, and it was just what the club needed. Arshavin seems to have brought the team out of the mire, and I hope it stays that way!
This season has been tough, the hardest that Arsenal have experienced under Arsene Wenger. We have seen a lot of inconsistent form, and a small squad stretched to the bare bones through injury. Yet now it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The way the midfield of Walcott, Song, Denilson and Nasri/Arshavin performed on Saturday was fantastic. The goals were sublime, and Eboue capped it off for me! I know there will be setbacks ahead, but now the defence has tightened up and the team aren’t taking games for granted I think that we can salvage some pride from this season.
Arsenal are in the FA Cup and Champions League QFs and 4th in the League, with the top three still to play. We should relish that, because we are good enough to beat all three, and that gives us the chance to move higher up the table than we already are. As long as we can maintain form, which has been the struggle this season, then we will finish the season with some self-respect.
Next season we will hopefully start the season injury-free, and Wenger add one or two players to the squad. Our team is very good, but Wenger needs to learn the lesson of the last few years and add some depth. Hopefully younger players like Song and Denilson will have matured further and be playing top football this season, which they have begun to show glimpses of.
In any case I don’t want to get too carried away, it’s just nice to see the team play well and score some goals. The best realistic finish I can see is 4th place and the FA Cup in our trophy cabinet. I would settle for 4th though, and that will be a big enough challenge in itself.
Arsenal are in a position now to save themselves from UEFA Cup anonymity, and allow Wenger to begin to plan for next season. I just hope he learns the lessons from this year.
Here’s to a win against Hull tomorrow night and a Semi at Wembley!
Well played Arsenal. A great performance on Tuesday, without Cesc Fabregas in the side, has shown that we still have the quality to win trophies. Denilson now looks like he can fill the Flamini shaped hole in midfield and the defence is full of confidence and beautifully miserly compared to last year.
Van Persie’s penalty (Mexes shove) was the difference against Roma, but it could have been much more as you all know. This shows just what happens when you don’t put 10 men behind the ball against Arsenal (read Nasri’s comments on this).
With a now steady defence, and RVP firing on all cylinders we can mount a challenge for honours this season. I know it is unlikely, but it is still possible, just not the league (see Cesc’s comments on the title here).
On the plus side, Eboue played very well on Tuesday, as well as Denilson who I thought was exemplary and deserves a lot of praise for the way he has developed this season. He was fouled very dirtily by Totti in the second half, I think that deserves an investigation to be honest. Have a look at the video here.
I know there will be setbacks ahead, but this shows you how well this team can play, add in the fact that we have many more attacking players to return from injury and you have a great side, we are close, but not quite there.
Arsene Wenger is a fantastic manager, and he has a great record at Arsenal, but one constant in his career is underachieving in European competition. This doesn’t sit well with Wenger, and I can see why, he clearly deserves a European trophy and he has come close on several occasions, not least in 2006 when we were 10 minutes away from winning the Champions League.
This article is a bit of Wenger history. It’s interesting to try to look at some of the more distant past to understand what Wenger has been through in his career, and why he is the man he is today.
His first major managerial post was at AS Monaco from 1987 – 1995. He won Ligue 1 in 1987/88, his first season, got his first taste of the European Cup the following year, reaching the Quarter Finals, but losing to Galatasaray 2-1 on aggregate, the team who were to beat Wenger’s Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final.
Wenger then won the French Cup in 1991. This led to his first European final the following season in the 1991/1992 Cup Winner’s Cup. His Monaco side played well beating teams such as Swansea City, Feyenoord and AS Roma, who we are facing in this season’s Champions League. Monaco faced Werder Bremen in the Final.
The Final was marred by news of the collapse of a temporary stand in Bastia’s French Cup semifinal with Marseille which left 13 dead and hundreds injured.
Otto Rehhagel, who later led Greece to their 2004 European Championship win, was the Bremen manager, and his side won by 2 goals, even though Monaco dominated possession. Wenger had players such as Petit, Djourkaeff, Thuram and George Weah in his side that day.
Wenger went on to a UEFA Cup Final with Arsenal against Galatasary in 2000, which we lost on penalties (I was crying) and a Champions League Final against Barcelona in 2006, which could have been so different.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Wenger has had a great career, but until he puts his name on a European trophy he will not feel like he has achieved his potential. He has had the chances and come close, and this must be frustrating, I’m sure he still remembers these times.
Wenger is a competitive guy, and this season he will want to put right his awful record in European finals and bring the Champions League to Arsenal.
Mathieu Flamini’s emergence at the heart of the Arsenal midfield last season was a revelation. Previously used as a squad player, and with is contract not renewed at the beginning of 07/08 he was available on a Bosman last summer and AC Milan snapped him up.
This dismayed many Arsenal fans, myself included, and this year, rightly or wrongly, Flamini’s absence has been blamed for some of our inconsistent results.
He did form a great partnership with Fabregas, but don’t forget we also lost Hleb, another key midfielder, to Barca, during the summer – and this has weakened our team further.
Some pundits and many Arsenal fans said he was a fool for leaving, and wouldn’t get games in an AC Milan team with the likes of Gattuso and Pirlo, and he would be playing lowly UEFA Cup football to boot. I thought the same, and above all I was sad to see him leave Arsenal.
At AC Milan he has had ups and downs, but is starting to look like a real bargain.
Ancelotti, the manager under whom Henry had a miserable time at Juventus before joining Arsenal, is the Milan manager now, and at the beginning of the season he was looking to see if Mathieu Flamini could be pushed into a full-back role. This utility player label was the one he had tried to shake off at Arsenal, and it seemed like he was back to square one at the San Siro:
“I had also played this role a couple of times at Arsenal, but I discussed his matter with Arsene Wenger and told him my natural position is in midfield.”
Flamini has started to get more games in central midfield, after a stint where Gattuso was injured, and is becoming a regular, although he only came off the bench in the 88th minute against Roma at the weekend. He has played in 13 games this season and Milan are 3rd in Serie A, 9 points behind Mourinho’s Inter. Their UEFA Cup campaign is also going well, they face Bremen in the round of 32 in February.
So Flamini isn’t doing badly – he has put in some of his commited performances for Milan – but he has sacrificed Champions League football and a guaranteed first team place. Arsenal’s form has been inconsistent this year, we might not even finish 4th, so although I hate to say it, if Flamini can hold down a place at AC then the move might have benefitted him.