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This season is shaping into one we could all remember in the years to come. To make that happen Arsenal would love to get a win in Spain against Villareal.

But Arsene Wenger, unlike us Gooners, refuses to count Arsenal’s chances in the Champions League. The Arsenal manager said:

“We are super outsiders because all of the favourites are Liverpool, Manchester United and Barcelona. I think tonight is a 50:50. We are super-outsiders to win the trophy of the Champions League because when you look at the bookmakers, we are not in there.

“It puts a little less pressure on you but once you are on the pitch, it doesn’t change too much.

Villareal will come into this match after a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Almeria but apart from that set-back they haven’t been doing too badly. WWLWL.  Both the defeats have been away from home and the last time they lost at home was way back in December when they lost 2-1 to Barcelona. Since then they have won 5 and drawn 2 at El Madrigal. It’s a decent enough record to at least force a draw from Arsenal but if the Gunners play like the way they have been lately, there will be no stopping them!

We are all quite aware of the hot form Arsenal are in at the moment. 7 consecutive wins (if you count the penalty shootout victory as a win) and unbeaten in 22 matches in all competitions.

Moving on to team news now. Samir Nasri is back after sitting out the win over Man City because of flu. van Persie and Eduardo remain out of the squad due to groin injuries and cup-tied Arshavin will also not feature. So Wenger can use the same formation he used against Man City on the weekend with Nasri filling the void in midfield left by Arshavin.

Almunia
Clichy     Gallas     Toure     Sagna
Denilson     Song
Nasri     Fabregas    Walcott
Adebayor

If Fabregas is on song just like he was on Saturday, I see Arsenal coming back home with a lead in hand. He is an exceptional talent. And then Walcott can keep making those defence piercing runs and Adebayor keep finishing the way he is capable of and we should all but guarantee a place in the semis after just this leg!

Realistically speaking though, a draw seems the most likely result but a win for either side is still quite possible.

And lets not forget this Villareal held Manchester United to goal-less draws both at and away from home.

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Villareal players confident of truimph over Arsenal this Tuesday

Villareal players confident of truimph over Arsenal this Tuesday

Santi Cazorla, Robert Pires and Diego Godin have been doing the talking lately, confident of their team’s chances in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final against Arsenal.

Firstly, Santi Cazorla, who is out for the rest of the season with an injury suffered this weekend, is “convinced that they are going to beat Arsenal”.

Then Diego Godin is as confident as his team-mate saying “I’m sure that we will have a great game on Tuesday”. Talk of confidence and determination!

“Arsenal are coming here in good form, but, aside from this latest result, we were also playing well.

“This team is ready to recover and I’m sure that we will have a great game on Tuesday. We are determined to turn the situation around and we need not be pessimistic because we have a great team.”

Former Arsenal star Robert Pires also spoke as the first leg draws near and just like his other team-mates is confident of success:

“It will be the first time I’ve played against them.

“We are teams with contrasting styles but also with top-quality players. It’s not the best thing to be playing the return leg away from home but if we perform like we have in the past we can get through.

“If I’m lucky enough to score I know that I won’t celebrate, simply as a gesture of respect to a club, and their fans, which have meant so much in my career.”

Pires also urged Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas to stay at the club. Check that story out here

However, Villareal manager Manuel Pelligrini was more realistic with his comments. He was not “sure” or “convinced” that they will progress:

“Progressing should be more than important than the spirit of revenge.

“We know they play fast and different football but that doesn’t make it better. We will have to wait and see if we can surpass them this time.

“That meeting was three years ago and now everything is different. We have different teams, different players and different times.”

I bet deep down inside they all fear Arsenal! The way we have been playing lately even Barca would fear us! Arsenal’s squad at the moment is one of the toughest in Europe and fully capable of winning the Champions League. We will be without Arshavin but Nasri will be back to fill the void and otherwise the team was perfect on Saturday. The problem for Arsene Wenger now will not be injuries but it will be who to select! The squad is now overflowing with ‘fit’, talented players!

Arsenal vs AS Roma

Arsenal vs AS Roma

AS Roma’s midfielder Julio Baptista claims Arsenal are at a disadvantage coming into their Champions League tie due to their young and inexperienced squad. Baptista, who himself had a loan spell with Arsenal during his time with Real Madrid, claims that Arsenal are the weaker side as their squad is too young. ‘The Beast’ said:

“Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a defect, but when you’re playing at this level, the last 16 of the Champions League, a lack of international experience can give your opponents an advantage.

“Fabregas and Adebayor are two quality players and this is obviously good for Roma.For Arsenal they will be two big losses, even if Eduardo has returned. He has come back in great form and we will need to watch out for him.”

No comments! He will be proven wrong in a few weeks time! Arsenal would rather do their talking on the pitch than like Roma players who have been concentrating more on making comments about Arsenal! De Rossi had earlier quite straightforwardly said that Roma are clearly the better side among the two.

Wenger - "Man Utd Look Untouchables"

Wenger - "Man Utd Look Untouchable"

Arsene Wenger has finally admitted Arsenal are not in the title race anymore.

This season has been a relatively poor one for Arsenal and they are not only 12 points behind leaders Manchester United but 5 points below 4th placed Chelsea which makes even the Champions League qualification difficult for them But Wenger may be giving up on title hopes, which was quite obvious, he is confident Arsenal can secure the final Champions League berth. Arsenal are on a 12 match unbeaten run which gives Wenger all the hope that if they keep on performing consistently they should finish 4th at least:

“We’re very consistent and on a very strong run. We missed scoring the goals that we’re capable of recently, but are very consistent and promised ourselves that we’ll give everything until the end of the season.”

The Frenchman also conceded Manchester United are too good at the moment and look ‘untouchable’. Like most people out there Wenger also feels it will be United who will end up Premier League Champions:

“Manchester United look untouchable because they’re 12 points ahead and have a game tomorrow against Fulham they’ll certainly win. Their results are very consistent. They win 1-0 and you think during the game that they may drop a point or maybe more, but they always manage to find somewhere the resources to win the game.

“If they win their game in hand they’re 15 points in front, which means they need to lose five games. Say they lose one against us, then they still need to lose another four games. They haven’t lost four games all season yet, but we’ll try. I believe our basic target is to get into the Champions League.”

It may seem nearly impossible for Man Utd not to finish at the top, especially as all the matches against the other members of the big 4 for them are at Old Trafford. But for Arsenal to clinch the fourth place, there are a lot of things in their favour. They are on quite a decent run, their next 7 fixtures are against smaller teams whereas the next 7 fixtures of Aston Villa include Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd. So that can help Arsenal to leapfrog Villa. On the other hand Chelsea are going through a bad form and just have a new manager who will hopefully take time to settle in so combine a good form of Arsenal with a bad form of Chelsea and you might get Arsenal overtaking Chelsea! With Dudu back and straight away looking better than he was before getting injured, Fabregas back at the end of this month and probably Walcott back at the same time. Arshavin to make his debut soon so things are looking great for Arsenal at the moment and along with a Champions League place, I am getting hopeful they have quite a chance of winning the FA Cup.

Arsenal vs Cardiff City

Arsenal vs Cardiff City

Arsenal fans may be desperate for trophies but this season is shaping up into one in which qualifying for the Champions League seems more important, at least to Arsene Wenger it does.

“I still believe that the first trophy you want is qualifying for the Champions League.”

As it seems, its looking really tough for Arsenal to claim the final Champions League berth but if they somehow manage to do it, it sure will seem like a trophy! But the excitement will wear off soon. We all want real silverware. The next step after qualifying for Champions League will be:

“Then win the Premier League and win the Champions League, then other trophies you go after. We were very close in 2006 and we have been in the Champions League every year. That is what you want to achieve first again but, of course, we want to win trophies.”

Take the Premier League out of that list! We all want to win it and its really hard to accept we are out of the title race but at the end of the day we have to think realistically and admit we are not in the title race. Champions League is obviously the best we can get but it will be very very tough. The FA Cup seems like our best chance of winning any silverware this season.

Apart from that Wenger along with praising Cardiff’s last year’s FA Cup run thinks it wasn’t too special as at the last part of the run, the big teams were all out so it was easy going for them. Indirectly Wenger is saying they can’t beat big teams! Mind games!

“They had a run, and it was a fantastic run,” said Wenger. It is still magic because anybody would love to play at Wembley. But the final part of that run was when all the big teams were already out.”

“We have been to Wembley in the FA Cup in 1998, but not since. At the moment we are too far away to say that we will get there this year, but we will give everything to get there. The players are motivated for the Cardiff game and want to win.”

No surprises there.

Meanwhile Cardiff manager Dave Jones insists they have an advantage going into the FA Cup replay as all the pressure is on Arsenal. Maybe he is forgetting his team will be playing at Emirates:P But yeah good attitude. If Hull can beat us at home why can’t they.

“They’re at home tomorrow night, Arsene has the bigger team and the bigger stars – so all the pressure goes onto him. But he has that week-in, week-out anyway.”

“To outsiders looking in, most clubs playing against higher division teams will be expected to lose. But this is the FA Cup. And as we know from last year, things can happen. There are always chinks in a team’s armour. The difference at Premier League level is, if you give them an opportunity, they’ll more than likely take it. Give them even half a chance and they’ll sniff it out. At our level, it might take one or two goes at it.”

“If we go there thinking we haven’t got a chance, what’s the point of turning up? We will give our utmost to get a victory, as we always do. And it’s not out of our reach to do that. A few weeks ago, I watched Derby County beat Manchester United – and they’re world champions, never mind champions of this country. I don’t think Derby players went into that game thinking they couldn’t get something from it. What we’ve got to do is try and get our noses in front so we’ve got something to hang on to. You’ve got to play your own game and be at your best to stand a chance.”

Now that is a very positive attitude from the Bluebirds’ boss.

And considering the recent results of Arsenal: 0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-0, Cardiff will surely give Arsenal a run for their money. Arsenal need to improve dramatically if they want to stay in the FA Cup. FA Cup is always full of surprises and there is no reason not to accept that there is a chance of Arsenal losing on Monday. But still lets have high hopes. Arsenal have the squad to go all the way so why not!

The closest Arsenal came to scoring

The closest Arsenal came to scoring

Cardiff, Everton, West Ham and now Tottenham. 4 straight draws and Arsenal are now 7 points behind Aston Villa. The Gunners now face an uphill task of  securing the Champions League spot. It seems quite unlikely now.

It was Arsenal who held Spurs to a draw and not Arsenal being held to a draw. Arsenal were dominated for most periods of the match and in the end a last minute save by Almunia saved the point.

The first half started with the hosts dominating. Slowly Arsenal seemed to get back into it and showed glimpses of brilliance, the Arsenal which we all want to see. Eboue looked full of energy but the hype of the ocassion got to him. First yellow carded for dissent for sheer stupidity and then stupidity once again earned him a second yellow and a red. The player let the fans, the manager and his teammates down. Then on Spurs had the numerical advantage and soon after the sending off Adebayor had to go off, injuring his hamstring. It seemed it just wasn’t our day. Half time approached and we did not have a single shot on goal. But we had our chances and we unfairly denied a clear goal by Eboue.

Nasri had a great first half

Nasri had a great first half

The second half saw more of the same, but even more domination by Spurs. Half chance after half chance but no real clear cut chance for either side. Spurs came closest to scoring with a Robbie Keane header just over the bar. Song also had a shot from a corner just outside the post. van Persie’s effort from a corner went wide. Right at the end Arsenal seemed to have given Spurs a big blow but Bendtner’s shot saved by Cudicini. And then on the counter Modric got a one on one with Almunia, only to be denied by a world class save by Almunia. But it was a poor finish by Modric too.

No Arshavin all match seemed very surprising. The Russian wasn’t match fit so Wenger didn’t start him. Fine. But why not give him 20 30 minutes?! Arsenal were looking poor at the end and needed Arshavin if they were to win. But it was as if Wenger was happy with a draw and Arshavin did not come on. We were lucky to get a draw in the end.

Wenger was a frustrated man at the end especially angered at the disallowed goal:

“I feel it is two points dropped because we had the best chances and we scored a regular goal that was ruled out by an illusionary foul seen by only the referee. I watched it three times on television and I still don’t see what was wrong. That is why at the end of the day it’s frustrating.”

Player Ratings:

Almunia – 8 – Had it not been for him, it would have been yet another defeat for Arsenal.

Sagna – 8 – As usual a brilliant performance. Did everything right. Especially when Eboue was sent off, he was the right back cum right winger and yet he did really well. Has amazing stamina.

Gallas – 7.5 – Did not put a foot wrong all match.

Toure – 6.5 – A couple of dangerous mistakes from the Ivorian but fortunately he got away with them.

Clichy – 7 – Did well. His injury was a big blow but he should be back for the next match.

Eboue – 4 – Arsenal did not win because of his sending off. He was after so long looking very good and was unfairly denied a goal. He seemed to pop up everywhere and it seemed it was going to be his day. But his character let him down. He has apologized for the red card but it won’t get Arsenal three points so no use.

Denilson – 7.5 – A nice little performance from him. He is starting to play quite well now. Made crucial interceptions and created a few chances. Just needs to work on his passing so he can provide killer passes. That is something he lacks.

Song – 7.5 – For the first time in quite a long time I was impressed  by him. He can be quite a good holding midfielder. Needs to be a lot more consistent though.

Nasri – 7.5 – Tried really hard all match. But I have been noticing that in the last 15 20 minutes he disappears.

van Persie – 7.5 – Like Nasri, tried to do something all match but in the end did not get too much support as Arsenal had a three man midfield of which Denilson and Song were mostly defending.

How bad will Adebayor's injury affect Arsenal

How bad will Adebayor's injury affect Arsenal

Adebayor – 5 – Could not play for long and the time that he was on, he did not do anything notable.

Substitutes:

Bendtner – 6 – Good movement off the ball, but he just isn’t an Arsenal player I feel.

Gibbs – Too little time to make an impact.

– Can anyone tell me where has Vela disappeared?! I am surprised. He has put up quite decent performances when given the chance, yet of all the praise that Wenger showered on him and his impressive performances in the Carling Cup he has not been given enough chances. I don’t get it.

– Adebayor is out for three weeks

Fabregas eyeing a very speedy recovery

Fabregas eyeing a very speedy recovery

Arsenal’s injured captain Cesc Fabregas could be back as early as 24th of this month in the Champions League clash against AS Roma.

The Arsenal starlet has been out injured since mid December when fellow Spaniard Alonso’s tackle injured Fabregas’s knee ligament. He was expected to return after 3 to 4 months but according to his doctor Ramon Cugat, he could make a surprisingly quick recovery and be back for the match against Roma.

The doc had been asked about how Fabregas is doing and when asked if he could be back for the Roma clash, he replied:

“I think so. The Arsenal doctors said it normally takes three-and-a-half months to recover because of the way it happened. But I believe he will return quicker than then. I recognise that the player needs to be ready, to have good mobility and stability and that he needs to feel good after returning to training.

“The one that will know best is the player. I saw him last week. He passed the tests, there had been a clear improvement. He was expecting to make a speedy recovery. What is even better is that he could recover more quickly than is considered normal, which is very good.”

With the fighting character that our captain has, I always hoped he could make an earlier than expected return and it seems that is exactly what is going to happen. If his own doctor thinks so, then we have to accept his view.

It sure is the best news we could hear! I said at the start of 2009 this could be Arsenal’s year and it seems so doesn’t it?! van Persie is in the form of his lifetime, Arsenal are on a 10 match unbeaten run, Arshavin has joined the club and even has a slight chance of making his debut tomorrow and to add to the list now is that Fabregas might be back in action within a couple of weeks. This is great news and somehow I feel we might finally win a trophy this year. Ok last year it seemed like it too but still lets wait and see.

Burnley celebrate the opening goal

Burnley celebrate the opening goal

Giant killers Burnley have claimed yet another Premier League scalp in West Brom. The FA Cup replay saw the Championship side thrash Tony Mowbray’s side 3-1 at Turf Moor. This means if Arsenal truimph against Cardiff at the Emirates on 16th of February, they will once again play Burnley, who knocked the young guns of Arsenal out of the League Cup. Burnley have already defeated Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham and now West Brom.

fabregas02

"Now my only worry is that I recover as soon as possible"

Apart from that Fabregas says he wont go anywhere near Nou Camp. The Spaniard said:

“I’d have liked to have gone to watch Barcelona at the Nou Camp, but I wanted to avoid all the speculation about my future. Now my only worry is that I recover as soon as possible to return to Arsenal and help my team.”

No surprises there. Once again the Arsenal captain wastes no time in addressing speculations regarding his future. Hope he returns earlier than expected. He has the will and I am sure he can do it. Arsenal need him back big time!

Arshavin - Can't wait to start playing!

Arshavin - Can't wait to start playing!

Meanwhile Andrei Arshavin had a session with the fans. The new Arsenal player looked very excited and claimed that he has been a Gooner for quite some time now. He says he joined Arsenal because he likes he club’s style, Arsene Wenger and a few players. The forward is already looking to spur Arsenal’s silverware ambitions.  The Russian said:

“Arsenal’s aim is to win the Premier League title and be European champions. That is always the target for this club, so everybody knows that.

“I have already had a training session, and I am pleased with how I have been welcomed. Everyone has been very hospitable.

“I’m yet to train at the stadium but I’ve trained at the training ground and I was happy with how they took to me. Everything was very good, everyone was welcoming, asking me what I needed and things.

“We trained for an hour and a quarter, in the gym and then on the pitch. I got a positive impression from my new team mates. They believe in me.”

“Arsenal play very fast and attacking football that I really like, and there are many creative players.

“Wenger is a great man, and I never thought I would be able to play in his team.

“Here in London, I have had three or four interviews in English. It is clear that I am unlikely to speak without making errors, but it seems to me that I am being understood. In any case, I have only had to resort to using an interpreter a few times in these interviews. Naturally, I will improve.

“Naturally there are problems with English because I don’t know the language very well and can just chat about basic every day things.

“And today I was sitting in the changing room and it was all French – now that’s a language I have a lot of problems with*laughs*! But I hope we will get over the language barrier and everything else very quickly.”

Looking quite confident and happy from the start! As always the players have made a new player feel at home and that is very vital for one to settle at a new club. It’s good to see he has already had interviews in English. Learning the language will be vital for him to settle in quickly. He seems really confident and hopeful. That’s really good.

by Zain Shahid

Fabregas - Linked with Barcelona yet again

Fabregas - Linked with Barcelona yet again

Arsenal’s season is turning into a battle for a Champions League spot than for the title. And if Arsenal end up 5th or below then we might be seeing a host of top players being linked heavily with a move outside the Emirates with Fabregas at the top of the list.

Actually as for Fabregas, the rumours have already started! Sports daily Marca claims Fabregas is already considering a move to Barcelona in the summer. The paper reports that the Arsenal star has had a few meetings with the Catalan club’s officials. A small extract of the article is as follows:

“The message he has sent out to all is that he is crazy for Barcelona to sign him for next season.”

Seems outrageous doesn’t it?! Well from experience I can tell never to believe stupid rumours in tabloids and all. But as for Fabregas you never know if it’s true or not because the Spaniard has repeatedly in the past expressed his desire to join Barcelona. But on the other hand he has also time and again assured the fans that he is fully committed to Arsenal and has no plans to leave the club. I thought the reason, more than anything else, for making Fabregas the captain was to keep him at the club with an extra incentive. I feel that Fabregas won’t leave Arsenal till Wenger is here. Or maybe I just hope so… It’s too early to talk much about this. Only time will tell how the situation shapes up.

by Zain Shahid

NASRI-ARSENAL-WEST-HAM2 matches, 2 draws, 4 points dropped. And Wenger says we are in the title race! We have seen two hopeless performances from Arsenal and if we continue this way then say goodbye to Champions League football and the revenue that comes with it. Yesterday’s match was one in which we did not have a single clear cut chance and that explains Arsenal’s story.

From the start till the end we dominated possession. It’s becoming a trademark of Arsenal now, dominate 60+% possession and still don’t win! In the first half the closest Arsenal came to scoring was Diaby’s deflected header hitting the bar. Some good runs and crosses by Nasri. I was really impressed to see how quick he is. He was the only Gunner in the first half who played above average. Diaby wasn’t bad either though. Eboue gave the ball away too often but I felt sorry for him when he got injured. He had a good match if you don’t look at the number of times he gave the ball away!

Arsenal forgot the first half and made a fresh start in the second half. But still lack of penetration. Collins and Upson again proving too hard to break down. Arsenal’s attacks were all limited to outside the box. Just a one decent chance in this half too, the header that was helped on to the keeper by Adebayor. I think he should get a haircut because his hair acts as a cushion and slows the ball down when he heads the ball! In the final 20 mins or so, Nasri was nowhere to be seen. Diaby looked tired. There was a big sense of urgency about Arsenal’s play in the end which we haven’t seen much this season but eventually it came down to nothing. Toure’s shot out of nowhere was the closest we came to scoring in the whole match.

In the end it was two points dropped. Two points dropped at home and with a trip to White Hart Lane next up, I think we should start hoping we at least end up finishing 5th and not worse than that! The lack of quality in the final third is what led to two lost points. The lack of penetration is getting more and more annoying.

Almunia hardly had any work to do. Sagna was yet again brilliant. Gallas and Toure were midfielders rather than defenders because all match the ball was in West Ham’s half. Clichy made really impressive runs forward. The midfield looked decent but they could not break down the 9 man defence. Adebayor was hopeless. I have no idea where has his talent which we saw last season disappeared. Bendtner was average. Nothing special from him. Nasri’s was the only standout performance yesterday. van Persie got too little time to do anything but hopefully the rest he got will lead to a man of the match performance against Cardiff on Tuesday! I have high hopes from the FA Cup now as I start to lose hope from the Preimer League.