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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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Theo Walcott is all set to spend another spell on the sidelines as the winger has now injured his knee. The young Englishman who had just recently returned from a horrendous shoulder injury had been pulling the strings for Arsenal along with the impressive Arshavin for Arsenal in the recent matches and his injury comes as a big blow to the Gunners.

Arsenal had been counting on the returns of their injured players including Walcott to give finishing touches to their brilliant runs in the FA Cup and Champions League but Walcott’s injury is a big setback. The extent of the injury is still not known but Wenger expects him not to be available for England’s coming fixture so he could be out for a few weeks at least.Arsene Wenger revealed the news on Arsenal.com:

“Walcott got injured today in training. We have to test it, he has a scan on his knee today. We are surprised and worried. He was in very good form coming back and that is very bad news for us and for England. For the rest of the season might be too long, but he’s out of tomorrow’s squad and he could be out of the England squad. He locked his knee so it could be a cartilage problem. He did it walking back from training. He was fully normal during training but maybe it only came out when he stopped. We have to see how he responds today and I hope it’s not really serious.”

Lets pray the injury isn’t serious and that he gets back as soon as possible.

Alongwith Walcott’s injury comes some good news which will be overshadowed by the bad news. Eduardo returns and is in the squad for the trip to St. James’s Park. Eduardo can’t fill the temporary void left by Walcott but his return is a welcome one.

“Eduardo played just over a week ago against Roma – he had a minor injury and he is in the squad tomorrow. Manuel Almunia is fit too.”

Hopefully now Eduardo can put away the simple chances that come Arsenal’s way but have been wasted by Bendtner and van Persie in recent matches.

In a match in which there was no standout performer for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s club still managed to win the tie on penalties. It ended 1-0 to Roma after extra time and they deserved it. But as Wenger said the mental strength of the young Arsenal side was unbelievable.

van Persie!

Arsenal knew coming into this match that if they score just one goal, Roma will have an uphill task of scoring 3 to go through. But on the other hand an early goal for Roma would put the tie right in the balance and that is exactly what happened thanks to some poor defending by the Arsenal back four. Totti sent a weak, low cross in. Gallas tried to stop it but couldn’t, Toure attempted to clear it with his left foot but couldn’t. It came to Taddei who let it run to the unmarked Juan at the far post. Clichy should have been there marking the Brazilian but instead the young left back was in no man’s land. Juan collected the ball and slammed it past Almunia to make it 1-1 on aggregate in just the 9th minute of the match. It was game on. Roma kept pressing but so did Arsenal. Diaby had a chance from a corner but he could not get sufficient power behind his header. Then a golden chance for Roma to put Arsenal under immense pressure. Motta had a powerful shot which was punched away by Almunia straight to Taddei but Almunia denied Taddei with a fingertip save. To end the first half, the referee made a bad decision, though for us it was a good one! Clichy apparently had brought Motta down inside the box but the referee waved away the appeals for a penalty, wrongly it seemed. It was quite an even first half but Roma had the better chances. Arsenal had nearly 60% possession but despite that they had failed to create a clear cut goal scoring opportunity.

The second half saw more of the same with Roma clearly being the better side. There were a few half chances for both sides. Bendtner nearly went one on one with Doni but a misplaced pass by Eboue wasted a could-be golden opportunity. Baptista had the best chance of the match. Totti sent a great ball to the Beast which he somehow failed to control, if he had managed to control it he would have had Almunia at his mercy. There was another decent chance for Roma but Sagna made an amazing tackle to end the attack. Normal time ended with everyone looking fatigued apart from the substitutes.

Extra time showed how tired out everyone was. No real attacks from either side and as it was nearly 4am here, the 30 minutes made me really sleepy! It was time now for penalties. The mental strength of the youth of Arsenal against that of the experienced Roma.

Substitute Eduardo stepped up to take the first penalty of the shootout. He had a very poor substitute appearance so far but I just knew he was going to score. But he shocked us all with a poor penalty. Too close to the keeper. At this moment I felt this is not our day. Pizarro came up and dispatched his penalty and van Persie did the same. Then the unexpected happened again. Vucinic of all people hit the penalty straight at Almunia and well done by Almunia too. Then Nasri scored and so did Montello. When Denilson came, I had a bad feeling he is going to miss the penalty. The Brazilian smashed his penalty straight down the middle but fortunately Doni had dived. Then Totti expertly scored his penalty. Walcott did the same and Sagna, Toure also scored but their penalties were canceled out by Aquilani, Brighi and Riise. Diaby then converted his spot kick and Tonnetto blasted his over the bar and the Gunners were through to the quarter finals! The stadium was silenced as Arsenal players were jumping around with joy, hugging each other and waving towards the traveling Gooners. It was a victory that towards the end, I was losing hope of but the Gunners did not let their fans down. It may not have been a performance to remember but its the result that matters and Arsenal got it.

One has to admit we are extremely lucky to go through. There was a clear penalty for Roma not given. That Baptista chance would have easily been put away on any other day and most of our penalties were easily stoppable if Doni had dived the right way. I think only Nasri’s and van Persie’s penalties were good, others were all stoppable (though I don’t exactly remember). It was very nice to see luck on our side for a change! Luck is vital. You don’t win trophies just by pure class, you need luck too and it seems Arsenal had loads of it last night. Hopefully that can continue for the rest of the season! We may have gone through but it was not a performance to be proud of. We need to make ammends. If we can’t create chances against Roma then it would be far more difficult against the likes of Manchester United and Barca. Only Almunia and Sagna played well. Others were average. Gallas and Toure weren’t bad either but their mistake for the goal could have proved costly. So defensively we looked sound. On the attacking front though, dramatic improvements are needed. On the positive side, we still have the Champions League and FA Cup within our sights.

Walcott daring for the physical battle against AS Roma

Walcott daring for the physical battle against AS Roma

Theo Walcott, who just returned from four months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, wants Roma players to have a real go at him as he wants to get used to the physical side of the game because at training fellow team mates come down very soft on him.

“The injury feels fine but I still haven’t experienced a real whack yet. As weird as it might sound, it would definitely be really good for me if the Roma players give me a clattering. In Arsenal training, you obviously don’t want to injure your own team-mates, so you tend to be a bit softer in the tackle. I’ve tried to encourage people to test it out in training but it’s not the same as in match situations. Our new doctor, Gary O’Driscoll, comes from a rugby background. He has regularly dealt with dislocated shoulders and says players tend to come back without suffering any reaction. It should be a good battle against Riise. He was one of the players telling me to stop running when I set up the goal for Emmanuel Adebayor at Anfield last year. But we still ended up losing that tie so, hopefully, I can do better against him this time.

“I have learned so much from watching Eduardo while he has been injured.Even though he was out for a year, he took everything in his stride and came in to the club with a smile every day. It’s given everyone at the club a lift to have so many of our injured players coming back at such an important part of the season.”

I hope Walcott survives the physical battle against Roma and puts up a performance to remember. The way he played against Burnley, he never looked like he had been out for so long. Lets hope he continues this way. I can’t wait to see him play against a much tougher opposition in Roma and see how he fares against them. As for Eduardo, all I can say is hats off to the Croation. One wouldn’t find such an emotional story in football’s recent history as Eduardo’s injury and return.

Walcott and Eduardo are back and could play a part in the FA Cup match against Burnley. Adebayor should be back for the mid-week trip to Roma and Fabregas and Rosicky are expected to be back before the end of this month.

Greats news! With all of them back in the side, Arsenal are one of the best attacking sides in the Premier League and them coming back should help seal the 4th place too, not to mention making good runs in the FA Cup and Champions League and hopefully winning a trophy. I can’t wait to see Fabregas back. We have missed him big time, especially Adebayor whose goal dried out after Fabregas’s injury!

Rosicky - Could be back much earlier than expected!

Rosicky - Could be back much earlier than expected!

We all thought Fabregas was going to surprise us with an earlier than expected recovery. But Rosicky! Not a single person on this earth would have expected that!

The Czech international has been out for over a year with a hamstring injury and could be back in just about 3 weeks! Can you believe it! And we had thought we would only be able to see him next season!

As you may have read on Arsenal.com an ecstatic Wenger said:

“Tomas needs three weeks to play in training fully fit. He is still doing special training but in three weeks he will join in with the first team. It will be three weeks to play in the Reserves, touch wood. Rosicky looks very good in training, he looks unbelievably strong. Fabregas looks good, Diaby will come back. Rosicky is three weeks, Cesc four weeks, Theo two weeks.”

This means all of them should be back for the last 6 matches of the Premier League which includes matches against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. This season is suddenly taking a u-turn. We all looked down and out with once again nearly no hope of a trophy but suddenly we are on a 12 match unbeaten run, Arshavin is here, Eduardo is back from his long term injury and now Walcott, Fabregas and Rosicky are weeks away from return. I am quite hopeful of finishing inside the top 4 and winning the FA Cup now.

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.

Bendtner

Bendtner

As Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 win over Cardiff, it was the best day of Eduardo da Silva’s life. The forward returning from a year on the sidelines and grabbing a brace in his comeback match. Bendtner too played an important part in the match, getting a goal and an assist.

The Dane was extremely pleased with Arsenal’s performance and thrilled at the dream return of Eduardo:

“It was amazing – all the fans and players have waited for him to come back after the horrific thing that happened and it’s really, really good for him to come back with two goals. I think we did really well. We showed a lot of things out there and it’s important to go through, although the rest of the games will be hard. I’m happy with one goal and for us to win the game – I try to be a part of the team.”

Fabregas - Arsenal Miss Him!

Fabregas - Arsenal Miss Him!

Meanwhile Fabregas is eyeing a quick return claiming he is reaching the last phase of his recovery schedule and should be back in a couple of weeks. The Spaniard has now returned to London and will soon be training with the club but as for now he will be spending time with his team-mates as he said: “Over the last few weeks I have only thought of my injury, but now it’s time for me to come back to the team. I am the captain and I have responsibilities. I have to be next to my team-mates even if I’m not playing.” Fabregas makes us all proud!

Also Walcott has been offered a 5 year contract that will keep him at the club till 2014 and he will earn £13 million during this time at £50,000 per week. We all want him to stay and hope he agrees to the contract. He is one of our main players.

Fabregas coming back is awesome news! Should be back in action for Arsenal next month and the same for Walcott I think. Things are looking good. Once those two are back we will have our perfect squad (excluding Rosicky and considering no one else gets injured during this time! Especially van Persie!). Go Arsenal!

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 players can now swap their national teams shirts back to the red and white of Arsenal. Arsenal are stuck in the 5th round as first they had a draw in the away game and then the replay had to be postponed due to heavy snowfall.

The FA Cup is the competition that Arsenal have the most realistic chance of winning and finally bringing to an end the trophy-less years. Arsenal are further helped by the fact that all the matches leading up to the semifinals will be home ties for them. That will be quite an advantage.

But leading up to this match Arsenal are going through a bad patch. Way too many draws for them. 0-0, 1-1, 0-0 and 0-0 in their last four games says it all. What is even more alarming is that they have scored just a single goal in their last 4 games. Arsene Wenger is also quite surprised by that run:

“It is completely unlike us, the circumstances are a little bit strange. We played against West Ham who had a very good side, we played at Cardiff which is a little bit special and then we played at Tottenham with 10 men. We are used to scoring goals and we will score goals again, don’t worry. We have always had a good forward line and we were very close to scoring many times against West Ham and Cardiff. At the moment it is difficult for everybody to score but if we keep playing well as a team I’ m sure that will come back.”

Dramatic improvement is needed. But on the positive side. Those are 3 clean sheets from 4 matches and moving a bit more back, it’s 5 clean sheets from the last 8 games.

But Wenger is not worried by the last three draws as when you look at the bigger picture, Arsenal are unbeaten in 11 games and that is quite a run. The Frenchman said:

“We want to prepare well because we know it is a very important game for us and we need to focus. We are unbeaten in 11 matches and want to keep that going in every competition — the longer that lasts, the stronger you will be. If the three draws put together don’t look good, then you must put the whole 11 games together and that looks like we are on a run.”

On the other hand, ironically Cardiff are also on an 11 match unbeaten run. In those matches they are 6 matches unbeaten away from home but it includes 4 draws and have let in 7 goals in these 6 away games. Their last four matches are much better than Arsenal’s: 1-1, 0-0, 2-0, 2-0.

This match is very vital for Arsenal. They need to continue their unbeaten run and by doing so they will stay alive in the competition in which they have the best chance of ending up with the trophy. Wenger knows the importance of the match:

“We want to transform that bit of disappointment from a draw into a convincing victory, and the team is on a good way. I believe we should focus on our way to be successful and not too much on the others. We need outstanding performances until the end of the season and the only way to achieve that is by focusing on our performances.”

Which team will Wenger go for is a very difficult guess. It’s the FA Cup. Maybe Wenger will go for a side with a mixture of first teamers and fringe players or considering the importance of the match, you lose you are out, he might go for a full strength side. I expect the first possibility. Arshavin isn’t available as he wasn’t an Arsenal player at the time of the first leg so there is one player out of contention. Diaby is injured, Eboue suspended and also Ramsey is injured. Eduardo is back and may play a part though I don’t expect him to be handed out a start. I expect the following line up:

Fabianski
Sagna     Gallas     Djourou     Gibbs
_____     Denilson     Song     Nasri
van Persie     Bendtner

Now there is a gap there. Arsenal are out of right wingers at the moment. So maybe Wilshere will be given a start on the left with Nasri on the right, or Vela on the left and Nasri on the right. I would love to see either of them play. But from what I have heard Bischoff can play in the centre and on the right and I would be pleased to see him play. He can score absolute stunners! Eduardo might come on as a late substitute.

Prediction 1-0 to Arsenal.