I didn’t think I’ll get over the Birmingham sadness so soon. Yet, after a good night’s sleep, I’m quite positive about the first leg of the quarter-final at the Emirates. Fabregas’ injury worry does dampen the spirit but I’m sure he’ll play if he can walk.
Part of my happiness is down to the position for position analysis that I did for this game. Arsenal are not as far behind their more illustrious opponents and the gulf in class is nowhere near as much as the media would have us believe.
Goalkeeper: Almunia = Valdes
In spite of the flak that our Spaniard receives, I’m quite convinced that Valdes isn’t any better. It’s interesting to note that neither of them play for the national side, a point that Almunia haters often make. To me Victor Valdes is proof that a team can win trophies with a dodgy keeper!
Right Back: Eboue = Alves
Dani Alves is widely regarded as one of the best attacking full backs in the world. The amount of money Barca paid for him certainly implies so. Eboue has had his issues in the past but on present form I cannot see how the Brazilian is any better than the Ivorian. If anything Eboue is a slightly better defender and probably a better athlete.
Center Backs: Vermaelen = Pique ; Puyol > Campbell
Vermaelen and Pique are excellent ball playing centre backs. I find it difficult to choose between them. Puyol is slightly better than Campbell due to the fact that he has been playing at the top level on a consistent basis for a long time while big Sol is only coming back to this level. Technically there isn’t much of a difference.
Left Back: Clichy > Abidal/Maxwell
Clichy is another one who has come in for some criticism. On his day he is far superior to either of the Catalan left backs. And we need him to be on top of his game for this fixture.
Song >> Toure
I would pick Song over Ya Ya Toure all season long. The Barca man has been in the media spot light and many fans believe he will be a good addition to Arsenal. I doubt if he can take Song’s place in this Arsenal eleven.
Diaby > Kieta
They seem to be quite similar in build and playing style. Kieta has added some goals to his game this season but I feel Diaby makes a much better overall contribution.
Cesc > Xavi
I rate Fabregas as the best midfielder in the world. Xavi is a fantastic player but he isn’t in the same league as Fabregas. They do perform a slightly different role so this comparison isn’t completely valid.
Iniesta >> Denilson
Thankfully, the diminutive Spaniard will be missing this game so this comparison is redundant.
Henry = Nasri/Rosicky
Three years ago Henry would have been on a different planet and not comparable to anyone. Right now he isn’t. The former Arsenal great is still a more potent attacking threat but Nasri and Rosicky have a better balanced game.
Ibrahimovic > Bendtner
In due course the young Dane will become a better player than the Swede. On present form and abilities Ibra is a much bigger threat than Nick.
Messi >> Arshavin
Messi is on a different level altogether. While I love the talents of our Russian magician, there is no one in the world who can be considered on par with the Argentine phenomenon, not even Ronaldo.
Our defence and midfield are stronger than that of the opponents, especially with Iniesta out injured. Their attack is far more dangerous than ours. We do score a lot of goals but a great deal of that comes from our midfield. We have to ensure that we keep their attack quiet and capitalize on their weaknesses.
Arshavin will be our key man. I did say he is not in the same league as Messi but he is a big weapon nonetheless.
Tactics will be important in this game and I’ll discuss those in the preview post tomorrow.