By The Time People Take Us Seriously It Will Be Far Too Late…

Times Change Patrick…

Arsenal in Europe have been simply immaculate. Partly this is because no-one gives us a chance, and then when we get a fanastic result we don’t get the credit we deserve. It might be annoying now but it can actually work in our favour…

Before the huge matches against Real Madrid, we were favourites to go out. Real were on an awesome run in the league and were scoring for fun. Robinho, Beckham, Zidane, Guti et al were all in great form and they were pitched against a side that couldn’t win back-to-back league fixtures against midtable opposition, couldn’t win or score away and had major injury problems.

So how were Arsenal going to fare in the Bernabeu, the place no English side has ever won before?

We pulled off a great team performance and left with a 1-0 win – and we should have had more. Even in the 2nd leg against Real Reyes was guilt of missing several guilt-edged chances and we had the clearer opportunities. Still, we progressed after defeating one of Europe’s superpowers.

Then to the tie against Juventus.

As you will have heard from almost everywhere, they are 8 points clear in Serie A with 7 games remaining, and cruising a league which includes a great team like AC Milan.

And Arsenal are 6th in the Premiership.

But Arsenal dominated the entire game against the old lady, who supposedly had our best player of recent times – Patrick Vieira – at their disposal.

But football is a team game – and as we have shown against Real we play together to devastating effect.

Across Europe, teams think that we are just a one man team with Henry. They don’t realise how efficient and effective the rest of the team are. Players like Hleb, Reyes, Fabregas and Pires will make those runs that create holes in any defense.

Juventus were surprised at Arsenal’s approach, and from the first minute could not cope with the pace of the game. Arsenal have a team full of young, hungry, determined and energetic players. While the Juventus team are full of experienced players who have won the World Cup, European Championships and countless domestic titles.

That is the difference.

Arsenal wanted it more last night, and you can talk about the absence of Pavel Nedved and Del Piero, but they wouldn’t had made a difference. Anyway, we had Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Ljungberg and loads of others out.

We had Flamini our 8th left-back this season in the 1st eleven! But to be fair, the young Frenchman has been brilliant every game he has played, and as stupid as this sounds I wouldn’t be bothered if Wenger got £15 million for Cashley and kept Flamini at left-back!

He has hunger, pace, determination and has proven himself in the Premiership, as well as against Real Madrid and Juventus.

He’s been a fantastic player for us.

Anyway, here’s my player ratings for the match last night…

Jens Lehmann: 7/10
Nothing to do except intercept a couple of crosses midway through the second half. But did well when called upon, which was hardly ever because of the solid defensive unit.

Emmanuel Eboue: 7/10
Did well again, and it’s hard to believe the kid only made his Premiership debut 6 weeks ago! I think Lauren is a really good player but I can’t see him getting back into the side the way the young Ivory Coast international is playing. As usual, made great forward runs and had Mutu in his back pocket.

Kolo Toure: 9/10
Exceptional. The tricky Ibrahimovic managed to get the ball on several occasions but Toure made some awesome tackles. A real captain’s performance.

Philippe Senderos: 8/10
His partnership with Toure just keeps getting better and better and so much so that I’m not bothered if Sol Campbell ever returns. So hungry against last night and he even chased a few lost balls all the way to Buffon in the first half. Threw himself at everything and made Trezeguet look like pedestrian.

Mathieu Flamini: 8/10
Is this guy a left-back? So assured again you don’t want this guy to be on the bench when Cole returns. Made those attacking runs to support Reyes and they work well together on the left. Camoranesi look frustrated all game which ended in a cynical red card.

Alexander Hleb: 7/10
Struggled against Zambrotta in the first half but picked up his game into the second. Never really captured his form against Real or Charlton but played some nice passes, including the beautifully weighted ball for Fabregas to assist Henry’s goal.

Gilberto Silva: 8/10
Covered well to give Fabregas and Pires attacking freedom, and helped out the back four superbly. A couple of mislayed passes now and then but he’s there to keep Juventus quiet, and Vieira and Emerson didn’t get a sniff.

Francesc Fabregas: 9/10
Made Vieira look small. The pre-match hype was all about Vieira and he told everyone that time moves on at there is no time for regrets. How right our old captain was. Times change Patrick, and unfortunately you’re not part of it anymore. Great assist for Henry’s goal. Cesc was absolutely Fabregas!

Jose Antonio Reyes: 8/10
I loved his dedication last night. Whatever you say about Jose, he will run until his legs fall off and will always give 110%. Made Camoranesi look foolish at times and was never afraid to take on players.

Robert Pires: 9/10
Won’t get all the headlines but played out of his skin. Marked Vieira well and I was shocked as anyone when he won a header in our own area after about 20 minutes. I was even more shocked when he made THAT tackle on Vieira that started the move for Cesc’s goal. Good movement, good passing and great support play. Excellent performance.

Thierry Henry: 9/10
Really loves it when Arsenal are against it. Might not celebrate all his goals with pure rage anymore but after he scored Arsenal’s second he went ballistic! Took the goal every well on the turn and really came to life in the second half. Frustrated Juventus as the game wore on and with a few minutes to go Zebina just had enough of him and got sent off.

Vieira to Pires, Pires to Henry, Henry to Fabregas – GOAL! 

Ah, just like the good old days….

Champions League Preview: Arsenal v Juventus

C’mon Patrick! We Can Do It!

Tomorrow will see one of Arsenal’s greatest ever players to return to Highbury, in a defining match in Arsenal’s season.

Vieira has had little swipes at Arsenal, claiming Juventus is a much better place to be because there is a hunger which was lacking at Highbury. Arsene Wenger on the other hand has chosen the run up to the massive Champions League clash to reveal it was difficult to tell Vieira he was no longer wanted anymore. We all knew that but Wenger has re-iterated the point to add spice to the tie.

Meanwhile, Jose Antonio Reyes has praised the former captain, and talked about how great Vieira was in helping the little Spaniard settle in at Arsenal.

The telegraph have an interesting article on Patrick Vieira’s performance against Roma at the weekend, which critics say was below par for most of the game.

But to be honest I don’t care what they say – we know what Vieira can do and he is more that capable of grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck and ripping sides apart. Let’s just hope he has a poor game tomorrow night…

Of the players that could have possibly made the squad for tomorrow night only Jose Antonio Reyes is available, which is good news since Freddie is still out. Even though Ljungberg’s form in the league has been inconsistent, his performances in Europe have been superb so he will be a big loss. Sol Campbell is still out and with Senderos and Toure forming a solid partnership I can’t say I’m all that bothered.

Hleb and Eboue’s partnership down the right will be important to Arsenal’s success, and you would have to say Reyes would get the nod over Pires on the left hand side. With Wenger deploying 4-5-1 in Europe and Freddie out, it’s a toss up between Bergkamp, Pires and Van Persie for the 5th midfielder role.

It might even be a night for Cesc to push up further up the pitch, and Diaby could partner Gilberto in the middle. But we’ll see…

Juventus are missing their star man Pavel Nedved through suspension, and Del Piero is injured – although from what I understand has been mostly on the bench this season anyway.

Our record against Italian teams is a bit up and down, but we all remember the magical night at Highbury a few seasons ago when a Freddie double and a magnificent Henry freekick gave us a 3-1 win over Juventus.

I’m getting goosebumps already… This is going to be a hell of a game!

Stuff dreams are made of – Real Madrid and now Juve!

Henry Leaving? No Chance!

Henry: Man On Fire…

A routine win over Charlton is the latest chapter in the Thierry Henry show, who has been in phenomenal form over the last few weeks.

A fantastic goal at the Bernabeu, a masterclass at Fulham, a real captains performance against Real at Highbury to progress in the Champions League and another brilliant display against Charlton Athletic.

Is Henry leaving?

You’ve got to be kidding!

Henry loves this club far too much, and moving to another team just does not make any sense.

Yes, Arsenal are having an uncharacteristically inconsistent season – but 4th place and a Champions League spot are no longer a distant possibility.

But is jumping ship after one bad (although it’s turning out okay at the moment) season a little hasty?

And why would Henry leave his mentor Arsene, the man who masterminded Henry’s extraordinary career which has resulted him in becoming one of the best players in the world today.

He is an Arsenal legend, a man who has smashed Ian Wright’s goalscoring record and a guy who people compare to Ronaldinho.

Where else in the world can Henry have a team based around his strengths, like at Arsenal?

And a manager who gets the best out of him?

And Henry has a family in London – would he just up and leave for Spain or Italy?

It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Henry indicated that he was going to stay in January, and to me that is good enough.

Wenger has stated that the next contract Arsenal offer him would be the last one of his career, so everyone has to make sure that is the right one.

Arsene has delayed signing contracts in the past, and people have always speculated about Wenger going to Real Madrid or somewhere in Italy.

But he’s always stayed.

Henry has always had hunger and desire playing for Arsenal and his reaction to Adebayors lack of a pass when he was through against Charlton doesn’t seem like the reaction of a guy whos mind is elsewhere.

We’ll see where Henry is next season…

This Is The Game We’ve All Been Waiting For..

Cesc Fabregas: Man Of The Moment

Cesc Fabregas had a great game in Madrid, and now Real apparently want the midfield maestro – funny how they bring this all up just before the biggest game of his career. No dirty mind tricks going on here then…

With Arsenal winning 1-0 at the Bernabeu, if Madrid get two goals then Arsenal will have to get two back to go through – that’s a given.

The first goal will be vital to the outcome of the match. If Arsenal get it, you can expect Arsenal to make the home advantage count and maybe add another one or two. But if Real Madrid get it, it will start to become a very tense game.

A lot has been made about the narrow pitch at Highbury, with Gilberto saying it will suit Arsenal, and Wenger saying it will suit Madrid. I’d have to say after watching the 1st leg that it would probably favour the team from Spain. At the Bernabeu, Reyes, Henry, Freddie and Hleb used the full width of the pitch and exposed the space and which then created openings in the middle. That probably won’t happen tonight.

We know Arsenal will give it everything.

But Real are a bit unpredictable. We all saw what happened when they really are in the groove – they destroyed Manchester United at Old Trafford, with Ronaldo scoring an impressive hattrick.

But then we all saw the crashing 6-1 defeat to the hands of Real Zaragoza in the Copa del Rey earlier this year.
Basically a one goal lead against any of the last 16 of this competition is never enough, so Arsenal will have to give another awesome performance to get past one of the greats of European and World football.

All it takes is a moment of brilliance from Beckham, Ronaldo, Guti, Zidane, Robinho, Raul et al.

I had a feeling that Bergkamp would start tonight, because of his ability to cut open defences, but with him just coming back from injury and without having many games under his belt this campaign, I think Arsene would probably stick with the tight 4-5-1 that worked so well in Spain.

I predicted that Arsenal would win 1-0 in the 1st leg, with Henry being the first goalscorer. At odds of 50/1 I managed to make a tidy little profit.

This time round however, it will be harder to predict what will happen.

At home, Arsenal can be effective from corners and set pieces, so a goal for Toure or Senderos might open the scoring. But we’ll see…

Last night was was cruel night for some of the Champions League teams.

Werder Bremen were robbed by Juventus with 2 minutes remaining, when keeper Tim Wiese dropped the ball in the area for Emerson to stroke into the empty net.

Everyone could have done with the mighty Juventus being knocked out of the competition.

Rangers were just one goal away from reaching the last eight, but they conceded a sloppy goal just after half time to be put out on away goals to Villarreal.

In the biggest game of the night, I’ll have to admit that I did want Chelsea to make it, because although I hate them in the league, it’s always good to have a English team progress.

But they simply didn’t do enough to deserve going through.

Lampard was far too deep, and I was surprised that Crespo didn’t start the game. The ball on the ground suited his style of play, unlike the long balls used in the first leg on that dodgy Stamford Bridge pitch.

I thought that Drogba should have started the 1st leg, and Crespo the 2nd.

On the touchline however, Mourinho was being his arrogant self, shaking his head at every decision and sarcastically applauding the referee.

Then in the post-match interviews he blamed the referee for blowing the whistle too much, and made a sly comment about not being in the G14.

I don’t know if Jose Mourinho wants everyone to hate him, because when he first came I actually liked him – probably like most of the football fans in this country.

But recently he has been creating this siege mentality by being unnecessarily sarcastic and disrespectful in interviews, arguing with other managers like Bryan Robson, refusing to shake hands (even Arsene and Fergie shake hands), running onto the pitch and celebrating like a deranged lunatic, making up serious allegations without any proof (which lead to death threats to Anders Frisk and his retirement), blasting Wenger for his obsession with Chelsea (and then exposing his own hundred page Wenger & Arsenal dossier), and the list goes on.

Man United’s seige mentality came from ‘No one likes us, so we don’t care’, whereas Chelsea’s comes from ‘We don’t care, so no one likes us’.

Arsenal On Fire & Madrid In Real Trouble?

The Ace In The Pack…

I haven’t been excited about an Arsenal game, well since the last Real Madrid game, but the point is that I am preparing myself for possibly the biggest game of our season so far.

The signs look good, with a 4-0 thrashing of Fulham at the weekend in which Thierry Henry showed the Premiership a masterclass in football. He was all over the pitch and watching the game you could see some really hunger and desire – something which some fans have questions over the last few months.

At times, Henry has been branded a lazy player who doesn’t care about Arsenal, but he has always played that way – with a swagger that makes him who he is. Sometimes if he can’t get into a game he does look like he isn’t bothered, and I for one will admit to questioning his commitment at times. But that is a mistake on my part I am happy to admit – Henry loves this club.

But when things go badly fans always look to blame something for the poor form, and with Henry as captain it is easy to fault his performances.

So let’s hope this can be a change of fortunes for us in a difficult transitional season for the gunners…

Although Spurs are 5 points ahead of us, it is comforting to know that Arsenal are having the most problematic season for almost a decade, while our neighbours are flying by their own standards. If they don’t finish above us this season they never will!

Real Madrid in comparison are having real in house problems of their own.

Florentino Perez quit as Real Madrid’s president because of the big problems behind the scenes at Madrid – like Ronaldo threatening to quit because apparently the fans don’t love him, no-one celebrating with Sergio Ramos when he put Real 1-0 up against Mallorca and David Beckham has spoken out how off the field problems are affecting the team.

Although Madrid have so many egos in the team, it is surprising to me that problems are arising now – they’ve had the biggest players in the world join them over the last 6 years and have done pretty well over that time, although I believe that they haven’t won anything for the last 3 seasons.

But of course, it would be stupid to underestimate Real Madrid tomorrow night.

We all know what siege mentality can do to a team, and we might just find that Real will be fighting harder than ever before to salvage thier Champions League status.

Not many people are giving Real a chance tomorrow night. But who gave us a chance two weeks ago?

Get ready for the biggest game of the season.