Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last Eight

With Barcelona and Bordeaux winning their ties tonight, the quarter-finalists are as follows:


I suppose the great fear for a lot of Arsenal fans, after recent experiences, was the thought of drawing a big gun in the next round and getting another hiding, which could also help derail our league campaign. To that end, it is positive that Real Madrid and Chelsea have exited. Playing either of the French sides,CSKA Moscow or Bayern would of course bring a different sort of pressure, that of being expected to win. But that is the pressure that this team has so far dealt with best. That is not to say that any of those four teams would be a walkover, but you would be fairly confident in our ability to beat them. As for the other three teams, not so.

Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho, and I think the Inter manager would relish a chance to reignite their often bitter rivalry. While Arsenal have a surfeit of talent that Inter might well envy, the Italians may feel substance is on their side, especially after their impressive showing against Chelsea. That said, you would hope that Arsenal could, given the opportunity, pose Inter more varied problems than a rather one-dimensional Chelsea did. One may retort that Arsenal are equally one-dimensional, but if the quick passing clicked, it would be one dimension that Inter would be less confident of dealing with than they were Chelsea's physical approach.

Barcelona- Arsenal would be an exciting tie for the neutral, but I would quite honestly worry about what they could do to us. We've shown an inability to keep games tight this season, so the impression is that if this match-up happens, it will be playground, end-to-end stuff. In those matches, you have to expect the team with the best players to prevail, and even the most blinkered of Arsenal fans would accept that Barca are streets ahead in that regard. The situation is best summed up by the fact that our best player, if and when he does go back, will have to fight to hold down a first-team place. There are only two players in the world, in my opinion, who can rival Fabregas for sheer creativity, and they are both Spaniards playing for Barca. Add Messi to the mix and you have a frightening proposition for any team, but especially one that fails to adequately protect its back four. And on that sunny note we come to Manchester United.

The Emirates game in the league, coupled with the Champions League semi-final last year, suggested that United have our measure. It is worth remembering also that we outplayed them at times at Old Trafford early this season, without Fabregas- although we lost that game aswell. So logic does not encourage optimism. Another two-legged tie would give Ferguson an opportunity to show his tactical superiority to Wenger. Then again, the Scot has often been guilty of bringing his tinkering too far, especially in Europe. I think that happened in the San Siro a few weeks ago, but Milan failed to take advantage before their legs went. United are not as exciting a team as they have been in the past, but most would expect them to get the job done comfortably against a naive Arsenal team. Wenger seemed optimistic, though, after the Porto game, about the prospect of an all-English tie, and maybe he feels his team can show something different next time they face United. He'd better be right.

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