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Arsenal must hope for German draw

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Phil McNulty | 08:36 UK time, Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Emirates

Arsene Wenger joked that the media may prefer to join Arsenal on a trip to Spain in the last 16 of the Champions League rather than head for Germany.

The Frenchman must hope the plane tickets take his side to the latter.

Wenger saw the Gunners maintain a proud record by reaching the last 16 for the 11th successive season with victory against Partizan Belgrade. But an unconvincing showing in an average group puts them in peril in this competition.

The prize for finishing second behind Shakhtar Donetsk will be a meeting with either Real Madrid or Barcelona, the "super favourites" as Wenger labelled them, or a tie against one of the German representatives, Bayern Munich or Schalke 04.

For all the post-match bravado coming out of the Arsenal dressing room, reality suggests the Germans represents an easier road to progress.

Plenty can happen between the conclusion of the group phase and the start of the knockout games but it is hard to see Arsenal flourishing against Jose Mourinho's Real or the brilliant Barca side that put them to the sword in a classic quarter-final last season.

Van Persie converts his penalty to put Arsenal 1-0 upVan Persie converts his penalty to put Arsenal 1-0 up. Photo: Reuters

Based on the evidence of their faltering performances in Group H, where even the final dash to the finishing line was not without its moments of anxiety against the gross mediocrity of Partizan Belgrade, it is certainly tough to imagine them coming out on top against the Spanish giants.

Bayern and Schalke are hardly easy options either but Arsenal appear to be in much better shape to tackle those challenges than La Liga's elite. The realists inside The Emirates will accept this and the pragmatists will hope for a meeting with Schalke.

Whoever Arsenal are drawn against - the draw takes place on Friday, 17 December - Wenger insists his team will improve on their group performances. He must hope he is right otherwise they will struggle against any potential opponents.

For long periods against Partizan, Arsenal's display matched the subdued mood inside ground, strangely so with qualification riding on the game. It took a late flurry to emphasise their undoubted superiority and seal safe passage to the next stage.

Robin van Persie's penalty was cancelled out by Cleo's deflected equaliser to leave Arsenal's fans checking for news from the game between Shakhtar and Braga before goals from substitute Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri erased their concerns.

It was not vintage Arsenal at any stage but this was about getting the job done. No marks for style, qualification was the name of the game. And now that has been achieved, Wenger is on very familiar Champions League territory.

There are pluses for Wenger. Nasri continues his development into a world-class talent, while Van Persie's return adds to Arsenal's attacking potency. The sight of Walcott and Jack Wilshere on the bench hints at the strength in depth that is available to Wenger, who will hope Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen and Gael Clichy are all free from injury by the time the next stage comes around.

The problems lie elsewhere, mainly in central defence. If Vermaelen is still out, the prospect of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci attempting to tame the might of Real Madrid or keep a lid on David Villa is probably one best contemplated from behind the sofa or facing away from the action.

Bacary Sagna will also miss the first leg of the next round as a result of a rather soft sending-off following his foul on Aleksandar Lazevski late in the game.

Andrey Arshavin kindly pointed out Arsenal's defensive frailties this week, although he did his own reputation no favours with a fruitless evening spent wandering around The Emirates. His utterly dreadful display earned him the ire of some home fans when he was removed prematurely.

Wenger was characteristically upbeat when asked if his squad was better equipped to go further than last year, when they lost 4-1 in the Nou Camp after a breathtaking 2-2 draw at The Emirates.

"We went out to Barcelona last season and I feel we had some room for improvement," he told BBC Sport. "A lot depends on whether you have your best players available. I am sure we will have a good level of confidence and then it is very difficult to predict how far you can go. But when you are in the last 16, the Champions League becomes a cup competition and things change. It has been like a championship up to now. Now we go into cup mode and you have to be at the top of your game for 180 minutes."

Nasri and Walcott celebrate another goal against PartizanNasri and Walcott celebrate another goal against Partizan. Photo: Reuters

He added: "Realistically Barcelona are super favourites in this competition but you take what you get. If it's Barcelona, it's Barcelona. We have played them already last season. We are in a strong position in the Premier League, qualified in the Champions League and in the semi-final of the Carling Cup. We have plenty of exciting challenges but also room for improvement. I am confident we will improve."

Arsenal became the fourth English team through to the last 16, joining Manchester United, Chelsea and fierce rivals Tottenham, adding another layer of interest to the latter stages of the tournament.

In many respects, Arsenal fall into a similar category as their north London neighbours. They are dangerous dark horses as opposed to potential winners, opponents who can be a threat at any time but may also be undone by over generosity in defence.

Mark Lawrenson, BBC Radio 5 live's summariser at The Emirates on Wednesday, made an intriguing assessment of the respective merits of Arsenal and Spurs.

"Spurs have cruised through their group, finishing top, while Arsenal came second but I think teams would rather play Spurs than Arsenal," he told me. "Spurs give you a chance with their open and expansive style. Arsenal do as well but not as much.

"I personally don't think any team would want to pull Arsenal out of the hat with the second leg at The Emirates and something riding on that game. Arsenal may give you a chance but they are very, very dangerous if they get it right.

"I think their problem is a mental thing. They can drift in games and fall asleep - and the higher the calibre of opposition the more chance there is of you being killed off if you do that. They are going to be a very dangerous team floating around that draw, though."

Food for thought for Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, even though Wenger may privately prefer to head for Germany.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Arsenal I think need a new manager, a fresh approach and bit more backbone in the team, they are a Vierra, Keane, Scholes, or Essien, short of being a great team. Wenger can't see that. He isn't a professor, he is just a bit different to the bog standard manager in England. But I genuinely think he has taken them as far as he can.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hmmm - first comment by a Man Utd fan?

  • Comment number 3.

    Arsenal had about 3 gears to go up if needed last night.. I don't think there is a team in the Premiership who gets more 'yo-yo' press than Arsenal do..

    The report card reads so far..

    Top of the league
    Through to the last 16 of Champs League
    Through to Semis of league cup..

    Not bad so far..

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't understand this fascination with avoiding Barcelona in the last 16. Only the winners of the competition will be remembered. People are so keen to point out Arsenal not winning anything since the 2005 FA Cup, whilst ignoring the near misses and consistent high league finishes. So losing in the final to Barcelona would not get the team any credit anyway, so best to get it out the way, whatever the result. The only way to be remembered is to win the final, losing at any point in the competition now gets the team nothing.

  • Comment number 5.

    It's worth noting that for the Barcelona game Arsenal were without

    Van Persie

    Madrid would be more dangerous in Europe despite their 5-0 defeat to Barcelona. Mourinho has a way in the Champions League which always seem to work.

    Undoubtedly, Shalke or Bayern would be the team to face but between the two spanish teams, Madrid is better avoided.

  • Comment number 6.

    #2 i believe so :)

    #1 i believe he can take them further and he has a huge chance to prove it this year with the premier league so open!

    i have to say thoough, i was disapointed with last nights performance, i sat back waiting to see another delightful performance and was greeted with little of it, Arshavin looked lazy and didnt have many good touches. Chamakh was also quite slow and Van Persie is not with it yet! i do believe that partizan did play with literally every man behind the ball, and i do think the had 2 - 3 players always on Nasri, but anyone witha ny sense would do that!
    i really do feel Wenger needs to put some money into his defence in january, even with vermealen back, that DOES NOT make the defence!, however i do believe the goalkeeper is capable!
    i just never feel comfortable watching arsenal when they arent in possesion, makes me cringe sometimes and isnt good!

  • Comment number 7.

    Couldn't disagree more with Collie on his first point. Wenger is the absolute backbone of Arsneal and has led them so far.

    And we would be a different proposition against Barcelona if we keepinjury free. COME BACK THOMAS!! We really need Vermalen at the back. And I'm beginning to think Djourou would sit better alongside him than Koscielny or Squillaci. He just looks more natural!

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with #1.

    Venger has a noble vision, and quite often Arsenal are irresistable.

    But, many teams know how to handle them and in those circumstances they cannot adapt.

    Just how long will they give Venger?

  • Comment number 9.

    Oh, i thought that the Champions League had already been won by Sp*rs this season - As was the tone of the media and their 'fans'

  • Comment number 10.


    finishing 1st or 2nd only means that you put forward the inevitable which is meeting the best sides sooner or later...

    true, a very poor performance, but as you mentioned only qualification was important. Obviously you always want to play good football but only Barca seem capable of that it seems.

    Speaking of Barca, they are the only team I'd avoid. Real showed how far behind they are from Barca with that 5-0 annihilation. Should have been 7 or 8.

  • Comment number 11.

    Prefer to play the big guns early really, if we go out then we can focus on the EPL,CC,FA Cup.

    Bring on Barca

  • Comment number 12.

    Arshavin was so poor last night it was frightening. And Denilson gave the ball away time and time again. Without Song always bailing him out things could have got very bad. I wish Denilson started to live up to his early promise. As it stands I'd give him to the end of the season to prove he's is a player worthy of a Champions League team.

  • Comment number 13.

    Arsenal must hope for German defeatest is that?

    Lawrenson is right in saying no group winner will want to pull Arsenal out of the hat. The pressure is all on Madrid and Barca anyway as Lyon and Inter proved last season.

  • Comment number 14.

    First of all, let's dismiss the notion of Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal. It won't happen any time soon, nor should it.

    As he rightly pointed out, while accepting his side were not at their best last night, they are doing perfectly fine in all competitions.

    I just have a real worry about their defence, although I accept goalkeeper Fabianski has improved in recent weeks, and do not see it holding out against a Cristiano Ronaldo or all manner of Barcelona players. I do think they would have a good chance against Bayern or Schalke though, which is why I suggest they should hope for that draw.

    Lots of talk about playing Barcelona, and from a purely selfish point of view I would roll out the red carpet myself for a repeat of last season's meeting with Arsenal.

    It was a game I will never forget, not just for the first 20 minutes from Barcelona that almost came from another planet, but the way in which Arsenal fought their way back from being outclassed to get a draw.

    Let's hear your thoughts on this Arsenal fans. You have made it through a little unconvincingly, but can they step it up to trouble the big guns they could face?

    All thoughts welcome.

  • Comment number 15.

    If Arsenal play like they did last night in either leg they'll get destroyed by whoever they draw. Obviously that was a below par performance but even that should be good enough to comfortably beat a shocking team like Belgrade. I don't believe Arsenal are strong enough defensively to hold out against Barca, Real or Munich so they'd be the teams to avoid. Arsenal on form can give anyone a good game but sometimes in Europe that's not good enough.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have got a funny feeling that Arsenal will play against Schalke 04 (probably Germany's club with the most tradition and romance) who topped their group and beat some tasty opposition on the way...and are struggling really badly in the Bundesliga at the moment. But as usual, the English press is underestimating the opposition, and Schalke will knock Arsenal out. Arsenal should avoid Bayern München like the pest, because they are so experienced and have one of the best records in Europe historically, and will rise to the occasion particularly against English clubs. BTW: They are Germany's ManU: Everybody in Deutschland hates them.

  • Comment number 17.

    It's not an exaggeration to say that Arsenal's season depends on the two centre backs either improving dramatically over the next month or Monsieur Wenger buying an established replacement in January: not a bargain-basement unknown from a small French club, but a world class player and world class team man, who can slot in immediately, whom his team mates like, a leader and captain in the absence of Fabregas. Vermaelen might be back in January, might be back in March; it's obvious that Arsenal can't allow this event to determine their season and can't simply do nothing. The problem is that players such as the one I describe above aren't available, even for the silly sums of money that the Man Cities pay: Lescott ? Is he any better than the defenders in Arsenal's existing squad ? Cahill ? Jagielka ? Why would Bolton and Everton sell these players unless they are forced to for financial reasons ?

    Serious Football

  • Comment number 18.


    Arsenal's defence has long been a bone of contention for fans and pundits. It's certainly fallible, but then it never helps having your rock missing for more than four months (Vermaelen) by the time he's back, and asking three newcomers (Koscielny, Squillaci and Djourou (because he's been out for so long)) to fill the void. Personally, I'd leave Squillaci out and play Koscielny and Djourou. Squillaci is getting the nod because of his experience, but he is more prone to an error than the others at the moment. I thought his defending for Cleo's goal, opening the door to let him shoot, last night, was really poor.

    For me though, the real problem with our defence that everyone seems to be skimming over is the role of Alex Song. Last season he earned rave reviews because of his Jon Obi Mikel-style approach. This season, and by Arsene Wenger's own admission, he has been given the freedom to push on. Some might cite his recent contributions in the opposing box as validation for that licence, but it's not. He does not have, nor ever will he, the creative ability to play higher up the pitch. If he sticks to what he's good at - breaking up play and doing the simple things sat in front of the back four - then we wouldn't be exposed half as much as we have been this season.

    I think we're capable of beating anyone on our day, but Wenger does seem to have a permanent blind spot when it comes to defending. To think we would be one of the easiest teams to get at now after he inherited a back four of Dixon, Winterburn, Adams and Keown is ludicrous. But we are fallible and the big teams will continue to get the better of us until we get things right. I don't think a change in personnel is necessary, I think we need Vermaelen back and Song being told to do what he does best. Only then will we challenge for top honours.

  • Comment number 19.

    Phil, I agree with you on the comment that Arsenal has defensive frailties but one should not forget that the first choice central defender is still out injured. I believe that if Cesc and Van Persie can find their mojo and with Vermalean back from injury, we could definitely give Barca run for their money.

    It would be dream game for everyone because the last year we met, we had too many players missing due to injuries and were not a real match to Barca's brilliance. But this year could be different with a fully fit squad.

  • Comment number 20.

    I clicked on the title of the piece and started to read through and then knew whi had written thge piece. He clearly doesn't know much about the Club-this is not the 1st time we have almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory-I remember a certain Cashley saving us in one game. We went throgh a bad patch and are now regaining confidence. Ok it can all go pearshaped but Mr McNulty stopping having a go at the Arsenal-and as for the comment from #1-get real!

  • Comment number 21.

    Arsenal can beat any team left in the competition. They'll need a bit of luck on the way but every team will. I hope Arsenal get Real and stuff them.

    I'd be more worried as a Chelsea fan at the moment. They can't seem to buy a win. Maybe they need Hiddink back for a few months. Spurs on Sunday will run the Chelsea team ragged. How many more games does Ancellotti have?

    As a United fan, I am excited about Monday night. Should be a good game.

  • Comment number 22.

    OMG My first ever comment and i'm a Spurs fan talking about Arsenal!!!! Anyone criticising this team or their manager needs to seriously examine their heads, the team are top of the league, through to the last 16 of the CL, in the semi finals of the CC and they don't even have everyone fit and available!!!! Wenger, for all that I loathe about Arsenal, is a legend and the team he has assembled is on a par with most of the best teams in the World. Yes, they have off days and if they had one of those against one of the 2 Spanish "giants" then they could be at risk, but their off days are not frequent enough to raise concern (you don't know how upset that makes me!) The new signings will take time to settle but Wenger rarely buys a bad player and whilst I am sure he might regret not holding on to Gallas they are only really suffering because of Vermaelen's injury. They'll go and buy Given in January and all of a sudden they are genuine contenders for all 4 trophies they are competing in.

    It's one of the many reasons I dislike them so much (sorry but I AM a Spurs fan)!

    As for us - 18 scored and 11 conceded, we must be thanking the Gods for helping us win our group with that record....we are in dreamland and let's hope it's a much longer sleep than most of us really believe in. Then again it IS lucky for Spurs when the Year ends in 1!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    " Arsenal must hope for German draw "

    do not agree at all.

    its now a two legged Cup Competition and as th saying goes anything can happen.

    I do agree however that the Defence is a very big problem! and its going to be very interesting to see how it does at OT specially when they will be playing against 12 men ( thats including the ref )

    I have a feeling that quite a few in this side drop thier heads far to quickly when things are not going right. i also believe some are quite wreckless when it comes to giving away free kicks in dangerous areas! Van Persie STAND UP! last night we saw him barge straight into the back of a player, no chance of getting the ball, cover was there, buts whats he do? flattens the guy and conceeds a free kick where they need not have been on. 3-1 could have become 3-2 very easy! and then what?

    I am dissapointed that AW chose it seems not take Arsenal's defensive frailties a lot more serious than he has done!

    as for Bendtner!!!!!!!!! just what use is this guy? a Mule runs faster than him! he really is slow! lethargic! and has a very poor work ethic together with very poor control and has missed a hat full of chances! he really should be shipped out!

    other than that at least we got the result and now wait to see who we get.

    if Arsenal and the Players pay attention to the media which will now attempt at every turn to write od thier chances, then this will spell the end of the CL for Arsenal. However if they ignore the press/hype etc and focus on what they can do!!!!!!!! they will be fine against any side.

    Arsenal will fear no one apart from the officials at OT on Monday. just the same as most other clubs really.

  • Comment number 24.

    Arsenal fan here.

    Arsenal were very disappointing last night, however on there day, they are simply unplayable and can beat anyone.

    The defensive issue is an issue, only because Vermealen is injured. I believe it would be a completly different kettle of fish should he be available, and Fabianski has improved these last few months.

    To say I'd rather have a german team would be silly, Bayern were last seasons finalists and Schalke aren't exactly a walk in the park. However I do worry about Barcelona above any other team, they play like Arsenal but defensively better.

    Personnaly I didn't think we had a chance of the Champions League at the beginning of the season, my thoughts haven't changed much now. I do however think that they have a very good chance in other competitions.

    Besides, people a fickle, Chelsea were apparently unbeatable by peoples opinions until about a month ago, now all of a sudden they need to buy a new team!

  • Comment number 25.

    Its no surprise to anyone in the media and all the supporters at Arsenal the they are fallible at the back and lack a 'shout out' leader on the pitch. It seems to be the Wenger way and is unlikely to change whilst he is at the helm. Its frustrating to see at times but you have to remind yourself of the amazing consistency in getting to the final stages of the Champions League for the last decade or so.

    Would love to see Arsenal have the defensive partnerships that Man U or Chelsea have enjoyed over the years and do think that this is the key to getting to the final stages of the Champions League.

    It is right that they are classed as 'dangerous dark horses' and not favourites as its been like that for a number of years if I'm honest. But remember the Champions League is not won or lost in December but in May. How many times has Barca looked like sweeping everyone else away at one stage then failed to do so.

    The draw next week will realistically define Arsenal's progress in the tournament not their chances of winning it.

    Bring it on.

  • Comment number 26.

    Post #7

    I am with you there man, I too have been noticing really that Djourou is beginning to look a pretty classy centre back! Im a bit surprised that I haven't heard a single word from any commentators or plaudits about his development. He has been at the club since he was very young, gradually getting exposed to the game by Wenger, and this year seems to be a breakthrough year for him, he has impressed me whenever I have seen him, another great spot by Wenger.

    Like with Nasri and Van Persie, he has this amazing ability to see a decent young player and see what he could become with 3/4 years of development, and he is usually spot on!

    I wonder if Phil has any thoughts on Djourou's performances this season?

    I dont think it is necessarily Arsenal's defensive personnel that are the problem anyway, I think its the philosophy, they keep going forward and remain open, whatever the score is!! I think it is more to do with that than having poor players at the back. Song is going well but needs to do more, have more mongrel, protect his defence more!


  • Comment number 27.

    I'm sure it's not just me who is disappointed by the current standard of PL football. The league table tells you more about the poor performances of the top few than the level of quality further down the division. Only United have any realistic chance of winning the CL. Arsenal and Chelsea are playing without commitment, mental strength and quality in certain areas. I know we're talking about Arsenal but Ramires, my god.
    Spurs are waiting for a mighty fall, it'll happen when they least expect it.
    We all hate United but................

  • Comment number 28.

    As a lifelong Arsenal supporter ....
    1. Wenger will not go, should not go.
    2. We do need a Viera/Petit type on out Central Holding Mifield (sign one in Jan please) but if we don't I do have confidence in the current Midfield (see below)
    3. I would rather we play Barca than Madrid. JM is a great Champions League manager ... Chelski would have won it had Abramovic and he not argued.
    4. We whould beware of writing the German teams off as the easier option ... beware the Germans ...
    5. We are currently having the best season we've had for ages. Top of the League, Semi Final of Carling, Last 16 of CL.
    6. Vermaelan, Kosnielcy and Squllaci will be a much better trio at the back come Feb, more time together.
    7. Wilshire, Cesc, Theo & Nasri will be motoring by then too. As will Andrey and Tomas.
    8. Cecs will want to prove he was right to stay with us if we do play Barca .....
    9. Chamak, Van Persie up front with Bendtner in reserve great.
    10, Goalkeepers ... I hope we sign Shay Given or Mark Schwarzer on Jan 1st, but again if we don't Fabianski, Almunia are very capable until the end of the season. ALL keepers have 'mares occasionally .....

  • Comment number 29.

    As a gunner the most frustrating thing for me since the days of Adams and co has been the defense. Wenger just doesn't seem to believe in it, or very little of it at that. No matter how good an attacking team is, if they feel vulnerable at the back there are bound to be mistakes like letting a 2-0 lead go to waste and loose it 2-3(sigh). Another solid defender like Vermaelen and a solid goalkeeper is desperately needed by this team to give them the attacking confidence they are fully capable of. Fabianski has come a long way in the last week or two as you say Phil but he is nowhere near the level, yet, to stop class players from the likes of Barcelona or Real.

  • Comment number 30.

    PS No good club 'fears' a cup draw no matter who they get...and as for hoping for a German club, i'm sure Man U fans will correct them for that safe bet assumption after last season LOL!

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't agree that Arsenal would struggle based on the QF last year. We were outplayed by a side who peaked at the time we played them (at the Emirates) - something the Barca players all said openly - they had never played so well as they did that night.

    We drew 2-2 with a very good side who played their best ever football - I'm not sure how that's a bad result? We then went away and scored first and could have scored a few - and we did so with SEVEN first team player out through injury, including Song who had played Messi out of the game at the Emirates in the first leg - Messi of course scoring all 4 of Barca's goals. I was at the game and saw it for myself!

    We used 30 players in the Champions League campaign last season - that's the most we've ever had to use, more than the 2006 season when we played and only JUST lost to Barca in the final - we used 24 players in 2006 and played two more games!

    I'm also with others on this thread - we're top of the league, still in the hunt for 3 trophies, we've got a great team, a legendary manager and our record over the last 10 years is only bettered by Manchester United. Not to mention that we have a new stadium and are financially secure. Quite how this is not good enough for some people is beyond me.

    Barcelona are no different to any other opponent in the last 16 - they are all capable of beating each other on their day. Arsenal's approach will be no different to any of those teams.

  • Comment number 32.

    i would also add.

    the problem at Arsenal is, eg: they get Barca, knock them out! next round get shalke or other so called " minnow " and loose! the mindset in some of our players is just not right! we were coasting this group! yet complancency and some poor descision making by AW himself cost us dear.

    he should have thrown caution to the wind and made sure that we were comfatbly through! not pussy footed about saving players for a PL game!

    and can i say winning he Carling Cup would serve one purpose and one purpose only, it would break the duck of not having silverware, winning it is of little importance or significance to senior players, its regarded as the mickey mouse cup for good reason ( unless of course man u win it then its the equivelent of the World Cup )

    for our reserve side to win the CC would be great! but as for the senior 11 it proves naff all! and i think most gooners would not look upon it as a good season. AW neeeds to ensure we are in the Hunt for that PL Title! thats for sure, however due to his failure to redress defesive problems I cannot see this happening.

    Go Arsenal! ( more in hope than expectation )

  • Comment number 33.

    The only reason Arsenal got into the situation of finishing runners up was because Wenger put out two mediocre sides in the last two away games as he was concerntrating on the P/L. I think that this was a mistake on his part.

    I don't think Real will be too much of a threat as you are saying. Barcelona will always be a threat to any side and as some have said don't under estimate either of the German teams.

    How you are playing now is meaningless because the next round is in February so who knows how well any team will be playing who has qualified. Also what players will be fit as well when it comes around?

    Phil what do you think about the lack of punishment Mourinho and the Real players received if they did get themselves sent off? Surely they should have banned the players for another match to compensate for it!!

    Well last nights match wasn't a great spectacle as I have witnessed a few times this season. They never really seemed to get out of first or second gear. But that's been our problem all season especially in the second half if we have been a couple of goals up.

    Anyway I think every group winner will want to avoid Arsenal.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think you could say just the same about Chelsea or United at this moment in time as Arsenal. United have had a pretty mediocre Cl campaign and Chelsea are severely on the ropes at the minute (injuries permitting they will pull it back, but things don't look pretty for them going forward).

    As an Arsenal fan you have to accept that we are not a defensive team, we never will be. AW made comments to that effect in the past couple of days. Yes I would like to see an improvement and so would AW, but the man will stick to his guns. I don't think we have the worst defenders in the world. What we have are defenders who are put under serious pressure due to the attacking nature of our game. High lines demand so much.

    Another consideration is that both of our first choice are playing their first seasons together and Djourou (who has been impressive) is coming back from a full season out having never really had a long run in the team himself before that.

    I know this all sounds like excuse making, and it probably is but it is something that you need to accept. There are always signs fluttering around Arsenal that they could indeed 'pull it off' and believe me it would be as magnificent as the unbeaten season, if not more so if they did.

    What is most important is that Arsenal fans grow a bit of backbone, and allow a man who has proven himself before to try and prove himself again without all the childish moaning that seems to be running through the gooner camp.

    Whatever happens, AW gives us a great season every year, with ups and downs and nights like the Barca game that Phil waxes lyrical about. As a football fan, first and foremost, I don't ask for anymore than this. As an Arsenal fan, I would love to see us win all the trophies. If we do pull it together, all the waiting and the hoping would make me so much more proud, than winning it by buying 4 players at 15 million each in January.

  • Comment number 35.

    For Arsenal, CL elimination might not be a bad thing. They don't have the biggest squad and are actually - because of the faltering of Chelsea and ManU - in with a real chance of winning the Prem. I'm sure they'd rather concentrate on that as they are unlikely to win the CL with Real, Barca etc. I think Wenger has done the right thing by playing teams to get through to the semis of the Carling Cup - look what they did to us (THFC) - and a trophy - even the derided league cup - will be good for players and fans

    Typical Lawrenson negative comment about Spurs. Spurs score shed loads of goals - home and away - in a two leg, away goals-count-double situation, they are very, very dangerous. I don't think any big European team would fancy us.

  • Comment number 36.

    If we draw Real Madrid then we'd beat them, mark my words. The only team that could knock us out would be Barca, so I'm praying we avoid them in the draw!

  • Comment number 37.

    The issues with the defending is more down to the collective ability with the team, rather than individuals.

    Which is why when Vermaelen comes back, it will not solve the defensive problems. He may make less individual errors, but overall we’ll still be venerable to basically any team who has a go at us - Or any team who play us on the counter.

    Why Alex Song has been given license to go forward, is a mystery. He showed real promise in the holding role last season, and now we see him on the edge of the opponent’s penalty area?

    He has no final ball, and cannot shoot, so we are sacrificing a very good holding player, in order to have him being ineffective playing higher up the pitch.

    I understand our two central midfielders hold their position, so when one goes forward, the other stays back, but it dosent work. For example when Wilshere plays alongside Song - for half the match the players are the wrong way around with Wilshere back, and Song forward.

    In trying to be too fluid, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, and it’s genuinely not necessary.

    It would be far easier to give Song a simple role in protecting the back four, then Wilshere has license to go forward and you have player’s playing the their strengths.

    Wenger is brilliant but I don’t get that one at all.

    Finishing second might not be the end of the world, the draw could still be kind to us, but if we draw one of the big two it might be a blessing in disguise. If we loose then going out now is not that’s much difference to going out in the Semi’s and it will give us more chance in the EPL.

    Very unlikely, but beat one of the big two and that’ll give us a lot of confidence.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm sorry, but if we do draw Barça I for one won't be shaking in my boots.

    They are not unbeatable and of all the other possible opposition we could draw, Barça are the only team who will let us play our game instead of spending the entire game trying to stop us play.

    Besides, if you wanna win this tournament you have to beat the best teams in Europe, Barça being top of that list.

    Also, the only time Arsenal have made it to the final of the Champions League we finished second in the group and had to play Real, Juve and Villareal to get there.

    We've shown we are capable of beating the best teams in Europe and there's absolutely no reason why we can't do it again.

    Bring it!

  • Comment number 39.

    The favs for this season CL are Barca & Real Madrid. It's hard to see Arsenal beating either one of them. Arsenal has skillful players a la Bergkemp in Fabregas, Nasri, scorers a la Henry in Van Persie, Chamakh. But Arsenal lacks toughness: somebody like Martin Keown could really help to galvanize the team.

  • Comment number 40.

    Phil- for once I tend to agree with Lawrenson, no-one will be looking forward to drawing Arsenal in the knock-out stages. Whilst Arsenal never got out of 'second gear' last night, they still won! Where have we heard that before - but not usually applied to Arsenal?
    Wenger must take some comfort from the fact that whilst his defence at times look 'all at sea' even against a so called 'poor' team, Arsenal collectively 'won ugly', something they have not been able to do in recent years! I suspect everyone at the Emirates last night had half their thoughts on next Monday night at OT and if Wenger does have a worry, its about how his defence will stand up to that particular test!

  • Comment number 41.

    As I was watching the match, last night, a thought was coming to mind, many times: the last time Arsenal had great defenders under Wenger was when they still had George Grahams defence still in tact, They looked vulnerable at the back, even with an opponent of today's Partizan's calibre.

    It was an ugly match. Arsenal had no chance in the first half and the Partizan keeper didn't come under pressure. It was only when Theo Walcott came on that Arsenal started looking dangerous in attack.

    Being in the last 16 of the Champions League for 11 consecutive times is a nice record to have. Having reached only 1 final in the process and looking unable to improve on that takes the shine off the record though.

    It's the next few weeks that will determine Arsenal's season, this season: how will they play against the big boys in the premiership, this year round? They're at the premiership summit only because Man Utd haven't played last weekend and they visit Old Trafford on Monday evening. Being a Man Utd supporter, looking at this Arsenal team visiting Old Trafford on Monday evening I have no reasons to worry about the outcome of the result.

    It looks like one more season with dreams torn to shreds for Arsenal supporters. And with Man City coming closer to becoming a top 4 team and the quality and strength in depth for Spurs, the premiership future looks gloomier rather than rosy for Arsenal and their fans.

  • Comment number 42.

    Arsenal must hope for a German team. Just like Redknapp wanted England to play Germany rather than Ghana... keep underestimating us.

  • Comment number 43.


    Don't you worry your pretty little head about it, luv.

    Ignorance is bliss...

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm sorry, but if we do draw Barça I for one won't be shaking in my boots.

    They are not unbeatable and of all the other possible opposition we could draw, Barça are the only team who will let us play our game instead of spending the entire game trying to stop us play.


    Yes but you'll also let them play and they're simply much, much better at it than you. As last season's tie proved.

  • Comment number 45.

    I hope they draw madrid or barca, to win the champions league you need to be on top of your game and beat the best anyway.

    Dont really see much of a problem to be honest, top of the league, they have dipped in form, but that happens to any team from time to time, look at Chelsea. Arsenal have a few good players out, and to be honest I didnt really see much of a problem with their game last night, it didnt seem like they got out of 2nd gear and still ended up comfortably winning. They do need to be more consistent though, losing 1-0 to newcastle at home for example is not the thing made of champions.

    On their day with a full strength squad Arsenal can beat anyone, they start to be more consistent and who knows, Arsenal will win things and that will kickstart them even more.

  • Comment number 46.

    Interesting blog as always Phil. I’m curious as to why people continually lump Barca and Real Madrid in together as this implies that both teams are of a similar standard and stature in the Champions League ?. Reputation yes, but on pure performance ? Not that I’m accusing you of doing this of course – its more a general observation.

    Real have failed to get past the 2nd round of the Champions League for at least four years whereas Barca have consistently got to the latter stages of the competition, winning it twice. I am not naïve enough to think that Arsenal would beat Real easily with or without the self – appointed “special one” but I was fortunate enough to be in the Bernabeu when Henry scored past Casillas to give Arsenal the victory and put us through to the quarter finals – it can be done and they had the likes of Raul, Zidane and Beckham at the time in 2006.

    Real have just got hammered 5 – 0 by Barca so I hardly think that both teams are at the same level. In my delusional state I always try and think of Arsenal as Barcelona – lite, only without the stable defence, competent goalkeeper under pressure, or the trophies !

    Barca are not a normal team IMHO, they are a great team that will probably win the Champions League again and go down in history as one of the greatest in the modern era. The only blot on the horizon is their increasing debt levels – what’s the Catalan equivalent of HMRC ?! Whereas, Real are not as good as we believe in the Champions League as their record would suggest.

    Mourinho can talk disrespectfully all he likes about the lack of trophies at the Emirates and about Wenger but the bottom line is once the game starts its simply down to the players. All Mourinho did in the Nou Camp the other week was watch, just like me in awe.

    If we can sort out our defence, which is without Vermalen a mess – then we would have a good chance against Madrid IMHO. Barca are another story however.

    Incidentally, while Arsenal have paid for a new stadium, consistently qualified for the Champions League and its latter stages, reaching the final once, built a team on a budget, the likes of Real, Inter, and Barca have got themselves into huge debt which may prove problematic when the Financial Fair Play initiative is fully implemented. Arsenal do not have a sugar daddy who treats the club as an extension of their own ego - hello Chelsea and Manchester City ? So I think we should be cut some slack on the trophy front as at the moment it is not a level playing field financially IMHO.

    As for potential German opposition Bayern are having a dreadful season while Schalke are to be respected if not feared. In short, anyone but Barca. Let the debate continue….

  • Comment number 47.

    Yes but you'll also let them play and they're simply much, much better at it than you. As last season's tie proved.


    Err, 2-2 draw at the Emirates and the best player in World football taking a defense apart in his own backyard as he would any team including ManUre.

    At least we have a go and that's makes for entertaining football. You know, like when Kaka took your team apart in Milan... remember?

  • Comment number 48.

    1. At 08:55am on 09 Dec 2010, collie21 wrote:
    Arsenal I think need a new manager, a fresh approach and bit more backbone in the team, they are a Vierra, Keane, Scholes, or Essien, short of being a great team.


    please dont embarrass yourself by putting essien in the same sentence as Keane and Viera

  • Comment number 49.

    Somebody sounds cocky.

    Personally I'd prefer the Germans than the spanish but their really isnt any difference between the two, I'd prefer to get knocked out so we could focus more on The EPL,CC,FA cup rather than waste resources on the CL,but lets just wait for the draw and see what happens.

  • Comment number 50.

    43. At 10:32am on 09 Dec 2010, Cape_Gooner wrote:

    Don't you worry your pretty little head about it, luv.

    Ignorance is bliss...


    I second that!

    he must be very concerned otherwise he would not even bother making such remarks.

  • Comment number 51.

    Chelsea went out in the first knockout last year and did the double domestically.
    Why is there always this obsession with going as far as you can in the CL despite not winning? We reached a semi-final a couple of years ago but its hardly somethin you here Arsenal fans boasting about. Fact is if we can't get past teams like Real and Barca we won't win and i'd rather not waste the time and energy and concentrate on the leage. People will say that if you stay in till later you might get lucky and see stronger teams get knocked out by weaker ones, like lyon with real last year, but if your gonna hope for that, why not hope it's your team doing the knocking out. I'd much rather see Arsenal knock-out madrid and face lyon in the next round then see lyon doing it before facing us.

  • Comment number 52.

    I can't believe any Arsenal fan would seriously consider wanting a new manager. For all their inconsistency, Arsenal have been one of the few things about the Premiership that's been worth watching over the past few seasons. And I still maintain that their unbeaten season is still the greatest achievement of any Premiership manager, including Fergie, and not one I'm likely to see again in my lifetime.

    There's no point being worried about any team in the draw for the last 16. If you're worried about playing anyone then you don't deserve to be champions.

  • Comment number 53.

    "I wish Denilson started to live up to his early promise. As it stands I'd give him to the end of the season to prove he's is a player worthy of a Champions League team."

    He shouldve gone end of last season. Honestly hes just terrible. Gives the ball away, never wins a tackle and is constantly making mistakes. Hes never going to be good enough.

    On the article. Anyone gets Barca and theyre out. UTD and Chelsea are not exactly frightening are they? Weve got just as much chance of winning the comp as those 2. Madrid are weak. Great going forward but easy to cut open at the back and they wouldnt handle our movement. Nasri against Marcelo? Ill take Nasri to tear him apart over two legs. Itd be tight but id fancy us. The first test Madrid had this season and they got spanked. Barca on the otherhand are terrifying

  • Comment number 54.

    Call me bias all you want to be honest but to me it seems ridiculous that whenever Arsenal seem to win and not play brilliantly it's a shaky performance, yet when other teams do the same it's a sign of champions.

    Let's asses Arsenal's situation:
    League Cup: Semi-finalists, and favourites
    Premiership: Top of the league
    Champions League: Through to the 2nd round for the 11th consecutive time (testament to Wenger's great job at the club), and the team that people want to avoid.
    FA Cup: Still there like everyone else.

    To me that sounds like the best situation of any English team at the moment, however to everyone else it seems to sound like a shaky situation.

  • Comment number 55.

    All the people saying that it does not matter when Arsenal meet the big teams as it is unavoidable to meet the big teams at some point, they seem to forget that with each round successfully progressed the rewards especially financially are greater. So it is better to delay meeting the bigger teams as much as possible.

  • Comment number 56.

    I don't think its a question that we fear who we might draw but they are going to fear us. It's pretty obvious that we're the team no-one in the top set of seeds wants to get, as Inter are hardly the force this year they were last campaign. We're not going to feel hard done by if Barca or Real come out of the hat, rather they're going to be the ones who aren't relishing the prospect. We put ourselves in this position, so bring on the best teams in Europe. Besides, as this Arsenal team have already demonstrated this season, our results don't tend to base themselves on the quality of the opposition, rather our mental approach to the game. From that perspective, we know the threats of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich so we'll be well prepared and won't show any signs of complacency, whatever the scoreline. If we drew Schalke it's not beyond the realms of possibility we could fail to turn up in one of the two legs (e.g. Porto first leg last year) and fail to progress.

  • Comment number 57.

    30. At 10:02am on 09 Dec 2010, MichaelF wrote:
    PS No good club 'fears' a cup draw no matter who they get...and as for hoping for a German club, i'm sure Man U fans will correct them for that safe bet assumption after last season LOL!


    it would of been a cruise if it werent for a silly sending off and a wondergoal.

  • Comment number 58.

    I don't think teams would prefer to face Spurs over Arsenal in the latter rounds at the moment. Both sides are missing key personnel at the back, but with Dawson making his way back from injury, the Spurs backline should hopefully get a bit more consistent. With a decent January transfer window (for the love of God we need a left-back who doesn't give away the ball so often) we should have some decent reinforcements, something Wenger has steadfastly refused to do for some time now. PLaying as well as we have done in the CL this season, we are a far more attractive proposition for top players now than we were for just qualifying (remembering that was all it took just to get Van Der Vaart). The thing is though, at the moment, Spurs are showing that they can hurt any side, something the Gunners simply aren't doing. Fair play, their Premier League form is good, but in the CL they are stuttering. I admire Wenger's loyalty to his young padawan learners, but it really wouldn't kill him to open that dusty old transfer kitty and add some fresh blood.

  • Comment number 59.

    We get who we're going to get. The way I look at it, if we draw Real Madrid or Barcelona, so be it. You have to beat the best to win it and I agree with comments above with regards to last seasons match - what a game + without full strength side.

    If we go out, then so be it. We can focus on the domestic cups (league cup real chance of winning this year) and especially the league. Arsenal the most consistant CL knockout qualifying side in premier league + most of europe.

    When Wenger is gone in years to come and the new generation have a financially sound team who have already been marked by many pundits and even bbc sports writers as the potential dominant force for years to come!

    Let the Spurs have their moment this year - I actually think they might get further than us in the CL - but the dream will be over shortly afterwards once their league position has slipped and they will be left empty handed with a taste of CL football that will never return....!

  • Comment number 60.

    "Yes but you'll also let them play and they're simply much, much better at it than you. As last season's tie proved."

    Much, much better? They got a draw and a home win. Yes they looked brillantly in the 1st half at the Emirates, but having playe at a ridiculous intensity for the first 20 minutes/half and hour, they also looked absolutely nackered in the 2nd half. They then beat us well at home but we still led for a bit despite not having Fabregas or first choice centre backs. To be honest they never beat us as convincing as West Ham beat your boys the other day, guess they're much, much better than you as well?

  • Comment number 61.

    #41 As I was watching the match, last night, a thought was coming to mind, many times: the last time Arsenal had great defenders under Wenger was when they still had George Grahams defence still in tact

    Ignoring of course The Invincibles which weren't George Graham players.

  • Comment number 62.

    First trip to the Emirates for me last night. Arsenal were dire, Denilson and Arshavin were both terrible, Chamakh not much better and van Persie seemed to be playing in midfield surely some mistake?
    The team lacked a leader both on and off the field, they also had no pace and seemed to just jog around the pitch. None of the players were making themselves available for the man with the ball.
    I think they need to sack Pat Rice and employ a younger coach who needs to overhaul the fitness of the whole squad.
    Also the hotdog rolls were shockingly dry and tasteless.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think Arsenal would hope for a german side - schalke. i think bayern , madrid and barcelona are unbeaten at home this year so its going to be difficult at the place.

    Bayern got to the final last year so its a difficult game , Madrid have the man who beat bayern and has won the champions league twice, so its going difficult and barcelona are just unplayable at times.

    IMO this is as far as Arsenal will go if they draw the big 3(Barca, Madrid & Bayern)

    Defensively Arsenal are just not good enough, Man Utd , Chelsea , and possibly tottenham have stronger defense's and stronger goalkeepers.

    Arsene needs to buy players who are proven - Arshavin was a good start now go and get a goalkeeper - Given and a central defender and a defensive midfielder.

    I reckon it could be another trophyless year at Arsenal!!! haha!!

  • Comment number 64.

    vetteheadracer wrote: Also the hotdog rolls were shockingly dry and tasteless.
    Ha ha. Hot dogs dry?? - Wenger OUT!

  • Comment number 65.

    Err, 2-2 draw at the Emirates and the best player in World football taking a defense apart in his own backyard as he would any team including ManUre.


    A 2-2 draw that covered over the fact Barcelona dominated for the majority of that game. Yes it was a Messi masterclass in the Nou Camp but you do realise he still plays for them? And hasn't got any worse? He may well have done the same against United but that's all hypothetical and won't help Arsenal should they draw them again.

    Arsenal have a chance against whoever they play as they're a good team but just not as good as a few of their fans believe. None of the english teams are this season and I include United in that.

  • Comment number 66.

    I hate how people conveniently forget the Invincibles when talking about Arsenals defence.

    Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole

    Are people seriously questioning the man who guided a team through an entire season unbeaten on how to organise his team? I remember people complaining about Jens being unreliable... remember the champions league run back in 2006?

    My point is, your all jumping to put down the defence without allowing for the fact they have been thrust together because of injuries and are completely exposed due to the attacking nature of the team.

    The real problems lie in the attacking consistency of the team. If we always concede two goals a game but always score three then we win every game, who cares about defensive records. When the attack is good enough to outscore the opposition, defence becomes less important.

    Sadly, that is not always the case with Arsenal which is why it becomes such a big issue. After all, when your team is all about attacking and yet you can't score enough goals to beat Spurs (another frail defensive team nowadays) then something is very wrong in the system.

    Going back to the invincibles... Why did he choose Gallas over Toure? Imagine a Vermaelen, Toure partnership.

  • Comment number 67.

    Good point from vetteheadracer what on Earth is RVP doing in midfield while Nasri is pushed out on the right? With Fab out I can think of 5 Arsenal players who would play that position better than him (Arsharvin, Nasri, Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey). I can understand Wenger wanting to give him games, but if thats the case play him on the wing, wide of a 433 is where we played before we bought him and he always looked good there for holland in the past. I know he's dutch and he's now got the number 10 but that doesn't mean he's Dennis Bergkamp, and this isn't a big criticism of RVP I don't think Henry would have flourished in that deep role either while we all saw what he could do when pushed out wide again at Barca.

  • Comment number 68.

    @ Ichi_1

    Spot on about Denilson. It's something I've been ranting about for a couple of years now. He just isn't up to it. I've tried and failed to bracket him into a particular position. He isn't a holding midfielder, but he sits deep, then he isn't a creative player, as he gives the ball away far too much.

    Last night Arsenal struggled to create anything because Song and Denilson were our central players. No creativity, no fluidity, no tempo. Yes, Song actually did really well for Nasri's goal, but lest we forget the dreadful curling effort he sent high and wide with five team-mates well-placed in the box.

    Denilson needs selling on, especially with Wilshere kicking on, Rosicky impressing when given the chance this season and Ramsey to come back. Not to mention Diaby, who was starting to develop into the player we all hoped he would be before suffering this strange injury that remains a mystery. Denilson is redundant. As for Song, I'm happy for him to stay, but only if he is told to be the defensive player he is.

  • Comment number 69.

    Im an Arsenal fan and for all the courageous talk and all........we will not beat Barcelona though we might have a chance with Real MAdrid and the rest of the teams.. We have a very poor defence and WEnger is saying he is not going to as long as we go onto the next round with Squillaci and Koscielny as our centre pairing, we will be eliminated. The next round is pretty much determined by away goals and Arsenal always concedes and its going to be difficult to outscore better opposition.
    Arsene stuffed it when he fielded weakened teams against Shaktar and Braga. Anywhere Arsenal is only in the champions league for the money and not to win. Playing Barca will generate more Tv and gate revenue and its all that Wenger and the board really care about. And of course they will remind us that we must be appreciate that we have played champions league for 11 years.........but fact is we are still very far from being able to win it. I would rather we had participated in the UCL for half the times and won it once or twice.Right Now, Arsenal is just there to make money and Wenger and the board would not care much if we get knocked out in the round of 16.They will smile all the way to the bank and continue to underinvest in the team and year next year we will be back again for consecutive campaign number 12 with similar results.

  • Comment number 70.

    to be honest too much is said about the finishing of second and first in the group stages. obviously it is better to finish first if you want an easier tie in the last 16 but it does not guarantee you an easy tie and it certainly does not gurantee a easier route to the final (with the subsequent draws open).

    in most groups there is often two standout teams and often they will finish with similar records. unfortunately for us shaktar proved to be that team and their consistency put them top, our away form has let us down again. but qualification was always comfortable in my opinion. we have a habit of doing this every season.

    finishing second is in my opinion no great loss in the context of this season. whilst it is likely we will face madrid or barca (50/50) who i fear will hand us a new one i think it is a good lesson for us and could be another wakeup call to see where we actually are. or we can prove people wrong which we have done in the last 16 before against the likes of milan and madrid. also if we do the unimaginable and beat madrid or barca it would open up the champions league this season as they're the two favourites.

    if we do get knocked out then i think our domestic season will be enhanced. yes we may have to bear the taunts of spurs but to be honest i dont care. it's likely that their champions league adventure could be a one season thing. we've been there over a decade now.

    you've got to beat the best eventually in the champions league and i personally dont think we are the best or near the best. however i do feel we can compete for the domestic trophies this season and a last 16 knockout by munich, madrid or barca (so long as we are not absolutely trounced) would not be a season ender. look at chelsea last season.

    good luck to the remaining teams in europe.

  • Comment number 71.

    #18 - sums it up. Tommy V back and Song to be told to stick to his task.

    Normally wouldn't mind who we get because at least if you get knocked out by Barca, Real, Bayern - there's no shame.

    But I just can't face the prospect of Tottenham progressing further than please be Schalke!

  • Comment number 72.

    Through to Champs League knock out stages with a pathetic 3-1 win. With 50% chance of playing a Spanish club or 50% chance of playing a German club, there is 0% chance against Barca, 25% chance we will win if its Real, 50% chance if its Bayern, 75% chance if its Schalke.

    Who cares? Bring on!

  • Comment number 73.

    Having said that,
    CL is beyond us unless we sign a decent goal keeper and fit/experienced defenders. Shay Given is still not cup tied, I hope Wenger does make an unwilling attempt to sign him. Games against Utd and Chelsea will prove our progress from young side to matured side. OR else it will prove Wenger's flawed theory...

  • Comment number 74.

    We can only win the Carling Cup and that is if only we field our strongest team in the semi finals and the final. As for the rest of the competitions, with Wenger sticking to his stubborn ways - we are set for the usual glorious failure.

  • Comment number 75.

    Arsenal have a chance against whoever they play as they're a good team but just not as good as a few of their fans believe. None of the english teams are this season and I include United in that.


    I realise that Arsenal aren't as good this season especially defensively but, because of the style of football we play, we capable of beating any team on our day.

    Arsenal were the first English team to beat Real at the Bernabeu
    Arsenal are the only English team to beat AC Milan at the San Siro
    Arsenal remain the only English team to beat Inter at the San Siro and it's still their heaviest ever loss there

    As for Barça and Messi I seem to recall them losing the first domestic game of the season 2-0 to a newly promoted Hercules side at the Nou Camp.

    Everybody seems to think they already know the result before a ball's been kicked.

    And here I was thinking what we all love about football is it's unpredictability. Silly me.

    Guess it's not a funny old game after all.

  • Comment number 76.

    Wenger to go? Really? I am not against fresh thinking but that is a bit extreme! I know it is an old refrain, but this team is still young and learning. We know Wenger won't buy a centre midfielder in his prime so it's a simple case of patiently waiting for the current crop to mature into consistent world beaters. And let's be clear, they already are world beaters, it's the consistency that sometimes lets them down. Patience, dear gooners, patience.

  • Comment number 77.

    At 09:57am on 09 Dec 2010, Roguedfr wrote:

    I do worry about Barcelona above any other team, they play like Arsenal but defensively better.


    Surely you mean Arsenal try to play like Barcelona, but in all areas worse? You don't REALLY believe that Song and Fabregas are as good as Xavi and Iniesta, or Van Persie and Walcott are a patch on Messi and Villa?

  • Comment number 78.

    Err, 2-2 draw at the Emirates and the best player in World football taking a defense apart in his own backyard as he would any team including ManUre.


    A 2-2 draw that covered over the fact Barcelona dominated for the majority of that game. Yes it was a Messi masterclass in the Nou Camp but you do realise he still plays for them? And hasn't got any worse? He may well have done the same against United but that's all hypothetical and won't help Arsenal should they draw them again.

    Arsenal have a chance against whoever they play as they're a good team but just not as good as a few of their fans believe. None of the english teams are this season and I include United in that.

    I would agree with most of that.

    For what it's worth, I would be extremely happy for Arsenal to draw Madrid or Barcelona. Would we lose, there is a chance yes, but it is about entertainment and the chance to see the best players in the world, and the Spanish teams would offer us a chance to see Ronaldo, Higuain, Kaka or Messi, Villa and Iniesta - it is a joy to watch, even if we do get knocked out.

    Too much being read into last nights performance, the damage was done the previous game - we had to win last night and we did, and finished comfortably clear of the third place team.

    Are we playing well? Not really,but if we can play like this and be where we are in all comps - I'll take it. We have Vermaelen to come back as well as the small matter of our captain and VanP should improve to give Chamakh a well needed rest!

    I am a gooner, and I will support the team if we win or lose. Some fans seem to forget how bad we were before Wenger took over and have been spoiled. Why is it only Arsenal that seem to have this '5 years and no trophy' label attached to them? Take away the CC (Arsenal may win it this year but I still don't consider it an important trophy) and how many teams HAVE won anything in the last 5years ... or ten years ...

    Why is this 5 years tag not applied to teams like Villa, Everton etc?

    I will be waiting for the draw, and want a Spanish team! Good luck to all English teams next round anyway.

  • Comment number 79.

    Loved Van Persie being taken down in a very light wind in last night's game..obviously took lessons from the departed Eduardo!

  • Comment number 80.

    #3 - Mikey, fair comment.

    Either that Arsenal get yo-yo comments from media or media just trying to unsettle players and show them the difference where Barca stand and how much more Arsenal have to do in order to be a team like Barca.

    I think qualification to next stage is all that matters. Even if we finished top and expected to get a lower ranked team, it doesnt guarantee that we progress to quarter finals. We have lost to West Brom and Newcastle this season which shows that its Arsenal's own problems that will either take them down or their own creative superiority in midfield (Nasri/Fabregas) to take them as far as possible in Champs League.

  • Comment number 81.

    Arsenal are the only English team to beat AC Milan at the San Siro


    I'm sure I can remember going to the San Siro last season and watching United beat them 3-2?! I'd been at the Peroni most of the day to be fair but i'm sure we won.

  • Comment number 82.

    The Champions League (or the European Cup as it should be called as it's not just for the champions and it isn't a league) is just a cash cow to make the rich teams in England, Spain, Italy and Germany richer.

    No English team will win it this year.

  • Comment number 83.

    Its all good and well that Vermalen is out,but shouldn't a team of Arsenal's standing have a sufficient fill in. I know Gunners' fans won't like this example but look at Spurs. Say what you may but having Dawson on the bench,with King and Kaboul still to return is not bad. Better than whats on the Emirates bench surely.

  • Comment number 84.

    I've never really understood this attitude of let's hope we avoid the best teams. Surely any team which wins the Champions League wants to be considered the best in Europe because they've beaten the best, and not simply be considered the team with the luckiest draw?

    Remember when Liverpool won it in 2005. Fair enough it was a freak result, but what you can't take away from them is that in that season they beat the best in Europe on their way to lifting the trophy, Juventus, Chelsea and AC Milan.

    I want to see Arsenal play and beat Barcelona, Real Madrid and Man United on their way to the trophy. Bring them all on I say.

    And as for getting ride of Wenger, that's just madness. Only one team can win the Prem, and they're competing with Man U and Chelsea. I'd like to see how many times Barca won the league with that kind of opposition. The fact is, most seasons they're competing to win and they play great football on the way. They're are currently top by the way!

  • Comment number 85.

    Its all good and well that Vermalen is out,but shouldn't a team of Arsenal's standing have a sufficient fill in. I know Gunners' fans won't like this example but look at Spurs. Say what you may but having Dawson on the bench,with King and Kaboul still to return is not bad. Better than whats on the Emirates bench surely.

    Yes, with your obvious superiority in all departments it is truly amazing that you are 6 points behind us in the league ....

  • Comment number 86.

    82. At 11:31am on 09 Dec 2010, Magi Tatcher wrote:
    The Champions League (or the European Cup as it should be called as it's not just for the champions and it isn't a league) is just a cash cow to make the rich teams in England, Spain, Italy and Germany richer.

    No English team will win it this year.


    odd statement to come out with from a son? or is it daughter of that tyrant Thatcher thats all she and her hoppos could think about was " money " hence we are in the state we are into today.

    i would have thought you would admire entreprenirial ( spelling who gives a fig ) seeing as you support an exponent of it.

  • Comment number 87.

    They have a decent chance against the inexperienced Real Madrid, though I wouldn't consider them as favorites. Their defensive fragility would be their biggest problem against either Spanish side. They need to be more solid and especially against Barca play a less open game. Unfortunately, this is not their style and last year they made not attempt to play differently. Regardless the draw, a lot could chance in the next two months, for better or worse, but I really don't see how this team could get near the top again.

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm sure I can remember going to the San Siro last season and watching United beat them 3-2?! I'd been at the Peroni most of the day to be fair but i'm sure we won.


    Think I've been at the Peroni most of today!


  • Comment number 89.

    It finished 3-2 at Old Trafford and 3-0 at the Guiseppe Meazza. I'll never forget the comedia scene when Evra and Heinze fell over each other.

  • Comment number 90.

    "I personally don't think any team would want to pull Arsenal out of the hat with the second leg at The Emirates and something riding on that game."

    Well that alone goes to show how much Mark Lawrenson knows.
    Arsenal finished as runners-up, meaning they play the FIRST leg at home, not the 2nd.

    There are a couple of factors that must be taken into account now that it's the last 16.
    Firstly, it's more of a cup competition, so teams will aim to come out and win games, rather than pick up a draw when it's useful. One small mistake can see a team knocked straight out.
    Secondly, there's a transfer window which opens again in January. This potentially allows teams to strengthen a little bit, and I'm pretty sure Spurs at least will bring in a new face or two (hopefully with calibre).

    No point in predicting who will/won't go through yet, or even when the draw takes place.
    That said, both Arsenal and Spurs need to do a lot of work on the training ground defensively. It's all well and good being able to score goals freely, but you can't become reliant on the "they can score 3, cos we'll score 4" methodology. Yes, it results in exciting football, but it's a certain exit route too.

  • Comment number 91.

    I thought if you win when you are not playing well that it is a sign of champions.

    Why does this not apply to Arsenal?

  • Comment number 92.

    It finished 3-2 at Old Trafford and 3-0 at the Guiseppe Meazza. I'll never forget the comedia scene when Evra and Heinze fell over each other.


    No, it finished 3-2 at the San Siro and 4-0 at Old Trafford. You're thinking of 2007 when we lost in the San Siro.

  • Comment number 93.

    This is a season of reckoning for Wenger and Arsenal. After losing to Spurs and Braga recently many Arsenal fans were questioning Wenger.

    The problem has been glaringly obvious for 3 seasons now and Wenger hasn't fixed it. Defence, defence, defence! Ask any Arsenal fan or just read the blogs.

    I suspect that Arsenal will be nowhere to be seen (again) at the business end of the PL and CL because of this.

    Elsewhere, Walcott is never going to 'arrive', Chamack is average, Rosisky and Denilson are questionable, and Song looks better going forward than doing the DM role that is so necessary to protect that fragile defence.

    Draw Barca, Real or Bayern and it's bye bye CL. Then again, that could be an advantage as Arsenal could concentrate on the PL and just maybe still be in contention in April!

  • Comment number 94.

    91. At 11:42am on 09 Dec 2010, Bladegunner3 wrote:
    I thought if you win when you are not playing well that it is a sign of champions.

    Why does this not apply to Arsenal?


    very good point and one that has been puzzling me as well when it comes to the various pundits and media outlets.

  • Comment number 95.

    i dont understand why tottenham are being constantly praised this season for their performances in europe. they play well one week against a poor inter milan, benitez has managed to ruin them as well, and then they're woeful in the premier league. gareth bale is not a world class player, he is good, but not world class. after his scintillating performance against inter, rafael completed muted him when they played utd, and again bolton slashed through their defence to beat them 4-2.

    as for tottenham having a stronger defence than arsenal, have you seen the amount of goals theyve conceded?! theyre not doing well in the PL and theyre out of the CC, yet they seem to be having an incredible season?! tottenham fans irritate me more than any others, and im a man united fan, because of their reluctance to come to the present day, yes spurs won a european trophy 200000 years ago and yes they were the first team to win the double 60 years ago...but it doesnt mean youre better than arsenal.

    spurs need to get off their high horse and win something before being so arrogant

  • Comment number 96.

    Shalke 04 and Bayern doing fine in the championship but in their home competition sub-top or worse, in Spain the usual suspects on top bit boring; and Arsenal on top for know in the competition but just made it through the final 32; in other words predictions are difficult, maybe when Arsenal stays on top in the premiership they go all out for that prize, and leave the uefa championship for others to decide, think thats not a farfetched prediction

  • Comment number 97.

    Just a few things to point out. Firstly as a fan of a team outside the premiership I am fed up of hearing deluded premiership fans assuming they can stroll anywhere and beat whoever they like because they are an english team.
    Secondly, arsenal cannot beat barcelona playing football, barca consistenly prove that if you play football against them you wont win. The only teams that have had success against them such as inter have shut up shot against them and won that way, arsenal are incapable of doing this.
    Also in that semi final at the nou camp, barcelona were also missing puyol and pique, and arsenal would probably not have scored their goal if it was pique or puyol on the ball and not milito.
    But anyway, I sincerely hope arsenal win the premiership this year, least they make football good to watch.

  • Comment number 98.

    I will firstly declare an interest being an Arsenal supporter for over 50 years. I'm sorry to say that the present team just isn't good enough. It has always been the adage in football that if the spine of the team is strong then you won't go far wrong. Arsenal are lacking a top class goalkeeper - the best goalies are worth a goal a game .Fabianski is a good shot stopper but he lacks command of the area and is awful in the air. Vermaelan is a top centre half but the other three are not up to the job.
    Chamakh is not an Ian Wright or Thierry Henry. They are the type of strikers you need at the highest level. Wenger, who I believe has done a great job at Arsenal must know this, so I conclude that funds are very tight.

  • Comment number 99.

    i think we were the first english team to win at the san siro against both milans and also madrid.

    but liverpool have also beaten inter and madrid away since then and united have beaten ac milan away too.

    i agree with colinD2 (post 84). you have to beat the best eventually anyway in this competition. there is no disgrace in losing to barca. for goodness sake madrid who are second favourites have only just recently been thumped by barca. theyre the one team i give us less than 5% chance of beating.

    against munich and madrid we'd be underdogs as well. but we fare better when the pressure is off in my opinion. we are not good enough to win the champions league in my opinion. our greatest era to win the competition was between 2003 and 2007. where we were strong but also there was no outstanding candidates in europe either.

  • Comment number 100.

    Schalke would be preferred but Bayern have always been organised and dangerous in this competition knocking out one of the favourites Man Utd last season. I think Madrid, Bayern and Barcelona will all be favourites against us but this is a tight competition.

    Same old story really, we can score against anyone but concede way too many. At the minute Barcelona are daunting for everyone but sooner or later we will have to play a big team and if Wenger has faith in his players to perform at that level then we can.

    Nasri has been fantastic for us but still need some of our other players need to improve including arshavin who hasn't been as good as i was hoping so far this season. Squillaci and Koscielny (?) don't look great and another 2 defenders to cover full back and central positions as we seem to lack depth in that department.


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