Passing Through

Police are set to investigate Toure for activity in Porto match

I thought I’d put a photo here showing that there were some players running around during tonight’s match, despite what your eyes may have led you to believe

Before the game Arsene promised that the team would not be playing for a draw, rather that they would go for the win. The inclusion of Flamini suggested that he had gone out there with the sole intention of not losing, a slight twist on words and as my four year old is want to say, “Just teasing“. And he got it spot on, job done, qualification assured as was top spot which counts for little given the quality of three of the seven teams that can be faced in the Round of Sixteen. It matters not what the performance was like for tonight was all about securing the necessary point to get through. That qualification was secured anyway through CSKA’s defeat in Hamburg is irrelevant. The team had a job to do and they did it. However, it may have come at a high price with Djourou suffering a hamstring injury; we wait to see how serious it is otherwise Sunday’s team may include Gilberto or Hoyte as makeshift centre-half alongside Senderos with Gallas having about a 20% chance of being fit. I should point out that the 20% is an ‘Arsene’ 20% which means Gallas will no doubt be fit and sprinting around like a new-born spring Lamb.

The performance in many respects reminded me of the Villarreal match last season; happy to surrender possession, the home team nearly getting a goal but in the end progress made. It was a difficult night for them to gauge how to play; do they push forward or do they sit back and try not to concede, knowing that if they do it could be difficult to equalise?

Prior to the match, it was interesting to read how supporters and Arsene were saying that it would be a disaster or a blow (respectively) for the team to drop into the UEFA Cup. I think I may have been in a very small minority of those who thought that there would have been a silver lining in that cloud in that it may well have lowered expectations in the long run and allowed the team to gel away from the bright lights and overhype that goes with the Champions League. That is not to say that I wanted it to happen, of course I didn’t but more importantly that I was not overly concerned for one season if it had. Anyhow that strange bout of perverse optimism passed with the blowing of the final whistle tonight.

I guess I should mention the three close run things that would have had collective hearts in mouths for a few seconds. Porto obviously had not read the script at the start of the second half, Quaresma striking Lehmann’s right hand post twice whilst Assuncao came close with a twenty five yard effort in the first but I think the BBC hit the nail on the head, “Both sides seemed to settle for the point they needed after that brief flurry of activity and the game petered out in the final 30 minutes“. And why not? Neither side wanted to jeopardise their own chances of qualifying.

Not that I am complaining but this match indicates all that is wrong with any League format for what is essentially a cup competition. When two teams require one point to progress, you do not need collusion to ensure a draw, just good old-fashioned human nature – “we can progress if we do not try to hard because they won’t either” will prevail. Perhaps UEFA will look at the point scoring system to bring some sense of urgency to the proceedings if this bothers them. Bonus points for a clear two goal win with more awarded for every goal over three scored in one game. Might make things more interesting. And before you think I’ve taken leave of my senses, under that method Porto would have topped the Group with 17 points, Arsenal second with 16, some eight points clear of CSKA meaning the whole evening was less stressful which was obviously my whole intention in concocting that little points scheme.

And so to Round Two, the runners and riders for that will be:

Seeds Runners – Up
Arsenal   Barcelona
Bayern Munich   Celtic
Chelsea   Internazionale
Liverpool   Lille
Lyon   Porto
Manchester United   PSV Eindhoven
Milan   Real Madrid
Valencia   Roma

As I look at that list, I am not unhappy with first place. As for who I would prefer or not, I guess my choices would be:

1. Lille
2. Celtic
3. PSV Eindhoven
4. Roma
5. Real Madrid
6. Internazionale
7. Barcelona

Whilst Barcelona are not in the most sparkling of form at present, remember that this round is played next February by which time I believe that Eto’o will be back, making a huge difference to them. There is a sense of wanting revenge but personally, I just want progression by the easiest possible route. But we shall see. As it is I’m just going to enjoy the fact that despite a turbulent few weeks on the pitch, Arsenal are through.

13 thoughts on “Passing Through

  1. I thought it was a mistake to go there with a defensive formation thus surrendering the initative . If Porto had scored, which they v nearly did, there would have been no way back.

    No you were not the only one thinking the Uefa Cup would not have been a disaster. Financially yes & initally phsycologically maybe, but it would be a competition, which we would have a very realistic chance of winning, wheras we are really v much outsiders to win the CL this season. Remember Houllier got a great deal of credit for winning it & any siverwear is often a stepping stone because of the confidence it brings.

    Uefa won 1970- Double ’70/71.

  2. Can’t understand why the beast didn’t start in place of Flamini…he would have surely provided the balance between defence and attack that was needed on a night like last night…until the last ten mins it was 2 close for comfort and we surely won’t get away with it if we line up like that again…completely disagree with you about the uefa cup comment..this squad is stronger than last years especially when you consider the players we’ll have back by Febuary including a fully functioning Thierry..don’t see why they can’t gel together during a successful champs lge campaign as opposed to a uefa cup one where the reserves would have played

  3. I thnk that part of the reason for the team and the performance (neither of which was spot exactly) is that we are playing Chelski on Sunday. Similar to the Fulham game which preceded the oh so important Spurs game, we fielded an under-strength side. Certainly Walcott, RvP and Baptista were rested. Got away with it this time ..just. But I hope that we will now be able to pull out all the stops for the next game.

    Not interested in the UEFA cup.

  4. For once I disagree with you Frank. No one was rested yesterday. In the current situation it was a much more important game than Chavski. Certainly financially.

    My guess is that Baptista was not chanced because he has yet to fit into the team pattern. I think he may well play on Sunday, together with Theo, because anything we get there now will be a bonus. The defeats at Bolton & Fulham have realistically removed everything but the faintest chance of the Premiership. I can see MU or Chavski slipping up but not both.

    The pressure is now off a bit in the league and funnily enough I think they will be more relaxed so that the results will be better.

    The Uefa cup is a much better competition than it is given credit for.

  5. Flint,

    You may be right but I think the psychological lift of getting points at Stamford Bridge would be a massive boost to the team. We did not look as though we were going for the win last night and if we had been I can see no logical reason for not playing RvP or Baptista. Similarly I think the psychological effect of being the only EPL CL team to drop into the UEFA cup would have been devastating for players and fans.

  6. Man U had a good run after being knocked of the CL without even qualifying for the Uefa.

    Football is really mainly about disappointments and your last result.

  7. There were a couple of reasons for not including Baptista that I could see. I would agree it was not to rest him but I think AW had decided to give the team a bit more defensive bite than normal so included Flamini and secondly, I think he wanted Ljungberg in for experience. Let’s not forget, Baptista did not play much European football at Madrid and prior to that none at all. RvP was omitted for the same first reason and also Adebayour is far better as a front man on his own and has more experience at it.

    I would like AW to experiment on Sunday with Theo on the right. Cole may be quick but I suspect Walcott can outsprint him. It would be more a case of whether Cole’s experience will help to negate that speed positionally, something that I think he improved on in the last 2 – 3 seasons but which he still had to a lot to learn.

  8. As important – Theo would keep Cashly occupied. We all know Cashly was better going forwards but he did improve a lot as a defender.

    If Djourou or Gallas play – I fancy our chances.
    Like I said the pressure is off a bit – so I expect either a v good result or a thrashing.

    We now need to know what Baptista can do over a number of games.

  9. Chelsea have very little width in their new system so I think the inclusion of Walcott could prove vital with Hleb playing wide left…or if Hleb was to start on the right the overlapping runs of Eboue could be the key to success on sunday as they no longer play with wingers to keep him pinned back…I also think another pivitol factor in the game will be in our ability to keep makelele occupied..something I think the Beast could do

  10. Wenger’s goal for Wednesday’s match was accomplished. But it was a fluke, not due to Wenger’s judgement.

    Anyway, luck was on our side eventually.

  11. Flint, YW

    You are probably right about the formation. But if we play a defensive formation like that against Chelski we will be torn apart. Surely we must play to win, I thought the same for the Porto game. Why would you not play Adebayour and RvP up front? Why would you play Freddie? Why not Walcott? Why sit back at all when it is not your game? The only answer I could come up with is that it was important to conserve something…energy, focus, some of your players – maybe all of them. Unless of course it really was a fix.

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