15th March 2016: Wenger and Vermaelen on Arsenal’s hopes

Evening all. So Newcastle couldn’t do us a favour after all last night, and we’re now 11 points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City, albeit with a game in hand. Boll*cks.

But there’s plenty of time to talk about the domestic title race, and whether we’re still part of it, later in the week. For now it’s all thoughts on Barcelona and wondering whether we can at the very least produce a decent performance, even if getting a result that carries us through will need the most exceptional of circumstances on the night. Like the entire Barcelona starting selection injuring themselves in the warm-up, for instance.

One man who thinks the tie isn’t over just yet though, is our former captain and current Barcelona bit-player Thomas Vermaelen, who says the Catalans will find it tough against ‘dangerous’ Arsenal:

Of course we will be the favourites but I know Arsenal, and I know it’s not going to be easy. I think they gave us a tough time in London. When I was there, we played a couple of times against Bayern Munich and we lost at home, but then we went to Bayern Munich, we had very good results and we were close to going through. You can never say they are out because they will always come back. The second leg is not going to be easy. They want to play football on the floor, they want to keep the ball on the ground and that’s what both teams want. They’d rather not play with long balls because that’s not the type of their play. They have pace and are physical. They have very quick players on the wing and are very energetic. That’s what makes them dangerous.

Awwww. That’s nice of Tommy V to say. But that’s all he’s doing, the same as most players would about a former club having moved onto a bigger, better one. In private, I’m sure he’s expecting Barcelona to beat us again just like everybody else. They’re just a far, far superior team.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, Arsene Wenger was also sounding pretty bullish at his pre-match press conference earlier this evening, suggesting the objective for his team is clear-cut and that he’ll instruct his side to attack. He said:

We are in a position where we need to score two or three goals. That demands a very [clear charge]. We know that we need to attack and take the game to them. I felt that our approach [in the first leg] was not so bad. We lost our balance a bit just after half-time. We got caught on the counter-attack at a moment where we looked to be on top of the game, so we are in a position where I don’t think we have to think too much.

Now you might read that and think it’s a little confused from Arsene because on the one hand he says our approach was on the right track in the first leg when we certainly did anything but take the game to Barcelona, yet on the other he suggest we’ll be adventurous tomorrow because we have to. But I think I know what he means.

We played the first 70 minutes of the first leg well and having arrived at a stage of the game when we’d be most likely to score (based on the previous two meetings between the sides at Emirates stadium in recent years), we conceded two goals that could easily have been avoided, even against such brilliant opponents.

Right, brief and abrupt, but that’s it from me for tonight.

Back either pre or post-game tomorrow. I haven’t decided yet.

Brace yourselves.


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