Faces of Danger: Gunners to Watch For

This is by no means a comprehensive list of who is good or not on Arsenal’s roster, but it most certainly is a list of people who are currently playing for Arsenal. And I think they’re all pretty decent at this here game of football. You might call them the danger men that we need to look out for–they’re the attackers that the team needs to look out for the most.

Samir Nasri: The little French wunderkid that could left provincial Marseille (that’s a dig at a local bartender who doesn’t read this site) for the bright lights of the big city on the Thames in the summer of 2008. Since, he’s been a producer of random gems and random stinkers, but has, at least, begun to impress on the European stage. He’s got 3 in 4 appearances in this year’s CL, which is a credit both to his own skills and the collective imagination of his team. Sure, he’s scored against “lowly” Porto, Standard Liege, and AZ Alkmaar and he’s only scored 2 in the Premier League in 20 appearances, but he’s certainly capable against anyone (and he just scored against Birmingham this weekend). He’s right-footed and could be tasked with slipping down the left side to keep Dani Alves honest or he could be pushed right to challenge Maxwell.

Nicklas Bendtner: Another of Wenger’s young guns, Bendtner has been with the club his entire first team career. Of course, that’s just since 2005 (he was loaned to Birmingham City in 06-07 after appearing only in 3 FA Cup matches in 05-06), but still, he is certainly not some young punk who has no idea how Arsenal plays. That’s a bonus for them, as Bendtner has found his form to a certain degree this year. He scored a hat trick against Porto (one from the spot) in their last European outing, but that almost half of all the goals he’s ever scored in Europe. Still, he’s got the same number of CL goals as Messi does, so you can’t really hold that against him. He’s also tall, at 6’4″ (194cm), so there’s an obvious aerial aspect to his game that we’ll have be aware of.

Andrei Arshavin: I pretty much just love watching this duckling quack his way uglily through a defense, but I think that Dani Alves will be able to hold him down. He’s having a solid year (9 goals in 28 EPL matches and 2 in 6 CL matches), which at this point just sort of describes all of the Gunners since the team is doing well, and while I expect him to stay wide to challenge Dani Alves on the right, he can swing into the middle easily enough to shoot with his right. And he has a serious knack for scoring in big matches, so beware of him if he’s able to overcome his recent injuries and get onto the field (The Guardian claims both he and Nasri will be fit).

Then, of course, there’s this one guy that you’ve probably heard of.

Cesc Fabregas: There’s so little left to say about what Fabregas brings to the table that it seems almost a waste to even try. My own take is that he’s a brilliant midfielder who has adapted well to the Premier League and, through Wenger’s nurturing and his own hard work, made himself a world class player. He isn’t, however, some strange Britishized version of Xavi–rather, he’s his own player in many respects. He shoots more, for instance, and he doesn’t go by one name. Okay, okay, seriously: he’s scored 2 fewer league goals than Xavi has in a little more than half the time (187 to 344). He’s also got 15 goals this year which account for nearly half of his goals overall and that’s worth thinking about if he’s on the field–and Wenger has noticed, not surprisingly. That he’s doubtful or at least not necessarily 100% is good news for Barça, but bad news for the spectacle that this tie could become.

So those are the 4 attackers that worry me the most. There’s obviously Theo Walcott and his pace, but I think a lack of discipline on his part will gift us possession more often than cause us problems. There’s Eduardo, but he’s been a sub recently and hasn’t played for a few weeks. There’s Vermaelen on defense, who could be dangerous on freekicks, but I’m more worried about their open field play than their set pieces. Robin van Persie’s absence is definitely going to be felt in that department.

Much more tomorrow, of course.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

61 comments

  1. i’d add Vermaelen to this list.

    He could do damage on set pieces, and he’s a powerful defensive force. If anyone is going to get in Ibra/Messi’s way, it’ll be him.

  2. heres a thought. Forget abt the above and watch out for Diaby. He is the most likely to hurt u and I’m sure most Barca fans think he is a defensive midfielder. Well, Cesc is gonna stay deeper than him most of the game, and Diaby is gonna be the real creative force come wednesday. Thats what I reckon at least.

  3. Good article. As a gunner, I’m worried about how we’re going to handle Messi if Gallas isn’t fit as that means playing Sol or Silvestre. Sol is great physically but lacks pace and Silvestre is even worse.

    If Wenger uses Song at CB, that would mean Denilson or Diaby as a DM and I think Barca would have a field day with possession in midfield if that happens as both Denilson and Diaby are too attack minded.

  4. I just wish we had Van Persie though. Anyway, let the best team win! It would most likely be a spectacle with two of the best attacking teams playing on the same field. Cheers!

  5. I respect Diaby a lot, and I love watching the lad play, but the truth is that when he’s forced to stay home and play real defense, his worth diminishes.

    The same thing can be said for Dani Alves, but most would agree with me when I say Alves is of a different class than Diaby, if only slightly.

    Song is another play I love to watch, but if we start who I think we will, Yaya and Busi, we’ll have enough firepower in the trenches to give Xavi space to play the fiddle of maestro throughout the 90 minutes in the Emirates.

    1. Song will have to play at DM rather than CB to handle messi when he comes inside. Song is delevoped into one of the best ‘new sweepers’, DMs that play just infront of the CB’s protecting the back line and providing cover allowing the fullbacks to go forward. In this way Barca and Arsenal are so very simular in defense. Arshavin will be valuable on the left keeping Alves from venturing too far forward. If he and Yaya do venture up Barca may be vulnerable to our counter attack, something they don’t see in Spain so much. Certainly they will have to adapt to our pace and quick passing. For me it seems barca have slowed their game down from a couple years ago for some reason.
      I suspect we will see Theo at some point especially if need a goal late or even if we want to just give barca something else to think about when they go for the away goal.

      I’d like nothing more than for us to keep a clean sheet at Emirates as I have a ticket for the Nou Camp leg, and will be desperate for a huge Euro night to compare with Milan. Here’s to two classic matches between two simular sides that play good football.

      Revenge for Paris!

    2. “Barca may be vulnerable to our counter attack, something they don’t see in Spain so much”

      do you watch La Liga? There are LOADS of sides who just wait for us to give away possession before sprinting the entire length the pitch in the hopes that they may sniff the goal once before we get it back.

      There aren’t teams who ride solely on the counter attack, but you’d be wrong to assume that we don’t know how to defend against it, or react to it.

  6. most likely the 1st leg will be a draw, may be 1-1. that seems to be the trend for Barca for away UCL games.

  7. Cesc has 18 goals and 19 assists (not 15 goals). THE MOST IMPORTANT ARSENAL PLAYERS are DIABY AND ALEX SONG! They will be the key to winning the midfield battle. If the midfield battle is won… we have a better chance of scoring and a less chance of letting one in. Song and Diaby will decide the tie. Song and Diaby vs Toure & Keita. That will be the match up.

    1. the song & diaby vs toure & keita debate is something that barcelona will laugh at. keita alone can handle both, while toure could handle twice as much. the spirit of the team and humility will definitely decide this tie, and there will be battles all around the pitch.

  8. Be aware of Abou Diaby, I think he’s nearly as good as the Yaya…

    And I would almost bet my life on Cesc playing, that’s just a mind game from Arsenal.

    1. diaby is not even close to yaya.
      im not being cocky but yaya is really a few classes above!

  9. If in any chance Pedro features in this game, I would look out for him making some kind of impact.

    tbh, Ibra’s recent goals have not been the reason as being tipped ‘in form’, rather its his improvement in some aspects of his game, for example he applies a lot more pressure on the opposing team when they have the ball, also he has been distributing passes a lot quicker than usual and his quick thinking doesn’t hinder his passing accuracy either. Plus also little things like looking more in phase with the rest of the team, and maybe he isn’t a player youd want to dribble defences, I would want to pay attention to his capacity in tacking shots from anywhere, give him space or not, if he is on form, he will shoot.

    1. I agree he’s improving but unless he improves dramatically tomorrow night he’s not going to be the tie settler.

  10. So if I understand the above correctly, Arsenal will mostly likely field:

    Almunia (with a grimace)
    Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy
    Fabregas – Song – Diaby
    Nasri – Bendtner – Arshavin

    1. my take is he’s nowhere nearly as skillful or creative… wasteful more often than not. he does put in a lot of effort and has very good movements. but he’s score a few goals lately and a lucky bendtner is a dangerous bendtner.

    2. he’s not that good. If memory serves me, last couple of goals (porto hat trick) were mainly tap ins & a penalty kick. given an open goal, the kid will shank it 75% of the time. I think the game before porto he missed 5 tap-ins. Maybe I should give him some credit for getting into position.

  11. Ok people!!! It is time to stop squabbling over the Arsenal issue, for the rest of the day, and let us see who we will meet in the finals at the Santiago Bernabéu. aka. the ManU or BayerMu. Unfortunate for them, both their names, as I write them, end with a U, and that means we will easily dismantle them, just like last years Champions league. This also goes with any team whose stadium ends with a u, aka Bernabéu. Bring on the El Classico.

  12. Arsenal trolls, please leave links to websites you blog at, so we can follow you and remind you about what you were saying when all is said and done. 😉

  13. Sorry, but this is some funny stuff:

    http://desigunner.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/arsenal-v-barca-position-for-position/

    I mean, I know that it’s an Arsenal-centric blog and all, just as this is a Barca-centric blog. But Christ on a crutch, really?

    Here, I’ll help:

    –Valdes? Proof that a team can win with a dodgy keeper? Lay off the Phil Schoen broadcasts, yo. Just sayin’.

    –I’m sure there’s a world in which Eboue would win a right back comparison against Dani Alves. Just not this one.

    –There might not be much of a technical difference between Vermaelen/Campbell and Pique/Puyol. Luckily, matches are played on the pitch.

    –Clichy “far superior” to Abidal OR Maxwell? Yes, I understand the Gunner fan thing. But come on. Clichy and Maxwell is a much tighter contest, with a slight edge to Clichy. But when Abidal is healthy, he owns Clichy.

    –Okay. You would pick Song over The Yaya “all season long.” Gotcha. 😀

    –Underestimate Keita at your own peril. Diaby does excellent work, admittedly, but Keita is a crucial part of our attack.

    –“Xavi is a fantastic player but isn’t in the same league as Fabregas.” Spot on. That Aragones dude is crazy for starting Xavi and Iniesta over the best midfielder in the world. Hopefully he will come to his senses before the World Cup.

    –Henry vs Nasri/Rosicky would be a good comparison were it valid. You have to toss in Pedro, however. I like Nasri and Rosicky a lot. I’d even buy Nasri before I wasted 50m on Fabregas.

    Now yes, I am a Barca fan to the core of my Blaugrana heart and soul. But I am also a realist. I love my team, but am not blind to the qualities of its players. For example, I would swap Henry for Arshavin in about two seconds. I think that Puyol is in his last season as an automatic starter, etc, etc.

    And I rather hope that if I were comparing our players to those of another side, that I would be just a bit more balanced.

    To the writer’s credit, Messi and Ibrahimovic get the credit they deserve, though I would say that Bendtner, given his recent form, is closer to Ibrahimovic than talent would otherwise indicate.

    That is all.

    1. HAHAHAHA. Awesome.

      Honestly I saw this: “Valdes = Almunia” and I started laughing so hard I couldn’t read any more.

    2. Weird question, but have you ever been out drinking with Ciaran and a Gavin? If so, I think you’ve been indirectly lamebooked.

  14. Anyone know if the ManU Bayern game is going to be on any foxsportswest channel and not just Foxsports en espanol?

    Thanks.

  15. Keita is taking some stick for suggesting that clubs don’t play their best and hardest against EE. Is he right? I just know that if Messi and Ibrahimovic got the gobs of space that Higuain and Thong Boy get, each one would have about 40 goals. Just sayin’.

    EE supporters will say that their more dynamic attack creates more space, and with Ramos pressing the wing, etc, etc. Dunno. I do know that when Getafe’s coach says that he’d like to see EE win the Liga, then his team bellies up against them, my eyebrows go up.

  16. HALF TIME SCORES:

    Lyon 2-1 Bordeaux (apparently very entertaining match so far)
    ManU 1-0 Bayern (Rooney scored on the 2nd minute)

    1. I really want Bordeaux to go through, but more than that I want ManU out. Pretty please Bayern?

  17. abidal has the green light, this makes me feel a lot better, abi will shut down their counter attacks if he plays.

  18. I really do like Gourcuff, but he wouldn’t really fit anywhere for us, would he?

  19. I come back to find out that Rooney scored in the 2nd minute; at least Ribery’s tied it up…Lyon’s also 3-1 up now, but I can’t seem to bring myself to care right now.

    Man! Tomorrow can’t come soon enough! 🙁

    1. EDIT: Olic just scored for Bayern. My care factor has gone up from the negatives to + 1.

      Take that MAN UTD! I don’t care if you end up going through anyway! Suckas!

    1. That was awesome! I was annoyed that Gomez took the ball right into all those defenders, but then out of nowhere, Olic takes the ball and golazo! Ha. It was awesome.

      And it seems Rooney is injured.

  20. yes! bayern get the win.So sick united getting let off by times, bayern do it atlast.

    1. I’ll most likely end up watching the game again, if only to pass time until tomorrow and see Man Utd lose to boot. Petty? Maybe. Childish? Definately. Do I care? No.

      Not in the least. 😀

  21. I don’t know which match you guys watched but Lyon – Bordeaux was definietely a super entertainer.

    1. I watched first half of Lyon-Bordeaux and I switched back and forth between both games for the second half. I guess it’s not impossible for Bordeaux to still make it through, but Lyon looks pretty solid.

      Also, happy for the Bayern win, tough luck on Rooney getting injured. Don’t particularly like ManU, but it sucks that their top player is hurt. Hope he can play the WC, no matter what I always want to see the best players out there.

    2. Was it a serious injury?

      Oh wait, you don’t have to answer that. It’ll probably be all over the English newspapers, saying that’s the reason for Olic’s golazo and Man U losing. 🙂

    3. Apparently its not that bad? I think he’ll miss the next few matches at least. Good chance for Bayern to take it.

    4. Yeah? The repeat is on TV here in Canada; the broadcasters rightly decided that Lyon – Bordeux was more entertaining than the 1999 repeat, which by the way, lost all it’s “OMG! Bayern v UTD-what drama” charm, because they already met–albeit in the group stage.

      I think I watch that too. That equates to 4 hours of football. Hmm that’s 20 less hours I have to wait for our match!

      20 less hours–FUDGE! My only solace is sleep takes out 10 hours–yes I sleep that long 😀 .

  22. That Ivica Olic seems to be scoring some crucial goals for Bayern…

    How long do you think it’ll take until he’ll ‘seriously be interested’ (i.e Ohmagod, pleaseletmego! It’s always been my DREAM!) in signing for EE, accoring to the Madrid press?

    A month? A week? A day? It’s already in the works now? It was in the works a long time ago and is ready to be published at the right time? 🙂

    In a strange way, I kinda feel sorry for EE supporters.:D

  23. I watched Bayern Man U match and Bayern were well worth their win. Man U decided to stop playing for some reason.

    Lyon got a good result but will miss Lisandro for return leg which is a big blow.

    Interesting return legs set up here. I would bet on Lyon to make it while its even money on Man U Bayern without Rooney.

    Have to say that the football was quite good tonight. Now hoping for more of same, and of course a great show by us tomorrow.

  24. By the way, completely off topic, but…

    IT’S INIESSTTAAAAAAA

    **http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2EmWgs35jc

    Never gets old.

  25. YEAH! Take this, ManUtd. They played exactly the same shit as all English teams tend to do (except of Arsenal) in the CL knockout stage, but today they got penalized by Bayern. Hope Rooney won’t make the next 2 games, than ManUtd might be screwed in both EPL and CL.
    Bayern Munich had to do without Schweinsteiger and Robben, even with Rooney, they should be able to overcome ManUtd.
    Imagine a finals of Barca – Bayern @ Bernabéu, the Madridistas would go crazy, because they’d see their archtivals and “la Bestia Negra” in the final 😀

    1. what is la bestia negra?
      haha we are only in the quarters. and you’re already talking about the finals lol

    1. We had Yaya if we wanted him, no thanks. Song is younger and becoming much better. He is critical to our play, while Yaya is always on his way out of Barca.

      BTW…THEO! He showed Maxwell what speed is and owned him. He will certainly start against a makeshift back four next week. I’m stoked and even ready for climbing 4000 steps to where fucking Barca keeps the away support.

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