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.