Tomorrow is a day that most Gunners have had marked on their calendars for over a month. Arsenal will take on the best team in the world currently, Barcelona. Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, you would know that Barcelona has a variety of weapons going forward that Arsenal will need to man mark very closely; otherwise this tie will get ugly in a hurry.
Gabriel has been ruled out of the first match for Arsenal, which is a big blow. I thought that the Brazilian centreback should definitely start in both ties vs Barcelona. Mertesacker’s pace, or lack thereof, could be a huge minus for the English side. Even though Chambers has not played much for Arsenal this season, I would seriously consider starting him ahead of the lengthy German, Mertesacker. Bellerin has shown that he can play very well defensively and attacking wise, but he will need to be careful going forward because Barcelona will make Arsenal pay on the counter attacks.
Coquelin as a defensive midfielder is the best that Arsenal has to offer right now. The 24 year old Frenchman will have his hands full with the likes of Rakitic and Iniesta, who will be looking to connect with MSN (see what I did there), as much as possible. Ramsey will no doubt try to push up when Arsenal do attack, but he has to mindful of the fact that he has to get back and man mark very thoroughly, if Arsenal stand a chance. Giving Barcelona space in midfield is a recipe for disaster.
Ozil will need to distribute the ball as he has done most of season. Passing needs to be thorough and on point. Set pieces cannot be wasted because once again, Barcelona is way too quick on the counter for Arsenal to contain. I have been very critical of Ozil in big games, saying that he rarely shows up. I hope he can prove me wrong in this tie and be the difference. All eyes will be on Alexis Sanchez as he plays his former team. Alexis cannot let his emotions get the best of him, he needs to put in a solid 90 minutes of work and go at the Barcelona back line that, in my opinion, is not as great as advertised. Giroud will need to win the aerial duels as much as possible, going up against Pique and Mascherano, most likely. That being said, Giroud will need to take advantage of all the chances he gets in this match because he may not get many, so his finishing will need to be critical. Remember, Giroud has scored plenty of big goals this season, but he has also missed some sitters.
One thing I will say, If Arsenal can salvage a tie, or even a win in London, the second fixture could get very interesting.
But that being said…
COME ON YOU GUNNERS!
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.