Villareal v. Arsenal; Key Matchups

cesc3 Cesc v. Senna senna

Spain teammates Marcos Senna and Cesc Fabregas will face off tonight in the Villareal half of the midfield. Expect to see Cesc “in the hole” or “off the shoulder” however you want to say it (calling positions in Wenger’s system is very difficult) basically he’ll be leading the attack in the midfield. This means that he will be marked closely by Marcos Senna: the man who single-handedly handcuffed Andrei Arshavin in Euro 2008.

Neither player is 100% fit, both coming off injuries, so neither player has an advantage there. Senna has a ton of experience which will serve him well, but Cesc is Cesc and his guile, vision, and ball control will serve him well. The one thing we don’t want to forget is that Senna also starts the attacks and can get forward himself, even scoring some great goals. Cesc will have his work cut out for him on that front. So, I’m calling it a draw.

The problem is that Cesc is so important in the creative role that even a draw in this battle is a win for Villareal.

pires Bobby v. Sagna sagna

Pires is well past his prime but that doesn’t mean we can just write him off. If the press is to be bellieved he’s hungry to show Arsene what he missed by offering the 33 year old just a one year contract (he’s 35 now) after the bitter disappointment of the Champions League final. Bobby’s being very diplomatic but it has to hurt that Wenger sacrificed him instead of Ljungberg on that day, and I have to think that he’ll want to stick the knife in.

Physically, I have no doubt that Sagna can handle Pires. But Pires isn’t going to try to blow by Sagna, rather, he’ll use his experience and inherent guile to get into problematic spaces and take shots. Mentally, Sagna better be on top of his game, there’s a reason why Pires was called the Fox in the Box. You can bet your ass if there’s a shot, Bobby’s taking it.

One thing Sagna can do is get forward and force Pires’ old legs to work extra hard. Tired legs make mistakes.

Irregardless of Sagna’s youthful vigor, Pires’ desire and guile give the advantage to Villareal.

adebayor Adebayor v. Godin godin

You never know which Adebayor you’re going to get. Adebayor can be a beast or he can be a mouse. It’s no stretch to say that Arsenal need Emmanuel Adebayor to work hard, keep his head, and (most importantly) take his chances: in short, he needs to be a beast tonight.

I think he will be up for the game, it’s a big match and he’s talked about how hungry he is to win a trophy, moreover, Wenger will leave him alone up front in the 4-2-3-1 and when he’s up for the game, he thrives as the lone hit man. Still, it’s his aerial ability which will likely net him a goal so, look for him to harass the back line, win corners, and I’d bet he gets a goal off a set piece.

Advantage Arsenal.

gallas Gallas v. Rossi rossi

Arsene Wenger will look to his former captain and best defender to lead the line against Villareal’s big Italian (via America) striker. For Rossi, service from the midfield will be crucial as to whether he will have the kind of chances that he needs to convert goals. So, Arsenal’s two-headed stopper (Denilson and Song) will be employed to soak that up.

If Arsenal manage to stop service from midfield, then Villareal will probably try a more direct approach. In which case Gallas’ speed and awareness will be needed to slow down Villareal’s top goal scorer.  I’m counting on the former, and thus Gallas’ role is crucial to keeping Rossi out of the sticks.

Gallas has another advantage; he scores goals. In all competitions, Cappy has 6 goals this season, half of which have come in the Champions League. It’s an impressive haul for a defender and a huge threat to Villareal. Watch for Cappy to get an equalizer if Arsenal are down late in the game: he loves scoring those late goals and being the hero.

Advantage Arsenal.


I see a 1-1 draw here, Villareal will be up for the game and their fans will make life uncomfortable for the Arsenal. Both teams will be tentative to start and Arsenal need to use their speed on the counter to try to open Villareal’s defense.

That said, an early goal from either team will force their opponents to attack and could lead to a huge scoreline. On the opposite end of that spectrum, the longer the game goes without a goal the more tentative both teams will become and the less likely to score. It’ll be boom or bust I tell ya!

Of course a million things could happen but I see a momentary lapse of concentration (Clichy?) leading to a Pires goal (PK?) right after the start of the second half and then the Arsenal onslaught to ensue which will lead to a late goal from Cappy or Adebayor off a set play. 1-1 would be a good result, as it gets us that crucial away goal, to take back to Emirates where we can seal the deal.

If you’re in town, see you at 11:45. If not, wherever you are, get out the kits and let’s cheer these boys on!


12 Responses to “Villareal v. Arsenal; Key Matchups”

  1. April 7, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Such a tough one. Both sides might be cagey at first but the home crowd will demand some forward movement from their side, which suits us. An away goal would be awesome; I think they will really concentrate on shutting down Walcott (if he starts – any news?) and that might open things up for Nasri and the like. but the Cesc/Ade axis could be key here. Sitting at my desk ta work, I am totally overexcited already and there are over 4 hours until kick off. Come on lads!

  2. 2 Tim
    April 7, 2009 at 7:34 am

    As far as I can tell, Walcott is fit, which means he will start.

    If not, then expect The Pass Master in his place.

  3. 3 T-Town Alex
    April 7, 2009 at 8:59 am

    A side note: I read the actual Pires interview in french in l’Equipe, and it looks like it has been mistranslated from French (as usual). Pires was all love and respect for Arsenal and Arsenal fans who are the “greatest in the world”. He said he was emotionally destroyed as a player being subbed in the CL final because of his love for the Arsenal and desire to win. Plus that game happened to be his last game for Arsenal and he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the fans. He has a good relationship with Wenger and they call each other regularly. There was a Wenger quote in there saying that Wenger is “very sorry” about the decision of subbing Pires in that game (!) and that Pires was the best player in the world in his spot (!!!). Pires also said if he happens to score a goal he will not celebrate out of respect for Arsenal and its fans. I know it all sounds almost bizarre, but that’s what was written.

  4. 4 Tim
    April 7, 2009 at 9:41 am

    that’s not bizarre at all Alex, if there are two ways to interpret a word live “love” and “friend” so that it reads “bitterly disappointed” and “want to kill his family” then the British press will pick the latter.

  5. 5 arsenalviper
    April 7, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Tim – just gotta say loved our last line ‘if there are two ways to interpret a word live “love” and “friend” so that it reads “bitterly disappointed” and “want to kill his family” then the British press will pick the latter’ ———–truest words ever published in a blog, besides richard dawkins

  6. 6 anteneh
    April 7, 2009 at 10:16 am

    it time to arse.no matter how much peries shout there is bacary sagna.

  7. 7 WC
    April 7, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Well this game is looking harder than it should have been. 30 yard goal from Senna, not sure why no one is locking him down – we have 2 CMs and none of them can contain him. I guess everyone’s praise of Denilson and Song were pre-mature – I figured an experienced player could make them look foolish, but seriously? Almunia and Gallas off injured by half-time, though Fabianski looks better than Almunia did in his time on the pitch. I’ts only 1-0 but it’s a scoreline that shouldn’t be – we look far too nervous and shaky for no reason whatsoever. We just need a goal going into the second leg, but we look below where we sohuld be. Everyone who talked of being tired of not winning trophies should be looking at this game and the performance and they can see why. The potential is there but come crunch time they’re not as driven as they think they are.

  8. 8 WC
    April 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    1-1 we’re back in it. I’m sorry I’m just terribly emotional after going down to a 30 yard goal. Why can we not score 30 yard goals anymore? We need to shoot alot more outside the 18 when the opportunity presents itself.

  9. 9 Paulette
    April 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    It’s about time gooners appreciated Ade’s talent… I’m sick of ungrateful fans slagging him off. He’s the real deal.

  10. 10 CaribKid
    April 7, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Fantastic goal by the Dade. No other player in the Arsenal squad would score that goal which came from a 1/4 chance.

    A fit and committed Ade is one of the most dangerous strikers in the world.

  11. 11 Darkhail
    April 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Its always been my belief that Ade can be great on his day, but even in the first half I felt when he doesn’t work his *** off, then we may as well be playing a man down.

  12. April 7, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Senna’s quite a good player. He’ll be a handful next week. Song and Denilson better lift their games. But we’re doing okay, and I think this is our year for winningness to return to the Arsenal. Man Utd’s going off the boil, Liverpool’s up financial shit creek and Chelsea’s a bunch of cunts… which leaves us!

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