First things first – Robin van Persie won another accolade yesterday as he was voted Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association to add to the PFA award he won a couple of days ago. Enough has been said about Robin already – well done skipper, thoroughly deserved, is all I can add.
The other big news this morning is that Chelsea are through to the finals of the Champions League after a disciplined defensive performance (read parked bus) at the Nou Camp. Ramires’ cool finish on a counter at the end of the first half gave the chavs a precious away goal and they suitably frustrated Barca for the entire second half. Messi missed a penalty and hit the post as Barca conspired to lose the game by not taking the few chances they had.
Since Roberto Di Matteo’s promotion to interim manager, Chelsea has settled down to play with a more defensive strategy. This has focused the efforts of the players. But the most important thing RDM has brought with him is luck. Most of the results since he took over have been achieved with good lumps of fortune thrown in.
Which is why I totally expect Chelsea to put on a sterling performance in the final and win the Champions League. That’s how football goes. Anything can happen in a one-off match and now Chelsea have a 50% chance of winning the European title – that’s about 10 times more than the chance anyone gave them of beating the Catalans.
This of course is very relevant to Arsenal because third place is not a luxury anymore, it is a requirement. We must focus and get the result at Stoke at the weekend – and then against Norwich – and then at West Brom. The players will be aware of this, and hopefully this will bring out the determination in our performance, not the nervousness.
Arsenal have been accused of being a one-man team for a large part of this season. But how toothless are Barcelona when Messi is not on song? A couple of weeks of the Argentine not being in top form and the Catalans are out of the league and out of Europe. Cesc Fabregas’ ambition to win big trophies will have to wait at least another year.
Last night’s result is as much a warning for Arsenal to have an alternate strategy, as it is for Barcelona to revisit theirs. While many teams come to the Emirates to defend and steal a point, Wigan and Chelsea have shown recently that more than a draw is possible. I fully expect many visiting sides (and a few home teams as well) to adopt these ultra-defensive tactics next season and try to catch us high up the pitch on the counter.
Our attacks through the middle lose steam as the game wears on, and just like Barca in the past week, we seem to run out of ideas when confronted with a wall in front of us. Yesterday’s post dealt with having a Plan B, I hope it is seriously considered for next season and we add a different dimension to our attacking play to combat these tactics.
The abrasive Stuart Pearce wants to include Jack Wilshere in Team GB, regardless of Arsene Wenger’s concern over the English midfielder’s rehabilitation. It is an ongoing problem between Arsene and England’s U-21 and interim manager, Pearce enforcing his sanctioned authority on club managers. Wilshere’s involvement in the Olympics is not good news for Arsenal, we would rather have him on the pre-season with the team and keep an eye on his progress than to hand him over to the Psycho.
There is also some hope that Theo Walcott will be available for the Euros, and may even play Arsenal’s final game of the season at West Brom. We need a strong finish and Walcott’s presence will definitely boost our chances of securing third.
All for today, have a nice day.