"Don't travel alone"

3,400 Arsenal supporters are descending on Rome in order to sit in the cavernous Stadio Olimpico and watch Roma and Arsenal finish their Champions League tie. It should be a good day out and a lovely trip to a wonderful old city, but for those 3,400 Gooners as they lay their heads to rest tonight, scenes of stabbings and police brutality have to be dancing in their heads.

The club have taken steps to warn Arsenal supporters where they should and shouldn’t travel, to remind them to travel in groups, and that they are ambassadors of the club. Combined with the fact that Arsenal supporters, generally, aren’t known for their hooliganism and I expect (knock on wood) that everything should go smoothly tomorrow.

But it is a bit unsettling to have the club remind the supporters that the Rome police and Roma “Ultras” have a long history of being complete twats. The Roma players aren’t doing anything to help the situation, rather they are inciting their supporters to turn the Stadio Olimpico into a cauldron. I suppose they need all the help they can get with all the injuries to the team. Totti has supposedly found fitness but Daniele De Rossi is still suspended, Perrotta and Cicinho are injured, and Panucci is being benched for a fracas with the boss over playing time — you want more playing time? I got your playing time right here!

If Arsenal do go through I suspect that the story from the Giallorossi will be “boo hoo, look at all our injuries” despite the fact that Arsenal are the ones who have been devastated by injury this season. No matter, you go to war with the army you have not the army you wish you had, according to Donald Rumsfield, and the Army we have is gaining fitness quick.

Toure has been included for the trip and the boss has said he will pick from “two of three” in Gallas, Toure, and Djourou for the central pairing.  Nasri and Denilson are back in the first team after being rested against Burnley and even some dude named Silvestre is gaining fitness, though he hasn’t been included for the trip because, erm, “he only returned to training on Monday.”

No word on whether Diaby picked up an injury which means that he’ll probably be fit for the match, and similarly the press are quiet on van Persie, so fingers crossed that those two are available. Pairing them in attack and providing some width, pace, and goal scoring acumen the boss has indicated that Theo and Eduardo will make the trip. No word yet on Vela, but after his goal on Sunday, the boss would be mad not to take him.

As you all know, Cesc and Rosicky are still out, despite my optimism that Cesc would be back for this match. Oh well, I can’t be right about everything! Also, Arshavin is out because he played in some Champions League qualifying match last year — which makes sense really (sarcasm).

Historically, Wenger plays a 4-5-1 in these matches and I don’t think that’s going to change tomorrow. Expect to see van Persie alone up front, Nasri and Eboue on the wings, and a central midfield of Denilson, Diaby, and Song. At the back Toure will captain the side and partner with Gallas, while Clichy and Sagna will be playing at wing-back. Of course, Future England Number One will be in the net.

Depending on the score line we could see Theo get battered and deep fried around the 60th minute and if we get truly desperate (down 2-0) I suspect Arsene will throw on Eduardo and Bendtner. Or maybe Eduardo, then Theo, then Bendtner, I really don’t know and it all depends on the flow of the game.

Right, all that’s at stake here is a 17 match unbeaten run and some £10m — no pressure! Seriously, though, Arsenal have a 1-0 advantage and any goal they put in at the Stadio Olimpico adds to that advantage. As it stands, a 1-0 Roma win adds extra time, a 2-0 Roma win means they go through outright, and a 2-1 Roma win means Arsenal progress on the away goals rule. I rather like those odds.

The match is live at noon on Setanta and Doyle’s is graciously showing the match. Now, I say “noon,” however, owing to the fact that George W. Bush f*cked up everything about America, including our clocks, we are now out of sync with the rest of the world and instead of PST being -8 GMT, it’s right now -7 GMT. Arsenal.com puts kickoff at 19:45 GMT which is actually 12:45 PST and given Setanta’s penchant for pre-match pontificating puppets I strongly suspect actual kickoff is 12:45 local time. So, unless you like puppets making bad jokes, I’d show up at 12:30.

Clear?

See you tomorrow!

13 Comments on "Don't travel alone"

  1. Kickoff will be at 12:45 PDT tomorrow. Setanta is padding its schedule with nearly an hour of pontificating. I made the mistake of thinking the puppet show would end when Mourhino went to Inter, but nope.

  2. Gah, I have the afternoon off for the match. So I can either leave at noon and start drinking, or stay at work until 2 then head to the pub. Decisions…decisions…

  3. The worst part of the whole puppet thing is how mindlessly dumb the comedy is. I mean, if they had some decent writers it would be OK, but clearly they feel like a funny accent and a puppet are all you need to make people laugh.

    Is that true? Are British people that easily amused? I mean, I could start doing funny accents and make puppets of Arsenal people.

    Hm…. an Eboue puppet… it would need a leg that kicks out when you pull a string…

  4. Italy needs to do something about it’s crowd control. I really fail to see how UEFA really still allows Italian teams so much leeway when they’ve had a poor history of being able to control their supporters. England has done an impressive job over the last decade or so of turning their image from drunk rowdy Brits to actual spectators. Facism or not, teams like Lazio and Roma need to have heavy impositions which will force them to either promote a safe sporting venue and city or play closed doors games or throw them out of European competitions. This is a sport, not a war.

  5. Italy needs to ban the ultra supporters.

    Team will suffer financially for a year or two, but after a while the crowds will come back. Only this time they will be families: mothers, kids, dads…the whole bit. They will relish being able to watch football again in a safe atmosphere. The Italian FA just needs to grow some balls.

  6. And UEFA needs to stop rewarding Italy by giving them CL finals and the like.

    If England still had crowd control problems you can bet your sweet ass UEFA would not only take away the CL final in 2011, but they would kick the whole Island out of Europe.

    Word on the street is that Italy wants to do a joint bid with France for Euro2016. This is UEFA’s chance to take a stand.

    Hopefully all our fellow supporters stay safe tomorrow. The worst part is that they cannot even have a beer to ease the pain of all the stabbings.

    I will go on record that I like the puppet show.

  7. And UEFA needs to stop rewarding Italy by giving them CL finals and the like.

    If England still had crowd control problems you can bet your sweet ass UEFA would not only take away the CL final in 2011, but they would kick the whole Island out of Europe.

    Word on the street is that Italy wants to do a joint bid with France for Euro2016. This is UEFA’s chance to take a stand.

    Hopefully all our fellow supporters stay safe tomorrow. The worst part is that they cannot even have a beer to ease the pain of all the stabbings.

    I will go on record that I like the puppet show.
    Should mention excellent post! Looking forward to reading the next one!

  8. if we score only one goal then they have to score 3 so feeling alot confident
    arsenal 4 life
    thanks again tim for the words of the chant

  9. If ya think Italy is bad, how about Greece. Olympiakos was playing away to PAOK when the home fans outside the stadium tried to attack the Olympiakos bus but were beaten off by the police escort. According to the reports, they then turned on the cops, in an hour long assault where they hurled stones, bottles and firebombs, smashed a referee’s vehicle and injured 7 cops.

    How on earth does any civilized society tolerate something like that and what the hell is FIFA doing about such incidents? FIFA spends so much time worrying about club player quotas and other trivial shit when violence and racism is rampant in Europe and only lip service is being paid to these serious issues of misconduct in his great sport.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/sow/news;_ylt=Arec8jej1fJ4RVFnOr7x3Ugmw7YF?slug=ap-greece-violence&prov=ap&type=lgns

  10. Got carried away in my above rant and will also admit I do like the puppet and will watch it on occasion. Sven’s character is great.

  11. I love IOSS. Yes Jose makes fun of Wenger but believe me Rafa gets it worse. Only thing I hate is it’s obvious bias towards Fergie, otherwise it’s funny as hell.

    Be Champions.

  12. “Theo gets batttered and deep fried”
    Classic
    takes the pain off liverpool most likely progressing
    how are they so shit for 38 games but decide to beat anyone europe>
    maddening

  13. I quite like This Is Sentanta Sports with Jose Moourinho. Maybe it’s just fond memories of Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show, but I found it really, really funny. Yes, it’s dumb comedy, but dumb comedy done well is better than smart comedy done well. Or weller, I suppose.

    And Roma’s not too bad. The ground’s a bit on the scrappy side, and it’s out in the suburbs so it’s a bitch to get to, but the supporters are alright. Like most places, be respectful, don’t drink and be abusive, and don’t act like you’re English, and you should be okay. Then again, I haven’t gone there alone and with a big “Walcott 14” on my back. I’m not that stupid.

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