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.
See you tomorrow!