By Avenell Dave
So tonight is the night where we show the world we are The Arsenal, not Barcelona-Lite.
While the Catalans have swept aside all before them and won a hoard of trophies, we’ve gained the reputation as the nice boys with plenty of flair but not enough heart.
What better way to show what we can do than by humbling the Champions League favourites and taking a lead with us ahead of the second leg at the Nou Camp?
All talk yesterday was of Samir Nasri’s return to training.
I would make him Footballer of the Year for the way he has inspired and entertained but having only just recovered from a hamstring strain, I’m reluctant to start him and I hope Arsene Wenger resists.
We’ve seen so many times before that when players are rushed back for big games, it almost always ends up in a setback, however minor, that sees them fail to recover fully and so hamper the rest of their season.
Of course Nasri is a great player, capable of scoring goals and creating them and he also works hard at the back which could be vital with the attacking talents Barca have at their disposal.
But Andrey Arshavin is coming into form himself and while he can create problems – and he’s reported to have been working as hard as he has ever done in training – he should at least start the game in my opinion.
How do we beat Barca when our strategy is so unlikely to include any sort of defensive outlook?
Theo Walcott made the point that we have shown against Ch*vski and Citeh that we can hustle and harry the opposition into mistakes and we have to show that same level of desire again.
Eric Abidal is not Carlos Puyol and he has to be targeted – but the ability of David Villa or Lionel Messi is going to mean maximum concentration for 90 minutes.
Manu Eboue has a massive role – he has to remain strong, committed, disciplined and realise his job is primarily to defend rather than to bomb forward, fall over in a heap and complain about a non-existent foul while Barca counter attack with him out of position.
Of course there is an extra edge to the game with more talk of Cesc Fabregas returning to his spiritual home and plenty of arrogance from the likes of Xavi, who I would be quite happy to send Abou Diaby out with two minutes left to give him a taste of North London hospitality (yes I know Diaby is injured, hence the reason for choosing him given his inevitable sending off would matter little).
As I said yesterday, the main thing to remember is that playing games like this won’t come around every year.
Arsene Wenger will not be our manager forever and we won’t always be eating at the top table, as any fans with memories of the club before 1980 will be able to tell you.
So if there is one message to all fans going tomorrow night, it is to make as much noise as you possibly can. We need to intimidate Barca, intimidate the referee and make The Home Of Football the cauldron of passion and Arsenal intensity that it was supposed to be.
Sing up for The Arsenal!
Eboue Koscielny Djourou Clichy
Walcott RvP Arshavin
* Just another reminder of the Le Grove campaign to get all the fans chanting 'Hands off Cesc Fabregas" tonight. Sing it loud and sing it proud!