Every Game Counts

Aston Villa are now 8 points behind Arsenal in the race for the last Champions League place. Yesterday they stopped a run of losing four Premiership matches on the trot by drawing 3-3 at home to Everton.

Everton are 6th in the Premiership, one point behind Villa.

Both sides needed a win yesterday to stand any realistic chance of taking 4th spot.

There are six Premiership matches left for Arsenal. If they win three of those games and draw one, Arsenal should be home and dry because of their superior goal difference to Villa. This means that Arsenal can concentrate their efforts on the Champions League if they beat Villarreal on Wednesday.

This is no easy task. The game on Wednesday is on a knife edge.

1-1 favors no one.

If Villarreal score first – which is a possibility because Arsenal are without Gallas and Djourou – then nerves and a lack of belief could quickly run through the Arsenal squad and finish them off. Additionally, Villarreal could also grow in confidence and smell blood.

This game is only for the head strong.

If Arsenal score first – and thus lead the tie 2-1 – we could witness another Cheslsea result from 2004.

In April 2004, Arsenal hosted Chelsea in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final. The first leg at Stamford Bridge finished 1-1. Arsenal were seen as the favorites to go through. All they to do was draw 0-0 and Monaco awaited them in the semis. Many Arsenal fans were already booking flights to the French principality. That’s how confident and arrogant they were. Arsenal had already beaten Chelsea three times that season, so there was some justification in their actions.

Just before half-time in the second leg, Jose Antonio Reyes, Arsenal’s mercurial new Spanish signing, scored to put Arsenal 1-0 ahead on the night and 2-1 up on aggregate.

But in the second half Arsenal fell apart. Nerves got the better of them with Chelsea winning 2-1.

Champions League football is a professional footballer’s crack cocaine. Only playing in a European Championship or World Cup can top it.

If Arsenal or Villarreal make it to the semi-finals then they must fancy their chances against Porto or a shaky Manchester United.

Porto are a lot stronger at home and are in a much better position than Arsenal. United have to win in Portugal or their dream of the quintuplet is over. Not an easy task against a team whose fans hate Christiano Ronaldo for his ties with Sporting Lisbon.

After watching the Wigan match on Saturday, it is obvious that Wenger is now juggling his sqaud. Having Djourou out is a massive blow. Silvestre is a good stop gap but he lacks speed, which against fast Champions League players is a big weakness. He is also small for a center-back which can be a problem when playing against sides like Stoke City. Silvestre does, however, possess great positional sense and has bags of experience – something that every team needs at the business end of the season. He also knows how to organize others.

Put it this way – he is just as good as Senderos.

Our most value player in the coming weeks of battle is a man who has been derided by The Negatives for most of his Arsenal career.

Alex Song.

Song is the only man I trust right now to play center-back. Kieran Gibbs showed against Wigan Athletic that he is too raw for a Champions League start. Silvestre will therefore have to deputise at left-back until Clichy is back. Arsenal’s back four on Wednesday could look like this:

Silvestre Song Toure Sagna

They all speak French, they all have experience and they all have a huge job on their hands.

It helps Arsenal that Senna is out. That is a huge relief. Senna is an animal of a player. With Song not playing in the midfield, Senna would have run riot.

After Villarreal, it’s Chelsea at Wembley and then Liverpool at Anfield. Both teams play each other tomorrow in a game that will have an effect on Arsenal. Liverpool look to be out of the Champions League after losing 3-1 at home last week. This means that the Premiership is all they have left to win.

However, the scenario completely changes if they some how get past Chelsea. This will mean that Saturday’s FA cup semi-final will be the only trophy that Chelsea can realistically win this season – although there are some Chelsea fans talking of the treble.

First it’s Villareal, then Chelsea at Wembley, followed by Anfield and then relegation threatened Middlesbrough at The Emirates. All in ten days.

It’s crunch time.

Every game counts, starting tomorrow.


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