Bale apparently wants out of Tottenham following Redknapp’s firing and Spurs unable to make the Champions League next season – http://www.metro.co.uk/sport/football/902089-gareth-bales-spurs-future-in-doubt-as-agent-admits-problem-over-euro-loss#ixzz1xmctmUeX.
Bale can’t go to Real Madrid where Di Maria just re-signed and Ronaldo is the left wing. Barca are going to sign Jordi Alba at left back so there is no other place in the squad for him. Bayern Munich have Robben and Ribery. The only other places could be Milan and Inter, but Inter doesn’t have Champions League football next season and Milan probably doesn’t have the funds. Chelsea probably doesn’t buy him after buying Eden Hazard. That would leave maybe Manchester City, PSG and maybe Arsenal. Doubt he wants to go to PSG and Arsenal probably doesn’t pay up with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the books.
Juventus apparently wants Nani.
Why doesn’t United sell Nani and buy Gareth Bale? It would be a like for like winger signing except that Bale plays on the left – that would make Valencia the starter on the right wing and Ashley Young can play either wing or in the slot. It would the Welsh Wing Wizard part 2. Bale would get Champions League football and wind up where he should have gone in the first place. And Nani looks like he needs a fresh start and probably isn’t an automatic selection for United’s starting XI.
Sign him up Fergie.
Barca wins. That’s the easy part. Except, I have a feeling this is not a foregone conclusion. Here’s why its obvious:
1. Arsenal’s personnel issues: No Cesc or Arshavin to attack and no Song or Gallas to defend. That leaves Campbell at the center of defense playing his second game in three days.
2. Barca is playing at the Nou Camp
3. Barca has better depth to deal with its missing personnel: Assume Messi starts. Barca then has to pick two from Henry, Krkic, Iniesta (if he’s fit) and Pedro. No problems really there. Yes, Pique and Puyol are missing. But they beat United with Puyol at right back and Yaya in the center with Pique and Sylvinho playing left back! So,in the center and Abidal or Maxwell at left back. You could also move Abidal to the middle and use Maxwell at left. Shouldn’t be an issue. Then you can play Sergio, Keita and maybe even Rafa Marquez as the defensive midfielders around Xavi.
That said, Arsenal have nothing to lose, are used to playing on a big field and have skillful players to make it happen. The key is to keep it close. If they can get to the half only 2-1 down, they have a great shot. Rosicky, Denilson, Eboue, Walcott, Nasri behind Bendtner is pretty decent. Eduardo off the bench if they need another goal late. They have a shot. However, lots have to go their way. Absolutely can happen. If Messi is kept quiet again, Barca will lose – you heard that here.
Relatively straightforward in concept, but hard to do in reality unless you have the personnel.
First, water the pitch as much as you can. That’s why Messi didn’t really get going against Chelsea at the Nou Camp in the first leg. He couldn’t plant and cut with the pitch so wet. Also, he couldn’t get the ball rolling naturally to use his usual feints to get the defender off balance.
Second, get a quick left back. Messi didn’t get much change out of Patrice Evra against Manchester United last year. He didn’t get much out of Bosingwa in the first leg either. Quick defenders take away Messi’s main advantage of burning the left back one on one down the wing before turning for goal with the defender on his back and too many options for the center backs to deal with. That’s when he either cuts in and blasts past the keeper or sets up late arriving Xavi and Iniesta or goes to the far post for Henry. I bet he struggles against Ashley Cole though Ashley has lost a step since leaving Arsenal. I’d even consider playing Bosingwa as a shadow for Messi. He’d be more productive than Ballack was in the first leg.
Third, get him moving right to left parallel to the goal line. Do not give him the wing and do not let him play a one two to get behind the left back on the wing. That’s death. As he cuts across, the defensive midfield player has to pick him up, the center half has to stay goalside of Eto’o for the diagonal run to receive the Messi reverse ball and the left back has to stay goalside and to the outside of Messi so that he cuts off the one two reverse to Messi.
Fourth, have disciplined center backs to mark Eto’o’s diagonal runs. Let Messi have to take you on with a longer run.
Five, make him use his right foot. He isn’t entirely left footed, but he doesn’t have long distance power in his left foot and is below average with his right foot.
If people think this is theoretical, pull out the tapes of Man U vs Barcelona from last year (yes, he was just returning from injury) and Argentina vs Brazil from the South American Cup. That’s what happens when you put a fast marker on him and back that up with physical play on him and his teammates. Messi doesn’t like it when he can’t blow by you. Frustrate him and he’s easier to control. Kicking him is not going to work.
Well can’t say that I was surprised. Arsenal backline was not good and Ronaldo did exploit their lack of understanding and ability. United were great on the counter attack and the pitch was heavier so Arsenal didn’t really get going with their slick passing. I predicted 2-2 and it should have been 4-0. Either way, United is through and its a shame that Fletcher got a red card that wasn’t for a penalty that wasn’t. I don’t know that he would start against Chelsea and probably wouldn’t have done so against Barca either as I believe Giggs and Berbatov would be on for Fletcher and Park from this lineup. Key question is whether Scholes or Anderson starts in the final. However, Fletcher would have been first sub should United have a lead going into the last 25 minutes for either Giggs or Scholes. But that’s for another time.
The things that jumped out to me:
Arsenal managed one real shot on goal in the first leg and had a weak Fabregas header the first half and a straightforward van Persie blast in the second half to show for offense (apart from the non penalty). That is unbelievable. Adebayor didn’t have a real shot on goal! United’s defense is good but that’s not down to the defense.
It was a waste to start van Persie. He was obviously not fit enough. I would have started Bendtner and pounded United with high balls to get an early goal. It’s tough to guard Adebayor when Bendtner is in there. It’s hindsight, but Arsene should have started Eboue instead of Nasri initially to give more cover for Song and Gibbs down the left.
That was about as dominant a two legged semifinal performance over a quality team that I have seen.
Arsene has a problem next season trying to accommodate Fabregas, Nasri and Arshavin. This might be the time to cash in on Cesc. Let Arshavin play his spot. Wilshere will be ready to take over in three years anyway, just when Arshavin is done. If you keep all three, Wilshere’s opportunities to progress faster diminish. Use the money to buy a couple of center backs and a holding midfielder. They will have Eduardo back next season and then the four strikers they have are good enough.
Ronaldo is easily the best player in the world for all the hype about Messi being a genius and the player of a generation. Ronaldo showed that he can be an incredibly effective striker today. The man is two footed, has a rocket of a right foot, takes penalties and free kicks, is lightning quick with great feet, scores in the big games, rarely misses games from injury (the operation this season notwithstanding) and is great in the air. Till Messi shows me he can smoke a left back who is quick and experienced, he’s not the best in the world for me (more on that in my next post).
Part of the reason Arsenal struggled in the first leg and the main reason Messi was a no show in the Chelsea game was that the pitch was waterlogged and heavy. That took away Arsenal’s team speed and slowed their movement. If it rains or the pitch is heavy, Arsenal have no chance.
Walcott has to get in the game else it’s going to be tough for Van Persie and Adebayor to get space. I wouldn’t be surprised if, should Arsenal start 2 strikers, Van Persie drops in the hole to give support to the midfield and help Cesc with a number mismatch should United play 3 in midfield like they did in the first leg.
Ronaldo has to be the man today. He didn’t massacre Santon as he should have, nor did he do the same to Gibbs in the first leg. It’s time he taught these young left backs why he is the best in the world. If Silvestre doesn’t start in the middle, look for Ronaldo to drift in time and again to test Djorou or Song – whoever will start in the center with Toure.
Wonder if Eboue starts.
I have a hard time believing Man United doesn’t go through. It absolutely can happen, but hard to see. It’s not that the Gunners can’t score a couple of goals nor that they can’t win. They have done that this season. However, no way does that defense keep Man United from scoring at least one goal. It’s been a long time since Arsenal has kept United off the scoreboard. And it’s hard to see it starting tomorrow.
So if United score one, Arsenal need three scores to win. Hard to see that. The only shot Arsenal has is if they score first and score the first one early. The longer it goes, the more they will come forward and the easier it will be for them to be caught by United on the break.
Issues for United: Rooney played 90 minutes on Saturday and is on a yellow. Will he melt down late in the game or if he gets a yellow which means he knows he will be out of the final. I feel as if Sir Alex purposely played him 90 minutes on Saturday as he is not going to allow Rooney to play the full 90 on Tuesday in order to save him for the final assuming that United is up going into the last 25 minutes. The other issue is that Evra may have an ankle knock and is also on a yellow. I have to think that Walcott is going to get one of them on a yellow during the game. Which means – Rooney needs to play in the middle and Park plays on the left with Berbatov and Tevez potentially on the bench. Tough to see that happening but you never know.
Issues for Arsenal: They are screwed if Silvestre is fit enought to play and screwed if he is unfit to play. If they play to win from the start, they will play Robin Van Persie up front with Adebayor along with Fabregas, Walcott and Nasri in midfield. Which means only one holding midfielder. Bad news against the United break. If they play it conservative like the first leg, they will not be able to deal with the United midfield and defense.
Prediction: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Arsenal has a hatful of goals coming. I said it before their last two games and they have scored a bunch of goals in them.
Keys: No De Rossi. Yes, Totti is back, but without De Rossi in midfield, Roma is going to be turned over. Their only chance is if Vucinic has a big game. He is a brilliant and underrated striker. On the other hand, Arsenal is starting to fire on some of their cylinders. It is tough for them not to have the cup tied Arshavin out there for them, but they have more than enough.
Potential surprise game winner: Bendtner or Doni. I just don’t think Mexes and company can handle Arsenal in defense.
Prediction: Arsenal 3 Roma 1