By 1970’s Gooner
Should Arsene Wenger have a preference for the Quarter Final draw of the Champions League? There are various ways of arriving at an answer.
One can argue that Wenger and his merry young men should not fear any of the other seven remaining aspirants to Europe’s Holy Grail.
For if you are a team that aims to be the best then whoever you meet, at whichever stage of a knock out competition, should be considered as another welcomed test of your superiority.
Yet in football, as in many things in life, timing and the process of continuous evolvement can prove pivotal in determining the amount of success or failure.
Unlike Manchester United, Arsenal is a relatively young side that is improving all round at a fast pace even from game to game. Especially with Robin Van Persie to come back into the side.
This implies that Arsenal’s peak could be reached in the latter stages of the competition and therefore avoiding a tough opponent now is even more important for Arsenal.
What is more obvious of course and this goes for Manchester United too, since Arsenal are involved in a tight run in for the title it goes without saying that as easy a draw as possible should be the wish of every Arsenal fan.
Let manchester United slug it out against a Liverpool or a Chelsea....
So I think that, unlike Benitez, yes we do mind who we get for the Quarter finals. And I would go one step further. I would prefer that we face foreign competition.
The reason? The Arsenal style of play is allowed to express itself much more on the continent than on home soil.
English teams press hard, squeezing the space out and not allowing time on the ball especially for the midfielders who are so important in the Arsenal set up.
Look at how Seville found it so difficult to keep up during their demolition at the Emirates.
Look at how Milan allowed the little maestro the space and the time to dictate the play which eventually was their undoing.
I don’t think that your Liverpool’s and Chelsea’s of this world would adopt the same tactics. And there is the fact that English teams know you so well so the element of surprise is factored out.
Here is my list of the seven teams in order of my least preference. You may have a different point of view of course:
1. Manchester United
I would least prefer Manchester United as I consider them to be the strongest of the other seven. No more than that.
Chelsea have the most complete squad of all the Premiership teams and this will allow them to rest players for the crucial games of the Champions League especially if they are still behind in the race for the title.
Liverpool have this knack of doing well in the Champions League and also a manager who knows the European style of play and is well adept at getting results on the European arena.
After the English teams the strongest of the rest is Barcelona. They have the pedigree and the players to do damage. They have been off the boil recently with their stars underperforming and with Messi probably out of the quarters.
Yet of all the rest they still pose a threat but they would also play a more open game against Arsenal.
Roma currently lie second in Serie A, six points behind Inter. Totti and Vucinic provide their attacking threat which was enough to kick Real Madrid out of the competition winning both games home and away 2-1.
This should not be underestimated. Yet they are Italian and Arsenal have shown that they can turn the style on against such teams.
I have put Fenerbahce ahead of Schalke due to the momentum they have built up by their fantastic and unexpected win at Sevilla as well as due to their very strong home support which usually intimidates visiting teams.
They also have a Brazilian flair in Zico their famous manager, Roberto Carlos and their goal scorer Deivid who impressed me with his display at Sevilla.
7. Schalke 04
Schalke have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the first time. They knocked Porto out on penalties after winning the home leg 1-0 and losing the away leg by the same score of course.
They are currently 5th in the German league 12 points short of top spot. I am not that impressed with their strikers (they have former Rangers player Lovenkrands along with Kuranyi and Asamoah) and in my estimation they pose the least threat for Arsenal.
We have set up a poll on the issue on which you can indicate your preference and can also leave a comment.
If drawn against either Manchester United or Liverpool then Arsenal will have to play against their Quarter Final opponent three times in the space of 14 days.
This is because Arsenal have a league game scheduled against Liverpool right after the first leg and against Manchester United right after the second leg!
Rosicky blames injuries on busy English schedule but reveals his expected return