On 16th February Arsenal pulled off one of their greatest wins at the Emirates as they beat Barcelona 2-1 in a thoroughly exciting and interesting game. Arsenal were trailing 1-0 with just 12 minutes left on the clock but a remarkable comeback helped them win the match. The comeback was ignited when Robin van Persie slammed in from a remarkably small angle.
When Arsenal take on the Catalan giants on 8th March, they will be missing their linchpin, van Persie after he injured himself once again when scoring the equalizer against Birmingham in the Carling Cup final.
Arsene Wenger has stated that he will be out for a minimum of three weeks which in reality would mean that he would be out for at least a month.
The talented Dutchman is not the only Arsenal player who will be missing that clash. Speedy winger, Theo Walcott also has been ruled out with an ankle sprain. Walcott too is out for at least three weeks.
Even Alex Song is a doubt for the all important clash but looks like he will be just fit that clash.
This is not the first time Arsenal have been picked up apart by injuries. Injuries have ravaged Arsenal for quite some seasons now and every year it throws their season into jeopardy. Sadly, this season too is taking similar twists.
Next Tuesday as Arsenal take on Barcelona they will need a full strength squad if they are to have any chance of progressing into the quarterfinals. Despite the euphoria of beating Barcelona the ground reality is that Barcelona did take score an away goal and they are close to unbeatable at the Nou Camp. So if Arsenal are to go through into the next round they have their work cut out for them.
To beat Barcelona they will need a firing squad and in the absence of Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, Arsenal will miss two match winners who are in scintillating form right now especially the former.
Robin van Persie is arguably the in-form striker in the Premiership right now and has scored 13 goals already in 2011. When fit he has shown that he is one of the world’s most talented players and can terrorize the best of defenses.
The Dutchman’s biggest asset is his pace and movement. Although van Persie normally starts as the lone striker for the Gunners, it is rare to see him play as an out and out striker. Its’ very common to see him drop deep and create from the midfield. He often drops deep allowing the midfield players to venture out forward. His smart decoy runs and movement helps to draw away defenders and it often creates space for the midfielders. His movement helps the likes of Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott and Nasri get into goalscoring positions and it has benefited these players vastly this season.
Van Persie offers something no other player at the Emirates can offer the Gunners. Chamakh is a very talented player and performed admirably when he was drafted in for van Persie at the start of the season but the truth is he is no van Persie. Van Persie is a much more lethal finisher and is a more complete player.
Van Persie also possess a lethal left foot and is Arsenal’s primary set piece taker.
Ever since van Persie has made a complete recovery from injury, Arsenal have not lost a single game in the Premiership. He has added a certain ruthlessness to the Gunners’ attack.
He has scored ten goals this season in the Premiership this season and is playing some breathtaking football.
He showed his quality against Barcelona in the first leg as he scored the all important equalizer.
Arsenal will also be missing Walcott. During the first leg, Walcott’s pace tormented the Barcelona back four in the first half as he created several chances. Arsenal will badly miss him during the second leg.
Arsenal’s captain and talisman, Cesc Fabregas is a possibility for the game against Barcelona. He has come into life in the second half of the season and has been instrumental for the Gunners in recent weeks. But he has shown this season that he does take time to shake of his injuries especially when he tweaks his hamstring, which happens to be the case this time as well. But he is still not certain to play the game against his boyhood club.
So Arsenal go into the game without Walcott and van Persie and Fabregas is only a possibility. To beat Barcelona, who are the world’s best team right now, away, Arsenal will need to be firing on all cylinders. But with some of their star players a doubt, Arsenal’s chances of beating Barcelona have suddenly diminished.
Arsenal do possess depth in their squad but it is tough to fill the void left by these players especially van Persie.
Theo Walcott can be replaced by the inform Andrei Arshavin. If Arshavin can put up another great performance against his dream club, Walcott’s loss can be lessened. But Arsene Wenger will struggle to replace Fabregas if he does not start for the Gunners.
But replacing van Persie will prove to be difficult especially considering Chamakh’s poor form. Bendtner is another option but he has struggled when starting as the lone striker and may struggle to achieve success.
Arsenal will go through with a goalless draw but it is virtually impossible that the Gunner’s defense can withstand Messi and Co for the full ninety minutes at the Nou Camp and thus the emphasis on a strong attack.
Arsenal’s full strength squad is capable of beating any team on their day as they displayed against Barcelona in the first leg but to overcome the Catalan giants at the Nou Camp, Arsenal will need something extremely special.