Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Arsenal closure; Champions League Quarterfinal Predictions

Posted by Arsenalist on March 9, 2007

I’ve had some time to recover from the Champions League loss to PSV Eindhoven. To provide some closure to our European disappointment, here are some after-thoughts about the club and the upcoming quarterfinal stage.

UEFA held the Champions League Draw for the quarterfinal stage this morning and the results are in:

  • AC Milan (Italy) vs. Bayern Munich (Germany)
  • PSV Eindhoven (Holland) vs. Liverpool (England)
  • AS Roma (Italy) vs. Manchester United (England)
  • Chelsea (England) vs. Valencia (Spain)

No Arsenal anywhere to be seen and it hurts me to no end to see PSV Eindhoven get drawn with Liverpool, a team that Arsenal had subjected to humiliation all season in the Premiership, Carling Cup and FA Cup. No teams from the same country got paired up so there is international flavour to all the ties. I’m still debating how interested I am in this competition anymore now that the Gunners are out of it. The other team that I usually root for when the Gunners are not in question is Lyon, and they were booted out by AS Roma quite handily.

henry psv
Injury to French striker Thierry Henry hurt the Gunners

So now instead of cheering for a team, I’m just going to start hating on a team. And it starts with Chelsea, it’s a pity FC Porto couldn’t hang on to their 1-0 lead at Stamford Bridge. It would’ve been sweet to see the biggest spenders in the business depart early on. I don’t know how Liverpool got by Barcelona. Wait! I know why. It’s because Carles Puyol doesn’t know how to clear the ball out of his own box. I think Liverpool’s gone far enough for my liking and I hope PSV comes through and beats another English club. If we already lost, may as well lose to a team that’s proven to be decent. Go PSV.

Many have criticized Arsene Wenger’s team selection for recent games and some have pointed out that our reliance on Henry hurt us, while other have accused us for trying to make one pass too many. While all this maybe true, we should put things in perspective and see that it’s been a difficult season for Arsenal and just the fact that we’re doing pretty well in the Premiership is a testament to our depth and talent. I don’t want to make excuses for Arsenal’s early exit out of the UEFA Champions League but you do have to look at certain facts surrounding the club:

  • Heavy injuries: Henry, Rosicky, Gallas, Flamini, van Persie, Eboue have all been out for and extended period of time and many were unavailable for the cup games. You can’t be missing players of this quality and not have an impact of the game. Even I said that despite all this we should’ve beaten PSV, but let’s get realistic, it would’ve been tough. Injuries take their toll. The most notable of these injuries aside from Henry, was Robin van Persie. It’s because of his injury that Baptista had anything to do with the Champions League.
  • Congested schedule: Having domestic responsibilities towards the FA Cup and Carling Cup along with the Premiership can take its toll. But when you compound that with having to play replays, things get even more crowded. The Champions League tie came at the worst possible time when key players were injured and the club had already played a number of grueling matches in the previous two weeks.
  • Young players: This has been used as an excuse over and over again but when you have the likes of Denilson, Traore, Hoyte and Walcott playing significant minutes, you are bound to see the negative consequences of fielding an inexperienced side that simply hasn’t been at this stage before. Now, can we use this as a legitimate excuse next year? Probably not. Even though the players are just a year older, they’ve played in enough meaningful games to know how to handle these environments and Arsene Wegner by the end of the season should have a very good idea on who is and who isn’t ready for primetime football.

ruud van nistelrooy penalty oliver kahn
van Nistelrooy beats Kahn but it was Bayern that had the last laugh

Here are my predictions for the quarterfinal stage:

AC Milan vs. Bayern Munich: AC Milan struggled to get past resilient Celtic while Bayern Munich had no trouble scoring against dysfunctional Real Madrid. This is the tie of the round and a rematch from last year when AC Milan handled Bayern with ease. I’ll look for the San Siro to be the deciding difference between the two clubs.
AC Milan 4-2 on aggregate.

PSV Eindhoven vs. Liverpool: After beating Arsenal, PSV is riding high but the same can be said for Liverpool. Liverpool played a very average looking Barcelona side and snuck through on away goals. If PSV can contain Liverpool’s not-so-great strikers, they have a legitimate shot.
PSV on away goals: 2-2.

ronaldo free kick
Lille defended well but in the end United was too much

AS Roma vs. Manchester United: Roma were impressive against Lyon, an attacking side that never took advantage of their chances (like Arsenal). But I doubt Manchester United will be held scoreless against Roma. As much as I’d like to see the Red Devils out of the competition, lets side with practicality and go with Man Utd.
Man Utd on aggregate: 3-2

Chelsea vs. Valencia: I thought Chelsea were lucky to advance. FC Porto gave them a very good fight and Valencia will only do better. Valencia proved to be tough opposition for Inter Milan sending the Italian side tumbling out in the first knockout stage. Valencia can score and control the tempo of the game and Chelsea will have their hands full.
Valencia on aggregate: 3-2

Finally, Gilberto’s fastest Champions League goal was eclipsed by Bayern Munich’s Roy Makaay who scored in 10 seconds against Real Madrid. Here’s the YouTube, gotta love those Arabic commentators.

Horrible passing by Real Madrid.

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One Response to “Arsenal closure; Champions League Quarterfinal Predictions”

  1. Matt said

    You can make a case that we even overachieved in the league given our injury situation.

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