Arsenal vs. AS Roma: Presenting the PLAYERS

Fresh from the great minds of Gazzetta dello Sport, here is a look at ALL THE PLAYERS from UEFA Champion’s League Arsenal vs. AS Roma.



After the Lehmann-era, the Spanish keeper became a first-team choice almost by accident, without ever doing anything extraordinary to earn the choice of nº1 in one of most prestigious clubs of Europe. The verdict’s still out on him: sometimes the author of wonderful saves, Almunia has also put his mark on terrible blunders. Aerial balls aren’t his forte either.
The match at Emirates stadium will be Doni’s perfect opportunity to shut the trap of all those criticizing him, accusing the Giallorossi keeper of always crumbling under pressure in big matches. For someone who’s made his presence known on the international level for a while now, Doni now needs to prove that his reflexes & handling ability are finally up to par.

He’s certainly not the poster-boy for his field position in the Premiership, but that is more due to a lack of media presence than quality. For the ex-Auxerre wing-back is one of those players which makes very little mistakes, and although his technical qualities aren’t mind-melting he is a very disciplined character in defense. He’s certainly got Arsène’s confidence hasn’t he?
For a position which has undergone so many injuries at Roma recently, not to mention the latest Christian Panucci mutiny, Cicinho has become quite the indispensible player. Now, on the European set of the Emirates/Stadio Olimpico, the Brazilian can finally swing all the naysayers to his side. He will have to wait the return leg though, for he his presently injured.

This season without a doubt, has not been the Ivorian player’s most memorable ones. He’s certainly played a LOT better in the past, to the point that he was once considered among the best center-backs in the world. Kolo’s biggest problems this year, seem to be focused particularly in the changing room, but fortunately all that’s water under the bridge now, and Touré can work on returning to his previous excellence levels.
While he may not have to deal with Emmanuel Adebayor in the first leg, Van Persie and Bendtner aren’t easy customers either. Mexès is one of those central-backs with enormous potential, but who sometimes lets his temper or lack of concentration work against him during big games. It’s something Philippe will have to avoid at all costs, because any error against Arsenal is to be paid very dearly.

Giallorossi fans: watch out for the French center-back’s headers, as Gallas is a real specialist when it comes to moving forward on set pieces and getting his noggin on match-winning crosses. Different story for his work at the back as the 31 year-old is starting to feel the weight of his years: his once trademarked super-fast interventions are no more, and could very well prove to be the Achilles’s heel of Wenger’s defense.
A center-back with great class, big physique and ball control skills as any Brazilian should, Juan’s biggest weakness is his lack of speed. In other words, when dealing with the pacey Arsenal players anticipation will be the main key word, as good technique & positioning may prove to be insufficient. We’ll have to wait for the second leg to see, as Juan is out injured for the Emirates match.

Still a young gunner, but also a veteran gunner already. Clichy is one of Arsène’s preferred players, a fast defensive wing-back on which the French manager has invested and is now ready to collect. His pacey runs down the left wing are a secret to no one, but unfortunately Clichy also marked this season with a series of unexpected defensive blunders. Something Totti & friends will want to take advantage of.
With Riise’s injury good ole’ Max is looking for a starting spot on the left side. This year, be it for injury problems or be it for tactical choices, he has not seen playing time as much as before. Spalletti know he can be counted on however, and will not hesitate giving him a spot at the Emirates.

Since Sagna arrived at the Emirates, Eboué has regularly appeared higher up the field in a midfield position. Wenger may have tried making a center-mid out of him, but that was an experiment the French manager rapidly abandoned. His offensive contributions (even as a wing-back) are however undeniable, and Emmanuel knows how to make his speed count.
Who is Rodrigo Taddei? An unstoppable Brazilian who unites technique and execution speed to make Roma fly, or is he just a “good” player which still fails to make that last step towards champions adulthood? On paper, this match against Arsenal is the perfect opportunity to make that step, and it’s one Taddei must take full advantage of.

Wenger already toyed with the idea of Denilson a more stable position in midfield, but after Fàbregas’s injury the Brazilian player has become irreplaceable. He’s fast, he’s technical, and he’s certainly not shy: the 21 year-old has been given the reins of the Gunners’ midfield and will have to prove yet again he deserves that responsibility against Roma. A big step towards international adulthood.
Capitan Futuro for so many years now, De Rossi’s maturing period has come to an end and he is now the pillar of the Giallorossi midfield. Uniting technical skill with interdiction qualities, there are very few like him in Europe. Fortunately for him and Roma he will not be facing Fàbregas, but that is a big big disappointment for us neutral spectators, as that would have been a fantastic duel to behold. Still, he will have to make full use of his international experience against the “kids” Denilson and Diaby.

Unlike Eboué, the Frenchman was first tested on the wings and then moved back to the middle to cover Fàbregas’s absence. With good results, especially since his physical traits are quite reminiscent of a certain Patrick Vieira. A great powerful athlete, he’s also decently skilled with his feet, and at 22 years of age there is still plenty of margin for improvement.
Not even a year ago, who would have thought Matteo Brighi would become the missing link and irreplaceable piece of Spalletti’s midfield chessboard? His performances this season have been absolutely stellar, with no other player making himself as useful as he had so far. With the added bonus of getting on the scoreboard a few times, including in Europe.

Wenger made a real fuss of getting this player last Summer, and Nasri’s performances so far have repayed the French manager’s confidence. He’s generally fielded on the left side, but often moves back to the center to unleash his shooting & passing abilities (generally with good results). The added bonus? He’s got a strong tendency to shine during important games. Roma players have been warned.
When all is said and done, any “reliability” ranking at Roma for the past decade features Simone Perrotta very high up. Spalletti knows this as the Italian midfielder has always provided quality & quantity, moving perfectly amidst his midfield & striker teammates, capable of offensive as well as defensive contributions. The only snag? He’s got bricks on his feet when it comes to shooting.

He’s the most smashing talent of this young Arsenal team: quality incarnated. With great technique and a good free-kick specialist, he can score with both feet and has certainly taken a knack at doing so in important games. Assuming he can keep his temper under control, the Roma defense will have many problems dealing with him.
There is no doubt in the past three years the Montenegrin striker has become a key player for AS Roma. Should he player in front, behind, or on the same line as Francesco Totti, the result is the same: quality. In other words: he’s proven to be a great player who belongs on great team. His next step? Helping Roma advance in Europe.

With Adebayor & da Silva injured (and missing out at least on the first leg) and Arshavin cup-tied, it looks like the Danish striker will be promoted to the European first team as well. A player with great physique and often getting on the scoreboard as a substitute, Bendtner will have to prove to be worthy of that starting spot he claims he “deserves”.
This has been an unfortunate year for the Giallorossi captain, without a doubt. Missing out on more than half of the season for this or that injury, it would be about time (fingers crossed) karma left Totti alone and allowed him to play this Arsenal double header. For when he is on the field, Roma have two added gears to their engine.

With Silvestre out injured, the Swiss center-back should at the very least make an apperance on the Gunners’ subs bench. He is certainly not lacking in the technical and physical department, and despite his young age he’s also got a good baggage of international experience. Expect to see him at some point or another.
Last-minute transfer of the January Mercato, the on-loan Udinese wing-back has already proven extremely useful domestically. With Panucci on punishment & Cicinho out injured, he may yet be promoted to a starting role in EUrope.

The Cameroonian jewel, which has often appeared into the squad rotation of Arsène Wenger, has very rapidly convinced many Arsenal fans for his reliability. Not only that, but Song is capable of covering many roles as well in midfield as in defense. Amidst the young guns of Arsène, he is one of those “winning” bets. Being the nephew of Rigobert certainly provided some good inspiration.
Depending on which starting formation Spalletti chooses, Pizarro may yet be in doubt of a starting role. Often tied to the fate of Aquilani, the Chilean midfielder’s playmaking ability will however be necessary, at some point or another, in the 180 minutes ahead.

After his horrifying injury and subsequent year-long absence, the Croato-Brazilian striker has slowly returned to full fitness (and associated scoring efficiency). Even though he will have to skip the first leg, his presence will undoubtedly be useful to Arsène Wenger at some point or another.
He’s returning to the Emirates as an ex playe, and Baptista will undoubtedly be looking for “revenge” against a team and a manager which gave him a starting role almost exclusively in the FA Cup. He’s got technique, power, and international experience on his side, so the English defense had better watch out for “the Beast”.

Marco Pantanella is the Author & Editor of the mCalcio blog

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One Response

  1. Ruud van Nistelrooy 25 February, 2009